Rockins Inspirations: The Story Of The Jesus and Mary Chain
“It was perfect timing because there weren’t any guitar bands. Everybody was making this electronic pop music.” – William Reid.
Ardent lovers of the Velvet Underground, the Reid brothers sought to create a sound that fused surf-pop inspired melodies, with feedback drenched guitars and impenetrable noise. With the addition of bassist Douglas Hart and Murray Dalglish on drums in 1984, the band quickly cemented their core sound. Guitars would be purposely left out of tune and Hart would eventually play on a bass consisting of just two strings.
“..thats the two I use, I mean what’s the fucking point spending money on another two? Two is enough.” – Douglas Hart.
With grand ambitions to perform at Wembley Stadium and be more successful than the Rolling Stones, the band struck lucky after their demo tape was passed to Alan McGee by Bobby Gillespie. Signed to McGee’s Creation Records, Gillespie joined the band as drummer. In typically stripped back style, the drum kit consisted of a snare and floor tom, which was played standing up (inspired by Moe Tucker of the Velvet Underground). The band’s debut album, Psychocandy, was released in November 1985 to positive reviews; featuring their biggest chart hit ‘Just Like Honey’, it is now regarded as a landmark record of the era.
The Jesus and Mary Chain were famed for their raucous, albeit brief gigs. The Reid brothers were an introverted pair; standing with their backs to the audience, the band would charge through an amphetamine and alcohol fuelled performance, frequently ending with an onstage riot. With gigs lasting just twenty minutes, the band would sign off with a chaotic display; equipment would be destroyed and the audience would clamber on stage, caught up in violent brawls. Along with their provocatively titled records (plant workers refused to manufacture the B-side ‘Jesus Fuck’), this reputation left them less than favoured by the music industry.
“There’s never been a group good enough to play any longer” – Jim Reid
While the Reid brothers failed to charm the media and industry with their sullen and often arrogant front, it no doubt concealed an underlying shyness; the ear-splitting noise acting as a defensive barrier rather than aggression. Gigs were exciting, and at times alienating, with the band always performing drunk to mask their nerves (in contrast, the band were sober for the entirety of the Psychocandy recording). Beneath the feedback noise and heavy guitar undertones lay sweet, hypnotic pop melodies; a contrast that mirrored the brothers on stage personas and natural introversion.
After marking their 2007 reunion with a performance at Coachella festival, The Jesus and Mary Chain are now set to play a series of gigs in Japan. With the onstage brawls and smashing of guitars long gone, what remains is a raw blend of melody and noise; a sound like no other.