BRASSNECK

It was turning into a dull and routine Friday at work in mid-November, counting down the hours till the freedom of the weekend arrived, when this text from Aldo flashed up on the phone:-

“You going to the Weddoes tonight? Only just noticed they were playing.”

I too, hadn’t picked up they were in town, despite the fact it had been included within a couple of previous e-mails sent out to everybody of the TWP/Cinerama mailing lists. Luckily, there were a small number of tickets still available and six hours later, along with Mrs Villain, the three of us made our way inside The Classic Grand, a former porn cinema long ago converted into a music venue.

The band were on tour for the 30th anniversary of Bizarro and the promise was that the songs from that album would be aired alongside some other old favourities and a few new songs. The venue was mobbed….Aldo at the age of 39 was within the 3% minority of those aged under 45. I caught up with a few old friends who I had an inkling would be there, including Robert and Carlo from the Simply Thrilled Team, and Drew from Across the Kitchen Table fame, who was there with his other half, L.

You only need to take a glance at the set-list to see the sort of night we were treated to:-

California
Brassneck
Crushed
No
Don’t Give Up Without a Fight
Thanks
Kennedy
Montreal
Click Click
Don’t Touch That Dial
Deer Caught in the Headlights
A Song From Under the Floorboards
What Have I Said Now?
Telemark
Granadaland
Bewitched
Be Honest
Take Me!

California was a lovely way to open the night, but the place truly erupted with the opening notes of the song which opens Bizarro:-

mp3 : The Wedding Present – Brassneck

It is still hard to believe that the band weren’t entirely happy with the way the song had turned out after their initial stint in the studio, but then again, as I’ve only recently discovered from reading published and on-line material, the band were, certainly in the early days, just about consistently critical of the recorded versions of their songs, taking the view that they lacked a certain energy or excitement in comparison to how they were played live.

Kennedy had been the only single lifted from the album and while it had taken the band into the Top 40, its peak of #33 had been a bit disappointing to RCA, the major label to which the band had recently signed. There was always a wish to have a second single but the band persuaded all concerned that everyone’s interests would be better served if they could go back into the studio and have another go at Brassneck, this time with the irrepressible Steve Albini in the producer’s chair (albeit his preference is to be referred to as the audio engineer).

He trimmed down the track by about thirty seconds while beefing up, (to put it mildly), the arrangement with a few of his specialities including what many have referred to as the sound of a distressed beached whale during an instrumental break (something he would make huge use of later on when he worked with the band on Seamonsters (1991).

mp3 : The Wedding Present – Brassneck (single version)

This one went Top 30…..an improvement on last time out but still a bit too low for the liking of the bosses. The continued failure of the band to really make a dent in the charts led to the situation in 1992 when the band released a single on the first Monday of each month, only to have it deleted within a matter of days, meaning there would be enough sales to propel the 45 into the charts for one week only – it was something of a mixed success but it did lead to Come Play With Me giving them their one and only Top 10 success in May 1992.

The relative success of Brassneck did, however, provide the band their first ever appearance on Top of The Pops. It wasn’t the most memorable of performances, explained in later years by David Gedge:-

“I wasn’t pissed off and I was just following an old tradition established by some of my heroes… those punk bands who didn’t take Top Of The Pops seriously and who took the mickey out of the whole ‘miming’ thing. I started doing it during the TV rehearsals, fully expecting a producer or director to tell me to stop messing about but no one did. So with each run-through it became a little more… extreme. The Brassneck video was the inspiration for the Top Of The Pops performance, actually, with the band looking bored and oblivious to the frantic, theatrical performance art going on around us. The two things aren’t that dissimilar…”

The re-recorded single was released on 7”, 12”, cassette and CD, with another three tracks on offer, all recorded with Albini on engineering duties:-

mp3 : The Wedding Present – Don’t Talk Just Kiss
mp3 : The Wedding Present – Gone
mp3 : The Wedding Present – Box Elder

The first two are Gedge originals, while the last of them is a cover of an early Pavement song, with all of them featuring heavily over the years in any lists of favourite songs drawn up by TWP fans.

Brassneck itself is one of the best and most enduring numbers the band ever recorded, as epitomised by its reception that evening in Glasgow  – only the cheers after Kennedy and Take Me! were louder, and the latter was mostly to do with it signifying the end of the show as TWP, for those who don’t know, never do encores…..

It’s a song that shouldn’t really be mucked about with, but fair play to Mr Gedge in that he selected it as one that should be given the this treatment for a one-off live set he performed in 2009 with the BBC Big Band. Click here if you dare…..

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (41)

The Wedding Present released 29 singles and 3 EPs between 1985 and 1997. Today looks back at where it all started and my words below rely very heavily on an interview given by David Gedge to the folk involved with this wonderful piece of the internet

https://gedgesongs.wordpress.com/

It was 1985 and The Wedding Present were in a position to release a debut single. The choice came down to either Go Out and Get ‘Em Boy or Will You Up There. No worries if you don’t recognise the latter, it never got an official release!

The debut single turned out to be quite unlike almost all that would follow. One of the surprising things is that it was a deliberate effort by David Gedge to compose a political song, in this instance as his response to the Falklands conflict of the early 80s which had already inspired Elvis Costello to compose Shipbuilding. I genuinely had no idea about the intention behind the lyric, even though I had seen the words on paper before, assuming that it was another of the tangled lovelorn songs at which he frontman would become famed for over the ensuing decades. David Gedge does admit that the message is a little unfocussed and it’s an approach to song writing that he soon moved away from.

You were a survivor after all; you never even called!
I didn’t expect you to
Now, oh, there’s such a lot you’ve done and you’re only twenty-one
Yes, you’re only twenty-one

Oh, oh, there’s just something, something I noticed
That there’s a whole world out there but it’s shrinking fast
You want to take it all and make it last forever
Or maybe just a lifetime

Now, oh, you’ve gone to fly the flag from some pinprick on the map
Oh, won’t you ever bring it back?
Tonight, when you hold her in your arms and you prove that you’re a man
Oh, well, I hope she understands

Oh, oh, there’s just something, something I noticed
That there’s a whole world out there but it’s shrinking fast
You want to take it all and make it last forever
Or maybe just a lifetime, maybe just a lifetime

Oh, some things just don’t ever go away
Some things, you know, are just here to stay
And in a golden field there is a little girl left with a union jack
And there’s a price to pay, no matter what you say
There is no going back today

And if we’re worlds apart, then I’ve still got a heart
Can you imagine that?
“Another wasted day”, yes, I can hear you say
But I’m afraid it means much more to me than that

There’s also an admission that the music, with an unusual structure and multiple parts, was a tad on the ambitious side, but the defence being that nobody was sure if the first single would prove to be the last, so everyone involved wanted to pack it full of hooks while having a frantic pace that grabbed the listeners attention.

The single came out on Reception Records on 24 May 1985 (slap bang in the middle of my final exams at university, so I can be excused for not paying attention!). The label had been set-up by the band, solely with the intention of getting the single out there and into the shops. Just 500 copies were pressed, but such was the demand that they soon agreed a deal with City Slang, a new label that had been established by NME writer, Neil Taylor who was an early champion of The Weddoes. The second pressing of the single came with different artwork, the results of which had the band recoiling in horror, and determined not to cede control over such things ever again.

The second pressing also sold out quickly and by now the band were getting aired increasingly by John Peel. Rather than have fans shell out huge sums on the second-hand market or more likely relying on copies recorded to a hissy cassette tape, it was decided that all of the songs that comprised the first two singles should be put on a new EP, via Reception Records, which is why most folk (including myself) who have vinyl cuts of the song have achieved it through the Don’t Try and Stop Me, Mother EP.

mp3 : The Wedding Present – Go Out and Get ‘Em Boy!
mp3 : The Wedding Present – (The Moment Before) Everything’s Spoiled Again

I think it’s fair to say that The Weddoes would go on to make better and more polished singles, but as an opener, particularly as it was wholly self-financed, recorded and released, is worthy of being described as cracking.

JC

YESTERDAY’S POST PROVIDED THE EXCUSE…..

…..not than any was really needed.

The Wedding Present had signed to RCA in 1989, a move that led to some fans from the earliest days accuse them of selling out and leaving behind their indie roots. The first album for the new label was Bizarro and the first single lifted from it was Kennedy, the track that I have long admitted was the one that introduced me to the band thanks to it being heard in an Edinburgh record shop.

In February 1990, a full four months after Kennedy had dropped out of the charts after a three-week stay, a second single was taken from the parent album. Only it wasn’t……

The new single, Brassneck, was the opening track on Bizarro, but the version which came out as a single was quite different. David Gedge, in an on-line interview with a fan, has explained the rationale:-

I personally didn’t think that the album version captured the intensity the song had when we played it live. I don’t think the Bizarro version is bad, or anything… but around that time we’d become interested in the idea of working with the American engineer, Steve Albini, and so there was a feeling that perhaps we could re-record it with him as a way of seeing how an Albini / Wedding Present relationship might work. I think the Albini version of Brassneck added more colour and depth… and sounds more succinct than the Bizarro version.

The other noticeable thing is a change in the lyric right at the end of the song. It’s only one word, but it is significant in terms of the sentiment of the song. The chorus throughout the album version has ‘I just decided I don’t trust you anymore’ and this is sung four times. On the single, it is only sung three times with the final time now being ‘I just decided I don’t love you anymore.’ David Gedge believed that the alteration added poignancy, and who are we to argue?

mp3 : The Wedding Present – Brassneck (single version)

The 12″ came with three new tracks, two of which were original compositions while the other was a cover of a little-known American band called Pavement. But then again, you already knew that if you read yesterday’s posting:-

mp3 : The Wedding Present – Box Elder
mp3 : The Wedding Present – Don’t Talk, Just Kiss
mp3 : The Wedding Present – Gone

All four songs remain firm favourites with fans more than quarter-of-a-century on.

Brassneck reached #24 in the singles chart and, outside of the run of singles released in a limited edition each month throughout 1992, remains the highest chart position of any 45 by the band.

JC

I ADMIT IT….IT WAS THE COVER VERSION I HEARD FIRST

I’ve said before that I didn’t really latch on properly to The Wedding Present until I heard Kennedy being played ay high volume in a record shop. But after that, it was enjoyable going back and listening to the earlier material.

I really liked the song Getting Nowhere Fast, one of their previous b-sides on a 12″ single and included on the CD of George Best, and was intrigued when I spotted, from the fact that it wasn’t a David Gedge composition, that it was a cover version. But the names ‘Alan, Evans, Swift, Oldroyd’ meant nothing to me and in the pre-internet days couldn’t readily be looked up.

It was to be some time before I learned that the original had been by a Leeds band called Girls At Our Best, released in 1980. Even when furnished with that information, I was still none the wiser. Eventually I got to hear the original, via someone putting it on a cassette for me, and fell for its charms. By this time however, it was impossible to track down a copy and it would take until the digital age before I got a decent version without any lo-fi hissing.

Girls At Our Best were Judy Evans (vocals), Jez Alan (guitar), Terry Swift (bass) and Chris Oldroyd (drums) and who formed in 1979 out of two other Leeds bands, S.O.S and The Butterflies.

Getting Nowhere Fast was their debut effort, self-financed and released in April 1980 on their own label Record Records following which Rough Trade put out a second single entitled Politics in November 1980. The drummer then left the band just as they signed to Happy Birthday Records for whom there were two singles and an album, Pleasure, in 1981. The band had enough of a following for the album to reach #60 in the charts but I just can’t recall it or them at all.

According to my big book of indie songs, there was a further single in May 1982 entitled Heaven and released on God Records but there’s no listing on Discogs which means it must be very rare indeed. The band split not long after but with interest in them again on the back of the TWP cover, Strange Fruit in May 1987 would release a Peel Sessions EP that had been broadcast in February 1981.

Here’s the two sides of the debut single:-

mp3 : Girls At Our Best – Getting Nowhere Fast
mp3 : Girls At Our Best – Warm Girls

And here’s the cover, originally on the b-side of the 12″ of Anyone Can Make A Mistake:-

mp3 : The Wedding Present – Getting Nowhere Fast

JC

AN IMAGINARY VERSION OF A REAL ALBUM

A GUEST CONTRIBUTION FROM STRANGEWAYS

JC writes….

On the day that so many people will meet up for the first ever time it does somehow seem appropriate to feature a guest contribution from one of the number.

Strangeways, like so many of the blogging fraternity, is someone who prefers to hide his light under a bushel. It takes all sorts of arm-twisting and gentle persuasion to get some words and thoughts out of him and I’m really pleased he has given me something so unusual and perhaps provocative just in time for this special and historic day; a post and concept that might well be worth talking about over the weekend….I think just about everyone coming along is a TWP/Gedge fanatic.

Strangways muses…..

Going, Going... is The Wedding Present‘s new – well, latest (Sep 2016) – LP. And weighing in at twenty tracks, it’s a monster.

For Weddoes nuts, the record delivers some absolutely scorching songs. To these ears, phantoms from both the Seamonsters and Saturnalia albums inhabit a fair chunk of the album and there are some massive, thrilling barrages of ‘go fuck yourself’ guitar throughout.

On that musical side, for the most part, it’s hard to imagine a bigger, noisier landscape than when the ‘loud’ component of the trusted ‘quiet/loud/quiet’ blueprint kicks in (check out Wales, with its remote, staccato first half and, in a happy case of influences returning home, its epic, emotional, sock-knocking British Sea Power-ish second). But that the entire thing opens with four curveballs – a quartet of instrumentals/spoken word tracks (special mention to the elegant and otherworldly Marblehead) – indicates that for at least a time we’re in entirely new territory.

I know of some Weddoes sympathisers – think by-election-only Green Party voters – who have been a bit scared off by the number of tracks and, perhaps, also by rumours of those left-turns that open the record. So if you’ve not heard the LP, here are four tracks to give you a taste.

Bells

Elevated by some really terrific female vocals – a welcome thread running through Going, Going… – Bells is a standout. Creeping guitar makes way for one of David Gedge‘s cruellest choruses – and am I finally losing it or is there something of The Cure‘s Lovesong going on in the music?

Rachel

In another world – perhaps even in the recent past on this planet – Rachel, with its classic, killer chorus, would be the Weddoes’ Losing My Religion or Smells Like Teen Spirit. You know the song, the kind of track that makes it, somehow, beyond the borders of the bedroom and the indie disco. The one that mugs you when you’re buying corn flakes. The one that you fell, hopelessly, in love with.

But that was two months and 15,000 involuntary listens ago.

And now you can’t stand it. Anonymously, you send it foul messages in the post. And it’s compelled you to set up a hate group.

Well, with the demise of the single as ‘an actual thing’, at least that won’t happen this time.

Emporia

It took a while for Emporia to grab me. But when it did, it didn’t let go. Don’t let the really lovely, David Lynchy opening fool you. This is a song of two halves in the tradition of say Bewitched or Perfect Blue (and like Perfect Blue, I wish the generously long tail-end was even longer).

Santa Monica

The perfect closer. A lengthy fade-in recalls Seamonsters’ Blonde, whilst, underlining the sense of something ending, a pensive fade-out is reminiscent of Mystery Date from predecessor LP Valentina and also 50s, the track that slowly, reluctantly snuffed out the 2006 Saturnalia album.

Santa Monica is tinted, also, by shades of Cinerama‘s Don’t Touch That Dial and the Weddoes’ Octopussy (a fellow LP-swansong). It matches the scale of Dalliance, whilst the trickling, bending guitar work reminds me of one of the band’s most charismatic numbers: Catwoman. Listen out, also, for a line-check from A Million Miles. It’s a poignant thirty-year echo connecting this latest album with the (touring-this-year) debut, George Best.

Going, Going’s… ominous title coupled with its last line may suggest that the game is up. On this evidence, that would be a shame. It’s one thing for a band that’s all out of ideas to call it quits. Quite another when it fires out an LP that can stand alongside the best of a formidable back catalogue.

Imagining Emporia…

Just to overdo things further, I thought it’d be interesting to grab half of the LP tracks and attempt to staple together a traditional ten-track album.

This is kind of an obnoxious thing to do – especially if you’re aware of the idea at the heart of Going Going… – that each track is linked, and that together, they contribute to a bigger story. It’s a bit like chopping up celluloid and gluing the strips into an under-the-counter Viewer’s Cut. Replacing the lovely sleeve (a shot from the thoughtful series of short films the band commissioned)? More blasphemy. And renaming it? Well, that’s just asking for trouble. Therefore, for those piqued enough to muck around with their LP or Spotify, here it is: Emporia – an imaginary version of a real album.

SIDE 1

Two Bridges
Little Silver
Rachel
Broken Bow
Bells

SIDE 2

Birdsnest
Bear
Emporia
Wales
Santa Monica

Bonus track: Marblehead because the third season of Twin Peaks is approaching, and this sounds like it could be on the soundtrack.

STRANGEWAYS

INSPIRED BY THE TITLE OF LAST SATURDAY’S TUNE

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In 1992, The Wedding Present had set a then record for the number of chart appearances in a calendar year by releasing a new single on the first Monday of each month. As soon as December 1992 was out of the way the band announced that they were parting ways with RCA Records and taking much of 1993 off.

In early 1994 it was revealed that the new label would be Island Records but that original bass player Keith Gregory had left the line-up meaning that David Gedge was now the sole member left from the original line-up. They decamped to the USA to record the new material for the new label with the first release being this 4-track single in September 1994:-

mp3 : The Wedding Present – Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah
mp3 : The Wedding Present – Le Bikini
mp3 : The Wedding Present – Flame On
mp3 : The Wedding Present – Him Or Me (What’s It Gonna Be)?

I think it was a major disappointment that the single stalled at #51; indeed the follow-up It’s A Gas fared even worse while the parent album Watusi barely broke the Top 50. These turned out to be the only recordings for Island Records who dropped the band in early 1995.

Looking back, the world wasn’t quite prepared for the sounds made on Watusi. As wiki reports, the songs ranged from warm lo-fi pop (“Gazebo”, “Big Rat”) to semi-psychedelic, Velvets-like workouts (“Click Click”, “Catwoman”). There were also the two fantastic pop singles released as 45s which really deserved better.

Worth mentioning that while the TWP song Flame On is different from that of Captain America featured here three days ago, Him Or Me (What’s It Going To Be)? is a cover of a 1966 hit single (#5 on the US Billboard chart) by Paul Revere & The Raiders.

Have a listen to the original and compare.  TWP make their version so different it sounds like one of their own.

mp3 : Paul Revere & The Raiders – Him or Me (What’s It Gonna Be)?

Enjoy.

 

A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (8)

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON THURSDAY 5 JUNE 2008

(and again on 30 October 2013)

The+Wedding+Present+Kennedy+169732

I came late to The Wedding Present.

I didn’t listen to their early stuff simply because everyone in the press was touting them as the natural successors to the recently disbanded The Smiths, and I just didn’t want to know. I was able to do so, simply because the band got next to no radio play other than late at night, and this was a period of great change in my life when I was never listening to the likes of John Peel.

So, for the best part of four years, my knowledge of the band was restricted to what I read and not what I heard. I do remember being amused that a band from Leeds would release an LP named after the greatest footballer ever to wear the shirt of Manchester United, given the animosity between their fans and those of Leeds United. Still didn’t make me buy it though..

Sometime in 1989, on one Sunday evening, the radio was on as the latest singles chart was being rundown. That was when I first heard a song by The Wedding Present. It was called Kennedy, and it was (as I’ve since discovered from research) a new entry at #33. It was loud, it was frantic, it was joyous and it was something that I immediately fell in love with.

And with that, I became a convert to the church of David Gedge, and I’ve been a faithful member ever since. I’m a regular attendee at the places of worship (ie gigs), and I’ll also contribute as and when required to the coffers (ie records, t-shirts, videos, CDs, etc).

There can’t be all that many indie-bands still going strong 20+ years after their initial formation. OK, so I know that TWP took a short break and turned into Cinerama, and also that for a substantial part of their career they were on major labels such as RCA and Island Records. But you can’t really categorise them as anything other than indie…

There have been 37 singles and 9 original LPs, as well as 15 compilation/live LPs over the years. That must be something in the region of 300 songs – and very few of these, even the most obscure of b-sides, have ever been total duffers.(that was the figure back in 2008….there’s been much to admire over the past 8 years since and the ststement is still valid)

They’re also a band with a love for cover versions, with around 50 or so being widely available now thanks to the relatively recent release of all the Peel Sessions in a boxset. And every one of those covers, whether it’s a pop, soul, blues, rock, country or disco classic sounds instinctively like a Wedding Present original.

But I still don’t think they’ve ever bettered the song that first made my ears prick up and listen. Even now, almost 20 years on it remains a live favourite, although David now always follows it up with a slow-tempo number so that the old folk jumping around down the front get their breath back and avoid the risk of a permanent injury. None of us are as young or fit as we once were, and pogo-ing up and down is, at best, achievable for a maximum of 5 minutes at one stretch.

mp3 : The Wedding Present – Kennedy
mp3 : The Wedding Present – One Day All This Will All Be Yours
mp3 : The Wedding Present – Unfaithful
mp3 : The Wedding Present – It’s Not Unusual *

* Yes, the Tom Jones song…..

All taken from the original 12” release, but also available on the remixed and remastered edition of the 1989 LP Bizzaro.

Incidentally, if this series didn’t have the restriction of one song by one act, there would have been at least another 4 TWP singles right in there…