The Wendys – From The Factory Four

13267723_1090872057643663_2367754601518526840_n

Pic by Peter Walsh

Jimmy Miller. Simple Minds. Seb Coe. Three people that unite but not exclusively define iconic early 90’s band The Wendys.

The Wendys signed to Tony Wilson’s Factory Records in amongst the Madchester wave of bands such as Flowered Up, The Charlatans and The High. The Wendys were, just like Flowered Up, The Charlatans, and The High, not just your major label hit making, manufactured indie band. They were real and their own musical history starting years before their signing to Factory, which has a similar legacy to Factory label mates The Happy Mondays and other Manchester starlets The Stone Roses. But before we get into the band as a band The Wendys are 4 individuals. Arthur, Ian, Jonathan and Johnny.

The band members were born and raised in humble surroundings in towns and villages in and around central Scotland. Bass player Arthur Renton explains his upbringing with his brother and fellow Wendy, lead singer and keyboardist, Jonathan Renton ‘Jonathan and I grew up in Armadale, a small town midway between Edinburgh and Glasgow. It was a very working class former mining and steel town, with probably about 90% council housing. It was a fine place to grow up. It’s only when you get older and move to the city as I did when I was 17, that you realise you might have missed out on something. Not sure I could go back to a small town now.’ Guitarist Ian White ‘I was born in Ayr on the West coast of Scotland 30 miles south of Glasgow. Land of Burns ‘n’ that. Ayr was a great place to be a kid. It was big enough to be interesting yet small enough that you were never far from the countryside, or the seaside. Music at home was Perry Como and Shirley Bassey and the like. Family parties, where everyone would take their turn to sing, were my only experience of live music when I was small. There was always a bit of a live music thing going on around town and I remember one place, the Way Inn, put on regular post-punk gigs with bands from further afield where things had, let’s say, moved forward quicker than in Ayr.’ Drummer boy, Johnny ‘JMac’ MacArthur, was the last member to join the band. ‘I was born and bred in the village of Scone, near Perth. Happy memories of playing football in the park after school with my mates. There was a lot more freedom in the 1970’s and 80’s than the kids get nowadays. I left school at 17, headed to university in Edinburgh. I couldn’t wait to get out of Perth and head to the bright lights of a big city.’

Arthur, Jonathan, Ian and JMac, as per the norm, developed unique individual music tastes as they were growing up. Arthur ‘My Mum tells me I danced in front of the TV to the Z Cars theme when I was 2 or 3.’ Jonathan ‘I remember loving the Elvis movies on TV when I was a kid and I sang in the school choir’ Ian ‘first of all I probably got interested through TV. Elvis and the Beatles in films, and the Monkees on tv. I remember recording the Monkees theme tunes from tv and playing them back over and over in the kitchen. That was definitely when I first thought about sound rather than tunes. That is a cracking production. I then got into the glam rock thing, too young to be glam, we are talking mid primary school here, but Slade, the Sweet, Wizard, Bolan, and Bowie were larger than life. I didn’t really understand that they were different, and maybe controversial, just bigger than life, almost like cartoons. Sparkly eyed stars.’ JMac ‘First music I remembered listening to was The Wombles.  I had a guinea pig called Orinoco.’

cdnxp1xw4aihx5y

The early innocent childhood influences then developed growing through teenage years into educated music tastes. Jonathan ‘The Stranglers were the first band I got into and started to be fanatical about’. Arthur ‘The first real music I really got into was punk.  Previously I had a passing interest in pop culture, The Beatles etc… I loved the Spaghetti Western soundtracks and a bit of Glam Rock but it was seeing The Stranglers on Top of the Pops that really awakened me musically. That was quickly followed by The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, The Jam and others. I was 14 and punk was definitely my music. At that point I didn’t have a concept of creating music but at some point I became aware that I was making up tunes in my head so it progressed from there.’ Ian ‘I first bought records when I was about 13. These were a mix of the likes of The Jam, the Pistols, the Stranglers, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, and John Martyn. Funnily being a guitarist, the thing that I’ve always loved about Hendrix is his songs and his voice. A much underrated voice. I was always quite open to styles although I’ve always had a few no go areas with music.’ JMac ‘Rock music was my thing – it was a rite of passage in Scone. Everyone who was cool was into rock music. The Stones, Floyd, AC/DC, The Doors, Dylan, The Who, you get the picture. The Doors were my biggest influence. Jim Morrison’s lyrics spoke to me, and the rare clips that I saw of them playing live made me think that ‘this is what I want to do’. Around the age of 18 when I went to Edinburgh, my musical influences took a fairly radical change when I started to discover bands like ACR (A Certain Ratio), The The, Talking Heads, Pete Shelley, Teardrop Explodes etc.. Whatever was hot in the student union discos and clubs.’

It was around these teen years, as their eyes began to open with the thoughts of being able to make their own music,  the band members started to get the itch around learning and playing their own instruments. JMac ‘I started playing the drums when I was about 14. My brother played guitar, so he wanted a drummer to form a band and thought I’d suffice. We borrowed a drum kit from one of his mates, which I had to tell my folks was on loan as they didn’t want to suffer the noise from a drum kit 24/7. After about 3 years I think they finally sussed it wasn’t going back….’ Arthur ‘I shared a flat with 3 guitarists (including a certain Ian White) so I bought a bass. I was 19 or 20 so a bit of late starter. Major Bass playing influences were The Stranglers particularly JJ Burnel. Of course Joy Division, Wire, Can, Velvet Underground were major influences.’ Jonathan ‘I remember getting a small Casio PT 30 keyboard when I was about 16 or 17. I’ve still got it. I’ve also got Arthur’s first bass guitar somewhere in my garage but it’s in desperate need of repair. I was in one band for a short period of time, The Flaming Dervishes. We only played a couple of times but we used to practise at a sort of hippy commune on a farm in West Lothian. I think the rest of the band were too stoned most of the time to play but The Wendys returned to the farm for one of our first gigs at a Halloween party’ Ian ‘I started playing guitar when I was 14. No-one in my immediate family played instruments. I had a friend Russell at school that was going to start guitar lessons so I went with him and did that for about a year and a half for an hour on Saturdays above a music shop. I gave up playing football for that. As soon as I started learning to play guitar I never had the ‘this is what I want to do’ feeling about music, at least not as a job. I also never really wanted to learn to play other peoples music. First thing I did was try to write tunes and songs. I still don’t play many tunes by other folk.’

12345501_10153427394318315_1824872717849270474_n

Pic by Graham Macindoe

As each member started getting more serious about their playing, The Wendys formed around friendships developing in and around the same circles where they were living at the time. Jonathan ‘Arthur and Ian met through a mutual friend; they lived in the same flats and started writing together. I had a Fostex multi track recorder which they borrowed to lay some tracks down. I liked what I heard and added vocals unbeknown to them. Thankfully they liked what I was doing or at least accepted it so they could keep using my Fostex’. Arthur ‘The Wendys just sort of fell together naturally. Ian and I were mates and started some bedroom jamming, initially just doing Cure, Bunnymen, Joy Divsion covers, that sort of thing. Jonathan had a Fostex 4 track and started recording us and put some vocals down. Johnny was only one we didn’t know and was recruited following our first drummer less gig. Basically Johnny approached us and told us something we already knew. We needed a drummer.’ Ian ‘I used to go back to Ayr from college at Easter and at Christmas, organise a gig with a couple of mates, rehearse/ write for three weeks then play a one-off. At one point we were called Fun! Fun! Fun!  Arthur and I met at Uni, shared flats then started to get together to write. Jonathan and his portastudio 4 track came soon later. We had Pete for a wee while doing keys, and then we played our first gig at a flat party with no drummer. Johnny was at the party and told us we needed him on drums.’ JMac ‘they (Arthur, Ian, Jonathan) were playing at a mates party in Edinburgh (…Angus, the infamous punk piper that I went to school with), but they didn’t have a drummer. So I introduced myself….the rest is history. With hind sight, I think they were possibly better before I joined.’

As with all bands, you want to think up a name that would fit the bill and strike a chord with fans. So why the name The Wendys?  Arthur ‘It probably came to us being drunk in the pub one night.  I can’t say I was ever happy with it but we could never agree on what to change to so it stuck. I always thought Factory would change it to something ultra-cool sounding but unfortunately they said they liked it.’ Jonathan further explains ‘As we had a forthcoming gig and we had no name, so we decided to go for a drink. A few names were discussed, possibly ‘Drain’, but The Wendys was chosen. I told my friend John who was making the poster for the next gig but he must have been a bit drunk or deaf or both because when he revealed the poster it stated ‘The Marys’.’

12742682_10153559504018315_8949481715339925354_n

Pre Factory there was material released by the band, sadly none of the material is available. JMac ‘The early stuff was fairly standard indie fare, a bit fast and frenetic before we discover how to groove.’ Arthur ‘A couple of early compilation tapes were released by the Edinburgh Music collective and we had one song on each. The first was rubbish, it was a bit of standard mid 80’s indie but the 2nd was a song called ‘Ceiling’ which was probably the first good song we wrote with a great guitar riff from Ian. We should have recorded it for Gobbledygook. I don’t know why we didn’t.’ Ian ‘we weren’t signed to anyone but we were part of the Edinburgh Musicians Collective and were on a couple of members’ compilation tapes. McTape 1 and McTape 2. We also had a track on one of the Bradford OneInTwelve Club ‘Volnitza!’ compilation albums.’

The band at this time was playing gigs in bedsits and local pubs and clubs. JMac ‘The first gig I remember playing with the band was outside Edinburgh (maybe Winchburgh?) on a farm at someone’s party. I wonder if it was around the end of October 1987 as we were all in fancy dress. I was a vicar, naturally. Someone else wore a gorilla suit. Possibly Jonathon?’ Arthur ‘The first proper gig was at a flat party in Edinburgh. It was pretty rammed from what I remember.  One of our mates (Pete) played keyboards, or more accurately, stood behind the keyboard drinking a bottle of whiskey. Performance art.  The first gig as the 4 piece with JMac was either Ayr of Perth.’ Jonathan ‘We decided to play our first gig at a party in our flat in Edinburgh and we got a friend of ours Pete to play my keyboard parts so that I could sing unencumbered except for my tambourine which I quickly demolished in the first song by putting my hand through. Jonathan ‘We mainly played gigs with our friends in the Edinburgh Musicians Collective; The Vatican Shotgun Scare, The Radium Cats, The Ruby Suit, Cringe. We usually played to a handful of people, mostly friends. ‘

The band’s songs normally came to fruition through long jams or someone bringing a riff into rehearsals. JMac ‘Ian and Arthur came up with the tunes but often the full song developed through jamming out a riff or series of riffs for hours on end in our rehearsal rooms in Edinburgh. This could be either euphoric or extremely tedious depending on the groove. When the latter ensued, myself and Jonathon would usually request a 2 hour break for a game of cross, header and volley outside on the adjoining football park.’ Arthur ‘I know I came into the rehearsal room with a lot of bass riffs.  It’s not an exact science but where you hear a melodic bassline (e.g. Pulling My Fingers Off) or one with a lot of bass chords (Suckling) they’re generally ones I initiated. That comes from trying to make it sound like a tune and not just a bassline. The Wendys was pretty democratic so we all did our own parts though I would say Ian and myself had a bigger say on final arrangement. Jonathan used to take the music away and spend a bit of time coming up with his vocals so it must have pissed him off spending hours on something only for Ian or me to say we were dropping it and moving onto something else. ‘ Ian ‘Sometimes it would start with a bassline or bit of guitar, sometimes someone had an idea for verse and chorus parts. Vocals always came second, although sometimes Jonathan had a vocal melody which got things going. We often jammed things out in the studio. Someone would have a seed of an idea and we would sometimes play for hours and it would morph into something new. When it worked it was amazing. When it didn’t work it all felt dysfunctional with folk staring at the ground not communicating.’

It was around 1990 that the band’s sound started to change and for the better. JMac ‘We found our mojo around 1990, when we hit a bit of a Monday’s groove. I think Arthur discovered the Mondays Wrote For Luck which he let me here and I thought yup, that’s doing it for me and tried to copy yer man’s (Gaz Whelan, Happy Mondays drummer) drumming style. Surprisingly it all came together pretty quickly after that.’ Arthur ‘I think you definitely have to be influenced by the present as well as your lifetime influences. So yeah The Happy Mondays and Stone Roses in the late 80’s would certainly have influenced us.  But as much as that, the more you develop the more you are influenced by your own sound, songs and individual playing styles. 1990 is when The Wendys became The Wendys.’Ian ‘When we started we were playing a mix of styles. Definitely post-punk or C86 leanings. Often fast or with a tempo increase in the final third. A lot of swirly sweeping keyboard, feedback guitar. We started writing better tunes and at the same time were getting into Happy Mondays, (I still love Squirrel and GMan best of the lot), Stone Roses etc. We got better rhythmically and Johnny started using a drum machine for some tunes which he used for fills, noises, and percussion along with his live drums. I remember Ian Broudie (who went on to produce The Wendys) saying he hadn’t worked with anyone using it quite the way we did. Pretty common now I suppose.’

Through the band’s change in direction they would be spotted by a key link in their musical destiny. Jonathan ‘One of our mates Richard who instigated the party where we played our first gig started working at The Venue and he managed to get us a support with The Happy Monday’s. Arthur was a big fan and introduced me to Freaky Dancing. It was at this gig that we met Derek Ryder (ex Happy Mondays manager & Shaun Ryders Dad). He liked our stuff and said we should send a tape to Factory’. Ian ‘our biggest support date at this time was Happy Mondays at Edinburgh Venue in 88 I think. Bummed tour. Felt sorry for them as there were about 120 there, half with money off flyers to see us. They had just played huge gigs including London, I think the night before. But we met Derek Ryder who got us to send tapes to Factory. He was a lovely guy to us. Phoned us a couple of times to have a chat about what we were up to.’

the_wendys_320

It was through this initial meeting with Ryder that formed the link to Factory records boss Tony Wilson and their A&R supremo and former Happy Monday’s manager Phil Saxe, who would become manager to The Wendys. Arthur ‘I think Phil had seen us a couple of times then Tony and Alan Erasmus came to see us supporting Revenge. I remember he was pretty impressed. Johnny is a very powerful drummer and he was making a fearsome racket on his own in the soundcheck. I could see Hooky and Tony nodding appreciatively.’  JMac ‘Tony came to see us at a gig in Edinburgh where we were supporting Peter Hook’s band at the time, Revenge. He obviously liked us as he spent the rest of the evening buying us vodka jellies, in an attempt to persuade us to sign….clever man as it clearly worked!’ Jonathan ‘I was totally surprised to get a phone call from Phil at my flat in Spittal Street saying he’d like to meet us and see us play live. Thankfully a friend from the EMU had a connection and got us a gig at Galashiels Textile College. Ian managed to hire and work a decent PA and the gig went really well, lots of students dancing to our music (to be fair that was pretty unusual as most people at our gigs previously pretty much ignored us). We had a nice chat after with Phil and he seemed pretty positive but it did take a considerable time afterwards to sign on the dotted line.’ Ian ‘I was a huge fan of New Order, Joy Division, ACR, and Happy Mondays. When we were ready to send demos Factory were always going to be on the list, along with 4AD and the likes. I remember not knowing who to send tapes to so I wrote ‘WilErasSim’ on the envelope as an anagram of the names I knew of there. A year or so after we signed Alan Erasmus told us that when they moved offices from Palatine Road they found one of our early demos behind a filing cabinet. Either total coincidence or someone had fancied it and set it aside.’

Phil Saxe ‘I was Head of A&R at Factory when I first picked up The Wendys and had ceased managing The Mondays. As Head of A&R, I was the person who introduced them to Tony Wilson. It was Alan Erasmus at Factory had played a demo tape, I still have the demo tape, I liked it, and then promptly lost it behind a filing cabinet. I retrieved it six months later and liking what I heard decided to go see them playing live in Galashiels, Scotland. I must have liked them a lot as, at the time, my car was off the road and I caught a train to Carlisle and then a bus to Galashiels. It was worth it.’

603030_462423330488542_1677044635_n

The band was signed to Factory in 1990 on the night of a Factory Records Party taking place. Arthur ‘It was a multi album deal I remember that. Tony always said we were a 3 album band and he might have been right, we’ll never know. From our perspective it was a very important night. It couldn’t have been better.’ JMac ‘The record deal signing party was held at Factory’s new office in Manchester. It was a lot of fun. There was free Sapporo beer all night, and I got to meet Shaun and Bez who were clearly enjoying the festivities. For a brief moment, I thought we’d made the big time.’  Jonathan ‘As there was a free bar unfortunately don’t remember too much about it apart from standing next to Johnny Marr while queuing for a drink and being overawed by seeing him and being unable to utter a single word to him’ Ian ‘I remember thinking this is all weird. There’s Pat Nevin over there with Vini Reilly. And that’ll be the Happy Mondays getting gold disks, and that’ll be us signing a record deal, and that’ll be far too much champagne and Japanese lager, and that’ll be Johnny in a kilt singing a Scottish trad song to wind up the too cool atmosphere. The deal was four albums I think, with a couple of singles specified in the first year.’

cities

The band, as with most bands of the time, were sent out on tour to promote their singles and pending album release. Jonathan ‘Our first gig after signing to factory was in Paris at a nightclub right under the Moulin Rouge. It felt amazing, like real pop stars, getting our photos taken by the NME under the Eiffel Tower. It was also a bit weird as the sound check was 6 or 7 in the morning and it was just us and the cleaners.’ Arthur ‘In reality the tour was mixed. Some great packed gigs and some a bit sparse. Even with one man and his dog watching I still loved playing. We were a really tight unit during that tour.’ JMac ‘Touring is a slog. Some great highs when you play to a packed club, and some real lows when you play to the bar staff and an empty room. There are some crap promoters out there. But the rider inevitably came to the rescue…an interesting concept being paid in beer and curry. Stand out memories….after gig parties in Cardiff and Perth, leaving half the drum kit behind in Bristol, falling off the back of the stage in Liverpool, playing the support and headline slot at Barrow-in-Furness where the fans loved us both times.’ Ian ‘We had a tour detailed for US stadiums supporting Simple Minds until they decided not to release single five or something from their album. Our first gig in Manchester an ITN crew filmed us then they got beat up and equipment trashed by some drug dealers who thought they had been filmed. Barrow In Furness was crazy.  I don’t think many bands played there back then. We ended up playing two sets as the support didn’t arrive. There were stage invasions and general good times. The venues were generally pretty small with a few exceptions but mostly got a good reception. Candyskins supported us on about half the shows and they were good guys who did not bad on their own. Unless I dreamt it I mooned Seb Coe from the tour bus in a motorway jam outside Birmingham. Not a full moon just a gesture. I was always an (Steve) Ovett fan.’

With the band now in full flow and functioning like a well-oiled machine, all appeared to be falling into place nicely. Arthur ‘We had a lot of material written but we discarded a lot of the stuff that wasn’t up to scratch so we had to come up with some better material very quickly.  I think we were improving quickly at this point. Pulling My Fingers Off was one late addition. The Sun’s Going To Shine was written after Factory had decided to sign us but before we signed on the dotted line. I remember Phil Saxe being really pleased when we played Sun’s Going to Shine for the first time at a gig.’ Phil ‘I loved Sun’s Going to Shine. It was epic and, to me, not a Madchester sounding groove tune’. Jonathan ‘Pulling My Fingers Off was probably about the pain of loss and the breakdown of a relationship. The Sun’s Going To Shine For Me Soon is about hope and that it’s alright to be on your own and everything will turn out OK in the end’. Ian ‘Everything was more or less musically ready, with a few tweaks, but Jonathan was writing almost the complete Pulling My Fingers Off lyrics and finishing a couple of other bits where he had just been repeating lines.’

The time was now right for the band to head into the studio to record their now classic debut album. Gobbledygook is not your below par baggy go lucky Candy Flip jaunt into covers of 60’s classics or your major label ‘this is what the kids want’ indie break beat wig out. What lies behind the pop art cover is an album of defined upbeat exquisitely crafted songs. The artwork on the album is highly recognisable, following a long line of wonderfully crafted artwork inspired by the Factory label. JMac ‘Dave Knopov was selected by Factory I think, but I was underwhelmed by the end product, more novelty than substance but perhaps that was a sign of the times? But then without an education in art who are we to judge…perhaps it’s genius?’ Arthur ‘we did have an input in the artwork but we didn’t do the designing ourselves. I had the idea of an image representing each song on the album but it was for an inner sleeve. I guess the budget didn’t stretch to an inner sleeve so Dave Knopov obviously picked up on that idea for his cover design. Dave had the idea of a peel off finger for Pulling My fingers Off, like The Velvet Underground first album, but it was rejected on cost. Phil said he wished Tony was at the meeting, he’d have said ’fuck it it’s art, were doing it.’ Ian ‘I’m sure we had an initial meeting with Dave somewhere but can’t remember where. The main idea was to have something on the cover to represent the song titles. His first version had a couple of nudes draped across a bed to represent I Want You And I Want Your Friend. We said no to that and got Robbie the Robot in a ménage a trios’ with two petrol pumps instead. You could say more kink than the original idea.’ Dave Knopov ‘My Grandfather on my mother’s side was born in Catalonia and was Salvador Dali’s technician, that’s how I got into art. I would say my work represents the Pop Arthur movement. I got introduced to the Wendys by Phil Saxe he came to my house back in the 90’s and played me their demo cassette. I didn’t see the band live; I just went straight to work. I just wanted a naked woman on the cover full stop! The art work came from source material and my own photos of the band. Tony Wilson hated the fact I got far too much money for the cover and blames me single-handedly for making Factory go bust. Plus I was from Liverpool. Looking back now… hhhhuuummm I’d still put on the naked woman. I currently manage an 11 piece ska band called ‘Baked A La Ska’ and have a new exhibition opening in November under the title ‘Smoke & Mirrors’.’

12339103_991855160878687_5449877210631412363_o

Sadly Gobbledygook  is yet another album that didn’t receive the accolades it deserved at the time, but now, 20+ years later, I think it stands the test of time as a wonderful, powerful album of pop driven songs, similar is vein to fellow Scottish beat gurus Orange Juice. Founding member of Lightning Seeds and producer of Echo & the Bunneymen, Ian Broudie, produced the album with engineering ace Cenzo Townshend at the helm. Arthur ‘Ian was great, we got on really well. It was very relaxed despite some brinksmanship in writing lyrics. I remember a lot of drinking going on after we’d finished each night but definitely not in the studio. Ian liked to do 10 til 10 so that suited us fine, plenty of drinking time after we finished for the night.’ Jonathan ‘We had a great time and usually at the end of a session Ian would head home and Cenzo and us would head to a local Italian restaurant for some food and wine.’ JMac ‘I liked working with Ian Broudie. He was a shit hot producer, really professional, incredible work ethic and I felt he really cleaned up our sound and polished the songs. He possibly made us more poppy than the other guys in the band liked but it worked for me. I always thought that if we were going to make it we had to up the ante, and I think Ian started taking us down that road.  The recording sessions were a laugh, exciting and fun times. In those days we could really drink, every night ended in a heavy session back at the digs. From memory the first place we stayed was some crappy B&B where the crazy owner recycled the cling film, eventually we managed to persuade Factory to move us to a hotel, where we befriended the bar staff and started pouring our own beers…dangerous path!’ Ian ‘When recording Gobbledygook we started off in a guest house that had black binbags on the mattresses, dust on the jam and butter at breakfast, and the landlady told us she put clingfilm through the wash to recycle it. We left after two nights. We actually recorded the album in StudioStudio near Stockport. One of the original Hollies who went on to manage them had this converted Schoolhouse which was part Thai Restaurant, part studio. They cleared the restaurant area and we used that as a live room. The owner’s face was priceless when he came in and Ian and Cenzo had taken the place apart, ceiling tiles off with mics up through and the like. After doing the drum tracks and some bass and guitar Broudie sacked that studio off and we finished it at the legendary Amazon Studios in Liverpool. Ian was a bit of a hero as we were all big Bunnymen fans and we knew he was the King Bird producer. Ian and Cenzo were great. Both lovely guys and even way back then, real experts in production. We were wide eyed and maybe could have made some suggestions or more than we did, but I have to say I love the album again, after not listening for a while. It has its faults but it has a very distinct sound quality to it. Very clean, or maybe clinical is a better word, yet it has soul and depth. I couldn’t get my head round the sound at first as we were always quite raw and jagged live whereas this was lush, yet not plush. The one weakness is that we went in very soon after signing and some tunes could have done with some development.’  Ian Broudie ‘I got to know about the band through them being signed to Factory. I was asked by Factory records via Phil Saxe to produce the album. I was reluctant at first but I remember I thought it all sounded much better at the end than when we started. I think we recorded it in the house of a guy who sold recording equipment; it was a bit of a shady place, somewhere outside Manchester. We had to work very hard to make that place work. I have listened back to various tracks recently and I still think they sound very good. It’s difficult to know why the album was under appreciated. I have no answer’

After Gobbledygook was released the band then went on to promote it and play possibly their biggest gig to date in 1991 at the Cities in the Park festival which also featured the likes of The Happy Mondays, Electronic and De La Soul. Jonathan ‘We were first on and I remember it was a lovely sunny day when we played. I enjoying the gig and then going out afterwards to meet some of my mates who I’d got on the guest list. They’d got there too late to see us (not sure if that was deliberate or not). It was also the first time I saw the new Wendys t shirts which, much to my embarrassment, had a huge picture of my face taken from the LP cover. I was a huge fan of Electronic and the Mondays and loved seeing them.’ Arthur ‘Fantastic gig, I think the Wendys sound suited the big stage. We had a pretty powerful sound for just drums bass and guitar. I was worried about not being able to play Suns Going to Shine if we overran but Ian and Jonathan insisted we play the full set. The stage manager spoke to our tour manager, Gordon, and said this better be the last song. He didn’t realise it was nearly 8 mins long.  Gordon got some serious abuse.  He thought the guy was going to thump him.’ Ian ‘It was a great event. Peter Hook came over with his son backstage and wished us well. He was always very friendly and encouraging.  Phil talked with him about the him producing us at some point. We did play one other outdoor festival, at Scoraig up near Ullapool. You needed to get on a fishing boat taxi to get to this peninsula community who held a festival every year for fundraising. That was a laugh. There’s a few seconds clip on Youtube somewhere.’

The band then went onto their next recording, the I Instruct EP, featuring new and live material. The release was produced by legendary producer Jimmy Miller who had previously produced, amongst others, The Rolling Stones, 60’s super group Blind Faith, and Primal Scream. Arthur ‘Basically that was Phil’s idea and we had no objections to recoding with a legend.‘ Jonathan ‘I vaguely remember him telling us how Mick Jagger introduced him to cricket’ JMac ‘Jimmy was a legend. He made a couple of neat tweaks to the EP but nothing radical. Nice guy. But perhaps we needed a radical rather than a legend? I always think of him fondly though when I hear him referenced in ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’…..bizarrely appropriate!’ Ian ‘We recorded in London at Marcus Studios. Spent about a week or so with him. Great stories about the Stones and various exploits including chaperoning Priscilla Presley as a young man. Mick Jagger got him into cricket. Almost convinced me, but there are some things you don’t need in life. Jimmy was a lovely guy. I asked him who he rated highest out of who he had worked with and he said Steve Winwood without hesitation. Probably surprising to a lot of folk.’ Phil ‘I attended the recording sessions and came up with the idea to choose Jimmy as producer. I didn’t know Jimmy personally before the sessions but became friendly with him as a result. He was a great, great man, one of the giants. I chose Jimmy purely on my A&R ‘ear’ and knowing his other work. The I Instruct EP, saw the development of a more distinctive sound exemplified by the wonderful Enjoy the Things You Fear.’

After all this busy time spent with Factory, Factory Records famously collapsed and there was relatively nothing heard from the band. Ian ‘We were working on demos all the time and had started some pre-production with Jez Kerr (A Certain Ratio) who was going to produce our second album. We ditched a lot of the songs round about that time. The original song Unpainted (later on Sixfoot Wingspan) was chopped up and rearranged by Jez from a meandering mess to a tight song. Years later Jez, as TwentyFourHours, took one of our songs Uncle Padlock, added a chorus and recorded it as Imagine A Feeling with Johnny Marr on guitar and backing vocals. Jez used a sample of Jonathan from our recording for the baritone ‘Imagine’ on the choruses. http://www.johnnymarrplaysguitar.com/recorded-collaborations-2/2001-2/’ JMac ‘We thought our manager would score us a new deal which never happened. So I got very disillusioned with the whole business until the guys persuaded me to get back into the studio and finish the album, which I’m really pleased about as I think it shows another side to the Wendys with a different balance of songs. We did a couple of demos (about a dozen songs if I remember rightly) and rehearsed with Jez with a view to Jez producing our second album.  As you know Factory wasn’t in great shape in 1992 and it never happened. A few of the demo songs ended up on Sixfoot Wingspan.’ Arthur ‘There were lots of reasons for this quiet time. Record deal going wrong, Factory going bust, working on the demos and getting them into releasable condition, people being busy. Eventually it was only down to Ian’s determination and energy that it was released at all. ‘

10444382_706359232761616_5283498428798508115_n

Ian ‘around this time we did small tours. We played a great gig at Birmingham town hall with The Fall and Cabaret Voltaire. The steering lock on the van broke before we were out of Edinburgh. I ended up driving a Luton van foot to the floor the whole way. We got in just in time for a line check and then on. No mobiles for us in those days so Phil was waiting there like he was left at the altar. We relaxed later when our mate Fraser helped himself to half the Cab Vol rider.’

The next major step by the band is when released their follow up to Gobbledygook, Sixfoot Wingspan. By the time the 2nd album was released The Wendys were far from being celebrated by the media. With no backing by a major label company, the release was met by a lukewarm response, if any reaction. Sixfoot Wingspan has some brilliant tracks on it, my stand out track is Unpainted. It’s as catchy if not more than anything on Gobbledygook, plus it has a spine tingling guitar solo in it that all fans of The Wendys need to hear. The album in general sees them move on from Gobbledygook to a further level of musical maturity, but keeping their essential groove. Arthur ‘the writing process for the 2nd album was pretty much the same as Gobbledygook. A good few of the tracks were written while we were still on Factory.  So everyone still had their input to the songs. I was just happy that we finally had a document of some of the post Gobbledygook stuff but also sad that there are some cracking songs (Welcome, Dean Martin’s Hangover) that very few people will have heard.’ JMac ‘I don’t recall much of that period. We all had to get jobs to pay the bills so things became more sporadic. I remember finishing work one afternoon in Edinburgh, driving to Birmingham to support The Fall, and then driving back that night to work the following day in Edinburgh. Nuts.’ Ian ‘It was done over a long period of time in various studios. The writing process was similar I’d say. Our mate John Cobban (now a sound designer for film) had some studio gear in his flat and helped us finish some of the recordings that we had tracked on an R8 tape machine. He did a great job and gave a lot of his time. Bunt Stafford-Clark at the Townhouse mastered the album, and also did an amazing job, and brought it all together.’ Phil ‘the second album, Sixfoot Wingspan, not released on Factory, developed their individuality more and there were various stand out tracks for me. Dean Martin’s Hangover was, for me, the pick of the bunch.’ Jez Kerr ‘Tony Wilson played me Pulling my Fingers Off and i liked the lyric. He said they needed a producer for the next album, i said ‘what about me!?’. I talked to Phil Saxe about it and heard some tunes, i like it!’ 

By the time the 2nd album was released the band has already drifted apart plus geographically playing and recording was becoming impossible. Jonathan ‘I think it was a natural occurrence after the let-down of Factory going under. We were all trying to get on with our lives’ JMac ‘Arthur moved to London then Cardiff and I moved to Glasgow. It’s very hard to maintain a long distance love affair. I’d say we are still mates, but don’t meet up so often, probably once or twice a year, but it’s easy to fall back into the groove over a couple of beers.’ Arthur ‘I moved to London in 98 so that might have been the final nail. We’re still good mates and still meet up for gigs. Jonathan, Ian and I go to the Green Man festival most years and Johnny, me and Jonathan went to Fat White Family in Glasgow earlier this year.’ 

384079_250881474976063_355057096_n 378088_250881588309385_1085471615_n

Fast forward to the year 2012 and with the band now sparsely, if ever heard of, surprisingly a Scottish record label started to show interest in re-releasing Gobbledygook digitally. Ian ‘We played one-off shows in 2003, 2012, 2013. Two of them were for my birthday and 2012 was for a possible re-release that didn’t happen. I had been in a band called Johndo Ecosse. We played at In The City one year but called it a day soon after. It kind of morphed into Bendy Toy when Stephen Evans stepped out of the shadows and took over. He eventually became solo as Bendy Toy and had a good run as a producer, live performer, and through radio. He’s back at it. You should check him out. I now have a project called Sons Of The Descent with Hugh Duggie ex-of Foil and Lowlife. We’ve just mastered our album and looking for a route to release.’ Arthur ‘A Glasgow label was interested in doing electronic releases of Gobbledygook so the gig(s) were in support of that. But that was yet another thing that didn’t happen. We had to do a rehearsal just to see if it was possible, would we click. Fortunately it clicked enough. I still write and record stuff on my own but with no other bands.  It still felt great playing the songs. Not sure why we didn’t do more, I think there were offers of some more gigs but logistics got in the way.  I live in Cardiff now so rehearsing takes a bit of effort but it’s always worth it when we do.’

387886_259405724123638_475556008_n

JMac ‘Ian is to blame! No, it was great fun getting the band back together and it clicked into place very quickly. I had assumed we would be shit after such a long layoff but I was very wrong, the guys still had it. I rarely play the drums these days so had no idea if I could still perform but I seemed to get away with it. The gig we did in Glasgow was a blast. I really enjoyed it but unfortunately due to other commitments, it will always be an occasional one off for me. I can’t commit to a world tour right now.’ Jonathan ‘Ian really organised it all but the rehearsals were quite tricky as Arthur now lives in Cardiff.  It was great but I think we all felt the pressure after not playing live for ages and not having much rehearsal time. Looking back to our Factory days gigs, they seemed really easy as we were really tight and practised regularly.’ Ian ‘It was good. We got back in the groove pretty quickly. The 2003 one we hadn’t played in six or seven years and had no rehearsal, just a soundcheck run through of three songs, then we played and it felt pretty natural. 2012 was a brilliant gig in Glasgow. 2013 was a struggle, being under rehearsed. I got the nearest I’ve had to stage fright during the first song. My left hand was like a claw or something. Think it was stress as the soundsystem and engineer fell through two days before.’

And what about the band’s legacy? Ian’ It could have been better but I don’t regret a minute of it all.’ Jonathan ‘I’m just glad we got to the opportunity to record anything at all.’ JMac ‘Pleased but frustrated. Who knows what would have happened if Factory had had a bit more business acumen? But then they wouldn’t have been Factory would they?’ Arthur ‘Possibly Gobbledygook was the best we could have done at the time but I think we should have waited a few more months before recording the album.  I’m happy with about 6 or 7 songs, Suns Going to Shine was probably our best song but the recorded version wasn’t half as good as it was live. The live version on the I Instruct EP is much more like it. ‘I Feel Lovely’, ‘I Want You And I Want Your Friend’ and ‘Removal’ worked really well.  Sixfoot Wingspan, much the same, some good stuff but the long disconnected recording process didn’t work out best for some of the tracks. I reckon there’s one great album between the two.  I wouldn’t have missed those two years on Factory for anything.’

Phil ‘There’s loads of great moments I had with the band. The MTV interview at Factory, the recording of the first album in Stockport when they spent a great deal of time with me and my late wife, Jean. They were/are quite a sophisticated group of lads with uni educations and that. They were a pleasure to work with. I always remember Jean saying you could sit down for a civilised meal with them whilst you’d have to throw The Happy Mondays slices of pizza across the kitchen. Strangely, the stand out event was going with them to see another band – The Velvet Underground in Edinburgh, in 1993. Great company and I always had loads of respect for them. I think they were my greatest disappointment too. I feel they should have developed into something akin to the British Dandy Warhols but, unfortunately, Factory went bust before I could steer them to such heights. The best bands and music don’t always make it.’     

And what next? Look out in early 2017 for a Wendy’s live album. And more…

You can follow The Wendy’s via Facebook , Twitter and Bandcamp

More writing by Matt can be found at his Louther Than War’s author archive.

The Author

Words by

Share and comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 

Sign Up To Our Newsletter