Tomorrow, I’m going to see The Wedding Present playing in Liverpool. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen them over the years. This time around they are celebrating the 21st anniversary of the uniquely interesting “Hit Parade” singles and will be playing all 12 of them in the set. More on that later.
In the late 80s and early 90s, I used to go and see The Wedding Present on every tour and I have great memories of gigs in Brighton, Portsmouth and lots in London. Not such a great memory of their 1990 Reading Festival appearance where they were 2nd on the bill to Inspiral Carpets. I’d worked my way right down to the front and whilst we were waiting for them to come on, it was pretty chokka and for a shortarse like me, hard to stay on my feet at times. I remember them coming on and opening with a cover of the theme from “Cheers”. But the next thing I knew I was lying on the floor near the back of the arena with the concerned face of a total stranger looking down on me. I’d blacked out about 2 songs in and been carried to safety by some helpful goth.
I also saw the “Hit Parade” tour the first time around at the Astoria. I don’t remember much about that one other than that we somehow ended up with “upstairs” tickets and spent a lot of the gig trying to find a way to get downstairs. It wasn’t loud enough upstairs. The Wedding Present need to be listened to at high volume.
More recently, I’ve seen a couple more of these “21st anniversary” shows.
In August 2010, I was having a party for my 40th birthday and I managed to persuade a couple of my oldest mates, Mike and Rich, to come over to mine a couple of days early and drive over the Pennines to take in a gig at the Holmfirth Picturedrome. This was the 21st anniversary “Bizarro” tour. The 3 of us were all 40 within a few weeks of each other and we had all seen the “Bizarro” tour in Kilburn back in 1989. So this was a great opportunity for us to laugh in the face of the aging process and jump around down the front pretending we were 19 again!
By the time the band got into the middle of Side 2, Mike and Rich had decided they couldn’t take the pace and had gone to stand a bit further back.
As the band finished the relatively gentle-paced “Bewitched” it dawned on all of us in the middle-aged moshpit that next up was the twin guitar onslaught of the 9 minute epic “Take Me”. The feeling was much like I imagine it was in the WW1 trenches just before the order to go “over the top”
The bloke next to me, a total stranger, gave me a pat on the back and said “see you on the other side!”
Oh and just in case it wasn’t clear, I was joking about the trenches. I’m not REALLY suggesting that spending 10 minutes purposely bashing into some sweaty bald blokes to the accompaniment of some manically-strummed electric guitars is actually comparable to facing almost certain death.
That gig in 2010 was my first re-acquaintance with The Wedding Present live experience since the mid-90s but since then I’ve taken in another show at the same venue (the all-day Gedgefest known as “At The Edge of the Peaks”). Then last year, I went with the other 2 wizards to the Manchester gig celebrating the 21st anniversary of my favourite album “Seamonsters”. In fact, it was after that very gig that the 3 of us (but mainly Rebel) came up with the idea of this very podcast / blog.
But anyway, back to the Hit Parade singles I mentioned before. In 1992, The Wedding Present hatched a plan for a record-breaking attempt. Having learnt that Elvis held the record for the most top 40 singles in a calendar year (he did it in 1957 fact fans), the band decided that they could equal this record if they released 1 single each month, limited to a pressing of 10,000 copies on 7” vinyl. No 12”s, no CD singles, not even a cassette single. (The cassette single was at its peak in the early 90s. The previous year Bryan Adams’ Robin Hood song had sold 700,000 copies in that format, enough to make it a platinum single without even counting the 7″ 12″ and CD single versions. In fact that cassette single became such a cultural icon that someone’s made it into a bag. Frightening stuff!)
That limited pressing meant that these singles were in very high demand. In those days, I was working behind the counter of a suburban HMV shop and we only got 3 copies of each of these singles. As soon as they arrived I made sure I bought one straight away and as soon as I got home, I’d record both sides of the single onto a tape. That way I could just listen to the songs on the tape and never play the vinyl again. By the end of the year, that C90 tape had 12 original Wedding Present songs as well as 12 b-sides which were all covers. A diverse mix of covers too, David Bowie, Altered Images, Isaac Hayes, Neil Young, Bow Wow Wow, The Go-Betweens, Mud and more. Have a listen here, some of these are just brilliant.
Through the year, the singles were also compiled onto CDs which of course I bought. The albums were called Hit Parade 1 and yes, you guessed it, Hit Parade 2. This came with a bonus CD of “BBC sessions” which featured alternative versions of all 12 of the a-sides. Some of those were actually better than the single versions. (Sticky and No Christmas re-recorded as an instrumental)
But over the last 20 years, the Hit Parade singles have kind of slipped off my radar. Whenever I’ve wanted to listen to some old Wedding Present stuff, it’s usually been Tommy, the under-rated Watusi or the Seamonsters CDs that I’ve taken off the shelf.
A few weeks ago, I decided to give the Hit Parade stuff another listen and I was quite shocked at how amazing they sounded. Back in ‘92, I loved most of them but I remember being a bit disappointed with some of them (Three, Queen of Outer Space, Loveslave).
But somehow all of the songs sound even better now than they did then and I am genuinely excited about hearing ALL 12 OF THEM on Tuesday night. I can’t decide at all which are my favourites so I’ve put a poll at the end of this post.
So what will you choose? Listen to the playlist above and have a look at this thing I made to help you decide. (Click here for more hi-res PDF version)
Unlike my fellow wizard Kicker I’m no vinyl fetishist so I’ve sold off a lot of my vinyl collection over the years and replaced them with CDs. (sacrilege to many I know!) But I’ve still got all 12 of those singles and unlike the rest of my music collection, they are in tiptop mint condition. They are packed away safely in a box on the top shelf of a wardrobe next to some infrequently-used camping equipment. I don’t think they’re worth much and I’m sure I’ll never sell them, even though these days I don’t even own a record player that will play the damn things.
Anyway, vote here pop pickers.
And I’ll see you down the front in Liverpool.
- Trust the Wizards podcast number 3 (Chorizo chooses his “best of 2012” selections, includes a Wedding Present song)
- Other Wedding Present related posts on our website (trustthewizards.com)
- The Wedding Present on a surprisingly interesting website about fonts on record covers (rockthatfont.com)
- Don’t Talk, Just Kiss (gedgesongs.wordpress.com)
- Repeat to Fade bands: the Present that keeps on giving (theguardian.com)
- C86 Getting Expanded Reissue (stereogum.com)