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Wire (band)

Wire are an English rock band formed in London in October 1976, (and intermittently active to the present) by Colin Newman (vocals, guitar), Graham Lewis (bass, vocals), Bruce Gilbert (guitar), and Robert Gotobed ( Grey) (drums). They were originally associated with the punk rock scene, appearing on the Live at the Roxy WC2 album - a key early document of the scene, and were later central to the development of post-punk.

Overview

Inspired by the burgeoning U.K. punk scene, Wire are often cited as one of the more important rock groups of the 1970s and 1980s. Critic Stewart Mason writes, "Over their brilliant first three albums, Wire expanded the sonic boundaries of not just punk, but rock music in general.

Wire are arguably a definitive art punk or post-punk ensemble, mostly due to their richly detailed and atmospheric sound, often obscure lyrical themes and, to a lesser extent, their Situationist political stance. The group exhibited a steady development from an early raucous style (1977's Pink Flag) to a more complex, structured sound involving increased use of guitar effects and synthesizers (1978's Chairs Missing and 1979's 154).

The band gained a reputation for experimenting with song arrangements throughout their career. Following their reformation in 1986, The Ex-Lion Tamers (a Wire cover band, named after a song title from Pink Flag) were their opening act. The cover band played Wire's older material, while Wire themselves played only new material on that tour.

History

Wire's debut, Pink Flag (1977) contains songs which are very diverse in mood and style, but most use a minimalist punk approach, unorthodox structures, and several songs are under a minute in length; "Field Day For The Sundays" is only 28 seconds long.

Chairs Missing followed in 1978, and found Wire stepping back a bit from the stark minimalism of Pink Flag, with longer, more atmospheric songs and synthesizer parts by producer Mike Thorne.

The experimentation was even more prominent on 154 (1979). Many of the songs had bassist Graham Lewis on lead vocals.

In 1979, creative differences pulled the band in various directions, culminating in the Document and Eyewitness LP (1981), a recording of a performance that featured almost exclusively new material. The LP came packaged with an EP of a different performance that was also new material. Some of this material ended up being included on Colin Newman's post-Wire solo albums.

There followed a period of suspension (1981-1985) in favour of solo and non-Wire collaborative projects, including Dome, Cupol, Duet Emmo, and several Colin Newman solo efforts. In 1985, the group reformed. Reforming as a "beat combo" (a joking reference to early 60's beat music or even possibly beatniks), the group became increasingly immersed in electronics. The band released It's Beginning To And Back Again, in 1989 as a "live" album of mostly reworked versions of songs from The Ideal Copy and A Bell Is a Cup...Until It Is Struck. IBTABA was based on live recordings, heavily re-arranged, edited and remixed in the studio. One of the few new songs on the album, "Eardrum Buzz", became the band's biggest charting single.

The increased use of electronics on the album Manscape caused Gotobed to fire himself in 1990 when he realised a drummer was unnecessary, even at live gigs. In response to his departure, Wire dropped one letter in their name to become "Wir" (still pronounced "wire"). Wir released The First Letter in 1991, which received a mixed reception, but whose electronics-heavy sound was arguably ahead of its time. Afterwards, the occasional collaborative effort punctuated a further period of solo recordings, during which Newman founded the Swim ~ label and latterly Githead with his wife (ex-Minimal Compact bassist Malka Spigel), but not until 1999 did Wire once again become a full-time entity.

With Gotobed back in the line-up (now using his birth name, Robert Grey), the group initially reworked a substantial chunk of its back catalogue for a performance at Royal Festival Hall. Great receptions during a short tour of the U.S. and a number of UK gigs convinced the band to continue. Two EPs and an album Send (2003) followed, as well as live collaborations with stage designer Es Devlin and artists Jake and Dinos Chapman.

2006 saw the re-release of Wire's 1970s albums returned to their original vinyl tracklistings. Rumours abounded of a renewal of activity to mark the 30th anniversary of the band's debut as a 4 piece & the release of Pink Flag in 2007. A third Read & Burn EP was released in November, 2007.

A full length album of new material entitled "Object 47" was released in July 2008. It appears that Bruce Gilbert was not involved in this recording (although, according to Colin Newman, he did feature in a minimal capacity on the third Read and Burn EP, despite having left in 2004) and, judging by recent photographs (April 2008) at the band's website, and a mailing list email sent to fans, is certainly not part of the band touring from April through to July 2008.

Wire have announced they are headlining London's Offset Festival with fellow post-punk legends Gang of Four this August. Link Laika's Margaret Fiedler McGinnis has joined Wire on guitar for their 2008 live appearances, although it is reported that ex Band of Susans and Helmet guitarist Page Hamilton is to join the band for future studio work.

Influence

Like The Velvet Underground, Wire are a band whose influence has outshone their comparatively modest record sales. In the 1980s and 1990s, The Urinals, Manic Street Preachers, The Minutemen, R.E.M. (who covered "Strange" on their Document album) and Robert Smith of the Cure expressed a fondness for the group. Guided By Voices's Robert Pollard claimed that Wire was his favorite band, and that the fact that GBV's albums had so many songs was directly influenced by Wire's albums. One of My Bloody Valentine's last renditions was a cover "Map Ref 41°N 93°W" for a Wire tribute entitled Whore. The song was selected as a favorite cover at Flak Magazine. More recently, Fischerspooner (who covered "The 15th" on their #1 album), britpop bands like Elastica and Menswe@r and post-punk revival bands like Bloc Party, Futureheads and Franz Ferdinand owe a debt to Wire. Blur's work, along with many more minor Britpop bands, has been particularly redolent of 1970s Wire at various points.

Wire were influential on hardcore punk. Fans included Ian MacKaye of the hardcore punk band Minor Threat and Henry Rollins, formerly of Black Flag. Minor Threat covered "1 2 X U" for the Dischord Records compilation Flex Your Head and Henry Rollins, as Henrietta Collins & The Wife-Beating Childhaters, covered "Ex-Lion Tamer" on the E.P. Drive by Shooting. Michael Azerrad reports, in Our Band Could Be Your Life, that at Minor Threat's second gig, each of the seven bands on the roster performed their version of a Wire song. Big Black covered Wire's "Heartbeat" twice, once as a studio version which was released as a single (also included on The Rich Man's Eight Track Tape compilation), and also as a live version featuring Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis that was included on the VHS version of their live album Pigpile.

Wire influenced the Britpop movement; a plagiarism case between Wire's music publisher and Elastica, over the similarity between Wire's 1977 song "Three Girl Rhumba" and Elastica's 1995 hit "Connection", resulted in an out-of-court settlement. The rateyourmusic website's popularity rated Wire's albums, as of August 2007 - Pink Flag #4 for 1977, #185 overall - Chairs Missing #3 for 1978, #173 overall - 154 #13 for 1979, #579 overall - Read & Burn 01 #6 for 2002, #159 overall and Read & Burn 02 only available at live shows in 2002 and via mail order #17 for 2002, #378 overall.

Sample

Discography

Studio albums

Singles and EPs

  • Mannequin / 12XU / Feeling Called Love (November 1977)
  • I am the Fly / Ex-Lion Tamer (February 1978)
  • Dot Dash / Options R (June 1978)
  • Outdoor Miner / Practice Makes Perfect (January 1979, UK #51)
  • A Question of Degree / Former Airline (June 1979)
  • Map Reference 41°N 93°W / Go Ahead (October 1979)
  • Our Swimmer / Midnight Bahnhof Cafe (May 1981)
  • Crazy About Love / Second Length (Our Swimmer) / Catapult 30 (March 1983)
  • Snakedrill (EP, November 1986)
  • Ahead / Feed Me (live) (March 1987)
  • Kidney Bingos / Pieta (March 1988, UK #88)
  • Silk Skin Paws / German Shepherds (June 1988)
  • Life in the Manscape / Gravity Worship (May 1990)
  • So and Slow It Goes / Nice from Here (April 1991, as Wir)
  • First Letter / The Last Number (December 1995, with Hafler Trio)
  • Vien (1997, as Wir)
  • Twelve Times You (January 2001)
  • Read & Burn - 01 (June 2002)
  • Read & Burn - 02 (October 2002)
  • Read & Burn - 03 (November 2007)
  • "Object 47" (2008)

Compilations & live albums

  • Document and Eyewitness (live, June 1981)
  • And Here It Is...Again... (1984)
  • Play Pop (March 1986)
  • In the Pink (live, August 1986)
  • The Peel Sessions (EP, November 1987)
  • On Returning (1977-1979) (July 1989)
  • Double Peel Sessions (February 1990)
  • 1985-1990 The A List (May 1993)
  • Exploding Views (September 1994, with book)
  • Behind the Curtain (May 1995)
  • Turns and Strokes (May 1996)
  • Coatings (October 1997)
  • The Third Day (Feb 2000)
  • It's All In The Brochure (May 2000)
  • WIRE On The Box: 1979] (October 2004)
  • WIRE: The Scottish Play: 2004 (March 2005)
  • Live at the Roxy, London (1977) / Live at CBGB Theatre, New York (1978)] (November 2006)

Singles chart placings

Year Title Chart positions Album
US Hot 100 US Modern Rock US Mainstream Rock UK
1979 "Outdoor Miner" - - - #51 Chairs Missing
1989 "Eardrum Buzz" - #2 - #68 It's Beginning to and Back Again
1989 "In Vivo" - #24 - - It's Beginning to and Back Again

References

Sources

  • Reynolds, Nick. " Wire". bbc.co.uk, June 2006.
  • Guinness Book of British Hit Singles - 16th Edition - ISBN 0-85112-190-X
  • Guinness Book of British Hit Albums - 7th Edition - ISBN 0-85112-619-7
  • Eden, Kevin. Everybody Loves A History - SAF Publishing - ISBN 0946719 071 - 1991

External links

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