Sunday, 14 August 2016
Oliver: Mr Ray's Wig World - Elvis Begins With an E (16 February 1992)
If nothing else, this selection showed me just what I'm not prepared to do for this blog...
When Peel played this track on 16/2/92, as an example of the Liverpool scene compilation album, The Dark Side of the Pool, he added that the band were in need of a new bassist and gave out a telephone number for interested candidates to contact. The fact that Mr Ray's Wig World, named after an American hair stylist, released their final record the following year suggests that whoever they found didn't do enough to spark their creativity too much. I noted down the number and idly thought about phoning it, just to see if anyone connected with the band would pick it up, 24 years later. That was a couple of months ago, and I as I started covering my selections from 16/2/92, the spectre of my idea began to loom large ahead of me. Would I or wouldn't I? The problem being that I couldn't think of a way to open a phone conversation with whoever may answer it without sounding either creepy or mad. The real issue was whether I should refer to myself as a journalist (a tainted but recognised profession) or a blogger (someone with far too much time on their hands and no life) - I looked into the abyss and the abyss looked back into me....
I gave the number a quick ring yesterday morning, just to see if it was active. It rang and I put the phone down. Now a definite decision had to be made.
In the end, I decided not to call back. I believe in the creedo that says you should never meet your heroes, although it's different if there is a possibility you may not see them again. Also, in the case of Mr Ray's Wig World, I couldn't think of anything to ask them. The issue with following acts that gained the bulk of their exposure on Peel is that the near constant level of discovery and turnover means it's hard to think about asking any of them anything beyond, "How did it feel to be played by Peel?" and "What are you doing now?" I couldn't bring myself to interrupt a stranger's afternoon or evening in order to plague them with such inanities - much less attempt a rambling reason for why I was calling only to discover that no-one at the number had been in Mr Ray's Wig World.
Of course, I would have been far too inhibited to ask anyone in Mr Ray's Wig World why they never again reached the heights of Elvis Begins With an E. Its jangly guitars and bouncily unhinged mood in some ways could be seen as definitive of the Peel Show at a certain point in its history. There is a wonderful tying together of Americana with E culture, before the track gleefully throws itself down a vaguely unsettling, echo-drenched plughole of Elvis impersonation - a real sense, even when dripping with irony, of the clouds that closed in around The King in his last years. Peel maintained the mood by playing an Elvis record, My Baby Left Me.
I could also have asked Mr Ray's Wig World if anyone ended up enjoying themselves at the ghastly sounding "happening" which Mark Radcliffe's Hit The North programme accompanied them to, a
year after Peel played Elvis Begins With an E.
Videos courtesy of robpc and col cooper (from Mr Ray's Wig World - I should have YouTube messaged him about that number...)
robpc video is NSFW as it features violence from low budget movies and the aftermath of Nguyen Van Lem getting shot in the head in the Vietnam War.