The Ex-Lion Tamers and Wire- the amazing story via cassette

7 Jan

You may (or may not) have heard the story; it’d actually be the premise for an amusing film: a band-obsessed rock critic forms his own band to cover his idols’ first album, and tours the USA opening for said idols playing that album. The Ex-Lion Tamers’ were Jim DeRogatis’ version of that story, and Wire is the article herein covered. 1987 was the year, and The Ex-Lion Tamers perfected a live version of Wire’s “Pink Flag”LP, playing the entire album in order in every worthy venue in the USA on Wire’s Summer “comeback” tour. Wire at that point had moved onto a new sound, but their perverse sense of humor showed a bit by allowing The Ex-Lion Tamers the opening slot on the tour. And what a great idea! This would placate anyone in the audience expecting the “old” Wire of ten years previous, and- let’s face it- The Ex-Lion Tamers did a better job performing “Pink Flag’ in 1987 than anyone could ever expect Wire to perform it. So- it worked perfectly. The Ex-Lion Tamers introduced their set with two words: “Side One”, and intersected the set with “Side Two” in the middle. This was truly the sign of men accustomed to a vinyl LP instead of a CD. I’m not sure Wire CDs were even available in 1987!
I also have the original studio demo that the ELTs submitted to Wire early in 1987, which got the whole idea flowing. I’ll include the entire session at a later date when I document my master tape collection. It was intended to be released on a 7″ EP which never materialized, and has been sitting in the can ever since.

Colin and Graham discussing The Ex-Lion Tamers on WNYU radio:

6-20-87 at The Cabaret Metro, Chicago:

“Ex-Lion Tamer”

“Pink Flag”


To make the whole tale even more interesting, The Ex-Lion Tamers re-grouped a few months later in November of 1987 at the now-legendary venue Maxwell’s in Hoboken to perform ONLY ONCE the entire “Chairs Missing” LP in its entirety! The only words uttered from the stage at this show? “Side Three” at the beginning . “Side Four” at the halfway point.

11-15-87 Maxwell’s, Hoboken, New Jersey:

“Practice Makes Perfect”


“From the Nursery”

I have a recording of Wire and The Ex-Lion Tamers onstage together at First Avenue performing a large-group rendition of The Modern Lover’s “Roadrunner”. Alas, the audio isn’t up to snuff, sorry.

Side Note: One thing I can say about Wire that amazes me: I saw them around ten years ago, they played a fantastically blistering set at First Avenue. I loved the performance, but -get this- they only played ONE SONG that I knew. How many bands can come back from the dead and satisfy without “rolling out the hits”? I’d expect that list is short enouugh to include a four-letter name only : Wire.

Thanks again to Jim DeRogatis for providing me this magical tape and letting me tell the story via cassette


2 Responses to “The Ex-Lion Tamers and Wire- the amazing story via cassette”

  1. Paul September 6, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

    Wire are awesome… Off to see them on the 23th Sept!

    • Jim Testa June 19, 2018 at 4:01 pm #

      Awesome to find this stuff online. That second Wire show was for a Jersey Beat benefit. The Lion Tamers headlined. The opening band were these two kids I thought were funny at the time named Ween. I wonder whatever happened to them?

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