The best summary of Pete Wylie that I’ve ever read appeared in a piece in The Guardian just over 12 months ago:-

Pete Wylie was one of John Peel’s pet projects. He’d been one of the legendary (and barely existent) Liverpool group the Crucial Three with Julian Cope and Ian McCulloch before those two formed the Teardrop Explodes and Echo and the Bunnymen respectively. Wylie formed Wah! Or rather, with a grasp of how to succeed in the music business that fell far short of his grandiose ambition, he formed Wah!, Wah! Heat, Shambeko Say! Wah!, Wah! The Mongrel, JF Wah! He got a major label, he released an album with the please-don’t-buy-this title Nah = Poo! – The Art of Bluff, he had a hit single with The Story of the Blues, he lost the major label deal. Through it all was a sense of a character who felt destined to be a star, and who had imagined the whole process from start to finish, with the possible exception of the bits in which he knuckled down and did what aspirant stars have to do: kissing label arses; doing the meet-and-greets; being a good boy.

The bio on the official website describes him as ‘part time rock star – full-time legend’ and reminds us that he has been behind some epic chart hits in our lifetime with the likes of Story of The Blues, Sinful and Come Back, the 12″ versions of which all have a place in the cupboard full of vinyl.

What I also think is well worth a read are the words of Wylie on how Story of The Blues became a hit:-

I started re-checking the Chilites doing this beautiful, very direct, emotional thing & around the same time saw Alan Bleasdale’s ‘BOYS FROM THE BLACKSTUFF’; it made powerful political points by connecting emotionally, by dealing with the human costs of the day + MOTOWN WALKER BROTHERS etc all kicked in like long-lost family – we brought in mike HEDGES as producer (I love and love his work with the Associates, who during the recording brought in the most ale I’d seen at that point, and we ‘watched’ Scotland v Brazil, 82 world cup – love ya Billy). I programmed drumbox, arranged, played guitar, piano even – WEA thought BIGTIME; PEELE & JENSEN hammered it on Radip 1, the world breathed a sigh of indifference. Then, months after release, dead on its feet, we got a call; Granada TV were doing a Christmas show, Duran or such has been collared doing something shady, they needed a replacement quick and we were the nearest group; we did the show (first WAH! TV goes pop); in the make-up (MAKE-UP!) room Bet Lynch took a look at my quiff and said ‘OOH I haven’t seen one that big for years” I worw a tux (Like when ELVIS sang with SINATRA). The show aired Christmas day, the shops opened soon after and we humbly took our place in the nation’s charts – 6 MONTHS OF DOOM THEN BOOM! And it all got very different

mp3 : Wah! – The Story of The Blues (Part 1)

A rather less polished version was later recorded on 22 August 1984 for the John Peel Show:-

mp3 : The Mighty Wah – Basement Blues/Story Of The Blues

One of my other favourite Pete Wylie things was written in 1989:-

mp3 : Big Hard Excellent Fish – Imperfect List

It’s a spoken-word track is a list of his most hated people and things read by Josie Jones. Fast forward to 2004 and that very track was used as the opening salvo in Morrissey’s gig at the Manchester Arena (which myself and Mrs Villain managed to pick up tickets for!) and subsequently can be found on the DVD Who Put the M in Manchester?

And finally, here’s a rare chance to listen to Pete’s vocal contribution in 1990 to the original hardcore near nine minute version of a track that would be re-recorded and become a hit single a year later :-

mp3 : The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (feat Pete Wylie) – It’s Grim Up North



  1. Also resp for a couple of lost classics , weekends and hope. I love the bit in come back 12″ where he moans about nick kershaw having hits

  2. Great post. I was a very young Robster when ‘Story of the Blues’ came out, but even at a mere 11 years of age, I knew a damn good tune when I heard one.

  3. I only have one Pete Wylie album, and it’s “Sinful” that that is the case. One day I need to dig deeper, but truth be told, I didn’t see a lot of Wah imports in my neck of the woods [American Southeast] back in the day. He really complains about Nik Kershaw on the “Come Back” 12?” I need to hear that!

  4. The early Wah! Heat singles are cracking: Better Scream, Seven Minutes To Midnight, Don’t Step On The Cracks

  5. postpunkmonk

    It’s more a throwaway line than anything…’s a version of ‘Come Back’ in which he name-checks certain acts on WEA having hit singles – it’s really an attack on his old label more than anything. I’m not so sure it was Nik Kershaw but Howard Jones certainly gets a mention….as do Aztec Camera towards the end….there’s also the great line ‘Even Yes can have hits’

    Come Back! (Return of The Randy Scouse Git) is the track. And here’s a link:-

  6. JC – I can understand musicians that I like being distraught over Howard Jones’ career! I was too and I didn’t have to compete with him in the charts! Nik Kershaw was bad enough but there was something in-your-face about Jones. Plus he used mimes!

  7. A word to the wise guy was rarely far from my turntable when it was released free 12″ and lovely lyric book if i remember rightly, but nothing will ever beat Hope, one of the greatest songs ever written.I just wish the kop didn’t sing Heart as big as Liverpool!! 🙂

  8. My old maw had a thing for great pop singers, especially the flawed ones, Billy McKenzie, Marc Almond and of course Pete Wylie. I think she got as much pleasure as I did watching TOTP. I enjoy a blast of Seven Minutes to Midnight now and again.

  9. Wylie is my PERSONAL Rock Star! I spent an entire summer, while he was mixing down Sinful in NYC getting drunk with him and Josie Jones in the VIP room at Limelight. I can’t believe there is a more honest and alive rock star in the world. I don’t think there’s a moment of those encounters I have forgotten. He is a welcoming soul and loud and outspoken character and my music colleciton would have a HUGE hole in it without the music he has released.
    Nah = Poo! – The Art of Bluff is Post Punk perfection. A Word To The Wiseguy! is defiant and uncompromising. But it’s the follow up to Story Of The Blues that is, for me, Wylie’s classic. Hope (I Wish You’d Believe Me) is one of the most beautiful and melancholy “love gone all wrong” love song ever written. The vocal arrangements are almost anthemic but so personally directed, the synths and strings are dreamy, but the guitars are urgent and plaintive. To round out the 12″, he included a quiet, acoustic masterpiece in his reading of Johnny Thunder’s You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory…these two songs can bring a guy to tears…

  10. Strangely enough, I shared Better Scream on Facebook this day last week in response to a friend sharing Come Back. The 7″ is in one of my boxes of vinyl. Always thought that Nick Cave borrowed a little from it for City of Refuge (From Tender Prey).

  11. I stand corrected – howard jones it is – relistening to it I’d forgotten my favourite line “we’ll get you on the sooty show”

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