Wedding Present Christmas present anyone? Maybe in the ‘Too long; didn’t read’ era, David Gedge’s bijou Sleevenotes book, published by Pomona, might be considered an epic tome by those who apologise for the paragraph-long ‘huge message’ they’ve just sent you by email. It’s not a casual browse, as the low-down on the making of their lesser-known albums may well hit home with a very select group somewhere near the pinnacle of humanity. But if living close to the Gedge is your bag (already wondering how many people have used that pun since the mid-80s…), or a significant thing in the life of your significant other, then this splendid insight into the Wedding Present and Cinerama story so far ought to provide a more special option to the festive carve-up than anything in the telly schedules with ‘special’ spuriously appended to its title.
Major selling point – it’ll fit into a decent coat pocket or handbag/manbag well. Arranged into short episodes, with wise, observational Gedgey anecdotes focused around one particular song from each studio release, it can be consumed in short chunks. Continuing with the festive theme, you could easily take it to Uncle Jack and Auntie Rita’s house without them noticing, and you could happily excuse yourself for an extended call of nature, during which time you take in another chapter in the adventures of your favourite band (like taking your smartphone to the bog, but more focused and rewarding).
One of the finest aspects of listening to The Wedding Present’s discography over the decades has been just how close and personal the lyrics feel. In a similar manner to enjoying a Billy Bragg lyric, you can’t help but feel that Mr Gedge is with you when you hear, “Is that a letter you’re hiding from me?” or “I said, ‘No, I’m not from the South, I am from further North than you.” Unsurprisingly, he writes prose as he writes verse, with complexity of thought couched in candid simplicity of expression. So as you hide in your relatives’ downstairs loo, checking out a cheeky chapter, you can feel very much as if the overlord of double-strummed guitar barrage is right there with you.
From the opening, “I never wanted to be in a band,” it’s the antithesis of a ‘look at me’ rock-star memoir. There’s much more of a sense that he’s still making it up as he goes along, and rather enjoying it. From offering George Best a beer, just after he’d gone sober, to declaring “This one’s got B-side written all over it” when recording Kennedy, Gedge regularly seems to be the anti-hero of his own story. He doesn’t shirk mentioning the difficult points either, such as having to fire band members, losing major contracts, thinking that Cinerama would be more successful than the Wedding Present and having to admit to himself that it wasn’t going to be so, or having to pay for recordings from his own savings. Despite being the self-confessed “world’s worst networker,” he comes across as a modest but considered conversationalist throughout.
Whilst reflecting on Montreal from Saturnalia, Gedge writes, “I’ve never had writer’s block because I’ve always been able to find something to write about. One person can say one sentence and there will be enough to inspire a song.” On that basis, with a few tactical visits to your rellies’ lavatory this Christmas with a pocketful of Gedge, you too could pick up enough inspiration to pen that album of songs that’s always weighed heavily, ready to be purged.