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Copyright Nick Morgan and crew

Concert Review by Nick Morgan
WRECKLESS ERIC, supporting Wilko Johnson, The 100 Club, London, December 23rd 2005
It always seemed a shame to me that Wreckless Eric was somehow considered one of the also-rans of the great Stiff Records stable of the late seventies that spawned Elvis Costello and Ian Dury and the Blockheads, a sort of not-to-be-taken seriously novelty act amongst novelty acts. No doubt the name may have had something to do with this, and the famously reckless behaviour, and the astonishingly reckless drinking that fuelled it, which became for a considerable while Eric Goulden’s demon. But he wrote great songs and performed them with a unique candour. If he was an artist, and if I was an art critic (which thank the lord I’m not Serge) then you might describe his work as rude, or belonging to a naive school.
Wreckless Eric
Wreckless Eric in the late 1970's
I’d just prefer to say that his songs were very open and honest, with not a lot of room for subtlety. However, obvious they were not. But hang on a minute! Why all this past tense? This isn’t an obituary it’s a bloody review. And not only is Eric still alive, he’s back with a new(ish) album Bungalow Hi. Back from where? Well, for a while Serge he was in your lovely France, where in addition to the highly regarded Len Bright Combo he also had a band called Le Beat Group Électrique. And during this time he was also dealing with his personal demons, as they say in the wild world of rock and roll. But to be honest he’d almost disappeared from my personal radar until I picked him up again, talking with great frankness and humour on one of those Sunday night religious sounding radio programmes that I only listen to in the car.
So that’s why we’re here nice and early in the 100 Club to see our man who is supporting Whiskyfun favourite Wilko Johnson on this festive Friday gig. We fall in with the Edinburgh branch of the Wreckless Eric Fan Club, who appoint themselves as personal bodyguards to The Photographer. “See that man” says one, gesticulating with his beer at Eric, “he’s a fucking God”. We’re then shown mobile phone photographs of set lists from previous Eric gigs. Later I get the tattooed arms round the shoulder treatment, “Listen, how does he remember all of those words. He’s a fucking poet man, a fucking poet…” These two aren’t the only fans, and the rest of the crowd are good natured enough to give Eric a fair hearing, and he responds with a cracking forty-five minutes or so.
Wreckless Eric
He’s a happy guy, despite the fact that you might think otherwise from his songs, and not just the more recent ones. He’s also blessed with a lovely smile and Tommy Steele eyebrows, so even when the songs get bleak (and believe me Eric does bleak very well) there’s still a nice feeling in the air. He chats, questions (“Am I fucking this up?”), and challenges, “Someone said this was the most alienating song I ever wrote, so let’s see what you think of it …”, then “If you think that was fucking alienating then try this one …” Oh yes, and he’s also wearing a very nice suit. He sings, in no particular order, ‘Continuity Girl’, ‘Same’, ‘Local’, and ‘33s and 45s’ (introduced with the comment, “Some people find me difficult to live with, can you fucking believe that?”) from Hi Bungalow, ‘Whole wide world’, ‘Joe Meek’, ‘Final Taxi’ and ‘Someone must’ve nailed us together’, playing acoustic and electric guitars, with some funny stuff from a bass keyboard that he sets off occasionally, and also some congas that he hits. There are also what Edgar Allen Poe described in The Fall of the House of Usher as ‘wild improvisations of the speaking guitar’ – reflecting the style of all the Bungalow Hi songs, “Fuck, it’s gone all progressive” shouts Wreckless as he looses his way during one of these.
Later The Photographer disappears with her bodyguards and returns with my copy of Bungalow Hi signed with a message from Eric, “Be kind?” He means the review of course. I don’t need to be. His set was more than worth the ticket money, and we’ve still got Wilko to come – I should mention here that Wilko (who was competing with the great Norman Watt Roy for the roles of Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future) was just as good as when we saw him in March. But have a look at Eric’s website to see what he does with reviewers, which is a sort of review and reviewer deconstruction by the reviewee. Cool stuff.
Wreckless Eric
Kate, Whiskyfun's Official Concert Photographer with Wreckless Eric
And yes, if you do go to the website you can not only order copies of his albums (which you should do – Bungalow Hi is really worth a listen), but also his book, A dysfunctional success, the Wreckless Eric Manual. And you can look up his dates and make sure you go and see him if he turns up for a gig somewhere near you – he deserves the audience. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)

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