There was a point in 1993 when arch Welsh pop auteurs The Pooh Sticks looked set to live up to the grandiose billing of their resolutely tongue in cheek titled album ‘Million Seller’.
Safely ensconced in a major label record deal with music giants BMG, the cartoon power poppers, who formed in Swansea in 1987, were seemingly set for chart conquering success.
They released surely the greatest song to clock in under two minutes, ‘The World Is Turning On’, a thrilling blast of giddy power pop that came spinning to a dizzying climax at one minute and 51 seconds.
It turned the heads of tastemakers at Radio 1 who playlisted the song on the A List – the hallowed ranking which inevitably guaranteed chart success. Except in The Pooh Sticks’ case, sadly.
For the band who were famously immortalised in cartoon form by artists from Hanna Barbera for the cover of their magnum opus – their 1991 album Great White Wonder, this looked like the big break.
“Despite ‘The World Is Turning On’ being played by Gary Davies in between Whitney Houston and Madonna it was downhill after that. It wasn’t so much a million seller, as a 25,000 seller, which doesn’t have the same ring,” jokes frontman Huw Williams.
It wasn’t meant to be for the outfit generally considered as Wales’ greatest lost band. Caught between the Madchester swagger of The Stone Roses and the storm of Seattle’s brazen guitar noiseniks Nirvana, they were a band out of step.
When The Pooh Sticks laid their cartoon cardboard cut-outs and elaborately playful pop sounds to rest in 1995, it was prophetic that Huw then embarked on a conventional career in the music industry as a talent-spotting A&R man. He was also the guiding hand behind the success of Catatonia and 60ft Dolls, and left a far-reaching legacy as the co-founder of the Welsh Music Foundation.
It’s 25 years since this most cult of Welsh bands crashed and burned, but they’ve occasionally reformed for festival shows and one-off appearances, however it’s with new outfit Swansea Sound that Huw is demonstrating his way with an intriguing pop ruse.
The band, which reunites ex-Pooh-Sticks Huw Williams and Amelia Fletcher, and features Rob Pursey on guitar and bass, and Ian Button on drums, have released their second single ‘I Sold My Soul on eBay’ – on eBay.
There is just one vinyl copy of the single available which will be sold to the highest bidder on the global auction site. Although an infinite number of digital singles will also be made available on Bandcamp for £1.
‘I Sold My Soul on eBay’ is the first physical release by new label Skep Wax.
Described by the band as ‘a two-minute punk-pop song for you to pogo to in your locked down living room’, it’s the second single from Swansea Sound, following on from their 2020 debut ‘Corporate Indie Band/Angry Girl’.
“I Sold My Soul on eBay is a song about the predicament of the contemporary pop group,” says Huw. “Unable to earn money from playing live, they are forced to rely on the digital giants to distribute their music. They wonder if Spotify, YouTube, Apple and the rest will offer them a fair share of the proceeds. Or just a lot of ‘likes’.
“When Swansea Sound started we took a look at how other bands were doing absolutely anything to get themselves heard – trying to get on Spotify playlists, putting videos onto YouTube – and it seemed sad that they might achieve fame, and maybe some ‘likes’, but would probably earn next to nothing.
“So the song is a kind of protest on their behalf. It could easily be about a delivery driver forced to work for Hermes, or a shopkeeper having to sell through Amazon. Once we had the title, it seemed an obvious next step to release the record on eBay.”
The auction, which currently has five days to run, will see the winning bidder receive one of the rarest singles ever released.
“The highest bidder will get the lathe-cut 7” single, plus a certificate of authenticity signed by the band. And maybe some free badges,” laughs Huw, “We pressed five copies of the single – the band has one each and there’s this one copy for sale. The song is also available on Bandcamp for £1, so it’s the bit of plastic that’s exclusive, not the actual music.”
Formed in lockdown, the band came together as part of a collaborative process, explains Huw.
“Rob ( Pursey) who is married to Amelia ( Talulah gosh / Heavenly ) who appeared on three Pooh sticks albums had been threatening to send me a song he’d written which he thought was a bit Pooh sticks, so it all came together during the first lockdown. And one song soon became a handful.
“2020 will not be remembered as a vintage year for sure, but I’m just thankful to have made it through in one piece,” he adds. “I survived lockdown by posting pictures of toads, butterflies and hedgehogs on Instagram like many others.”
Swansea Sound will have a new single out in March being released simultaneously in the UK, US and Japan called ‘Indies of the world ‘ with an album to follow in the autumn.