Wire’s Document And Eyewitness 1979-1980

11th November 2015

Title: Document And Eyewitness 1979-1980

Label: Pinkflag

This is a reissue of the band’s 1981 live album, which marked the end of the band’s first period, at London’s Electric Ballroom, which saw Wire undertake a selection of Surreal and Dadaist onstage experimentation. The show, which had developed from the band’s residency at the Jeannetta Cochrane Theatre four months earlier, involved stagecraft that, according to vocalist/bassist, Graham Lewis, featured, “various displays of absurdity”.

That included a 12 by six foot white sheet which was paraded around the stage on vertical poles, instructions for a batch of people to walk on the stage and obscure the action – apeing the interference that you might see on a TV – a woman pulling two men across the stage who were also perched upon a blow-up passenger jet, the heating of long cylindrical domes on band member heads, the wearing of a beekeeper’s hat with a very long veil, the gradual unveiling of two very long scrolls, upon which were daubed symbols and so on.

This was not exactly what the audience expected or, indeed, wanted. Hence, there was a certain amount of animosity, tension and anger in the crowd. This feeling was not held by all of the audience, you must understand. Some have later described that they enjoyed these antics immensely so it’s wrong to tar everyone with the same brush. Some sort it as ‘anti-art’ and so it all made perfect sense. Nevertheless, there were issues with a lot of the audience. Couple that with the band refusing to play the ‘hits’ and concentrate on works in development and the insults began to fly. For example, when the band’s suited manager, a temporary Master of Ceremonies, decided to address the crowd, after one performance, with,

MC: “Thank you…thank you. I don’t know what else you can say.”

Audience member: “You fat cunt!”

MC: “You can say that as well.”

As well as the Electric Ballroom gig, Document And Witness also adds some material from a standard set, recorded at the Notre Dame Hall in July 1979 plus one track from a show in March of that year, when the band were supporting Roxy Music in Montreux (all three of those gig recordings have been released as individual albums as part of Pink Flag’s Legal Bootleg series). You also get a bunch of singles, B-sides and previously unheard rehearsal recordings.

Bottom line? A brilliant collection that not only features wonderful late-Wire music like We Meet Under Tables and Go Ahead, but is totally perverse. In fact, the band not only revelled in the confrontation but were lifted because of it. Essential for any Wire fan.