Formation and early years: 1982-1987
The quartet formed at Clydebank High School in Clydebank, Scotland, in 1982, under the name Vortex Motion. "It was either crime, the dole, football, or music - and we chose music," said Tommy Cunningham.
Graeme Clark and Cunningham met on the school bus and became close friends. Mutual friend Neil Mitchell, prompted by his pals' positive attitude, promised to supply keyboards when he could scrape together enough money from his paper round. To complete the quartet, Clark approached Mark McLachlan, who at the time was training to be a painter and decorator. He said, "At break we all went behind the kitchen for a fly smoke, and there in the corner was this quiet kid who said very little, but when he sang, everyone listened." It was sometime in 1983 that Graeme Duffin joined Wet Wet Wet. He was previously in a 1970s Glasgow-based band called New Celeste, who produced three albums before they broke up. The band combined folk, rock and jazz players.
With the line-up complete, rehearsals took place in Mrs. Clark's kitchen. They rehearsed for about two years, because they didn't have much material to work with. Soon afterwards, the band changed their name to Wet Wet Wet, a title they took from the Scritti Politti song, Getting Having and Holding, and McLachlan changed his name to stage name "Marti Pellow".
David Bates signed the band to PolyGram in 1985. One of the first demos they did was "Wishing I Was Lucky". When the band took the demo to Bates in late 1986, he discarded it as a poor effort. The band decided at this point that they could no longer work with him. Six months later, the single was released, and it reached number six in the UK singles chart. "I was in a queue in a chip shop in Glasgow when it came on Radio Clyde," Cunningham remembers. "I felt like shouting to everybody, 'That's me and my mates!' It was an incredible feeling I've not forgotten." The parent album, Popped In Souled Out, also became a hit and produced three more hit singles, namely "Sweet Little Mystery", "Temptation", and "Angel Eyes". They also supported Lionel Richie on his UK tour. Commercial success: 1988-1996
In 1988, the Wets scored their first Number 1 hit with a cover version of the Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends", recorded for the charity ChildLine. Another Beatles song, "She's Leaving Home", was equally-billed on the flip side, performed by Billy Bragg. In the same year, an album - entitled The Memphis Sessions - was released from their spell in the USA prior to hitting the big time.
The following year the band released their third album, Holding Back the River, which was also a success and produced the hit single "Sweet Surrender". The album was well-received, relying more on strings and other classical arrangements. At the end of 1989, Pellow appeared on the Band Aid II charity single.
In 1992, the band released a fourth studio album, entitled High on the Happy Side, which spawned the Number 1 hit single "Goodnight Girl" - the only self-penned chart-topping single they have had to date. The song proved something of a saviour, as the previous two releases from the album had failed in the singles charts, although the album sold well. In total, five singles were released from it. The following day saw the release of a special-edition album, Cloak & Dagger released under the alias "Maggie Pie & The Impostors". "Maggie Pie" was Marti Pellow, and the "impostors" were (on album cover, clockwise from top left) Neil Mitchell, Graeme Duffin, Tommy Cunningham, and Graeme Clark.
The band's first greatest-hits package, End of Part One, was released towards the end of 1993. The eighteen-song selection included "Shed a Tear" and "Cold Cold Heart", which were recorded especially for the album and released as singles.
In 1994, Wet Wet Wet had their biggest hit, a cover version of the Troggs single "Love Is All Around", which was a huge international success and spent fifteen weeks atop the British charts. The week before it could have equalled the record for the longest-standing Number 1 single, held by Bryan Adams' "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You", Pellow insisted on its deletion (he was bored with its chart domination and overheard people complaining about it). However, it would not have broken the record, only tied it, as there were still enough copies in the shops to be bought as the song slipped to #2 the week after its deletion. In any event, it remained in the Top 40 for the remainder of the year. "Love Is All Around" was used on the soundtrack to the film Four Weddings and a Funeral. In the official UK best-selling singles list issued in 2002, it was placed 12th. The song also featured on the 1995 album Picture This, their sixth, which also spawned the hit single "Julia Says". The album, although well received by critics, would ultimately live in the shadow of "Love Is All Around".
In 1995, the Wets became the shirt sponsors of their hometown football club, Clydebank. Subsequent releases and break-up activities: 1997-2003
During the rest of the 1990s the band maintained a strong UK following, although success in the singles charts became more sporadic. Their seventh studio album, 1997's 10, celebrated the group's decade at the top.
After the tour in support of 10, things turned sour over a dispute about royalty-sharing. Revenue from the group's songwriting had been a four-way equal split. Cunningham turned up for what he thought was a routine band meeting, only to discover the real reason was that the other three members wanted to revise the policy, paying the drummer a lesser amount. Cunningham quit the group, later forming The Sleeping Giants.
In 1999 Pellow also quit the band, to focus on getting himself healthy again after succumbing to a debilitating alcohol and heroin addiction. Pellow succeeded in kicking his habits, and returned to the public eye in 2001 with his debut solo album, Smile. Reformation: 2004-present
In March 2004, the band cautiously reformed in order to work on an eighth album. A single entitled "All I Want" was released in November 2004 from the band's second Greatest Hits, released a week later. They undertook a successful tour of the UK the following month.
In July 2005, Wet Wet Wet played at the Summer Weekender festival in England, and were one of the headline acts at Live 8 Edinburgh in Scotland. In September 2006, The Mail on Sunday gave away, over two consecutive weekends, two CDs of live performances by the Wets, with ten songs in each volume. Graeme Duffin featured on guitar, while Dave Phillips (bass), Paul Spong (trumpet), Neil Sidwell (trombone) and Jamie Talboy (saxophone) also assisted.
On 31 December 2006, Wet Wet Wet were the headline act for Aberdeen's Hogmanay celebrations when the celebrations in all other Scottish cities was held off because of strong winds and heavy rain. They performed thirteen songs in an hour-long set.
A single, "Too Many People", was released on 5 November 2007, and its parent album, Timeless, on 12 November. These preceded a sold-out December tour, a taste of which was given at their Newmarket concert in August. In preparation for the tour, the band also announced that they will be playing two intimate dates at zavvi stores in Glasgow and London in November. "Weightless", the second single from the album, was released on 4 February and charted at Number 10, giving them their first top-ten hit in eleven years.
In March 2012, it was announced that the band would perform its first concert in over five years, at Glasgow Green on 20 July, to celebrate their 25th anniversary of the release of their debut album, Popped In, Souled Out.