Wire are an English post-punk band from London that released the 1977–79 albums Pink Flag, Chairs Missing, and 154 on Harvest. They disbanded in 1980 when singer–guitarist Colin Newman went solo (backed by drummer Robert Gotobed) and bassist Graham Lewis launched Dome with guitarist Bruce Gilbert. Wire reformed mid-decade and released four albums and two EPs between 1986 and 1991 on Mute, followed by an eighth album (minus Gotobed) as Wir. In 2000, Wire again reformed and issued new studio and live recordings on self-press Pinkflag.

Members: Colin Newman (vocals, guitar), Edvard Graham Lewis (bass, vocals), Robert Grey [aka Robert Gotobed] (drums, 1976-90, 2000-present), Bruce Gilbert (guitar, 1976-2004), George Gill (guitar, 1976-77)


Wire had its roots in Overload, an experimental trio formed at Watford College of Art and Design by Bruce Gilbert (b. 1946) and Colin Newman (b. 1954). Gilbert, an abstract painter who worked in the school’s library, was experimenting with tape loops when he linked with student Newman, an aspiring singer, guitarist, and songwriter. In 1975, they teamed with another student, Angela Conway, who would later collaborate with Gilbert under the pseudonym A.C. Marias.

In October 1976, Gilbert and Newman formed Wire with Graham Lewis (b. 1953) and Robert Grey (b. 1951), who respectively learned bass and drums for the band. Lewis, an enthusiast of the London pub-rock scene (Kilburn and the High Roads, Dr. Feelgood), had studied fashion and textiles at Middlesex Polytechnic.

Grey sang in pub-rockers The Snakes, which issued the single “Teenage Head” (b/w “Lights Out”) on Dynamite Records earlier that year. (Two other Snakes, Nick Garvey and Richard Wernham, surfaced in The Motors). At Wire’s outset, Grey adopted the stage surname Gotobed.

Wire initially had a fifth member, guitarist George Gill. They shared one of their earliest bills with unrecorded politi-rockers The Derelicts, which spawned the post-punk bands PragVEC and The Passions. Shortly after forming, Wire cut a 14-song demo of Ramones-influenced originals, including “Mary Is a Dyke,” “Bad Night,” “Fade,” “Johnny Piss Off,” and “Bitch,” all later issued on the unofficial album 1976 Demo. Another track, “Can’t Stand It No More,” features a fractious fret-board run by Gill, who cut two singles in 1978 with punk-rockers The Bears.


In April 1977, the now-four-piece Wire played a 17-song set at The Roxy in Covent Garden. Two numbers, “Lowdown” and “1.2.X.U.,” appear with tracks by seven other acts (including the Buzzcocks, The Adverts, and X-Ray Spex) on the live document The Roxy London WC2 (Jan – Apr 77), released that year on Harvest, which signed Wire to its roster.

Pink Flag

Wire released their debut album, Pink Flag, in November 1977 on Harvest. It contains twenty-one songs, including fifteen under the two-minute mark. Each side has three tracks shorter than sixty seconds. Only three songs (“Reuters,” “Pink Flag,” “Strange”) exceed the three-minute mark.

The original album credits all tracks between the four members. Later reissues credit singer–guitarist Colin Newman for the music on Side One and most of Side Two apart from two co-writes with guitarist Bruce Gilbert: “Straight Line” and “Strange,” two of seven tracks without words by bassist Graham Lewis, who composed “The Commercial” and wrote the album’s lyrics apart from one Gilbert co-credit (“12 X U”), four Newman-penned numbers (“Three Girl Rhumba,” “Surgeon’s Girl,” “Mr. Suit,” “Feeling Called Love”) and the miniature “Different to Me” with words by Wire cover photographer Annette Green.

1. “Reuters” (3:03)
2. “Field Day for the Sundays” (0:28)
3. “Three Girl Rhumba” (1:23)
4. “Ex Lion Tamer” (2:19)
5. “Lowdown” (2:26)
6. “Start to Move” (1:13)
7. “Brazil” (0:41)
8. “It’s So Obvious” (0:53)
9. “Surgeon’s Girl” (1:17)
10. “Pink Flag” (3:47)

11. “The Commercial” (0:49)
12. “Straight Line” (0:44)
13. “106 Beats That” (1:12)
14. “Mr. Suit” (1:25)
15. “Strange” (3:58)
16. “Fragile” (1:18)
17. “Mannequin” (2:37)
18. “Different to Me” (0:43)
19. “Champs” (1:46)
20. “Feeling Called Love” (1:22)
21. “12 X U” (1:55)

Sessions took place in September–October 1977 at London’s Advision Studios with producer Mike Thorne, whose musical contributions include piano (“Reuters”), electric piano (“Options R”), and backing vocals (“Mr. Suit”). “Mannequin” has backing vocals by Gryphon drummer Dave Oberlé. “Strange” features flutist Kate Lukas, a co-founder of the contemporary classical Dreamtiger chamber orchestra that later included pianist–composer Andrew Poppy.

Thorne produced Pink Flag in succession with the debut album by French rockers Téléphone and the April 1977 Harvest release Treason, the fifth album by Gryphon. The engineer on Pink Flag, Paul Hardiman, earned prior credits with the Groundhogs (Hogwash), Curved Air (Air Cut), Eno (Here Come the Warm Jets), Fleetwood Mac (Mystery to Me), Zzebra, and (most recently) David Essex (Out On the Street) and Druid (Fluid Druid). His assistant on the last title, Ken Thomas, also worked on the 1976 Gentle Giant album Interview.

Gilbert and Lewis conceived the sleeve layout, designed by illustrator Dave Dragon (Jan Dukes de Grey, Leaf Hound, Shanghai). The cover shows a simple pink flag against a light-sky backdrop (front) and monochrome pics of each member (back) with select details: Colin (black hair), Lewis (9st. 6 lbs.), BC Gilbert (blue eyes), and drummer Robert Gotobed (6′ 3”). The inner-sleeve presents the lyrics to each song as a small-type paragraph.

Wire lifted “Mannequin” as a single, backed with the album tracks “Feeling Called Love” and “12 X U.”

Ex-Lion Tamer” appears on Harvest Sampler, a 1978 label-promo comp with cuts by Be-Bop Deluxe (“Panic In the World”), Focus (“Wingless”), Kate Bush (“The Man With the Child In His Eyes”), King Harry (“Fighting Talk”), Little River Band (“Changed and Different”), Pink Floyd (“Point Me at the Sky”), Strapps (“Child of the City”), and the Tom Robinson Band (“2-4-6-8 Motorway”).

Mannequin” appears on Meet the New (Punk) Wave, a 1978 Dutch EMI comp with cuts by 999 (“Emergency”), Advertising (“Lipstick”), Buzzcocks (“What Do I Get?”), Rich Kids (“Rich Kids”), The Saints (“I’m Stranded”), and The Stranglers (“Straighten Out,” “Peaches”). A concurrent EMI Brazil release, New Wave Punk, places “Mannequin” in the company of Lou Reed (“Banging On My Drum”), Patti Smith (“Pissing In a River”), and The Tubes (“I Was a Punk Before You Were Punk”).

Wire plugged Pink Flag on a late-autumn UK tour as the opening act for The Tubes, culminating with two nights (December 6–7) at London’s Hammersmith Odeon.


“I Am the Fly”

On February 24, 1978, Wire released “I Am the Fly,” a buzzing Newman–Lewis rocker backed with the Pink Flag cut “Ex-Lion Tamer.”

Wire toured the UK club and college circuit through the winter–spring months. Their itinerary included shows at London’s 100 Club (March 21), Birmingham’s Barbarella’s (April 28), and two dates (Feb. 2 and March 29) at London’s famed Marquee Club.

Meanwhile, the American branch of Harvest issued Pink Flag for a limited run in the US.

“Dot Dash”

On June 23, 1978, Wire released “Dot Dash,” a standalone single backed with “Options R,” both Newman–Lewis numbers.

A. “Dot Dash” (2:24)

B. “Options R” (1:35)

Wire did an interview with rock journalist Jim Green for the July 1978 issue (No. 30) of the American underground music magazine Trouser Press. On the topic of their musical chemistry, Colin states that “we play as a whole, sympathetic to one another and to something that is stronger than any one of us. We’re very different as individuals, but when we play it’s down to our combined energies.”

On July 14, Wire made their US debut with a four-night showcase at CBGB’s in New York City.

Chairs Missing

Wire released their second album, Chairs Missing, on September 8, 1978, on Harvest. Of the album’s fifteen songs, five fall under the two-minute mark and the rest have standard duration. Colin Newman composed the music apart from two co-writes with guitarist Bruce Gilbert (“Used To,” “Too Late”) and one (“Men 2nd”) with bassist Graham Lewis, who composed “Sand in My Joints.”

Lewis wrote the lyrics to eight songs and co-penned two (“Marooned,” “Used To”) with Gilbert, who penned “Practice Makes Perfect,” “Another the Letter,” and “Too Late.” Newman lyricized “Being Sucked in Again” and “Heartbeat.” Side Two contains a re-recording of the earlier Newman–Lewis a-side “I Am the Fly.”

Chairs Missing and its followup retain the Pink Flag sound team of producer Mike Thorne and engineers Paul Hardiman and Ken Thomas. The album features return input by flutist Kate Lukas (“Heartbeat”) and photographer Annette Green (Newman’s then-companion). The title references a British idiom on mental instability (“a few chairs missing in his front room”).

1. “Practice Makes Perfect” (4:11)
2. “French Film Blurred” (2:34)
3. “Another the Letter” (1:07)
4. “Men 2nd” (1:43)
5. “Marooned” (2:21)
6. “Sand in My Joints” (1:50) Graham 
7. “Being Sucked in Again” (3:14)
8. “Heartbeat” (3:16)

9. “Mercy” (5:46)
10. “Outdoor Miner” (1:44)
11. “I Am the Fly” (3:09)
12. “I Feel Mysterious Today” (1:57)
13. “From the Nursery” (2:58)
14. “Used To” (2:23)
15. “Too Late” (4:14)

Sessions took place in May 1978 at Advision, where Thorne produced the album in sequence with a live double-album by Soft Machine and the debut album by Manhattan new wavers The Shirts (both engineered by Hardiman). He plays keyboards and synthesizers across Chairs Missing and sings backing vocals on “Being Sucked in Again.” Thomas worked beforehand on Stained Class, the fourth album by Judas Priest.

Annette’s Chairs Missing photography showcases a white ramp at the foot of a mirror in front of a curtain with a lavender bouquet at the center. Wire appear seated behind the ramp (back), from which Gilbert extracts himself (inner). Art director Brian Palmer oversaw the sleeves to Chairs Missing and The Shirts as well as 1978 visuals for Geordie, Marshall Hain, Matumbi, Strapps, Supercharge, and Unicorn.


Wire recorded a longer version of “Outdoor Miner” (2:52) for release as a January 1979 white vinyl Harvest single with “Practice Make Perfect.”

On February 14, they played a 57-minute set at WDR studios in Cologne for the German music program Rockpalast. Italian bootleggers Fruscii Misti Autoproduzioni issued the show on a 2005 DVDr. The setlist contains ten Chairs Missing songs and an upcoming a-side, plus five songs from their yet-to-be-recorded third album.

Wire opened for Roxy Music on a sixteen-date European tour (February 27–March 18) that concentrated on Germany (eleven shows) with touch-downs in Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Paris, France.

Meanwhile, both sides of the “Dot Dash” / “Options R” single reappeared on the 1979 Harvest compilation The Rare Stuff?, which gathers non-album Harvest punk–new wave sides by the Rich Kids (“Only Arsenic”), The Flys, and four songs each by The Banned and The Saints, plus the recent Shirts b-side “Cyrinda,” a reggae-rock track on their “Tell Me Your Plans” single. The Rare Stuff cover photo emphasizes the importance of new wave graphic design with a collection of logo buttons by each band — the Wire button uses the bold-letter grid design of the “I Am the Fly” sleeve.

“A Question of Degree”

On June 8, 1979, Wire released “A Question of Degree,” a Newman–Lewis number backed with Gilbert’s “Former Airline.”

A. “A Question of Degree” (3:09)

B. “Former Airline” (3:19) features Newman, Lewis, and Gilbert on saxophone.

The French new wave band Charles De Goal cover “A Question of Degree” as the opening track on their 1985 New Rose Records release 3, their third studio album.

Wire embarked on a twelve-date UK June–July tour that included shows in Manchester (6/23: The Factory), Liverpool (7/7: Eric’s), and two nights in London (July 19–20) at Notre Dame Hall.


Wire released their third album, 154, on October 5, 1979, on Harvest. 154 features thirteen songs of standard duration apart from “A Touching Display,” a proto-goth epic that lasts almost seven minutes.

Unlike prior albums, only three 154 songs (“A Mutual Friend,” “Indirect Enquiries,” “Map Ref. 41°N 93°W”) are co-writes between singer Colin Newman (music) and bassist Graham Lewis (lyrics). Newman lone-wrote three songs (“The 15th,” “On Returning,” “Once Is Enough”) and co-wrote two (“40 Versions,” “Two People in a Room”) with bassist Bruce Gilbert, who submitted “Blessed State” and co-wrote “The Other Window” with Lewis, who lone-wrote “I Should Have Known Better” and “A Touching Display.”

Producer Mike Thorne (effectively a fifth member at this stage) plays synthesizer across 154 and piano on “Single K.O,” which features the third guest appearance by flutist Kate Lukas. Select tracks have unique input by Newman (distorted bass on “On Returning”), Lewis (percussion on “Once Is Enough”), and Gilbert (spoken word on “The Other Window”).

1. “I Should Have Known Better” (3:52) Graham 
2. “Two People in a Room” (2:00)
3. “The 15th” (3:05)
4. “The Other Window” (2:07)
5. “Single K.O.” (2:23)
6. “A Touching Display” (6:55) Graham. Features electric viola by Stockhausen disciple and Radio 3 producer Tim Souster.
7. “On Returning” (2:06)

8. “A Mutual Friend” (4:28) features bass vocals by CBGB’s owner Hilly Kristal and cor anglais by Joan Whiting of the Military Ensemble of London.
9. “Blessed State” (3:28) Graham 
10. “Once Is Enough” (3:23)
11. “Map Ref. 41°N 93°W” (3:40)
12. “Indirect Enquiries” (3:36)
13. “40 Versions” (3:28)

Sessions occurred in April–May 1979 at Advision Studios, where Thorne produced 154 in succession with the second Shirts album (Street Light Shine) and New Love, the first of two albums by a revamped Metro (post-Duncan Browne). Concurrently, he teamed with Karl Jenkins (Softs multi-instrumentalist) and Mike Ratledge (ex-Softs organist) in the electro–disco studio project Plaza, which cut a self-titled album on the French Sidewalk label.

154 sports typographic design by Brian Harris, whose letters appear on the gatefold to the 1978 Polydor release The Bride Stripped Bare, the fifth solo album by Bryan Ferry. Pink Flag illustrator Dave Dragon — one of three contributing illustrators to the 1979 debut Cure album Three Imaginary Boys — takes credit for art direction on 154.

Original UK copies of 154 contain a four-song bonus EP, identified by its label as One 45. It features a solo track by each member: “Song 1” (Gotobed), “Get Down” (Newman), “Let’s Panic Later” (Lewis), and “Small Electric Piece” (Gilbert). Newman and Gotobed co-wrote Side A with guitarist–bassist Desmond Simmons, a subsequent collaborator.

A1. “Song 1” (3:02)
A2. “Get Down (Part I & II)” (4:27) features additional writing input by Adverts singer–guitarist TV Smith and a French poet identified as David.
B1. “Let’s Panic Later” (3:20)
B2. “Small Electric Piece” (3:33)

In late October, Wire lifted “Map Ref. 41˚N 93˚W” as a single backed with the non-album “Go Ahead,” a group-composed number with Lewis lyrics.

B. “Go Ahead” (4:03) features unique input by Newman (syndrum), Lewis (keyboards), and Gilbert (second bass).

154 reached No. 39 on the UK Albums Chart. Wire limited their live promotion of the album to a four-night engagement (November 9–12) at London’s Jeanetta Cochrane Theatre.

In 2018, a three-CD special edition 154 appeared on Wire self-press Pinkflag with the original album (disc 1), the bonus EP and non-album sides (disc 2), and the ‘Sixth Demo Sessions’ (disc 3) comprised of early demo versions of 154-era material (sixteen songs) recorded in December 1978 at Riverside Studios with engineer Nick Glennie-Smith, a subsequent Alan Tarney soundman.

Document and Eyewitness

In July 1981, the UK indie Rough Trade issued Document and Eyewitness, a live album culled from Wire performances at the Electric Ballroom (February 1980) and Notre Dame Hall (July 1979).

“Our Swimmer” backed with “Midnight Bahnhof Cafe”

In 1983, Rough Trade released the Wire max-single “Crazy About Love,” an ambient-vocal number from their 9/11/79 Peel sessions.

A “Crazy About Love” (15:27)
B1 “Second Length (Our Swimmer)”
B2 “Catapult 30”

Soundman John Etchells (Atomsko Sklonište, Glaxo Babies) produced “Crazy About Love,” released by arrangement with BBC Records.


In November 1986, Wire returned with Snakedrill, a sixteen-minute EP comprised of four songs.

1. “‘A Serious of Snakes…'” (4:53)
2. “Drill” (5:05)
3. “Advantage in Height” (3:05)
4. “Up to the Sun” (2:50)

Recorded Summer 1986
Studio The Strong Room, London
Daniel Miller – producer, mixing
Gareth Jones – producer, engineer, mixing
David Buckland – cover photography

The Ideal Copy

Wire released their fourth studio album, The Ideal Copy, in April 1987 on Mute and Enigma (US).

1. “Point of Collapse” (3:18)
2. “Ahead” (4:53)
3. “Madman’s Honey” (4:23)
4. “Feed Me” (5:50)
5. “Ambitious” (4:00)
6. “Cheeking Tongues” (2:02)
7. “Still Shows” (4:00)
8. “Over Theirs” (5:18)

Recorded November—December 1986
(Mixed January 1987)
Studio Hansa Tonstudio, Berlin, West Germany
Gareth Jones – production, engineer
Andre Giere – assistant engineer
Graham Lewis (credited as “Sven”) – front cover image

Released: March 1987

A Bell Is a Cup Until It Is Struck

Wire released their fifth studio album, A Bell Is a Cup Until It Is Struck, in May 1988 on Mute and Enigma

1. “Silk Skin Paws” 4:53
2. “The Finest Drops” 5:01
3. “The Queen of Ur and the King of Um” 4:03
4. “Free Falling Divisions” 3:39
5. “It’s a Boy” 4:26
6. “Boiling Boy” 6:22
7. “Kidney Bingos” 4:12
8. “Come Back in Two Halves” 2:43
9. “Follow the Locust” 4:22
10. “A Public Place” 4:30

Recorded December 1987
Studio Preußen Tonstudio, Berlin, West Germany
Gareth Jones – production
David Heilmann – engineer

1. “Kidney Bingos” (mixed by Daniel Miller) 4:13
2. “Over Theirs” 6:36
3. “Drill” 8:04
4. “Pieta” 1:14

It’s Beginning to and Back Again [IBTABA]

Wire released their sixth album, It’s Beginning to and Back Again (also known by its acronym IBTABA), in May 1989 on Mute and Ensign. It appeared as a standard eight-song LP (47:37) and an eleven-track CD (59:43). IBTABA spawned the MTV hit “Eardrum Buzz” and the (CD-only) followup single “In Vivo.”

1. “Finest Drops” 4:28
2. “Eardrum Buzz” 4:16
3. “German Shepherds” 4:39
4. “Public Place” 6:05
5. “It’s a Boy” 3:59
6. “Illuminated” 6:51
7. “Boiling Boy” 8:17
8. “Over Theirs” 9:24

CD bonus tracks
9. “Eardrum Buzz” (12″ version) 4:15
10. “The Offer” 2:55
11. “In Vivo” 4:34

Recorded June–December 1988
Studio Kitsch Studios, Brussels, Belgium
Terminal 24 Studios, London, UK

Paul Kendall – production, engineer, mixing [1–8]
John Fryer – production, mixing [1–8]
Wire – production [1–8]
Rico Conning – engineer, mixing [9–11] (at Terminal 24 Studios)
Designland – sleeve Layout

“Eardrum Buzz”
Released: April 1989
“In Vivo”
Released: July 1989

Discography (first two periods):

  • Pink Flag (1977)
  • Chairs Missing (1978)
  • 154 (1979)
  • One 54 (EP, 1979)
  • Document and Eyewitness (live, 1981)
  • Snakedrill (EP, 1986)
  • The Ideal Copy (1987)
  • A Bell Is a Cup Until It Is Struck (1988)
  • It’s Beginning to and Back Again [IBTABA] (1989)
  • Manscape (1990)
  • The Drill (EP, 1991)
  • The First Letter (1991 • Wir)


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