Releasing one 7in single every month in 1992, they equalled a record set by Elvis Presley 25 years earlier, by scoring 12 top 40 hits in a calendar year.
Now in 2022 they’re doing it all over again – only this time the project, which they’re calling 24 Songs, will be via subscription from the band’s website.
David Gedge, The Wedding Present’s mainstay through 37 years of music-making, says the idea struck him while he was planning events to mark the 30th anniversary of the band’s 1991 album Seamonsters.
“I guess that made me think what comes next? Oh, The Hit Parade anniversary – maybe we should do something to commemorate that in some way, because it is quite a major thing, even now people still ask me questions about it,” explains the Leeds-born singer, guitarist and songwriter, now 61.
“I guess it was a unique project and they were all hits, so it’s something people still talk about. I didn’t want to do a Hit Parade Part II – that was then, this is now – so in the end we decided to do a similar thing with a nod to that.
“There are some differences: in that series it was an original on the A-side and a cover on the B-side, this time it’s 24 songs, there are some covers but it’s mainly originals, and you’re not getting the numbers on the front. It looks different and feels different, but essentially it’s a 7in single every month.”
The series starts on January 21 with a double A-side, We Should Be Together/Don’t Give Up Without a Fight, the first track of which features Sleeper frontwoman Louise Wener.
Back in 1992, the band had sought to emulate the Singles Club launched by the American label Sub Pop, home to early releases by the likes of Nirvana, Mudhoney and Soundgarden. Gedge recalls: “Keith (Gregory), the bass player at the time, was actually a member of that, so he got the 7in singles every month from Sub Pop and he just said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we could do something like this?’ And it was such a great idea, I remember we were all sitting in the rehearsal room saying, ‘Yeah, we’ve got to do that’. In about 15 minutes it was all sorted and planned. The only thing left to do was convince RCA, our record label at the time, to do it, and they said yes.
“I’m a collector as well,” he says, gesturing to shelves behind him as we speak via Zoom, “so I did like the idea of this collectable series of records, hence we’re doing it again.”
This time the band are using the mail order nous of long-time fan and collaborator Tony Ereira and the Leeds-based imprint Clue Records, which he co-runs with Scott Lewis. “There’s quite a lot of admin involved,” Gedge admits. “In 1992 we had the might of RCA’s manufacturing power who’d say, ‘You want 15,000 singles? When do you want them – next week? OK, let’s get them pressed’. Now it’s months in advance for vinyl.
“After the 70s and 80s a lot of the factories closed down, but now it’s all trendy again, there’s a huge demand, but I suppose nobody wants to build a new factory in case it’s just fashion. So you’ve got these existing factories and everyone piling on there, trying to get their vinyl pressed.
“We’ve got this special case. For it to make sense it’s got to be on time, so Tony’s had to pay a bit of a premium there, I think he went to a particular plant where they could guarantee it would be done on time, hence it’s more expensive.”
Tempting as it might be to think of The Wedding Present of 2022 being able to compete in chart battles with the likes of Adele, Ed Sheeran and Dua Lipa, Gedge is not expecting them to repeat the success in terms of physical sales they enjoyed with The Hit Parade series.
Nonetheless, he says the songs will be available on streaming services. “You can listen to it on Spotify or Apple Music – hopefully it will get millions of streams and then it will get in the charts that way,” he says with a chuckle.
As a teenager in the 70s, Gedge grew up believing the 7in single to be an art form. “For me, it’s always been the fundamental pop format,” he says. “I love LPs as well but I remember as a kid, I don’t think my parents had that many LPs – a couple of greatest hits of Tom Jones or Jim Reeves or something – but they had loads of singles from the 50s and 60s when they were teenagers and I used to play them to death, I’d pretend to be a DJ. It was all mid 60s so The Beatles, the Everly Brothers, Bill Haley and The Comets, all that kind of stuff. To me, it was the format, and then I started buying them myself.
“It’s changed now. If you liked a song you’d go and buy it in a record shop. That idea if completely alien now to anyone under the age of 30.”
The Wedding Present enter the new year with a fresh line-up that includes Jon Stewart of Sleeper on guitar, Melanie Howard on bass and Nicholas Wellauer on drums. “Funnily enough, Sleeper were my favourite Britpop band...and it turns out Jon is a big Wedding Present fan, so that was good to start with,” says Gedge. “But also it’s been strange for me, because I’ve never had someone in the band who is kind of bigger than me – Sleeper had platinum-selling albums. He’s got that experience of songwriting, and in the studio especially it’s been great, it’s almost like having another producer in there coming up with ideas, and he’s worked with people like Stephen Street.
“Every time we have a line-up change it takes us somewhere else. This one especially. Here’s someone with a wealth of knowledge, experience and talent and I’ve been really excited with the results.”
The Wedding Present’s Seamonsters 30 tour visits Sheffield Leadmill on April 16 and O2 Academy Leeds on May 28. For details on 24 Songs visit www.24songs.scopitones.co.uk