Wreckless Eric came out of the UK pub-rock scene in the mid-70s. He was one of the first artists signed to Stiff Records, an independent label that helped kick off punk and new wave with acts like Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, and Ian Dury & The Blockheads.
(Billing themselves as “The World’s Most Flexible Record Label,” Stiff gained fame with their irreverent marketing and slogans. They also took risks. In 1976, they released “New Rose” by The Damned, generally acknowledged as the first punk single.)
Known for bashing out super-simple rock & roll tunes with a punky, anyone-can-make-music attitude, Wreckless Eric released his first single, “(I’d Go The) Whole Wide World,” in the fall of 1977. It wasn’t a hit, but the two-chord song about going the lengths of the world to find love on a tropical isle proved popular with underground radio and became his signature tune.
Eric developed a boozy reputation, and his live performances became increasingly marked by drunken lunacy. Much to his increasing displeasure, Stiff Records encouraged and promoted this behavior since audiences seemed to like the court jester image.
He also found that as the label grew with success, they began strongly pushing commercialism over art — and over people — as most companies eventually do, but it didn’t quite jibe with their original identity. Eric decided he’d had enough.
After dropping the “Wreckless” moniker, Eric Goulden retreated out of the limelight. He got himself clean and sober, played solo and with a number of lesser-known bands, and continues releasing records on small, independent labels to this day. Having established a career that better suited his art and his sanity, Eric became Wreckless once again — but this time, in name only.