"The Wise Wound"
The Wise Wound got its name from The Wise Wound by Penelope Shuttle and Peter Redgrove, a book that had a big impact on Sue. Although it is primarily about menstruation it is about more than that, and some of its themes resonate in Sue's lyrics and the general ethos of the band. Fundamentally I suppose the core theme was healing. We valued working with organisations like Survivors' Poetry, MIND and Shape. Sue's lyrics were poetic and full of imagery, metaphor and rich themes, she was sometimes billed as "Wordsmith" but of course the words are only half of it...
"The bastard child of Sid Vicious and Joni Mitchell "- Time Out
Sue is a huge Kate Bush fan. As well as Kate's music having an influence, so did her autonomy over her music and the fact that she produced her own material from the writing and performance to recording and production. I think that helped give Sue the vision to work with musicians in the way she did.
A bit about that... Sue always had an insecurity regarding her musical ability as she was self-taught. She had no musical training - unlike most of the band who were classically trained, but we always (usually) found her musical sense to make perfect (and interesting) sense. Since she was self-taught on guitar, and skipped the lessons where you learn the "normal" chords, her progressions were more unusual and colourful than most guitarists, yet all had a sound logic to them musically. She was instinctively getting it "right" and most of the songs featured complex transitions and arrangements. (We certainly were not champions of the simple 3 minute pop song, most songs were about 7 mins long, some more.) Quick update on Sue's musical ability though... in 2010 she earned a degree in Music Compostion for Media at Northbrook College Sussex - so I hope that redresses that insecurity. (See manicmoon.co.uk for some of this work.)
So aside from Kate Bush and being "a natural", other influences I should mention here are Nick Drake, John Martyn, and also bands like Caravan and the lush vocals of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. There is a strong punk element in amongst the hippy-folk and sometimes even classical-chamber music. There is also the psychedelic journey aspect (a lot of songs had "The Trippy Bit") of Pink Floyd. On top of that all the members brought their own unique experiences which all combined to make the Wise Wound.
Wise comings and goings
When I joined the band there was Shanti-Tony on percussion, vocalist Rokiah (with whom Sue had a duo, Two for Joy), Tosh on violin and Maz on 'cello. Before that I need to call on the expertise of Pete and Andy.
Andy was our long-suffering manager and artist. Back in the beginning of the band he started to work on a Wise Wound "family tree" - a graphic representation of all the various formations of the band. He has finally finished it specially for this website and it is a distillation of the information in this section and more besides. Thanks Andy, this is as definitive as it gets.
Pete was occasional driver in the early years, loyal audience member throughout, and is largely responsible for what there is of our live recordings. One of the earliest recordings we have is of Sue and Penny in 1989 at the Tom Allen Centre. Before that Sue was vocalist in the psychedelic band NUKLI who are still going strong.
Here are a few words from Pete with some details of the early days:
It's hard to remember which was the first performance of the Wise Wound that I first saw. It would have been at The Blue Nose cafe, a tiny place in Finsbury Park, where Sue and Dean Carter ran an acoustic club, which I later helped at, taking money at the door. It was a taxi call centre when I last went past. I had met Sue on the night of the eclipsed moon on the 16th August 1989 at a Bob Cairns gig at a club in Willesden run by the elsewhere mentioned Vince Power.
This was my son's ninth birthday - he and my wife had gone to the Big Green Gathering, I think. I had met Bob at the Diorama Acoustic Club in Peto Place, run by Roddie Harris and Julia Palmer - who were then performing as Harvey, but soon changed their name to Miro and appeared at The Blue Nose.
At the time, Sue had just left Nukli and was often performing solo as she drew in other players. I remember driving her to gigs at The Wellington, Dalston and the Tom Allen Centre, Stratford and driving the band if anyone had large equipment and no transport. This phase, in my mind, lasted until the gig at The New Pegasus and everything slowly coalesced into the band that was the core of the next stage.
Shortly after this the band acquired Lance, the ambulance/festival home, driven by Maz and Den which boldly went where my old minibus could no longer go - it was later beaten up by 'youths' on our estate and had to be retired, though not before making one trip to Glastonbury carrying equipment that hadn't made it to Lance in time.
I can pick up from when I met Sue in 1991 at The New Pegasus, Newington Green, where I was compering a gig (with my double bass) that Sue and Shanti-Tony were also playing. Shortly after that we met Lizzie at my first gig with Sue, also at The New Pegasus. I remember an early gig (Lizzie's first?) in The Standard, Walthamstow with Shanti-Tony, Maz, Tosh and Lizzie. We played a few gigs with this line-up before the departure of Shanti-Tony, Rokiah and Tosh.
For a time we were joined by backing vocalist, Claire, who is on the Tales from the Wise Wound tape and was with us at the 1992 Forest Fayre where we met Sally who joined as Claire left.
Soon after that Brian joined, and this line-up (Sue, Maz, Den, Bri, Liz, Sally) was the longest-standing formation of the band. In 1994 Lizzie left and we were joined by Bill on keyboards and accordion, and later by Paul on electric guitar in '95. When Maz left in '96 that was pretty much the end of the Wise Wound although Sue, Brian and I did carry on playing for a while, ending up at The Cole Shedd (now The Good Ship) and The Black Lion in Kilburn.
Fast-forward 8 years to Glastonbury 2004 for a one-off partial-reunion gig in the Healing Field with Sue, Sally, Brian and Den.