Eric Goulden (born 18 May 1954), known as Wreckless Eric, is an English rock/new wave singer-songwriter, best known for his 1977 single "Whole Wide World" on Stiff Records. More than two decades after its release, the song was included in Mojo magazine's list of the best punk rock singles of all time. It was also acclaimed as one of the "top 40 singles of the alternative era 1975-2000".
Wreckless Eric was born in Newhaven, East Sussex. He is a cousin of actress Gemma Arterton through her mother. He is best known as one of the original members of the late 1970s Stiff Records artist roster, along with Ian Dury, Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe. Eric's first appearance on record was "Whole Wide World" on the Stiff label sampler A Bunch of Stiff Records in April 1977. The single version of that song was finally released in August. The song was produced by, and featured bass guitar (and most of the other instruments) by Nick Lowe, with Steve Goulding on drums. The following month, the song was one of five tracks broadcast for the first of two sessions Eric recorded for DJ John Peel at BBC Radio 1. The song went on to make number 47 in John Peel's 'Festive Fifty', the so-called 'lost list' of 1977; it was number 8 in the Sounds critics' singles of the year; and it received an 'honourable mention' in the NME critics' chart. The song's reputation has grown over the years and numerous bands have covered "Whole Wide World", such as the Lightning Seeds, Mental As Anything, The Monkees (who covered the song on their Pool It! album in 1987), The Proclaimers (who covered it on their 2007 album Life With You), and Paul Westerberg.
His debut album Wreckless Eric was a Top 50 hit in the UK Albums Chart. His second album with Stiff Records was The Wonderful World of Wreckless Eric.
End of Stiff days:
Eric became increasingly unhappy with Stiff Records' business ideas and promotion. The label forced Eric to work with songwriting teams and hired backing bands. By 1980, shortly after the release of Big Smash!, he decided to leave Stiff and record music at his home studio. While Eric may have left the mainstream music business and the public eye, he has continued writing songs and performing consistently at underground clubs and bars. Throughout the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s Eric has released albums on numerous independent record labels.
Eric's post-Stiff bands/projects include: The Captains of Industry, The Len Bright Combo, Le Beat Group Electrique (which, actually wasn't a band, but the title of one of Eric's solo albums), The Hitsville House Band and one album called "Karaoke" (1997) under his real name, Eric Goulden.
In 1985 he released A Roomful of Monkeys with a new band, Captains of Industry. It was followed in 1986 by a couple of homemade garage albums with "The Len Bright Combo". He always stayed in touch with Ian Dury and the Blockheads - two Blockheads, Norman Watt-Roy and Mick Gallagher, were in the Captains of Industry.
In 1989, he signed to New Rose Records as Eric Goulden, released the homemade Le Beat Group Electrique with bassist André Barreau and drummer Catfish Truton. This same year he moved to France, in a quiet countryside corner where he stayed for about ten years. By the time he made this move to the vineyard country, he had already ended his "career of full-time alcoholic."
Eric toured Eastern Europe in a 1960s Peugeot car, both solo and with his band. In 1990, he released a second Le Beat Group Electrique album, recorded live in a New Rose record shop in Paris, entitled At the Shop with Eduardo Leal de la Gala and Fabrice Bertran on the drums. Together they formed the Hitsville House Band.
Eric returned to the UK in 1998, wrote his autobiography A Dysfunctional Success - The Wreckless Eric Manual about his life in England in the punk rock years and the music industry, ending at his departure for France. A second part is expected. Eric contributed his version of "Clevor Trever" (sic) to the Ian Dury tribute album Brand New Boots and Panties released in 2001. A new album Bungalow Hi was home-recorded, produced and released in 2004.
The soundtrack to the 2002 film, Heartlands, contained "(I'd Go The) Whole Wide World".
"(I'd Go The) Whole Wide World" appears in the 1996 film Different for Girls.
In late 2005, Eric toured the UK (also playing Dublin) supporting fellow ex-Stiff artists The Damned.
In the 2006 film, Stranger Than Fiction, starring Will Ferrell, Ferrell sings "Whole Wide World" while playing the guitar, until the original Wreckless Eric version takes over.
In 2008, Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby was released. The album had a sound that was described as including "lots of strummed acoustic guitars, insistent and melodic bass lines and atmospherics created by vintage keyboards, synthesizers, processed electric guitars and electronic effects". They toured to support the album.
Eric joined The Proclaimers onstage at Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, on 19 July 2008, to perform his song, "(I'd Go The) Whole Wide World" which they covered on their album, Life With You. Eric and Amy Rigby joined John Wesley Harding onstage at Wiggins Park in Camden, New Jersey on 25 July 2009, to perform "(I'd Go The) Whole Wide World".
In September 2010, Eric and Rigby offered a track for the compilation album, Daddy Rockin Strong: A Tribute to Nolan Strong & The Diablos. They recorded a cover of the 1950s doo-wop song, "I Want To Be Your Happiness." The Wind Records, along with Norton Records, released the album.
After some years living in France with his wife and co-performer, singer-songwriter Amy Rigby, Goulden moved with her to the United States in 2011. As of November 2011 they live in upstate New York, and continue to tour together.
In 2012, Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby recorded a version of the Bread song "The Guitar Man", for the fund raising CD Super Hits of the Seventies, for the radio station WFMU.
In December 2013, Fire Records re-released both Len Bright Combo records and the band reunited for a one off show at The Lexington in London. In 2014, Fire Records re-released Le Beat Group Electrique, The Donovan of Trash and 12 O'Clock Stereo.