Indie icons The Wedding Present will commemorate the 30th anniversary of their classic debut album, George Best, at Wrexham’s Central Station this week.
With its bittersweet, breathtakingly honest love songs immersed in whirlwind guitars, George Best struck a chord with outsiders across the indie universe when it was released in November 1987 and its reputation holds up to this day – NME placed it in The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2014.
For frontman David Gedge, the chance to run through songs such as My Favourite Dress, Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft and Give My Love To Kevin was too good to turn down three decades on, although he did take some persuading.
“I’d actually forgotten it was 30 years,” he laughs. “We did a little George Best tour 10 years ago for the 20th anniversary and I never thought about it again.
“We got offered some festivals and they specifically requested we play George Best and I thought I’d ask the band because it’s a totally different line-up. They were up for it and I thought if we’re going to totally re-learn it we might as well do a few other gigs, but this will definitely be the last time we do it. I don’t want to do it for ever.
“It’s a little bit surreal to be honest. I remember when we started making jokes about Status Quo who had been around for 25 years and all of a sudden we’re that band now.”
Formed in 1985 in Leeds by vocalist and guitarist Gedge, the band signed to RCA Records in 1989 and released the Bizarro album a year later.
1991 saw the band famously release 12 seven-inch singles in one year. Each single had a limited pressing of 10,000 copies which all reached the top 30 in the UK chart, equalling Elvis Presley’s record for the most UK top 30 hits in one year.
The band would eventually split in 1997, but reformed in 2004 and have been making consistently great albums ever since.
But it’s George Best – named after the Manchester United legend – which remains the fan’s favourite, with Gedge’s cheerfully bitter worldview and brilliantly glum wordplay complementing the band’s trademark fast guitars and thumping drums.
“It’s my least favourite LP but the one I enjoy playing live most so it’s a bit of a paradox,” says Gedge.
“It sounds a bit dated and I think we just got better as songwriters and made better albums. But when we play it live it’s just full on all the way though. It’s very frantic and there’s no let up until the end. Even the slow songs aren’t slow.”
Legendary DJ John Peel once declared of the band: “The boy Gedge has written some of the best love songs of the rock’n’roll era – you may dispute this, but I’m right and you’re wrong” and George Best is full of songs written for the lovelorn serial dumpee.
“I don’t want to be playing it for ever because it’s a bit weird for a bloke in his fifties to sing about how his girlfriend’s just ditched him,” says Gedge, 57.
“On the other hand it’s a universal theme and that’s what I’ve always written about – I just approach it now from the point of view of a more experienced person.
“We all have the same joys, upsets and lustful feelings.
“It’s a very personal album for me because I was living it at the time.
“It’s like reading a diary and there’s even friends names in there and places I used to live and places I used to go, so it’s very odd to go back and sing it.”
When I ask Gedge which is his favourite song from the album, he doesn’t hesitate in answering.
“My Favourite Dress is a very simple song with three chords and a tale of heartbreak but sometimes songs take on a life of their own.
“I don’t know how that happens and if I knew I’d do it more but just occasionally it all clicks and that song is a great case in point.
“I think the album could sound better but I appreciate that people pick up on that innocence and wide eyed feeling it has.
“It’s the sound of a band trying to achieve something but not quite getting there. It’s nostalgia too and it’s our first album so it reminds people of what they were doing at the time. Back then you got an LP and played it to death and people were a bit more invested in it.”
The album’s sleeve has become iconic in its own right after the band sought and received permission to name the LP after the legendary Best. The Northern Irishman even agreed to appear on promotional shots with the band and 12 years after his death it remains a poignant memorial to a sporting genius.
“I grew up in Manchester before moving to Leeds and I’m a United supporter,” remembers Gedge.
“George was the star of the team when I was a kid and as well as being a fantastic footballer I liked the rebellious nature of him, with his hair and his un-tucked shirt and his relationships with various Miss Worlds. For a kid it was great and I thought it would be a great name for a record and look great on a sleeve. It still does.”
With this latest tour promising to be the last time the Wedding Present will play George Best in full, I ask Gedge if he would be tempted back for the albums 40th anniversary.
“I’m sure everyone says this but 30 years seems to have just flown past,” he adds. “But I don’t want to be that band that plays their debut album forever and 30 years feels like a nice time to draw a line in the sand.”
The Wedding Present – George Best 30th anniversary tour calls at Wrexham’s Central Station on June 20. Tickets from www.seetickets.com
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