The Wonder Stuff
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 financed by Rob Jones (aka The Bass Thing, the band’s original bassist) after a fortuitous win on the Football Pools. Although this release had only a small impact on a loyal following it did bring the band to the attention of Polygram Publishing who helped finance the band’s second release ‘Unbearable’, a UK Indie Chart Number One single. Whether it was this early commercial success, or the incalculable number of live shows the band were apt to perform during 1987, they were quickly signed to Polydor Records at the end of that year.
Touring being the band’s main activity they recorded their debut album, ‘The Eight Legged Groove Machine’ over a period of twenty eight days in 1988, taking time off from support tours with Big Country, Zodiac Mindwarp & The Love Reaction and Pop Will Eat Itself among others.
Although it took a further three single releases to reach the Official British Top 40, The Wonder Stuff regularly graced the covers of New Musical Express, Melody Maker & Sounds – the three essential music weeklies of the day. It was here that the arrogant, self-confident manner of vocalist/guitarist Miles Hunt, began to make something of himself beyond the sneering lyrical content of the band’s songs, a personality known well to thousands of fans that had seen them live.
During 1989 the band added North America & Europe to their touring schedule, picking up an international fan base before returning to the UK to record their second album ‘HUP’. This album showed a genuine development from their previous twin guitar buzz signature sound, aided & abetted by multi-instrumentalist Martin Bell who would become a mainstay in The Wonder Stuff’s future sound. All three single releases in 1989 were Top 20 Hits in the UK and each successive tour saw the band playing larger venues to capacity audiences, but commercial success couldn’t save the band from internal difficulties and in December ’89 Rob Jones left the band. He was replaced in the Spring of 1990 by an old friend, Paul Clifford, who was quickly thrown into a busy touring schedule as the band played support to The Mission in both Europe and North America. The Wonder Stuff released only one single in 1990 – a song recorded prior to Rob Jones departure from the band, ‘Circlesquare’ which once again achieved Top 20 status in the UK.
Despite the line up changes, 1991 saw the band go from strength to strength. Their third album, ‘Never Loved Elvis’, produced four hit singles, including a collaboration with Kirsty MacColl on the song ‘Welcome To The Cheap Seats’ and the band’s first Top 5 hit with ‘The Size Of A Cow’.
Having already appeared at both Reading & Glastonbury festivals in previous years, The Wonder Stuff staged their very own open-air event, The Big Day Out, to coincide with the album’s release at Walsall’s 22,000 capacity Bescot Stadium. The event’s name was inspired by hit television show ‘Vic Reeves’ Big Night Out’ and Vic Reeves himself compered the day’s events. Vic would later ask the band to return the favour by being his backing band on ‘Dizzy’, a track he was recording for an album that he planned to release later in the year – upon it’s release in October 1991, the track reached Number One in the Official UK Singles Charts.
Touring took up most of 1992’s calendar for The Wonder Stuff, including a headlining spot at The Reading Festival, their only visits to Australia & Japan and several North American tours, both headlining and in support of Siouxsie & The Banshees.
1993 saw the release of the band’s fourth album, ‘Construction For The Modern Idiot’, and although the critics were not entirely convinced by this record the fans did not waver. More hit singles and longer tours in larger venues carried them through into 1994 when they were booked to headline Stratford-Upon-Avon’s Phoenix Festival. It came as some surprise then that only weeks before their appearance at the festival, they announced their split. Hunt would later go on to say that the commercial success of The Wonder Stuff had taken much of the enjoyment out of being in the band and that he felt they had little else left to do.
With The Wonder Stuff consigned to the history books, Miles went on to front his own show on MTV Europe, ‘120 Minutes’, before taking advice from no less than Paul Weller himself in abandoning a career in television and returning to the music industry with new group Vent 414, alongside Morgan Nicholls of Senseless Things and Pete Howard of EAT. The trio (briefly enlarged to a four-piece with the temporary enrolment of The Cult’s Billy Duffy) released two singles and one album before begin discarded by Polydor Records.
Meanwhile, the other former members of The Wonder Stuff pulled in another Eat member, frontman Ange Dolittle, for their new group We Know Where You Live. After almost two years together, two EP’s and a shedload of gigs up and down the British Isles, they too called it a day in the Autumn of 1996.
With everyone going off into other areas of the industry, well away from the labours of rehearsing, recording and performing live, it was Miles who eventually hooked back up with Malc Treece in 1998 when the two of them embarked on a holiday-cum-acoustic tour of the UK and USA. This began a new career in the chapter of The Wonder Stuff as they performed a range of material from their lengthy careers including new songs, Wonder Stuff material and Vent 414 tracks. Since then, Hunt has regularly split his time between his solo work and that of The Wonder Stuff’s, with seven solo albums released to date and another in the pipeline.
Almost six years after the date of their final performance at the Phoenix Festival the group announced plans to reform, albeit with Stuart Quinell taking over bass duties in place of Paul Clifford, resulting in a sell-out five night residency at London’s Kentish Town Forum. In the three years that followed, the group would go on to play a handful of dates and festivals around the UK before, at the end of 2003, disagreements within the group once again saw a major fall-out within the ranks resulting in Hunt and Treece renewing the line-up of the group with Radical Dance Faction’s Mark McCarthy on bass and Love In Reverse’s Andres Karu on drums for the release of a new Wonder Stuff album ‘Escape From Rubbish Island’.
Undaunted by the grievances of former members, Miles, Malc, Andres and Mark went on to tour both the UK and North America throughout 2005 and in 2006 released a sixth Wonder Stuff studio album, ‘Suspended By Stars’, featuring new member, Erica Nockalls on violin.
Since the end of 2006, Miles and Erica have combined The Wonder Stuff’s touring and recording schedule with their own acoustic work of Miles and Erica. With a live album and two studio albums now under their belt, the duo regularly tour the length and breadth of the UK, playing to both smaller audiences and large festival crowds alike supplying a mix of tracks from Hunt’s entire career, alongside inter-song banter and some explanations into the stories behind the songs.
2008 saw the group celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of their debut album, ‘The Eight Legged Groove Machine’ with two concerts in Birmingham and London where they performed the album, in it’s entirety, along with a selection of other tracks from their illustrious recording career. Further dates were added in May 2009 and an album was also released of the new line-up re-recording the original album.
In June 2009, the group headlined the Avalon Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, one of a number of festival appearances at which the group would appear during the year. December 2009 saw the group return to their original stomping ground with a very special homecoming show at the 02 Academy in Birmingham to perform their HUP album in it’s entirety which was recorded for release early in 2010 along with a full studio re-recording of their classic 1989 album.
2010 is shaping up to be another busy year with more live dates planned for Miles and Erica along with some new dates and material as part of the Shared project. The group will be touring the UK during April and May performing the HUP album as well as appearing at a handful of festivals in the Summer also. A new album is rumoured for release towards the end of the year and a short Run of tour dates in the States 2013