The Wonder Stuff release their seventh studio album, ‘Oh No… it’s The Wonder Stuff’, produced by singer, guitarist and principal songwriter, Miles Hunt.
Of the album Hunt says;
‘Obviously the title of the album is a taste of my self deprecating sense of humour, coming from The Midlands, it’s kinda wired into me. Having played a few album anniversary shows since 2008, starting with ‘The Eight Legged Groove Machine’, I was able to see what it is that our audience wants from us. So it was with that new understanding that I started to write the songs for this album. I knew they had to be bright, up-tempo, and direct. And I think we’ve pulled it off.’
The Wonder Stuff release the third in a series of limited edition 7” vinyl singles under the banner ‘From The Midlands With Love’, a project aimed at celebrating the music that has it’s roots in The Midlands, the band’s home.
This third and final release in the series features cover versions of Duran Duran’s ‘Planet Earth’ and Beverly Knight’s ‘Get Up!’.
The second of the ‘From The Midlands With Love’ limited edition 7” vinyl singles was released. This time the band covered Slade’s ‘Far, Far Away’ and Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ ‘There, There My Dear’.
Of the release Hunt says;
‘We had a great time recording these tracks. Two songs by artists that have meant the world to me over the years. Two very different bands, stylistically that we attempted to highlight with the videos we made for the songs. We also hosted a couple of Midlands based pub quizzes in conjunction with the release, one in London, the other in Birmingham, of course. Both were really well attended, but sadly Team TWS lost on both occasions!’
The first single released in the ‘From The Midlands With Love’ series was came out on Record Store Day. Hunt, accompanied by the band’s violinist, Erica Nockalls, performed acoustically in five different independent record shops on the day, beginning in Bristol and working their way up to Birmingham.
Of the day Hunt remarked;
‘It was f**ckin’ exhausting, but well worth the effort. Great to see so many people celebrating the few record shops we have left’.
The debut release in the ‘From The Midlands With Love’ series included The Wonder Stuff’s take on The Move’s ‘Blackberry Way’ and The Beat’s ‘Save It For Later’, featuring Ranking Roger on guest vocals.
The rest of the story…
The Wonder Stuff formed in 1986 in an area of the Midlands known as The Black Country. Their first EP, ‘A Wonderful Day’, was released on the band’s own Far Out Recording Company and was financed by Rob Jones (aka ‘The Bass Thing’, the band’s original bassist) after a fortuitous win on the Football Pools.
Having spent a year on the road, including tours in support to Big Country, The Mighty Lemon Drops, New Order, The Wedding Present, The Fall and many more, the band released their second single ‘Unbearable’. On this occasion financed by a publishing deal secured with Polygram Music Publishing. The single scored a Number One spot for the band in the UK Indie Charts.
The Wonder Stuff sign to Polydor Records.
The touring continued for the band, including shows with Zodiac Mindwarp & The Love Reaction and Pop Will Eat Itself, but they also spend time in the studio with producer, Pat Collier. The first major label release was the single ‘Give, Give, Give Me More, More, More’, it entered the UK singles chart at number 76.
Hunt says of the release;
‘If there was any disappointment at the chart position, then it was the label’s, not ours. The charts, to me, was the domain of Kylie Minogue and her Stock, Aiken, Waterman pals, nothing to do with music as far as I was concerned. We were more than happy with our progress, by this time we were appearing on the front covers of the likes of the NME on a regular basis and that continued for another six years or so.’
The Wonder Stuff’s debut album ‘The Eight Legged Groove Machine’ entered the UK album chart at number 18. The band toured the UK extensively in support of the release and made their first foray into touring mainland Europe.
1989 was the year that The Wonder Stuff were introduced to the USA. Invited to spend the second week of January in New York, they were wined and dined by Polygram big wigs.
Hunt says of the experience;
‘Oh we loved it, I’d been dying to get to New York my whole life and it didn’t disappoint my expectations. The record company execs were exactly the kind of loud mouthed cartoon-esque characters that I had been hoping they would be. It was bizarre to think that we’d been crammed in a van, driving ‘round a frozen Germany, desperate for a bit of warmth and something good to eat during the previous November and now only six weeks later, there we were, held up in a luxurious hotel slap bang in the middle of the greatest city in the world, with a major label expense account to take advantage of! I knew right then, that it was America that I wanted the band to concentrate on next.’
Without ignoring their home fan base The Wonder Stuff did indeed put their efforts into gaining popularity in the USA. In the Spring of 1989 they toured North America for the first of many times. But not before leaving their British audience with a brand new, none album related single, ‘Who Wants To Be The Disco King?’. The single was to be the first of many UK Top 30 chart positions for the band.
During October and November of 1989 The Wonder Stuff played a sold out, forty plus date tour of the UK in support of the release of their second album, ‘HUP’. The record entered the UK Album Charts at Number 5, the accompanying single release, ‘Don’t Let Me Down, Gently’, made it’s way into the UK Top 20, an achievement that all future single releases by the band would uphold for the next five years.
After the exhausting touring schedule of 1989 founder member and bassist, Rob Jones, decided he’d had enough and quit the band in favour of relocating to New York. Where sadly, three and a half years later, he would die of a drug related heart failure.
A replacement bassist secured, the band pressed on with a series of tours supporting The Mission in Europe and North America.
One single was released in 1990, ‘Circlesquare’, again, another Top 20 hit for the band.
The tail end of 1990 was spent writing and recording the band’s third studio album, ‘Never Loved Elvis’ released in April 1991 and produced by Mick Glossop. It entered the UK album charts at Number 3. The lead single, ‘The Size Of A Cow’ entered the UK Singles Chart at Number 5.
During the Summer of 1991, having already appeared at both Glastonbury and Reading festivals on a number of occasions the band decided to host their own festival, ‘The Big Day Out’, featuring other prominent bands of the day, Swervedriver, New FADs, Kingmaker and Spirit Of The West at Walsall’s Bescott Stadium. At a capacity of 22,000 people, the festival was a sell out and hosting the affair were Britain’s foremost light entertainers, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer.
The Wonder stuff famously teamed up with the riotous pair again in October 1991 for the single ‘Dizzy’, which amusingly toppled U2 from the Number One spot in the UK Singles Chart and stayed there for two weeks.
January 1992 saw the release of the band’s collaboration with Kirtsy MacColl, for the single ‘Welcome To The Cheap Seats’. It peaked at Number 8 in the UK Singles Chart.
Further touring of the UK and USA continued throughout 1992, including a US tour in support to Siouxsie & The Banshees.
In August 1992 The Wonder Stuff headlined the UK’s Reading Festival alongside Public Enemy and Nirvana.
The Wonder Stuff’s fourth studio album ‘Construction For The Modern Idiot’ saw them return to their original producer, Pat Collier, and was mixed by Mark ‘Spike’ Stent. It debuted at Number 4 in the UK Album Chart.
Both singles taken from the album, ‘On The Ropes’ reaching Number 10 and ‘Full Of Life’, number 28, were critically acclaimed as a band that had fully established their brand, however…
Extensive touring continued in the US, Australia, Japan, Europe and the UK, and it was during the UK tour that Hunt decided the band had achieved all they were likely to achieve.
Of the band’s imminent split Hunt says;
‘We’d been in each other’s pockets for eight years when I told them I’d had enough. None of them tried to talk me out of leaving and so we carried on with the touring that we had committed to, knowing that our final show would be headlining the Phoenix Festival in Stratford Upon Avon in the summer of 1994’.
1994 – 1997
On leaving The Wonder Stuff, Hunt went on to present MTV Europe’s alternative music shows, 120 Minutes and Alternative Nation, for the best part of two years, as well as hosting a Saturday night radio show for the embryonic Xfm.
The other members of the band teamed up with former EAT front man, Ange Dolittle, to form the band weknowwhereyoulive.
In 1996 Hunt decided that perhaps a career in media wasn’t exactly where he belonged and formed the band Vent 414 with the former drummer of EAT and The Clash, Peter Howard and former Senseless Things bassist, Morgan Nicholls. The band made one album for Polydor, recorded at Abbey Road with Steve Albini.
Vent 414 toured the UK, Europe and the USA during 1997, but split after the departure of Nicholls.
Hunt said of the band;
‘Having had the commercial success of The Wonder Stuff I was keen to see where my life in music would take me while abandoning commercial concerns. Morgan and Pete were stunning players to work with, nothing like I had been used to previously. But it wasn’t to last. Our time together was incredibly intense and the sound of our recordings reflect that. The album we made together will always remain one of my proudest creative achievements.’
1998 – 2000
Summer 1998 saw Hunt and Wonder Stuff guitarist, Malc Treece, hook up for the first time in four years to tour North America as an acoustic duo. Hunt continued working as a solo artist in the USA for a number of years. He released two EP’s and one album, ‘Hairy On The Inside’, as a solo artist for New Jersey based label, Gig Records.
In December 2000 most of the surviving members of The Wonder Stuff regrouped for a five night run of sold out shows at London’s Forum Theatre in Kentish Town.
2001 – 2003
The band continued to play shows throughout this period, enjoying sharing festival bills with some of their heroes, such as Joe Strummer and The Pogues.
Hunt released his second solo album for Eagle Rock Records in 2001 under the name ‘The Miles Hunt Club’.
At the suggestion of Joe Strummer, The Wonder Stuff made plans to record a fifth studio album in 2003, this was not to come to fruition as many of the old grievances between members began to surface as they spent more time together.
Oddly, one recording session the band did complete, with some success, during this period was to record the theme tune and one other song for a BBC children’s TV show called ‘Underground Ernie’, featuring the voice of Gary Lineker!.
Hunt joked about the project;
‘It’s been said before that all I’ve ever written are child like ditties, well I guess I found my spiritual home with the Underground Ernie songs!’
2004 – 2005
After a small run of UK shows in December 2003, and a couple of shows in Dubai, drummer Martin Gilks and violinist Martin Bell decided to leave the band.
Undeterred, Hunt and Treece worked on a collection of new songs that became the band’s fifth studio album, ‘Escape From Rubbish Island’ released in 2004.
Having enjoyed several tours of the UK and North America, with new members, drummer Andres Karu and bassist Mark McCarthy, in support of this new album, the band returned to the studio in 2005 to record their sixth studio album, ‘Suspended By Stars’. This album also saw violinist, Erica Nockalls, join the band. Much touring ensued and the release of a double live album, simply titled, ‘The Wonder Stuff Live’ shows the band at their gigging strength during this period.
2006 – present day
Hunt continued his one man solo acoustic shows during this period, releasing his first solo live album ‘Interloper’ in 2006.
In 2007 Hunt was joined by Erica Nockalls on what the two musicians now refer to as ‘The Never Ending Acoustic Tour’. They have made two studio albums together, 2007’s ‘Not An Exit’ and 2009’s ‘Catching More Than We Miss’. In 2011 they released their first live album together, again, to avoid confusion, it has the simplest of titles, ‘Miles & Erica; Live 2011’.
In 2009 the band returned to Japan for the first time in 17 years and went on to headline the Avalon Stage at Glastonbury festival, having not appeared there in 20 years!
In the Spring of 2011 The Wonder Stuff enjoyed a co-headline, sell out tour of the UK with their old friends The Levellers. Later the same year they returned to Australia for a short tour with past sparring partners, Jesus Jones.
December 2012 saw The Wonder Stuff’s own Sleigh The UK return to a handful of O2 Academy venues. An extravaganza bill of The Wonder Stuff, Pop Will Eat Itself and Jesus Jones.
2013 saw the release of the band’s latest album ‘Oh No It’s…The Wonder Stuff’ with a 3 week tour in April around the UK followed by 10 festival appearances. 2012’s ‘Sleigh The UK’ tour of O2 Academy sell out shows featuring The Wonder Stuff, Jesus Jones and PWEI were such a huge success it was repeated again in December!
In 2014 frontman Miles Hunt completed his first book ‘The Wonder Stuff Diaries ’86 – ‘89’ and still found time to play four dates in Australia, Bearded Theory festival, Garforth Arts Festival, Cropredy and V Festival.
This year sees the band on the road again for just a handful of festival and warm up dates ahead of their new album to celebrate the band’s 30 Anniversary to be released in 2016.