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.


  1. I'm currently working on another Keeping It Peel podcast, to be released in time for JP's birthday. The theme to the pod is Liverpool - and guess which band is included in the pod.

  2. Did you phone the number though? 😀 Look forward to hearing it.

  3. You phoned, and I replied, via the power of the Internet , any questions? However I haven't been on that number since 1992! Col

  4. Hello Col, lovely to hear from you. I'd have four questions which would have improved my post no end:

    1) How would you describe Mr. Ray's Wig World to someone who never heard them?
    2) Did you meet John Peel?
    3) Who did you take on as bassist?
    4) What did you all do after Mr. Ray's Wig World?

    I don't think I've played any track more than Elvis Begins With an E since I started making choices from Peel's 1992 shows. It's wonderful.

    Thank you so much for getting in touch.

  5. 1) How would you describe Mr. Ray's Wig World to someone who never heard them?
    futuristic retrospective psychedelic punk pop / all pedals no talent perfection.
    2) Did you meet John Peel?
    yes, as described in the lyrics of Brian Washes Whiter.
    3) Who did you take on as bassist?
    Mr Stereo Mike Rocke (the worlds coolest man) a gem of a find.
    4) What did you all do after Mr. Ray's Wig World?
    Ended up in that London for 12 years working in the music related industries and the pub.
    Back in Liverpool at present, in touch with the other Wigs and awaiting an offer we can’t refuse to reform, although technically we are still on a sabbatical.

    We live here

    Col I. Da’Scope