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Catherine Wheel

By using their influences as a mere launching pad and consistently developing their many strengths, Catherine Wheel was able to outlast all of their early peers. With their initial singles and first album, the band from East Anglia fit snugly with the remainder of bands that the British press eventually labeled as shoegazers, a short-lived sub-scene of bands that were characterized by an inactive stage presence, loads of effects pedals, and buried vocals. However, the always tuneful Catherine Wheel survived by refusing to repeat themselves and remaining accessible to their constantly swelling fanbase through touring like dogs. The band's extensive discography plays like a how-to guide for bands that aspire to do most things imaginable within the domain of bass/drum/guitar/vocals with enthusiasm and sharp skill. They might not have reached the level of popularity that they aimed for, but their career was one that most bands would commit felonies to experience.

Formed by Rob Dickinson (vocals and guitar), Brian Futter (guitar), Dave Hawes (bass), and Neil Sims (drums) in 1990, Catherine Wheel debuted on the tiny Norwich independent label Wilde Club with the She's My Friend and Painful Thing singles. Though inspired by the likes of Echo and the Bunnymen and the House of Love, even the band's earliest recordings strayed from being derivative. Those singles earned them a spot on John Peel's BBC show. One listener was famed producer and "non-musician" Brian Eno, who was delighted enough by what he heard to phone the band's manager up and express admiration. Eno, who had his Opal label at the time, threw his hat into the ring of people wanting to release the band's future material. Since the tiny Opal imprint didn't fit into the big plans the band had for themselves, they declined to sign on with the bald wonder. Creation boss Alan McGee was another interested major figure. Since McGee was about to become knee-deep in debt, thanks to the extensive costs of My Bloody Valentine's Loveless, the band passed on the pre-Oasis label. Fontana had the ability to market the band on a wider scale and the label's licensing deal with Mercury in the U.S. made them more attractive.

Signed to Fontana, the band set about wrangling a producer for their debut full-length. Being huge fans of Talk Talk's sonically expansive records, they contacted the band's associate, Tim Friese-Greene. To their pleasant surprise, Friese-Greene had bought the Wild Club singles and needed no convincing to work with them. Friese-Greene became the fifth Wheel as much as he was the fifth member of Talk Talk, playing a crucial role in sound development, production, and adding his trademark keyboards when necessary. Ferment gained the band a small following in their native land and abroad on the strength of the epic "Black Metallic," which remained the band's most recognized song throughout their career.

The cinematic Chrome followed in 1993, toughening the band's sound and providing increased exposure on U.S. alternative radio through "Crank." Dickinson's increased confidence as a singer allowed them more emotional depth. Another strong alliance was forged with engineer Gil Norton during the recording sessions. As always, extensive touring ensued and the band's heavier edge on stage was captured on 1995's Happy Days, which hardcore fans dismissed for being too flat-out rock for their tastes. Neo-metal single "Waydown" was the radio staple in the U.S., giving the band more exposure than ever. At this point, the band was criticized for abandoning Britain, which was something of a fallacy. Although they would routinely circle the U.S. multiple times while touring, only in relative terms did it appear that they were neglecting their homeland.

Meanwhile, Catherine Wheel had been stockpiling spectacular B-sides that only rabid collectors and those who would listen to their tales of depleted wallets knew about. To provide a stop-gap between albums, Like Cats and Dogs was released in 1996, which only contained a small fraction of those extras. Ingeniously, those that were selected were sequenced in a manner that resembled a regular studio album; the immediacy and experimentalism of the hodgepodge made for the band's best full-length in the eyes of several fans.

Peeling back from the aural onslaught of Happy Days, the band exposed more of their atmospheric knack for 1997's Adam and Eve (released by Chrysalis in the U.K.), which was also designed to play as a single piece. Frustrated with the current generation's aversion to listening to a single record through its entirety, they went so far as to bring in Bob Ezrin to give it a classic front-to-back feel; they obviously liked the result of Like Cats and Dogs and the result of Adam and Eve was just as pleasing. Despite having numerous radio friendly songs on the album, sales for the record stalled outside of the usual pack and those catching on by word of mouth and more gigging. Not pleased with Mercury, Catherine Wheel abandoned ship prior to the bloodshed that ensued when Mercury's distributor Polygram merged with Universal.

Creatively stalled by not knowing where to go next, it took a while for Catherine Wheel to come up with 2000's Wishville, which found release through the band's new label, Columbia. Dave Hawes was relieved of his bass duties prior to recording sessions; since he was the most accessible and affable member of the group (and an excellent musician), the announcement of his departure was met with much scrutiny by their fans. The band had their reasons in sacking Hawes and the bass lines for Wishville were handled by Dickinson, Futter, and Friese-Greene. Ben Ellis was eventually brought on as full-time bassist. Wishville gained noticeable play on alternative radio, but it translated into the usual amount of sales that the band was accustomed to. Frustrated with having all the tools to be a huge platinum act for nearly a decade, the band went on hiatus after touring. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi
full bio

Comments

Well, you hate to use the word underrated, but I guess I just did.
stevebpolek
I'd steal myself a car.... A Ferrari or a Jaguar just to see them reunited and touring again.
been listening since the beginning ............ . been trying to spread the news for over 20 years
Of of THE MOST underrated groups of the 90's...I sure miss them
Missing some stuff here in The Wheel album list but all is good. Such a great band they could put up a great wall of sound like no one else and the guitar was all their own it made their sound. If all you know is Black Metallic then give the rest of their albums a try.
What a shame that they became the antithesis of what they once were......a GREAT guitar-drive n band. R.I.P. Boys
I saw them open up for the Charlatans at the old Academy in NYC around 1992. What a combo show!! Never forget it!!
Bruce Dickenson's cousin. So totally different, and if you heard a new song from him you'd pick out that voice in a heartbeat.
Love their musica.. awesome group.
No kidding - you can always tell a CW song apart when it starts up. I played Chrome for a friend of mine and he immediately agreed they sounded about 15 years ahead of their time. I think if they re-formed and went back to the early style they could be huge now.
A sound all there own
I too saw that show in DC. I caught them a couple of more times as well in Baltimore and Philly. caught them with Curve at one of those shows and got all the autographs on my Chrome album ( and Cuchoo for Curve )
jamesryanwes t
Catherine Wheel put on the BEST show I've ever seen. Caught them at the 9:30 club in D.C.
srivera223
I too am sad I discovered them too late to catch a show. How about a reunion for my personal benefit, eh?
Wonderful live band. The best was a set they did at the Cotton Club in Atlanta in which they played the entire Adam & Eve album straight through.
Very nice!
damn, i've discovered them all too late....
I lost some of my hearing because of Catherine Wheel shows in Chicago in the 90s. And I am ok with that. ;)
sbholl84
Their earlier records are pretty great. Shame about Wishville, though.
blake_kuder
Growing up in the 80's and have seen bands like Black Flag to the Smiths. Then surviving the Grunge trend in the early 90's. Catherine Wheel is the best 90's band I ever seen live! I wish Rob would get the band back together!
jpehrson913
I agree with the former posts, I only saw CW 1x in 97', but it still stands out as one of the best shows I've ever witnessed. Love em, miss em.
Ferment and Chrome are great albums. Unlike many CW fans, I think Happy Days is a criminally under-rated album too, although it is not similar in style to Ferment and Chrome.
awkward Ronald... apologizing! ? all hail CW
nicatallejo
They have skills
richardcclar k
There's something about their sound...
I love this band. Ditto on the B-side note by Chris - they could have put out 2 or 3 more CDs with their output. Saw them 3 times here in the US. Best was an acoustic Christmas show at a club in Philadelphia . Futter cheated by playing electric guitar with the effects off. It was an amazing lineup (CW, Live, Cowboy Junkies, Nick Heywood (post-Haircu t 100) and Tony Bennett(!) plus I shook hands with Tony Bennett. Good times...
I think I saw these guys about a dozen times. I'd love a reunion tour! Seeing them play Intravenous and Fripp in 2000 was incredible! Catherine Wheel's 40+ b-sides are better than most band's album material.
kemox
I was able to see CW three times when touring in the US. The first time was when they were opening for INXS. I actually walked out of INXS because CW set the bar so high.
I did my masters thesis listening to Ferment. My autistic son would stand next to me while I typed, and he ended up memorizing the whole CD! He was only 4. He's 17 now, and it's still our favorite.
stanshotmoll y
The album adam and eve was very different, but it is by far my favorite. what a great mix of pop and the haunting truth.
Wish i could have seen these guys. They are my favorite band. Miss all the shoegazers.
I taste the awkwardness of lime and force myself to dive into lemon.
Waydown negatively influenced my opinion of this band, and I didn't give them another chance. Now that I hear the good stuff...I'm sorry.
I saw them with the Cure when Chrome came out!!! AMAZING!!
Chrome is one CD everyone needs to have in there collection. What a great band!!
timberg7
Catherine Wheel/ Slowdive ticket, early 90s... All I have to say. Best show I ever attended.
Band = Love era Cult..

Singer sucks.

Have a nice day.
Adam and Eve is a great album! "...just call me Crank..." I was able to see CW in 1997. Really good show!
man..i love this band...My brother - Romeo- whos not with us anymore turned me on to them when he handed me a CASSETTE TAPE...and i got hooked...and have been listening to them ever since. Other bands I have liked came and went....but this band remains on my list of favorites. They will always have a special place in my soul -- beautiful words and beautiful music. rock on.

I saw them on their 1st tour in Chicago 1992, I tried to see them at the Other World in St. Louis, but it was sold out, then saw them again in Chicago (Metro) touring on their last release. Rob is a great guy and out of the ordinary world.

Cesar
Atlanta, GA
I found CW on MTV's alternative latenight program in '93. Way Down was my anthem. CW was all I listened to for almost 5 straight years. Depth, melody, and and furious insistence of doubt. What an amazing band. Too bad I missed the only chance I could have had to see them in St. Louis.
I've bought a few vinyl records from Dave through eBay and his on-line record store, although I've never talked to him directly he has always seemed very congenial and friendly. I could never understand why he was booted from the band. His superb abilities brought so much to the band. The Wheel is one of my all time favorites!
I actually know Dave Hawes (Bass Player) and just saw him today in a copy band called Bar Trek in Ashtabula Ohio. Dave is a great guy and friend. Catherine Wheel was a great band !!!
Saw them at the old Birch Hill in Old Bridge, NJ in July of 2000 with Tracy Bonham. Probably the best small venue concert I ever saw - out of hundreds. Absolutely brilliant show.
I'm with RD Basher on this one. Adam & Eve is just incredible through headphones, especially the 2nd or 3rd time straight through in a row. For a harder edge, we're going to have to get Happy Days on Pandora. It's a nice long album that offers a pleasant surprise with every song.
ironage
Where the F*** is Adam & Eve??? My all time favorite concept album.
I enjoy the breathy vocals and many guitars. the beginning of shoegaze for me. thanks guys.
Chrome is the best album infused with passion, emotion and sincere heart ache. Brilliant!
sazmcc
best band ever
tjmrocknred
very smart, very deep lyricly. Great pop songs

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