The Newcastle rock band’s frontman Ginger explains how a soundcheck riff and a casual interview comment inspired their unpredictable single
David Leslie Walls, better known by his stage name Ginger, is a rock guitarist, singer and songwriter from South Shields who formed and fronted The Wildhearts. Playing a blend of hard rock and melodic pop music, the band of Geordies got together in 1989 and, although not achieving any lasting commercial success, over the course of a turbulent career they managed to land one Top 10 album and several Top 20 singles and in the UK. The first of these was 1995’s I Wanna Go Where the People Go, which peaked at No 16.
Despite breaking up and reforming several times, with a frequently changing line-up over the years, Ginger has been the only constant presence and continues to lead a version of the band that features CJ, Ritch Battersby and Danny McCormack. This current incarnation of The Wildhearts are on the upcoming Britrock Must Be Destroyed Tour that kicks off in Manchester on 4 May.
As we learn from Ginger here, I Wanna Go Where the People Go‘s release was indicative of his band’s frustratingly unpredictable career…
“It was those annoying riffs that I came up with in soundcheck and played it every day. I very rarely do that. I think I’ve written two songs in my life that have been like that; mostly I sit down and write to order. This one was a persistent riff that just gave me something to play, but I never got anything from it – I just had the riff. It’s just one of those, when you’re doing a soundcheck and the sound guy asks you to play your guitar and I just wanted to play this new riff. We were touring a lot, so I remember I didn’t do a lot with it.
“WE WENT ON TOP OF THE POPS AND IT WENT DOWN THE CHARTS!”
“Then I went home, in London – I think I was living in Camden at the time. I write all my songs on an acoustic guitar. For me, if a song doesn’t present itself favourably on an acoustic, it’s a bunch of tricks. I don’t want to be the one that finds out it’s a crap song at an acoustic show. So that’s where they’re from and they can always go back there.
“Normally I get lyrics first. I get a reason for the song wanting to live, and then it’s a process of just giving birth to it. It needs to be something worth writing about. But I Wanna Go Where The People Go is about nothing, and that’s probably why it took so long to write – it was just kind of stream of consciousness stuff about how I thought the music industry was a bit stupid. We’d done Top Of The Pops and I’d seen the way that people held promotion in awe. I thought it was pathetic; taking it all so seriously. Being from a punk background, my thing was always, ‘How good are you live?’ That was always my standard. I was new to the industry and I didn’t really want to get involved in it anyway. And I never even wanted to be a singer, so I was kind of forced into this position of being a front-person in this fabricated illusion of what music is all about. So I was just writing about my frustrations there and how I thought the stars were all a little bit silly.
“Unlike most songs that I wrote, I came straight up with the verse and the bridge, and I couldn’t think of a chorus. It wasn’t until months and months later, I was doing an interview in New York and someone said, ‘Where do you want to go?’ and I said, ‘I want to go where the people go.’ That sounded like it would be a Ramones chorus, so I thought I’d just copied it off them. It’s a simple line with the line repeated by a gang, and that was the finish of the song. So it was one of those songs that took quite a long time to write, which was a new thing for me. At the time, I was writing so much, so it was just another song.
“We were in America when it came out and it started piling up the charts, so we had to come home to do Top Of The Pops. Chris Evans was playing it on his radio show, and said, ‘I’m going to play this song every single day, until you all go out and buy it.’ And no one did! We went on Top Of The Pops and it went down the charts! It is a good song, but I think it came at the wrong time or it was one of those cases where the art didn’t meet the public. [BBC Radio London DJ] Gary Crowley tells me it’s a song he plays regularly. It was that lighting the blue touch-paper moment when people talked about it being a big hit, and it wasn’t, but we’re all still here, we’re all still alive and I’m still excited about creating things tomorrow, and that’s all you can really hope for in a lifetime of music.
“Do I enjoy playing it now? No, I hate it! Well, I enjoy other people enjoying it. It’s one of those songs where I can’t rehearse it; I’m just so bored of it. But as soon as we play it in front of an audience, it kicks off and it feels fresh again. The thing about music: it’s the closest we get to meditation, living absolutely in the moment. And playing that, amongst many other songs live, is the only kind of meditation I get! So I’m thankful for its longevity.”