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The Jesus and Mary Chain Week – Day 1: The Infamous Belgian TV Interview

TO CELEBRATE THE RECENT RELEASE OF OUR 33 1/3 ON  THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN’S PSYCHOCANDY, WE’RE PLEASED TO BRING YOU THE FIRST INSTALLMENT OF JESUS AND MARY CHAIN WEEK BY AUTHOR PAULA MEJIA!

There often comes a time in a young band’s life when they must decide how to handle newfound media attention, and being asked to describe what’s special about their sound. Or, even more to the point: Why people should listen to them?

Some people spend years thinking about a camera-friendly answer. Others let it come to them in the moment. Yet it’s not often that someone, when asked to sell their band, just gets right to it: “Because we’re so good, because we’re so much better than everybody else, because so many other people are complete rubbish, that people have got to pay attention to us. It’s pretty obvious, really.”

That’s what Jim Reid, the lead vocalist of the Jesus and Mary Chain, said during a 1985 interview (behind sunglasses, no less). Leading up to the release of their debut album Psychocandy later that year, the band conducted several interviews that didn’t inform the public as much as they did puzzle them. For one thing, there’s the infamous Belgian T.V. interview where Bobby Gillespie, the group’s drummer at the time, spends the entire interview buried in another person’s face, while Jim Reid feeds off of convincing the interviewer that they think Joy Division are “shite” (they didn’t, really).

But what these interviews lacked in, say, biographical information, they made up for in their power to incite a conversation, and comedic value, as well. When asked in an interview about why his bass guitar only had two strings, the group’s bass player, Douglas Hart, replied: “That’s the two I use. I mean, what’s the fucking point in spending money on another two? It’s like, two is enough. It’s adequate. Anybody can play this bass. Reid then looks back at Hart. “Introduce another couple of strings and you confuse the guy,” he deadpans.

Yet there was never any question that East Kilbride’s resident rabble-rousers wanted people to pay attention to them; they knew that myth-making and rule-breaking were just as central to music-making as the act itself. And what’s the sound of confusion but another way to keep drawing people back?

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