When Eric Goulden was a 19-year-old teenager in Hull, England, he wrote a song about traveling the “Whole Wide World” to find that perfect girl. Forty years after it was released as a single, Mojo Magazine listed it as one of the best punk rock singles of all time. “Whole Wide World” was covered most recently by Cage The Elephant and previously by Mental As Anything, The Lightning
Seeds, The Monkees, Marilyn Manson, The Proclaimers, The Prissteens and even Will Ferrell in the 2006 film “Stranger Than Fiction.” When Eric saw Amy Rigby cover his song, ironically at the same bar in Hull where he first performed it, it spurred a great rock and roll marriage. Eric likes the Proclaimers cover because they sang it in Scottish, but he considers the Monkees cover “rubbish.”
Back on April 6, Eric released “Construction Time And Demolition,” a great album where Eric brings together as many elements as he can while (w)reckoning 40 years of touring, performing, writing and traveling. His album starts off with “Gateway To Europe,” the nickname of Eric’s hometown Hull and tells the tales of the road, way better than Bob Seger. His very English vocals make me think that Robyn Hitchcock was very influenced by him. Production wise, there is a union of instrumental harmony and back and foreground noises that help to accentuate Eric’s point. Construction was when Hull built a bridge, Time is what has passed in these 40 years of touring and Demolition is Eric seeing buildings being torn down that he remembers seeing built. “They Don’t Mean No Harm” is a great pop song with catchy hooks and a great horn section. On the angsty “Wow & Flutter”, Eric gets criticized by his biggest fan and his snarky vocals give his lyrics punk rock rage. “Forget Who You Are” has a simple chord pattern, with a dreamy psychedelic haze that rides through the song. Eric described the album as “a mish mash that is very textural so that you could almost touch it.”
I had a chance to chat with Eric a couple of weeks ago and we talked about the state of commercial radio, amongst other things. After a recent drive from New York City to his home in the Catskills, he said “listening to the radio was excruciating. I don’t want to be some old git that doesn’t like modern music, but it’s just this kind of vacuous sing song rubbish.” In order to avoid hearing new music at the gym, Eric said he even makes himself a seamless mix on his iPod. We discussed the history of “punk” and Eric said that if you ask 6 different people what “punk” is, you’d get 6 different answers. “The spirit of punk at the beginning was diy. In Detroit, punk rock was the MC5 and the Stooges, in England X Ray Spex was nothing like the Clash and there’s nothing like The Ramones.” Eric listed the Lo Fidelity All Stars from the late 1990’s since their first record was made on an Atari computer with a bass synthesizer with a delay pedal and they mixed it on a set of found speakers, which is what he considers punk. Eric also said
“Genres are a danger” and when people ask him what kind of music he plays “well, you wouldn’t like it.”
When talking about his wife Amy Rigby, they met in a pub in Hull in 1999. She was touring to support “Diary Of A Mod Housewife.” He was deejaying at her gig, playing 45’s and they wound up playing “Whole Wide World” on stage together. There was a connection even though Eric told Amy she was playing his song incorrectly. At that time, Eric didn’t pursue Amy because he had just split up with someone and considered her to be out of his league. Over the years, they kept running into each other and Eric said he felt like Hugh Grant in “Four Weddings And A Funeral”. Untimately, they married and now live in the Catskills, NY. Even though he traveled the Whole Wide World, he said he could’ve just stayed in the same pub in Hull and met the love of his life. When I asked if they write songs together, he said “No, I’m have not confident as a songwriter. I’ve had happy accidents.” He considers Amy to be a pure songwriter in that she’ll write a song until it’s complete. When recording “Construction Time and Demolition” there was one piece that he had an idea for and wound up jamming with a drummer in the studio. When Eric wanted to beef the song up, he added parts of a song he wrote in 1988 and married the two together, which became “The Two Of Us.”
As far as music formats go, Eric said he loves listening to albums. “Me and Amy listen to an album at lunchtime. We put one side on, sit there and have lunch and then put the other side on.” As far as perfect albums go, after a late-night drive in Manchester, Eric and Amy were listening to Pink Floyd “Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” in Mono “because it’s rubbish in Stereo. The mono version is so fat It’s cosmic and ridiculous. Amy said, ‘why didn’t I ever listen to this before?’ And I said, ‘Because you’re younger than me and you’re all bigoted.’ We were listening at a colossal volume and we heard “Interstellar Overdrive” and it was magnificent. Some people consider Syd Barrett to be whimsical, but he is dark and his guitar playing is extreme. When other people talk about elves and gnomes, it’s cute, but when Syd does, it’s like nightmarish like Grimm’s fairy tales.”
Eric’s influences include Stax soul like Isaac Hayes, Ornette Coleman, Beatles, Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds. He said John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters must be influences because I listen to them so much and Pulp gave me a new lease in life.”
We discussed tribute bands, who are very prominent in South Carolina, and Eric mused “The thing about tribute bands is that you’re guaranteed that the music is going to be good. I wish I could go out as a tribute band to me and just pretend to be me but I’d wear some impossible wig. I would sound like me, but I’d do me but it would be nothing like me. Looks and sounds just like the real thing. As a tribute band, you need a glistening wig.” I told him how Beru Revue used to play in Philadelphia in the 80’s and open up for themselves as the Angry Young Judges.
Eric will be playing at War Mouth in Columbia, SC on Saturday April 21st for Record Store Day. You can also follow Wreckless Eric on Instagram, @thewreckeric on Twitter and follow his Facebook page and go to wrecklesseric.com for tour dates and other information.