(Note that button on his guitar strap!)
Wreckless Eric did it. By it, I mean have a hit, twenty years after the fact, with one of those neglected classics of the late seventies I prattle on so much about. “Whole Wide World” is a magisterial song, one that demolishes the distinctions between the bottom of the gutter and the top of the pop charts. And now, everyone from Will Ferrell to the Proclaimers to Napoleon Dynamite has contributed to the song’s 21st century ubiquity.
I could go on but this is not the place to dote on that which already suffers from lavish praise (but do go here to hear the 2006 World Cup version and others by the Monkees(!) and Die Toten Hosen). Let us rather consider the messier parts of Eric the Wreckless’ saga. After making an almost commercial album that he loathed like a self-inflicted wound, Eric was dropped by Stiff Records. This conflict was detailed in “A Pop Song” which was, ironically, a damn fine piece of song-writing.
Next, like Neil Young before him, Eric went from the middle of the road straight to the ditch. Like Neil, Eric’s raw voice and penchant for noise can make for difficult listening but there’s a rough beauty in much of it. Case in point, in 1985 Eric released A Roomful of Monkeys by his band the Captains of Industry, offering not some Randist fantasy of capitalist might but rather a bleak indictment of the mess that was Thatcher's England. It’s somber melodicism was a deliberate break with his old jolly, “I’m a Mess” personae - it’s a bit like a record Joe Strummer could’ve have made in 1985. In fact, Eric at this time was managed by former Clash road manager Johnny Green who’d brought former Clash deputies Norman Watt-Roy and Mickey Gallagher in to record the album. (Side note, Eric later recorded “The Crooked Beat", Clash bassist Paul Simonon’s contribution to Sandinista for the odd tribute album, The Sandanista Project.
Wreckless Eric - Crooked Beat
The album, his last before an alcohol-fueled nervous breakdown, is a bit subdued but grows in power with repeated and careful, listening, of particular note is the more traditionally Wreckless song, "Reputation (A Serious Case of)".
Download A Roomfull of Monkeys
For the full low-down on the man’s messy career read this excellent interview, from which we pinched the image below.
Next: A Bright Idea