The Wonder Stuff
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- Genre: Pop, Rock, Alternative, Alternative Rock, Britpop, Indie, Indie Pop, Indie Rock, Madchester
The Wonder Stuff are a British alternative rock band, originally based in Stourbridge, West Midlands, in the Black Country, England.
Origins and The Eight Legged Groove Machine (1986-1989):
The original line-up was Miles Hunt vocals, guitar (whose uncle Bill Hunt was keyboard player with ELO and Wizzard), Malcolm Treece guitar, vocals, Rob "The Bass Thing" Jones (died July 1993) and Martin Gilks, drums (died April 2006). The group originated from an earlier collaboration with group members of Pop Will Eat Itself, called 'From Eden', which had Miles Hunt on the drums.
The Wonder Stuff were formed on 19 March 1986. They entered the studio in September that year to record a self-financed first EP A Wonderful Day. After signing with Polydor Records for £80,000 in 1987, the group released a series of singles including "Unbearable", "Give Give Give, Me More More More", "A Wish Away" and "It's Yer Money I'm After Baby" (their first Top 40 entry) which were featured on their debut album The Eight Legged Groove Machine in August 1988 (UK No. 18). The group then embarked on their first headlining nineteen date 'Groovers On Manoeuvres' UK tour. They released "Who Wants To Be The Disco King?" in March 1989, and appeared at Reading and Glastonbury festivals, and tours of Europe and the United States.
The Melody Maker made it one of their albums of the year and said, "A rollicking debut from the only band with enough wit, energy, charisma and acumen to cross over from loutish grebo into raffish pop."
"Don't Let Me Down Gently" became their first Top 20 hit in September 1989, which preceded the release of the album Hup in October (UK No. 5). Another twenty four UK tour followed. The album also saw the introduction of new band member Martin Bell, a violin and banjo instrumentalist. Bell had contributed the fiddle and banjo parts, notably on tracks "Golden Green" (the second single), "Unfaithful" and "Cartoon Boyfriend". Several shows during the band's 1989 tour featured local band Ned's Atomic Dustbin as an opening act.
Jones left the band in December 1989 moving to the US.
A single, "Circlesquare" was released shortly after, and just before Paul Clifford replaced Jones on the bass in the spring of 1990. This led to a string of live outings for the renewed line-up in mid-1990. With only one single release in 1990 and no album yet ready they put out "Eleven Appalling Promos", a home video which showed Hunt, Treece and Gilks doing a commentary between each song. In December after receiving a Brit Award nomination the group opted not to play Wembley Arena, but instead, answering a fan's letter, played at a school in South Elmsall.
Never Loved Elvis and chart success (1990-1992):
The third album was started in late 1990 and completed early the following year. The first single from the new album was "The Size of a Cow" in March 1991, their first Top 10 hit reaching No. 5, and was swiftly followed by "Caught in My Shadow" (UK No. 18) in May, before releasing the third album Never Loved Elvis in June 1991 (UK No. 3). After this release, they held their first headlining stadium show at Walsall's Bescot Stadium which attracted 18,000 fans, before the group embarked on a world tour taking in the UK, Europe and the US. For the tour, the band was augmented by keyboardist Peter Whittaker.
Just after the third single from the album, "Sleep Alone" in September, the group scored a commercial success when they covered Tommy Roe's "Dizzy" with Vic Reeves in 1991, reaching the top of the UK Singles Chart for two weeks in November and raising the band's profile. The band carried on touring into 1992 releasing single "Welcome to the Cheap Seats" (UK No. 8) in February, which was also to be the title of their rockumentary released on video that spring and filmed over eighteen months on the road with the band. More dates were added in 1992, with a further tour of the States on their own and supporting Siouxsie and the Banshees, plus an appearance on David Letterman, a further UK tour and a headlining slot at the 1992 Reading Festival.
Construction for the Modern Idiot (1993-1994):
After previewing their new material at a few European summer festivals, a new single "On the Ropes" (UK No. 10) was released in September 1993 followed by Construction for the Modern Idiot appearing in October 1993 (UK No. 4). Another single "Full of Life (Happy Now)" came out just before Christmas while the band toured Europe before going to the States in February 1994. A third single "Hot Love Now" (UK No. 19) was released in time for the UK tour in March, and by the time the 'Idiot Manoeuvers' tour came to an end it had been the longest tour they ever undertook with seventy eight dates since the album's release.
Band split (1994):
A planned tour in May of the Far East and Australian territories was cancelled. The band made no public announcement at this time. The group announced the split in June by a newsletter to members of their fanclub.
They performed the final contracted show on 15 July 1994 at a headlining performance at the Phoenix Festival near Stratford-on-Avon in front of an audience of 30,000. In September, an 18 song compilation If The Beatles Had Read Hunter....The Singles (UK No. 8), a re-issue of the "Unbearable" single (UK No. 16), and a video of their farewell performance from July were released. The Live In Manchester album (recorded in November 1991) was released in July 1995 after the group had disbanded.
Solo projects (1994-2000):
During the split between 1994 and 2000, Hunt was involved in several projects including the hosting of MTV Europe's 120 Minutes show. He then put together another band, Vent 414, whose debut album was released in October 1996, and featured ex-Senseless Things Morgan Nicholls on bass and later Clash and Eat drummer Peter Howard. After being dropped by Polydor prior to the release of the second album, Hunt went to work as a solo artist touring the US with Malc Treece which saw the release of two albums - Miles Across America, an album of new material, Wonder Stuff tracks and Vent 414 material all reworked for the acoustic guitar with the live acoustic album By The Time I Got To Jersey following in late 1998. A full studio album was later released, Hairy On The Inside (again featuring Treece and another fellow Wonder Stuff member Martin Bell) in April 1999, and The Miles Hunt Club in April 2002.
Meanwhile Treece, Clifford and Gilks formed Weknowwhereyoulive, with Ange Dolittle from Eat. They gigged extensively throughout 1995 and 1996 releasing two EPs but then split up.
Reformation (2000 onwards):
Hunt, Treece, Gilks, Bell and Whittaker, together with new bassist Stuart Quinell, reformed to undertake a one off concert at London's Forum in December 2000. This soon became five sold out nights, preceded by two nights in Dudley (at the site of their debut gig). The group's previous four studio albums were reissued with bonus tracks, and a compilation of b-sides, demos and live tracks, Love Bites & Bruises was released in November.
More live performances continued into 2001 with the release of a live album Cursed With Insincerity in June, and more concerts came in 2002. A DVD release, Construction For The Modern Vidiot, in May 2003 featured highlights from the 2000 to 2002 shows, and then a further tour was announced in December 2003.
In early 2004, Hunt was informed that Gilks and Bell would no longer work with him, and thus The Wonder Stuff (in the eyes of Gilks and Bell) were defunct. As a result, Quinell and Whittaker were informed the band had split, and Hunt began work on a new record with Mark McCarthy (ex-Radical Dance Faction) and Luke Johnson (ex-Amen and son of one-time Wonder Stuff manager, Les Johnson). Sessions for this new solo record were later joined by Treece.
The Wonder Stuff's first new album for over a decade, Escape from Rubbish Island, was to be released in September 2004 with "Better Get Ready For A Fist Fight" and the title track becoming singles. Andres Karu (formerly of The Miles Hunt Club) replaced Luke Johnson on drums. The band toured the UK and US in 2004 and 2005, and were joined by violinist Erica Nockalls in March 2005.
This line-up continued into 2006 for the release of their new album Suspended By Stars in March and the single "Blah Blah La Di Dah" which was only available either on the album or through most music download services including iTunes or Napster. The band toured in March 2006 to support the record and in conjunction with their 20th anniversary.
In April 2006, original Wonder Stuff drummer Martin Gilks was killed in a motorcycle accident in London.
In 2006, Miles Hunt's acoustic shows were recorded for a live album, titled Interloper and released in October 2006. The Wonder Stuff also began mixing a live record documenting the 2006 concerts and played several UK outdoor shows. The band finished the year by touring the UK again, performing their final show of the year on 8 December at the Shepherd's Bush Empire.
The band went on a temporary hiatus for 2007 due to the imminent fatherhood of Treece. However, Hunt (with violinist Erica Nockalls and drummer Andres Karu) recorded a solo album Not An Exit, and Hunt / Nockalls toured the record in the UK, Australia and North America.
In June 2007, Universal released a new double album of The Wonder Stuff's BBC recordings, compiled from session appearances and concert recordings recorded and broadcast by the BBC between 1987 and 1994. The group released their own live album (The Wonder Stuff Live) in October 2007 taken from tracks recorded at venues and festivals around the UK in 2006. This album was the first official release of tracks performed under the new line-up and featured tracks taken from all of the group's previous albums.
The band returned to live performances in June 2008, and toured the UK twice, performing the debut album in full at select shows between October 2008 and May 2009, and issued a re-recorded version of the debut album with extra songs written at the time. The Wonder Stuff headlined on the Avalon Stage at the Glastonbury Festival in 2009.
In December 2009, the band performed their second album - "Hup!" - in full, and also re-recorded it with extra songs from the same era. The Hup 20th Anniversary Tour continued to May 2010. Also in 2010 the group performed at Guilfest and also Ireland's Feile Festival as well as working on some new material for likely release in 2011.
The band's drummer since the reformation, Andres Karu, left the band in November 2010 to pursue his interest in film. A replacement was found in the form of Fuzz Townshend, an old friend who used to be the drummer in another notable Black Country band, Pop Will Eat Itself. With Fuzz on drums, the band toured the UK twice and also performed several outdoor shows in the summer of 2011, as well as Australian shows with Jesus Jones. The band announced two "Never Loved Elvis" concerts in December 2011 in Birmingham and London, performing the album of the same name in full.
In December 2011, an announcement on the group's website stated that guitarist Malc Treece would no longer be playing with The Wonder Stuff. Jerry DeBorg of Jesus Jones played guitar for the two "Never Loved Elvis" shows.
In December 2012 the band (now with long term sound engineer, Stevie Wyatt, on guitar) released their seventh studio album 'Oh No It's... The Wonder Stuff', embarking on a short tour called Sleigh the UK 2012 to promote it. The tour included support from Pop Will Eat Itself (PWEI), and Jesus Jones, both long term friends of the band. The band also toured the UK in April 2013, summer shows, and a Sleigh The UK set of shows in December 2013.
In December 2013 the band's track 'A Wish Away' was used in a TV Commercial for the Wyndham Worldwide owned UK based holiday company Hoseasons.
Following a successful Australian tour in early 2014 Drummer Fuzz Townshend left the group to concentrate on his work with The Beat. In May 2014 the band announced a new line up with Hunt, Nockalls and McCarthy joined by Dan Donnelly on guitar and Tony Arthy on drums - Arthy having recently parted company with Jesus Jones.