The Wedding Present on Top Of The Pops
Leeds' Musical Heritage: 1980s (Pt 2)
Profiling some of the city's indie heroes from the latter part of the decade.
The Wedding Present:
Formed in 1985 by guitarist, vocalist and songwriter David Gedge and bass player Keith Gregory who'd previously been in a small time indie outfit, The Lost Pandas. They brought in Gedge's old school chum Peter Solowka on guitar and after a series of unsuitable drummers, Shaun Charman was chosen to complete the line-up.
Their ramshackle DIY charm was matched by Gedge's steely determination to get his songs of lovelorn life in a northern town to a wider audience. They formed their own label, Reception Records and released debut single "Go Out And Get 'Em, Boy" which gained them plenty of plaudits and press coverage. Two further singles established them as Indie Chart regulars and the wider world began to take note, including influential Radio 1 DJ, John Peel.
Wedding Present mainman David Gedge
Their fourth single - the double-sider "You Should Always Keep In Touch With Your Friends"/"This Boy Can Wait" took them to the fringes of mainstream acceptance while maintaining their 'indie credibility' - their mix of gruff northern-accented vocals and choppy guitars reminiscent of heroes The Fall and Buzzcocks. Despite major label interest the band decided to remain independent for the time being, releasing their debut album "George Best", with its iconic cover shot of the wayward footballing genius, in 1987.
Charman was then replaced by Simon Smith and in 1988 they signed to RCA, leading to the predictable cries of 'sell-out' from hardcore fans and critics. They recorded a second album "Bizarro" and the first single from it saw the Weddoes (as they were affectionately known by fans) crash into the Top 40. The next album saw them link up with American independent legend, Steve Albini. In demand because of his lauded work on The Pixies "Surfer Rosa" LP, Albini gave them a harsher sound, and accusations of a lack of progression emanated from weary critics.
Solowka was replaced by Paul Dorrington as the band started to become regulars in the Top 40 (a rare occurrence for indie bands up until that point). Indeed, 1992 saw the band release one single a month - all of which cracked the Top 30. Further hits followed as did line-up changes and the band went on the backburner in 1997, while Gedge indulged in other projects. The band was resurrected in 2004 and their latest album "El Rey" was released in May 2008.
The Age Of Chance:
This colourful bunch were known as much for their unusual stage attire and design aesthetic as for their music. The band comprised of vocalist Steven Elvidge (known as Steven E), bassist Geoff Taylor, guitarist Neil Howson and stand-up drummer Jan Perry. Often dressed in professional cyclist gear, the band stood out from the indie crowd and made waves with their debut single "Motorcity", released on their own Riot Bible label.
Age Of Chance
Follow-up single "Bible Of The Beats" was even more well-received as the band's sloganeering - pasted on the single sleeves - came to the fore through Elvidge's belligerent vocals (often delivered through a megaphone - he was listed on records as mob orator rather than singer). They then signed to Sheffield's Fon label and released a radical reworking of Prince's "Kiss", which took them to the fringes of the Top 40.
They teamed up with design team Designer's Republic for their cover art as they looked for the right image to convey their amalgam of pop, punk, hip hop, soul and industrial beats. Indeed, the imagery and sloganeering seemed to have become as important as the music. Further singles and a couple of albums failed to see them capitalise on their initial success and Elvidge left the band in 1988 to be replaced by soul singer Charles Hutchinson.
However, despite now being signed to Virgin Records, the band was going nowhere and split in 1992. Band members became involved in DJing and the Leeds dance scene although Neil Howson went on to work for Leeds United.
Formed in 1985 by Fine Art students William Potter and Carl Puttnam together with friends and acquaintances from the local 'alternative' scene in a revolving line-up, including Dave Read on guitar. Read didn't last long but was later immortalised in song on a Cud single, "Elvis Belt". The band solidified with the addition of drummer Steve Goodwin and guitarist Mike Dunphy.
Initially a fairly shambolic band, they tightened up and gained a cult following drawn in by the band's slight oddness, singer Carl's eccentric dress sense and in an era of indie tweeness, Dunphy's surprisingly loud, crunchy guitar sound. Debut single "Mind The Gap" was released on The Wedding Present's Reception Records label in 1987.
The band then signed to Imaginary Records and released further singles and recorded a Peel session where their predilection for unusual cover versions came to the fore with a rollicking version of Hot Chocolate's "You Sexy Thing". Other choices of covers included material by the Everly Brothers and Jethro Tull! However Imaginary proved unable to push Cud into the big time and the band signed to A&M.
"Rich & Strange" went Top 30, and the band enjoyed another couple of minor hits but had hit an impasse familiar to many indie bands of the era. They needed the record company's money to make them a success but weren't happy with the impositions placed on the band by the label to make them more commercial. Eventually A&M lost patience and dropped the band who split in 1995.
The last couple of years have seen the band get back together to oversee reissues and play live again, although Dunphy has been replaced by a member of Steve Goodwin's current band. Dunphy is now a deputy headmaster, Potter works in the comics industry and Puttnam and his flamboyant dress sense can still be seen in Leeds. His post-Cud career includes DJing and being an extra on Emmerdale!!
The Bridewell Taxis:
Always a little bit different, the Bridewell Taxis (named after the slang term for a police van) featured a trombone player, and were able to draw their loyal fan base from the indie scene and local football fans. The original line-up featured vocalist Mick Roberts, Simon Scott on bass, drummer Glenn Scullion, Sean McElhone on guitar, Gary Wilson on keyboards and the aforementioned trombone player Chris Walton.
The band were able to bag support slots with many of the big hitters on the indie scene and big things were expected of the band. They'd supported Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets and The Farm and gained a reputation as a boisterous night out.
A series of singles on their own label, Stolen Records, enhanced that reputation throughout 1989 and 1990, but the anticipated big break never came as it was noted that they needed the major label push and none were forthcoming. The band's unusual talking point, Walton, left the band in 1991 and the band split - returning shortly after with a different sound and a shorter name - The Bridewells. However, this didn't last long and the band split.
In 2005, Roberts, Scullion and McElhone reformed the band together with twins James and Jules Metcalfe. Initially the band were worried that no-one would be interested - a notion dispelled by the first gig selling out in record time and tickets being touted around for £100 plus! More dates were added including gigs in front of more than 1000 people at Leeds University and an invitation to appear at their beloved Elland Road before the band bowed out again in 2006.
It may seem strange to some that the Chumbas are included as an 80s band, considering their most famous record, "Tubthumping" was a massive worldwide hit in 1997, but their history goes back to the early 1980s and the height of Thatcherism. The band were closely allied with anarcho-punk collective Crass, and their first release was a track on the Crass Records compilation "Bullsh*t Detector Vol. 2".
Unlike many other political bands of the time, Chumbawamba's name had nothing to do with their outlook and seems to be a deliberate attempt to distance themselves from some of the more angry, aggressive punk rock prevalent at the time.
The band was centred around a communal squat in Armley and frequently played benefit gigs for animal rights groups, anti-war groups and other causes. Practical jokes were part of the anarchist's armoury after Crass had managed to fool a wedding magazine into giving one of their flexidiscs away and Chumbawamba followed suit in conning Garry Bushell (then an avid proponent of the Oi punk movement) into including the band's "I'm Thick" (recorded as Skin Disease) on a compilation put together by Bushell.
Most of their early recordings were released on cassette but by the mid 1980s, the band started to put out records, often with a striking message designed to provoke comment. "Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records" being an obvious dig at Bob Geldof's Band Aid project and the following year, 1987 saw the release of "Never Mind The Ballots" to coincide with the general election of that year.
After years of releasing records on small labels and maintaining their anarchist outlook, they surprised everybody by signing to the archetypal establishment label, EMI. They justified the decision by stating that ALL record labels are out to make money - it's just that some are better at it than others. Almost immediately "Tubthumping" hit it big and was followed by two further hits - as well as a well-publicised soaking of Labour politician John Prescott at an awards ceremony.
Despite line-up changes, the band continues to operate today, although musically they are much more in tune with folk tunes than rabble-rousing punk oratory.
last updated: 23/09/2009 at 18:29