Alternative rockers The Wonder Stuff burst forth on the indie rock scene in 1987. Their blend of catchy pop hooks and punk rock attitude combined with a large dose of self-deprecating lyrical wit gave them instant cult status.
Originally hailing from Stourbridge in the West Midlands, they released four studio albums for Polydor between 1988 and 1993, The Eight Legged Groove Machine, Hup, Never Loved Elvis, and Construction for the Modern Idiot. The band are probably best known for their two biggest hits: Size of a Cow — which reached number five in the UK singles chart — and their cheeky cover of Tommy Roe’s Dizzy (featuring comedian Vic Reeves as guest vocalist), that saw them reach number one. They split in 1994.
Frontman Miles Hunt went on to form Vent 414, then worked as a solo artist and as an MTV presenter, before reforming The Wonder Stuff for a Christmas show in 2000. They went on to release a further three studio albums, Escape from Rubbish Island (2004), Suspended by Stars (2006) and Oh No, It’s… The Wonder Stuff (2012). A recently released book of Miles’ memoirs from the early days of the band, The Wonder Stuff Diaries 86-89, was crowd-funded by fans and published last year to critical acclaim. Last month saw the current line up of the band make a guest appearance on comedian Greg Davies’ Channel 4 sitcom Man Down.
”I’ve been working on the follow-up book to ‘The Wonder Stuff Diaries 86 - 89’,” Miles told TeamRock. “I wrote a whole lot more from 90 to 94, more like tour journals as opposed to the first lot that were essentially appointment books. As well as that I’m working on demos for the next Wonder Stuff album. We intend to release it on March 19th 2016, the band’s official 30th anniversary. I’ve written five songs on my own, one with Erica (Nockalls, violin and backing vocals) and six with the whole band. I’m really pleased with what we have so far, but I still think we’ll be putting in another full band writing session before we start recording for real later in the year. Doing the Man Down thing for Greg was a gas, he’s a good man and we owed him a favour for appearing in our Oh No! video a couple of years ago. It was a life high point seeing the actress that played Mrs. McCluskey in Grange Hill dancing to a song that Erica and I wrote. I can’t imagine how we’ll ever top that!”
Miles’ top ten Wonder Stuff songs are:
Sing The Absurd (Construction for the Modern Idiot, 1993) I wrote this in around the same amount of time as it takes to play it. We had finished recording everything for our third album, ‘Never Loved Elvis’, at The Townhouse Studios in Shepherds Bush, London. Our producer, Mick Glossop, was working on a mix of one of the album tracks and I had nothing to do, so I noodled around on the guitar for an hour or so and came up with this. Whatever Mick had been mixing that day was abandoned and we recorded this song instead. We saved it for our fourth album, ‘Construction For The Modern Idiot’. It doesn’t happen very often, but getting a song written and recorded in one day is a fantastic experience! I still love playing it live too.
Oh No! (Oh No It’s… The Wonder Stuff, 2012) This was the first song I wrote for our last album, Oh No it’s… The Wonder Stuff, but I think it has the feel of a song that could have been on any of our albums. That wasn’t my intention at all, I just had a couple of chords and a bit of a melody. I hadn’t written a song for The Wonder Stuff in something like six years at the time, it was a good feeling to discover I still had what The Wonder Stuff requires of me. It’s also the video we made with Greg Davies.
Room 512, All The News That’s Fit To Print (Construction for the Modern Idiot, 2000 re-issue) I’d had a boozy night out in NYC and walked about three miles back to my hotel in a shitty mood. Thankfully there was a guitar in the room when I got back and I attempted to rid myself of the bad mood by writing a song. It worked.
Ten Trenches Deep (The Eight Legged Groove Machine: 20th Anniversary Edition, 2008) This is the song we always close our live set with. It was written very early in the band’s life, maybe 1987? It’s grown over the years to include a blinding fiddle solo at the tail end of the song. Not only is it a great track to play live but it always has me looking forward to getting off stage and having a nice, ice cold, whisky and a cigarette. It’s the simple things.
The Size Of A Cow (Never Loved Elvis, 1991) It’s still my biggest earner and I’m still very proud of it.
Friendly Company (Oh No, it’s… The Wonder Stuff, 2012) Another recent one. Erica and I set ourselves a project one afternoon to simply write a commercial sounding pop song in a Wonder Stuff vein. And I think we got it right. I heard recently that it has entered that hallowed arena of a song used in the background of the TV show Come Dine With Me. What else could a man reasonably ask for…?
Mission Drive (Never Loved Elvis, 1991) Another song consisting of only three chords played in the same order over and over again. Also I love the fact that this song has no chorus, something I’ve tried to do a few times in my writing life. It’s not an easy thing to do, but this one will always be a favourite of mine. Oh and when I watch our audience kick off half way through the song… well lets just say it’s brought a lump to my throat on more than one occasion.
Golden Green (Hup, 1989) A lovely bit of C&W fun. We rescued the verse and chorus from another song we had demoed that just didn’t make the grade. Turning it into a C&W hoedown was all it required.
Who Wants To Be The Disco King? (The Eight Legged Groove Machine: 20th Anniversary Edition, 2008) This is one of those songs that we released between albums, as opposed to a song taken from an album or shoehorned onto a future album. I’ve always loved it that this song stands alone, much like another in-between album single that we released, Circlesquare. I’ve recently added it to mine and Erica’s acoustic set, having never played it acoustically in all the years it’s been around, which has once again rejuvenated my love of the song.