Super Deluxe Edition
Boredom, dole, white noise, feedback, drugs, 20 minute sets, violence, and blasphemous song titles – not the stuff of X-factor and American Idol – but all part of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s universe back in the early ’80s as they edged their way into the music business.
Brothers Jim and William Reid spent years as teenagers watching telly, walking around the Glasgow suburb of East Kilbride talking about music, planning the perfect band in their heads while not actually doing anything much. They knew what they liked – The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, ’60s girl-band The Shangri-Las – but it wasn’t until their dad got a redundancy pay-off in the early 1980s that they actually decided to do something about it. They bought a portastudio, and by 1983 had actually started recording demos in an attempt to get gigs in Glasgow. No one was interested.
Cue fellow Scot Bobby Gillespie, who was in the middle of forming Primal Scream. By chance he heard the band’s first demo tape and was blown away. The men bonded over music and attitude, and crucially, The Jesus and Mary Chain got a London gig thanks to Gillespie knowing Alan McGee (they were school friends). They were duly signed to McGee’s Creation Records and first single Upside Down became a massive success on the indie chart.
By the time the band came to record Psychocandy they had been signed to Blanco y Negro (a WEA owned label) and had sacked original drummer Murray Dalglish with Gillespie stepping in to replace him. His limited drumming abilities (“I’m not a fucking drummer”) considered less important than passion and an understanding of the music.
Psychocandy brought to the mid-’80s an influential mix of leather-trousered rock (The Stooges), lo-fi attitude (Velvet Underground) and sixties production (Phil Spector). Although renowned for the noise and feedback element of their recordings, the pop sensibility of many of the songs are there for those who care to look. Just Like Honey, The Hardest Walk, Cut Dead are all superb indie-pop and the feedback-free acoustic radio sessions on disc two of this deluxe edition serve to underline the song-writing credentials of the Reid brothers. That said, they could also be pointlessly shouty when they wanted to be. See outtake Jesus Fuck as a good example.
This deluxe edition gathers together most of the essential elements of these early years. The first disc includes all the appropriate b-sides, while the CD 2 contains a mixture of unreleased radio sessions, demos and outtakes. A couple of these demos appeared on the 2008 box set The Power of Negative Thinking but most are previously unreleased. Given that these are the original portastudios demos they are predictably rough with drum machine backing, but nonetheless historically significant – the demos of Never Understand and Upside Down were what persuaded Alan McGee to give them a gig. McGee’s first independent single with the band (Upside Down) is also included with the Vegetable Man, the Syd Barrett penned b-side.
As autumn descends upon us, the gloom will be suitably furnished by the reissuing of the whole JAMC catalogue – six studio albums, in double CD plus DVD, including B-sides, live recordings, BBC sessions and more. There’s the 1985 seminal debut, ‘Psychocandy’, when the brothers Reid decided that guitar music needed resurrecting. They didn’t parody their forefathers but added distortion, fuzz and a gothic undertone, akin to The Velvet Underground some eighteen years earlier, and noise pop was created.
1987’s ‘Darklands’ was more sinister yet accessible and gathered major commercial recognition. Without a band, the following year’s ‘Automatic’ was more synthetic and the reception as poor, so it was another four years before the superb ‘Honey’s Dead’; a departure from the earlier style and daring to wrestle with mainstream indie. Disappointing that the next set, ‘Stoned And Dethroned’, didn’t mark a progression, despite a lengthy recording period with a full band. The brother’s relationship was becoming more fragmented, the band’s demise was inevitable.
The final offering, ‘Munki’, was recorded by the pair without meeting and lacks cohesion as a result. The whole set depicts a band prepared to test the boundaries; a band that remains hugely influential in today’s scene and a set of albums that will appeal to new and old fans alike. Superbly presented and packaged, let the rain begin!