Wow

Cinerama had been around for a couple of years by the time that ‘Wow’ arrived. Just as some fans couldn’t take to the new band, Va Va Voom brought others that were new to the delights of David Gedge’s songs. Releases were coming thick and fast: four singles with fantastic b-sides, one album and a compilation of earlier singles and b-sides all came out in 2000.

‘Wow’ was a surprise to some of us at that time as it seemed like a return to the sound of previous years. Mixed in with the slinky orchestration of Cinerama, it was a heady mix. There was a new drummer in Simon Pearson whilst ex-The Wedding Present guitarist, Simon Cleave had been back in the fold for about a year and along with Terry DeCastro’s ever-excellent musicianship this was a band making some beautiful music.

‘Wow’ is kind of a perfect Gedge formula in many ways: Lust + Couplets + Roaring Guitars + Long Melodic Outro = Pop Genius. It’s been performed in many ways over the years from stripped down acoustic to full rock band to augmented orchestra and it never ever gets old. You want it to last forever. You compel it to stay. You are sure. OK?

Questions and Answers with David Gedge:

I guess the big question about this song is, it came kind of in the middle of the Cinerama era but was the first clear sign that the Wedding Present ‘sound’ was ‘returning’. It was noisier and rockier than anything in the Va Va Voom era. What was it that made you write (or record) a song that sounded so much like your (then) former band?

DLG: I didn’t go out to create something that sounded like The Wedding Present; I think it was just the way it came together. I’d written and arranged Va Va Voom totally on my own and had consciously tried to write songs around other instruments, rather than concentrating on the guitar as we’d done in The Wedding Present. But, after the release of Va Va Voom, Cinerama became more of a band and so, even though I still wrote this song at home on my own using the computer, we started arranging songs more as a band, too. And I think that’s where the similarities to The Wedding Present started to creep in, especially since the Wedding Present guitarist was now the Cinerama guitarist!

The songs recorded as part of the Disco Volante sessions are pretty varied. At what stage in the recording process was ‘Wow’ and how much of the result was influenced by Steve Albini?

DLG:  ‘Wow’ was one of the first songs to be written for what would be the follow up to Va Va Voom. I think the variety comes from the fact that I was still in the poppy post – Va Va Voom stage but, at the same time, also immersing myself in those rockier Cinerama band surroundings. Albini never really influences recordings, to be honest. He sees himself more of a documenter.

I’m assuming the single/album versions were cut from the same recording sessions? Was ‘Wow’ always going to be a single or did you only realise after recording and so have to create an edited version?

DLG: It was always going to be a single, yes. I’d earmarked it as ‘the herald’ for the next album quite early on and doing the two versions was always part of that strategy. It was just one of those songs that sounded like a statement of intent!

We tracked the six and a half minute version in Chicago with Albini but the only additional instrument we recorded at that time was the flute part. It was mixed, along with ‘Gigolo’, there and then by Albini and we faded it out over the outro to make the length a more radio-friendly four minutes. The third track on the ‘Wow’ CD single, ’10 Denier’, was left over from a previous recording session. When the single came out in the summer of 2000 we were still working on Disco Volante here in England with Dare Mason. For the album version of ‘Wow’ we added strings and french horn and, obviously, didn’t fade it out this time!

The Extended version includes some chitter-chatter at the start, the gorgeous instrumental outro and some distortion at the end. Any thoughts on the extra elements?

DLG: I surreptitiously recorded the chitter-chatter in a London restaurant on my portable mini-disc but then we recorded the ‘wine pouring’ in the studio. It was Dare’s idea to have one glass panned in one speaker and one in the other… ‘some for you, some for me’.

You’ve written quite a few songs that have long outros, with ‘Take Me!’ being perhaps the most famous example. What makes you think a song should have an end like that? And what makes you decide when enough is enough? I could listen to the end of ‘Wow’ for ten minutes and never get bored. Why stop where you did?

DLG:  I love a long outro, ha, ha… and some songs just call out for it. It just needs a pattern and tempo that can withstand repetition, I guess. But on ‘Wow’ the point is that the whole thing gradually builds and builds… the drums and guitars increasingly get more intense, additional guitar layers enter, then the solo french horn joins in… and I think that you ultimately reach a point where it feels that the arrangement is busy enough. At the end of the outro the higher strings play a counter melody and I sometimes think that maybe I went too far with that!

The lyrics are pretty unambiguous and in fact the stark reality that lust can overtake all rational and moral thought maybe strikes a chord with fans. Do you think this ‘weakness’  is something that most people succumb to at some point in their lives?

DLG: You would have to conduct a survey to answer that!

I know people that have had secret rendezvous at Wedding Present/Cinerama concerts. Do you think your fans are drawn to your lyrics because they already live lives that replicate your words or do they act out in ways that they wouldn’t normally because they are fans?

DLG: I think people are drawn to my lyrics because they’re meaningful and unambiguous and are rarely cloaked in ridiculous imagery. I just try to discuss the kinds of things that happen to us all.

Cinerama singles and albums had great sleeves. Is that Gina Lollobrigida on the single release and who designed the cover?

DLG: The earlier sleeves, including this one, were usually designed by Andrew Swain at Cactus following my brief that I wanted a modern feel applied to retro photographic imagery. I think Andrew went with more of a lighter ‘pop culture’ approach than Egelnick & Webb who did the later Cinerama sleeves. But it’s not Gina Lollobrigida, no.

You’ve played the song live as Cinerama in the old days; with the Wedding Present; with a couple of brass musicians and with a full orchestra. How much difference does this make to you live how many musicians are on stage? Do you prefer the full orchestra version over the others?

DLG: Ultimately, if a song is good enough it’ll stand being played by one person on an acoustic guitar… and I think this song is good enough. That being said, it does sound ‘huge’ when the band is complemented by a string section and the brass and flute and I’m really glad we were able to record a version in that format for the Live 2015 album/DVD.

Official Lyrics:

You’ve avoided questions that could’ve easily spoilt the mood
Like ‘where does my girlfriend work?’, ‘what’s her favourite food?’
I think I know someone who could give me an alibi
So, yes, I think I’ve just proved that I’m prepared to lie

But there is nothing quite like a secret rendezvous
I think I know already what I’m going to do
Outside the air is cold and your arm slips into mine
When you invite me in, you know I won’t decline

But I don’t want to stay forever
Oh, I don’t want to leave my girlfriend but, wow, this isn’t happening the way I’d planned
I’m not going to say never but I don’t want to fall in love right now
Well, just as long as we both understand

As you lead me up the stairs, I’m leering at your thighs
You’re revealing parts of me I just don’t recognise
You leave behind a scent that lingers in the air
It draws me up the steps but I should not be there

But I don’t want to stay forever
Oh, I don’t want to leave my girlfriend but, wow, this isn’t happening the way I’d planned
Oh, I’m not going to say never but I don’t want to fall in love right now
Well, just as long as we both understand

You’re telling me, almost compelling me, to stay
But don’t close the door because I’m still not sure
OK

Written and published by Gedge, whose publishing is administered outside of the UK & Eire by Fintage Publishing BV.

Studio Version:

1 – Single version released 12/06/2000 [Scopitones, TONE CD 002]TIME: 3:59

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Sally Murrell (vocals, keyboards); Simon Cleave (guitar); Terry de Castro (bass and backing vocals); Simon Pearson (drums); Paul Martens (flute); Steve Albini (engineer); Dare Mason (mixer)

2 – Disco Volante version released 18/09/2000 [Scopitones, TONE CD 004] TIME: 6:44

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Sally Murrell (vocals, keyboards); Simon Cleave (guitar); Terry de Castro (bass and backing vocals); Simon Pearson (drums); Paul Martens (flute); Abigail Trundle (cello); Rachel Davis (violin); Andrew Blick (trumpet); Jon Boswell (french horn); Steve Albini (engineer); Dare Mason (mixer)

(Recorded in Electrical Audio, Chicago and Oaklands Groove, London in the Summer of 2000)

Live Version:

1 –  Live in Los Angeles version released 2002 (Scopitones, TONE CD 009) TIME: 7:05

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Sally Murrell (vocals, keyboards); Simon Cleave (guitar); Terry de Castro (bass and backing vocals); Kari Paavola (drums); Ethan Kairer (live sound mixer)

(Recorded at The Knitting Factory, Los Angeles, USA on 05/11/2000 [Cinerama: Winter Tour])

2 – Live in Belfast version released 06/10/2003 [Scopitones, TONE CD 015] TIME: 6:05

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); (Simon Cleave (guitar); Terry de Castro (bass and backing vocals); Kari Paavola (drums); Richard Jackson (live sound mixer)

(Recorded at The Empire, Belfast, Northern Ireland on 05/09/2002 [Cinerama: 2002 Tour])

3 – Live 2015 version released 09/11/2015 [Scoptiones, TONE 062] TIME: 6:25

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Samuel Beer-Pearce (guitar); Katherine Wallinger (bass); Charles Layton (drums); Danielle Wadey (keyboards, glockenspiel, backing vocals); Melanie Howard (keyboards, backing vocals); Pedro Vigil (guitar); Rebecca Doe (violin); Michael Simmonds (violin); Robert Spriggs (viola); Anna Beryl (cello); Andrew Blick (trumpet); Elizabeth Palmer (flute); Sebastian Falcone (live recording/mixer)

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Live:

Debuting in 2000 to rapturous reception, ‘Wow’ continued in the set until the seeming demise of Cinerama around 2004 but as soon as 2006, it was already back in the Wedding Present’s repertoire.

Videos:

 

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