The Wonder Stuff
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The Wonder Stuff
The Wonder Stuff performing in 2015
|Origin||Stourbridge, West Midlands, United Kingdom|
|Years active||1986–1994, 2000–present|
|Past members||Rob "The Bass Thing" Jones|
The Wonder Stuff are a British alternative rock band. Originally based in Stourbridge in the West Midlands, England, the band's first iteration released four albums and nearly 20 singles and EPs, enjoying considerable chart and live success in the UK. The band have continued to tour and record since 2000.
Largely the vehicle for the songwriting of Miles Hunt, the band split up with a farewell performance as headliners of the 1994 Phoenix Festival, but reformed in 2000 and have toured and recorded since then, with Hunt the sole member of all line-ups.
Known for their catchy songs and Hunt's sharp lyrics, the band's sound evolved from guitar pop to include sampling and elements of folk and country. The band - and Hunt in particular — were favourites of the UK music press, and were often associated with fellow Black Country acts Ned's Atomic Dustbin and Pop Will Eat Itself, with whom they have toured throughout their careers.
The band scored one UK number 1 single, their release of "Dizzy" with comedian Vic Reeves, 17 top-20 single hits, and three top-10 albums in the UK. The band also toured internationally, and achieved some success in the United States, where they had six songs on the Billboard Alternative Songs Chart.
Origins and The Eight Legged Groove Machine (1986–1989)
The original line-up of Miles Hunt (whose uncle Bill Hunt was keyboard player with ELO and Wizzard) on vocals and guitar; Malcolm Treece on guitar and vocals; bassist Rob "The Bass Thing" Jones (died July 1993); and Martin Gilks (died April 2006) on drums grew from Hunt and Treece's collaboration with future members of Pop Will Eat Itself in a band called From Eden that featured Hunt on drums.
The Wonder Stuff were formed on 19 March 1986 (their name reportedly came from a remark made about a very young Hunt by John Lennon) and in September that year recorded a self-financed debut EP, A Wonderful Day. After finding management with Birmingham promoter Les Johnson and 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) that featured on their debut album The Eight Legged Groove Machine, which was released in August 1988 (UK No. 18). This preceded a first headlining nineteen-date national tour, 'Groovers on Manoeuvres'.
Melody Maker made The Eight Legged Grove Machine one of their albums of the year for 1988, judging it, "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", with its slick, American-shot video, became the Wonder Stuff's first Top-20 hit in September 1989, heralding the release of second album, Hup, in October (UK No. 5). The album saw the introduction of new band member, Martin Bell, a multi-instrumentalist who contributed violin and banjo, most notably on "Golden Green" (the second single from the album), "Unfaithful" and "Cartoon Boyfriend". Several shows during the band's 1989 tour featured fellow Black Country acts Ned's Atomic Dustbin and The Sandkings as opening acts.
A single, "Circlesquare", was released shortly afterwards, 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 the band put out Eleven Appalling Promos, a collection of video promos, with home video footage showing Hunt, Treece and Gilks giving their (usually critical) commentary between each song. In December the group celebrated their Brit Award nomination by turning down an invitation to the awards show at Wembley Arena, to play at Minsthorpe High School in South Elmsall in response to a fan's letter: a cover version of John Lennon's "Gimme Some Truth", recorded at the show, was included on the "Caught in My Shadow" single.
Never Loved Elvis and chart success (1990–1992)
Recording for a 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". Released in March 1991 it became the band's first Top-10 hit, reaching No. 5, (and being nominated for a Brit Award for its video). It was swiftly followed by "Caught in My Shadow" (UK No. 18) in May, before the release of the album Never Loved Elvis in May 1991 (UK No. 3).
After the album release, the band performed a first headlining stadium show at Walsall's Bescot Stadium, attracting 18,000 fans, before embarking 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. The band carried on touring into 1992. They released the single "Welcome to the Cheap Seats" (UK No. 8) in February, which was also the title of their video rockumentary released that Spring after eighteen months of filming on the road with the band.
Touring continued through the latter part of the year, with more dates in the United States (both as headliners and supporting Siouxsie and the Banshees) backed by an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, performing "Welcome to the Cheap Seats". A further UK tour was complemented with 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 the album Construction for the Modern Idiot 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 United 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 tour - called 'Idiot Manoeuvres' - came to an end it was the longest in the band's history with seventy eight dates since the album's release.
Band split (1994)
A planned tour of the Far East and Australia in May was cancelled. The band made no public announcement at this time but a split was announced in June in a fanclub newsletter.
The Wonder Stuff performed the final contracted show on 15 July 1994 as headliners 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.
Solo projects (1994–2000)
During the hiatus between 1994 and 2000, Hunt was involved in several projects. He hosted MTV Europe's 120 Minutes show. He then put together another band, Vent 414, with ex-Senseless Things bassist Morgan Nicholls and later Clash, Eat and Wonder Stuff drummer Peter Howard. They released a self-titled debut album in October 1996, but were soon dropped by Polydor prior to the release of the second album. Hunt started to tour as a solo artist, travelling to the US with Malc Treece, and releasing two albums: Miles Across America, an album of new material, Wonder Stuff tracks and Vent 414 material all reworked for the acoustic guitar, and a live acoustic album By the Time I Got to Jersey (1998). A full studio album, Hairy on the Inside (again featuring Treece and another fellow Wonder Stuff member Martin Bell) was released in April 1999, followed by The Miles Hunt Club in April 2002.
Meanwhile, Treece, Clifford and Gilks formed We Know Where You Live (originally titled WeKnowWhereYouLive), with Ange Dolittle from Eat. They gigged extensively throughout 1995 and 1996 and released two EPs before splitting.
Hunt, Treece, Gilks, Bell and Whittaker, together with new bassist Stuart Quinell, reformed for a one-off concert at London's Forum in December 2000. This soon became five sold-out nights, preceded by two nights of shows at JB's in Dudley (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 Malc Treece. The result of this was The Wonder Stuff's first new album for over a decade, Escape from Rubbish Island, which was released in September 2004 with "Better Get Ready for a Fist Fight" and the title track becoming singles. Andres Karu (who had previously worked with Miles as part 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" available as a download. The band toured in March 2006 to support the record and in conjunction with their twentieth anniversary.
In April 2006, original Wonder Stuff drummer Martin Gilks was killed in a motorcycle accident in London. An album of We Know Where You Live's demo recordings and live tracks was released in December 2006, with all profits being donated to a charitable concern at the request of Gilk's parents.
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 also issued a re-recorded version of the debut album under the then current line-up alongside additional tracks which had been written and released in the same period. The Wonder Stuff headlined the Avalon Stage at the 2009 Glastonbury Festival.
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 with the group also performing at Guilfest and Ireland's Féile 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, it was announced that on the group's website that guitarist Malc Treece would no longer be playing with The Wonder Stuff, having left at the end of the last tour following their show at The Highlight in Portsmouth on 29 October 2011. Jerry DeBorg of Jesus Jones was drafted in to play guitar for the final two "Never Loved Elvis" shows of the year.
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.
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 being joined by Dan Donnelly on guitar and Tony Arthy on drums, with Arthy having parted company with Jesus Jones. Arthy had previously worked with Hunt in an earlier, but unreleased incarnation of The Miles Hunt Club in 2001.
In March 2016, a PledgeMusic-funded album, 30 Goes Around the Sun, was released to celebrate 30 years since the band's very first rehearsal in the heart of The Black Country. This coincided with a UK tour during March and April. This album became their first studio release to enter the Top 40 since 1994.
In 2019, the band announced a new lineup, with founder member Malc Treece returning on guitar replacing Donnelly, Pete Howard of The Clash replacing Arthy on drums, and Mark Thwaite replacing McCarthy on bass. After a short tour at the start of the year, the group announced they would be releasing a new album Better Being Lucky towards the end of 2019, which would be followed by a tour where the group would play The Eight Legged Groove Machine and Hup albums in full alongside other tracks from their back catalogue and the new album. Thwaite moved to guitar with Tim Sewell taking over bass duties.
- The Eight Legged Groove Machine (August 1988) No. 18 UK
- Hup (October 1989) No. 5 UK
- Never Loved Elvis (May 1991) No. 3 UK
- Construction for the Modern Idiot (October 1993) No. 4 UK
- Escape from Rubbish Island (September 2004)
- Suspended by Stars (February 2006)
- The Eight Legged Groove Machine: 20th Anniversary Edition (re-recordings of the original debut album with bonus tracks, October 2008)
- Hup: 21st Anniversary Edition (re-recordings of the original album with bonus tracks, March 2010)
- Oh No It's... The Wonder Stuff (December 2012)
- 30 Goes Around the Sun (March 2016) No. 38 UK
- Better Being Lucky (November 2019)
- If The Beatles Had Read Hunter...The Singles (September 1994) UK No. 8
- Love Bites and Bruises (b-sides and unreleased tracks, November 2000)
- Never Loved Elvis & The Greatest Hits...and More More More" (2 CDs, Canadian-only promo, 1991)
- Live in Manchester (July 1995) No. 74 UK
- Cursed with Insincerity (June 2001)
- Welcome to the Cheap Seats - Greatest Hits Live (June 2004)
- The BBC Sessions (June 2007)
- The Wonder Stuff Live (October 2007)
- Hup Live (June 2010)
- Never Loved Elvis Live (March 2012)
- Upstaged: A Live Anthology 1987-2016 (March 2018)
- "It's Not True" (Wonderful Day EP) (February 1987)
- "Unbearable" (September 1987)
- "Give Give Give Me More More More" (April 1988) No. 72 UK, No. 17 US Modern Rock
- "A Wish Away" (July 1988) No. 43 UK
- "It's Yer Money I'm After Baby" (September 1988) No. 40 UK
- "Who Wants to Be the Disco King?" (February 1989) No. 28 UK
- "Don't Let Me Down, Gently" (September 1989) No. 19 UK, No. 11 US Modern Rock
- "Golden Green" (November 1989) No. 33 UK
- "Radio Ass Kiss" (November 1989) (US Radio release only) No. 26 US Modern Rock
- Luna Thug EP (WITHDRAWN) (January 1990)
- "Circlesquare" (May 1990) No. 20 UK
- "The Size of a Cow" (March 1991) No. 5 UK
- "Caught in my Shadow" (May 1991) No. 18 UK, No. 8 US Modern Rock
- "Sleep Alone" (August 1991) No. 43 UK
- "Dizzy" (Vic Reeves and the Wonder Stuff) (October 1991) No. 1 UK
- "Welcome to the Cheap Seats" (EP) (January 1992) No. 8 UK, No. 28 US Modern Rock
- "On the Ropes" (EP) (September 1993) No. 10 UK, No. 17 US Modern Rock
- "Full of Life (Happy Now) (EP)" (November 1993) No. 28 UK
- "Hot Love Now!" (EP) (March 1994) No. 19 UK
- "Unbearable" (September 1994) No. 16 UK
- 5 Track EP (December 2001)
- "Better Get Ready for a Fist Fight" (October 2004)
- "Bile Chant" / "Escape from Rubbish Island" (February 2005)
- Napster Live Session EP (March 2005)
- "Blah Blah, Lah Di Dah" (January 2006)
- "Last Second of the Minute" (March 2006)
- "The Sun Goes Down on Manor Road" (June 2006)
- "The Animals & Me" (May 2009)
- "From the Midlands with Love" No. 1 (April 2012)
- "From the Midlands with Love" No. 2 (August 2012)
- "From the Midlands with Love" No. 3 (December 2012)
- "Oh No!" (March 2013)
- "Friendly Company" (July 2013)
- "For the Broken Hearted" (August 2016)
- "Good Deeds and Highs" (December 2016)
- "No Thieves Among Us" (November 2019)
Videos and DVDs
- Eleven Appalling Promos (1990)
- Welcome to the Cheap Seats (1992)
- Greatest Hits: Finally Live (1994)
- Construction for the Modern Vidiot (2003)
- Hup Live (2010)
- Never Loved Elvis Live (2012)
- Oh Yeah, It's the Wonder Stuff (2014)
- Stanley, Rebecca. "The Wonder Stuff and Ned's Atomic Dustbin bringing double-headline tour to Birmingham". Expressandstar.com. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
- "The Wonder Stuff". Discogs. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
- "POP / The last Hunt ball: The Wonder Stuff, Phoenix Festival". The Independent. 21 July 1994. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
- Thornton, Tim. "Album Review: Oh No It's... The Wonder Stuff". Sabotage Times. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
- Savage, Wayne. "The Wonder Stuff's Miles Hunt played blues in a tree while near naked Reeves and Mortimer smoked fags". East Anglian Daily Times. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
- "The Wonder Stuff Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
- "Martin Gilks". The Independent. 6 April 2006. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
- "MILES HUNT > THE WONDER STUFF". Fused Magazine. 13 December 2014. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
- Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 1083–1084. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
- Melody Maker, 24-31 Dec 1988 p57
- "Reading 1992". Reading Festival. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
- "Vent 414". Discogs. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
- "Miles Hunt". Discogs. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
- "Wonder Stuff drummer dies at 41". BBC News. 4 April 2006. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
- "shop". Room 512 : the unofficial Wonderstuff fansite. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
- "The official website of The Wonder Stuff and Miles Hunt". Thewonderstuff.com. 22 November 2010. Archived from the original on 26 August 2011. Retrieved 15 October 2011.
- "Wonder Stuff : Interview with Miles Hunt". Pennyblackmusic.co.uk. 24 July 2012. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
- "Manchester Advertising Agency: Hoseasons 'Wish You Were Here' 30 second TV Commercial". YouTube.
- "Fuzz Townshend announces he's leaving The Wonder Stuff". facebook.com. 10 March 2014. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
- "Drummer Tony Arthy Quits Jesus Jones". mydrumlessons.co.uk. 3 January 2014. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
- "TWS 2019 Announcement". The Wonder Stuff. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 609–610. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- "The Wonder Stuff - Chart history | Billboard". Billboard.com.