Four Noteworthy Facts You May Not Know About the Jesus and Mary Chain
Published Mar 09, 2017Jim and William Reid were two outsiders from East Kilbride, Scotland that shared both a bedroom and a dream: To become the unlikeliest pop stars the world had ever seen. They never quite reached their dream of topping the charts, but as the Jesus and Mary Chain, they sure came close, and without ever having to compromise their vision of uniting heavenly harmonies with menacing guitar noise. Their classic, 1985 debut album Psychocandy, was unlike anything the world had heard before, and the Reids immediately cemented cult status following its release.
Of course, like all of the greatest rock bands, the Mary Chain wouldn't last. Despite significant commercial success, thanks to the alternative music revolution in the 1990s, the Reids couldn't stand the sight of each other by the end of the decade, and disbanded in 1999. But a timely offer from the Coachella organizers eight years later brought the estranged brothers back for another kick at the can. Although it's taken them ten years to deliver an album they've spent the last decade discussing, Damage and Joy finally arrives on March 24.
Our latest Timeline, out now in the April issue of Exclaim!, follows the band's tumultuous journey over the last four decades. While you'll have to grab an issue to read the whole thing, here's a little taste of their story, below.
Four Noteworthy Facts You May Not Know About the Jesus and Mary Chain:
1. In the beginning, no one in the band wanted to sing. Jim Reid took over by default.
Jim tries to get both Douglas Hart and his brother William to take on lead vocals, but he loses the battle and is forced to take over. William later tells Goldmine, "I was kind of the singer in the beginning, but when I sang, I kind of used my nasal voice, and Jim kind of uses his throat, like, really cool. And it was like, 'Okay, Jim, you've gotta be the singer,' and he was like, 'No, I won't do it.' And eventually everybody was like, 'Come on, you fucking bastard. You must do it.' So he reluctantly became the singer."
Jim later recounts to The Guardian how glad he is to have taken over the vocal duties. "It could have gone the other way," he says. "After a while I started to shag more girls than he did and he was like, 'I want to be the singer!' And I was like, 'Sorry, son, the coin doesn't lie.'"
2. In 1992, Lollapalooza featured a line-up including Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Ice Cube and headliners Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Jesus & Mary Chain hated every second of it.
The Mary Chain spend the entire summer in North America as part of Lollapalooza, the travelling music festival organized by Perry Farrell. William remembers the tour, which featured Lush, Pearl Jam, Ministry, Ice Cube, Soundgarden and headliners Red Hot Chili Peppers as "the worst experience of our lives."
In the liner notes to the 2011 deluxe reissue of Honey's Dead, Jim recalls that "by the time the tour actually happened, Pearl Jam had something like the number one album in America — so there we were having to go on at two o'clock in the afternoon after fucking Pearl Jam! Their singer used to climb up on the PA stack like a fucking mountain goat and everybody would go bananas; then we'd walk out, stand there like miserable gits, play a few songs and watch everybody go and get bloody hotdogs and Pearl Jam T-shirts.
"That was week one, for Christ's sake! We tried to get Pearl Jam to change positions with us but they didn't want to do it. We tried to get off the tour but couldn't, so we just had to knuckle down to it and get absolutely wasted for 12 weeks… We were the disgrace of the tour — everybody hated us and everybody hated our behaviour."
Miserable on the tour, the Reid brothers begin squabbling more than usual. William is in such a bad mood that when someone in Ice Cube's crew soaks him with a water gun, he tries to pick a fight with them. Instead of revenge he gets bottled and bloodied. After learning Ice Cube and company are allegedly packing weapons on their bus, William backs off.
3. The BBC loved to ban the Mary Chain.
In 1986, the BBC bans their song "Some Candy Talking" after the network decides it glamorizes heroin use. Speaking to Time Out in 2015, Jim Reid says, "The BBC banned 'Some Candy Talking' because it thought the song was about drugs, which funnily enough is our only song not about drugs. Well, they were gonna ban it, but instead they just didn't play it. We were really hoping they did because then it woulda sold shitloads of copies. Ironically, the original was recorded as a Peel Session, so you could even say that the BBC commissioned it in the first place."
The next year, their single "April Skies" reaches number eight in the UK singles chart, which means the band get to live out their dream of appearing on Top of the Pops. They appear on the show drunk and obstinate, and as a result receive a lifetime ban from the show. Jim later tells Thrasher, "Well, you kind of sit around all day waiting and the Mary Chain were never really good at sitting around so yeah — we got quite drunk. We didn't do anything. Nothing got destroyed and nobody got insulted, but the fact that we got drunk on the BBC premises was enough to cause an upset anyway."
Months later, the U.S. version of the show refuses to play their music video after objecting to the band's "sacrilegious moniker." Top of the Pops and the BBC also refuse to play their 1992 single "Reverence," which features the lines, "I wanna die just like JFK, I wanna die in the U.S.A.…I wanna die just like Jesus Christ, I wanna die on a bed of spikes." Jim later explains to Thrasher, "The thing about that is it's a bit of a joke; the idea of Mary Chain being banned from the BBC. The BBC never played our records anyway. So basically they banned 'Reverence' and didn't play our records. It was business as usual, really."
4. Originally it was supposed to be Jim Reid's solo band that played Coachella in 2007. Instead, the offer somehow resulted in an unplanned Mary Chain reunion.
Jim is approached by the organizers for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival about his band playing in 2007, but discussions quickly snowball into a Jesus and Mary Chain reunion. On January 22, it's announced that the Reid brothers will reunite to play Coachella as the Jesus and Mary Chain. Their manager Kevin Oberlin tells Billboard, "I originally started working on both Jim's and William's solo albums, and when I approached Goldenvoice about getting Jim a solo gig at Coachella, they came back with an offer for the Jesus and Mary Chain. We thought having the band reunite for Coachella would help set up both of their solo albums, but the very next day after the show, Jim and William did an interview and said that they were going to do a new Mary Chain album."
Read more in the new issue of Exclaim!, available in coffee shops, concert venues, record stores and street boxes across Canada now.