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Wonderland Deep Dive - Part 1

30 January 2022

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  • Our memories of first discovering and picking up the Wonderland release.
  • The multitudes of formats (single/double single/maxi-single/EP/mini-album). How did we think of it then, and how is the Wonderland release considered today?
  • Associated tracks – which tracks were available where? Including fantasies of making the ultimate Wonderland reissue with all of these tracks.
  • Wonderland’s role as a stopgap release between The Crossing and Steeltown.
  • Chart info and promotional activities.
  • A look at early versions and demos:
    • Bruce’s early demo
    • Work in progress #1
    • Work in progress #2 (aka ‘Wondergreat’)
  • Comments from the band about the song, including their feelings about being pushed into he studio to come up with material quickly, as well as initial feelings of having to settle for a result and not having enough time for the music to fully develop.
  • The story of the very first public performance of Wonderland at the matinee show at Barrowlands on 31 Dec 1983.
  • “Wonderland” – live at the Barrowlands (matinee show), 31 December 1983
  • We take a look at how Wonderland fared in reviews at the time and have a calm and dignified discussion about how they seemed to miss the mark.
  • Wonderland's role in the band's musical and lyrical development.
  • The near-movie use of the song in the Australian production “Bogan On the Run”
  • Steve Lillywhite's comments on the 12'' mix

Wonderland – song deep-dive by Tom and Svein

  • The context of the band in the time prior to the writing of Wonderland – a huge success story. The culmination of their dreams. From the outside, it sure looked like a ‘wonderland’ of sorts for the band.
  • Looking at the song from different perspectives. The rain, the winds of quiet change, storms, winter… signalling upheaval, insecurity, depression. Everything is not all right.
  • The song being sung to a partner – a significant other – the person who makes things better.
  • The song does not describe a wonderland if pure bliss, but there is also purity here. This comes from the person who takes his hand and helps bring a Wonderland to him.
  • The recurring themes of pride – being torn apart, in hardship, in honest work.
  • The twist towards the end, when the lyrics go “take my hand and make believe it’s wonderland” – is Wonderland an ironic title? Are things hard otherwise, or are there relationship issues? Implied sense of menace or troubles. Not a completely real reflection of what the world is like.
  • A rundown of Stuart’s use of “winter” as an allegory for depression in Big Country songs.
  • The first verse seems to be about having fears, the second verse about the nature of hard work, and a third verse looking back in a wider sense.
  • We consider Stuart’s description of the song as ‘dense’ – it certainly is a layered track with production values starting to hint of the approach to come on Steeltown.
  • Yet another INXS conspiracy theory – did they steal the riff from Wonderland for their song New Sensation?
  • A great example of a mixture of clean guitars playing the underlying riff, and more dirty, distorted guitars adding on top of it.
  • Highlighting the use of digital delay on this song, made famous by The Edge (who initially was inspired to do it by Stuart).
  • Mark’s drumming approaches on the song – Lillywhite revisiting the recording approaches first used on Fields of Fire.
  • The song lacks a traditional guitar solo. Does it need it? Does anything else take its place?
  • The bass line… Tony’s Wonderland bass line is universally thought to be one of his very best. Tony has several performance/instructional videos on YouTube where you can see him play the song.
  • The development of the song intro live, and how a technical difficulty at the Big Country Fan Convention in Dunfermline on 31 August 1991 informed how they would play the song for the remainder of Stuart’s days in the band.
  • The evolution of the middle section of the song, which would be increased to include anything from guitar solos, audience interaction, speeches, singalongs, dancing around, and whatever they felt like.  
  • The single/album cover variants, including an audio clip from the artist.

“Wonderland” – acoustic version by Bruce Watson (shared on MySpace 2008)

Speakpipe messages contributed by (in order of appearance): Stuart Menzies, Lee Waterton, Worth Thompson, Mark Dunne-Willows, Den Heyward, John Lewis, and Craig Clark. Many thanks!