Wreckless Eric – Le Beat Group Electrique – LP
It’s the sound of a guitar with dead strings played through a fifteen watt tube amp, the throb of a Hofner Violin bass and a cardboard box with a tambourine inside it beaten with maracas
The Searchers, The Hollies, The Mojos, The Merseybeats, The Big Three; 1964 and the sound of The Velvet Underground live in 1969.
Love songs, unrequited love songs, lost love songs, songs about losing the plot. Funny songs, sad songs, fucked-up songs, songs about fucking. And songs about not fucking.
Le Beat Group Electrique is Wreckless Eric’s first entirely homemade album, recorded in 1988 by Eric in the living room of his flat – 165B Uxbridge Road, London W12 – using a Teac four track tape recorder and a ramshackle collection of redundant recording studio junk.
“People who thought they knew better than I did told me I didn’t know what I was doing, that I couldn’t possibly make a record with such basic equipment, but it was the end of the eighties and I was sick and tired of being told what to do, and instructed on what I couldn’t do, so I broke every rule of modern recording.”
In 1987 Eric stopped performing and writing convinced that his only musical contribution had been the proliferation of widespread unhappiness. He suffered a nervous breakdown and spent time in a London psychiatric hospital.
On his recovery, in the summer of 1988, he started to write again and made eerie, late-night demo recordings in his London flat. He met up with Andre Barreau and Catfish Truton who became his backing group. Originally it was a full-on guitar, bass and drums, high volume, large amplifier affair, but as they rehearsed in Eric’s flat this wasn’t practical so they used small amplifiers and a cardboard box for a drumkit.
In the middle of a rehearsal they made a demo on a Teac four track open reel tape recorder of one of Eric’s songs, Sweet Big Thing, Catfish beating on a cardboard box with a tambourine inside, Andre on a Hofner Violin bass liberated from The Bootleg Beatles lock-up (The Bootleg Beatles was Andre’s day job) through the amplifier of a Dansette record player, and Eric on guitar and live vocal.
The result was fresh, vibrant, unusual – VU meets T Rex. Over the next few weeks they went on to make an album in this way. Guitar, bass, percussion and vocals all recorded live in the same room – they didn’t even use headphones. An ancient WEM Audiomaster for a mixing desk and one remaining track on the four track for all the overdubs.
The album came out in 1989, on the French label, New Rose. In an era of slick production and gloss Le Beat Group Electrique was the antithesis of all that: intimate, charming, personal and idiosyncratic. Fully realised but rough around the edges it was well received in Germany but widely misunderstood elsewhere.
The head of New Rose told Eric that he would never have any success until he made a proper record in a real studio with a real engineer and a real producer and until then he would never be happy. Eric left in search of a proper label.
Twenty five years later Fire Records are proud to reissue the album, beautifully remastered and repackaged under Eric’s direction. As Eric himself says:
“It’s a long hard road to True Happiness. I’m about as happy as a man can be, even more so now that the world appears to be catching up with me and this album’s coming out again. And I’m very glad I never gave it all up. I hope you can find a place for it.”