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Best tunes of 1993: #16 The Wonder Stuff “On the ropes”

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If you asked me today who is my favourite musical artist, I’d be hard-pressed to even narrow it down to a top 50. However, if you had asked me this same question back in high school and right up to my first couple years of university, I wouldn’t have even hesitated in responding that it was Stourbridge, England’s The Wonder Stuff.

I have written about them a number of times already on these pages, hitting lists on my favourite covers and favourites tunes of 1990 and 1991, and of course, their first three albums all placed in my top ten lists for 1988, 1989, and 1991. By the time their fourth long player hit the shelves in the fall of 1993, I was a full-on fanboy and was eagerly awaiting its release. I had already seen the Samuel Bayer* directed video for the advance single, “On the ropes”, and was thrilled by the rock energy and crisp production. It had seemed Miles Hunt and the boys were loosing themselves from the technicolour folk rock of their previous release and embracing a more rocking sound. Martin ‘Fiddly’ Bell still had his fingers all over the sound, of course, as is evidenced in this early single, in which his fiddles screamed and bounced and generally, kept the Stuffies just slightly apart from the American alt-rock that they appeared to be courting.

I was all in on The Wonder Stuff, though, and the changed sound on “Construction for the modern idiot” didn’t deter me in the least. I loved it from the first and I immediately studied it with the same fervency that I did their earlier work. Of course, a new album meant that the band might tour and going to concerts was a new favourite pastime for this young lad. When they were announced to play the tiny club RPM in Toronto in February 1994 for a mere $10, I jumped all over it.

Incidentally, one of the most memorable moments of the concert for me occurred just as the group was leaping into this very song. A few bars into the intro, the noise arrested and Miles roared into the microphone, “Gouge the ****-ers eyes out!” He was referring to a young fan that had leapt on to the front of the stage just long enough to leap off it again and into the outstretched hands of the audience. The whole band weren’t really fans of the act of stage diving. The frontman took the opportunity to take a swig from his magnum of red wind before continuing his tirade against the offender that had disappeared into the crowd. “The next person that tries that will have the rest of the crowd to deal with when we walk off the stage. They paid to see us, not your ass!” The band then started right back up and with no less energy, blowing the doors off the place.

There wasn’t one other attempt to dive off the stage that night and the band duly played a super long set, complete with three encores. I left the show a very happy fan and with a concert T-shirt much like the one Hunt sports in this video, a shirt that I wore for nearly a decade and only retired it when it was no longer wearable. I was proud idiot.

Good times.

*Famous for directing the iconic video for a certain Seattle grunge act’s breakthrough hit.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1993 list, click here.