Barbed Wire Kisses: The Jesus And Mary Chain story by Zoe Howe has just been published in paperback. Here's an exclusive extract from the book featuring the band, friends and eye-witnesses recalling one of the group's ill-faited early London gigs.
The Jesus And Mary Chain might have viewed the English as an obnoxious bunch who did little other than "watch Terry and June and say 'Crikey!'" a lot, but London was where they had to make their mark if they wanted to get anywhere; so roll on more cramped Stagecoach journeys, more nights sleeping on [Creation Records'] Alan McGee’s floor, more drinking to oblivion to numb the nerves. "They did a bizarre set of gigs," Alan McGee remembers. "There was a gig in Mayfair where the audience was literally me and [producer] Joe Foster, and we ended up just playing our favourite records. It wasn’t like 'the next big thing'. Nobody out there could give a fuck."
Another occasion saw them supporting Five Go Down To The Sea at the Thames Polytechnic. Music journalist Kevin Pearce recalls the gig, which was slightly unusual as Jim was suffering from a sore throat, and vocal duties were taken care of – sort of – by William. "It was lovely," remembers Kevin. "William read the words from a notebook, but if I remember rightly he gave up and just screamed ad libs."
One of the most memorable gigs of that period was at a club night called Alice In Wonderland at Gossip, 69 Dean Street, Soho. The club night was a psychedelic 1980s extravaganza if ever there was one. It was run by Christian Paris and Clive Jackson, better known as the Doctor from Doctor And The Medics. McGee had persuaded Jackson to have the Mary Chain on one Monday night, and the Doctor gave them a slot on 17 September 1984, supporting Green On Red, a tough country-punk band from Tucson, Arizona. Once again, they would be using the headlining band’s gear.
Unlike their stage debut at the Living Room in June, the Reid brothers managed to keep it together during the soundcheck. The problem was that while the soundcheck was at 7pm, stage time was closer to midnight, by which time, unsurprisingly, many a tincture had been imbibed. To make matters worse, Jim’s sore throat showed no sign of abating, and McGee, clearly a man with excellent contacts, managed to find a doctor willing to give him an injection to dull the pain. The combination of a local anaesthetic and five hours of dedicated boozing promised an interesting result. The band staggered onstage and proceeded to wreak musical havoc. It was impossible to hear what they really sounded like, and Jackson was not happy.
Clive ‘The Doctor’ Jackson casts his mind back to that fateful night: "It was absolutely... well, it wasn’t even music, it was such a shambles. Green On Red had a lot of gear, and one of the concerns was that the Mary Chain were tottering about on stage and we were thinking, Some of the gear’s going to go any minute. Murray was trying to hold it together on the drums, but Jim was just kicking his guitar around on the floor. People were complaining. I don’t mind art for art’s sake, but I’m not into shit for shit’s sake."
Jim Reid admits: "I was just out of my brain again, steaming. We didn’t do set-lists back then. I would just shout out a song and we’d play it. We usually started with In A Hole, so we played it, and then I was like, 'Er...‘In A Hole!'– 'We’ve just played that,you idiot...' 'Oh no...'"
Clive Jackson was unable to watch either the chaos onstage or the mass exodus of punters any longer. Not that that would have bothered the Mary Chain. As Jim said some months later, "People who walk out of our concerts don’t deserve to be there. They’re stupid."
Clive recalls: "I just walked onstage, picked Jim up and carried him off. He’s not a particularly big bloke. Joe, Christian’s brother, grabbed another one. You’d normally expect bouncers or crew to do that but, 'Hang on, the DJ’s carrying me off!'"
Murray [Dalglish, original Mary Chain drummer] kicked at the drum kit in frustration, knocking a cymbal to the floor. Then he remembered whose gear he’d just kicked – Green On Red’s. A bunch of "six-foot-six brick shithouses", as Murray puts it. While his bandmates were being hoisted off-stage, Murray was frozen to the spot, anticipating the rearrangement of his face at the hands of someone rather larger than him. "This guy walked up to me. I’m preparing for it and I’m preparing for it, I thought he was going to thump me right in the face, and he just said, 'Hey man! You were just like the goddamn fucking Sex Pistols!’ I really thought I was going to get my arse kicked."
"So that was that," Jim sighs. "We got chucked into the dressing-room. Christian, the guy who used to run it, I threw up on him. 'You’ve let me down!' 'Oh, fuck off. Bleurgh.' I remember puking on his purple velvet trousers. I think that’s what made me puke, actually."
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