Sometime around 1989, I discovered (quite by accident, mind you) a band named The Wonder Stuff. I worked at a used record store at the time when I wasn’t being a janitor to support my bad habit of working in a used record store, and I stumbled on a cut-out CD while filing some new acquisitions into the bins. It was a compilation/promotional album of various bands and one of the songs was Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah by the Pogues, which turned me off from the Pogues until years later (I still cringe when I think of that song, Shane must have really been soused when he wrote that one). The Wonder Stuff’s own offering was Give Give Give Me More More More. I liked it enough to ask around about it.
My friend, a guy from Gloucestershire until he moved to the States, said he’d heard of them and liked what he heard, but didn’t have anything. At the time, I couldn’t find anything by them in my store or other stores because of the silly monopolistic rules about regional music imports at the time and the fact that buyers hadn’t smuggled copies over the pond yet.
A short while later, I started dating a woman named Sally who was from somewhere near Liverpool, if I recall, and she had an accent so thick that I often had to “translate” for her when we went out; something I found hilarious and infuriated her to know end. “I am speaking English, you fucking twats,” she would shout when the server at McDonalds would look confused when she placed her order and then look to me for support. I understood her perfectly, but I grew up on a heathy diet of British English from the time I turned ten and discovered British television and was likewise enamored by the UK music scene (and so heard plenty of interviews). Plus my friend from Gloucestershire wasn’t much into enunciation (if he moved his lips when talking, I never saw it), so I’d gotten some practice there as well.
Anyway, Sally was absolutely mad about The Wonder Stuff (a “Stuffie”) and she loaned me all of their singles and their first album to copy over to cassettes. If she hadn’t decided to run off with a new girlfriend without warning, she’d have gotten more than the album back (I still have the 12″ vinyls). It wasn’t malicious theft on my part, she just didn’t pass on any way for me to return them, having decided to move in with her girlfriend and not sharing those details with me or her previous roommate.
Anyway, shortly after wearing my own groove in her album with my stereo, I got involved with some guys who wanted to play music together. I think they were disappointed that their main songwriter had totally gotten absorbed in the Stuffies sound by that point and, instead of sounding like Love and Rockets, Joy Division, Cure and Bauhaus, they had some mad asshole trying to play some saccharine-assed guitar pop with snotty and fuck-you lyrics — and trying to convince them it was what was going to be the in-thing in the early 90s (I was somewhat correct in that assertation).
I managed to get them to do a cover of A Wish Away. The actually seemed to like playing it, although they would never have admitted such blasphemy if you asked them directly about it (it was often suggested as a warm-up tune for each rehearsal).
By that time, I had grown my hair out significantly and let it go back to it’s natural dirty blonde. I used to shake it back and forth while playing my guitar (“like a shaking thing”). About the only other details I recall about the band was that one member was car-less and lived down by Paisley Park Studios [Prince’s Studio], so the rest of us would haul ass all the way from Minneapolis to jam (some 30-40 miles) and we always had to drive past the studio and an abandoned monastery that looked more like it should have housed insane people than Jesuits.
In the end, they really wanted to be goth and I didn’t. I had moved on by that point and wanted to have fun playing my new guitar. And shaking my hair like an eight-legged groove machine.
I remember the time when I was feeling down
And I never, ever wished you were here
And then there was the time when I was feeling down
And I never, ever shed a tear
I remember the sound when I hit the ground
Somebody called it fear
But now I need a hug and now I need a love
And I really, really wish you were here
I wish you were here, I wish you were here
Now that you’ve gone
Yeah, I wish you were here, I wish you were here
Now that you’ve gone
Aside: One of my favorite Wonder Stuff quotes is when Miles spoke after the first song of their set when I saw them live in Seattle. He said, “Goddamn, this has got to be about the ugliest fucking audience we’ve ever had.”
Most people got pissed at that. I almost fell off my barstool laughing. It was part of their schtick, and you could tell the real fans from the wannabees by the reaction in the crowd.