Brothers Jim and William Reid formed the Jesus & Mary Chain (JAMC) in their home town of East Kilbride, Scotland, in 1983. In sharp contrast to the classic pop style of local contemporaries Aztec Camera, the Reid brothers quickly established their own trademark sound: thrashy guitars, screaming feedback and mumbled, often unintelligible vocals.
After securing some early gigs around Glasgow by simply turning up on the night and claiming to be the support act, the band decided they could further their career by moving to London. Within weeks they attracted the attention of Creation Records boss Alan McGee, who signed them to his label in May 1984. A typical JAMC gig would last around 20 minutes, after which the band would smash their equipment, sparking a riot in the crowd and gaining valuable publicity in both the music press and the national tabloids. This publicity helped their debut single 'Upside Down' to top the independent chart on its release in November 1984.
As the hype around the band continued to grow, they were snapped up by the Blanco Y Negro label in early 1985, although they retained McGee as their manager. Their next three singles all reached the national chart, although they fell just short of the top 40. In November, a year after the first single, the band finally released their debut album, Psychocandy, voted 'album of the year' by the music press and still widely regarded as one of the classic indie albums.
The following summer, drummer Bobby Gillespie quit the band to concentrate on his other project, Primal Scream. Shortly afterwards, the next JAMC single 'Some Candy Talking' provided them with their first mainstream top 20 hit. The following April, they went one better, hitting the top ten with perhaps their best remembered single, 'April Skies', while their second album, Darklands, reached number 5. Further singles were less successful, peaking around the lower reaches of the top 40, but the band's album sales were healthier. Barbed Wire Kisses, a compilation of B-sides and rare material, reached number 8 in 1988, and their third studio album Automatic made number 11 in October 1989.
The band kept something of a low profile in the early 1990s, although by this time their uncompromisingly noisy style had become a major influence on the American grunge scene, most notably music press favourites The Pixies, whose 1991 album Trompe Le Monde included their version of the JAMC's 'Head On'. This in turn helped the Reid brothers secure their second top ten hit, their 1992 comeback single 'Reverence'. The accompanying album, Honey's Dead, received mixed reviews and peaked at number 14.
A further B-sides compilation The Sound of Speed reached number 15 in 1993, and a fifth proper album Stoned and Dethroned again peaked just outside the top ten at number 13 the following year. However, by now the influential music press was of the opinion that the band had had its day, and the rather subdued single Sometimes Always became the band's last UK top 30 hit in July 1994. Ironically, it also became their first US hit, reaching number 96 there three months later.
After one further album on Blanco Y Negro, 1995's The Jesus And Mary Chain Hate Rock 'n' Roll, the band returned to Creation for a final album, Munki in 1998. During a US tour in October of that year, the band had a major falling-out on stage, which resulted in the departure of William Reid from the band. The remaining members completed the tour without him, but officially disbanded in 1999. At the time of writing, William has embarked on a solo career, while Jim has formed a new band, Freeheat, although neither has yet achieved anything close to the success of the Jesus and Mary Chain.
The band's profile was raised again in late 2001 as the British music press picked up on new American band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, labelling them 'the new Jesus And Mary Chain'. This may have been a factor in the release of a compilation album, 21 Singles 1984-1998, issued by Blanco Y Negro's parent company Warner Music in 2002. The album takes in all their UK single releases on both Creation and Blanco Y Negro.
- Psychocandy (Blanco Y Negro, 1985)
- Darklands (Blanco Y Negro, 1987)
- Honey's Dead (Blanco Y Negro, 1992)
- 21 Singles 1984-1998 (Rhino/Warner, 2002)