Scottish band Jesus & Mary Chain is probably best-known for their music as much as for their outlandish behavior demonstrated during live performances – their early gigs were extremely short, with band playing with their backs to the audience and it often ended with riots and trashed equipment. Their wild reputation, however, brought them some recognition/notoriety and they were also championed by British music mag New Music Express.
Formed in 1984, J&MC are primarily revolving around the team of Reid brothers Jim and William. They recorded their debut single “Upside Down”, which sounded like a combination of bubblegum pop and noise rock, peppered by distortion and primitive drum sound.
Bobby Gilespie (later of Primal Scream fame) joined the band and replaced its original drummer Murray Dalglish, who, according to William Reid lacked any abilities. Also, part of the reason why Dalglish was kicked out the band was the fact that his father demand more money to be paid to him by the band.
Probably one of the most notorious incidents related to J&MC live performances happened when they were playing with an opening act Meat Whiplash at the North London Polytechnic on March 15, 1985. The gig ended with band’s equipment being trashed and four people hospitalized. The event was dubbed “Jesus & Mary Chain Riot” by the press present at the show.
In 1985 the band also released “You Trip Me” and “Never Understand” singles on Blanco Y Negro label, followed by their debut “Psychocandy”. Influenced equally by Velvet Underground, Stooges and Beach Boys, the album ended up on best-ever lists of Q Magazine and Rolling Stone and is considered to be one of their best records. Drugs were also a huge influence, as band members were fond of LSD and amphetamines, which explains the amount of feedback on the record. Plenty of controversy ensued when band members started a fight in Blanco Y Negro office and were subsequently thrown out, followed by J&MC being banned from plenty of venues in England and, finally, WEA pressing plant refusing to release their “You Trip Me” single, which included a b-side with allegedly blasphemous title. The song in question was eventually replaced by another track – “Just Out Of Reach”.
In 1986, the band recorded “Some Candy Talking” EP, which included a controversial title track misunderstood to be about heroin use and subsequently banned from BBC Radio 1 for this reason (and also the fact that images of poppy flowers appeared in the video for a song and further strengthened rumors about the idea that the song was dedicated to drugs). The song can also be heard in a soundtrack to a movie “Modern Girls”. After recording EP, Gillespie left the band in order to concentrate on Primal Scream.
1987 release “Darklands” featured more melodic sound than its predecessor, as well as actual drumming instead of drum machine. Interesting enough, Gillespie / Primal Scream later recorder a cover of title track from the album. During that year, Jim Reid was arrested and spent a night in jail due to an accident that happened while the band was performing in Toronto – Reid allegedly hit two fans with a microphone stand for spitting on him.
1988 compilation “Barbed Wire Kisses” collected some of the band’s rare material, including a cover of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?” which appeared on the soundtrack to a movie “Earth Girls Are Easy”, as well as cover of Can’s “Mushroom”.
1989 full-length “Automatic” was not much of a critical success compared to its predecessors, although the track “Head On” became quite popular when Pixies covered it on “Trompe Le Monde” album. The biggest problem that the press had with the album was the heavy use of synthesizers and drum machines. With passing of time, however, many saw album in a different light – Pitchfork Media declared that “”Conventional wisdom wrongly calls (Automatic) the dud,” of the JAMC’s discography, but that in hindsight the album “feels like a career peak.”
The band, however, proved critics wrong with their next single – 1990 “Reverence”, which was banned from many of UK radio and TV stations due to offensive lyrics. It was followed by 1992 “Honey’s Dead” LP, with single “Far Gone Out” receiving plenty of play on UK stations. Sales-wise it became one of their most successful records, topped only by their 1994 album “Stoned and Dethroned”. During 1992 the band toured US as part of Lollapalooza tour with the likes of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Lush.
By the mid 90s, the band produced yet another compilation of rare tracks (“The Sound Of Speed”) and “Stoned and Dethroned” – their most successful release to date. The album featured contributions from members of Curve, Mazzy Star and Pogues.
In the mid 90s, J&MC left Blanco Y Negro label and re-signed to their original label, Creation Records, as well to Sub Pop in US. 1998 LP “Munki” turned out to be their last before the band went on hiatus. “Munki” is seen by many as very divided album, part of which had to do with crumbling relationship between Reid brothers. It also featured a contribution from Mazzy Star’s lead singer Hope Sandoval, who previously recorded “Sometime Always” with the band.
After the break-up, William Reid started Lazycame, a solo project and Jim Reid started Freeheat, although neither of acts received much of attention. In 2005, it was announced that the band is going to play together again and Rhino Records reissued five of their albums.
In 2007, the band played Coachella festival with actress Scarlett Johanson joining them onstage. In 2008, the band recorded “All Things Must Pass” for a soundtrack to an NBC drama “Heroes”, which was their first studio studio track in 10 years since the break-up. In 2008, Rhino also reissued all of bands rarities as a 4-CD box set entitled “The Power Of Negative Thinking: B-Sides & Rarities”.
Ben Lurie (Freeheat)
Jim Reid (Freeheat)
Martin Hewes (Redskins)
William Reid (Lazycame)