Published on June 7th, 2013 | by Matthew Shearn
George Best (revisited): An Interview with David Gedge of The Wedding Present.
In the late 80’s indie rock band The Wedding Present managed to build up a dedicated cult following after being championed by the likes of John Peel. The band self released their debut album George Best on their own Reception Records imprint before signing to RCA to make the Bizzaro and Seamosters albums. In addition to this the band also released a single every month in 1992 and released an album of Ukrainian folk songs, the band also released two more albums before splitting up in 1997,
Since The Wedding Present reunited in 2004 they have added three more albums to their back catalog and have done numerous tours playing George Best, Bizzaro and Seamonsters in full. Later this summer the band are revisiting George Best again with a tour of seaside towns, where they play their debut front to back. The bands front man (and only consistent member) David Gedge talked to us over the phone from Brighton about the upcoming tour amongst other things.
You’re playing the whole of George Best in its entirety soon, why did you decide to revisit the album by playing it back to back?
David Gedge: It’s actually a bit of a long story, it starts in 2007 when it was the twentieth anniversary of George Best and somebody suggested we do it. The record label wanted to put out a 20th anniversary re-release and they suggested we play it live. At first I was actually against the idea to be honest with you, because I’m always in favor of looking forward rather than looking back and revisiting an old album. We did it anyway because everybody I spoke to said it was a great idea and they would love to see us play it. I kind of reluctantly went along with it and to my surprise I actually found I quite enjoyed doing it and it’s quite an interesting process because you go back and revisit something from quite a long time ago and it’s like revisiting an old diary. I decided I’d like to do it again but to make it a bit different we would do a little seaside tour of England.
Didn’t George Best appear in the press shots for that album?
DG: Yes it was quite surreal really, our press officer at the time had the idea to contact him and he said ‘would you mind if I contacted George Best and see if he wanted to do some photographs with you’. I never thought of the idea but I said ‘yes of course who wouldn’t want to meet George Best’. When we did photographs we did a normal promotional photograph session for the album and at the end he came down and did some photographs with us. It was one of the most interesting days of my life really, he was an icon for me growing up in Manchester and supporting Manchester United and he was the star player at the time. I was also enamoured with his rebelliousness, his long hair and his shirt outside of his shorts and all that. To finally meet him was exiting and obviously quite a big honour.
John Peel was a big champion of your music, how did your music come to his attention?
DG: Ever since I discovered the program as a teenager I would listen to it religiously almost to the point of obsession. If I was away for anytime I would get people to tape it for me, I never missed a single program because in pre-internet times it was the only time and place on the radio I could hear music that appealed to me. People always say you’re fortunate that John Peel liked the Wedding Present, this seems a bit arrogant but I think we were always destined to be a John Peel band because he shaped my musical tastes by the stuff we heard on his program.
I was reading John Peels autobiography and many bands would go to extreme lengths to get their tape in John Peel’s hands, I think the most amusing one Involved Billy Bragg buying John a Biryani.
DG: I think John Peel was very influential and powerful, in some ways he was too powerful because he could make or break a band. When our first single was played on his program suddenly it became a lot easier to get concerts. It wasn’t me sending a demo tape to venues, it was venues contacting us and saying come and play. The attention escalated because John Peel played the record, if he didn’t play the record it was a lot harder for bands. You can see why people were so desperate to get their music on there. In some ways it’s easier now as there are more outlets and it’s not solely reliant on the whim of one person.
George Best was a self released album, what do you feel about the music industry rapidly changing and many groups releasing music via their own labels?
DG: It’s kind of ironic as we’ve gone full circle now, our first album was self released principally because we couldn’t find a label who wanted to release it so we released it ourselves. When we had the taste for that we quite enjoyed having the control and we put other bands out. We would have carried on but our distribution company went out of business and that coincided with the offer to sign with RCA, so we signed to major. Those majors have gone now, in the late 1980’s there were a lot more record labels around than there are now and people were actually making money from it as opposed to now where labels struggle. I suppose with the advent of the internet it’s within an artist grasp to actually release their music themselves now, you can make sure nobody makes mistakes and you can also make more money because you’re not paying middle men to sell music.
The idea for releasing a single a month was originally thought up by The Clash; did you get the idea from them for the Hit Parade project?
DG: No actually it wasn’t the Clash, it was during rehearsal once, our bass player at the time Keith was a member of the Rough Trade or Sub Pop singles club, one of those labels did a 7” every month and he subscribed to that. He explained about it and we just thought why can’t a band do that as well. So we just thought we would have a go and its one of those ideas that it was such a brilliant idea that there was no going back.
Was it easy to convince RCA to go along with the idea?
DG: Yes and no really, I think they were supportive of us because they knew we had a history of odd ideas, our first release on their label was a collection of Ukrainian folk songs. The only compromise was that they needed to make money; record labels traditionally make more money from albums than they do singles (which are seen as promotional devices really). So we would release them on compilation albums at some point and we thought we’d do all twelve singles then do a compilation. They said no and they wanted it earlier than that so we had to do hit parade part one and hit parade part two, hit parade of the first six and part two came after the last six. That was the only real compromise we had to make and it wasn’t a particularly big one, so you could say they were very supportive.
Towards the end of this year you’re doing a tour of the Hit Parade albums, aren’t you?
DG: We’re doing this George Best mini tour of seaside towns in the summer and then in the autumn we’re doing a European tour. We did the Gorge Best tour in 2007 and the Bizarro and Seamonsters tours so were working our way through them really by doing hit parade this year.
Are there any albums that you don’t want to play live?
DG: No not really, I’m proud of them all as I wouldn’t have released them if I wasn’t; weirdly George Best is my least favourite (laugh). It’s because it’s the first one, obviously with any skill you improve as you go on so I do feel the group improved in terms of song writing, recording and arranging so it’s my least favourite. I’m quite happy to play it live because it’s quite an exciting record to play; it’s very fast and thrilling all the way through.
Since the release of your last album in 2012, has there been much work on new materiel?
DG: Uh no to be honest with you, it only came out last year and we did a lot of touring last year, we did North America , Europe , Japan and Australia, so we weren’t home that much last year. But we did start working on stuff and there is a batch of songs and only one that’s finished and we played it in Bristol last month. Apart from that they are all still to be finished, so I guess we will work on them over the summer and into next year.
Interview by Matthew Shearn.
The band are playing the following dates on thier George Best seaside tour, for more information visit thier offical website www.scopitones.co.uk.
9th July – Falmouth,Princess Pavilion
11th July – Southend,Chinnerys
12th July – Bridport,Electric Palace
13th July – Scarborough, Spa