Here’s the fifth part in our list of bands that changed our lives. These are more than just our favourite bands, these are bands that altered how we think about music and provided the soundtrack to our lives. To see the other bands previously featured in this series click here.
Part 5 – The Wedding Present
Some people will see this article and be surprised at The Wedding Present as a choice for a landmark band, to many they will represent the mundanity of pre-Madchester indie. To a 15 year old fledgling alternative music obsessive in 1987 they represented something more, the first new British indie act to grab me in my teenage years.
Formed in 1985 by David Gedge and Keith Gregory, from the ashes of their first band the Lost Pandas, the line-up was completed by Peter Solowka and Shaun Charman. This line-up would record a handful of singles and Peel sessions (the band recorded 9 sessions with the DJ) ,released in 1988 as Tommy, and their classic debut album George Best.
George Best was my first encounter with the band and soon became my favourite album of my mid-teens. The Wedding present were seen as second rate to The Smiths in the indie-hierarchy, but to me they were the superior band in every way. I love The Smiths now, but as a teenager in the south of England they said little to me. I wasn’t interested in Morrissey’s fey approach or his poetic references, Gedge’s tales of wet bus stops, disappointment and girl troubles said a lot more to a 15 year old who was just discovering girls and the complications that brought.
The bands time on the major label RCA was a brilliant period which produced the bands two best albums and saw the band going from creative strength to creative strength. Bizarro showed an increasingly abrasive edge to the bands frenzied guitars and spawned their first top 40 hits. ‘Brassneck’ was released as a single and rerecorded with Steve Albini, who would oversee the follow-up album Seamonsters, beating PJ Harvey and Nirvana to recording with the Big Black legend. The B-side to the single included a cover off the Pavement song ‘Box Elder’ some 8 years before Blur picked them up as an influence in the wake of Brit-pop.
I saw the band live several times in the late 80s and early 90s and they were never less than excellent. Gedge a dry witted and understated front man and the sets full throttle and filled with crowd pleasing favourites. Even the band’s trademark refusal to play and encore added to the enjoyment of the live show.
The Wedding Present had a landmark contract with RCA, it not only meant they could work with any producer or their choosing but also meant that if the label rejected any of their singles they could choose to release it with any other label. As a result the label didn’t resist their decision to release a single a month for the whole of 1992, which were later released on the Hit Parade 1 and 2 compilations. This proved to be a good move as the band equalled Elvis’s record of having 12 top 30 hits in a single year, despite each single being limited to 10,000 copies. One of my regrets is only picking up three of the singles, my record buying at the time being at the mercy of the stock in the Our Price on Eltham high street, and missing out on the inventive cover art and interesting cover versions on each b-side.
With the release of Watusi in 1994 (the first album by the band to only feature Gedge from the original line-up) I had started to lose interest in the band. In retrospect this was a mistake as that album stands up as one the bands best (and demands a reissue) but as a fickle indie kid I had moved on to other acts. After a few releases were ignored by the record buying public Gedge joined me and brought the band to a close to focus on his new act Cinerama.
Cinerama pulled me back in, they were basically the same band but with less of the drab indie reputation that The Wedding Present had established over time. After a string of excellent albums Gedge reverted back to the Wedding Present moniker to release Take Fountain in 2005.
The band continue to this day, playing gigs, releasing records and running mini-festivals in Brighton and Holmfirth. they deserve to be remembered as one of the great British bands of the last 30 years and David Gedge held up alongside Morrissey as one of the great lyricists and songwriters.
Ten Wedding Present Tracks To Check Out:
- You Should Always Keep in Touch With Your Friends
- My Favourite Dress
- I’m Not Always So Stupid
- Sports car
- I’m From Further North Than You
And for a selection of songs listen to this Spotify playlist. (Only live tracks are available on Spotify from the pre-Bizarro era, and the albums towards the end of band first time around aren’t present).
By Dorian Rogers