Peter James "Pete" Wylie (born 22 March 1958) is a British singer/songwriter and guitarist, best known as the leader of the band variously known as Wah!, Wah! Heat, Shambeko! Say Wah!, JF Wah!, The Mighty Wah! and Wah! The Mongrel. He was credited by Melody Maker with coining "rockism", a post-punk term for anything considered too "old guard".
Wylie was born in Liverpool, Lancashire. He began his career in 1977 with lead vocalist Ian McCulloch and bassist Julian Cope, with whom he formed the band Crucial Three, which lasted from May to June the same year. In September, he and Cope formed a short-lived band alongside Pete Burns, The Mystery Girls. In December 1977, he joined The Spitfire Boys, who dissolved the same month. Wylie and two of the band, Pete Griffiths and Peter Clarke, formed the same month, The Nova Mob, alongside Julian Cope. The band lasted until May 1978, and Wylie waited until September to form another band, The Opium Eaters, along with Peter Clarke (known as "Budgie"), Paul Rutherford and Ian Broudie. In December, he formed another band, Crash Course, which dissolved in January 1979.
Active from 1979, Wylie and company garnered critical acclaim throughout 1980 for the singles "Better Scream" and "Seven Minutes to Midnight" (both as Wah! Heat), the latter being single of the week in the NME, Sounds and Melody Maker during spring 1980, and the 1981 Warner Bros. album Nah = Poo! - The Art of Bluff (as Wah!). Their biggest hit single was "The Story of the Blues", which was released in late 1982, and reached number 3 in the UK Singles Chart.
A follow-up single, "Hope (I Wish You'd Believe me)" was released in 1983, but the single found limited success. Next, Wylie released an officially sanctioned "official bootleg" of new and old songs entitled The Maverick Years 1980-81 on his own label. Clad in a cover that alluded to the early 1970s "Hallmark of Quality" bootlegs, the record appeared as a white label with a blank outer cover and a sheet attached with sleevenotes by music journalist Adam Sweeting. This release did not shore up Wylie's dwindling fortunes and Wah! were subsequently dropped by WEA. In 1984, the Mighty Wah! had a Top 20 hit with the song "Come Back" (as with "The Story of the Blues", the song was chosen by the late BBC Radio 1 radio DJ John Peel, as his "single of the year").
The accompanying album, recorded for Beggars' Banquet, was entitled A Word to the Wise Guy. It was critically acclaimed, but sold poorly and the band were again dropped. By 1986, having ditched his backing ensemble, Wylie had a solo hit with "Sinful!", which peaked at number 13 in the UK, ostensibly produced by Ian Ritchie, but with major input from Zeus B. Held. "Sinful!" became the title track of his 1987 solo album, which included the enigmatically titled Four Eleven Forty Four.
In 1990, a single called "Imperfect List" was released under the project name of Big Hard Excellent Fish. The spoken-word track is a list of 64 least favourite people and things read by Wylie's then girlfriend and collaborator Josie Jones (died 2015). The list was compiled by Wylie and the track was recorded by Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins, although Wylie is not credited on the record. The list ranges from "Adolf Hitler" to "Lost Keys". In 2004, "Imperfect List" was used by Morrissey at shows prior to his appearance on stage.
In 1990, the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu released a limited edition (either 500 or 350 copies) white label version of "It's Grim Up North" featuring Wylie on vocals. This version was a club-only release. The main version was released in October 1991 with Bill Drummond on vocals, making the charts. Creative cracks had begun to appear by 1991, when the collaboration with the Farm on "Sinful! (Scary Jiggin' With Dr Love)" did little for either of the rival camps.
In 1991, Wylie toured the UK in support of the Infamy! album with a band featuring Joe McKechnie on drums and Peter Baker on keyboards. On 11 November of that year, Wylie suffered a near fatal fall when a railing gave way in Upper Parliament Street, Liverpool. He fractured both his spine and his sternum. A long period of rehabilitation ensued.
Wylie began to write songs again and sent demos to David Balfe, formerly of the Teardrop Explodes, founder of Food Records and by that time general manager and Head of A&R of Sony's Columbia label. There were reports that Balfe was so impressed he immediately gave Wylie £750,000 to record the songs which Wylie duly did (in London and Memphis), delivering Songs of Strength and Heartbreak to a delighted Balfe in 1998. Pete quickly formed a new band line up recruiting Mike Joyce and a referral by band The Farm brought bass player Danny Lunt. The band relocated to London to record the new album 'Songs Of Strength and Heartbreak' at Abbey Road Studios with producers Mike Hedges and Peter Collins. The truth appears somewhat different as the album - despite being finished up to the point where artwork was finalised and discs had been sent out for review - was rejected by Sony, who chose not to release it. Subsequently, Wylie found himself in artistic limbo as Sony owned the rights to the music he had recorded as Songs of Strength and Heartbreak. Wylie found it difficult to acquire the master tapes, and was without a recording contract. Eventually he was handed the master tapes, and Castle Records released the album.
Wylie's "Heart As Big As Liverpool" (1998) is popular within the city and especially with Liverpool Football Club supporters. It is used in the official Hillsborough tribute video, on a 2001 CD of Merseyside artists (compiled in collaboration with Liverpool Football Club) Mersey Boys and Liverpool Girls and features on Songs of Strength & Heartbreak, a 2000 album credited to The Mighty Wah! The song is also regularly played at Liverpool's home ground, Anfield. 2000 also heralded a compilation album entitled The Handy Wah! Whole. Wylie joined Dead Men Walking, featuring Mike Peters of the Alarm, Kirk Brandon of Spear of Destiny and Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols. They toured extensively, performing old songs as well as new, including Wylie's "Your Mother Must Be Very Proud".
In 2003, Wylie voice is featured on the Apollo 440 the track "1234" from their Dude Descending a Staircase. Following an invitation from Alejandro Escovedo, Wylie performed at the 2006 South by Southwest festival in the United States at Austin, Texas. Wylie's next project was a twin album release with the working titles Pete Sounds and SLiME, both puns on mid 1960s Beach Boys projects. Although he sold demos of some of the new songs at gigs in 2004, he remains without a recording contract. In 2007, he announced a series of gigs at the Zanzibar club, Seel Street, Liverpool, each of which took place on the last Saturday of each month and featured guest musicians.
In January 2008, Wylie performed at the opening ceremony of Liverpool's European City of Culture tenure. Wylie has also written the soundtracks for two films; Alex Cox's I'm A Juvenile Delinquent - Jail Me! (made by Hurricane Films for the BBC's Learning Zone) and Under the Mud (also produced by Hurricane Films). In 2011-12, Wylie embarked on the Justice Tonight tour with various other musicians campaigning for justice for the victims and families of the Hillsborough disaster.
On 28 March 2014, Wylie played a 'One-Off' show at Liverpool's Zanzibar club followed by the announcement of an October/November Singing Songs & Telling Tales UK acoustic tour. Wylie performed at Liverpool's International Music Festival on 21 August that year.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license