Nobody’s Twisting Your Arm

By 1988 with their critically-acclaimed album George Best on release and touring to packed indie venues country-wide, The Wedding Present were about to move up a level. Things were changing behind the scenes (this was the last release to feature original drummer Shaun Charman) and quite clearly on record too as this new single was the poppiest, catchiest song the band had created to this point.

The breakneck, jangly guitars and growling vocal were still in place but they were alongside a memorable melody and a sing-along chorus. This was all accompanied by a relatively flashy, promotional video and lively, balloon-filled gigs.

The song itself was a slight redirect from the concerns of the album released just months earlier as it featured a break-up but one in which the narrator was taking the upper hand and ending things with her before she ended with him. From sounding like someone who was being mocked and cheated upon in the first verse (“And when I called your house I’m sure your sister thought that I was somebody else / I heard a laugh down the phone and then the answer came that you weren’t at home, oh”) to someone ready to declare that the relationship is over feels like a long victorious journey in just over three short minutes.

The song is also notable for David Gedge making an irreverent reference to fellow band member Peter Solowka (“Take it away Grapper!”) and for the latter’s studio banter at the end whilst recording his accordion part (“Never played that in my life before.”) All in all, this was a band breaking away from their brooding early selves and showing they could have fun too. I can’t have been the only to notice that this was not going to be just another standard indie band.

Questions and Answers with David Lewis Gedge:

How long after George Best were the songs on this single written and recorded? It was released just four months afterwards, so was it a continuous conveyor belt of pop-making?

DLG: Ha, ha… I suppose so! In my old lyric book it says, vaguely, ‘written in 1987’ but I notice from the sleeve of the Live 1987 album that we were already playing a couple of tracks from this EP on the tour that followed the release of George Best. I was less busy in those days so I had more time for song writing. Listening to it now, I think you can already hear how we’d begun to move on from George Best – I think this song is a little more refined than the ones on the LP. We had begun to explore new territory. I got Peter [Solowka] to play the accordion as an overdub on this to add warmth and a new texture to the sound.

This song and the b-sides with it were the last with Shaun Charman on drums. You’ve related in the recent #12 of Tales From The Wedding Present comic the ‘personal differences’ reasons for Shaun being asked to leave and your current rekindled friendship with him. In discussions over the years I hear some fans prefer one drummer to another over the years. What difference do you feel a drummer can make to your songs?

DLG: A drummer’s style can definitely influence the ‘feel’ of a song. And it’s not just how technically capable they are… different drummers have different styles. Some of them hit the drums harder, some give the songs a ‘groovier’ feel, some are more exuberant in their playing style. There are lots of nuances…

This was the first single to receive a professional promo video. Did this feel like a big deal at the time? What are your memories of recording it including any of the locations like the bridge where you presumably had to walk along backwards for take after take?

DLG: I suppose having someone pay for a professional video felt like we were passing some kind of a milestone, yes, but it wasn’t a big deal. Making videos is always a bit surreal, to be honest… we’re musicians, not actors… but, yes, walking backwards through a busy London crowd was one of the oddest things I’ve done for The Wedding Present. I thought it was a clever idea though… and they spent ages on those graphics. It’s a fun video…

By this point, you’d mastered the ability of matching a colloquial phrase or saying to a catchy chorus. Do you find this side of your song-writing easy or do you have to wrestle with the words to fit a tune or vice versa?

DLG: It’s definitely a technique I’ve used over the years, as you say… dropping in a well-known phrase here and there. It’s one of the ways that I like to reference popular culture. But I wouldn’t say it was easy! It can often sound clumsy or clichéd so you have to be sparing with them. And it has to match the rhythm and melody, of course, too. It’s sometimes easier just to come up with your own phrase instead… but that’s often not quite as satisfying.

This song features the famous reference to guitarist Peter Solowka when you quip “Take it away, Grapper”, before the bridge. Any memories of why you included that? You changed it to ‘Wycombe boy’ when Simon Cleave was in the band. Any other variations you can recall using?

DLG: I think I might’ve also used ‘Hibs boy’ when Christopher McConville played it. It was just one of those spur of the moment, throwaway things you come up with in the studio. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t!

This is one of several songs from this era that features the backing vocals of Amelia Fletcher (Talulah Gosh, Heavenly, Marine Research, Tender Trap etc.) and you’ve worked with her several times since. What do you like about Amelia’s voice?

DLG: I like the way it blended with mine – the contrast was quite marked. She also came up with her own parts… she’s really good at pop melodies and added a new element to our recordings. This song in particular has a ‘big’ chorus and I think her part helps brings that out.

You played this song live on ‘Calendar’, a show on Yorkshire Television. Was that your first time on television? How was that experience?

DLG:  I think our first television appearance was for ‘My Favourite Dress’ for the BBC in Leeds. Funnily enough, I’m currently working on a story for Tales From The Wedding Present for the Yorkshire Television thing because it was quite a stressful affair. The plan was that we’d play the song and then have a chat with the presenter. But then we discovered that our time slot was only to be three minutes long. So the director asked us to ‘re-arrange’ the song to make it last for two minutes so that we could squeeze the interview in. And, of course, in true Wedding Present style, we were having none of that! So he said that if we didn’t do it we wouldn’t be on the show. So we started packing away our gear! He said: “What are you doing?!” We told him that we were leaving because we didn’t want to alter our arrangement. In the end they let us play the unadulterated version but we had to forgo doing the interview. We were fine with that. I think we played it at too quick a tempo, though, because we were all annoyed. If you watch the first few seconds of the video you can tell I’m still fuming!

I know there are fans, who like the vocal tone you have on these early records – quite deep and guttural in places with plenty of grunts, sighs and ‘arghhh’s. You don’t seem to sing like that these days – is this because you’ve become a better singer or did you deliberately move away from that style?

DLG: At the time I thought those grunts and sighs enhanced the emotion in the vocal delivery but when I listen to the older records now I’m not so keen on them anymore. I think my taste has probably just changed!

Official Lyrics:

And when I called your house I’m sure your sister thought that I was somebody else
I heard a laugh down the phone and then the answer came that you weren’t at home, oh

You know I never go there because I hate to dance and you really don’t care
Why don’t you go on your own?
How can you lie there and say that you’ll come back alone?

Oh, well that’s fine, I don’t care anymore
Nobody’s twisting your arm
Here’s the key… there’s the door
Oh well that’s fine, I don’t care anymore
Nobody’s twisting your arm
Here’s the key… there’s the door

Before we go back in, what about those secret smiles that you were giving to him?
Oh, just ‘somebody you met’
Well I go out of my way and this is the thanks that I get!

I’m just a slave to your greed
I’m not the kind of boyfriend that you need
But if you’d like me to go, you’ll get no trouble from me
Just so long as I know

Oh, well that’s fine, I don’t care anymore
Nobody’s twisting your arm
Here’s the key… there’s the door
Oh well that’s fine, I don’t care anymore
Nobody’s twisting your arm
Here’s the key… there’s the door
Take it away Grapper!

Oh well that’s fine, I don’t care anymore
Nobody’s twisting your arm
Here’s the key… there’s the door
Oh well that’s fine, I don’t care anymore
Nobody’s twisting your arm
Here’s the key… there’s the door
I don’t love you anymore

Written and published by Gedge, whose publishing is administered outside of the UK & Eire by Fintage Publishing BV except for North America where it is administered by Superior Music.

Studio Versions:

1 – Single version [Reception REC009] TIME: 4:01
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar, accordion); Keith Gregory (bass); Shaun Charman (drums); Amelia Fletcher (additional vocals); Chris Allison (producer)
Released February 1988 as single on 7″, 12″ and CD. First 8000 7″ singles came with gatefold sleeve.

2 – Swedish Radio Session version TIME: 4:18
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory (bass); Shaun Charman (drums)
Recorded at BBC Broadcasting House; commisioned by Sveriges Radio and broadcast on Bommen programme on 27/03/1988

Both these versions were last released on George Best Deluxe Edition [Edsel EDSJ 9004].

Gatefold sleeve photo

Live Versions:

1 – Munich version TIME: 3:20
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory (bass); Shaun Charman (drums); Mike Stout (engineer)
Recorded at the Alabama-Halle, Munich, Germany on 22/11/1987
Originally released on Live Tape No. 2 cassette, now available on Live 1987 [Scopitones TONE CD 025]

2 – Rotterdam version TIME: 3:31
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory (bass); Simon Smith (drums); Mike Stout (engineer)
Recorded live at VPRO’s Party Doctrine, Rotterdam, The Netherlands on 30/03/1988
Originally released on Live Tape No. 3 cassette, now available on George Best Deluxe Edition and Live 1988 [Scopitones TONE CD 033]

3 – London Town and Country Club version TIME: 2:50
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory (bass); Simon Smith (drums)
Recorded live at the Town and Country Club, London, UK for BBC Radio 1 on 11/10/1988
Available on George Best Deluxe Edition

4 – Valencia version TIME: 3:13
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory (bass); Simon Smith (drums); Joe Hickey (engineer)
Recorded at The Arena, Valencia, Spain on 18/11/1988
Available on Live 1988

5 – Shepherd’s Bush Welcomes version TIME: 3:37
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Simon Cleave (guitar); Terry De Castro (bass); Simon Pearson (drums); Christopher McConville (engineer); Roger Lomas (producer)
Recorded at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, UK on 20/11/2005
Available on Shepherd’s Bush Welcomes The Wedding Present [Secret CRIDE 81]

Live 1987

Live 1987

Live 1988
Live 1988
Shepherd’s Bush Welcomes
George Best
George Best

Video:

Live: 

The song first appeared in the setlist in the Autumn of 1987. It then appeared regularly through to 1990. After that it took a long break, not appearing again until the post-hiatus Autumn tour of 2005. It had another run from the end of 2011 through to start of 2012. It’s most recent airing was during the Autumn tour at the end of 2014.

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