Aside from older bands – Aerosmith and AC/DC specifically – The Wildhearts were probably my favourite contemporary band when I first started listening to music. I really don’t remember why but I bought the Suckerpunch CD single – still one of my all-time favourite singles mainly due to the strength of its B-sides – and I was hooked.
I could never understand – as you never do when you’re young and you don’t really understand the music business – why The Wildhearts weren’t more popular than they were. In the mid-nineties, they were the darlings of the British rock press, and their singles were sold in enough quantities to usually make the Top 10, securing them a spot on Top Of The Pops. Fans didn’t just like The Wildhearts – they loved The Wildhearts. Once at Rio’s in Bradford, I was let into the club for free by the bouncer, simply because I was wearing a Wildhearts T-shirt.
When touring this album, their set at 1994’s Reading Festival was memorable when their bass player – Danny McCormack – dislocated his knee doing a star jump during the first song Caffeine Bomb. Instead of stopping, he was propped up onto a flight case, and played the rest of the set (in blinding pain). I think it’s things like that which really made them real. Can you imagine Jack White doing that? Or the Kings Of Leon?
Their other big draw is that their B-sides were just as good – if not better – as the material they would put on their albums. So fans were rewarded by decent songs every time they released something, whether it was a full album or a single (or even a fan-club only album like the very limited original version of Fishing For Luckies, which I still have on CD and always look up in Record Collector to see how much it’s worth these days).
In that decade, out of all the bands I liked, I must have seen this band play live the most. I rushed out and bought tickets to their tours, even when they didn’t have an album out to support. Unlike most bands, they used to tour continually, and their gigs were always well attended by fans in black smiley-bones T-shirts with the ironic catchphrase ‘Demand The Right To Be Unique’ scrawled across the back in white lettering. I can’t remember how many times I saw them, but it must have been something like 6 or 7 times within the space of 3 or 4 years.
I even had a pen-pal (a pen-pal!) around this time – who I met (I don’t know where) through our mutual love for the band. Unfortunately for her, living in the USA, she didn’t get to see them play live too often – if at all – so I used to report back to her every time I saw the band play, and we would share bootleg tapes of their shows. Ultimately I think we lost touch when the internet replaced such archaic forms of communication.
When I went to University, and my musical tastes broadened, I fell out of touch with what the band were doing. I still bought their stuff, but 1997’s industrial-sounding Endless, Nameless turned me off them completely. I saw them live again in the early 2000s, and thankfully they had gone back to their early days, wearing leather jackets on stage and playing material from their early years.
Just listening to this album brings back so many memories – probably just because I went to see them play live so often. I remember driving to Warrington to see them play once – at Parr Hall – and we pulled over to ask a couple of locals who looked like rockers for directions. They said they didn’t know where the venue was, so we eventually found it ourselves, and ended up standing in the queue behind the guys we had just asked for directions (seems that Warringtonians either aren’t too friendly, or they’re not great at giving directions). Another time, I saw them support AC/DC in Manchester – one of my all-time favourite gig line-ups – and I was amongst a very small group of people (there were maybe 5 or 6 of us) moshing to them amongst the older AC/DC fans.
This album is dedicated to Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson, who died not long after it was recorded. He plays a guitar solo on the great My Baby Is A Headf*ck – his final recorded appearance.
Hit: TV Tan
Hidden Gem: Everlone