Wire to start the week. Inspired by the burgeoning UK punk scene in 1976, Wire are often cited as one of the more important rock groups of the 1970s and 1980s. Critic Stewart Mason wrote, “Over their brilliant first three albums, Wire expanded the sonic boundaries of not just punk, but rock music in general.”
Pink Flag, Wire’s first album influenced future hardcore punk with their fast energetic playing style. They are a definitive art punk and post-punk ensemble, mostly due to their richly detailed and atmospheric sound and often obscure lyrical themes. The group exhibited a steady development from an early raucous punk style 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 its career. Wire’s debut album Pink Flag (1977) – “perhaps the most original debut album to come out of the first wave of British punk”, according to AllMusic – contains songs that are diverse in mood and style, but most use a minimalist punk approach combined with unorthodox structures. “Field Day for the Sundays”, for example, is only 28 seconds long.
Between 1981 and 1985, Wire ceased recording and performing in favor of solo and collaborative projects such as Dome, Cupol, Duet Emmo and several Colin Newman solo efforts. In 1985, the group re-formed as a “beat combo” (a joking reference to early 1960s beat music), with greater use of electronic musical instruments. Wire announced that they would perform none of their older material, hiring The Ex-Lion Tamers (a Wire cover band named after a song title from Pink Flag) as their opening act. The Ex-Lion Tamers played Wire’s older songs, and Wire played their new material. Wire released IBTABA in 1989, a “live” album of mostly reworked versions of songs from The Ideal Copy and A Bell Is a Cup, heavily rearranged, edited, and remixed. A new song from the album, “Eardrum Buzz”, was released as a single and peaked at number 68 in the UK singles chart.
Founding member and drummer, Robert Gotobed left the band in 1990, after the release of the album Manscape. After his departure, the band dropped one letter from its name, becoming “Wir” (still pronounced “wire”), and released The First Letter in 1991. There followed a further period of solo recordings, during which Newman founded the swim ~ label, and later Githead with his wife (ex-Minimal Compact bassist Malka Spigel), while Wire remained an occasional collaboration. It was not until 1999 that Wire again became a full-time entity.
With Gotobed back in the lineup (now using his birth name, Robert Grey), the group initially reworked much of their back catalogue for a performance at Royal Festival Hall on 26 February 2000. Wire’s reception during a short tour in early May of the US, and a number of UK gigs, convinced the band to continue. Two EPs and an album, Send (2003), followed, as well as collaborations with stage designer Es Devlin and artists Jake and Dinos Chapman. In 2006, Wire’s 1970s albums were remastered and re-released with the original vinyl track listings. Rumors abounded of a renewal of activity to mark the 30th anniversary of the band’s debut as a four-piece and the re-release of Pink Flag. A third Read & Burn EP was released in November 2007.
This is the last session Wire did for John Peel – recorded on Sept 19, 2002 and broadcast on September 21st.