Wasps

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The Wasps are a classic "here today, gone tomorrow" band of Britain's 1977 punk wave, occupying a nether region alongside second-stringers like the Cortinas, Drones, and Suburban Studs. The quartet managed…
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The Wasps are a classic "here today, gone tomorrow" band of Britain's 1977 punk wave, occupying a nether region alongside second-stringers like the Cortinas, Drones, and Suburban Studs. The quartet managed just two singles and two compilation track appearances during its abbreviated lifetime. What's more, they lacked a central London address to provide them with instant street credibility; guitarist Gary Wellman, vocalist Jesse Lynn-Dean, drummer John Rich, and bassist Steve Wollaston hailed from the capital city's less glamorous borough of Walthamstow. However, they were teenage regulars to the Roxy, and felt sufficiently aroused by what was happening there to form a band.

Fourplay Records issued the Wasps' debut effort in November 1977; "She Made Magic"/"Teenage Treats" is generally rated as a classic one-off single of the era. The Wasps next appeared on December 1977's Live at the Vortex compilation, which followed similar affairs taped at the Roxy and CBGB's. The band contributed a breathless (and presciently titled) original, "Can't Wait 'Til '78," and a suitably jittery romp through the Velvet Underground's "Waiting for My Man," which became an obligatory cover. (Eater, Slaughter & the Dogs, and the U.K. Subs quickly followed with their own versions.)

Music writers panned the album as reheated punk leftovers, which aroused a passionately defensive letter from Lynn-Dean himself. The stunt kept the band in print and bought time to ponder its future, which became clearer in March 1978. A feature in Sounds showed the Wasps attired in three-piece suits, which seemed to suggest a distancing from their slam-bang punk roots. The band had also acquired its own PR man in Giovanni Dadomo, one of the first journalists to chronicle the punk scene.

With "proper" management -- and a new look -- on their side, the Wasps couldn't be judged on image alone, Lynn-Dean assured readers. But the public heard nothing more until February 1979, when RCA issued the single "Rubber Cars"/"This Time." Only Wellman and Lynn-Dean remained from the already-hoary 1977 era, while lead guitarist Neil Fitch, drummer Tiam Grant, and bassist David Owen completed the lineup.

The single made no impact on a market turning toward power pop and post-punk; not surprisingly, the band disowned it, and split up, although Lynn-Dean briefly tried to keep the name afloat with three new members. In the end, the band may have lost its initial momentum by spending seven months in the studio (and off the gigging circuit so critical to building a fan base at the time). Bootleggers filled the gaps until Overground's long-awaited Punkyronics reissue appeared in the summer of 2003. None of the former Wasps are musically active today.