I’m sure you’ve all received at some point via social media an invitation from a friend to share your tastes in music with the watching world. One of the things doing the rounds a few months back was a request to simply post the sleeve of an album you were particularly fond of without any need to say why that particular piece of plastic is so important to you.
It’s very tempting to bring that concept to T(n)VV by posting a picture and hoping that the many talented contributors would then, in effect, write the piece via the comments section. Especially on those occasions when time is against me doing the usual thing. But I won’t.
It was interesting to see some of the responses – the majority of folk put up the sleeves that you’d expect, the timeless classics and ground breaking albums. Some however, showed off a little by featuring records that sold poorly, are not well known and in all honesty are defined as ‘cult’ when the real word should be ‘shit’.
Then there were those whose choices might have raised a few eyebrows as surprises….the sort of release that would be classed by the majority as solid lower or minor league fare but in the eyes and to the ears of the individual contributor really is an album worth shouting about.
I think Hup, the sophomore 1989 album from The Wonder Stuff, would fall into that category.
The band had been snapped up by Polydor Records on the back of a well-received self-financed EP, backed by a lot of positive media who were always happy to talk to the highly-opinionated but erudite front man Miles Hunt. Their debut album from 1988, The Eight Legged Groove Machine, went Top 20 in the UK despite none of its four singles doing all that much. The songs were short, snappy and catchy, leading to many a comparison with early Buzzcocks. They were just as energetic and infectious on stage – every show saw every audience members leave at the end of the night bathed in sweat from their own exertions.
The single which preceded the release of Hup is regarded by many as the band’s finest three minutes…..or four minutes forty five if you take in the 12” extended version.
This went Top 20 in the singles chart in September 1989, paving the way for the album the following month to crash in at #5.
But here’s the thing….Hup was a long-way removed from the debut album. It opened with a song that sampled dialogue from movies and tv shows which then went into something clever yet mid-paced.
Other songs featured fiddles and banjos while, #gaspshockhorror, there was even a ballad.
It was a big leap forward and it caused many old fans to turn their backs and seek out alternative bands who relied on a rough, raw energy; it also soon led to a parting of the ways with Rob ‘The Bass Thing’ Jones deciding this folksy, rootsy chart friendly sort of stuff wasn’t becoming of a genuine hellraiser, leading him to quit at end of the 1989 tour after which he would move to America before his lifestyle caught up with him and he died of heart failure in 1993.
I’ve a lot of time for Hup. It was an album that was difficult at the time to categorise as it had a little bit of everything. Many of the bands contemporaries had strayed into ‘Madchester’ territory, mimicking the sounds and grooves of the chart bands but the Stuffies had, certainly at this point in time, avoided that temptation. The second single lifted from the album was incredibly radio friendly but anyone who was only familiar with the debut material would have been hard pushed to identify them correctly:-
To give the band a bit of credit, they actually put this out as a double-A single with an otherwise unavailable track on the flip side:-
This wasn’t however, an original number; instead it was their version of a a pro-peace/anti-war single from the 60s that had since been covered on many an occasion by acts as diverse as Jefferson Airplane, the Dave Clark Five, Andy Williams and Louis Armstrong. Part of the lyric would later come to the attention of the record buying public as the sung/spoken introduction to a track by Nirvana………..
Golden Green/Get Together was only a minor hit and didn’t give the album that anticipated spike in sales. It also nixed the idea of lifting a third single from the album which in a sense was a good move as it allowed the band to move on, but which prevented some decent songs becoming better known:-
The first post-Hup release in May 1990 also caught folk out as it slammed straight into the Madchester territory that they had so carefully bypassed the previous year:-
The title of the track on the b-side made me smile.