The Wedding Present are probably only second after The Fall for the most BBC sessions recorded. Back in the day, there wasn’t only John Peel’s show which featured sessions, but Janice Long, too, and while 6Music has done a great job of sustaining the session tradition courtesy of former Fall guitarist Marc Riley, the experimentalism that the Peel sessions in particular afforded artists remains unparalleled.
As the press release tells it, it was during rehearsals in 1987 that they began performing the traditional Ukrainian song ‘Hopak’ at the suggestion of guitarist Pete Solowka, of half-Ukrainian parentage. In time, Solowka would depart to pursue The Ukrainians as project in itself, separate from Gedge and co. But cut back to the late 80s: a Peel session ensued, featuring a rousing rendition of ‘Davni Chasy’ – better known as ‘Those Were The Days’, made famous in English translation by Mary Hopkin in 1968.
Two further Peel sessions followed, with the first two compiled on the Українські Виступи в Івана Піла release in 1989. A 2000 re-release added the third session plus ‘Hopak’. Which brings us to this, the latest in the current series of archive-mining Wedding Present BBC sessions CD releases.
This edition drops ‘Hopak; and presents the original sessions, but as per both previous releases, in a non-chronological sequence.
Wikipedia reports that on he release of the original album, ‘Hang the Dance! member Roman Remeynes, himself fluent in Ukrainian…. jokingly accused the band of bastardising the music’. He did sort of have a point: these sessions are very much novelty, and sound like The Wedding Present playing Ukrainian folk songs. But then, whatever The Wedding Present play, it sounds like The Wedding Present.
How would these sessions sit now? Would the band be accused not jokingly of bastardizing the music but of bad cultural appropriation? One would hope not, but we live in strange times.
Meanwhile, the three Ukrainian sessions stand as something of an anomaly in The Wedding Present’s extensive catalogue. A diversion, and a bit of fun, and an interesting side-note and detour for a band renowned for their work ethic, but less for their humour or willingness to try something different.