I'll admit it. I didn't even know The Wonder Stuff existed until September
1989, when some young girl I madly passionately loved brought a copy of some
blue record called Hup into school. I fell in mad passionate love instead
with the record instead. A far better choice. I don't know where she is now,
but I'd like to thank her for changing my life for the better.
Over the next few years life with The Wonder Stuff was both sad and
beautiful. Dog eared copies of Never Loved Elvis watched dispassionately as
people of varying degrees of importance and cruelty wandered in and out of
my life. When everything else had fallen apart I still had Mission Drive's
mantra of "the wicked lies and all the shite you say" and Sleep Alone's
heartbroken lullaby to keep me company. Life is not what we thought it was.
The summers were long, drinking in local pubs and drunk on miniscule amounts
of this thing called cider whilst we all tried to kiss ugly girls and feel
older than we actually were. A few years later we did it to feel younger
than we actually were.
Of course, my first introduction to the beauty of Elvis, came when some kid
in school had a dodgy copy of the demos run off by the band in the summer of
1990 and it became the mark of cool, to have a copy of this tinny, hissy
cassette on your massive, chunky walkman. I got one, eventually.
And then, as they say, the word was out. The Size Of A Cow became top five,
and The Wonder Stuff became the biggest, best loved secret there was. They
didn't have fans, this band. They had friends. Everyone wanted to be in The
Wonder Stuff. I swore Miles was keeping the seat warm for me until I felt
ready to front the band again.
The local buzz just after the release of the album was enough for me - I'd
waited a long time to see them in the flesh, and my chance came sooner than
I thought. One night in a goth pub in a back alley it became clear they were
shooting the video for Caught In My Shadow the next day in Birmingham city
centre. I'm in there - falling off someone shoulders during the chorus and
yelling the words out of time. That night, everyone wore old Stuffies shirts
and went to the Hummingbird to relive our good fortune. We got drunk in a
manner only the stupidly young can.
Bescot Stadium - about 5 minutes walk from where I'm living right now - was
the highlight. It was the most exciting thing to ever happen in that
godforsaken armpit of the world called Walsall. It cost me three weeks
pocket money to do it, and all day being crushed by the faithful thousands,
living off Ribena and sweets and drinking the torrential rain, but it was
one of the best days and nights of my life. So far.
These days, I don't listen to the album much. It captures them at an
absolute high point. Miles seemed to be almost enjoying this pop star lark,
and the rest of the band seemed to be dragged along willingly onto a
rollercoaster of high spirited youthful madness as the Johnny Public
realised that we'd been force fed brainless crap for years, and now we
wanted, no, needed a band with balls, wit, and haircuts.
I must have heard it every day for at least three years, and after the
thousandth time I reckon I know it well enough now to instead live off a
veritable mountain of bootleg CD's, records, and cassettes recorded on dodgy
walkmans in halls across the world. Over the next few years, despite
constantly flirting with bankruptcy and an excessive overdraft, I managed to
see them all over Britain. Headlining massive sports halls, playing secret
shows supporting various nobodies in dingy Uni bars, and splitting up in a
blaze of glory at the Phoenix Festival. A string of hit singles followed,
including the bizarre Number One in the shape of Dizzy. On more than one
occasion I ended up walking home for hours and hours and hours after missing
my last bus home, eating cold pizza in the rain, knowing it was worth it. I'
d do it all again if I could. And come December I will.
But that's another story. And of course, like any good band does, they
reformed just to see if they could still do it.
I can't wait until December 2000, when I get to see every gig of their
reformation tour. It's not a chance to relive the past, but an opportunity
to embrace the future.
I still find myself running around the house playing air guitar and yelling
the words at the top of my voice at the strangest times without a trace of
embarrassment. I reckon that's the sign of a good record myself.
10Mark Reed's Score