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