Go Out And Get ‘Em, Boy!

For a lot of fans this song would have been their introduction to the wonder that is The Wedding Present. I wonder what it would have felt like to hear this crackling out of the radio when John Peel first played the single in 1985. Or at the very early concerts where the song must have sounded astonishing at the time.

I first heard the song a little later on the compilation, Tommy, a frantic collection of all the early singles, b-sides and assorted random tracks from those early, frenetic years. It blew me away: the jangly melodic opening, the pounding bass and drums, the electrifying guitars and the structure which zigged and zagged in a peculiar way.

I don’t think I ever really knew what the song was about. Fleeting snatches of lyrics broke through the distorted fog and those were the bits I latched on to. A 21-year old, a golden field and a little girl with a union jack, a pinprick on a map. I bound my own meaning up into those oblique phrases. The final lines, despite the ambiguity, were full of resounding sadness. They felt so full of melancholy and heart-breaking ennui because of the way that the lines were intoned.

In hindsight, the song is very rough and chaotic but maybe that’s why I love it. The fact that it was there at the birth of the band I love the most probably explains the nostalgic passion. But somehow, it means much more to me than that.

Questions and Answers with David Lewis Gedge:

Firstly, this was, of course, the debut single by The Wedding Present. Before that, you were in The Lost Pandas. Do they feel like two distinct eras in terms of song writing or was there some crossover? Was the creative process back then similar or different to how it became in the new line up?

DLG: Although I was the main songwriter in both groups… and the songs were written and arranged in pretty much the same way… I would definitely describe The Lost Pandas and The Wedding Present as distinct eras, yes. That’s partly because my own writing technique was still evolving and partly because of the personnel changes between the two bands. I’ve often said that meeting Shaun Charman was significant in the early development of The Wedding Present because he encouraged us to adapt a more punky and aggressive style of playing. The sound of The Lost Pandas, on the other hand, was more reflective… and the lyrics were more abstract.

In the Edsel Records re-release of Tommy, you mention that ‘Go Out And Get ‘Em, Boy!’ was a deliberate statement of intent – with its unusual structure and multiple parts. You say you’d write it differently now, in what way?

DLGWell, there are about half a dozen different musical themes in that song! I remember a review of it saying that there were more ideas in this one track than some bands manage across an entire LP! And, while I think it kind of works on ‘Go Out And Get ‘Em, Boy!’ an arrangement like that can sound over-written or too complicated. But it was the first single and, for all we knew, it might’ve been the last… so I think we wanted to pack it full of interesting hooks. We also wanted to make it an extreme record… we wanted it to leap out of the radio and grab you by the ears… so we deliberately accentuated the thrashy guitars and the frantic pace.

In the liner notes of the same re-release, the song is described as a “critique of militarism via an address to a young soldier”. It’s funny but I never really thought of the song as a political one but you say there that you were looking to stretch yourself. As with your other songs in this genre, you say you’re not happy with the results. Can you explain why and explain some of the meaning and inspiration behind the lyrics?

DLG: I just think I’m better at writing about relationships. I’ve always admired writers who can make political statements work within the pop song format… Billy Bragg was a master of that, for example… but whenever I’ve tried I always think that it sounds clumsy and forced. ‘Go Out And Get ‘Em, Boy!’ was written shortly after The Falklands War and was partly influenced by that conflict. Although I think there’s passion in the lyric, the message remains a little unfocused and it’s an approach from which I moved away after I’d decided to concentrate on a less ‘poetic’ style.

Your vocals are reminiscent of that of Mark Burgess from The Chameleons. I know you knew them through school and socially. How much influence and inspiration did their work have on you at that time?

DLG: It’s difficult to describe just how huge the influence of The Chameleons was on me. I knew Mark Burgess and also Dave Fielding and Reg Smithies from school. Dave was actually one of my closest childhood friends and he lived about five minutes’ walk from our house. He was a brilliant guitarist and although I used to play a bit of music with him we also did all the usual stuff that teenagers did. I used to go and see him play with Reg in a band called Years and, at the same time, I saw Mark play in his band The Clichés. Shortly after I left Middleton to go to Leeds University the three of them formed The Chameleons. I thought The Chameleons were great… I still do… amazing tunes and a powerful sound. It’s the kind of music that raises the hairs on your neck. I collected their records avidly and Keith and I used to travel all over to see them play live, along with my girlfriend at the time, Jaz. They were one of my favourite bands along with, I guess, The Fall and The Velvet Underground and so they were bound to have an influence on my song writing until I’d found my own ‘voice’. They influenced The Lost Pandas more than The Wedding Present, though. I think after ‘Go Out And Get ‘Em, Boy!’ you hear less of their influence on The Wedding Present but I continued to love Mark’s vocal style.

On the 24th May 1985, the single was released firstly by yourselves on Reception Records with 500 copies and then later that year on City Slang with another 1,000 copies. Was having your own record label a planned idea or was it just out of necessity?

DLG: It was out of necessity. We’d sent out loads of demo tapes to record labels but no-one was interested in signing the band. So we decided to just save up and pay for the release ourselves. In doing so we essentially created our own record company. It was never an ambition to start a label – it was purely a vehicle for The Wedding Present… but, once we’d started it, we decided that we quite liked having it!

The City Slang thing was an odd diversion. The initial pressing had sold out but, because we weren’t yet a ‘proper’ organisation the thought of repressing it never really crossed our minds. Then, a journalist called Neil Taylor interviewed the band for the New Musical Express and he offered to re-release the single on his own label, City Slang. We, rather naively, agreed… I think I said something along the lines of: “If you pay for lunch, you can release it!” Red Rhino, who had distributed the Reception Records pressing, were appalled! They said: “Why didn’t you just ask us?!” And they were absolutely correct; we’d just let City Slang release it without any written agreement or terms and conditions.

Who created the artwork for the two sleeves? One features a photograph on an old man sheltering from the rain, the other is an abstract piece of art.

DLG: Keith Gregory and I assembled the first sleeve using a photograph we’d ripped out of a magazine and a packet of Letraset, but the second sleeve was designed wholly by
City Slang. We weren’t consulted in any way about that second sleeve. In fact, the first time I saw it was after Shaun had bought a copy at Jumbo Records in Leeds and brought it round to my house! We were all horrified. It was, what I guess is called, a ‘wake up call’, actually, because from that point we fiercely took control of all of our releases… the recordings, mixing, artwork, videos… everything… to the point where it became something of an obsession.

Are they the same recording?

DLG: Yes.

A Wedding Present wiki entry says ‘Go Out And Get ‘Em, Boy!’ was chosen as first single over ‘Will You Be Up There?’ – is that accurate?

DLGYes. I can’t speak for the other band members but I remember feeling that although ‘Will You Be Up There?’ was possibly a superior song, ‘Go Out And Get ‘Em, Boy!’ was more of a statement and, therefore, a better choice for a debut single. ‘Will You Be Up There?’… on the other hand… was never released in the end!

Julian Sowa drummed on the track rather than Shaun Charman. Was this because of the speed of the track and the fact that Shaun was actually new to drumming, having been, up to that point, a bassist?

DLG: Precisely. When we met Shaun he was a bassist in another band and the only time he’d ever actually picked up drumsticks was when that band used to swap instruments for a laugh. But we felt that his personality and the kind of music he liked was more important than his ability and so we decided that the fact that he couldn’t actually play the drums wasn’t necessarily an obstacle to him becoming the Wedding Present drummer! So he joined the band and launched himself on this steep learning curve. He didn’t feel confident enough to play on the recording of ‘Go Out And Get ‘Em, Boy!’ and so he asked his friend Julian Sowa to sit in for him. Remember that our modus operandi at this time was to play everything at 100 m.p.h. He said that he was only able to play drums on the B-side because there was a slow bit in the middle of that song where he could catch his breath!

The first two singles (this and ‘Once More’) were compiled onto an EP, ‘Don’t Try And Stop Me, Mother’ which sounds like a very Morrissey-like title. Presumably, this release was down to those singles selling out so quickly. Did you realise that this popularity was a sign of things to come or did you just think it was a bubble tied to John Peel’s patronage?

DLG: After the City Slang blip we decided to return to releasing records on our own label through Red Rhino Distribution. The re-release of ‘Go Out And Get ‘Em, Boy!’ had sold out as quickly as the first pressing and so we decided that we’d make those tracks available on what was essentially the 12” version of ‘Once More’ – the ‘Don’t Try And Stop Me, Mother’ EP. I’m not sure we were particularly thinking about our popularity or ‘things to come’ but we did obviously notice a marked increase in interest in the band once Peel had started playing the first single.

Speaking of which, how did it feel hearing this song on John Peel for the first time?

DLG: It was literally one of the most exciting moments of my life! I’d spent my formative years listening to the John Peel programme to the point where I never missed a single show. My principle ambition, for more than a few years, was to have John Peel play one of my songs on the radio and so when he announced that he was going to air the single I was ecstatic. People expect me to say that the highlight of being in The Wedding Present was appearing on Top Of The Pops or playing in Japan or whatever but I don’t think anything will ever surpass that debut play on John Peel.

Did you know it was going to happen or was it a surprise?

DLG: Well, we’d obviously sent him a copy of the record so it wasn’t a complete surprise but it wasn’t guaranteed that he’d like it enough to give it a spin, of course. Or that he’d even pick it out of the mountain of releases he was sent on a daily basis.

I was pleased to see you are performing this song on your current (April 2017) tour of North America. What differences are there playing it live now compared to 32 years ago?!

DLG: Well… the current band members are better musicians than that first line-up… and we have better gear… you can hear on the original recording how ‘small’ everything sounds because we were hampered by having no budget. But I think I can safely say that none of the energy and ambition and passion is missing. For me, playing ‘Go Out And Get ‘Em, Boy!’ live is always a special moment in any set. It’s where it all began, after all…

Official Lyrics

You were a survivor after all; you never even called!
I didn’t expect you to
Now, oh, there’s such a lot you’ve done and you’re only twenty-one
Yes, you’re only twenty-one

Oh, oh, there’s just something, something I noticed
That there’s a whole world out there but it’s shrinking fast
You want to take it all and make it last forever
Or maybe just a lifetime

Now, oh, you’ve gone to fly the flag from some pinprick on the map
Oh, won’t you ever bring it back?
Tonight, when you hold her in your arms and you prove that you’re a man
Oh, well, I hope she understands

Oh, oh, there’s just something, something I noticed
That there’s a whole world out there but it’s shrinking fast
You want to take it all and make it last forever
Or maybe just a lifetime, maybe just a lifetime

Oh, some things just don’t ever go away
Some things, you know, are just here to stay

And in a golden field there is a little girl left with a union jack
And there’s a price to pay, no matter what you say
There is no going back today
And if we’re worlds apart, then I’ve still got a heart
Can you imagine that?
“Another wasted day”, yes, I can hear you say
But I’m afraid it means much more to me than that

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 Version:

1 – A-side of single [Reception REC 001] released 24/05/1985 with 500 copies
and re-released on 30/08/1985 [City Slang CSL 001] with 1000 copies. TIME: 4:11

Also appeared on compilations, Don’t Try and Stop Me Mother [Reception REC 002/12] and Tommy [Reception LEEDS 002]. Currently available as Edsel Records reissue of Tommy [EDSJ 9005]

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory (bass); Julian Sowa (drums); Carl Rosamond(producer)

Live Versions:

1 – Reading 1987 version TIME: 3:43
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory (bass); Shaun Charman (drums)
Recorded at the Majestic, Reading, UK on 25/02/1987
Originally released on Sounds ‘Waves 3’ 7” but currently available on Tommy Deluxe Edition.

2 – Leicester 1987 version TIME: 4:47
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory (bass); Shaun Charman (drums); Mike Stout (engineer)
Recorded at the Polytechnic, Leicester, UK on 05/05/1987
Originally released on Live Tape No. 1 cassette, now available on Tommy Deluxe Edition and
Live 1987 [Scopitones TONE CD 025]

3 – London 2005 version TIME: 4:07
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Simon Cleave (guitar); Terry de Castro (bass); Simon Pearson (drums); Christopher McConville (engineer)
Recorded at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, UK on 20/11/2005
Released as part of Shepherd’s Bush Welcomes The Wedding Present
[Secret Records CRIDE 81] in 2007.

Live:

This song currently holds the prestigious position of being in both the first ever set played by The Wedding Present (on 01/03/1985) as well as being part of the latest tour in the Spring of 2017.

It was a stalwart and crowd favourite from 1985 through to 1987. I don’t have another record of the song being played until the Autumn tour of 2005, some eighteen years later. It then took another hiatus before returning in May of 2014 for a few gigs. It then re-appeared in the Autumn of 2016 and as mentioned has also popped up this year.

Video:

A video version of the above live version from 2005 was available on the DVD, An Evening With The Wedding Present [Secret Films DRIDE 81].

There is also (very grainy!) Super 8 footage of a very early live performance on the Tommy re-release. Below is a you tube video with the audio from the single.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s