Today is Jim Reid’s birthday.
Jim and his brother William were inspired to form a band as far back as 1977 – but it wasn’t until the early eighties they formed The Poppy Seeds, who became Death of Joey, who would eventually be called The Jesus and Mary Chain. By early 1984 they had recruited Douglas Hart and Murray Dalglish on drums; they began to play live by Spring 84 Dalglish’s drum kit was limited to only 2 drums and Hart’s bass only had three strings, by 1985, only 2 – he explained in a news interview at the time “that’s the two I use, I mean what’s the fucking point spending money on another two? Two is enough.”
They struggled to get booked for gigs, and in the early days would just show up at shows, claim to be the support act, play a short set and make a quick exit. But they grew frustrated by this in their home of Scotland so related to London in 1984. Bobby Gillespie gave a tape of theirs to Alan McGee who booked them for a show he was promoting – on teh strength of their sound-check signed them to his Creation Records label and became their manager. Their debut single Upside Down was recorded in Oct and released in Nov 1984; at this time Daglish was replaced by Gillespie on drums.
The success of this debut single led to a signing to WEA subsidiary Blanco y Negro Records in early 1985 and they released Never Understand; although this was delayed because the label initially refused to press a single with a b-side titled “Suck” as it was deemed offensive. The band responded with a new b-side called “Jesus Fuck” and the label went with “Suck” as the b-side.
But the band were keen to release the “Jesus Fuck” song – McGee went as far as getting some test-pressings of a re-release of Never Understand with it on the flip – but the band insisted Blanco Y Negro release it on the b of their next single You Trip Me Up – and even though the controversial title had been changed to “Jesus Suck” the staff at the record pressing plant still refused to press the single – eventually it was released with another new b-side Just Out Of Reach.
They released their debut album Psychocandy in November 1985 – and their live sets were becoming more and more legendary; but often more because of the ensuing crowd violence at the shows – of one such show at North London Polytechnic, McGee would issue a statement that “the audience were not smashing up the hall, they were smashing up pop music”, going on to say “This is truly art as terrorism”. However, the violence soon started to become a hindrance to the band, with people attending concerts simply for the violence rather than the music, William commenting “I hate it, I despise it. It gets in the way in terms of getting more gigs, and it gets in the way of our image”
Indeed, the band had acoustic and stripped back aspirations – keen for their songs to be heard without distortion and feedback, the band planned to perform several unannounced acoustic sets supporting Sonic Youth, but this was abandoned when the plans were leaked. They’d come to fruition though with a stripped-down session for John Peel in November 1985, which included “Psychocandy”, the original album title track that was omitted from the release, and “Some Candy Talking”, a song which they had been performing for over a year, but had left off the album. A second version of “Some Candy Talking” was issued on a free EP issued with the NME in January 1986, and the song was released as the band’s next single in July.
However BBC Radio 1 banned the single claiming it was a paean to illegal drugs (denied by the band at the time, but admitted by William a year later).
In September 1986 the band nearly split – Jim was suffering from exhaustion – they parted ways with manager Alan McGee,John Moore had become an established member, but moved to rhythm guitar and New Zealander James Pinker took over on drums – they returned to playing live in December and premiered new songs including “April Skies” and “Don’t Get Hit”. Early in 1987, they entered the studio to record their second album. The first fruits of these sessions were released on the “April Skies” single in April, which saw the band have their first top ten hit. The Beach Boys influence was evident on the B-side, which included “Kill Surf City”, a reworking of Brian Wilson’s “Surf City”. Years later Auckland band Kill Surf City (who later became Surf City) were formed and I recall asking them about their name and they claimed that they had simply taken the words from the cover of the April Skies single without even hearing the song or Jesus & Mary Chain at the time.
After this they set out on another UK tour – without a drummer; using a drum machine instead and during the tour released their sophomore album Darklands (which was also recorded with a drum machine).
A third album Automatic was released in October 1989 – with heavy use of synthesized bass and keyboards, the album was not received quite as well as its predecessors. It contained the singles “Head On” and “Blues From A Gun”
In the early nineties the brothers recruited former Starlings rhythm section Matthew Parkin and Barry Blacker; bought their own studio in Elephant & Castle in South London, which was named The Drugstore – they returned in February 1992 with the first fruits of the new studio, their next single, “Reverence”.
The track was banned from being played on BBC Radio 1 and from Top of the Pops, due to its potentially offensive lyrics (‘I wanna die just like JFK, I wanna die in the USA’…’I wanna die just like Jesus Christ, I wanna die on a bed of spikes’). The single was followed by the release of the album Honey’s Dead. AFter this the band concentrated on breaking in America; they released their fifth album Stoned and Dethroned in 1994 which featured guest appearances from Shane MacGowan and William’s then-girlfriend Hope Sandoval. In 1995 they parted ways with Blanco Y Negro and resigned to Creation and to Sub Pop in the States to release Munki which featured the Reid’s sister Linda, who sang on the track “Mo Tucker” as well as vocals from Hope Sandoval on “Perfume”.
on 12 September 1998, William had a falling out in the tour bus with guitarist Ben Lurie before they were to play at the Los Angeles House of Blues. Jim appeared onstage drunk and barely able to stand or sing. William walked offstage about 15 minutes into their set, and the show ended. The audience was later refunded the price of their tickets. The band finished up their U.S. and Japanese dates without William, but from that point, it was clear that the band was at its end. Jim Reid said in 2006 of the tension between himself and William: “After each tour we wanted to kill each other, and after the final tour we tried”