Wire take rock’s negative space seriously — so much so that their best songs often have more to do with what’s left on the cutting-room floor than with what comes out of the speakers. Many numbers have obscure origins and explanations. Here are three Wire songs with an interesting tale to tell:
“EX-LION TAMER” FROM PINK FLAG | This might be Wire’s catchiest number, the “Stay glued to your TV set” refrain putting it in the pantheon of “TV” punk songs (along with the Stooges’ “TV Eye,” “Black Flag’s “TV Party,” and the Misfits’ “TV Casualty”). Newman wrote a song about a lion tamer; Graham Lewis, who does most of the lyrics, took out the parts he didn’t like, replaced them, and gave it back to Newman, only now it was “Ex-Lion Tamer.” Yowch!
“OUTDOOR MINER” FROM CHAIRS MISSING | The chorus goes: “Face worker, serpentine miner, a roof falls, an underliner, of leaf structure, the egg timer.” Although they sang it like an ode to new-wave romance, it was inspired by a BBC documentary Lewis had seen about a bug called a serpentine miner. Lewis wrote a love song, removed the love part, and replaced it with a bug’s love of eating the chlorophyll out of a holly leaf. Extra tidbit: this must be one of the few instances where a record label asked a band to record a longer version of a song for a single.
“106 BEATS THAT” FROM PINK FLAG | Newman created the chord structure while traveling between Watford and London, matching guitar chords to rail stations. Lewis, meanwhile, tried (and failed) to write a song with exactly 100 syllables.
: Music Features
, Misfits (Musical Group), Black Flag (Musical Group), Graham Lewis, More