England - Full Moon 200 - 12/28/12
The Wedding Present
The Hit Parade singles
"The boy Gedge has written some of the best love songs of the Rock'n'Roll era. You may dispute this, but I'm right and you're wrong!" (John Peel)
In 1992, The Wedding Present decided to release a limited edition
(10,000 copies) single every month. Each single featured an original track on the A side and a cover on the B side. As a result, The Wedding Present entered the Top 30 charts in the UK every month. Challenging Elvis P. himself in the high number of hits through one year.
Now, as it's been 20 years since their 12th single of 1992 (the x-mas
single) was released, let's revisit their parade of 7"s.
What strikes me now, when listening through the series 20 years later, is the punch and the strength of the songs. Here's (almost) not a weak link. At least not among the A sides (I'll come back to the B sides). That said, I should confess I'm a notorious TWP-o-holic, so I'm highly subjective in this case. And proud. Well, as I said, this is indeed good stuff. The year before TWP put out their smashing, Steve Albini-produced third album, Seamonsters. Guitarist Paul Dorrington had replaced original guitar player Peter Solowka, who was sacked just before Seamonsters was released (but after the album was recorded). Exit Ukrainski-Leeds-style, enter Sheffield-style guitar.
January 1992 gave us the brilliant "Blue Eyes" single; a perfect broken-love song by Gedge, with a nifty guitar lead, and guitar solo.
It's still up among the TWP
favourites. The energetic, high-octane "Go Go Dancer" followed in February, being quite a blast, before March's "Three" calmed things down a bit. "Three"'s not as anonymous as it sounds; it's a grower - yet it's not a top 5 song. April's "Silver Shorts" is also a very cool song, which needs quite some spins to fit right. It's got an excellently fuzzed guitar-wall-of-sound when the chorus kicks in. With May came "Come Play With Me", a waltzy piece, again (like with "Silver Shorts") with an excellent guitar sound by Dorrington. Midway through the song comes a rhythm change, which lifts the song even further. Great. June's "California" has never been a favourite of mine. Yes, I believe it's the weakest song of the hit cycle. That said it's got a really kool (and nice sounding, and short!) guitar solo. July's "Flying Saucer" was for sure a take-off after the somewhat disappointing "California". At least title-wise. Yet, "Flying Saucer" is a bit too long (stretching almost towards 5 minutes, being the longest of the singles), it somehow goes on without a purpose. Or, without a mission. Had TWP and Gedge lost it during the summer months? No! August saw the release of the bouncing "Boing!", a classic TWP-popper. Both intense and calm at the same time, and indeed a cool tune. September's "Love Slave" appeared somewhat quirky, being quite a different TWP song.
Yet, it's an interesting tune with a surprising arrangement. October's "Sticky" has got the trademark chiming, jingly-jangly guitars from former TWP years (the George Best era), and unveils a catchy song, sticking like glue. "The Queen of Outer Space", November 1992, was a return to space (hence "Flying Saucer"), and again it's an explosive TWP song playing with dynamics. Finally, December arrived with TWP's Xmas single, "No Christmas". Of course broken love turns the Xmas holiday bleak and grey, and the distorted intro turns ballad, for then to turn a real noise pop feast. A smashing end of the line for the TWP singles going steady all throughout 1992.
So, the B sides, then. Firstly, lets stick with Xmas. Since it's that time of the year, and also since the December single was a true Xmas single, as it was backed with "Step into Christmas", a song by Elton John! I can't imagine two British acts standing further away from each other than Elton John and The Wedding Present. Yet, it seems this song's a favourite of Gedge, since it's one of the 12 picks for B sides of the year. And, believe me, the song fits TWP. Or rather, they've made it a TWP song. The rest of the songs present a wide spectre of bands and artists, from bigger profiles like The Monkees, David Bowie, and Neil Young & Crazy Horse, to the Close Lobsters, Bow Wow Wow (!), and another favourite band of mine; The Go-Betweens. The problem (to my ears, that is) is that of all the twelve cover songs, only a few works well. The worst is "Falling", by Julee Cruise (which was the opening theme for the TV series Twin Peaks), I think. Almost horrible.
"Cattle and Cane", by The Go-Betweens,
isn't bad - it just doesn't fit TWP. Neil Young's "Don't Cry No Tears"
is also a waste of time, more or less, but the guitars are working quite good -- the Hippie generation meets the C86 generation. "Pleasant Valley Sunday", by The Monkees, is cool, but then it's hard to dislike a Monkees song. One of the better, maybe the best song is "Let's Make Some Plans", by the Close Lobsters - a Scottish indie combo, and a contemporary of TWP, who had a song on NME's C86 compilation. It's a great song (originally released as a single in 1987), from a band you'd like to check out (they split in 1989, after a handful of singles plus two albums). Both Mud's "Rocket" and Isaac Hayes'
"Theme from Shaft" are songs I easily skip. Same goes with the instrumental "U.F.O.", by Barry Gray, and Go Wild in the Country", by Bow Wow Wow. David Bowie's "Chant of the Ever-circling Skeletal Family" is more interesting, simply because it's quite a wild and crazy song originally.
Oh, yes, I almost forgot the last song, the B side from March; "Think That It Might", by another Scottish new wave/post-punk band, Altered Images. Not bad this one, either, and if I was to put up a Top 5 list of the Hit Parade B sides, this one would've made it. Along with "Pleasant Valley Sunday", "Let's Make Some Plans", "Chant of the Ever-circling Skeletal Family", and Step into Christmas".
A Hit Parade Top 5 'A sides' would've included: "Blue Eyes", "Go Go Dancer", "Come Play With Me", "Boing!" "Sticky", "Silver Shorts", "Love Slave", "Three", and "The Queen of Outer Space". Well, that's 9 songs making a Top 5! Like I said, I'm a complete TWP-addict,
a hundred per cent subjective, and not to be trusted at all when it comes to Gedge and co.
The Hit Parade 1 and Hit Parade 2, or the Hit Parade collected are highly recommended. You should also check the videos made for the row of singles; Dick York's Wardrobe: The Hit Parade Videos (originally on VHS, later on DVD as well). It's solid proof for the bands humour as well.
Copyright © 2012 Håvard Oppøyen