URGE OVERKILL : Wichita Lineman 7" (1987)

Urge A
Urge B
Big Black booted the fire exit open for a disparate bunch of Chicago post-punk/proto-grunge unknowns back in the late 80s, some of them great (Naked Raygun, Rifle Sport, Breaking Circus), some of them not so great (yuk). Urge Overkill were certainly one of the best, before they nestled up to the corporate teat with their "polarising" Saturation LP anyway.

U.O. debuted in 1987 with the nascent Strange, I... 12" on Ruthless Records, a Chicago-based co-operative (as opposed to a conventional label) founded by punk luminaries The Effigies with help from Naked Raygun & Big Black. Ruthless ground to a halt a year or so later following The Effigies' split, necessitating U.O.'s move to Touch & Go, whereupon they released this stately cover of Jimmy Webb's "Wichita Lineman" as a 7" - which is where I came in. I expect I taped it off of John Peel's show one evening & bought it in Selectadisc the following weekend...

Home to Scratch Acid, Butthole Surfers & Killdozer (& Chicago's nearest equivalent to Seattle's SubPop), Touch & Go had already established itself as one of those few labels whose every release was worth investigating &, as the pre-Britpop music scene here was still grappling with the fag-end of C86 (Pop Will Eat Itself & Talulah Gosh, God help us...), noisy American bands with names like Urge Overkill seemed obscure, mysterious &, frankly, terribly exciting. Also, the British independent scene having been evangelically anti-rockist since the late 70s, U.O.'s audacious touting of a Massive Guitar Sound™ (Cheap Trick c/o Chrome?) seemed markedly out of step & clandestine. Unfortunately, of course, this all culminated in the humourless ARENA ROCK CATACLYSM (aka Led Zep Redux) of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden & Smashing Pumpkins, but, as there are now several top shelf publications specialising in that kind of filth, we needn't discuss it here.

Though I played "Wichita Lineman" to death, I always preferred it's b-side, "Head On". It reappeared the following year on U.O.'s Jesus Urge Superstar LP, which cost me a fortune on import but quickly earned it's keep via my playing "Your Friend Is Insane" & "Very Sad Trousers" on repeat for the next 2 years...

LINK DELETED - these songs have recently been remastered & made available c/o iTunes.


  1. There's also a sublime version by Tom Jones from this song. Really!

  2. I believe you! I dread to think what REM's version might sound like though...

  3. Anonymous3.2.11

    Jimmy Webb was being interviewed on R4 this morning and it got me thinking about UO's version, I too taped it off Peel, but despite my careful annotating and archiving of said cassettes, I can't find the bugger..
    You were the top google result for my search, so big up yerself.