Emerging in the wake of the Smiths' demise as the U.K.'s most successful indie pop band during the late '80s, the Wedding Present were founded in Leeds, England, in 1985. Formed from the ashes of the short-lived Lost Pandas, the Weddoes (as they were affectionately dubbed by fans) were essentially the vehicle of singer/songwriter David Gedge, the only constant member throughout the group's tumultuous history. Initially rounded out by guitarist Peter Solowka, bassist Keith Gregory, and drummer Shaun Charman, the fledgling band quickly won a loyal following among university students, as well as the patronage of influential DJ John Peel, for whom they cut their first radio session in February 1986.
Named in honor of the popular soccer star George Best, the Wedding Present's remarkable debut LP appeared on their own Reception label in 1987. The group became the darlings of the British press overnight, winning acclaim for their distinct guitar pop frenzy as well as Gedge's idiosyncratic vocal style and wittily lovelorn, conversational lyrics. After the album established a foothold on the U.K. indie charts, Tommy -- a hastily compiled overview of early singles, covers, and radio broadcasts -- followed in 1988.
The Wedding Present's next effort came completely out of left field: titled Ukrainski Vistupi V Johna Peel, the collection brought together Peel session dates with a sampler of traditional Ukrainian folk tunes inspired by Solowka's father. Additionally, it marked the recording debut of new drummer Simon Smith, recruited after Charman exited to form the Popguns. After reaching the Top 40 with the primal single "Kennedy," the Weddoes returned in 1989 with Bizarro, a more conventional effort highlighted by the single "Brassneck," produced by Steve Albini. Their aggressive 1991 release, Seamonsters, returned Albini to the producer's seat and marked the departure of Solowka, who continued to explore his roots in the Ukrainians; guitarist Paul Dorrington was tapped as his replacement.
Instead of recording a new studio LP, the Wedding Present spent the entirety of 1992 issuing a single on the first Monday of each month. Later compiled as the two-volume Hit Parade set, the singles featured original material on their A-sides and cover songs on the flip sides, among them interpretations of the Monkees' "Pleasant Valley Sunday," Neil Young's "Don't Cry No Tears," Isaac Hayes' "Theme from Shaft," and Julee Cruise's "Falling" (better known as the theme to Twin Peaks).
The departure of Gregory (to found Cha Cha Cohen) left Gedge the group's last original member, and the Weddoes resurfaced with new bassist Darren Belk for 1994's Watusi, a nod toward the Amer-indie love-rock scene produced by Olympia, Washington-based producer Steve Fisk, complete with vocal assistance from Beat Happening's Heather Lewis. Following a rather uneventful 1995, the group returned in 1996 with a flurry of new material; first up was the auto-obsessed Mini EP, later reissued with bonus tracks as Mini Plus. The full-length Saturnalia appeared at the end of the year, followed early in 1997 by the single "Montreal." Gedge then put the band on hold, formed Cinerama (a group that released three albums and numerous singles between 1998 and 2003, featured Gedge's girlfriend Sally Murrell, and by the end began to sound increasingly Weddoes-like).
After Gedge spilt with Murrell in 2002, he moved to Seattle and began writing songs for a new album. He decided to revive the Wedding Present name, roped in his Cinerama bandmates (including bassist Terry DeCastro) to record, and the band released Take Fountain in early 2005. After a long spell of touring that saw the group spanning the globe and playing to scores of fans who were thrilled to have their heroes back, the group hit the studio again with Steve Albini and the resulting album, El Rey, was released in 2008. The new edition of the band went through many lineup changes, the most dramatic being the 2010 split with longtime bassist DeCastro. She was replaced by Pepe Le Moko for the recording of their next album, Valentina. Produced by Andrew Scheps (U2, Adele), it was released by Gedge's Scopitones label in 2012.
The band soon parted ways with guitarist Graeme Ramsay, replacing him with Patrick Alexander and heading out on the road. During 2012, they played a series of shows where they tackled Seamonsters in its entirety to celebrate the album's 21st anniversary. Later that year they released a download-only EP of four songs recorded at the Valentina sessions, which could be bought in tandem with Valentina: The Story of a Wedding Present, a book detailing the album's creation. After some lineup shuffling that saw Le Moko and Alexander departing, Gedge and longtime drummer Charles Layton added guitarist Samuel Beer-Pearce and bassist Katharine Wallinger. The new version of the band hit the road in 2013, playing the complete George Best and Hit Parade albums to herald their respective 25th and 21st anniversaries.
Once off the road, they focused on their next studio projects, Cinerama's opulent 2015 reworking of Valentina and the Wedding Present's ninth album. Released in 2016 after a successful crowdfunding effort, Going, Going... was a collection of 20 songs ranging from string-laden soundscapes to raging punk rock, each with an accompanying film shot during a road trip across the U.S. by Gedge and photographer Jessica McMillan. The following year, they released the four-song Home Internationals E.P., which found Gedge further exploring his love of instrumental music. Included was the track "Wales" (from Going, Going...), along with three newly penned compositions including "England," which featured novelist Simon Armitage reading his poem of the same name. ~ Jason Ankeny