Wreckless Eric Didn’t Die in the ’80s Underground

The husband-wife duo’s found new fame in the MySpace era.

Wreckless Eric's brush with mainstream success came in 1978 with his punk-rock anthem "(I'd Go the) Whole Wide World." And that was pretty much it.Then Will Ferrell sang his hit song in the 2006 film Stranger Than Fiction, and the English rocker who'd been off the public's radar for nearly two decades suddenly had the attention of people who weren't even alive when the original record came out. And even as he prepares to embark on a stateside tour, Wreckless Eric is still uncertain what to make of his current situation.Nearly two hours later than the time we initially agreed on for our phone interview, Wreckless Eric (real name: Eric Goulden) calls me from his home in France, where he lives with his wife and now musical partner, Amy Rigby, a successful U.S.-born songwriter who has been covered by the likes of Laura Cantrell and Ronnie Spector. After apologizing, he launches into a tirade about MySpace and asks me for advice. He's baffled by the 100 friend requests he gets each day, and wants to know what to do with the ones that have accumulated."There are 16-year-olds from Florida who want to be my friend because they think Will Ferrell's cool," Wreckless Eric laments. "But I'm 54. I've got a daughter that's older than these people. Then these people complain that they requested to be my friend a month ago, but it's like, I don't even know them. So I go and read their profile and realize they probably wouldn't even like me...so why would I want to be their friend? Must I be friends with everybody?"He sounds genuinely concerned, and I feel sorry that I'm unable to offer an answer. Wreckless Eric's wary attitude toward fame—even if it is on MySpace—stems from his experience at the late Stiff Records, a punk and new-wave label whose acts included the Pogues and Elvis Costello. During that time Wreckless Eric had little control over his sound, and out of frustration began to drink heavily. He eventually had a nervous breakdown and moved to France in 1989 to clear his head, later convincing Rigby to do the same. Together they built a home recording studio so they could create music in an atmosphere that wouldn't require them to answer to a major label or relentlessly promote themselves."I hate trendy places where you meet someone and they want to tell you about the brilliant screenplay or record they're writing," Wreckless Eric says. "It's fucking boring. Now I have a neighbor who comes by in her robe and complains about needing the gutters cleaned, which I instantly find more interesting."The husband-wife duo's self-titled debut has the comfortable and unpretentious aura of people who live ordinary lives and just happen to make brilliant music for the hell of it. Influenced by the likes of Frank Zappa and the Beach Boys, the 11-track album is quirky and charming—much as you'd want and expect from a duo in which the front man calls himself Wreckless Eric. "Men in Sandals" contemplates why men like Jesus and the Romans worethem, while the sweet "Please Be Nice to Her" tells the story of a naive young woman who dresses anything but. Each track prominently features lulling harmonies, acoustic guitar, and organ. Most responsible for the album's laid-back tone is the duo's conscientious decision not to incorporate a drummer on any of the songs."We wanted it to be the kind of music that just washes over people," Wreckless Eric explains. "Youused to see that a lot in the '70s, and you still do in some cafes. It's the sort of easy listening that can camouflage into the atmosphere and at the same time still be enjoyable."Wreckless Eric and Rigby have successfully mastered that formula, but now there's the issue of promoting it. It's difficult to think of either one as part of a duo when their pasts are so individually renowned. And of course there's the matter of performing in front of all those young MySpace faces who have been sending friend requests."I'm looking forward to this tour, but in a way I'm dreading it," Wreckless Eric confesses. "I haven't got a clue how these people see me. Am I like their favorite uncle? Or do they think I'm a skinny-waisted 22-year-old? I think of all these poor kids who are going to finally see me and see that I'm not cool. And I keep wondering if I should at least go get a V-neck sweater and try."ehobart@seattleweekly.com==========Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby Wells Fargo Stage, 6:45–7:45 p.m. Sat., Aug. 30.

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