I've spent the best part of the last thirty years listening to the songs of David Gedge, both with The Wedding Present and, during their hiatus, Cinerama. Gedge has primarily focused on writing and singing about love, but usually it's those broken relationships and romantic misdemeanors that he tends to focus on. His lyrics are frank, unflinching, sometimes amusing, occasionally bitter, but ultimately honest. His singing has always had that conversational, unvarnished edge. Early Wedding Present records are defined by the frantic and fast guitar playing of Peter “Grapper” Solowka. Their visceral sound set them apart from the occasionally twee C-86 bands that they emerged alongside.
Their debut album, 'George Best', arrived in October 1987, and it still has a significant place in the lives of the band's fans. The enduring affection that people still have for 'George Best' was astonishingly clear to director Andrew Jezard when he attended a 20th Anniversary performance of the album in 2007.
Having been to one of those 20th anniversary shows myself, it felt as if the crowd were being reacquainted with an old friend, one that they may have lost contact with, but that they still had a special bond with, one that they could open up to, remember young follies with and realise that, although thay may have moved on in life, there was still part of them that would be defined by those times and experiences. There is always something left behind...
I met Andrew Jezard after the screening of 'Something Left Behind' in Birmingham. I'm still reeling from seeing one of the most honest, poignant and moving music documentaries that I can recall. Here's how the conversation went...
Outsideleft: Hi Andrew, How do you feel when you see that work up on screen? Are you critical of it? Are there things that you want to change? Is there anything that you would have done differently?
Andrew Jezard: (laughing),There's definitely a lot that I would do differently, I don't watch it anymore, in fact, I've probably sat in a cinema and watched it maybe two or three times, first time just for the experience to see it on the big screen. Now I just pop back in for the Q and A's after the screenings.
I always say that my favourite quote about film ever is that 'you never finish a film, you just stop', because otherwise you would just edit and edit and edit, it would go on forever! In some ways I was lucky with this as I had a hard and fast deadline. There was a screening of the film in Toronto and it was a very tight edit deadline. So we were doing 14-15 hours a day, seven days a week, I collapsed at my desk...
For something that had been in my head for ten years, I think that I was able to tell the story that I wanted to. There are always going to be tweaks that you want to make though.
OL: Were you surprised how, in the film, when you mention 'George Best' to the fans, they start opening up about how personal it was to them, were you surprised about how connected the fans were to the album?
AJ: In a way, no. It was nice how quickly people do open up about it, but I think that I always knew that connection was there. When I saw The Wedding Present perform the 20th Anniversary shows of 'George Best', the feeling in the room was just so tangible, there were people there who had seen them perform it first time round, that had heald onto this piece of vinyl for twenty years.
It was very nice that people were approachable and were willing to open up on camera and to tell such personal stories. Because, on the whole, most people who have listened to that album seem to have one person in mind. Obviously, I've put someone up on screen to say this is.the person that those songs were largely about. But everyone has their own story behind it.
OL: David Gedge has frequently said that "George Best' is his least favourite Wedding Present album. Although, having performed it at the 20th and 30th anniversary shows, what would you say his relationship is with it now?
AJ: I think that it's his least favourite record for a lot of reasons, firstly because it's the first thing that he ever did. Any of us in any sort of artistic field, like to think that we've got better. He is a better guitarist, he is a better musician. There were obviously some well documented issues with the recording of the album (the film touches on issues with producer Chris Allison). But, in terms of his relationship with it now, he always does say say that he genuinely enjoys performing it live, he really does likes to play it. He likes the feedback from the audience. He may have mellowed towards it, but as for the actual record itself, as an artefact, it's his least favourite album...there's no changing that.
OL: David still performs as The Wedding Present, he still performs 'George Best'...but talking to the other original members of the band, how easy was it for them to go back 30 years?
AJ: Peter (Solowka, guitar), jumped back into it instantly! His full interview was actually two and a half hours long! He really wanted to talk about those those times. Although he's still doing his Ukrainians thing, he loves to jump back into that time. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, whatever ever happened, happened. It's a big time in his life and he's very, very happy to go back to it. That was lovely with him.
On the other side, Keith (Gregory, bass), less so, but as we established, he wasn't that happy in the limelight at the time. He liked playing the music, but didn't like performing in public.
OL: Has David said to you, now that we've made a film about 'George Best', could we make a film about another Wedding Present album?
AJ: Well...when the film was screened at a festival in Barcelona, we stepped out afterwards and David said to me 'so...let's make 'Bizarro''! (The Wedding Present's second album).
However, this film had been ten years in the making. It's been in my mind since going to that 20th anniversary show. I had a very strong ideas of how I wanted to tell that story. The film is a three act love story, plus there's also a real love story behind it. I very much wanted to do it as a beginning, middle and end...in a love story fashion.
"I really didn't have anything in mind for 'Bizarro', to me the story was too close to 'George Best' with the band getting better at doing a similar thing and even using the same producer. But, maybe flippantly, at the time I said that I did see a story for 'Seamonsters' (their third album). David immediately jumped on that. They've gone from those enormously long song titles to one word titles, Steve Albini comes on board as producer, they're also entering into that grunge period as well and there are other musical influences coming in. There's definately a story there, it's just whether it can be told.
OL: There's an element of social history in the film. It opens with memorable news items from the mid-late eighties. As a music fan, that period feels so different to now: independent record labels, weekly music papers, actual record shops and the role of John Peel. How important was it for you to capture that time?
AJ: The era was absolutely pivotal to me, to place it in that time was very important, and what was going on (in the country).
We consumed music in a different way and the music press was hugely different. But I still think that, although music is put out differently now, people are still falling in love with it in the same way.
I wanted to give a historical context to it in that way, but I wanted the film to resonate with anyone who has ever loved anything and maybe left it behind for a few years, and then how they reconnect with it. That was part of that process.
Back then with John Peel, as David said, it was make or break. If he didn't play it on his show, you were struggling. Now, there are lots of different avenues, but ultimately, I think that music finds its audience and people will still fall in love with it in the same way.
OL: One moment in the film that hit people emotionally, was when you went to John Peel's archive and met (his widow), Sheila. How was it meeting her and being in a house with 36,000 albums?
AJ: It was an incredible experience being there. First of all to interview Sheila who is a fascinating, lovely, lovely lady. Everything that they do at the John Peel Centre - it's the nicest place to go to, such a great atmosphere, and we screened the film there recently.
But just to be in that house! I know that you can easily say that you can feel the history of a place...but you absolutely can there! The room that he had his work from home job from in the end, you could plug in and just broadcast from there. You could see the microphone hanging down, the view that he would have had from his window. It was very special to be there. It was one of the perks of the film to get that experience.
OL: When you've looked at other music documentaries, was there anything that you wanted to avoid?
AJ: Number one, I wanted to avoid old blokes sitting around doing a making of "...this was the riff...I remember when we wrote that guitar piece..." etc. I 100% wanted to avoid a making of. For some fans you do have to put some some of that process in, there was an interesting studio element or it, because of the controversy with it. But I wanted to look at how people have interacted with 'George Best' over the changing thirty years, whether it be buying it from a record shop in 1987, going to a 30th anniversary show, or sticking it on a CD ten years later and everything else in between. I wanted to show that relationship that the album has had with people who have consumed it. That was the crux of it for me.
OL: You're good friends with Shaun (Charman, drums), what's he up to now?
AJ: He's now with a new band called Jet Stream Pony. They're getting played on 6 Music. The band got their name because Shaun's family takes in ex and retired greyhounds. One was named Jet Stream Pony, it was crying out to be a used as a band name!
OL: Finally, as a film maker, what are you planing on doing next?
AJ: It's difficult. I've got lots and lots of ideas. But I need to think about what could get off the ground. When I started this project, I didn't think that it was going to happen. Now it's happening and I've got to see this through and it's getting bigger and bigger and bigger.
Although I've made lots of music promo's and shorts, this was my first feature. Now that I know what's behind a film like this, I need to think which of my ideas actually has the chance of getting off the ground? I think that part of it might be seeing avenues, see where something could go before I almost begin, to think where there may be a life for it and if it is actually sustainable.
OL: Andrew, thank you so much for talking to Outsideleft.
Essential Info about Something Left Behind
For details on future screenings of 'Something Left Behind' and further details on the film, please visit: https://www.somethingleftbehind.com
For more information on Andrew Jezard's work, please go to: https://andrewjezard.com/
Jason Lewis is a Birmingham based music, movie and arts obsessive. Jason's encyclopedic knowledge of 80s/90s Arts films is a debt to his embedded status in the Triangle Arts Centre trenches back then.
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