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coverpic flag England - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 13 - 11/14/97

The Wedding Present
George Best Plus
Cooking Vinyl Records

Allow me to reminisce. It's 1987 in England, Dire Straits are still selling Brothers In Arms by the thousand and Live Aid is regarded as a major music event. Daytime radio plays Wham, Phil Collins and Michael Jackson. Vinyl is still available in record shops. Alternative music consists of The Smiths, The Cure and The Mission. For most people the list ends there. Unless you are a student, you are unlikely to have heard of My Bloody Valentine or The Pixies.

The Smiths have split up and the music press need new darlings. They pick up on a four-piece band from Leeds, who have been in the limelight since appearing on the NME's compilation tape C86, a year before. On the 12th of October 1987, The Wedding Present release their debut album, George Best, and a fantastic musical journey begins.

10 years on and the album has been given a timely re-release, re-mastered with 9 extra tracks from the period, and another opportunity to talk about this wonderful, unique band. I say unique because I can't imagine any other group releasing a record like George Best, or any of the subsequent albums. There are no obvious reference points when describing The Wedding Present's music. Its abrasive guitars and drums, songs about relationships in conversational style, sung by a man from Leeds, England.

At the time of the first LP, the guitars were played fast, very fast, with the treble set to 11. Back then, the song titles were long as well (perhaps the only similarity to The Smiths, who they were often wrongly compared to), with album openers Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft and What Did Your Last Servant Die Of? being good examples.

In 1987, singer and songwriter David Gedge was about the same age as I am today (25), but somehow when I listen to these songs now, the lyrics seem so innocent, immature even, as if they should be sung by an 18 year old. (Perhaps this is why George Best was so popular with students at the time?).

I must have walked by this doorway thirty times
Just trying to catch you eye
You made it all worthwhile
When you returned my smile
You're not like anyone I've ever met
Well, at least not yet
(A Million Miles)

Magic lyrics, but a long way from the spiteful, bitter outbursts on later records. The presence of I'm Not Always So Stupid (one of the extra tracks) is a cause for celebration. It's my favourite Wedding Present song from their early period and is often the case with the great songs, it was originally in hiding as a b-side. Top lyrics:

Every time a car drives past I think it's you,
Every time somebody laughs I think it's you.......
Each time the doorbell rings it might be you,
Each letter the postman brings might be from you.

Classic. My only gripe with this re-issue is that George Best was remastered and re-issued with the same bonus tracks on a Canadian CD in 1994. This 10th anniversary release is clearly aimed at the obsessed fans, most of whom will have it already. I've got the original vinyl version, the original CD and the Canadian CD. This "new" effort is one release too many. But it's nice to see it widely available in the shops again nevertheless.

Music is about the present and if this record meant nothing to you in 1987, it shouldn't concern you in 1997, but for those of us who were there, we have a chance to remember what it was like again. Probably my least liked and least played Wedding Present album, but as it's where it all began, I have a fondness for it.

Nostalgia can be unhealthy, but there are moments in my life which are soundtracked by the music of the time. And when The Wedding Present are such an important part of my life, George Best cannot be forgotten, and should not. If they re-release Seamonsters, there really will be cause for celebration. See you in 2001.

Copyright © 1997 Craig Scrogie e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Wedding Present articles/reviews: Evening Sessions 1986-1994, George Best, Going, Going..., Interstate 5, Live 1987, Take Fountain, The Hit Parade singles, Valentina.

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