The Jesus and Mary Chain emerged blinking and battling into the sunlight at a period when I temporarily stopped caring so muc about music to an extent that I got very cynical about things, genuinely believing that there would be very little to emerge in the following years that would thrill or excite, far less sound unlike anything that had come before. I was 25 years old and my pessimism/doom’n’gloom turned out to be well wide of the mark, as I hope I have proved on many occasions through postings on this little corner of t’internet.

My thoughts on the JAMC were clouded by the fact that the noises coming out of the speakers were just a variation on the shock of punk rock, taking the sacred cow of the Velvet Underground who had been lauded by so many of the indie bands on the 80s and throwing some feedback on top. The antics of the stage performances, where fights and riots would be instigated from a ‘couldn’t give a fuck’ attitude seemed no different or more confrontational than that of The Birthday Party who themselves had grown up and subsequently grown weary of it, and therefore it was only a matter of time before the Brothers Reid did similar.

I didn’t mind some of the songs I was hearing but not enough to make me rush out and buy anything….until the day I was exposed to a b-side and a cover version at that:-

mp3 : The Jesus and Mary Chain – Surfin’ USA

The Beach Boys were, and still are, a band that I ever quite ‘got’. The 80s were a particularly annoying time for me as so many journos from that period were fond of wanking themselves into a frenzy over Pet Sounds being the greatest album of all time. I’ve listened to that album in my teens, 20s, 30s and 40s and never once been remotely impressed with it. Hearing this wonderfully energetic and irreverent take on the song, not to mention the sampling of the religious nutters at its end, at a period in history when there were some bad bad people on the right (and on the rise) in the land of the free, made me smile and made me take a liking to the JAMC.

A few weeks later, I got my hands on the 12” single on which it had appeared. This was the era when vinyl didn’t sell out instantly and you could find copies of singles hanging around the shelves many months later. It was my first exposure to this:-

mp3 : The Jesus and Mary Chain – Darklands

Hadn’t until now apprecaited that they made such great pop singles, tuneful and memorable and at exactly the sort of pace and tempo that so often fitted my mood.  The five minutes that converted me.

Many years later, a former member of JAMC offered his band’s take on it….and in doing so made it sound like one of his own:-

mp3 : Primal Scream – Darklands


5 thoughts on “I SAW THE LIGHT

  1. A couple of thoughts. It’s interesting the differing takes we had of the Mary Chain when they first arrived kicking and screaming, you seeing it as a variation of punk and me seeing them as fresh and exciting, compared to all the dross that was around in the early 80s with a few exceptions. Although Stiff was a bit more cynical about them, as when watching their appearance on the Whistle Test, when Jim Reid failed to topple the mike stand on his first attempt, Stiff said “they’re playing at it, Lydon would have knocked that over first time” And strangely when I saw them those times last year I noticed that Jim’s posturings were very much like Lydon’s and I had never really noticed that before.

    Secondly this was the band that introduced me to the VU as up until then I had heard very little about them and I was into a lot of late 60s stuff, Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Love etc but the Velvet Underground were not on my radar at all.

    I guess just that few years makes all the difference.

  2. I first heard JAMC on the release of Upside Down. I liked it but wasn’t drawn in. On the release of Never Understand I was the proverbial moth to the flame.

    I understand JC’s comments re: attitude and that musically, in many respects, what JAMC offered had been done before. I couldn’t be arsed with the attitude at all – self-aggrandising loud-mouths – you can keep them.

    Unpalatable comments from the ranks of JAMC in those early days seemed to parrot-fashion Alan McGee. McGee tried the same thing with Oasis proving himself a one-trick pony when it comes to marketing. When I think of Alan McGee I think of Malcolm McLaren – it’s not intended as a compliment.

    On hearing Never Understand I opined, that to me, it sounded like the Beach Boys meets the Velvet Underground in a cacophony of feedback (or words to that effect). I loved the contrast of such wonderful harmonies hidden under the noise. I was hooked and remain so. To cover Surfin’ USA was very clever and what a cover version it is. It popped the bubble of intensity that they themselves had created.

    I would consider myself to be one of those people that like the Beach Boys but couldn’t describe myself as a fan. I have always deemed Pet Sounds as over-rated. Maybe I should listen to it again?

    If I had to pull together an all-time top 10 single playlist now, or at some point in the future, I expect that Never Understand would almost always appear on it. JAMC have evolved quite magnificently as a band. When Jim is interviewed his take on the band then, and the band now, illustrates a statesman like maturity.

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