The Wedding Present
The Wedding Present
Indie rock group
Since the late-1980s, the British pop band the Wedding Present, with its ever-shifting lineup, has been primarily the creative outlet for singer/songwriter/guitarist David Gedge, known for his idiosyncratic vocal style and lovelorn, conversation-like lyrics. “Love songs are the ideal pop form,” Gedge, who grew up a fan of the Beatles in Yorkshire, England, told Brendan Farrington of the Patriot Ledger in 1996. “I’ve tried to write about other stuff, like science fiction, and I always come back to love songs…. It’s my forte.” In addition to the Beatles, Gedge also claimed the Monkees and the Velvet Underground as early influences, although musically, the latter of the two bands had the most profound effect on the songwriter’s own creations. But while Gedge’s tunes relied on a heavy-guitar sound ranging from almost-punk to gritty pop, they nonetheless revealed the musician’s penchant for writing lyrics about break-ups, unreciprocated love, unfaithful relationships, and at times the pure joy of falling in love.
Similar to the Smiths, the Jam, the Beatles, Joy Division, and other imaginative bands who preceded them, the Wedding Present became a part of England, an outfit that resonated a renewed sense of musical nationalism in addition to popular tunes. Despite fame in their homeland and charting numerous singles in the United Kingdom, the Wedding Present remained under-appreciated in the United States, kept alive stateside mainly by college radio listeners even without significant airplay. Nevertheless, Gedge felt appreciative of the band’s American following, regardless of its small size. “We’re like a cult band over here,” Gedge said to Farrington. “(Fans) are very loyal as well. There are loads of people that have every record that you ever made, and they travel around to see you.” Likewise, Gedge took the Wedding Present’s membership changes in stride. “Actually, I’m glad about all the changes. Change is good,” he revealed in an interview with Pieter Hoffmann of Drop-D magazine in 1996. “We’ve had a lot of good players come through the band and that keeps the sound fresh, I believe. With all that diversity, we tend not to put out the same old album every time.”
Along with original band members Peter Solowka on guitar, Keith Gregory on bass, and Shaun Charman on drums, Dave Gedge founded the Wedding Present (later dubbed the Weddoes by faithful fans) in 1985 in Leeds, England. Emerging around the same time the Smiths, the U.K.’s most successful indie-pop band of the 1980s, disbanded, the Wedding Present was conveniently poised to take over and fill the cultural void. They became an immediate success, especially among university students, thanks to numerous live shows. The foursome’s catchy, offhand songs, and the patronage of influential DJ John Peel, who cut the Wedding Present’s first radio
Members include Darren Belk (joined band in 1993; left band in 1996), bass, guitar; Shaun Charman (left band in 1988), drums; Simon Cleave (joined band in 1996), guitar; Paul Dorrington (joined band in 1991; left band in 1995), guitar; David Gedge (formed side project called Cinerama c. 1998), vocals, guitar; Keith Gregory (left band in 1993), bass; Hugh Kelly (joined band in 1995; left band in 1996), drums; Jayne Lockley (joined band in 1995), bass, vocals; Simon Smith (joined band in 1988), drums; Peter Solowka (left band in 1991 to form the Ukrainians), guitar.
Founded band in 1985 in Leeds, England; released debut album on own label entitled George Best, 1987; released collection of Ukrainian folk songs inspired by Solowka’s father called Ukrainski Vistupi v Johna Peela, 1989; released 12 charting singles, one each month, 1992; released Saturnialia, 1996.
Addresses: Record company —Cooking Vinyl Records, P.O. Box 311, Port Washington, NY 11050, phone: (516) 484-2863, fax: (516) 484-6179.
session in February of 1986 contributed to the group’s popularity. With their blistering rhythm guitars, a refreshing disregard for fine-tuned production, and Gedge’s agonized songs about unrequited love backed by upbeat instrumentation, the Wedding Present became the new darlings of the British press.
Named for iconoclastic soccer star George Best (both Gedge and Solowka were raised near Manchester, England, for whose team Best played), the Wedding Present’s remarkable debut album arrived in 1987 on their own Reception label to instant critical acclaim. On songs such as “Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft,” “It’s What You Want that Matters,” and “My Favourite Dress,” Solowka played as though “his hands were on fire,” noted Ira Robbins in the Trouser Press Guide to ‘90s Rock, keeping pace with Gedge’s off-kilter vignettes. The Wedding Present appeared to be just the type of sound Britain was looking for at the time. “Things were different then,” noted Melody Maker writer Jade Gordon, looking back on the era in 1997. “There was no ‘Drugs Don’t Work’ at Number One, no Oasis to frighten George Michael. But there was a haven for non-corporate music, a breeding ground bustling with youth, ideas, idealism and freedom. It was called the Independent Chart and it gave a profile to genuinely independent (i.e. not bankrolled by a major) bands, and we will never see its like again.”
After the Wedding Present established themselves with George Best on the British indie charts, the band put together a hasty compilation of early singles, cover songs, and radio broadcasts entitled Tommy. Released in 1988 with the hopes of capitalizing on the group’s overnight success, the effort earned less than favorable reviews. However, the band returned for more sessions with Peel, resulting in a complete departure for 1989’s Ukrainski Vistupi v Johna Peela, issued on RCA Records. A detour into traditional Ukrainian folk songs inspired by Solowka’s father and featuring guest vocals by Len Liggins, the credible effort made an unusual and successful attempt to cross elements of rock and world music. In addition to the usual rock instruments, Ukrainski Vistupi v Johna Peela made use of traditional instruments like mandolin and balalaika as well. The recording also introduced a new drummer, Simon Smith, who stepped in to replace Charman after he left the Wedding Present to form the Popguns; Charman played for half of the tracks, while Smith served on drums for the remainder.
The Wedding Present continued to stray from formulaic indie-pop with 1989’s Bizarro, a more conventional rock album with four songs produced by American noise-rock, hardcore guru Steve Albini. While some critics referred to the record as uneventful, and even the band admitted that “all the songs sound the same,” as quoted by Rough Guide to Rock contributor Huw Bucknell, Bizarro nonetheless indicated the Wedding Present’s musical growth. Two tracks from the album, “Brassneck” and “Kennedy,” fared well with fans as they became live favorites, with the latter reaching the British top 40 when it was submitted as a single prior to the album’s release. Around the same time, the group showed their lighter side, releasing hit singles such as “Corduroy” and a cover of Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel’s “Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me).”
Hiring Albini to produce a whole album, the Wedding Present returned with Seamonsters in 1991. Receiving mixed criticism, the album revealed “dense and expressionists layers of guitar noise” that “underpinned a sharper, more aggressive lyrical edge,” noted Bucknell. Seamonsters also marked another lineup change; this time, Solowka resigned in order to further explore his world music roots in the group the Ukrainians, a side project he initiated after the Wedding Present recorded Ukrainski Vistupi v Johna Peela. Replaced by guitarist Paul Dorrington, Solowka went on to release three albums and one EP (a hysterical collection of translated Smiths covers) with his new group.
The following year, the Wedding Present opted not to record a new album, but instead released a new single every month throughout 1992. Hitting the British singles chart with each new song, the Wedding Present’s experiment won them entry into the Guinness Book of Records. Both sides of all 12 singles were later released on Hit Parade 1 and Hit Parade 2, arriving in 1992 and 1993 respectively. Each consisted of six original songs and six covers, including remakes of the Monkees’ “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” Neil Young’s “Don’t Cry No Tears,” Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft,” Bow Wow Wow’s “Go Wild in the Country,” and Julee Cruise’s “Falling” (the theme from Twin Peaks ).
Taking time off in 1993 to recuperate from a frenzied year, the Wedding Present saw Gregory leave the group to found Cha Cha Cohen, leaving Gedge the only original band member. Replacing Gregory with bassist Darren Belk, the Wedding Present moved from RCA to Island Records for 1994’s Watsui. Produced by Steve Fisk, a prominent figure on the American love-rock indie scene from Olympia, Washington, and featuring Beat Happening vocalist Heather Lewis for two tracks, the effort earned positive criticism for its musical variety but suffered from underexposure. “This is the kind of excellent record the Wedding Present should have made years ago,” wrote Robbins.
In 1995, another lineup change occurred when Belk quit the band, and Gedge to some extent felt responsible for the Wedding Present’s inability to maintain members. “I guess I’m a bit of a social defect. I’m all-consumed by the band,” he said to Hoffmann. “I think that’s why Darren left. The Wedding Present means everything to me. Many of the people that have come through the band think it’s great being with the band and making all these records. But we tour all the time and, myself, I think Wedding Present twenty-four hours a day. A lot of people can’t take the schedule.” Thus, with Belk’s departure, Gedge brought in bassist Jayne Lockley, who he said “adds another dimension to the sound that allows for, dare I say, a more optimistic sounding Wedding Present. It’s like having a new string on the bow.”
In 1996, the Wedding Present returned with a significant amount of new material. After releasing the Mini EP and Mini Plus (the EP and added tracks), the group arrived at the end of the year with the full-length album Saturnalia, recorded in the summer at the Cocteau Twins’ studio and co-produced by Cenzo Townshend. A compilation of later songs was issued in 1999 in the United Kingdom under the title The Wedding Present Singles 95-97 on Cooking Vinyl.
In addition to leading the Wedding Present, Gedge worked on a side project with Sally Murrell called Cinerama, an outlet for his acoustic, more introspective songs. Cinerama debuted in 1998 with the album Va Va Voom, which earned rave reviews for its unrestrained, joyous pop quality. “If there’s anything I hate about music right now,” Gedge told Everett True of Melody Maker in 1998, “it’s all these successful bands who seem to be making a career out of being miserable. This last year, there’s been this epic rock Oh-No-I’ve-Got-So-Much-Money miserablism. If you want to get anywhere, it seems like you have to have these dour chords and wallow in desolation.”
George Best, (U.K.) Reception, 1987.
Tommy, (U.K.) Reception, 1988.
Ukrainski Vistupi v Johna Peela, (U.K.) RCA, 1989.
Janice Long Evening Show, (EP), (U.K.) Nighttracks/Strange Fruit, 1988.
The BBC Sessions, Strange Fruit/Dutch East India Trading, 1988.
Bizarro, (U.K.) RCA, 1989; RCA, 1990; reissued, Manifesto, 1996.
Brassneck, (EP), (U.K.) RCA, 1990.
Seamonsters, (U.K.) RCA, 1991; First Warning, 1992; reissued, Bizarre/Planet, 1994; reissued, Manifesto, 1996.
Hit Parade 1, First Warning, 1992; reissued Bizarre/Planet, 1994; reissued, Manifesto, 1996.
Hit Parade 2, (U.K.) BMG, 1993; Bizarre/Planet, 1994; reissued, Manifesto, 1996.
John Peel Sessions 1987-90, Strange Fruit/Dutch East India Trading, 1993.
Watsui, Island, 1994.
Mini, (EP), (U.K.) Cooking Vinyl, 1996.
Mini Plus, Cooking Vinyl, 1996.
Saturnalia, Cooking Vinyl, 1996.
The Wedding Present Singles 95-97, (U.K.) Cooking Vinyl, 1999.
MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink Press, 1999.
Robbins, Ira A., editor, Trouser Press Guide to ‘90s Rock, Fireside/Simon and Schuster, 1997.
Billboard, January 9, 1993; February 24, 1996.
Edmonton Journal, February 4, 1996.
Melody Maker, January 11, 1992; October 25, 1997; July 11, 1998; August 1, 1998; August 15, 1998; September 25, 1999.
Patriot Ledger (Quincy, Massachusetts), March 15, 1996.
Rolling Stone, December 12, 1996.
All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (March 18, 2000).
“His Only Constant is Change,” Drop-D Magazine, http://www.dropd.com/issue/28/WeddingPresent/index.html (March 18, 2000).
Rolling Stone.com, http://www.rollingstone.tunes.com (March 18, 2000).
“The Wedding Present,” Rough Guide to Rock, http://www.roughguides.com/rock/entries/entries-w/WEDDING_PRESENT.html (March 18, 2000).
"The Wedding Present." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 16, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/wedding-present
"The Wedding Present." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved February 16, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/wedding-present
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