Last year, post-punk firebrands Wire celebrated their 40th anniversary with a tour; now they’re marking their legacy with a set of retrospective releases. Beginning this spring, the group will be releasing special and deluxe editions of its earliest works – first with a box set of nine seven-inches, Nine Sevens, for Record Store Day (April 21st), and then with multi-disc reissues of its LPs, stacked with unreleased material. More info about the releases can be found on the band’s website.
To preview what they have in store, Wire are premiering a long out-of-print single edit of the serene rocker “Outdoor Miner,” which appeared on their second album, 1978’s Chairs Missing. It will be included in Nine Sevens. The version on the album ran just 1:44 with a fadeout, but this version, which runs a little faster than the album cut, adds more than a minute for the more traditional pop-song length of 2:54 with a piano solo before fading out.
Singer and guitarist Colin Newman tells Rolling Stone that the single version was a rare instance where the band felt like making a commercially viable tune for radio, or an “out-and-out pop song,” as he calls it. They built it out with a little help from Chairs Missing producer Mark Thorne, who played “virtual Mellotron.” “Mike made up a 24-track tape consisting of dubbed tape loops of me doing ‘aahs’ in the various notes of the scale,” Newman says. “It was then just a case of pushing up the right faders to get chords of ‘ahhs,’ and it saved me a lot of singing. The piano solo has ‘ahh chords’ coming in throughout the second half, a highly original effect for the times.” The band later decided the song wasn’t “tough enough” for inclusion in its live set, so the only performances of it are the studio recordings.
Newman says he wrote the song while sharing a flat with Wire’s official photographer, Annette Green. He had a dresser where he’d stash bandmate Graham Lewis’ lyrics, and whenever he had a melody he thought would make for a good single, he’d go through the texts. “I considered it my duty to supply the band with singles, and this was an obvious one from the get-go – in fact it was more obvious than the three Wire singles that preceded it,” Newman says. “I remember very distinctly the actual writing as the bathroom – yes, I wrote it in the loo – had really good acoustics and I would often get inspired by the sound of the room to write. In my excitement to get the tune married to a lyric, I didn’t to pay any attention to the meaning of the song which, in fact, is inspired by the life of an insect – a leaf miner – which lives inside a leaf. It is in many ways the preposterous mismatch of the ‘pop classic’ tune and Graham’s obscure but touching lyric that make it so Wire.”
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Nine Sevens will contain “Outdoor Miner” and the six other seven-inches the band put out between 1977 and 1980, as well as the seven-inch EP that came with initial pressings of the band’s third LP, 1979’s 154, and a single that was recorded in 1980 but never came out on a seven-inch. The band has remastered all of the recordings and packaged the seven-inches in ways that replicate the originals. The singles will later be released individually after Record Store Day but will not be collated into a standalone compilation.
The group will follow the release with deluxe reissues of its first three records – Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154 – on May 18th. Each will come with an 80-page hardcover book, the size of a seven-inch, with interviews with each band member, lyrics, recording details, rare photos and missives by journalist Jon Savage and TV comedy writer Graham Duff. Each album, which has been remastered, will be packaged with discs of all the attendant singles, B sides, demos and unreleased songs from the period. Pink Flag will contain two CDs; the others will have three. While the band will continue to make the albums available through streaming services, the bonus material will only be available on the physical editions.
Wire plan to reissue each of the three albums and stand-alone single-disc editions on June 22nd, but it’s the supersized versions that excite Newman most. “For the special editions, we gathered everything together to show a more nuanced view of the band,” he says. His favorite moments include a song called “Underwater Experiences” that the band abandoned because it didn’t realize it was playing in the time signature 3/4, as well as a radically different version of 154‘s “Indirect Enquiries,” the non-album single “Question of Degree” and the first-ever recording of the song “Pink Flag.” The reissues will also feature many never-before-released songs with titles like “No Romans,” “Culture Vultures,” “It’s the Motive” and “Stepping Off Too Quick.” “These reissues contain all of the mixed audio of Wire’s recording studio sessions spanning the years 1977 to 1980,” Newman says, “all of it.”