Interview: Indie legend says farewell to 'George Best'

The Wedding Present with David Gedge, front, left.
The Wedding Present with David Gedge, front, left.

It's been nearly 20 years since David Gedge played in Harrogate and he's in a reflective mood when I chat to The Wedding Present founder on the phone.

With good reason. In just over a week's time this seminal indie rock band he first formed in 1985 will be performing the George Best album in its entirety for the last time in an emotional night in Leeds.

In fact, the Bramley born vocalist, guitarist and songwriter had thought he's said farewell to this classic album from 1987 with popular favourites like Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft and My Favourite Dress a long time ago.

David said: "I never been one for planning. I just fall into things. When I formed Cinerama for a bit in the late 90s I thought I would maybe never do The Wedding Present again.

"I didn't even notice it was the 30th anniversary of George Best until we started getting offers to play festivals and do tours. It took me by surprise. The whole thing snowballed."

Having formed The Wedding Present after going to the University of Leeds to study Maths in 1981, it's fitting the final George Best performance will take place at the 02 Academy in Leeds on Saturday, December 9.

Always one to play things down with a laconic wit, even the level-headed Gedge is aware the forthcoming show is a big moment in the band's history.

He said: "A filmmaker is coming from Essex to film the Leeds show for a documentary on the album.

"He's been interviewing all the members of the band who were all the album, which has taken a lot of work. One of them lives in Australia!"

No matter how many changes in musical style - and line-ups - Gedge has been through over the decades, he can never shake off those golden indie years of the 80s and early 90s when guitars blazed and Gedge's intelligent but pithy take on the pitfalls of relationships made him a Top of the Pops regular.

At one point The Wedding Present were in the Guinness Book Of Records for having the most chart singles in one year - 12 different 7-in singles in consecutive months over the course of a year.

Recent weeks have seen that era back in the spotlight on the soundtrack of prime time BBC TV drama The A Word starring Christopher Eccleston which has featured tracks by The Wedding Present in its last two episodes.

Typically, though he says he's not complaining about it, Gedge puts this down to a friend he knew loosely at university who is involved with the BBC show but he does recognise that the story of The Wedding Present.

A close friend of legendary music broadcaster John Peel, who he says he still thinks about almost every single day since his untimely death in 2004, Gedge is aware that things have, perhaps, come full circle for his ever-evolving band.

"People who liked us originally lost a bit of interest as the 90s went on.

"But now they're of an age when their kids have left home they're coming back to the band and bringing their kids as well. It's easy to find out music in the age of iPods and Spotify.

"The longer you stick around, the more opportunities seem to come your way."

In truth, through sheer hard work and persistence, which has seen him criss-crossing Europe and the USA regularly for decades, Gedge has turned his musical life into a cottage industry with albums, books, tours and videos and a plethora of re-releases, mostly through his own label Scopitones.

Currently fans are enjoying a newly-released compilation of radio sessions by the Wedding Present - Mark Riley Sessions: Volume 2.

But there's always been more to Gedge than indie cliches - as his left turn into Cinerama showed with its lush pop and cinematic sweep of strings when he temporarily became a sort of Yorkshire indie version of Serge Gainsbourg in a particularly memorable Charm night which I co-organised at the long-gone Raison D'Etre will testify.

Or, perhaps, that's what he's been quietly all along?

The most recent original Wedding Present album, Going, Going...released just last year, showed the understated Gedge's penchant for continually shaking things up - despite appearances to the contrary.

The 20-song double album also acted as a document of the band's journey across America with each track accompanied by its own video.

"I've always hated bands that make one record then make it again and again. I've always wanted to try to do different things.

"It didn't start off as a double album. Not everyone thinks it's great."

Though clearly less chaotic than The Fall, The Wedding Present have actually been through as many changes of band members over the years.

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Rather than a handicap, Gedge accredits a lot of his success to this contant input of fresh blood.

"A different line-up tends to effect what you do. You get nudged into a different direction.

"It might have been nice to have been like The Beatles, the idea of sticking with the same four members is quite romantic.

"I've been the final original member of The Wedding Present since 1993. I'm used to it now.

"There's been a double line-up change since Going, Going...came out. It always seems to happen after a new album comes out.

"People move on because they've had enough or they're missing their partner. Each line-up has had its different strengths."

But Gedge goes on regardless with little hype but plenty of success, modest but still in the limelight.

David said: "Being a musician is an odd profession. People who've worked with me tell me it's different than working with other musicians.

"A lot of people squander what they've got but I am hard working.

"I'm quite meticulous once I've decided what to do. It's my mathematics training.

"Maybe I made the wrong career choice but it's more of an obsession than a job."

The Wedding Present play George Best at 02 Academy, Leeds on Saturday, December 9.