The Wedding Present, My Favourite Dress (1987)

wedding george best

Artist: The Wedding Present
Title: My Favourite Dress
Description: single; album track, George Best
Label: Reception
Release date: 1987
First heard: 1987

That was my favourite dress you know
That was my favourite dress
Ohhh

I feel fairly certain that the first song by The Wedding Present I ever heard was their rumbustious cover of Felicity, which must have been the version from their first Peel session in 1986, when I was still at college. I know I sat up by the stereo and taped the songs I didn’t already have from his Festive Fifty at the end of that year and counted Felicity (number 36) and Once More (number 16) among numerous other cherishable gems on that live-paused cassette, like This Is Motortown by the Very Things, Kiss by Age Of Chance and Truck Train Tractor by The Pastels. In another year dominated by The Smiths – indeed, in an era dominated by The Smiths, Jesus & Mary Chain and New Order, the three Colossi of Indie – The Wedding Present felt like young, short-trousered pretenders, and were all the more thrilling for it. (Though of course they, too, would come to dominate the Peelscape, and with perhaps more purchase on Peel’s soul, a possession more akin to that exerted by The Fall.)

Remember that feeling of suddenly being overcome by the need to commit? I don’t mean to a girl in a favourite dress. I mean to a band. You’ve heard them on Peel, you’ve taped them off the radio, you’ve read about them in the NME; now it’s time to buy the album. You don’t have bottomless pockets; to fork out for an LP is a major declaration of love. Remember how stung you felt when you spent that week’s allowance from your grant on Dali’s Car by Dali’s Car because it was Pete Murphy and Mick Kahn from pre-accredited bands and you’d found the single hooky on Max Headroom or some other video show? An LP you wished you’d never bought was a shot through the heart. A waste of money. When I bought George Best on the strength of all those Peel tracks I knew it would be a sound investment. Well, if I didn’t like the record, I would always want that sleeve in my collection.

I loved the record as much as I loved the sleeve. I loved it more. Its locomotive guitar and drums combined under Chris Allison’s sympathetic, heads-down production to provide a new way to travel for the grown-up indie kid. There was something so right about David Gedge’s lovesick northern ballads, set to he and Peter Solowka’s never-ending riffs which were as raw and plaintive as the woes of the songs’ packed-in protagonists, whom we all suspected were Gedge himself, a man near-permanently let down, finished with, betrayed or two-timed by girls. Gedge was a few years older than me, but I identified with his struggle. Being single is the great leveller. I was newly single when I bought George Best and would soon be living in my first one-room studio flat, the perfect cell in which to lose myself in The Wedding Present’s breakneck melancholia.

My Favourite Dress is my favourite Wedding Present song. I think of it as definitive, and for all the constant pleasures Gedge has supplied since, as The Wedding Present and Cinerama, it remains unassailable. It pretty much breaks my heart each time I listen to it. Gedge’s pained recollection of uneaten meals, a lonely star, a long walk home, the pouring rain and a six-hour wait, leads inexorably up to this image of an ex’s dress. We who have fallen under Gedge’s spell have all imagined what that dress might look like. My first imagining – a floral print dress, maybe Oxfam, perhaps worn under a cardigan – is hard to shake.

There are two reasons why this song is magic. One is the decisive moan Gedge delivers after the last line. There are a lot of important “oh”s in pop music, but this is one to bruise your ribs from the inside. The second is the one minute and 24 seconds of outro, which rises and falls from that thousand-words “Ohhh” to the final, undressed jangle. I wouldn’t mind if it lasted a bit longer. It’s not even the end of the album, merely the end of side one.

When I finally met Gedge and interviewed the band in 1991 in snowbound Minnesota where they were recording their third album Seamonsters, he and I agreed to disagree that George Best was a classic album because it wasn’t perfect; he felt it could be improved. I don’t have that copy of the NME to hand, but if you do, look it up.

George Best and its zenith My Favourite Dress could not be improved.

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9 thoughts on “The Wedding Present, My Favourite Dress (1987)

  1. Best song on the album by a mile. It tells of the “kick in the nuts” you feel when she’s already moved on. Genius!!

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  2. Love George Best and yes favourite dress is the best song on it ! Bought it in my first week at Uni on my first trip into London to tthe big HMV on Oxford st. I brought it back and forced my new friends to listen to it sounded rotten I was almost heartbroken . Fortunately the next day I played one of existing lps and realised I’d set up my stereo wrongly moving into halls a few tweaks of the cables and it sounded perfect and I played it to death for the whole term .

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  3. I got into the Wedding Present through hearing “You Should Always Keep in Touch with Your Friends” either via my taping of the Festive 50 in 1986, or seeing the video on the Chart Show on Indie Chart week. That single was awesome enough, but I remember being blown away by George Best, and would place “Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft” up there with “My Favourite Dress”, not least for the sharp intake of breath before Gedge starts to sing.

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  4. Fabulous blog about a fabulous song … For me the best bit is at 2.40ish when Gedge sings “that was my favourite dress” twice, the second more plaintively than the first which comes after a minute of so of the vocals steadily rising in intensity … it’s almost a ‘petit mort’ and has always reminded me of the moment when you let go of trying to hang on and accept that it’s gone and you can do nothing about it

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  5. I suspect most of this list will pass me by, as AC’s music collection will be much broader than mine. But here he is right on my street.

    Narrowing the TWP down to one track is almost impossible, (fortunately, thanks to Cinerama could sneak another onto the list according to the rules). But once you’ve chucked out the likes of Kennedy, Brassneck, Dalliance et al (all difficult to lose), I’d be left with My Favourite Dress and Montreal.

    Both have a similar theme – in MFD the loss is old, whereas Montreal is mid-breakup, but the pain in both is tangible. Without re-listening to them both now, I’d have picked the latter. But it’s still one hell of an “oh”.

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  6. A brilliant song and a brilliant blog entry about it. This is a song I have listened to literally thousands of times. It remains my favourite Gedge song, despite the stiff competition in that canon of work

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  7. George Best was my second Wedding present album, having discovered them after buying Bizarro, and at first I was put off by the rough and ready production (I was young, give me a break.) Then I heard My Favourite Dress and I was blown away. In my opinion, the greatest song of love and loss and yes, that outro is very, very special (up there with Stop Breathin by Pavement in it’s elegant simplicity.)

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