Category Archives: The Mouthcast

THE WEDDING PRESENT : GEORGE BEST AT 30

THE WEDDING PRESENT’S 1987 DEBUT ALBUM GEORGE BEST WAS, ESSENTIALLY, A NORTHERN KITCHEN-SINK DRAMA. ITS TWELVE SONGS PROFFERED VARIOUS ANGLES OF OBSERVATION ON ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS, WITH LYRICIST DAVID GEDGE OFTEN FOCUSING IN ON THE MUNDANE AND SEEMINGLY INSIGNIFICANT TO REVEAL THE BIGGER PICTURE…

Married to highly melodic, frantic and sometimes furious guitar, Gedge’s eye for detail and ear for a fantastic, often dry, turn of phrase ensured that the album existed fully and confidently within its own unique world. Though it succeeded on the UK’s mainstream chart (a by-product, perhaps, of the success of The Smiths and to a degree The Housemartins, and the burgeoning ‘crossover’ of indie music) GEORGE BEST remains the very definition of an enduring ‘cult classic’. Back in 2007, while recording the EL REY album at Steve Albini’s studio in Chicago, Gedge (and the then line-up of The Wedding Present) took the opportunity to quickly re-record the songs that make up the album. That recording has recently been released to celebrate the original record’s thirtieth anniversary – and in this new in-depth edition of The Mouthcast, Gedge talks about both versions of GEORGE BEST…

Further down the page are new interviews with Richard Houghton, the curator of SOMETIMES THESE WORDS JUST DON’T HAVE TO BE SAID (a recently published book about The Wedding Present) and Andrew Jezard, the director of SOMETHING LEFT BEHIND (a forthcoming documentary about the GEORGE BEST album)… 

Order GEORGE BEST 30 here

SOMETIMES THESE WORDS JUST DON’T HAVE TO BE SAID is a semi-official new book about The Wedding Present. Curated by long-time listener Richard Houghton, overseen by David Gedge and featuring lengthy contributions from him, it compiles fan memories alongside plenty of context. A reasonably detailed history of the band emerges from frontman and former members, and there are many previously unseen photos from Gedge’s personal archive to give just enough of a glimpse behind the curtain. Some of the fan stories can be trite, some ridiculous, some deeply nostalgic, some funny, and some very very sad. Reading these accounts is never dull or repetitious, and the combined effect of them produces an utterly charming view of how The Wedding Present holds a unique and often central position for many people (none more so than for David Gedge himself). In essence, all who contribute repeat varying degrees of “The Wedding Present has been the soundtrack to my life”… In this new interview with The Mouth Magazine, Richard Houghton talks about the book…

YOUR MOTIVATION FOR DOING THE BOOK – WHAT WAS THAT? 
I’d already started work on a book about the Rolling Stones, collecting memories from fans who’d seen them in the 1960s, in order to try and tell the band’s story from the fan’s perspective. I wanted to do that to capture the recollections of people who saw the Stones over fifty years ago and who might have stories that hadn’t been told before. In doing so, it occurred to me that the same format would work for any band.

THE PROCESS OF STARTING IT, AND GETTING IT ALL TOGETHER…
I got talking to David about it at his AT THE EDGE OF THE SEA festival in Brighton in 2015. When David said he was interested in the idea, the appeal was posted on The Wedding Present’s Facebook page and emailed out to everyone on their database and people started in get in touch. Then it was just a case of collating the material and editing as necessary.

YOU MUST FEEL LIKE A SORT OF ‘CURATOR’ OF ALL THESE WONDERFUL MOMENTS – SOME OF THEM VERY HAPPY, AND SOME OF THEM VERY SAD… HOW DOES THAT FEEL FOR YOU, THAT PEOPLE HAVE SHARED THIS STUFF WITH YOU?
I’m touched that people were willing to share such personal stuff, and it’s a real sign of just how much people feel a personal connection with the band, and what their music means to them, that they did so. There were some quite heart wrenching stories, but the band have fans who’ve followed them for over thirty years, and a lot can happen to people in thirty years – births, marriages and deaths. More than one person called their music “the soundtrack to my life”, and I think that’s a reflection of how David’s lyrics often nail an emotion or a particular situation that many of us have found ourselves in. A simple example: “Why do you catch my eye then turn away?” (the opening lyric to EVERYONE THINKS HE LOOKS DAFT), manages to convey so much in just one line.

IT’S VERY INTERESTING THAT GEDGE HIMSELF WAS INVOLVED IN THE BOOK. DID YOU FIND HIM TO BE SURPRISED BY THE STORIES? I WOULD IMAGINE HE HAS HEARD THOUSANDS OF TIMES HOW MUCH THE BAND MEANS TO PEOPLE – BUT IT’S A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT WHEN IT’S ALL DOWN ON PAPER. IT’S PERMANENT AND IT’S COMMITTED… SO HE MUST HAVE BEEN VERY TOUCHED…
David was heavily involved and read several versions of the manuscript, proposing edits and additions. He gave me access to his personal archive of photographs and other memorabilia. He also, of course, contributed a fair amount of the text as well as putting me in touch with various former band members, producers and celebrity fans. It’s not just the stories being on paper – there’s around four hundred people expressing their love of the band and the music and remembering an acerbic comment that David made to them twenty-something years ago and which has stayed with them forever. So I think he was genuinely touched – but also slightly overwhelmed by the outpouring of affection.

WAS HE SUPPORTIVE OF YOUR ORIGINAL VISION, OR DID YOU DISCUSS IT AND AGREE TO GO A CERTAIN WAY? I ASK THIS IN REFERENCE TO THE FACT THAT THE BOOK IS HALF HISTORY, HALF MEMORY… IT’S A BIOGRAPHY WITH A LOT OF COMMENT OR, IF YOU LIKE, COMMENT WITH A GREAT DEAL OF ‘OFFICIAL CONTEXT’…
The original idea was for it to be just fan memories, with perhaps a few lines from David here and there to give the book a wider appeal than just to the fans whose stories were in the book. But then David suggested contacting bands he’d worked with, such as acts that had appeared at his AT THE EDGE OF THE SEA festival. Then I suggested including producers and former band members, and then he name dropped a few celebrity fans that we both agreed might make the book more entertaining (sadly, a couple of the big names who we thought would contribute made encouraging noises but didn’t come up with anything in time). And then he wanted to add a bit more context, and so he added in more material than he’d originally committed to. So the book ended up being a lot bigger than originally planned.

SOME OF THAT CONTEXT IS AMAZING. THERE ARE SOME GREAT ‘NEW’ INSIGHTS, PARTICULARLY ABOUT THE EARLY DAYS OF THE BAND. THERE’S ALSO THIS SENSE OF THE BAND HAVING ‘ALWAYS BEEN THERE’ FOR THE LAST THIRTY YEARS – EVEN IF ONLY IN THE MARGINS OF THE SUCCESS OF OTHER BANDS. I THINK THE WEDDING PRESENT IS OFTEN OVERLOOKED IN THE GRAND SCHEME OF THINGS… WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?
There’s a story in the book, from around the time they were first being fêted by John Peel, of a photo session for the NME. They asked the photographer “Why are you interested in us?”… They’ve always avoided the spotlight. David says he doesn’t write songs for anyone else, only for himself – and perhaps because he hasn’t chased commercial success, he’s not attracted the fan-base that he deserves. Someone at the Cadogan Hall show this October said she’d discovered The Wedding Present only after she became a Cinerama fan, so she didn’t know about the GEORGE BEST album to begin with. I think it’s great that people are still discovering their music even now. And I loved the story in the book from someone who saw The Wedding Present in Stourbridge just a few years ago and thought it must be a tribute band and that it couldn’t possibly be the real thing.

FOR YOU PERSONALLY, WHAT’S THE APPEAL OF THE WEDDING PRESENT? WHERE DO THEY STAND IN YOUR LIFE?
I’m the same age as David Gedge, give or take a month, and I grew up listening to punk and heavy metal. But, although I was an avid NME reader during my twenties, I didn’t go and see lots of fashionable bands, and The Smiths never floated my boat. But I was introduced to The Wedding Present by my best friend, who had GEORGE BEST constantly on his turntable when I went round to his flat, so there was no escaping them really. As to where they stand in my life, my other half is a fan of The Wedding Present and we met through work. I was intrigued when she told me she was going to Amsterdam with a man who wasn’t her husband to watch a band she said I wouldn’t have heard of. She was quite impressed when I guessed who it was she had tickets for.

THE WEDDING PRESENT RECENTLY ISSUED A RE-RECORDED VERSION OF THE GEORGE BEST ALBUM. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE ORIGINAL VERSION, AND WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE NEW VERSION – NOT JUST THE RECORDING, BUT THE IDEA ITSELF..?
The re-recorded version was done about ten years ago and I think they should have released it then rather than hanging onto it for a decade. I don’t have a problem with any group re-recording, re-releasing or re-mastering stuff, especially if they feel they can improve on what went before. After all, doesn’t everyone do that nowadays? And, as David says in the book, he wasn’t happy with the sound of GEORGE BEST at the time. However, it’s not my favourite album by The Wedding Present. I’d put SEAMONSTERS (1991) and VALENTINA (2012) ahead of GEORGE BEST. But if I was going to listen to GEORGE BEST, I’d turn to the original album rather than the re-recorded version or the live version.

WHY DO YOU THINK GEORGE BEST HOLDS SUCH APPEAL FOR PEOPLE, DESPITE THAT ‘BETTER’ WORK LATER ON?
It is the first album by The Wedding Present and for many people, it will be the album they were listening to when they first met someone, first fell in love, first broke up with someone they were serious about. David takes them through all those emotions on GEORGE BEST. The album represents a moment in time and, for people of a certain age, it’s a time they’d happily go back to if they could…

Order SOMETIMES THESE WORDS JUST DON’T HAVE TO BE SAID here

 

SOMETHING LEFT BEHIND is a semi-official new documentary feature about the early days of The Wedding Present and the legacy of the GEORGE BEST album. Produced and directed by Andrew Jezard, with full cooperation from David Gedge, the film looks back to The Wedding Present’s early days, and tracks the genesis of their debut album. From the streets, pubs and rehearsal rooms of LS6, Leeds, to the record’s status as an enduring ‘indie classic’, SOMETHING LEFT BEHIND is …

YOUR MOTIVATION FOR DOING THE FILM – WHAT WAS THAT? 
This film has existed (in my mind at least) for about eleven years now. In fact I’ve just gone back to the exact spot where it really all began, to film a crowd-funding video. It was on the away terrace at Yeovil Town Football Club on a cold Tuesday night that I found out that Shaun Charman was in fact the drummer for The Wedding Present in those early days. Until then he’d just been an acquaintance through our mutual support of Brighton & Hove Albion. The football was so bad that we spent the entire second half chatting about music. Later we went on to exchange mix CDs, with Shaun educating me about the alternative ’80s scene and me supplying the latest demos of up and coming contemporary bands of that time. I film stuff for a living and had additionally made a few shorts and music promos but was looking for something to do on a bigger scale. I was aware of The Wedding Present and, after Shaun’s revelation, began to research potential angles for a documentary. A year later we both attended the University of London Union date of the GEORGE BEST twentieth anniversary tour, and on that night I decided that this album was definitely the story to tell. I was amazed by the fan-base who very clearly had been there the first time round in 1987 – and, seemingly for one night only, were transported back to their youth. With this film I didn’t want to just put out a straightforward ‘making of’ account of GEORGE BEST. I thought this particular album and story deserved more than that. I wrote this documentary structure very much as a love story, with all the emotions and turmoil that brings with it. The lyrics themselves, the way people connect with the album and the reasons that people still hold it dear so many years later all feed into this narrative.

WHAT HAS DAVID GEDGE’S INVOLVEMENT BEEN?
David has been very cooperative from the start. He’s a documentarian’s dream in many ways because he’s kept an almost encyclopaedic record of the band’s history, through both personal spreadsheets and archive material including magazines, tape recordings and early videos. I was nervous pitching the idea to him last December but very relieved when he said “yes”. Making a film about this album in particular has been intriguing as GEORGE BEST is a very personal album for David – but also one that he is on record as saying is his least favourite recording. I’m certain that he realises the importance of the album, and even has a soft spot for it, but he’s obviously a much more accomplished musician these days and wants to be judged on what he considers better records – which is fair enough. I guess we rarely create our greatest work first time out and when people do they’re written off as one-hit wonders. Listening through old John Peel sessions and watching the guys mess around on video whilst touring Europe in the late ’80s really helps to bring the era to life and I feel lucky that this stuff has all been kept. I should also mention that I’m extremely grateful to the rest of the current line-up of the band, who have put up with me in various dressing rooms and gigs over the course of this year and been nothing but welcoming. It has been a real privilege to be around such a talented band.

YOU’VE FILMED ALL OVER THE PLACE – MOST NOTABLY LEEDS… HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO GO BACK TO THE ROOTS OF GEORGE BEST?
Leeds is so important to this album because it’s where the original line-up formed and where these recordings were rehearsed, developed, played live and, in the case of the drum parts, even recorded. A lot of the streets also witnessed the tales that are so earnestly recounted in the lyrics and I’ve gathered memories of those events from both sides of the story, which has been very enlightening. We were in Leeds to film what turned into a fascinating interview with guitarist Peter Solowka but also visited and filmed all the houses, rehearsal spaces and pubs that the guys frequented in the relatively narrow confines of LS6 during the mid to late ’80s. The importance of these locations to the album is an essential part of the mythology of it all. The documentary has also taken me all over the country as well as to Australia to catch up with the original bassist, Keith Gregory. That was a particularly welcome interview as Keith was – and is – notoriously reticent about doing any media related stuff. I was extremely grateful as it was so important to hear the opinions of all four of the original members. I also have Amelia Fletcher lined up who sang backing vocals, to complete the artist side of the story. There are many, many more interviews that have been captured, as well as the recollections of so many fans who’ve shared their love for the album. Australia also saw an interview with someone who pretty much inspired the entire album – but I will hold a few details back, for now, about the full cast…

FOR YOU PERSONALLY, WHAT’S THE APPEAL OF THE WEDDING PRESENT? WHERE DO THEY STAND IN YOUR LIFE?
Born as I was in 1980, I was just about to turn seven when GEORGE BEST was released – so it wasn’t immediately a part of my musical consciousness. Despite obviously also missing The Smiths I was fortunate to encounter them at a fairly young age through the influence of a friend’s much older brother. It was probably the one mark of credibility in our formative years! The twentieth anniversary tour of GEORGE BEST really opened my eyes to the whole catalogue of The Wedding Present. After attending that ULU gig I probably listened to GEORGE BEST more than is healthy, but also delved into the full repertoire of David Gedge and the band. That’s continued to this day. Whilst the newer stuff is a lot more rounded, GEORGE BEST is still undeniably quality songwriting and the GEORGE BEST live shows continue to impress me with the current quintet. Some of the instrumental tracks are amazing too, such as on the recent EP HOME INTERNATIONALS. And the band with added keyboards, choir and orchestra at Cadogan Hall recently was an awesome spectacle. As for GEORGE BEST, I’ll always hold it particularly dear. The lyrics are so identifiable regardless of which year you first happen across them and they’ll always bring back certain memories and emotions for me – just as they seemingly do for so many people.

THE WEDDING PRESENT RECENTLY ISSUED A RE-RECORDED VERSION OF THE GEORGE BEST ALBUM. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE ORIGINAL VERSION, AND WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE NEW VERSION – NOT JUST THE RECORDING, BUT THE IDEA ITSELF..?
I see this film as very much about the whole lifespan of the GEORGE BEST record and, to that end, the re-recorded album is obviously a part of that story. It seems to have been well received and is obviously something that David has always wanted to ‘put right’ from the first time around. To me it sounds a lot closer to the way you’ll hear the album performed live these days. With that in mind, to me it does seem a shame that it isn’t actually the current line-up that made the recording. Seeing them play GEORGE BEST live so many times this year has never failed to impress. I don’t necessarily agree that there’s anything ‘wrong’ with the original version. It’s the sound of young guys making their first LP and that in itself brings a rawness that I’m often attracted to on record. I still remember a swathe of demos from mid 2000s bands that I loved and which drove me to see the bands live – only to then be disappointed by somewhat watered-down versions of the tracks on their very lush sounding debut albums. It was also the reason I loved the roughness of the recordings coming out of LA and San Francisco bands of that period. I can also appreciate the desire and need to raise production values for something that will be on record for ever – and this is something discussed in interviews with the original line-up, about the recording process for GEORGE BEST.

WHY DO YOU THINK GEORGE BEST HOLDS SUCH APPEAL FOR PEOPLE, DESPITE THAT ‘BETTER’ WORK LATER ON?
Music is such a powerful driver of memories. So many moments of my life carry with them a soundtrack. This album with its everyday, extremely relatable, lyrics about the breakdown of a relationship make it almost impossible to listen to without allowing feelings of loss, regret or nostalgia to creep in. It’s human nature to cling on to or yearn for some part of your youth, as it is always out of reach. For people who encountered the GEORGE BEST album first time around it was obviously very easy to connect with and therefore will always serve as a reminder of those youthful days. I’ve had so many people tell me that they can see themselves in the stories that David weaves. The ferocity of the guitars and the heartfelt lyrics just heighten these emotions and you can almost see it all come flooding back in the eyes of the current crowds when David walks forward to the mic and bellows “Oh why do you…?”… With the passing of time it seems to serve as a direct link to a part of people that has maybe gone but certainly not been forgotten during the intervening years and I now include myself amongst those compelled by it in this way. It’s one of the main reasons I chose to use the lyrics I did for the film title. It may be SOMETHING LEFT BEHIND, but that doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten it or miss what it represents.

HOW CAN PEOPLE SUPPORT THE FILM?
People can follow at the film’s website and also through social media. Spreading the word or just saying “hi” is much appreciated, as it’s always good to be reminded that the interest is out there. Up to this point the film has been entirely self-funded. I’m fortunate that I film things for my day job so I had access to decent camera kit, lenses and lights. However there are some very hefty costs on the horizon that I’ll need help with in order to get this story finished and distributed in the way that it deserves. This includes negotiating the music rights that David doesn’t own, and that are obviously integral to the film. To that end I’m about to launch a crowdfunding campaign. There’ll be a number of rewards for people who wish to donate and hopefully these will be attractive to fans. Any contribution no matter how big or small will be enormously welcome and will go solely into the finishing of the film and securing the widest distribution possible. Filming is scheduled to wrap in December, and then there’ll be a twelve week period of post-production, with the film slated for release in March 2018. Initially that will be in theatres and at festival screenings – but a DVD and digital release will follow… After all the hard work, long-distance travel and late nights I’m still incredibly excited about the film and look forward to sharing it with everyone early next year…

Support SOMETHING LEFT BEHIND here