or many people.

hearing The Jesus and Mary Chain for the first time made up for being stuck in primary school in ‘76 when their older brothers were pogoing down the Roxy. The first Mary Chain fan I knew had heard their first single, ‘Upside Down‘, on the John Peel show one night and tried vainly to retune his radio before realising that the record was supposed to sound like that Jim Reid’s voice poking out from behind a curtain of noise that sounded like dozens of screaming and howling guitars, not just the plank with wires abused Jim‘s brother William. He was converted on the spot. .

On the way to releasing ‘Never Understand’, three minutes of finely-tuned noise with ‘classic‘ stamped all overit, the Mary Chain (at the time. the Reid brothers, Douglas Hart and Bobby Gillespie. and stilllargely unseen by the paying public) also acquired the Most Exciting Rock Band of Our Time mantle that had been lyingVirtually untouched since it had fallen from the heads ofThe Stooges, The Velvet Underground and the Sex Pistols. This didn't entitle them to Luncheon Vouchers, but they could rest easy in knowing that they were The Next Big Thing and Corruptors of Our Youth until the next contenders came along. No one had been as bad or as sexy, or had so perfect a grasp of rock history and the art ofwearing leather trousers. And no sons of East Kilbride had ever been so honoured.

Their moody, rebellious and slightly spotty stance was perfect, and live shows Jim Reid, pissed and hanging on to his mikestand like a crutch, while William, back to the audience, crouched before his amplifier to cook up storms of feedback became quickly known as riot trouble-spots. Depending on how the band felt, they could cut it short after 15 minutes. Almost too perfect. Would Jim admit now that their tactics were as cynically contrived as any you could come across?

‘Not at all. I know that’s what most


people think, but that really isn’t the way it was. We were just incredibly natural at those early gigs. Once it started to go that way, we did enjoy it. and we maybe did encourage it a bit, but we didn’t sit down and say, “Let’s go and break a guitar, let’s do this“. I mean, when an audience has a fight, how can we contrive that? ‘Cause that‘s what mostly got written about: audience violence. And there’s absolutely no way that We could’ve done that. Those early gigs really were quite unique - pretty hectic, chaotic. I think a lot ofit was down to the fact that we were incredibly naive about what being in a band was all about in those days. Maybe naive’s the wrong word. We were just. . .untainted, lsuppose. There’s a traditional formula about making a band that we were just completely ignorant about. We thought, why spend six years *

learning to playthe guitar when I p can do something just as good right ,

now? ‘To me, they we re the best gigs we

"tight-.fisted bastards.“ "

ever done,’ he continues, warming to the theme. ‘Straight out there , no compromise, just belt it out until you get bored with it. It wasn’t a “let’s-do-a-lS-minute-gig”, it was a "let‘s-play-until-we’re-bored” gig. Sometimes it was an hour-and-a- half, sometimes it was 15 minutes, it was just pure honesty.‘

Though the band were becoming notorious for the ruckus they attracted, they took a while to distance themselves from it.

‘At first, it wasn’t too serious, and I thought it was quite exciting. But then it got to the point where it was getting out of hand. I guess after the North London Poly gig. The gig itself was an experience, it was wild, but then it was reported in the press, and people were turning up to the next gig with knives, and that’s when we realised it had to stop.

I think a lot of people would be quite awed ifthey got that kind of reaction for turning up and playing.

‘It was weird. It‘s funny, I never really felt as if that violence was

It you were asked to think about the top names in the indie charts these days and came up with the names oi The Wedding Present and The House oi

Love, or maybe The Darling Buds or The Primitives, you’d be a little out ol date. All those bands get their wages lrom major record companies, and can call on the services oi the same pluggers and publicists as most oi the other acts on WEA, RCA, CBS and so on. But the ‘indie' delinltion still lingers, like the post-Smiths depression that Morrissey's EMI LP lailed to dispel.

The indie ethic and network held strong lor the better part oi a decade. Their independent status gave hands a credibility that set them apart irom the global corporate industry, and sales through indie channels alone could

promise, tor a iew years, a way at

directed towards us. I felt quite voyeuristic about it, in that l was standing on a stage watching all these people knocking shit out of each other, and it was like . . . [don't know, maybe it’s a sick thing to say, but I got quite into it for a while. But then I started to realise that people were really getting hurt. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t a joke, somebody was going to die if we didn’t stop it.’

When you ask Jim Reid if playing live now gives him the same buzz, he’ll pause, and exhale a long, sad ‘Naaaah’.

‘lt’s good, but if I had to be totally honest about it, nothing could ever match the first year of the group. You‘d dreamt of doing it all for so

long, and- it was just overnight, we

were stars, of a sort, and it was just incredible to live out that fantasy. But nowit’s just like . . . we’ve been doing it solong that it’s not the same.’

The untamed noise, only there,

i {heysaidlaten to mask the fact that Vuleyeouliln’t play, had been reined

in forthe deserving singles ‘Just Like

Boney’ and ‘Some Candy Talking’, '1 .thenpacked'its bags and left the

sessions that resulted in their second album, Darklands. With more acoustic guitars and a radically-cleaned-up sound, it was a record that worked its way in more slowly and gave the brothers their first Top Ten hit, ‘April Skies’. Songs like that and ‘Happy When it Rains’ were changing the face of The Jesus and Mary Chain from noise terrorists to painstaking pop architects, if writers of lyrics far too near the marrow and against the crowd ever to really achieve popular success.

Automatic is the new album (the fourth if you count a budget-price compilation of B-sides and oddities) and there’s no doubt that they can play now, and in a broader range of styles and textures than before. On a good night, they could probably give 22 Top a run for their money, as well as a few others I could mention. Jim’s favourite review of it said that every song sounded like a single ‘that’s what we intended to do’ and he understandably objects to the notion that The Jesus and Mary

keeping the bailiits irom the door. But the indie rock market has shrunk considerably and the ‘indiepop' brigade that characterised such a large part oi British music in the Bits and was given a (largely irrelevant) shot in the arm in 1986, has tended to take advantage oi the indies’ growing role as merely a springboard lor the big companies.

Under the prevailing ethics oi ten years at Conservative goverment, it's easier than it was, it not to put up the iacade that you want to change the system from within (you can’t- not as a musician anyway). then at least to go through the process oi ‘getting our music to as wide a range oi people as possible’ and still not being accused oi selling out. The popular way to retain credibility is to sign to one at the subsidiaries, like Chrysalis’s Blue

Chain have had one great idea that they‘re going to spend the next 20 years refining.

‘I mean, who progresses more than the Mary Chain? Do you really think Dark/ands is anything like Psychocandy?‘

There‘s undeniable constants in the songs. ..

‘That‘s because it‘s the same band that made them. but the sound is entirely different, and in a way it kind ofoffends me when people suggest we haven‘t progressed. From album to album we change sounds a hell of a lot more than any group I can see. Unless our tastes dramatically change there‘s going to be a similar style of songwriting.A|l you really expect is a different

Guitar, which seems to give the best oi both worlds to its artists: small-scale operation, with a modicum oi autonomy, and the backing at a large corporation.

Yet, there’s a whole stratum oi bands which maybe only had one independent single out that are tarred by the ‘indie’ brush. Is it that they are seen to be upholding a certain set at values and attitudes, or just appealing to a market that might equally loosely be termed ‘trainspotter' (too old-iashioned, but it almost caught on) or ‘little disposable income once they've paid their hall iees’ or ‘hate “Top oi the Pops'”?

One interesting thing about the bands at this kind that are playing in Scotland in the coming weeks is their emphatic whiteness. The otherwise omnipresent quest tor the grail oi periect white soul is conspicuous by its absence. Tracy

2 The List 2'} (stints. 4 Ell-\ioveniger 1989