Wire (band)

Last updated

Wire sept 2013.jpg
Wire in 2013; left to right: Matthew Simms, Robert Grey, Colin Newman, Graham Lewis
Background information
Also known asWir
OriginLondon, England
Years active1976–1980, 1985–1992, 1999–present
Members Colin Newman
Graham Lewis
Robert Grey
Matthew Simms
Past membersGeorge Gil
Bruce Gilbert
Margaret Fiedler McGinnis
Website www.pinkflag.com

Wire are an English rock band, formed in London in October 1976 [1] by Colin Newman (vocals, guitar), Graham Lewis (bass, vocals), Bruce Gilbert (guitar) and Robert Grey (drums). They were originally associated with the punk rock scene, appearing on The Roxy London WC2 album, and were later central to the development of post-punk, while their debut album Pink Flag was influential for hardcore punk. [2]


Wire are considered a definitive art punk and post-punk band, due to their richly detailed and atmospheric sound and obscure lyrical themes. They steadily developed from an early noise rock 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 their career. [3]


1976 to 1980

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 [4] – contains songs that are diverse in mood and style, but most use a minimalist punk approach combined with unorthodox structures. [5] "Field Day for the Sundays", for example, is only 28 seconds long.

Colin Newman, 2011 Colin Newman b nov 2011.jpg
Colin Newman, 2011

Their second album, Chairs Missing (1978) marked a retreat from the stark minimalism of Pink Flag, with longer, more atmospheric songs and synthesizer parts added by producer Mike Thorne. [6] "Outdoor Miner" was a minor hit, peaking at number 51 in the UK singles chart. [7] The experimentation was even more prominent on 154 (1979). [1]

Wire's unorthodox ideas to promote 154 led to a falling out with their label. According to Newman, "We'd worked out a sales strategy for 154 that EMI couldn't see at all...They couldn't understand a rock band that wanted to do a week in a theater as an event, and wanted to promote 154 with videos or left-field TV adverts. We wanted to help them sell records; they thought we were simply being intransigent." [8] According to Jim Green in an interview with Newman, "personnel changes at EMI had left Wire without any support." Colin Newman's solo album, " A-Z was planned as the fourth Wire album, but EMI cancelled studio time in the wake of failed negotiations with the band, and then dropped Wire's option." [8]

Lacking a recording deal and money, [8] creative differences split the band in 1979, leading to the Document and Eyewitness LP (1981), a recording of a live performance that featured, almost exclusively, new material. The album was described as "disjointed", [5] "unrecognizable as rock music" and "almost unlistenable". [9] The LP came packaged with an EP of a different performance of more new material. Some of these songs, along with others performed but not included on the album, were included on Newman's post-Wire solo albums (5/10, We Meet Under Tables), while others were released by Gilbert's and Lewis' primary post-Wire outlet Dome (And Then..., Ritual View).

Between 1981 and 1985, Wire ceased recording and performing in favour of solo and collaborative projects such as Dome, Cupol, Duet Emmo and several Colin Newman solo efforts.

1985 to 1992

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. [10]

In June 1988, Wire were part of a lineup that included Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Thomas Dolby supporting Depeche Mode at the Pasadena Rose Bowl where they played to over 60,000 people. [11] [12] In 1989, Wire released IBTABA , 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. [7]

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.

1999 to present

With Gotobed back in the line-up (now using his birth name, Robert Grey), the group initially reworked much of their back catalogue for a performance at Royal Festival Hall in 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. [13] In 2006, Wire's 1970s albums were remastered and re-released with the original vinyl track listings. A third Read & Burn EP was released in November 2007.

Matt Simms, 2013 Matt Simms sep 2013.jpg
Matt Simms, 2013

A full-length album of new material entitled Object 47 was released in July 2008. Bruce Gilbert was not involved in this recording, although, according to Newman, he did feature in a minimal capacity on the third Read and Burn EP.

In January 2011, Wire released Red Barked Tree , which according to the band's press release "rekindles a lyricism sometimes absent from Wire's previous work and reconnects with the live energy of performance, harnessed and channelled from extensive touring over the past few years". [14] The album was written and recorded by Newman, Lewis and Grey, but speaking to Marc Riley on the day of the release, Newman introduced as "a new boy" guitarist Matt Simms (from It Hugs Back), who had been a touring member with the band since April 2010. [10]

In March 2013 the band released Change Becomes Us , their 13th studio album, which was very well received. [15] [16] Their fourteenth album, eponymously titled Wire , was released in April 2015. The following year, in April 2016, the band's 15th studio album, entitled Nocturnal Koreans, was released on their label Pinkflag. It consisted of eight songs recorded during the sessions for their previous album, but were cut from the track listing. Stereogum named Nocturnal Koreans the Album of the Week. Reviews for the album were mostly positive. [17] In 2017 Wire celebrated 40 years since their debut gig on 1 April 1977 by releasing their 16th studio album Silver/Lead and headlining the Los Angeles edition of their DRILL : FESTIVAL.

In January 2020, Wire released Mind Hive [18] on their own Pinkflag label. [19] The band appeared on the front cover of Wire magazine (issue 432) published in January 2020; it featured an interview with the band about the new album and discussed the enduring nature of the group. [20]

In March 2020, the band announced an eight-song album entitled 10:20 that would be released on Record Store Day. [21] Side one of the vinyl LP consists of four tracks that were originally released as the limited edition Strays EP, which was given away with mail ordered copies of Red Barked Trees. Side two contains four tracks that were recorded during the Mind Hive sessions but not released until their appearance on 10:20. [22]

In June 2021, in conjunction with Record Store Day, Wire released PF456 Deluxe an 18-song vinyl-only compilation of the first two Read and Burn EPs, the "Twelve Times You" single, and the four unreleased tracks from Send. Concurrently, Wire released a CD version of PF456 Redux, a 16-song vinyl-only compilation, originally released in 2003, of edited versions of all the songs from the first two Read and Burn EPs along with the unreleased songs on Send. In April 2022, in conjunction with Record Store Day, Wire released Not About to Die which was originally released as a bootleg in the early 1980s. The album consists of recordings made for EMI as demos for the 1978 and 1979 albums, Chairs Missing and 154, which were previously released by Wire on the special editions of those two albums.


Wire's influence has outshone their comparatively modest record sales. In the 1980s and 1990s, Big Black, Minutemen, [23] and Sonic Youth [24] all expressed a fondness for the group. Minutemen bassist Mike Watt described their influence as key saying of Pink Flag "I don't know what we would have sounded like if we didn't hear it." [2]

"And the sound was incredible," he continues. "It was like that NYC band Richard Hell and the Voidoids without the studio gimmickry, but Wire was way more 'econo' with the instrumentation and the radical approach to song structure. And the way Wire wrote words were artistic without being elitist; some of the slang was trippy, too. All the 'old' conventions from all the other 'old' bands went out the window after we heard Wire. They were big-time liberating on us." [2]

Wire were influential on American hardcore punk. Fans included Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat and Henry Rollins, [2] [25] formerly of Black Flag. Minor Threat covered "12XU" for the Flex Your Head compilation, [26] as did Boss Hog on their I Dig You EP. Rollins, as Henrietta Collins & The Wife-Beating Childhaters, covered "Ex Lion Tamer" on the EP Drive by Shooting . Michael Azerrad reported, in the book Our Band Could Be Your Life , that at Minor Threat's second gig, each of the seven bands on the roster performed a version of a Wire song. [27] Big Black covered Wire's "Heartbeat" twice, once as a studio version that was released as a single (also included on The Rich Man's Eight Track Tape compilation) and also as a live version, featuring Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis, included on the VHS version of the live album Pigpile .

Graham Lewis, 2013 Graham Lewis sep 2013.jpg
Graham Lewis, 2013

R.E.M. covered "Strange" on their album Document. [2] Robert Smith has described how, after seeing the group live, Wire influenced The Cure's sound after their first album. [28] [ when? ] The shoegaze band Lush covered "Outdoor Miner" in the 90s.

A plagiarism case between Wire's music publisher and Elastica over the similarity between Wire's 1977 song "Three Girl Rhumba" and Elastica's 1995 hit "Connection" resulted in an out-of-court settlement. [29]

Alternative Press included Wire in their 1996 list of 100 underground inspirations of the past 20 years, stating that "as long as there are listeners equally lured by tough, intelligent riffs and fearless experimentalism, Wire will remain a crucial benchmark." [30]

Guided By Voices' Robert Pollard is a self-proclaimed fan of Wire, stating that the existence of a large number of songs on GBV's albums is a direct Wire influence. [31] One of My Bloody Valentine's last releases prior to reconvening in 2007 was a cover of "Map Ref 41°N 93°W" for a Wire tribute entitled Whore. The song was selected as a favourite cover by Flak Magazine. [32]

Fischerspooner (who covered "The 15th" on their album #1 ), Britpop bands like Elastica and Menswe@r and post-punk revival bands like Bloc Party, Futureheads, Blacklist and Franz Ferdinand have cited Wire as an influence.[ citation needed ] The Smiths' Johnny Marr has confirmed that he is a fan of the band and has acknowledged that seeing Wire live helped give him the confidence to release his first solo album in 2013. [33]

The British electronic band Ladytron included Wire's "The 15th" on the mix compilation Softcore Jukebox . Ladytron member Reuben Wu claimed Wire as a musical influence. [34]

The Feelies, since their 2008 reunion, have covered the "Outdoor Miner".

The slowcore band Low included an early, previously unreleased cover of "Heartbeat" on their career-spanning box set in 2007. Ampere recorded a cover of "Mr. Suit" for their 2006 split with Das Oath. New Bomb Turks also recorded a cover of "Mr. Suit" on the 1993 album !!Destroy-Oh-Boy!! . The chorus of Ministry's "Thieves" was influenced by "Mr. Suit" as well. Helmet guitarist Page Hamilton cites Wire as one of his "top five bands" [35] and as an influence on his music. [36]


Wire performing in 2008. L to R: Lewis, Newman, Grey. Wire june 2008.jpg
Wire performing in 2008. L to R: Lewis, Newman, Grey.
Studio albums

Band members

Former members


Wire (band)

Related Research Articles

Dez Cadena American punk rock singer and guitarist

Dez Cadena is an American punk rock singer and guitarist. He was the third vocalist and later rhythm guitarist for hardcore punk band Black Flag from 1980 to 1983. Cadena played guitar with the Misfits from 2001 to 2015, initially joining the band alongside Doyle, Jerry Only and Robo for their 25th Anniversary Tour and has served as the band's longest tenured guitarist.

Ladytron English band

Ladytron are a largely British electronic band formed in Liverpool in 1999. The group consists of Helen Marnie, Mira Aroyo, Daniel Hunt, and Reuben Wu (synthesizers). They have released six studio albums: 604 (2001), Light & Magic (2002), Witching Hour (2005), Velocifero (2008), Gravity the Seducer (2011) and Ladytron (2019). They also issued the live album Live at London Astoria 16.07.08 in 2009 and the compilation album Best of 00–10 in 2011. They have produced remixes for artists such as David Gahan, Erasure, Goldfrapp, Apoptygma Berzerk, Placebo, Blondie, Gang of Four, Christina Aguilera, Nine Inch Nails, Bloc Party, Kings of Convenience, Soulwax and Róisín Murphy.

<i>Pink Flag</i> 1977 studio album by Wire

Pink Flag is the debut studio album by English rock band Wire. It was released in November 1977 by Harvest Records. The album gained Wire a cult following within independent and post-punk music upon its initial release, later growing to be highly influential on many other musicians.

<i>The Ideal Copy</i> 1987 studio album by Wire

The Ideal Copy is the fourth studio album by the English rock group Wire. It was the first full-length recording following the band's hiatus of 1980–1985.. Mute Records released the album. The Ideal Copy peaked at number 87 in the UK albums chart.

<i>154</i> (album) 1979 studio album by Wire

154 is the third album by the English post-punk band Wire, released in 1979 on EMI imprint Harvest Records in the UK and Europe and Warner Bros. Records in America.

Elastica British rock band

Elastica were a British rock band formed in London in 1992 that were influenced by punk rock, post-punk and new wave music. Their 1995 album Elastica produced singles that charted in the United Kingdom and United States, including its highest-charting US Hot 100 hit, "Connection." The band broke up in 2001, about a year after releasing their second LP. The band's members changed several times; Justine Frischmann and Justin Welch were the only members who remained from beginning to end.

Colin Newman English musician and record producer

Colin Newman is an English musician, record producer and record label owner. He is best known as the primary vocalist and songwriter for the post-punk band Wire.

<i>Chairs Missing</i> 1978 studio album by Wire

Chairs Missing is the second studio album by English rock band Wire. It was released on 8 September 1978 by Harvest Records. The album peaked at number 48 in the UK Albums Chart.

Bruce Clifford Gilbert is an English musician. One of the founding members of the influential and experimental art punk band Wire, he branched out into electronic music, performance art, music production, and DJing during the band's extended periods of inactivity. He left Wire in 2004, and has since been focusing on solo work and collaborations with visual artists and fellow experimental musicians.

<i>Drive by Shooting</i> 1987 EP by Henrietta Collins & The Wife-Beating Child-Haters

Drive by Shooting is a solo EP by American hardcore punk musician Henry Rollins, credited as Henrietta Collins and The Wifebeating Childhaters. The EP served as a precursor to the Rollins Band.

<i>Object 47</i> 2008 studio album by Wire

Object 47 is the eleventh studio album by the English post punk band Wire, named so because it is the 47th item in the Wire discography – a methodology harking back to the name of their 1979 album, 154, which was named after the number of concerts they had played to that point. It is the first Wire album without the participation of guitarist Bruce Gilbert. It was released on 7 July 2008 in the UK and on 15 July in the US.

<i>Black Eye</i> (album) 1996 studio album by Fluffy

Black Eye is the only full-length studio album by the English punk rock band Fluffy, released in 1996 by The Enclave. It was recorded at Metropolis Studios in London and produced by punk rock veteran Bill Price, who had recorded albums by Sex Pistols and The Clash. The album was recorded live in the studio and the music was not arranged by the producer in order to achieve a rough, live sound. The record contains loud punk songs that explore social issues such as sex and abuse.

<i>A–Z</i> (album) 1980 studio album by Colin Newman

A–Z is the debut studio album by Colin Newman, lead singer of post-punk band Wire. It was released in October 1980, through record label Beggars Banquet. "A-Z was planned as the fourth Wire album, but EMI [Wire's label] cancelled studio time in the wake of failed negotiations with the band."

<i>Red Barked Tree</i> 2010 studio album by Wire

Red Barked Tree is the twelfth studio album by the English post-punk band Wire--digitally released on 20 December 2010, and as a CD on 10 January 2011. Featuring eleven tracks covering a diverse range of musical styles the record was well received by critics who found the record: "representing the essence of their best work" covering: "virtually all aspects of Wire's varied history to create a stylistic best-of new material".

<i>On Returning (1977–1979)</i> 1989 compilation album by Wire

On Returning (1977–1979) is a compilation album by English rock band Wire. It was released in 1989 and comprises recordings of the band from 1977 to 1979, and is seen as the band's first "best of" album, complemented four years later by 1985–1990: The A List which is the "best of" of the band's second era. The album is named after the band's track "On Returning" which closes the album, originally released on the band's third album 154 (1979).

<i>Change Becomes Us</i> 2013 studio album by Wire

Change Becomes Us is the thirteenth studio album by British post-punk band Wire. It was released on 25 March 2013.

<i>Wire</i> (Wire album) 2015 studio album by Wire

Wire is the self-titled fourteenth studio album by British post-punk band Wire. It was released on 13 April 2015.

Outdoor Miner 1979 single by Wire

"Outdoor Miner" is a song written by Colin Newman and Graham Lewis, and performed by the English post-punk band Wire. It was released in January 1979 as the band's fourth single and appeared on their second album, Chairs Missing.

<i>Mind Hive</i> 2020 studio album by Wire

Mind Hive is the seventeenth studio album from English art punk band Wire, released on 24 January 2020. The release was preceded by a music video for "Cactused" made up of clips from the forthcoming documentary People in a Film and streaming audio for "Primed and Ready". They also announced a brief tour of North America to promote the recording.

<i>Not To</i> 1982 album by Colin Newman

Not To is the third studio album by Colin Newman, lead singer of post-punk band Wire. It was released in 1982, through record labels Beggars Banquet and 4AD.


  1. 1 2 Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 1075–1076. ISBN   1-84195-017-3.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Grow, Kory (20 March 2017). "Wire Reflect on 40 Years as Punk's Ultimate Cult Band". Rolling Stone . Retrieved 11 November 2019.
  3. Wilson Neate. "Wire". AllMusic . Retrieved 15 February 2012.
  4. Steve Huey. "Pink Flag". AllMusic . Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  5. 1 2 Jim DeRogatis; Wilson Neate. "Wire". TrouserPress.com. Archived from the original on 4 February 2012. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  6. Steve Huey. "Chairs Missing". AllMusic . Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  7. 1 2 "WIRE | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". Officialcharts.com. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  8. 1 2 3 Green, Jim (June 1981). "Colin Newman". Trouser Press . Vol. 8, no. 4. New York. p. 18. Retrieved 24 December 2021.
  9. Wilson Neate. "Document and Eyewitness". AllMusic . Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  10. 1 2 "Wire". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  11. ckuttimecapsule (29 June 1988). "Interview with Colin Newman of WIRE circa 1988". CKUT TIME CAPSULE. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  12. "Video: Depeche Mode, 'A Concert for the Masses' — rare footage from 1988's '101' concert". Slicing Up Eyeballs . 17 June 2013. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  13. "Wire + Jake & Dinos Chapman + ES Devlin with Kirsten Reynolds (Project Dark)". projectdark.demon.co.uk. Archived from the original on 5 December 2003. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  14. "Pinkflag.com (the official Wire website) - Press - Red Barked Tree". pinkflag.com. Retrieved 28 August 2020.
  15. Gubbels, Jason (28 March 2013). "Wire, Change Becomes Us (Pink Flag)". Spin . Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  16. Wolk, Douglas (2 April 2013). "Wire – Change Becomes Us". Pitchfork Media . Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  17. "Album Of The Week: Wire Nocturnal Koreans". 19 April 2016. Retrieved 12 August 2016.
  18. Pearis, Bill (22 October 2019). "Wire announce new album 'Mind Hive' and 2020 tour (listen to "Cactused")". Brooklyn Vegan . Retrieved 22 October 2019.
  19. 1 2 Gentile, John (22 October 2019). "Wire to release new album". Punknews.org. Retrieved 22 October 2019.
  20. "Issue 432 of The Wire". February 2020.
  21. Schatz, Lake (11 March 2020). "Wire Announce New Album 10:20, North American Tour". Consequence of Sound . Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  22. Pearis, Bill (11 March 2020). "Wire share "Small Black Reptile" from RSD20 LP, on tour now (NYC this week)". Brooklyn Vegan . Retrieved 11 March 2020.
  23. Adams, Owen (26 June 2011). "Mike Watt, Stooges/Minutemen Bass Genius, Exclusive Interview". Louder Than War. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
  24. "'Sound City Liverpool onstage interview". Soundcloud.com. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  25. Henry Rollins. "KCRW BROADCAST No. 144 12–10–11". henryrollins.com. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  26. Frere-Jones, Sasha (2 March 2012). "Loving a Band That Doesn't Want Your Love". The New Yorker . Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  27. Michael Azerrad (2001). Our Band Could Be Your Life. ISBN   0-316-78753-1. OCLC   50483014.
  28. "Interview: The Gothfather". Musicfanclubs.org. 15 May 2006. Retrieved 3 June 2016.
  29. Heller, Jason (26 March 2013). "Elastica's debut stole from the best, embodying Britpop while staying punk". The A.V. Club . Retrieved 25 April 2013.
  30. Kappes, John (1996). Michael Shea (ed.). "100 Underground Inspirations of the Past 20 Years". Alternative Press. Cleveland, OH: Alternative Press Magazine, Inc. 11 (100): 39–56. ISSN   1065-1667.
  31. Eden, Dawn (3 August 1999). "Guided by vices". Salon . Retrieved 25 April 2013.
  32. Eric Wittmershaus. "Wire's "Map Ref 41°N 93°W," performed by My Bloody Valentine". flakmag.com. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  33. Youngs, Ian (17 February 2013). "BBC News – Johnny Marr on The Smiths and going solo". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  34. "SG Music: Interview With Ladytron | Soccer Gaming". Archived from the original on 23 January 2013. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
  35. "Helmet's Page Hamilton: 'I'm Thinking Of 2 More Albums, As In 2 Years I'll Be Fifty'". Ultimate Guitar. Archived from the original on 6 September 2013. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  36. "BowieNet Live Chat Transcription Page Hamilton – 28/9/00". David Bowie Wonderworld. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  37. "Silver / Lead, by Wire". Wire. Retrieved 17 January 2020.