By the time Earth Vs The Wildhearts was released in August 1993, the title of The Wildhearts’ debut album was also a fair summary
“I was just a really angry kid, full of spit and venom,” reflects frontman Ginger. “We weren’t afraid to turn around to figures of authority and say, ‘Fuck yourself.’ And record companies were just an extension of that. I had no problem calling people cunts. In fact, I used to like it.”
“The band was volatile by nature,” guitarist CJ adds. “We were headstrong and we had a stance and swagger about us. Whenever the label would tell us to do anything, we would do the opposite. We were four young, fucked-up gits. We were emulating our heroes, and a lot of them were fuck-ups.”
The primary source of label aggro was The Wildhearts’ music: a thrilling but jumbled pop/metal Molotov cocktail that marked them out on the early-90s circuit.
“The label were always trying to streamline it,” Ginger remembers. “Being brought up through punk, loving pop, thrash and rock’n’roll, alternative country like Jason & The Scorchers, the Long Ryders, Cheap Trick… it was such a mish-mash. There was no way any other band could have sounded like us, unless they had the same fucked-up record collection.
“I always had My Baby Is A Headfuck in me. It was like the Ramones song I never wrote when I was a kid, but I structured it with a three-tiered solo, which I copied from Jason & The Scorchers – adding just a little bit of intelligence to very dumbed-down rock’n’roll.”
Not surprisingly, any hope of hit potential was nixed by the expletive-driven lyric, skewering one of his many exes.
“There was always more than one girl,” he admits. “We used to take so many drugs, and relationships were just part of the party. It was the turn of the 90s, and girls were colourful and nuts. That song was about a particular girl who was doing that mind-game trickery that girls do. At first it was like: ‘Oh, isn’t it cute, she’s crazy!’ Then, obviously, she actually was crazy, and it stopped being cute really quick.”
She was borderline certifiable at the end. “I was staying with my friend [cartoonist] Ray Zell in Holborn when I was writing the first album,” Ginger explains, “so this was ’91 or ’92. He’d just split up with his girlfriend and he had this idea for a song called Suffokate. My Baby Is A Headfuck was my version. I wrote it in Ray’s living room, in probably less time than it takes to actually listen to the song.”
In November ’92, having squeezed their long-suffering label EastWest for cash to demo a batch of early material, The Wildhearts hit Wessex Studios and set out to top the debauchery of previous incumbents the Sex Pistols. “People weren’t best pleased with our behaviour,” says CJ. “The cleaners at Wessex used to complain every morning about the cans. I had a dog at the time, called Squirt, and if she was fed at odd hours, she’d crap.”
“We were taking lots of speed and pot, acid now and again,” recalls Ginger, “but no one had got into heroin yet. We were still drinking Special Brew and Stone’s Ginger Wine because we couldn’t afford Jack Daniel’s. We’d make these ridiculous curries that’d last us weeks – we’d just keep topping it up. We learnt how to get really fucked up really cheaply.”
One moment which does stick in the band’s frazzled memory is the arrival of Mick Ronson. The former Spiders From Mars guitarist’s guest solo on My Baby Is A Headfuck would be his final performance before he succumbed to liver cancer in April 1993.
“Mick was going to produce, originally,” says Ginger, “and I think when the record company found out he wasn’t well they decided they didn’t want him to. I got in touch and said: ‘I’m sorry about the production job. It’s corporate nonsense. But would you still come and play the solo on this song?’ And he came down with this battered old Telecaster and played the best solo I’ve ever heard in my life.”
“He was a lot healthier when he was doing pre-production,” notes CJ, “and you could tell he’d had a relapse. It was sad. But the slide solo he plays on Headfuck is amazing. It was nice, because I do the first solo, then Mick plays the middle one, and Ginger the third. Mick was a lovely guy.”
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“We were crazy pot smokers at the time,” recalls Ginger, “and Mick would regale us while we just sat there just gazing at him, like, ‘You’re that fella.’ He didn’t live long after that solo. We didn’t think he would be gone that quickly. We’d have paid more attention. We’d definitely have took more pictures.” In a rare moment of band/label harmony, it was agreed that the Wessex demos had captured a certain grubby energy, and the rough cut of Headfuck – complete with breakdown riff stolen from Day Tripper and a spoken intro from a girl on Ginger’s answerphone – was aired on the band’s debut. Understandably never picked as a single, it’s a stretch to claim this fan favourite changed the trajectory of the 90s, but then its creators never had such lofty ambitions.
“It’s just rock’n’roll, innit?” shrugs CJ. “Headfuck has always been everyone’s favourite. It’s the chord progression, but it’s the sentiment as well. Everyone’s had a partner who fucked with their head.”