Tag Archives: 1988

What Did Your Last Servant Die Of?

It’s 30 years since I first heard George Best.  The whole thing was a blur. Both the album which rushed by in less than 39 minutes and the 30 years of my life since.  A bruising and occasionally joyous mish-mash of love, life and everything in-between. That’s the album and my life since.

There are times in your life when you stop and wonder where you are going and where you’ve been. When you wonder whether anything was ever worth it, whether your life has any real meaning. When you look back and count how many years of your life you’ve spent in a job or doing things for someone else’s benefit and for what? What did you get out of it?  Everything requires effort and all of us have to work you know. But sometimes you have to move on. Change is healthy, change is good. Time to make a new start.

Questions and Answers with David Lewis Gedge:

I know you don’t like to talk about specifics but does this song represent a real relationship and time that you can talk about?

DLG:  I think it’s well known that much of the subject matter on George Best is drawn from the period when I broke up with my first ‘serious’ girlfriend but I guess this lyric also touches on how I get annoyed with people who I think are being lazy! I think my parents are responsible for instilling some kind of ridiculously obsessive work ethic in me. The song’s title is actually a phrase my mum used to use when me, or my brother, would ask her to do stuff for us. When Graeme Ramsay was in the band he used to joke that ‘Of What Did You Last Servant Die?’ would’ve been a more grammatically correct title and I can never get that out of my mind, now!

“Well some of us have to work you know” – between University and being in bands, did you have any ‘real’ jobs? If you’d not become a musician, is there a job that you’d have liked to have done as a career?

DLG: I had a temporary job mailing out catalogues for a mail-order electronic components firm for a few weeks in order not have my unemployment benefit cut but I’ve never had an actual ‘real’ job, as my parents would call it, no. If The Wedding Present hadn’t’ve been successful I would’ve liked to have been a radio DJ, I think.

“Of course you’ve got things to wear!” – clearly you find sexual politics interesting, are you a believer in the ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ school of psychology that thinks the sexes are very different in how they approach situations and solve differences?

DLG: Yeah… I’m fascinated by the differences between the genders and the efforts to determine how much of it is nature and how much of it is nurture. I suppose the mathematician in me appreciates seeing behaviour defined by sets of rules but when I’m investigating relationships during lyric writing that rule book is often thrown out of the window. Whatever the reasons for it, I do feel that men and women are generally quite different, yes.

You’ve mentioned how George Best is just one theme/speed/dimension but some live performances change the dynamic and make this track almost sound mellow in comparison to the others. How changeable is this in a live environment?

DLG: Well, we wouldn’t change it consciously to play it live… unless there was a specific reason to do so. I can see why this one might appear laid back compared to some of the other, more frenzied, George Best tracks but it’s actually quite a strenuous one to play live, for me, because, for much of the song, I’m singing and playing a very fast strummy rhythm guitar at the same time. So mellow is the last word I’d use to describe it! Good job it’s only two and a half minutes long, then…

On the album, the song fades up and is placed between two upbeat/frantic songs in ‘Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft’ and ‘Don’t Be So Hard’. What was the thought behind such production and sequencing decisions?

DLG: Sequencing an album can be difficult. You need opening and closing tracks and then you aim to create a flow and momentum between them. And it doesn’t always make sense to increase variety by having a fast one followed by a slow one or a mellow one after a frantic one because that can sometimes sound disjointed. There’s a real skill to it, I think, and I remember having endless conversations about the sequencing of George Best during the album mix.

On the Swedish radio session version from 1988 included on the Edsel Records version (disc two), what is you say at the end of the track? Is it in Swedish?

DLG: Yes, it is… but I can’t remember what I was saying and I can’t translate it because I don’t speak Swedish!

Did you enjoy re-recording this and the other tracks on George Best 30 with Steve Albini?

DLG: I wouldn’t say ‘enjoy’ in as much as I don’t really do any of this for fun, ha, ha… but it was certainly interesting to re-interpret the songs with a group of musicians who were different from the people who originally recorded it. There was a definite attempt at re-invention coupled with a desire to honour the original album. We actually played it a lot quicker than the original, which is hard to believe. It’s also interesting that George Best 30 features the band playing completely live in the studio and being recorded onto tape… whereas the original involved drum programming, sequencing and sampling! So, weirdly, the recording techniques used on the new version actually predate those on the 1987 one!

Lyrics:

Is that a letter you’re hiding from me?
Well I think I’m being used again
Let me open it and see
That’s not what I wanted to hear
There’s a time and place for everything and that time is coming near

Do you have to spend so much time on your hair?
Well couldn’t you started earlier?
Of course you’ve got things to wear!
I didn’t pick up your coat on the way
Well some of us have to work you know
Have you been sitting there all day?

All that I’ve done for you
After all that I have done for you

All that I’ve done for you
After all that I have done for you

Written and published by Gedge [whose publishing is administered outside of the UK & Eire by Kobalt Music except for North America where it is administered by Superior Music]

Studio Versions:

1 – George Best version [Reception LEEDS1] TIME: 2:44
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory (bass); Shaun Charman (drums); Chris Allison (producer)
Released 12/10/1987

2 – Swedish Radio Session version TIME: 2:39
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

Versions 1 and 2 were included on George Best Deluxe Edition [Edsel EDSJ 9004].

George Best
George Best

3 – George Best 30 version [Scopitones TONE 74] TIME: 2:19
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Christopher McConville (guitar); Terry de Castro (bass); Graeme Ramsay (drums); Steve Albini (producer)
Recorded at Electrical Audio, Chicago in 2008. Released in June 2017.

Live Versions:

1 – Munich 1987 version TIME: 2:53
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 1988 version TIME: 2:47
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 1988 version TIME: 2:15
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: 2:19
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 – Dublin 2007 version TIME: 2:11
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Christopher McConville (guitar); Terry de Castro (bass); Graeme Ramsay (drums)
Recorded at the Village, Dublin, Ireland on 23/11/2007
Available on Live 2007 [Scopitones TONE 30]

Live 1987
Live 1988

Video:

The above mentioned Live 2007 is both a CD and DVD of the Dublin concert so there’s a live performance on there.
Here’s a nice fan-made video though with footage of George Best and the (misspelled) lyrics:

And here’s a nice acoustic performance of the track from 2007:

Live: 

The song first appeared in the October of 1987 during the tour to launch George Best. and was a staple of the set through to the end of 1988. It then disappeared along with most of that album until the 20th anniversary tours in 2007. Other than some short runs in the set in both 2010 and 2013, it didn’t fully return again until 2017 for the GB30 tour.

[Thanks to Ben Cleverley for the suggestion]

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.

Never Said

As I was slightly late to The Wedding Present train, the first time I heard this song was when I got Tommy (a godsend for people like me at the time) which compiled all the early singles with some b-sides and radio sessions. That this song was ‘merely’ a b-side to ‘My Favourite Dress’ was a bit of a surprise to me.

I loved everything about it: the yearning guitars, pounding drum and bass, the pinpoint and heartfelt lyrics sung with both snarl and sadness. It was a tale of such poignancy that it felt like it was ripped from a diary entry that I’d yet to write. This sounded like the sort of thing that would happen to me one day.

Like many songs from this era, it whips along at a frantic pace. Before you know it, the song is over and the narrator is alone. Metaphorically it leaves you breathless with how quickly, and badly, things can sometimes go wrong. Love can be confusing.

So, nearly thirty years on and I still love this song. I never thought the love would last but people get used to things so fast.

Questions and Answers with David Lewis Gedge:

Did this ever come close to being on George Best?

DLG: No, this was in that batch of pre – George Best songs that were just used on the early singles (and ended up being compiled on Tommy, of course). That’s because, with the exception of ‘My Favourite Dress,’ we decided to not use any songs on George Best that had already been released.

Did you deliberately write this song with its relentless momentum to create the feeling of rushing into and out of love?

DLG: I think 90% of the arrangements at that time had that relentless momentum! I like the way this gallops away right from the first plectrum hit on those deadened strings. Those guitars owe a lot to Josef K, I think… and Postcard Records.

As with many other songs, there is an argument at the heart of the song. What are you personally like in arguments? Do you avoid them, enjoy them? Are you a sulker, a shouter, do you try and always fix the issue or would you rather walk away and let the situation cool off?

DLG: I definitely do not like arguments and try my very best to avoid them. I’m not a fan of confrontation but I suppose I like to think that I would stand up for myself if provoked! It depends on the situation, doesn’t it?

One of two songs to specifically reference “Manchester”. Considering you’ve had a few places that you’ve called home, what do you think of the place now in comparison?

DLG: I’m actually typing this in the van as we drive to Stowmarket after playing Going, Going… in Manchester last night. Well, Salford, actually… but, yes, I always enjoy returning there and there’s definitely a feeling of going ‘home’. People speak with the same accent as me and there’s definitely a culture that resonates.

There are some perfectly observed lyrics in this song. What did your dad think of his car being immortalised in song?

DLG: It’s one of those songs where it’s almost as if I’m reading entries from my diary. I’m sure that my dad has never noticed the reference to his car although he did recently ask me to send him printouts of all my lyrics.

Official Lyrics:

I haven’t heard this song in years; it never fails to start the tears
A country lane and the smell of pine, a stripey blouse and some cheap English wine
And my dad’s car would never start but one phone call rescued two love hearts
And did I splash mud on your coat?
Yeah, you wore mine and I got cold

Just what went wrong?
You never said just what went wrong
You never said just what went wrong

We’ve got some good friends still in Manchester
Sometimes I think I’d like to live back there
Oh that was just embarrassing; at times I say the most stupid things
And then your name’s still mentioned next to mine
That’s what you hated at the time
I know I said that it just couldn’t last but people get used to things so fast

Just what went wrong?
You never said just what went wrong

I’ve walked behind you for more than an hour
I don’t even think that I know this part of town
I think I’m trying to find a way to talk to you again
I think I’m trying to find a way to bring you back again
Oh won’t you please come back again

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 – ‘My Favourite Dress’ b-side [Reception Records REC005] TIME: 2:37
Available on Tommy deluxe edition [Edsel Records EDSJ9005]
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory(bass); Shaun Charman (drums);  Chris Allison & The Wedding Present (producers)
Released 13/02/1987.

2 – John Peel Session
Available on Tommy deluxe edition [Edsel Records EDSJ9005] TIME: 2:38
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar);  Mike Stout (bass); Shaun Charman (drums);  Dale Griffin (producer)

Recorded at BBC Maida Vale, Studio 3 on 26/10/1986. First broadcast on 25/11/1986.

the-wedding-present-my-favourite-dress-12-single-_57 theweddingpresentmyfavouritedress392899

Tommy
Tommy

Live Versions:

1 – Live 1987 (Leicester version) TIME: 4:03
Available on Live 1987 [Scopitones Records TONE CD025]
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory(bass); Shaun Charman (drums)

Recorded live at the Polytechnic, Leicester on 05/05/1987.
Originally released on the Live Tape #1 cassette.

2 – Live 1987 (München version) TIME: 2:03
Available on Live 1987 [Scopitones Records TONE CD025]
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory(bass); Shaun Charman (drums)

Recorded live at the Alabama-Halle, München on 22/11/1987.
Originally released on the Live Tape #2 cassette.

3 – Live 1988 version TIME: 2:50
Available on Live 1988 [Scopitones Records TONE CD033]
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory(bass); Simon Smith(drums)

Recorded in Rotterdam on 30/03/1988.
Originally released on the Live Tape #3 cassette.

Live 1987
Live 1987

 

 

Live 1988
Live 1988

Live: 

‘Never Said’ was a regular staple of the band’s setlist from 1986 through to 1988 but has been played very very rarely since. In fact I’m not sure of when it was last played live. If anyone can remember, let me know!

EDIT: Thanks to several commentators who have told me that it was played on four dates in the UK in May 2008.

Video:

No official video exists so this will have to do.

A Million Miles

1988 and I was in the Sixth form at a high school in Surrey. Over the previous year I’d started to broaden my musical horizons into the world of indie and along the way had picked up on a band from the North of England that just struck a chord, some pun intended. By now they were developing from their early roots into a band that would soon court the major labels but I had missed out on the very early days.

Thankfully a friend at school (thank you Martin Short) made a copy of George Best on cassette for me. I can’t even remember what was on the other side of that C90 tape but it wasn’t a band that became a love and obsession like TWP.

Of the songs that made up George Best, four in particular stood out and A Million Miles was one of them. If you’re reading this then you probably know why. It’s the lyrics, it’s the gorgeous melody, it’s the chiming layered guitars, it’s the overall pang of the joyous love that the whole thing evokes.

Since 1988 I have purchased about 4 copies of George Best in various formats and re-mastered editions.  I think it’s safe to say that Home Taping did NOT kill music.

Questions and Answers with David Lewis Gedge:

I’ve always preferred titles that aren’t just the main words in the chorus. I like mysterious titles and I like titles that are just hidden there in the verses. It can make those particular lines resonate even more. So for example when titling this song would you have ever thought of calling it ‘You’re Not Like Anyone I’ve Ever Met’ or was it always what it came to be?

DLG: I know what you mean and I do like those kinds of titles myself. I do often have a working title, which will be a recognisable line from the chorus or whatever, but then I’ll go back and change it when I’m putting the finishing touches to a song. However, in this case, the title was always going to be ‘A Million Miles’; I never liked the idea of calling it ‘You’re Not Like Anyone I’ve Ever Met’ because it sounded too obvious.

Do you have any memories of how this song came about? I’m guessing at this time new song ideas were pouring out so was this just one in the crowd or did it stand out at all?

DLG: There are always new song ideas pouring out… it’s a blessing and a curse, to be honest! But this one did always stand out, yes. I wanted the lyric to evoke a very real situation that is familiar to everybody. We actually talked about it being a single at one point; obviously that never happened… but when we released George Best we put out a two-track ‘radio sampler 7”’ [Catalogue Number LEEDS 1X] and this song was the A-side.

From doing surveys and speaking to fans over the years, this is certainly one of the favourite tracks from George Best and often people’s actual favourite. The lyrics are a big factor in that adoration. It was kind of opposite to The Smiths’ ‘How Soon Is Now?’ from a few years earlier in that the narrator, despite his shyness goes out to a party, chats to a girl and walks her home. To the awkward teenage boys of the world, that sounded like a wonderful dream. How were you at parties as a lad?

DLG: Ha, ha… I was completely useless at parties as a lad… and I still am, to be honest. I’ve never been comfortable at any social gatherings when the numbers are greater than about four, really! And I was truly hopeless at chatting to girls and stuff. I do hint at that kind of discomfort in the second verse of this.

Who was Charlie?

DLG: I use to have a practise of name-checking acquaintances in songs and the Charlie in this case was Charles Gant, a school-friend of Keith Gregory [bass; The Wedding Present, 1985-1993]. We used to always stay at his flat in London whenever we played down there and I don’t know how he and his house-mates put up with us for so long, to be honest. He’s now a successful writer about films.

On the George Best version it always sounded to my ears more like “sharlie” so for years I thought you were singing “Sally” despite the ‘him” reference in the next line.

DLG: Ah, no… I didn’t meet Sally until much later.

Did people used to come up to you and ask if they were the people in your songs?

DLG: They did, yes. But I rarely confirmed or denied it, to be honest. I think people liked being immortalised in song, ha, ha… even if it it’s not a particularly flattering reference.

There’s an unusual way you have the lyrics written: the song is told in the first person perspective and yet in the first verse it seems to be the narrator talking to himself (I assume) and by the end talking to another friend on the phone. But all three perspectives use “you” whereas one might expect “she” and “he” to be used instead. Would you write this differently if you doing it today? Anything else you’d change?

DLG: That’s correct… in the verses and choruses the narrator is talking to the subject directly [in either a real or imagined conversation!] but in the middle eight [well, middle fourteen, strictly speaking] the narrator is telling a friend about the meeting with the subject. Is that not obvious? I thought it’d be clear by the way the melody and instrumentation have a different feel in that section… but perhaps you’re right…

One other way this song stands out on George Best is the guitar work which is less thrashy and frenetic and more layered. The tone especially throughout the verses really adds to the overall wistful mood of the song. Did the sound come about early in rehearsals or later in the recording process?

DLG: It’s funny because when I imagine this song I always think of it as one of the slower George Best tracks but it’s still pretty pacey. I do like those layered guitar parts, though. It was all worked out before the recording… as you can tell because this is pretty much what it sounds like live. There is an acoustic guitar overdub playing over everything, however, which, although it’s not that prominent, helps smooth it all out and adds to that wistful tone, I think. That was the producer’s idea.

Do you enjoy playing it live?

DLG: Very much so… for me it’s an easy one to play and I there’s a real sing along feel to it.

“Well, at least not yet” – the final lines take this song up another level from being just another love song but there’s conjecture about what it means. Is it just realism, sarcasm or something else entirely?

DLG: Definitely realism. I like to make all my lyrics and the subjects behind them as authentic as possible and in this case I’m just saying “Let’s not get too carried away here…”

Official Lyrics:

I must have walked past this doorway thirty times, just trying to catch your eye
You made it all worthwhile when you returned my smile
It all became worthwhile
Don’t you feel a little cold stood by the door?
You know I’d really like to talk some more
Oh don’t be worried about your friend; I think she left some time round ten
What was her name, again?

You’re not like anyone I’ve ever met
You’re not like anyone I’ve ever met

Do you see much of Charlie over here?
Oh I’ve known him off and on for years
He’s never mentioned you before
Oh that didn’t come out right at all and now I feel this small
That seems to be it
Don’t get me wrong but how’re you going to get back home?
Oh, I’d be willing to walk that way
There’s something I’ve just got to say
I could walk a million miles today

You’re not like anyone I’ve ever met
You’re not like anyone I’ve ever met

I kept bursting out with laughter all the way home
I had to tell somebody, and you happened to phone
I can’t think of anything else, no matter how I try
But you know I can’t even remember the colour of her eyes and that’s right

You’re not like anyone I’ve ever met
You’re not like anyone I’ve ever met
Well, at least not yet…

Studio Versions:

1 – George Best version  released 12/10/1987 TIME: 3:33

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory(bass); Shaun Charman (drums);  Chris Allison (producer) and Alan Jakoby/Mick Williams/Steve Lyon (engineers)

2 – Peel Sessions version recorded 03/03/1987 TIME: 3:20

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory(bass); Shaun Charman (drums);  Dale Griffin (producer) and Mike Robinson/Martin Colley (engineers)

3 – Swedish Radio Session version  27/03/1988 TIME: 3:37

(Recorded at BBC Broadcasting House; commissioned by Sveriges Radio and broadcast on Bowmen programme)
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory(bass); Simon Smith (drums)

Live Versions:

1 – Live 1987 (Disc One) – TIME: 3:31

Recorded 05/05/1987 at Leicester Polytechnic
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory(bass); Shaun Charman (drums); Mike Stout (live sound mix)

2 – Live 1987 (Disc Two) – TIME: 3:51

Recorded 22/11/1987 at Munchen Alabama-Halle
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory(bass); Shaun Charman (drums); Mike Stout (live sound mix)

3 – Live 1988 (Disc One) – TIME: 3:40

Recorded 30/03/1988 at Rotterdam
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory(bass); Simon Smith (drums); Mike Stout (live sound mix)

4 – Shepherds Bush Welcomes – TIME: 3:55

Recorded 20/11/2005 at London, Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Simon Cleave (guitar); Terry de Castro(bass); Simon Pearson (drums); Roger Lomas (live recording); Chris McConville(live sound mix)

Video Version:

1 – An Evening With The Wedding Present  released 2008
Live version – same details as Shepherds Bush Welcomes cd as above

George Best
George Best
Live 1987
Live 1987
Live 1988
Live 1988
Complete Peel Sessions
Complete Peel Sessions
Shepherd's Bush Welcomes
Shepherd’s Bush Welcomes

Live:

A Million Miles was a strong live favourite from its first appearances around 1987 through to 1988. It reappeared in 2005 during the reformation tour and of course again during the George Best +20 tour of 2007.

Video:

Here’s the video from the Evening with the Wedding Present dvd:

Take Me!

In late 1988 as The Wedding Present toured with some new songs that would become familiar on Bizarro, there was one oddity. Up until now their songs had lasted between three and four minutes. When Take Me, I’m Yours (as it was originally known before being changed as David Gedge kept getting told about the Squeeze track of the same name) was aired it was a seven to eight minute epic. Not only was the length impressive but the fact that it isn’t a ballad, is. For the majority of its life, it is played at the usual breakneck speed so all four musicians were physically shattered  after playing it. Why they put themselves through this torture for art, who knows?!

This was a lyric that made me feel gooey inside. I loved the personal little touches like “orange slices and that Fall lp”. The Fall are a bit of a love of David’s and other than the cover of Jumper Clown and the occasional impersonation on tracks like Sucker, this is the only actual direct reference. “Orange Slices’ of course became the name of a major TWP/Cinerama fanzine created by Darren Bugg which your author today wrote many articles for.  The line “And when someone brings up your name/I can feel myself begin to change” is such an apposite description of the frisson when you fancy someone that it just can’t be bettered.  I never liked the line about washing hair on alternate days though – who doesn’t wash their hair every day? The other most swoonsome line is “And oh that feeling/When your hand returns to mine”. I know girls won’t believe this but some boys really like holding hands too.

After the refrain of “you get lovelier every day” we enter an instrumental section which is just delirious to listen to, especially live. Back in 1988, this used to end the set before the encore. Yes, you heard me right, The Wedding Present used to do encores no matter what Mr Gedge might like to pretend to you now. ;) By the time it arrived on Bizarro it was over nine minutes long and sometimes at gigs has gone beyond that. It is the longest song they’ve created and therefore remains for many, their magnificent octopus.

Questions and Answers with David Gedge:

Infamously, it was originally called ‘Take Me, I’m Yours’ but you were reminded of the Squeeze song and so changed it.

DLG: Ha, yes… you know, I had totally forgotten about that Squeeze song when I was writing this, which is a bit embarrassing, really. Then afterwards I thought, well, it’s too late now… and does it matter if my song has the same title, anyway? Finally, however, when we came to record it for Bizarro I decided that it did matter and retitled it.

Any alternate versions that never saw the light of day? This could be lyrically or musically. Some versions have it as “Guess I might as well stay out here” rather than “Think I might as well stay out here”

DLG: I don’t ever consider my lyrics as being set in stone, to be honest. I see the songs as living things, if that doesn’t sound too pretentious! Sometimes I change words because I feel they can be improved. But other times I’ve probably just remembered them incorrectly!

What do you feel about it now? Do you like playing it live? Was it always planned to have a 6+ minute instrumental coda? The Bizarro version is 9:14 minutes but the live versions seem to vary from 4:30 to 9.

DLG: Yes, we’d always planned to have the long outro. I love the interplay between the guitars and the bass and the ‘big’ guitar tune that comes in just before three and a half minutes and returns later. I think there’s so much going on melodically that, even though it’s just three chords, it doesn’t get boring.

I think we were revisiting the idea we’d had previously on ‘This Boy Can Wait’ but with the notion of doing it… better. Occasionally, depending on which live set we’re playing, some shortening may be appropriate, yes.

What made you make this song so long?

DLG: One of my favourite ever pieces of recorded music is the live version of What Goes On? from The Velvet Underground’s Live 1969 album and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that that song was influential in the making of this one!

Do some people balk at the length when playing it live? It’s always been a massive live favourite but is this offset by the any ‘pain’ at playing it?

DLG: Not really… I mean, I think initially it can seem a little daunting… but I find that band-members are usually very keen to rise to the challenge. It can be especially tough on drummers, though. I remember when we were rehearsing for the Bizarro tour in Los Angeles, Charles Layton [drums; The Wedding Present, 2005 onwards] made us turn the air conditioning off so that we could experience proper hot and sweaty ‘concert’ conditions! That was a very good idea actually; rehearsing this song is a bit like training for a sporting event.

Is there anything you would change about the song now?

I’m not too keen on the little scream I do after the final chorus, ha, ha. And sometimes I think that the ‘Status Quo’ section is a bit silly… but then it works well as a respite before ‘the onslaught’ returns. And I suppose I quite like the fact that it’s a little tribute to a band who I loved when I was in my early teens! In recent years we’ve used that ‘Status Quo’ section as a chance to ‘take it down’ – as they say in the rock ‘n’ roll game – which allows the song to re-build better and heightens the impact of the following bit even more than it does on the recording.

As with so many other songs from this period, it has so many extremely personal touches of angst in the lyrics. How much is exact truth and how much was made up? For example a line like “Orange slices and that Fall LP” must be based on a real moment – how does that resonate today? Funny that Orange Slices was used by Darren Bugg as the name of the fanzine from the late 90s/early 00s. Was there a specific Fall album that this referred to?

DLG: I can’t remember which Fall album it was… but, yes, I do like throwing in bits of real life into the lyric from time to time… I think it makes a song more ‘real’. Orange Slices was a great name for Darren’s fanzine… and one I would never have thought of.

What was the book you were competing with? You keep asking her to put ’that’ down.  

DLG: No specific book that I can recall. I think I just put that in there as way of explaining that I felt ‘the object of my desires’ was being too… intellectual… about everything and that they should just throw caution to winds and run away with me!

Some of the lyrics combined with the vocal melodies in this song are just bliss. Lines like “It’s like a panic and a rushing sound in my head”, “And, oh, that feeling when your hand returns to mine” and “Can’t you kiss me once properly? Well of course I mean it” are all so full of bursting emotions that it’s hard to write about them objectively. Do those lines still make you feel how you felt when you wrote them?

DLG: Yes, it’s easy for me to recapture those feelings of desire and panic. They’re common emotions, aren’t they? I remember Peter Solowka [guitar; The Wedding Present, 1985-1991] thought I was singing about a ‘Russian’ sound in my head… or so he claimed at the time.

‘Take Me!’ is slightly unusual from this era in that it’s an out and out love song with absolutely no dark or negative connotations. When you write about the joyous moments of love and lust you seem to capture the perfect moments. Do you think about this sort of romantic perfection a lot? The final lines about “Warm hands and the things you say” is such a beautiful final image.

DLG: I think about every aspect of my writing a lot… that’s why it takes me so long!

Official Lyrics

I’ve spent all day trying to decide about the things that you said last night
Did they mean nothing or were they filled with hidden clues?
And can you really have stayed till three?
Orange slices and that Fall LP

I feel so lonely when I get back from seeing you
And when someone brings up your name I can feel myself begin to change
It’s like a panic and a rushing sound in my head
A huge weight pressing on my chest
And now I spend hours trying to look my best
But I still meet you the day before I wash my hair

Oh won’t you put that down and take me, I’m yours?
When will we have this chance again?
Oh, please just put that down and take me, I’m yours
We might never have this chance again

That must’ve been a knowing look, oh, when you moved to pass your friend his book
And, oh, that feeling, when your hand returns to mine
I think I might as well stay out here, oh but, can’t you kiss me just once properly?
Well of course I mean it!
I think about you all the time

Oh won’t you put that down and take me, I’m yours?
When will we have this chance again?
Oh, please just put that down and take me, I’m yours
We might never have romance again

Warm hands and the things you say
You get lovelier every day
Warm hands and the things you say
You get lovelier every day

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

Studio Versions:

1 – The Complete Peel Sessions recorded as Take Me, I’m Yours! 24/05/1988; broadcast 30/05/1988 TIME: 8:06

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory (bass);  Simon Smith (drums); Dale Griffin (producer) and Mike Robinson (engineer)

2 – Bizarro version recorded 1989  TIME: 9:21

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Peter Solowka (guitar); Keith Gregory (bass); Simon Smith (drums);  Chris Allison (producer) and Steve Lyon (engineer)

Live Versions:

1 – Live 1988 Disc 2 (Valencia)  TIME: 7:26

2 – Live in Leeds 2010 TIME: 6:25

3 – Live in Tokyo 2010 TIME: 9:14

220px-TWPBizarro
Bizarro
Complete Peel Sessions
Complete Peel Sessions

Live-1988-sleeveThe+Wedding+Present+-+Bizarro-+Live+In+Tokyo+2010+-+Sealed+-+CD+ALBUM-55095051N+ZPLXP4L._SL500_AA280_

Live:

Played a lot from 1988 to 1991 and was often the final song before the encore!  Was resurrected in 2006/07 and of course was part of the Bizarro gigs in 2010 onwards.

Video:

No official video so here’s a live version from 2010.