Category Archives: Seamonsters

Carolyn

When Seamonsters came out in 1991, it fitted me like a glove. It was moody and angry and sad and sullen. It had some fantastically noisy songs that you could shout to and then there within the depths came this beautifully dark track.

‘Carolyn’ has a troubling intensity to it. It broods and snarls. There’s no shouting; the loudest it gets is when David Gedge growls the final line: “No more”! In the days before the internet made things easy, the lyrics were often bewildering and this song with its vocals buried deep down in the fog, was one of the most hard to decipher and somehow that mystery made me love the song even more. The album is full of classics (apart from maybe ‘Blonde’) and therefore I find this one gets overlooked by fans but not this fan. Not one iota.

Why the name and title ‘Carolyn’? Did it just fit or was there a specific reason?

DLG: No specific reason. I just needed an appropriate three-syllable name. But it was also the name of the girlfriend of Simon Smith, our drummer at the time, so I think that was probably in my head.

I remember you saying once that you like treating the vocals like an instrument and not necessarily high in the mix. This is a perfect example of that. As a lyricist, why do you sometimes like to hide your own words?

DLG: I don’t purposely hide the words; I’m just not a fan of mixes where the vocals are considerably louder in the mix than the other instruments. In the case of the Seamonsters version of ‘Carolyn’ I think the low level suits the whispered delivery.

The live bootleg recording from 15/11/90 has Simon’s drums a lot higher in the mix than most recordings of this song and his drumming over the end section sounds so great. Made me go back and listen to the Seamonsters version and there it is, the same pattern but hidden a lot more in the mix.

DLG: That’s because many of those live recordings are made by simply taking a stereo feed from the venue mixing desk. That means you’re at the mercy of the levels set by the engineer for the concert. In a small space the room will be filled with the sound from the guitar amplifiers on the stage and so the engineer will accordingly have less of the guitars going through the P.A. [and hence the desk]. So, in cases like that, the drums will sound unusually loud in the recording.

When writing the songs for Seamonsters did you find yourself trying to write songs that were more angst-ridden to fit the album aesthetic or was it the other way around – that you were in a place where your song writing was naturally creating very emotional pieces?

DLG: Are the lyrics particularly emotional on Seamonsters? I would argue that they’re written in my usual style but that the darkness of the music possibly enhances the emotion in them.

The song sits between giant fan-favourites ‘Corduroy’ and ‘Heather’ but it’s probably my favourite song on Seamonsters. Do you feel this has led to the song being overlooked over the years?

DLG: Who’s been overlooking it?! Does the position of a track on an album affect its status? I’ve always liked this song, too. It’s moody and quite powerful sounding even though the main guitar is an acoustic. I think my distorted guitar part at the end provides a suitably melancholic final melody.

Based on live bootleg tapes from November 1990, the song had a different chorus originally: “But I won’t be back for tea / Please don’t wait up for me / I’ve got someone else’s key.” Can you remember anything about changing from that to the version we have now?

DLG: Ha… I don’t remember those lyrics at all but it looks like I stripped it down to something a little less flowery, or parochial, for the recording. The ‘final’ version sounds more heartfelt.

Official Lyrics:

Just before you go today, there’s something that I’ve got to say
Well you asked me what was wrong and I didn’t want to tell you

You believed me when I said I tried but oh, Carolyn, I lied
And its gone on far too long and I never tried to help you

But don’t wait up for me
Just don’t wait up for me

It isn’t quite the way you think
How low do you suppose I’d sink?
We can’t bear to be apart
Oh, I’m sorry that I said that

But come on now let’s not pretend
We both knew we were near the end
I don’t want to break your heart but we just can’t turn the clock back

But don’t wait up for me
Just don’t wait up for me
No more

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 – Seamonsters version released 28/05/1991 TIME: 3:40

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory (bass) and Simon Smith (drums) Engineer: Steve Albini

2 – Hit the North radio session version (recorded in 1991) TIME: 3:25
Appears on Seamonsters deluxe re-issue released by Edsel Records in 2014 [EDSJ 9006]

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

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Live:

‘Carolyn’ first appeared during the Winter tour of 1990 so it’s likely that it debuted at the Queen’s Hall, Bradford on 03/11/1990. First definite setlist I have with it on is at Barrowland, Glasgow for the 10/11/1990. It continued being played through 1991 but was then dropped and not seen for many years.

In January 2012, the band embarked upon a 21st anniversary tour of Seamonsters where they played the album in full and so it was played in all but one of 89 gigs that year and also the first concert of 2013. At present, that gig at the Forum, Tunbridge Wells on 03/02/2013 is the last time it was played live.

Video:

No official video exists so here’s a live performance from 2012.

Octopussy

As the epic that is Seamonsters draws to a close, there’s one last grab of the heart to come. The setting is Winter and snow is in the air  (I always think of this song when I see snow fall). As alluded to in my last question below, I started just drifting off into a soft layer of love when I first listened to this song. But over the years, the song has changed somewhat, the same way snow can turn dark and mucky, as different potential interpretations of the song came to light. Mr Gedge’s answer doesn’t really help us much.

I think I still prefer to think of how I did with those innocent ears from 1991: a beautiful poignant love song, stuck inside with my significant other, curled up by a fire as the world turned white outside.

Questions and Answers with David Gedge:

I’m fascinated with sequencing on albums. You have tended over the years to end albums with quieter/gentler tracks. Is this something you favour and if so why?

DLG: I guess it has been something of a theme, ha, ha. It’s typically very ‘Wedding Present’ to not finish an album with the obvious album-finisher, I think! So we’ve tended to have something loud and dramatic as the penultimate track and then followed it with a softer track to act as a kind of a postscript.

The title references, of course, the James Bond film of 1983. Why did you choose this for a title? What is your favourite Bond film and who is your favourite Bond?

DLG: I’m fond of referencing popular culture and in this case this film title just seemed to fit the song. I’ve always thought it was a bizarre title, actually; it makes more sense when you read the original Ian Fleming short story.

It’s as hard to compare Bond films these days as it is to compare Wedding Present albums! The style has changed so much over the years that it’s difficult to compare something like ‘Octopussy’ with ‘Skyfall’ or even ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ for example. Likewise, a favourite Bond actor sometimes means he just happened to appear in your favourite style of films. Until Pearce Brosnan got the job Roger Moore was always my favourite Bond… even though some of his later films weren’t always of the, erm, highest calibre. Having re-watched the early films recently I’m now thinking that Sean Connery really did set the standard of actors being how you’d expect a ‘Bond’ to be. Daniel Craig, on the other hand, I think is the least Bondlike of them all.

What do you think of cover versions of your songs in general? There’s a version of Octopussy on one of the Dare albums (the Orange Slices cover albums), did you like it?

DLG: I like cover versions of any songs as long as they add something to the original.

Similar to your recent Valentina release by Cinerama, I’ve often wondered what some Wedding Present songs would sound like in alternate versions. I’d love to hear Octopussy done in the way Mystery Date was, just vocals and piano. Ever thought about doing something like that?

DLG: I have, yes. As usual it’s just finding the time. I was inspired to re-record Mystery Date with just piano because I really enjoyed the version of Don’t Touch That Dial I recorded with the BBC Big Band in 2009 and I have definitely have plans to do more so maybe I’ll add Octopussy to the list!

The line about the snow at the start is so evocative – do you write this in Winter or were you just conjuring up this image in the middle of a heatwave or something? 

DLG: My lyrics are generally written over very long periods [in that I will note ideas down in my little book and then possibly not use them until I find the right moment, which could be possibly be several years later] so I’ve no idea when I actually wrote that down!

At the time of release I just listened to this song as being a beautiful love song. So many romantic little lines and a sense of blurry wonder. Many years later and the song became corrupted for me somewhat by fans mentioning that the lyrics sounded to them a bit weirder and perverse.  Specifically, the lines about “you’ve become my family”, “you don’t take away my hand like you ought to” and even, “you laughed and pulled your knees up to your chest” all could hint at maybe something a lot darker. Would you comment on this and let us know what the song is really about?

DLG: Nope. As you know, I’d rather the lyrics speak for themselves. I personally think it’s more satisfying for the listener if they’re not having their hand held. I don’t really even like printing lyrics on sleeves, although I’ve started doing that recently, of course. But that’s as far as I’m going!

Official Lyrics:

Some bits of snow still hanging in the air but that’s outside
Take off your clothes and lie down over there (oh, that’s just right)
I sat by this window and just watched for you (no, you weren’t late)
There was a thousand things I had to do (they can all wait)

You don’t take away my hand like you ought to
You’ve become my family
I don’t want to understand why I need you
You’ve just become my family

I lay down there and watched you getting dressed (it’s still so clear)
You laughed and pulled your knees up to your chest if I came near
God knows, I’ve always had to fear the worst (but not that time)
You brought me home and then you kissed me first and you were all mine

You don’t take away my hand like you ought to
You’ve become my family
I don’t want to understand why I need you
You’ve just become my family

You don’t take away my hand like you ought to
You’ve become my family
I don’t want to understand why I need you
You’ve just become my family

We don’t have to do anything
We don’t have to do anything except watch the leaves turning in the wind
Say what you want to say
We don’t have to go anywhere
We don’t have to go anywhere (let’s just sit and talk about the usual things)
I couldn’t move anyway!

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

Studio Version:

1 – Seamonsters version released 28/05/1991 TIME: 6:19

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory (bass) and Simon Smith (drums) Engineer: Steve Albini

Live Versions:

1 – Seamonsters deluxe re-issue released by Edsel Records in 2014 [EDSJ 9006] TIME: 6:13
(originally issued on Live Tape 10 Uppsala)

Recorded 13/11/1991 at Barowiak, Uppsala, Sweden
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory (bass);  Simon Smith (drums) Joe Hickey (engineer)

2 – Live in Leeds version released by Scopitones  (download only) in 2010 TIME: 6:55
Recorded 06/06/2006 at Metropolitan University, Leeds
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Christopher McConville (guitar & mixing); Terry de Castro (bass);  Graeme Ramsay (drums)
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Live:

 After the song’s debut in the live sets of 1991, the next time it fully appeared was after the re-formation in 2006. It was also part of the set in 2012/3. It also featured as part of the fabulous French Black Sessions in 1992.
Covers:
There’s a version by Midflight on the Dare 2 tribute album. Also, have a listen to this version on youtube by Janelle LaMarche
Videos:
10/01/2012 – Paris Trabendo
08/11/2012 – Liverpool O2
11/02/2013 – Sydney Annandale Hotel