You Should Always Keep In Touch With Your Friends

In April of 1987, Beechwood Music released the first of many, many indie music compilations and so it was that when I purchased this, I heard my very first song by The Wedding Present. Little did I know that they would go on to become my favourite band by some country mile. The eighth track on the cassette was a song called You Should Always Keep In Touch With Your Friends. An admirable sentiment of course but was it really a good idea for a song? The answer: you bet your jangly guitar it was!

Coupled with This Boy Can Wait, this was the band’s third single released in short succession as they fired with energy and ideas. We start with a short drum roll by Shaun Charman followed by the afore-mentioned chiming guitar by David Gedge and Peter Solowka. I’m not a musical expert but I think this song is played in the key of ‘poignant heartbreak’. I’m already tearing up and the singing hasn’t even started yet. The story is set in school age, a time when bonds are first formed and lifetime friendships can sometimes be forged. Is this a platonic or a romantic relationship? At first it’s not clear but by the end it sounds like the pangs of a first love that drifts apart and is only viewed in the rear-view mirror.  One of the most evocative of lines is the third describing a “bridge that stood close by the sea”. I have only just found out some 26 years later that this bridge is apparently in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. The thing should have a plaque on it!

By the time we get to the first chorus, this sounds like not just the first love but a first sexual encounter and yet the sweetness of the lyrics never feel dirty. This is a song about love and the aching of memory. The third verse continues the theme of pain in remembrance. Of course, these would become familiar themes in the years to come as David Gedge revisits this favourite subject many times. Three minutes, two seconds in and we’re done. It’s fitting that a song that is all about looking back should end with the words that are the title. It’s a message and one you aren’t supposed to forget.

Questions and Answers with David Gedge:

Do you have any memories of how the idea first came to you?

DLG: I stole the title from the end of a letter written to me by Charles Gant who went to school with Keith Gregory [bass; The Wedding Present, 1985-1993] and who later went on to be a film journalist. He’s currently the film editor of Heat magazine, actually! He signed off with “you should always keep in touch with your friends” which I found to be quite a poignant line in itself but which also inspired me to think about how ‘first love’ can have a lasting impact…

Any general thoughts on the song now and whether you like playing it live?

DLG:  Yes, it’s one of my favourite songs from the ‘early’ Wedding Present era and it’s very enjoyable to play live. I share this view with Terry de Castro [bass, backing vocals; Cinerama, 1997-2005, The Wedding Present, 2005-2010] who says: “It really ‘drives’. It’s exciting. When it starts, it’s like a kick of adrenaline and it maintains an intensity and momentum that I find fun to play. It’s also kind of 80s retro-sounding but in a really authentic way because that’s when it’s from! Great bass line as well. It has a real groove.”

Is there anything you would change about the song now?

DLG: I think on “You Should Always Keep In Touch With Your Friends” you can really hear us trying to establish The Wedding Present ‘sound’ and, so, although I don’t think we would record it that way now, from a historical perspective it’s a valid statement of intent.

 The song refers to a school time friendship/romance. Was this a specific person and do you in general keep in contact with friends from school and your university days?

DLG: It’s my policy never to reveal exactly whom a song is about… but in this case it’s fairly obviously about a first ‘proper’ girlfriend.  I’m actually guilty of not taking the advice offered by the title! The musician’s lifestyle and the consequent travelling makes it really difficult to keep in touch with friends. So I’m not really in contact with anybody I met at school or university, to be honest, and I do regret that to a certain extent.

It’s been said the ‘bridge’ in question is near Scarborough, North Yorkshire. Have you been back to it since? Could you still find it now?

DLG: I think I could find it, yes. It’s not the one that everyone thinks it is though… it’s not the “Spa Bridge”. I don’t know what my bridge is called but it’s next to the The Old Scalby Mills which is a restaurant. That “proper first girlfriend” of mine and I made a solemn pact that we would meet at the bridge on the same day every year for the rest of our lives. We said we’d return there even if we weren’t still together… but then neither of us could imagine not being together, because we were so ‘in love’! Ha, ha. Then, of course, we never went back. Ah, young love…

What made you choose this as a double a-side single since it was quite a break from the pace of the other singles at the start?

DLG: It was because we couldn’t decide which of “You Should Always Keep In Touch With Your Friends” and “This Boy Can Wait” – which was more in keeping with the pace of the first two singles – should be the A-side. They were both worthy of being the title track. And it’s a ‘problem’ we’ve had ever since! Essentially The Wedding Present never have ‘throwaway’ tracks that are obvious B-sides. If a song isn’t good enough it’s simply not released.

Was there any chance of it appearing on George Best?

DLG: No. Apart from “My Favourite Dress” we didn’t want to put stuff we’d already released onto the album. It seemed like it’d be a bit of a rip off.

Where was the video filmed?

DLG: Scotland. The filmmaker approached us and invited us to make it on his friend’s farm out in the countryside near Edinburgh. It was all done on Super-8. I remember that Keith [Gregory] spent ages painting that backdrop, which was ultimately set on fire as we played.

Thanks David. It’s a very poignant song with a very simple message. The imagery is grounded in reality but feels timeless. I think this is one of your best ever compositions because of it’s simplicity  – bomaya

Official Lyrics:

After school, a friendship walking home
We fled across the fields until we were alone
To a bridge that stood close by the sea
The day that we spent there is ours eternally

I don’t have to tell you; I’m sure you understand
The first who lay beside me made me what I am
Oh, she made me what I am

A smile, in these ungrateful times
Makes all that you left me seem more worthwhile
But no, I couldn’t really dare to show how much I miss you
Isn’t that unfair?

I don’t have to tell you; I’m sure you understand
The first who lay beside me made me what I am
Oh, you made me what I am
And no matter how it ends, you should always keep in touch with your friends

Written and published by Gedge. Gedge’s publishing is administered outside of the UK & Eire by Fintage Music International.

Studio Versions:

1 – Peel Session version recorded 11/02/1986, first broadcast 26/02/1986 TIME: 3:02

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory (bass) and Shaun Charman (drums) Producer: Mick Wilcojc   Engineer: Mike Robinson
Special Thanks: Mike Stout (same version released on Tommy in 1988)

2 – AA-side single released July 1986 [Reception Records REC 003] TIME: 3:01

Recorded by: David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory (bass) and Shaun Charman (drums)

Engineer:  Carl Rosamond

the-wedding-present-you-should-always-keep-in-touch-with-your-friends-receptionthe-wedding-present-you-should-always-keep-in-touch-with-your-friends-1986

Live: 

Played regularly from 1986 to 1988 plus 2006-2007.

Officially released on Live CD 1987 & Live CD 1988 [SCOPITONES TONE CD 025 & 033]

Video: 

Promo:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rmmVxoNCJ8

From The Other Side of Midnight: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AyUv-7F_Hw

 

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