November 22, 2010
It’s difficult for me to write objectively about The Wedding Present. We have history, as they say.
In the post C86 years they were my favourite band. From Go Out and Get ‘Em Boy, to Nobody’s Twisting Your Arm and Favourite Dress it felt like David Gedge was channelling all my angst into his lyrics.
Then something happened. Through some bizarre(o) set of circumstances my then girlfriend ended up with David Gedge in his post gig hotel room. I never knew the full details of what went on there, but I sure as hell know that rock stars (even boy next door indie ones) probably don’t settle down to a cup of tea and a game of scrabble.
Needless to say that was the end of my love affair with the Wedding Present (and girlfriend).
So it was with mixed feelings that I agreed to go along with a gang of middle aged lads – yes the Wedding Present are certainly a middle aged lads band these days – on a cold November Sunday evening in Bristol.
The good news is that David Gedge has aged really badly. He looks like a cross between Herman Munster and that scary bloke from David Lynch’s Lost Highway. He has a bald patch too. And he’s gained about forty pounds. I doubt he’ll be doing much post gig entertaining these days.
The other surprising thing is that it isn’t the Wedding Present, or not as I knew them. It’s David Gedge with young people, some of them girls.
I’m not sure I like the concept of a band playing an entire album. Yes, you know what you are getting, but it takes the unpredictability out of a gig – surely the best part. Especially with an album like Bizarro where the best track –Kennedy – is halfway through.
I suppose there are worse ways of spending an evening. Scrabble anyone?
November 19, 2010
This was a defining moment in the Indieanorak household – a family outing to see a band that we all liked. There’s something for everyone with Gorillaz. Jones and Simenon for us old geezers, Bobby Womack for the ladies and cartoons and new heart-throb Daley to keep the teens happy.
Not that it started well. The NEC carpark seemed strangely deserted when we got there. That was because the gig was at the f****** NIA! A mad and tetchy dash up the M6 just got us there in time to see the end of Little Dragon’s set.
You’d have to travel to an aircraft hanger in Siberia to find a colder and more inhospitable venue than the NIA. It didn’t help that it was half empty. Maybe this was because the gig had been changed from a Friday in September to a bleak Wednesday in November. More likely it was the £50 a pop ticket prices.
It didn’t seem to bother Damon and the boys, who put as much energy into the set as they would have if the place had been packed to the rafters. The early highlight was Stylo – it was worth the 200 mile round trip to hear Bobby Womack’s soaring voice. The other highlight was a hilarious cameo from Mark E Smith who marked his entry by shoving Mick Jones, prowled the stage snarling something that sounded like ‘swab the decks’, messed with everyone’s amps, then left. Genius.
We had all he hits in a two hour set that left one of my daughters proclaiming it had been ‘the best day of her life’. Another light goes on.
November 15, 2010
I’ve always liked Jah Wobble. I thought he was the true talent in PiL – just listen to the bass in Careering or Poptones if you don’t agree. I’ve seen him live a few times over the last 30 years – mostly by accident. I saw him at a free festival in Belgium in the early 80’s (I’m embarrassed to admit I’d trekked there to see the Sisters of Mercy). I caught him at Womad ten years later, and again as part of an On-U Soundclash with Tackhead. Everytime I was mesmerised by his deep dubby bass – a physical sound that hit you somewhere in the solar plexus- and his matter of fact stage presence.
I’ve just finished his book – Memoirs of a Geezer – which has to be one of the most honest, thoughtful and least self-aggrandising rock autobiogs I’ve read. Yes, there are the usual tales of booze, drugs and self destruction, but the writing is raw, honest and full of self knowledge. There is no glorification of the (very) bad behaviour, or self pity either. Wobble is a man at peace with himself and his past.
He’s an iconoclast too – no reputation is unscathed. Lydon is portrayed as paranoid, scheming and putulant; Joolz Holland is quite rightly trashed and Sean Hughes (remember him) is literally slapped. Even that most sacred of cows, Brian Eno, doesn’t escape. Wobble is no respecter of reputations:
“I’m Jah Wobble, a geezer. I come from Stepney, East London; I’m one of the chaps. I’m totally different kettle of fish and I haven’t got time for all that nonsense”
Like Wobble, I grew up in a tough working class area, so I can empathise with his struggle between keeping loyal to your working class friends and roots and the spiritual growth that comes with being a ‘seeker’. Wobble’s internal struggles saw him descend into booze and substance addiction and drove him to the edge of the abyss. Typically, it was honest work that pulled him away from the edge – a job on the London Underground helped straighten himself out.
Read this book, it’s an inspiration. But listen to his music too. There’s so much of it. He has a huge back catalogue, but a good place to start is the anthology ‘I Could Have Been a Contender”, on Trojan. The highlight of a career of highlights is ‘Gone to Croatian” – a collaboration with Material man Bill Lasswell – that stands alongside Coltrane’s A Love Supreme or Miles’ Shh Peaceful in the canon or great spiritual music.
Genius is a word that is thrown around far too often – but Mr Wobble, you certainly are sir. And a likeable one too. Diamond geezer.