In Cloud Cuckoo Land…We All Believe: Catherine Wheel

Catherine Wheel

To paraphrase Marlon Brando’s character Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront the band Catherine Wheel “coulda been a contender.”

Although they never were quite able to grasp the brass ring the band outlasted many of their contemporaries by virtue of hard work, never repeating themselves musically and remaining accessible to their fans by constant touring.

Formed in 1990 the group featured Rob Dickinson (first cousin to Bruce Dickinson, ex Iron Maiden leader) handling vocals and guitar, Brian Futter on guitar, Dave Hawes on bass and Neil Sims on drums. The group’s debut singles, “She’s My Friend” and “Painful Thing” were released on the tiny Norwich independent label Wilde Club. Airplay on legendary BBC dj John Peel’s show attracted the attention of producer and musician Brian Eno, as well as Creation Records head Alan McGee. The band eventually signed with Fontana, in part because of the label’s licensing deal with Mercury in the U.S.

Their debut full-length, Ferment, produced by Talk Talk’s Tim Friese-Greene, gained the band a small following both domestically and abroad chiefly on the

“strength of the epic “Black Metallic,” which remained the band’s most recognized song throughout their career.”

Released in 1993 the cinematic Chrome was produced and engineered by Gil Norton (Pixies, Echo & the Bunnymen, Pale Saints) who toughened the band’s sound which helped to provide increased exposure on U.S. alternative radio notably through the single “Crank.”

The group toured extensively in support of Chrome and their heavier stage edge was captured on 1995’s Happy Days. Though dismissed by long time fans as being too metal, the neo-metal single “Waydown” and “Judy Staring At The Sun” became American alternative radio staples.

Like Cats and Dogs, released in 1996, is a collection of some of the group’s many B-sides. Those that made the cut “were sequenced in a manner that resembled a regular studio album.” Some fans felt that this was the group’s best album.

1997’s atmospheric Adam and Eve finds the group pulling back from Happy Days aural onslaught. Pleased with the result of Like Cats and Dogs Adam and Eve was sequenced to play as a single piece. Despite several radio friendly songs sales of the album stalled.

Jumping ship prior to Mercury’s distributor Polygram merger with Universal the band signed with Columbia Records who released 2000’s Wishville. Prior to the recording sessions for the album Dave Hawes was relieved of his bass duties. Bass duties for the album were handled by Dickinson, Futter, and Friese-Greene, eventually Ben Ellis joined the group as the full-time bassist.

Wishville garnered considerable alternative radio airplay but as with previous albums sales proved disappointing. The group toured in support of the album, but

“frustrated with having all the tools to be a huge platinum act for nearly a decade, the band went on hiatus.”

As a group that hiatus still continues, but individually the members remain active musically. Futter and Sims play in the ongoing project 50 ft Monster, Ellis in the band Serafin; and after working with and playing live with Tracy Bonham Dickinson released a solo album in 2005 called Fresh Wine for the Horses.



Singles, EPs & Full-Lengths

Black Metallic (CD, Maxi, 12″) (Fontana) 1991
Painful Thing (CD, Maxi, EP, 12″) (Wilde Club Records) 1991
She’s My Friend (12″, EP) (Wilde Club Records) 1991
Balloon (CD, Maxi, 12″) (Fontana) 1992
30 Century Man (CD, Maxi, 12″) (Fontana) 1992
Ferment (Cass, CD) (Fontana Island) 1992
I Want To Touch You (CD, Maxi, EP, 12″) (Fontana) 1992
Shallow (12″ Single) (Fontana) 1992
The Picture On The Wall (CD) 1993
Chrome (Cass, CD) (Fontana Island) 1993
Crank (CD, Maxi, Single 12″) (Fontana) 1993
Crank (Pt. 1) (CD, Maxi) (Fontana) 1993
Crank (Pt. 2) (CD, Maxi) (Fontana) 1993
Show Me Mary (12′, Promo) (Fontana) 1993
Show Me Mary (Pt. 2) (CD, Maxi) (Fontana) 1993
Show Me Mary (Remix) (CD, Promo, Single) (Mercury) 1993
Little Muscle (CD Single, 7″) (Mercury) 1995
Waydown (CD, Promo, Single) (Fontana/Mercury) 1995
Happy Days (Cass, LP, Cd) (Polygram Records) 1995
Judy Staring At The Sun (10″) (Fontana) 1995
Judy Staring At The Sun (Pt. 1) (CD, Maxi) (Fontana) 1995
Judy Staring At The Sun (Pt. 2) (CD, Maxi) (Fontana) 1995
Like Cats and Dogs (Cass, LP, CD) (Island / Mercury) 1996
Adam and Eve (Cass, LP, CD) (Polygram Records) 1997
Delicious (CD, Single) (Chrysalis) 1997
Broken Nose (CD, Promo, Single) (Chrysalis) 1998
Broken Nose (CD 1) (CD, Maxi) (Chrysalis) 1998
Broken Nose (CD 2) (CD, Maxi) (Chrysalis) 1998
Ma Solituda (CD 1) (CD, Maxi) (Chrysalis) 1998
Ma Solituda (CD 2) (CD, Maxi) (Chrysalis) 1998
Sparks Are Gonna Fly (CD, Promo) (Columbia/Chrysalis) 2000
IRD Sampler (CD, Promo, Sampler) (Columbia) 2000
Wishville (Cass, CD) (Sony) 2000
Adam and Eve (Import) (Cass, LP, Cd) (EMI/Chrysalis) 2004

Tracks Appear On:


“Empty Head” Introducing Vol.2 (2xCD) (Indigo) 1995
“Shallow” Indie Top 20 Issue 13 (2xLP, Gat) (Beechwood Music) 1991
“She’s My Friend” Indie Top 20 Volume 12 (2xLP) (Beechwood Music) 1991
“Shallow” Indie Top 20 Volume 13 (CD) (Beechwood Music) 1991
“Shallow” Best Of Independent 20 (Vols 11-15) (CD) (Beechwood Music) 1992
“She’s My Friend” I Might Walk Home Alone (CD) (Wilde Club Records) 1992
I Want To Touch You”/ “Balloon”/ “Intravenous” Spin/Fontana Tour Sampler (CD) (Fontana) 1992
“Waydown” CMJ New Music August – Volume 24 (CD) (College Music Journal) 1995
“Black Metallic” Just Passin’ Thru (CD) (WHFS, Not On Label) 1996
“Intravenous” Music From The Gregg Araki Movie: Nowhere (CD, Promo) (Mercury) 1997
“Kill Rhythm (Live)” Killing Cuts 6 (CD) (Metal Hammer UK) 1998
“Mad Dog” Untitled (CD, Promo, Smplr) (Parlophone) 2000
“Black Metallic” Like A Daydream – A Shoegazing Guide (CD) (Castle Music) 2006
“I Want To Touch You” The Brit Box: UK Indie, Shoegaze, And Brit-Pop Gems Of The Last Millennium (4xCD, RM, Box) (Rhino Entertainment Company) 2007


Playing Time: 57 minutes 13 seconds

Catherine Wheel - Ferment

1. Texture (4:20)
2. I Want To Touch You (4:41)
3. Black Metallic (7:19)
4. Indigo Is Blue (5:32)
5. She’s My Friend (4:17)
6. Shallow (3:29)
7. Ferment (5:10)
8. Flower To Hide (4:44)
9. Tumbledown (4:08)
10. Bill And Ben (4:10)
11. Salt (5:27)
12. Balloon (3:56)

Ferment [Part 1 ] [Part 2 ]

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Playing Time: 54 minutes 0 seconds

Catherine Wheel - Chrome

1. Kill Rhythm (3:51)
2. I Confess (3:56)
3. Crank (3:46)
4. Broken Head (4:47)
5. Pain (6:31)
6. Strange Fruit (3:08)
7. Chrome (3:55)
8. The Nude (3:52)
9. Ursa Major Space Station (5:10)
10. Fripp (7:36)
11. Half Life (4:09)
12. Show Me Mary (3:19)

Chrome [Part 1 ] [Part 2 ]

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Happy Days

Playing Time: 58 minutes 12 seconds

Catherine Wheel - Happy Days

1. God Inside My Head (3:52)
2. Waydown (3:14)
3. Little Muscle (3:04)
4. Heal (6:13)
5. Empty Head (3:12)
6. Receive (3:35)
7. My Exhibition (2:28)
8. Eat My Dust You Insensitive Fuck (8:07)
9. Shocking (3:58)
10. Love Tips Up (3:56)
11. Judy Staring At The Sun (3:57)
12. Hole (3:50)
13. Fizzy Love (3:35)
14. Kill My Soul (5:11)

Happy Days [Part 1 ] [Part 2 ]

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Playing Time: 40 minutes 30 seconds

Catherine Wheel - Wishville

1. Sparks are Gonna Fly (4:16)
2. Gasoline (4:22)
3. Lifeline (4:29)
4. What We Want to Believe In (4:50)
5. All of That (4:40)
6. Idle Life (4:26)
7. Mad Dog (4:05)
8. Ballad of a Running Man (4:50)
9. Crème Caramel (4:32)

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3 responses to “In Cloud Cuckoo Land…We All Believe: Catherine Wheel

  1. Fucking untouchable band. I was lucky enough to see them on the Wishville tour and they STILL destroyed live. Had no idea Ellis was in Serafin…I think Elektra had signed them for a second here in the US but never ended up putting out the record. Good record though.

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