A couple of weeks I was excavating for the standards of the British New Wave led by the mavericks of the Stiff label. “Whole Wide World” by the amiably ramshackle Wreckless Eric is an undoubted classic of the species. I saw Eric on the Stiffs tour, I bought his first LP & wish that it was still around because “W.W.W” was not the only good track on that vinyl beauty. I decided to check for Eric’s later work, I knew that he was still around & gigging with his wife, Amy Rigby. Then, before I was able to get any handle on his sporadic recordings over the last long times along comes this absolute cracker from right about now.
Well OK. It’s Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby, “Rebel Girl Rebel Girl” from “A Working Museum” released in October 2012 & a terrific Byrds-pop sound all lo-fi & lovely. I will make it lovelier now by telling you the song is a tip of the hat to Hazel Dickens, the American bluegrass singer/activist, & to Poly Styrene off of X Ray Spex (“Oh Bondage…you know it !) who both unfortunately passed away in the same week in April 2011. It’s Amy’s song & of her 6 solo LPs I only know the splendid, & finely titled, track “Dancing With Joey Ramone”. Her debut “Diary of a Mod Housewife” is another smart title. Mmm…one more for the list to check out.
I had approached Eric’s work a little randomly & what I was hearing I liked. Eric was in the great Len Bright Combo…who knew ? So I asked a man, who I knew was a fan of the man, to point me in the correct direction. His messaged reply was not only the very thing but it turns out that my contact has actually released a Wreckless Eric record on his own label. Ask the right question of the right person & away you go. The first recommendation was a solo LP made in 1991 after Eric had been in other bands. I had heard some of “The Donovan Of Trash”, liked what I heard & wondered why it had taken me so long.
“Joe Meek” is a tribute to the 1960s wunderkind of early British pop music who’s pioneering ingenuity & experimentation created worldwide hits for,, among others the Tornados & the Honeycombs, from a North London flat while the folks downstairs banged on their ceiling. An explosive cocktail of both work & personal problems resulted in debt, depression & a tragic death aged 37 in 1967. Eric’s song tells the story, the swirls & washes of the “Telstar” sound a fitting accompaniment. “The Donovan of Trash”, made with the Medway maverick Billy Childish, is a record fit to sit at the same table as that debut.
There is plenty of other work to discover. “12 0’clock Stereo” recorded as the Hitsville House Band & “Le Beat Group Electrique” from 1989 are 2 LPs that I have been pointed towards. However it is the 3 records by Eric & Amy that will take my immediate attention because loosehandlebars is all about the 21st century, all about the Now…and again.
Now that is great ! Amy’s song about the pair’s meeting is as smart as you want & the video is just the sweetest, funniest thing I have seen this year. the first record has a song called “The Downside of being a Fuck Up”. Take it from me there are a couple.
Currently my friend Wilko Johnson is receiving a tsunami of love & respect after the bad news about his health. It comes from the best of intentions but for 30 years Wilko played in small halls to small audiences despite being, as I wrote here last year, a national treasure. There are others who have pursued the road less traveled, translating their individuality even eccentricity into fine work. In music there’s Robert Wyatt & Kate Rusby, poetry John Cooper Clarke, art Ralph Steadman & in cinema Mike Leigh. None of these artists aim for the mass market but their essentially British qualities are undervalued in this country. Wreckless Eric Goulden has probably no intention of being considered alongside such company but his laconic often cynical lyrics, his rough and ready take on pop music deserves to be heard more widely & to be celebrated.
Here’s Eric’s version of the Clash’s “The Crooked Beat”. rare, ramshackle & respect !