The Wildhearts are a rock group originally formed in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. The band's sound is a mixture of hard rock and melodic pop music, often described in the music press as combining influences as diverse as The Beatles and 1980s-era Metallica. However, this characterization is refuted by the band, who see their influences as being far broader, as shown in the song "29 X The Pain", which lists many of group leader Ginger's influences. Despite several top 20 singles and one top 10 album in Britain, the Wildhearts have not achieved major commercial success, owing in part to difficulties with record companies and many internal problems often relating to recreational drugs and depression. Much of the band's early career was impacted by bitter feuds with their record company, East West.
In the band's turbulent and unpredictable history, band members have regularly been replaced, with the only constant member being the band's founder Ginger (real name David Walls), the singer, guitarist and predominant songwriter. Several band members have appeared in the line-up more than once. The band has also been split up or placed on hiatus by Ginger multiple times, with the current line-up convening in 2006.
The Wildhearts formed in late 1989, after Ginger was sacked from the Quireboys. An often-told story from this time period is that Ginger decided to start his own band after falling down a flight of stairs with a bottle of Jack Daniel's but emerging with the bottle intact. Ginger resolved to form a band in which he could exercise his songwriting skills, rather than just playing guitar as in his previous bands. Throughout the band's career, Ginger has written almost all the songs himself.
Initially called the Wild Hearts (two words), the band originally included singers Snake (ex-Tobruk) and Dunken F. Mullett (ex-Mournblade), who both joined for short periods. Nine demos were recorded in 1989 and 1990 with Snake singing on four and Dunken on five. These demos remain unreleased and displayed a sound resembling Guns N' Roses, with the Wildhearts sound still to be developed. Some of the demos were produced by Ric Browde and intended for an EP release that never materialized, though these demos are occasionally found on unofficial releases. In March 1991, Ginger reluctantly took over on lead vocals despite his reservations, as he has never thought himself a good singer.
After many early personnel changes, the line-up solidified around Ginger on guitar and vocals, C.J. (Christopher Jaghdar) on guitar and vocals, Danny McCormack on bass and vocals, and Dogs D'Amour drummer Bam. This line-up released two EPs in 1992, Mondo Akimbo a-Go-Go and Don’t Be Happy…Just Worry.
The first album
In 1993, drummer Bam returned to Dogs D'Amour and was replaced by Stidi (Andrew Stidolph). To follow up their first two EPs, the Wildhearts recorded demos for their first full-length album, which were released as Earth Vs The Wildhearts without re-recording. The singles "Greetings From Shitsville" and "TV Tan" were underground hits in 1993. Stidi left the band shortly afterwards to be replaced by Ritch Battersby, just in time for the recording of the single "Caffeine Bomb", a UK chart hit at the beginning of 1994, helped by a memorable video in which Ginger appeared to vomit into C.J.'s face. The band appeared on Top of the Pops wearing green welding goggles. The debut album was reissued in late 1994 with "Caffeine Bomb" tacked on as an extra track.
The Wildhearts next planned a double album, but East West vetoed this plan during the recording sessions. Instead the band released a collection of six of the more eclectic tracks on a fan club-only release entitled Fishing For Luckies in early 1995. This EP, which would be re-released in 1996 with more studio outtakes as Fishing for More Luckies, included the notable track "Geordie In Wonderland". Ginger offered this track to Kevin Keegan and Newcastle United F.C. as a potential team anthem, but was graciously turned down. The track was performed on Top of the Pops with Wolfsbane's Jeff Hateley, painted in Toon Army colours, on Mandolin. Other noteworthy tracks included "If Life Is Like A Lovebank, I Want An Overdraft", also released as a single, and the 11:24 epic "Sky Babies." Despite frequent fan requests, this track was rarely performed live, reputedly because of Danny McCormack's inability to remember his bass parts throughout the entire song. In 2003-2004 the band began to play "Sky Babies" at nearly every show with new bassist Jon Poole.
The second album proper was to be known as P.H.U.Q.. Midway through the recording sessions, Ginger (in a move he later claimed to regret), fired guitarist C.J., and some of the album's tracks were recorded without a second guitarist. P.H.U.Q. was released in May 1995 and reached #6 in the British charts, making it the band's most successful album. Shortly after the album's release, Mark Keds of Senseless Things was drafted as second guitarist, but lasted just one recording session, in which he appeared on the B-sides for the single "Just in Lust". Within a few weeks Keds was sacked after disappearing to Japan for a farewell tour with his old band. The Wildhearts were again down to a three-piece (Ginger, McCormack, and Battersby) for a few months, and even performed a few gigs in this incarnation. The band resolved to return to a two-guitar formation, and after requesting demos and holding auditions, hired the previously unknown Jef Streatfield.
By late 1995 the band were finally fed up with their record label and set out to tour Japan and the UK, determined that they would split up the band unless East West would release them from their contract. The tours were a resounding success and eventually the band managed to escape their record contract.
Round Records era
In early 1996 the Wildhearts claimed to have recorded two new studio albums, which would be released via East West on the band's own record label, Round Records. Only some of the songs saw the light of day, in a revamped version of the previously fan club-only EP, Fishing for Luckies with eight new tracks bringing it to full album length. An additional album of new material was never quite finished, although leaked copies were distributed as the Shitty Fuckin' Stupid Tracks bootleg. These rare tracks were officially released by East West in 1998 as part of the Landmines and Pantomimes rarities compilation, although the band claimed that they had not approved this release and urged fans to boycott the record. These tracks were never officially acknowledged as part of the band's corpus of material, although one song, "Tom Take the Money", has since been performed a number of times by Ginger at his solo acoustic appearances.
Endless, Nameless era
In 1997 the band signed to Mushroom Records, and set about making another album. This album abandoned the band's former pop rock leanings in favor of a more distorted and less commercial sound. Fans were initially confused by the first single, "Anthem", released in July 1997, and by the time the album itself, Endless, Nameless, was released, the opinion of fans was divided, with some calling it a masterpiece and others calling it an aberration.
In November 1997, shortly before the release of Endless, Nameless, Ginger decided to split the band due to musical differences and drug problems (affecting bassist Danny McCormack in particular). A scheduled British tour was canceled, though the band did manage to complete a short tour of Japan as a farewell to fans.
Multi-Formatting and Singles
Due to their large output of songs, but shortage of album opportunities due to conflicts with East West records, the Wildhearts have long been known for a large number of extra tracks released as B-sides on CD singles. Prior to 1997 the band would release one version of a single which would contain two or three B-sides, and the B-sides were never album outtakes but would be recorded specifically for the single. Some of the A-sides, such as "Caffeine Bomb" were also recorded specifically as singles and did not originally appear on an album.
Starting in 1997 the Wildhearts began to release multiple formats of singles. Previously, the band had been strenuously against multi-formatting, regarding the practice as a rip-off to fans. However, during the Endless, Nameless period the band released the two singles from the album in multiple formats, including two CD singles with two B-sides on each, and a 7" single with one B-side, with all the songs from the "Anthem" single being cover versions. Many of the band's fans were angry about this practice, with some even handing out fliers against the practice outside Wildhearts shows. Ginger reacted with frustration, saying that they were simply trying to bring more music to the fans. A change in chart eligibility for singles was probably also responsible, as a four-track single (or EP) would no longer be allowed to qualify for the British singles charts, but multiple formats were allowed with a maximum of three tracks or unlimited remixes so long as the running time was under 20 minutes. The band's label may have insisted on these changes as the only way to compete in the singles market of that time.
The band have continued to multi-format since 1997, in particular with "Top Of The World" in 2003, consisting of three CD singles, two with two B-sides and one with one B-side and the video for the song. However, the band have also continued to specifically re-enter the studio to record brand new songs for B-sides. During the band's reformation in the 2001-2004 period, they amassed enough B-sides for Gut Records to release a full-length album consisting only of B-sides, Coupled With.
For several years the band members concentrated on their respective side projects, although the most recent line-up of Ginger, McCormack, Ritch Battersby, and Jef Streatfield reformed a few times for one-off gigs and tours of Japan, where the band had always had a strong following.
In early 2001 Ginger announced that he was reforming the Earth Vs The Wildhearts lineup of the band for a tour later that year. This lineup (consisting of Ginger and C.J. on guitars and vocals, Danny McCormack on bass and vocals, and Stidi on drums) soon ran into difficulty due to McCormack's battle against heroin addiction, and on several dates of the comeback tour Toshi (from support band AntiProduct) stood in as bassist. By 2002 McCormack was once again clean and the band started recording a new mini-album and also toured the UK. The tracks intended for the album were released in the UK in late 2002 across three formats of the "Vanilla Radio" single, and as the mini-album Riff After Riff After Motherfucking Riff in Japan. "Vanilla Radio" reached the top 30 in the UK singles chart, and in early 2003 work began on a full-length album. However, during recording, McCormack checked himself into a rehabilitation center to deal with an alcohol problem, leaving Ginger to play the bass parts on the songs that were newly recorded for the album. McCormack's place in the live band was filled by "Random" Jon Poole, who had already worked with Ginger on his Silver Ginger 5 side project.
The album The Wildhearts Must Be Destroyed, released in 2003, had a very commercial sound, full of short simple pop songs with little of the heavier rock style which often featured on previous albums. The band also managed to get a US record deal with Gearhead Records, which released Riff After Riff in 2004, a compilation of songs from the UK post-reformation singles (all of the songs from this release are also found on the Gut Records compilation Coupled With). Riff After Riff was the Wildhearts' first US release since Earth Vs The Wildhearts in 1994. The release was also promoted by a tour, mostly as the support band for their ex-support band, The Darkness.
Then in early 2005, Ginger dissolved the Wildhearts again, citing a mixture of his own personal problems and a lack of commitment within the band. He briefly joined the Brides of Destruction before setting out on his own as a full-time solo artist. In typically unpredictable Wildhearts style, Ginger then reformed the Wildhearts once again for a one-off gig at Scarborough Castle in September 2005. The 1994-1995 line-up of Ginger, C.J., McCormack, and Ritch Battersby played at this gig.
Once again, the Wildhearts reformed in December 2006 and played a single live show at the Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton. This line-up saw Ginger joined again by C.J., Ritch Battersby and a new bassist, Scott Sorry (ex-Amen). This line-up soon became official, with plans made for a new album in 2007.
The New Era: 2007-present
In January 2007, the band spent a week in Tutbury Castle recording vocals and finishing their new self-titled album The Wildhearts. The album was released on April 23, preceded two weeks earlier by the download-only single "The Sweetest Song". The album received favorable reviews in the British rock press, with the Sun newspaper giving it 5 out of 5 ("probably the rock album of the year") and Rocksound magazine also giving it full marks (10 out of 10).
The band were to play a handful of shows across America, but due to delays in their Visa application they were forced to cancel the US tour. The band ended up playing multiple sold-out dates in New York, one of which was aboard a ferry. The band made up to their American fans for postponed gigs by playing very long sets of approximately two hours each night. An extensive UK tour followed in April and May.
"The New Flesh" was released as single on October 1, 2007 and became the first proper release from the self-titled album. The video for the song was shot in black and white and featured a number of children, including Ginger's own son Jake. The band released "Destroy All Monsters" as their next single. The video had a heavy theme of violence and horror.
On May 19, 2008 the Wildhearts released the all-covers album Stop Us If You've Heard This One Before, Vol 1.. Artists covered include Icicle Works, Fugazi, Helmet, Lee Harvey Oswald Band, The Distillers, The Descendents, and The Georgia Satellites. The first version of the album was a download-only collection of 12 tracks, followed by a full release with 15 tracks. In mid-2008, Rhino Records also released the three-CD compilation The Works, consisting of album tracks and B-sides from the 1992-1996 era at East West Records.
The band's ninth studio album, Chutzpah!, was released on August 31, 2009, to be followed by a tour of the United Kingdom in September and October.
Recently they won the award for Spirit of Independence at the 2009 Kerrang! Awards, as well as playing on the Bohemia stage during the very first Sonisphere festival; a four day music festival designed by those behind Download.
Most recent members:
- Ginger - vocals and guitar (1990-present)
- Scott Sorry - Bass and vocals (2006-present).
- C.J - guitar and vocals (1990-1994, 2001-present)
- Ritch Battersby - drums (1994-1998, 2005-present)
- Danny McCormack - Bass and vocals (1991-2003, 2005-2006).
- Stidi (Andrew Stidolph) - drums (1993-1994, 2001-2004)
- "Random" Jon Poole - Bass (2003-2004)
- Toshi - Bass (2001)
- Simon Gonk - Drums (One gig 2001)
- Jef Streatfield - guitar and vocals (1995-1998)
- Mark Keds - guitar and vocals (1995)
- Devin Townsend - guitar and vocals (1994).
- Willie Dowling - keyboards and piano (1994)
- Snake - vocals (1990)
- Dunken F. Mullett - vocals (1990)
- Bam - drums (1991-1993)
- Jools - Bass (1990-1991)
- Pat Walters - Drums (1990-1991)
Formations (since 1990)
Related bands/side projects
The band members have all been in other bands and projects,
- Prior to the Wildhearts, Ginger was in the backing band for UK punk singer Beki Bondage, UK band "The Quireboys" and the US band "The Throbs".
- During his time in the Wildhearts, Ginger formed the bands "Ginger And The Sonic Circus", "Silver Ginger 5" with Conny Bloom, "Clam Abuse" with Alex Kane from AntiProduct, and "Supershit 666" with Dregen (Backyard Babies) and Nicke Royale (Hellacopters), as well as releasing material and touring as a solo artist, often accompanied by Hot Steve, the Wildhearts' guitar tech, and "Random" Jon Poole (often billed a "Ginger and Friends").
- Danny McCormack formed The Yo-Yos and The Chasers. Confusingly an early (1998) form of the Yo-Yos was also known as The Chasers. The Yo-Yos were briefly resurrected in 2005. Prior to his Wildhearts days, he was a member of thrash-punk outfit Energetic Krusher.
- Bam was the drummer for the Dogs D'Amour before joining the Wildhearts, and after leaving the Wildhearts (reputedly after having come to blows with Ginger) he returned to the Dogs.
- CJ and Stidi were both members of The Jellys
- CJ and Willie Dowling were members of Honeycrack in the late '90s. CJ was a member of the Tattooed Love Boys before joining the Wildhearts, he recently recorded the debut album for his solo project, C.J & The Satellites.
- Willie Dowling was the founder member of The Grip, and is now recording and touring with Jackdaw4, previously known as The Celebrity Squares. He also founded the Sugar Plum Fairies, and released one album under this moniker. As well as these bands, he works frequently with Midge Ure from Ultravox and has written numerous TV themes and incidental music used in commercials and television programmes.
- Jef Streatfield is a member of Plan A and Sack Trick
- Ritch Battersby was in Grand Theft Audio (alongside Danny McCormack's brother Chris of 3 Colours Red), and briefly joined Ginger in Silver Ginger 5, plus he joined Ginger, Random Jon Poole and Willie Dowling for Ginger's 40th Birthday Party (17/12/04). He also was in New Disease who released an EP through in 2001.
- "Random" Jon Poole was a former member of Cardiacs and is now in a band called God Damn Whores, live line ups of the God Damn Whores have included members of Wildhearts, including Ginger on bass. In 2007 Random recorded a solo album (release date pending) of his own material, co-featuring vocalist Givvi Flynn (who also appears on Ginger's live acoustic album "Potatoes & You" performing "Unlucky In Love" from the Clam Abuse album "Stop Thinking" [co-written by Ginger & Alex Kane]).
- Devin Townsend is a successful recording artist, being in two main projects currently, The Devin Townsend Band, and Strapping Young Lad.
- Pat and Jools became members of Guns n' Wankers, and pre-Wildhearts they were both members of London glam-punk act Soho Roses.
- Stidi was a member of Whatever and now plays with Finnish punk rockers 'No Direction'.
- Ginger has performed as stand in lead singer/guitarist for The Scorchers in place of Jason Ringenberg in mid-2007. No studio material is expected.
- Pump It Up by Elvis Costello. This song was performed live many times in the Earth Vs era. Two recorded versions exist: The first recording is from BBC Radio 1 Session, and can be found on the Anarchic Airwaves compilation. This recording is a "pumped up" version of Costello original. The second recorded version of the song was first released to radio stations as an unlabeled CD, and DJs were left to guess the identity of the band. Since the style of the recording was heavily distorted, very much like the album Endless Nameless recorded at the same sessions, few guessed the true identity of the band, with one DJ believing it to be Ministry The song was available on a free CD with Melody Maker magazine in 1997, and on the Japanese version of Endless Nameless.
- The recorded version of the song My Baby Is A Headfuck on the Earth Vs album features an interlude with the guitar riff from the Beatles' "Day Tripper". When performing this song live the band often replace this interlude with a short excerpt from another cover versions, which have included...
- The theme from the 1980s sit-com Cheers - "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" features as a b-side to the single "Top Of The World". This was played repeatedly by Chris Moyles on the BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show.
- "White Lies" by Jason & the Scorchers - played live at most gigs in 1997 and a studio version appeared as a b-side to the "Anthem" single.
- The Wildhearts played "1000 Miles From Me" by Danny McCormack's other band The Yo-Yos on their tour of Japan in 1998. Danny sang lead vocals.
- "Time to Let You Go" originally by Enuff Z'Nuff appeared as a b-side to the "Anthem" single.
- "Lost Highway" originally by Hank Williams appeared as a b-side to the "Urge" single.
- "So Good To Be Back Home" originally by The Tourists appeared as a b-side to the "Anthem" single.
- "He's A Whore" originally by Cheap Trick appeared as a b-side to the "Anthem" single - the Wildhearts version sounding more similar to that recorded by Big Black than to the original.
- "Heroin" on Endless Nameless is a cover of the Dogs D'Amour track "Heroine" with slightly altered lyrics.
- In 2001 the band recorded a version of Jimmie Rodgers' "Last Blue Yodel" with Jason Ringenberg.
- The Wildhearts Official Site
- The Wildhearts Mailing List
- Official Myspace Page
- FiveMilesHigh Rock n' Roll Resource Wildhearts Section
- FiveMilesHigh Rock n' Roll Resource Ginger Section
- Longhair's Wildhearts Pages
- Wildhearts Lyrics
- Ginger and the Sonic Circus Official Site
- USA fan page for Ginger
- OneMetal.com Interview with CJ Wildheart
Notes and references
Biography from Wikipedia