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Buyer's Guide: Ginger

Fabulous pop hard rock with The Wildhearts, bleeding-heart songs under his own name, and lots in between.

Softly spoken for a man who once trashed the offices of a music magazine because of a bad review, Ginger has a musical past that might just be marginally less astonishing than his personal history. After being chucked out of The Quireboys (retrospectively, of course, it was probably the best thing that could have happened to him, although it shook him up at the time), the idea of The Wildhearts (Ginger took the name from a band he’d played with in Newcastle) came to fruition relatively quickly. First he snagged guitarist CJ from fellow regulars on the then London club circuit the Tattooed Loveboys – much to the Tatts’ chagrin. After auditioning a number of singers he settled on Snake from the band Tobruk, although his tenure ended abruptly after near-constant rumblings and infighting over money. The line-up was completed by bassist Julian and drummer Stidi. After the departure of Snake and having run out of suitable vocalists, Ginger, inured with a new sense of self-confidence, stepped up to the mic himself. Tellingly, his vocals improved steadily and were much more audible with each and every release. On the band’s early EPs he could barely be heard above everything else in the mix. But by the time of his second solo album, this year’s Yoni, he’s practically crooning proudly on a song about his young son. Outlandish and introspective in equal measures, Ginger cultivated a cult following that still endures with the kind of car-crash home life usually associated with a teen child Hollywood star gone awry in their later years. The Wildhearts broke up and reunited more often than Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton (and with similar publicly thrown brickbats), while his online diary fed the frenzy with excruciatingly honest accounts of inner demons, tour horror stories, drug problems and divorce (his online telling of the break-up with his then wife while they were heading off for a Christmas family holiday was so raw that it made you want to look away). That divorce, though, was followed by his best album to date: last year’s Valor Del Corazon took all of Ginger’s woes and translated them into two CDs of imagination and triumph. He has since cleaned up to the point where he’s now playing his first shows sober and releasing his second solo album while mixing yet another Wildhearts record. It might be a little early to talk of a renaissance, but for now the journey Ginger’s on is being made with progressively more assured steps.

ESSENTIAL Classics

GINGER

Valor Del Corazon

Round, 2006

Conceived and recorded after 12 months of personal travails, Valor Del Corazon is a remarkably candid album suffused with confessionals and stuffed full of ideas.

Recorded in Willie Nelson’s studio in Texas with a retinue of session players, Ginger opened up his diaries and set them to music with remarkable effect. More experimental, and sometimes eschewing his hard rock roots altogether, he pieced together a collection of songs that were as rich and deep as they were wide. Both playful and plaintive, there are splashes of honky-tonk here, rueful piano ballads there, all of which helps make Valor... a remarkably consistent record.

THE WILDHEARTS

Earth Vs. The Wildhearts

eastwest, 1993

After a handful of acclaimed Wildhearts EPs that saw him escape the shadow of his former band The Quireboys with almost distasteful haste, Ginger and The Wildhearts’ debut album was as blunt as a mallet and as warm as summer sunshine. Sceptical at best, it allowed Ginger to rage and rail against all manner of topics, but mainly he saved his most theatrical sneers for affairs of the heart. This sugar-coated (musically it was all layered vocal harmonies and crunching guitar chords) cynicism was at its best on songs like Loveshit and My Baby Is A Headfuck, but, hey, when you’ve loved and lost like Ginger has...

SUPERIOR The Ones That Helped Seal His Reputation

SILVER GINGER 5

Black Leather Mojo

Infernal, 2000

Like Ben Folds Five, SG5’s moniker was a misleading one. Initially conceived as Ginger’s first solo album before becoming the launch pad for a fully fledged band, this four-piece included ex-Electric Boys singer Conny Bloom (who occasionally plays guitar with Ginger’s Sonic Circus) and bassist ‘Random’ Jon Poole (who would later play with The Wildhearts and appears on Yoni).

Glitzier than his previous albums, robust and poppy in parts and 70s glam rock in others, it was also the album that finally gave a release to Church Of The Broken Hearted, a song that pre-dated even the first Wildhearts EPs.

GINGER

Yoni

Round, 2007

While his debut solo album hung on the hooks of betrayal and addiction, his second saw Ginger in a much improved mood. Like the best-selling book, the title and florid artwork made reference to the joy of sex.

Much more upbeat and far less cynical than Valor Del Corazon, Yoni is Ginger post-separation and post-drugs, with a healthy attitude that’s matched by his libido. It’s breathtakingly good in parts, recalling classic Queen and old Cheap Trick, but delivered with Ginger’s usual thumping bravura. It’s occasionally complex, sometimes startlingly straight, but it’s almost always charming.

THE WILDHEARTS

p.h.u.q.

eastwest, 1995

The title may be familiarly belligerent – and it said a lot about Ginger’s state of mind – but The Wildhearts' second and final major-label record did a decent job of delivering on the promise that had been made by their first.

No slouch commercially either, p.h.u.q. made it to No.6 in the UK chart. And while it shared the trademark bombast of The Wildhearts’ debut, it also showed a more reflective, sometimes sombre side with songs like Be My Drug and the lush In Lilly’s Garden. I Wanna Go Where The People Go should have been a No.1 smash hit but, like The Wildhearts’ eventful, roller-coaster career, some things just didn’t go to plan.

SUPERSHIT 666

Supershit 666

Infernal, 1999

At first glance you probably wouldn’t expect that Ginger is the type of person who plays well with other musicians, but that hasn’t prevented him from forming the occasionally fertile side project.

This ramshackle six-tracker recorded by Ginger plus members of The Hellacopters and Backyard Babies (we must assume that Ginger was in his Swedish phase) sounds like it was done in a fever. It rattles along at breakneck speed, and ends in a heap (and presumably up against the studio wall) with a cover of The Rods’ Crank It Up!

Possibly the least reflective album of his albums, but the title should have told you that.

GOOD Worth Exploring 

GINGER  

A Break In The Weather

Infernal, 2005

Conceived as a commercial throwback to a time when artists released singles as a stand-alone project, Ginger planned to release 12 three-song singles on a monthly basis for one year. He got as far as recording five before label problems brought things to a halt.

This compilation brings those five together, and begs the question: what shape would the other seven have taken if the project had been completed? Songs like Thailand Uber Alles ring a familiar bell, but the sorrowful tone prevalent in Not Bitter, Just A Little Disappointed and Don’t Let Me Die Lonely shows a songwriter down at heel and out of luck.

THE WILDHEARTS

Don’t Be Happy... Just Worry

eastwest, 1992

After being ousted from The Quireboys (the saviours of the UK’s rock scene for about a month at the beginning of the 90s, before the Black Crowes showed up and stole their thunder), Ginger’s first two EPs under The Wildhearts' banner caused quite a stir, primarily among people who suggested he’d be found dead by Christmas.

This collection brings both EPs together (along with a little studio polish), and they still surprise with their energy and verve. Tough, but suffused with melody and intricate arrangements to surprise and enlighten the most cynical of hacks, it promised great things.

THE WILDHEARTS

Must Be Destroyed

Sanctuary, 2003

Following another period of self-inflicted disarray and the kind of problems usually the reserve of South American soap operas, The Wildhearts’ third studio album proper sounded remarkably free of strife. More straightforward than its two predecessors, it even came complete with a hit single in Vanilla Radio.

It was a critical smash in the US, and it’s not difficult to understand why, with its defiantly poppy roots in songs like One Love, One Life, One Girl _(Cheap Trick with stubble) and _Someone Who Won’t Let Me Go. It was the kind of album The Wildhearts might have built a career on until they broke up the band again.

AVOID

CLAM ABUSE

Stop Thinking 

Infernal, 1999

The sound of a car leaving the road, Ginger’s collaboration with Anti-Product’s Alex Kane was a self-indulgent morass of half-finished ideas and jokes missing the punch line. It sounds like it was formulated on the back of a beer mat (and it may well have been), and it’s a work of diminishing returns from two men who know a thing or two about writing a pop tune – although you wouldn’t think so from this. Self-reverential and smug, it’s two old lags in from a night at the boozer, egging each other on with half-formed thoughts and occasional ideas bent so far out of shape as to be unrecognisable. We’re still to find its redeeming quality.

THE ESSENTIAL PLAYLIST 

NOTHING EVER CHANGES BUT THE SHOES 

Mondo Akimbo Ago-go

DRINKING IN THE DAYTIME 

Valor Del Corazon

THIS BED IS ON FIRE 

Yoni

LOVE YOU 'TIL I DON’T 

Earth Vs. The Wildhearts

ONE LOVE, ONE LIFE, ONE GIRL 

Must Be Destroyed

NOT BITTER, JUST A LITTLE DISAPPOINTED 

A Break In The Weather

CRANK IT UP!

Supershit 666

CHURCH OF THE BROKEN HEARTED 

Black Leather Mojo

LOVESHIT

Earth Vs. The Wildhearts

IN LILLY’S GARDEN

p.h.u.q.

YEAH YEAH YEAH

Valor Del Corazon

29 X THE PAIN

Grievous Acoustic Behaviour

CARS & VAGINAS

A Break In The Weather

BLACK WINDOWS

Yoni

NITA NITRO

The Wildhearts Strike Back

BETTER THAN CABLE 

Riff After Riff

MY BABY IS A HEADFUCK 

Earth Vs. The Wildhearts

SONIC SHAKE

Black Leather Mojo

BULB

Valor Del Corazon

LIBERTY CAP

Mondo Akimbo Ago-go

_ _

GINGER SPEAKS ABOUT YONI

GINGER SNAPS

  • He was a member of New York band The Throbs for one show, after being fired by the Quireboys.

  • Ginger was also a member of the Brides Of Destruction for a short time. Longer than The Throbs, but only enough to be involved in the album Runaway Brides and to briefly tour with them.

  • He fronted Jason & The Scorchers for a few UK shows in 2007. He temporarily replaced Jason Ringenberg, and the band were known as Ginger & The Scorchers.

  • Ginger will be 50 on December 17 this year.

  • In December last year, Ginger got to fulfil one of his dreams, when he played onstage with Starz, one of his favourite bands.

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