Sleeper to end the weekend. The last concert from the UK portion of their 1996 tour, recorded for posterity by the BBC for Radio 1’s In concert series on June 7, 1996.
Jon Stewart met Louise Wener at Manchester University in 1987 in a political philosophy class. They played in a number of bands at university, then after graduating they moved to London and advertised for new band members in the Melody Maker (“Bass player and drummer wanted. Influences The Pixies and The Partridge Family”) which is how they met Diid Osman and Andy Maclure.
At one point, the band called themselves Surrender Dorothy, after the smoke trail in the sky from the Wizard of Oz movie, but they had to ditch this idea after discovering that several other bands had done the same thing. They subsequently chose the name ‘Sleeper’ after the Woody Allen movie, and because it has a number of different meanings (a spy, an unexpected hit, etc.).
After moving to Camden and receiving interest from record labels, Sleeper signed to BMG/RCA offshoot Indolent Records in 1993 and released three EPs and singles before their breakthrough release, “Inbetweener”.
Certain parts of the promo video for “Inbetweener” parodied the grocery store-set ITV game show Supermarket Sweep and featured the programme’s presenter Dale Winton. Prior to the release of “Inbetweener” Sleeper had been the opening band for Blur on their tour to promote the Parklife album, and they became closely associated with Britpop as a result.
Sleeper recorded three studio albums for Indolent and BMG/RCA: Smart, The It Girl and Pleased to Meet You.
Smart was one of the first Britpop albums to hit the charts and won the band a BPI gold disc for sales of over 100,000 copies. It was followed by the platinum-selling release The It Girl which was arguably the band’s finest moment and included “What Do I Do Now?”, “Nice Guy Eddie”, “Sale of the Century” and “Statuesque” as the defining tracks.
Sleeper recorded a cover of the Blondie song “Atomic”, which was used in the film Trainspotting, after Blondie refused to allow the use of the original version. Their track “Statuesque” also features in the movie during one of the bar scenes.
The It Girl, like the band’s subsequent release Pleased to Meet You, was produced by Stephen Street who was then famous for his contributions to The Smiths, Morrissey and Blur, and is since renowned for his work with Kaiser Chiefs and others.
Louise Wener was arguably, along with Elastica’s Justine Frischmann, Britpop’s biggest female star. She was even something of a sex symbol, placing highly in Melody Maker’s and NME’s “Sexiest Woman” polls two years running. Wener enjoyed significant media coverage, including an NME front cover and a slot as guest presenter of Top of the Pops. Her song “What Do I Do Now?” was covered by Elvis Costello in 1997.
After the band split in March 1998 following the demise of Britpop, Wener went on to have a career as a novelist. She released her fourth book for Hodder & Stoughton in 2008. Wener also features prominently as an interviewee in John Dower’s feature film documentary on Britpop, Live Forever (2003).
A greatest hits compilation, with track listing and artwork by the band themselves, was released on Sony/BMG in 2007.
Their first two albums were reissued as deluxe versions on 29 November 2010, with second discs of B-Sides and live tracks.
Cut to December 2018 and Sleeper announced they’ve gotten back together and are releasing their first new album in some 20 years, coupled with a tour that starts this month. So lots of good news all around – The new album, The Modern Age will be available on March 22 and the tour begins March 21.
Warm up your turntables – and in the meantime, have a listen to Sleeper in 1996.