The moment's gone (a tribute to The Wedding Present)

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The Wedding Present - Thank Yer, Very Glad

Chapter 1 Living And Learning

DAVID LEWIS GEDGE DID NOT spend his childhood in a cruel orphanage, run by rotund gentlemen with a fondness for whipping pale young boys. Neither was he born in a fabled rock 'n' roll city like New York, London or Berlin. Gedge's background is noteworthy chiefly for its delightful ordinariness.
He refers to his upbringing as: "Average, working class." By 'working class' he means the variety that keeps a tidy front garden and teaches its children impeccable manners, not the type with no curtains and eight, moulting dogs.
He was born in Bramley, near Leeds, to Brian and Marjorie Gedge on April 23, 1960. His father, a trained butcher, currently works as a bus driver, and his mother is a clerk. Gedge's unusual middle name was his mother's maiden name.
Courtesy of a restless mother the family moved many times while Gedge was young. In the space of only a few years, they regularly flitted around Manchester. "I think my parents were just the sort of people who did not like staying in one place for very long. Perhaps they were criminals keeping one step ahead of the police!" jokes Gedge.
He is unsure whether the constant upheaval affected his development. "I think it was good to meet lots of different people but on the other hand, I have never really felt settled or had lifelong friends like most people," he says. He feels the nomadic lifestyle contributed to a shyness which has made it difficult for him to establish close friendships ever since.

Gedge warms up in readiness for a career as a recording artiste while (left) lad hangs on to dad.

As recession-hit Britain steadied itself in the seventies, the Gedge family made a drastic move. Encouraged by stories of sun, sea and wealth from Marjorie Gedge's brother, who was living in Cape Town, South Africa, they decided to uproot and join him. By this time David had a brother, Philip, five years younger.
Obviously, 11-year-old Gedge had no understanding of the situation in South Africa. "I was too young to notice most things. I just knew there were certain places I couldn't go because they were for blacks only," he says. He settled into the new way of life and rarely thought about Manchester, a place where he could not recollect the sun ever shining. "My parents do not share the same repulsion of apartheid that I do. It is more of a personal thing. They did better off out there."
They enjoyed a vastly improved standard of living, but Marjorie Gedge soon felt homesick. The suitcases were repacked and it was back to Harpurhey in North Manchester, after just one year in the sun.
The young Gedge steadfastly applied himself to school work throughout the constant shifts. His parents believe he immersed himself in his studies as a form of compensation for not having many friends. "He was always in his bedroom, either reading or writing. He really worked hard at it," says his mother.
Gedge matched the effort with ability. Resplendent in National Health glasses (he now wears contact lenses), he cut the perfect figure of the swot. His school reports testified to a faultless pupil; adjectives that constantly recurred were: "Conscientious, pleasant, quiet, helpful, and promising." In February 1973 his geography teacher warned him in his report to: "Be more aware of the influence of 'friends' who might adversely affect your future progress."
Teachers clearly admired the qualities instilled in Gedge by his parents. "I have always been one for good manners, I like people to say please and thank you," says Marjorie Gedge. Even she was surprised at Gedge's tenacious loyalty to her ideology when she called at a local shop with him. The shopkeeper had not realised the boy was connected with her and immediately offered congratulations. "He is the most well-mannered, well-behaved boy that comes into the shop," said the shopkeeper.
Like many staunch, working class families, the Gedges were keen on discipline and Gedge was brought up in quite a rigid environment. He was also taught to respect money and the process through which it was earned.
The inviolable Gedge formed character traits as a child that give a fascinating insight into his later life. He fastidiously collated his belongings and protected them. "He kept everything in perfect condition. He would never scribble in his annuals and had them all in order. I think he has still got them to this day," says his father. He is correct, Gedge still has Beano and Dandy annuals filed next to his records and many other souvenirs.

Dressed up in South Africa and (right) David Cassidy look-a-like Gedge has plenty to smile about as he peruses his exemplary school reports, and the inevitable 25 yard swimming certificate.
His parents were not surprised when he asked for a lock on his bedroom door before he had reached his teenage years. He was worried that his robust younger brother would disturb both his studies and his filing system. "Sometimes we used to think that he was a bit too shy and quiet. He was never any trouble but we used to think perhaps he should go out a bit more," says Brian Gedge.
There is ostensibly more than a passing similarity between Gedge and another famed Mancunian bedroom termite, Morrissey. Unlike Morrissey, however, Gedge's thirst for knowledge was mainly academic, rather than fuelled by literature or art. He might have been shy but he was not overtly quirky, poetic, or obsessed with icons such as James Dean or Oscar Wilde.
After two years on the outskirts of Manchester city centre, the Gedges moved to Middleton, a few miles away. Although now swallowed up in the borough of Rochdale, Middleton people forever affirm their loyalty to Manchester, a city to which they naturally belong. It is an Accrington brick-built town with few pretensions and it no doubt contributed to saving Gedge from a terminal dose of wetness.
In later life, the town would seem to provide the backdrop to many of his lyrics, most notably 'My Favourite Dress'. Gedge does not feel the place held any unique fascination. "It was just a normal place to grow up in. It was about the age when I started thinking about things. I lived there the longest so I had more friends there," he says.
He survived the senior schools by developing a wit to match his intelligence. One of his best friends at both Hollin and Moorclose high schools was Dave Fielding, who later played in a band with Gedge and went on to form The Chameleons. "Gedgey used to have glasses and was dead brainy. He was definitely a swot," says Fielding. Evidently, he was also a likeable swot. "He was always acting the goat, that's why I got to know him. He was dead serious in class and was the one that passed the exams. If it hadn't have been for him, I would have had a bad time because I hated school."
Gedge met Peter Solowka at Hollin High and found someone who challenged his own definition of a swot. "He was a weird kid. I was swotty but he was just a brain. He was a real teachers' pet, worse than me. He was far more uncool than I was," says Gedge.
The pair became good friends and shared the same haughty view of their futures. "We both knew we would go to university and not have to get rubbish jobs like a lot of our mates," says Gedge.
At 14, Gedge was outstanding in several subjects, especially French, and for a while harboured dreams of travelling the world as an interpreter. His logical mind lent itself superbly to maths and he began to excel in the subject. He scored a grade A in his maths '0' Level and naturally entered the sixth form where he flourished. "I got more popular in the sixth form. All the prize guys who were brilliant at football had disappeared and I was left with the swots."
He was a member of a quite superlative class, one that has stuck in the memory of Gedge's former maths teacher, Peter Mildenhall. "It was one of the best classes the school has ever had, quite an academic one. You didn't have to make them work, they had a desire to study," says Mildenhall.
Mildenhall ran the school's operatic society and was pleased when Gedge and several friends offered to take part. "A lot of the kids stood on the fringe and would have liked to join in, but their friends would have called them puffs. When they reached the sixth form all the ones that would have called them names had left."
Opera and its inherent dressing up has always been considered rather girlish. It perhaps reveals Gedge's ever-growing confidence that he could see beyond the macho nonsense and enjoy himself.
Gedge made his first public stage performance at Moorcose High's performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe in 1977. With Britain in the midst of a supposed punk revolution, Gedge followed this up a year later in swashbuckling style with an appearance in another G and S production, The Pirates Of Penzance. The famous gruff voice was hardly heard in his role as a chorus member. "He never sang solo but I'm sure David was not one of those duty bound to mime," says Mildenhall.
At the end of the second year in the sixth form, Gedge formed his first proper relationship with a girl. Janet Rigby, who was in the lower sixth, was about to board the school bus for home when Gedge attracted her attention. "He came legging up behind and just asked me out. It was completely out of the blue. I think l told him l had too much homework that night but I would be free on Saturday."
Their first date was at a pub in Middleton town centre. Rigby was surprised when Gedge turned up beforehand at the town's Tesco stores where she had a Saturday job. "He came in to the shop and asked me what he should wear on the date. He was really, really shy. He asked me what I was going to wear and said his mam had just bought him a new duffle coat and did I like it," she says.
Wedded bliss. Gedge at the wedding of his brother Philip and (above) ready to add the baritone touch to Moorclose High School's performance of 'Iolanthe'.
The pair had much in common. They were both keen on school work and enjoyed reclusive pastimes like reading and writing. "He was shy and very much anti what was going on. He had a small circle of friends. He didn't go out much. We both hadn't seen much or done much." He was not someone whom Rigby or her classmates had seen as a pin-up type. "He always wore a red knitted jumper and jeans bought from Tesco's," she says.
The relaxed atmosphere of the sixth form was exploited to the full by Gedge and he made his first naive steps into a political arena, ones that ended at the school's perimeter fence. "I got a bit carried away but people tend to do that until they become politically aware," he says.
He edited the school magazine and was a leading figure on the school's workers' council. Like most of the pupils, Gedge had not actually done any proper work but did not see anything anomalous about such a grandiose body. One of its main decisions was to abolish the school's head boy and girl system. To Gedge, the council was a game he took part in during lunch hour but Solowka found him quite influential. "He was certainly an inspiration to me with his left-wing views. I thought being rebellious was being a Liberal!" says Solowka.
Gedge and Solowka became interested in Socialism and actually tried to discover more about it outside the school. They found themselves among a throng of about 10 at a Workers' Revolutionary Party meeting at a local community centre. The hardened regulars were very interested in two fresh-faced, possible comrades and singled them out. The duo pretended to listen intently but were more concerned about getting home safely than true political enlightenment. "A bloke told us to watch it because there was a police car around the corner taking names and addresses. We thought they were going to follow us, so we took a really weird route home," says Peter.
Another attempt at politicising themselves ended in similar embarrassment. At a rally addressed by Labour's Dennis Healey, they spent most of the time trying to avoid one of their school dinner ladies, who was forever shouting to the platform: "You're just feathering the beds for the Tories."
Both Gedge and Solowka view their teenage exploits with fondness. "It was youthful adrenalin, which we still have in a way and that is why we are probably in a group," says Gedge.
The Wedding Present have often been accused of lacking political commitment. It does not inspire Gedge on a lyrical level but Solowka and himself have maintained many of their earlier convictions, although they remain fairly concealed. Gedge has standing orders with Greenpeace and the Anti-Apartheid Movement and Solowka has the same with the African National Congress and Oxfam.
The studies went well and Gedge got the top grade in his 'A' Level maths exam. He did less well in biology and physics with two D grades, but notched up enough points to secure a place at Leeds University while Solowka headed for Liverpool University.
Chapter 2 This Boy Can Wait  
©2005 Chester Severien ([email protected])