Catherine Wheel

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This article is about the alternative rock band. For other uses, see Catherine wheel (disambiguation).
Catherine Wheel
Catherine Wheel.jpg
L-R: Dave Hawes, Brian Futter, Neil Sims, and Rob Dickinson, 1993.
Background information
Origin Great Yarmouth, England
Genres Alternative rock, shoegazing
Years active 1990–2000
Labels Wilde Club, Fontana, Mercury, Columbia, Chrysalis
Past members Rob Dickinson, Brian Futter, Dave Hawes, Neil Sims, Ben Ellis

Catherine Wheel were an English alternative rock band from Great Yarmouth. The band was active from 1990 to 2000, experiencing fluctuating levels of commercial success, and embarking on many lengthy tours.


Catherine Wheel formed in 1990, comprising singer/guitarist Rob Dickinson (cousin of Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson), guitarist Brian Futter, bassist Dave Hawes, and drummer Neil Sims. Hawes had previously played in a Joy Division-influenced band called Eternal. They took their moniker from the firework known as the Catherine wheel, which in turn had taken its name from the medieval torture device of the same name. The band was sometimes included in the shoegazing scene, characterized by bands that made extensive use of guitar feedback and droning washes of noise, as well as their continuous interaction with extensive amounts of effects pedals on the stage floor. However, Catherine Wheel had a more song-oriented style than their peers.[1]

The band performed a Peel session in early 1991 while still unsigned; two 12" vinyl EPs were released on the Norwich-based Wilde Club Records, named after the regular weekly Wilde Club gigs run by Barry Newman at Norwich Arts Centre. They signed to major-label Fontana Records after being courted by both Creation Records and the Brian Eno-run label Opal Records. The band's debut album, 1991/92's Ferment, made an immediate impression on the music press and introduced Catherine Wheel's second-biggest U.S. hit, "Black Metallic," as well as moderate hit "I Want to Touch You".[2] The album features re-recorded versions of some of the Wilde Club-issued EPs. "Black Metallic" was later featured in the film S. Darko.

The more aggressive Chrome followed in 1993, produced by Gil Norton. With this album, the band began to shed its original shoegazing tag, while still making skillful use of atmospherics, such as on the song "Fripp." In a 2007 interview, Rob Dickinson said that members of Death Cab for Cutie and Interpol told him that without this album, their bands "wouldn't exist."[3]

1995's Happy Days saw the band delving further into metallic hard rock, which alienated a portion of their fanbase, even as it increased their exposure in the United States during the post-grunge era.[4] The single "Waydown," and especially its plane-crash themed video, received heavy play in the U.S. A more sedate strain of rock known as Britpop was taking over in the UK, causing Catherine Wheel to continue to have greater success abroad than at home.

The B-sides and outtakes collection, Like Cats and Dogs, came out the following year, revealing a quieter, more contemplative side of the band, spanning the previous five years. This carried over into Adam and Eve in 1997, wherein the band scaled back the sonic force of their sound from its Happy Days levels, with clean playing on some songs that[citation needed] featured extensive use of keyboards and acoustic guitars. Alternately, songs like "Satellite" and "Here Comes the Fat Controller" were lush and orchestral in scope.

In 2000, Catherine Wheel re-emerged with a new record label, a new bassist (Ben Ellis); a modified name (The Catherine Wheel); and a new album, Wishville. After mixed reviews, record company turmoil[5] and lacklustre sales, the band went on a still-continuing hiatus.

In March 2010, Ferment was re-released, containing bonus tracks and extensive sleeve notes.

Post-Catherine Wheel work[edit]

Futter and Sims have an ongoing project called 50 ft Monster. Ellis was in a band called Serafin, but is now currently playing with Iggy Pop. After working with/ playing live with Tracy Bonham for several years, Dickinson released a solo album in 2005 called Fresh Wine for the Horses. Dickinson continues to perform live and has recently[when?] signed a recording contract with Universal Music Canada.


Studio albums[edit]



  • "She's My Friend" (1991) Wilde Club
  • "Painful Thing" (1991) Wilde Club, No. 5 U.K. Indie Chart
  • "Black Metallic" (1991) Fontana No. 68 UK, No. 9 U.S. Modern Rock
  • "Balloon" (1992) Fontana No. 59 UK
  • "I Want to Touch You" (1992) Fontana No. 35 UK, No. 20 U.S. Modern Rock
  • "30 Century Man" (1992) Fontana No. 47 UK
  • "Crank" (1993) Fontana No. 66 UK, No. 5 U.S. Modern Rock
  • "Show Me Mary" (1993) Fontana No. 62 UK
  • "Judy Staring at the Sun" (1995) Fontana No. 22 U.S. Modern Rock
  • "Waydown" (1995) Fontana No. 67 UK, No. 15 U.S. Modern Rock, No. 24 Mainstream Rock
  • "Delicious" (1997) Chrysalis No. 53 UK
  • "Ma Solituda" (1998) Chrysalis No. 53 UK
  • "Broken Nose" (1998) Chrysalis No. 48 UK
  • "Sparks Are Gonna Fly" (2000) No. 37 U.S. Modern Rock[6]

Music videos[edit]

Year Song Director Notes
1992 "Black Metallic" Barry Magurie 7" version
"I Want to Touch You" Miles Aldridge Tim Palmer remix
1993 "Crank" Geoff Everson 2 versions: towards the end of the original version Rob is spinning on a spiked wheel while the censored version cuts away to shots of Brian and Dave
"Show Me Mary" Melodie McDaniel Scott Litt remix
1994 "The Nude" Elizabeth Baily Scott Litt remix
1995 "Waydown" Mark Pellington
"Eat My Dust You Insensitive Fuck" Stephen Dorff LP version; starring Summer Phoenix
"Judy Staring at the Sun" Nick Egan featuring Tanya Donelly; MTV edited the words "smacked" and "vein"
1997 "Delicious" Mark Adcock
1998 "Ma Solituda" Karen Lamond
2000 "Sparks Are Gonna Fly" Dean Karr


  1. ^ Vigil, Delfín (24 July 2008). "Looking up at last". Retrieved 25 August 2011. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Rayner, Ben (1 February 2007). "Behind the Wheel: Catherine Wheel's Rob Dickinson finds there is still air in the tires". Toronto Star. Retrieved 5 March 2007. 
  4. ^ Kellerman, Andy - "Happy Days" review from; URL accessed 17 February 2006
  5. ^ "The Wheels Are Falling Off The Catherine Wheel's Momentum". Chart. 11 July 2000. Retrieved 10 October 2009. 
  6. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 98. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 

External links[edit]