Founded in London in 1976, Wire quickly became both a peerless counterpart to the burgeoning punk scene sprouting around them and an antidote to it. Inspired by the do-it-yourself concept that anything can be music, their art school backgrounds engaged the scene with similar amped-up sonic fury to contemporaries like the Sex Pistols, albeit with a more engaging motif of experimentation, dissection, and investigation into what music itself could be. It all was reshaped to this new environment of no rules. Sure enough, being the brainiacs they were, they took their fair share of gobbing from the punk crowds early on, but buoyed somewhat by high-profile label support and press, plus continued reinvention (and reshaping to a quartet after shedding fifth member George Gil), the equal partnership of Colin Newman, Robert Grey (then Gotobed), Graham Lewis, and Bruce Gilbert quickly staked terrain as something wholly unique, cerebral yet still primal. Their reinvention has continued right up to today.

Maximal minimalism. Wire’s 1977-79 output—their first three LPs, Pink Flag, Chairs Missing, and 154—embodied this concept. As mentioned about the more effusively gonzo (but no less serious with their “maximal minimalism’’) American duo Sparks in their recent Edgar Wright documentary The Sparks Brothers: “People were influenced by them over the years who didn’t even know they were influenced by them.” Not that the parallel exists fully between the two entities: Sparks leapfrogged from glam to proto-disco (among other things) from record to record, incorporating singular theories and approaches, whereas Wire’s first three jammers were full of so many conceptual ideas elbowing for space that the sugar-coma richness of the listening experience almost made you feel overstuffed. Pink Flag saw the artful dissolution of rock ’n’ roll itself into its working parts of bare necessities (take the title track’s one-chord solution), Chairs Missing built layers onto that foundation, then 154 arrived at the most abstract bubbling point the band had achieved to date. All within a couple of years. What other band could spawn everything from Minor Threat (and, as a result, an American hardcore movement) as well as the expansiveness of, say, My Bloody Valentine? Without doubt, Wire invented something wholly unique and untouchable that is still being unraveled in its long-term impact on us all.

Producer Mike Thorne, Colin Newman, and bassist Desmond Simmons
Producer Mike Thorne, Newman, and bassist Desmond Simmons contemplate running away to join the circus. Photo by Annette Green

It’s really that overflow of sheer creativity—and nothing more—that led to Wire’s Colin Newman recording A-Z at Scorpio Sound in London in 1980. As Graeme Jefferies (from New Zealand’s Cakekitchen) told me recently, “It’s more like the fourth Wire album than the fourth Wire album,” and yes, the only challenge, really, was marketing and branding, which sadly made A-Z a lesser anomaly in the eyes of the mainstream consumers. As Colin himself reiterated to me on email: “The basic thing about A-Z is that it was in many ways more about Wire than me having a solo career. I had way more material than was needed for Wire, and I thought me doing a solo record would give a bit of space for others to write for Wire. I had no concept about what would be needed for me to be a solo artist in the proper sense.”


You need to log in or subscribe to read on

Forgot username or password?




CREEM Goes Glam T-Shirt


Boy Howdy! T-Shirts

Boy Howdy!

CREEM plushie


CREEM #004

Back Issues


What we’re listening to and other musings.
For free.