Natives of Clydebank, the original Wet Wet Wet quartet followed the classic path in that they were friends from high school with a vested interest in classic pop, rock and American soul music. Like so many of the great Scottish acts the Wets had a flair for showmanship from the off. Singer Mark McLachlan was a particularly sharp and fly character who opted for the stage name Marti Pellow without prompting once he decided to chuck in a career as a painter and decorator to complete the line-up. Evidently charismatic and blessed with brooding dark good looks, McLachlan/Pellow's arrival gave the group undoubted presence and enabled him to appeal to all sides of the live spectrum with fellows admiring his stage stance and girls agog at his performance. It was a heady combination and bankable to boot since Wishing I was Lucky, their debut single, the Popped In Souled Out album itself and further chart smashes 'Sweet Little Mystery', 'Temptation' and 'Angel Eyes' had the nation swooning.
A cleverly chosen support slot with Lionel Richie on his UK tour did them no end of good and their US inspired The Memphis Sessions enabled them to begin the crossover process from hopeful wannabes to huge stars.
Popped In Souled Out is a sparkling start. Produced on home turf with Axel Kroll and Wilf Smarties at the controls this is an ideal place to start your Wets journey. Released when Michael Jackson's Bad was its zenith it still reached number 2 on the UK charts and impressed observers with the in-house writing, solid chops and undeniable vocal skills – harmony and rhythm being uppermost in the group's arsenal of talents. And just to show they were versed in the softer sides of US folk rock they also smuggled in a sterling version of James Taylor's 'Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight' and made it fit their own canon exactly.
Holding Back the River is another important musical landmark in 1989. Book-ended with important hits 'Sweet Surrender' and the R&B coated 'Stay With Me Heartache (Can't Stand the Night)' this wasn't exactly a leap into the unknown but a conscious effort to put all the ingredients in place for impending stardom. Untroubled by the snobbery and elitism that often makes some folk overlook quality the Wets concentrated on what they did best – namely, blues, funk, soul and a lot of fun. They covered Rod Stewart's 'Maggie May', for example, because they could! They employed Art of Noise genius Anne Dudley to orchestrate 'Blue For You 'because they wanted to. Naysayers were flummoxed anyway since the sales spoke for themselves. Another number two on the British charts, and thank you for playing.
High On The Happy Side went one better than it's predecessors. On the cover the band's faces are depicted as theatrical golden masks. This was actually a platinum affair. Everything here is self-composed and self-assured. 'Make It Tonight', 'Put The Light On', 'Goodnight Girl', 'More Than Love' and 'Lip Service' were the singular icing on the cake. The tours that ensued led to mass breakouts of Wets mania. They were bossing the airwaves and were regular multi-media go-to's.
But what was to follow makes everything else seem like work in progress - albeit the best of work. An established studio and live act now they were courted for their expertise by the producers of Four Weddings and a Funeral and hit pay dirt with 'Love Is All Around', three years after R.E.M.'s discovery of this durable anthem. The sixth studio album Picture This could hardly fail to hit the top spot. Another exemplary slice of pure pop and soul, Picture This also features 'She Might Never Know' (with lyrics from Squeeze man Chris Difford), and stage favourites 'Julia Says', 'She's All on My Mind' and 'Don't Want to Forgive Me Now'. Brainworms everywhere.
And while they took their work seriously there was also the undeniable feeling that Pellow and company didn't take themselves too seriously. They knew how to have fun and they didn't forget their roots. 2013's excellent compilation Step By Step collection includes everything you might want in a handy format, including the new title cut, their splendid take on 'With A Little Help From My Friends' and 'Goodnight Girl '94'.
The classic singles remain on catalogue for your perusal as well but it's the albums that sing volumes. A treasured act in their pomp who continue to delight audiences today Wet Wet Wet are no guilty pleasure, rather a thrilling example of pop craftsmanship with added sex appeal and the sing-along factor that is designed to ensure everyone, including the band themselves, has the best possible time. It shouldn't be forgotten that they produced a great deal of their own best material and that Cunningham, Clark and Mitchell evolved into considerable musical talents, allowing Marti Pellow to handle the publicity machine in his own immaculate way. So get yourself all around some Wet Wet Wet. You will be far more than pleasantly surprised at what's on offer.
Words: Max Bell
The new blue-eyed soul band with a sophisticated sound and two hit singles already under their belts, released their debut album, Popped in Souled Out in the autumn of 1987. All tracks were composed jointly by the bandmembers Graeme Clark, Tommy Cunningham, Neil Mitchell, and Marti Pellow except the James Taylor song "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight." Most of the songs were midtempo including the debut single and album opener, "Wishing I Was Lucky" as well as the two follow-up singles, "Sweet Little Mystery" and "Angel Eyes." The fourth single "Temptation" was a ballad in the style of Spandau Ballet's "Through the Barricades" and was the least successful of the tracks released as singles. Many of the songs, despite being filled with horns and strings reminiscent of Phil Collins' No Jacket Required era, lacked a distinctive melody, including most of the tracks not released as singles. Thus the album appeared crammed with rather too much filler although Marti Pellow carried even a tuneless song with his lush soulful voice. Popped in Souled Out hit number two in the charts on its first week, eventually climbing to the very top at the beginning of 1988 and spending the whole of the first half of that year inside the Top 10. During this run, they released a non-album track, "With a Little Help from My Friends" for the Childline charity, which became the bands' first number one single. The album concluded with a live version of their first hit, "Wishing I Was Lucky," which was almost identical to the studio version.
Words: Sharon Mawer
Wet Wet Wet had a difficult task in following the success of their debut Popped In Souled Out, eventually returning with Holding Back the River. While not a major departure from the style that saw Popped In become a British chart-topper, it did see the band stepping away from soul and venturing more into pure pop territory. By and large this new approach works. Holding Back the River is a collection of pleasant, melodic, somewhat lightweight pop songs topped by Marti Pellow's charismatic vocal delivery. Two of the best tracks here are the pop gems "Sweet Surrender" and "Can't Stand the Night" (the latter was renamed "Stay with Me Heartache" when released as a single). There are some weak points, though, most of which arise because Pellow's voice is not suited to some of these songs. While "Maggie May" remains faithful to the original version, Wet Wet Wet lack the emotion that Rod Stewart was able to give the song, and Pellow is completely lost on the otherwise enjoyable blues of "Hold Back the River." A good album, but not one of their more essential recordings.
Words: Jonathan Lewis
By the time High on the Happy Side was released, Wet Wet Wet had realized that their true strength lay in making soul-pop ballads. As a result, this album is more a return to their soul roots than an extension of the pop of Holding Back the River. This is not a perfect album by any means. The songwriting is flimsy, even by Wet Wet Wet's standards, and there are a number of tracks here that descend too far into syrupy ballad territory (especially the most successful single from the disc, "Goodnight Girl"). However, there are a number of surprises here. More than on previous outings, the band has let vocal harmonies come to the fore with great effect, although there is still no doubt that Marti Pellow's voice is the main focus. The other notable change here is that the synthesizers that were an integral part of their sound have largely been replaced, even to the point of the inclusion of acoustic songs. Again, this is a successful step forward for the band. There are fewer "rock" tracks here, with the band preferring to stick to the slow-paced pop of "Put the Light On" and "Make It Tonight." While this will undoubtedly make the album palatable to fewer listeners, there is still enough variation to show that, amazingly, a band like Wet Wet Wet can actually make their sound evolve. One of their better and more interesting albums.
Words: Jonathan Lewis
Picture This is the sixth studio album by Wet Wet Wet. It was released on 10 April 1995. Its six offspring singles were "Love Is All Around", "Julia Says", "Don't Want to Forgive Me Now", "Somewhere Somehow", "She's All on My Mind" and "Morning". The album reached #1 in the UK chart.
The sales of Wet Wet Wet's fifth album had everything to do with Four Weddings And A Funeral (featuring, of course, "Love Is All Around") but not a terrible amount to do with the quality of the record. Thirteen weeks at number one with a cover version can place an awful lot of pressures on a band, and, at some level, the Glasgow quartet must have been aware that their songwriting style simply didn't lend itself to providing a natural follow-up. That said, there are moments here that remind us where Wet Wet Wet's roots do lie. "She's All On My Mind" and "Somewhere Somehow" return to the gentle Memphis inflections that occasionally seeped into earlier albums, but they're all too often swamped by the kind of lavish production that bands usually turn to when they're feeling self-conscious. One wonders to what degree the pressures of stardom eventually turned the band in on each other and Mart Pellow to drugs. But for all the money spent on it, Picture This could do with some of the youthful joie de vivre found on 1986's Popped In Souled Out.
Words: Peter Paphides
One of Britain's best-loved and most successful groups, Wet Wet Wet are back back back! The band have been making people smile, swoon and dance for over 25 years and now they return with 'Step By Step - The Greatest Hits', a winning collection of seventeen of their best-selling singles, plus three brand new songs, including the lead single, 'Step By Step'. Set for release on November 25th 2013, the album was mastered at the world famous Abbey Road Studios, where bassist Graeme Clark personally oversaw the mastering process. Since their debut in 1987 Wet Wet Wet have enjoyed nine UK Top 20 albums - including four Number Ones - and an even more impressive twenty one UK Top 20 singles - with three of those topping the chart.