From the outset I should really be clear – I do not intend to write the ridiculous name of Wet Wet Wet every time I mention them, so from now on I shall only write Wet x3 – ok?
Continuing on this theme, I honestly can’t believe that during their ‘what shall we call ourselves?’ meetings that was the best they could come up with. They chose the name apparently from a line from the Scritti Politti
song ‘Getting Having Holding’ - ‘…wet, wet with tears.’ Notice that there are only two ‘wets’ there; what was the thinking behind adding the third? ‘Well, I like the name ‘Wet Wet’ but would you think I was a bit crazy if I suggested another ‘Wet’? Just think it flows better.’ (It doesn’t. Neither does ‘Wet Wet’ or indeed simply ‘Wet’. None of them make good band names. It might be a bit late to mention this now I suppose.)
There were several singles that stood out in the mid-1990s for their absolute refusal to leave the UK charts. Bryan Adam’s
incessant dirge Everything I Do was one of them, followed closely by Wet x3 and their soft-focus version of The Troggs
’ Love is All Around which spent 15 weeks at number one in 1994, and the rest of that year in the Top 40. Taken from the soundtrack of the film Four Weddings and a Funeral
it became a hit all around the world, whilst annoying the hell out of anybody in the UK who caught the first few bars on the radio for the seventh time that day.
Tommy Cunningham met and became firm friends with Graeme Clark on the Clydebank High School bus. Between them they set up a band under the name of Vortex Motion (yep, suddenly Wet x3 doesn’t seem quite so stupid does it?) in 1982 and invited Neil Mitchell – a friend of them both – to join them. 17 year old Mark McLachlan was training to be a decorator when Clark spoke to him about becoming the group’s vocalist. So, with McLachlan on lead vocals, Cunningham on drums and vocals, Clark on bass and vocals and Mitchell on keyboards and vocals, the band was formed. In 1983 ‘unofficial member’ Graeme Duffin (from 1970’s band New Celeste) joined them as a session guitarist and ended up staying with them permanently.
I find the description of him as an ‘unofficial member’ quite strange – does that mean that he didn’t actually admit to being in the band if anybody asked him? Or that when the group performed anywhere he just shuffled on behind them saying ‘Don’t mind me guys, you won’t even know I’m here…’
With a very tolerant Mother Clarke allowing her son and his friends to congregate in her kitchen the band started rehearsing. And rehearsing. And rehearsing. Two years later, in 1985 they performed their debut concert, supporting King at Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom. This was the year that things would change for band: firstly they changed their name to Wet x3, secondly McLachlan changed his name to Marti Pellow (after his nickname and his mum’s maiden name) and thirdly their status changed from ‘unknown band’ to ‘pretty famous band’.
A&R man David Bates got them signed them to Polygram, stating that their sound was ‘soulful and interesting’, and they began to record some demo tracks. One of these was Wishing I Was Lucky, a single that would go on to reach number six in the UK charts, and bring the band to the UK’s consciousness, but Bates felt it wasn’t good enough and pushed it aside, losing interest with their new-found pop sound. The guys disagreed, and ended their relationship with Bates. Wishing I Was Lucky was released in 1987, and Wet x3 made their name. The album it came from, Popped In Souled Out, was put out the same year, and three further singles from it - that are now instantly recognisable as Wet x3 tracks – also became big hits. Sweet Little Mystery and Angel Eyes were both released in 1987, and both reached number five in the UK charts. Temptation got to number twelve in 1988. Another high point for the band was supporting Lionel Richie
when he toured the UK.
1988 proved to be a great year for the Wets (nope that’s worse, I’m going back to Wet x3); a Childline charity single, a cover of The Beatles
’ With a Little Help From My Friends (with Billy Bragg’s
version of She’s Leaving Home on the reverse side) gave them their first number one. An album they’d actually recorded before Popped In Souled Out, The Memphis Sessions reached number three in the UK album chart, and was considered a critical success, although no commercial singles were released from it.
1989’s Holding Back the River was yet another success – it had less of a poppy sound, and more of a ‘stringy classical’ one (I’m not sure that’s an official musical style but I’m going to go with it…) and was the third album to go platinum. The first single released from it, Sweet Surrender got to number six, although three later singles didn’t fare so well, with only one making the top 20 (and then only just, reaching number 19). 1992’s album High on The Happy Side gave them another chart topper, and another number one single with Goodnight Girl (the only number one written by the band) but again, no other single made the top ten.
A side project in the same year saw them releasing a special edition album called Cloak & Dagger under the name Maggie Pie and the Imposters (not massively cryptic if you saw the front cover of the CD with their faces on it).
1993 came round, and with it a live album (Live at the Royal Albert Hall) and their first Greatest Hits. Called End of Part One it came with two new tracks written especially for it, Shed a Tear and Cold Cold Heart which were later released as singles, with neither making the top twenty.
Then came Love is All Around which I’m not going to talk about again, as I can already hear the chorus start to revolve repeatedly around my brain like it did for the ENTIRE year of 1994.
The biggest selling single from their 1995 album Picture This was Julia Says, which got to number three and was followed by four largely forgettable others. What was more impressive that year however was the band becoming shirt sponsors to Clydebank FC. I’ve never seen one of the shirts with their name on it; but presumably if the team put in a bad performance on the pitch having those words conveniently on the players’ chests was a nice summary for the fans.
Wet x3 released 10 to mark their tenth year of chart success in 1997, with a couple of top five singles, and one top ten, and then a tour. Ten years was to be their lot for the moment, with a royalty dispute resulting in Cunningham walking away from the band, followed by Pellow in 1999 who left to focus on kicking his alcohol and drug addictions.
A reunion was predictably on the cards, and in 2004 it happened, with a second Greatest Hits album, a tour and festival appearances following, and another album, Timeless in 2007. The first single from this, Too Many People, hit the heady heights of number 46, but another tour (I’m guessing the audience was completely made up of women in their mid-thirties forgetting they were married with three children and hysterically crying over Pellow) ensured that follow-up Weightless did much better, getting to number 10.
Glasgow Green played host to Wet x3 plus guests in July 2012 for their 25th Anniversary Concert – which celebrated the release in 1987 of their debut album.
In conclusion then; Wet x3 had a ridiculous name, but Pellow did have a great voice, and all their early top tens were extremely catchy. Especially ‘that’ one.