The Jesus and Mary Chain Wanted to Be a Pop Band

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When Psychocandy came out in November 1985, it established the Jesus and Mary Chain as an important band of the era, with a sound that harked back to the raw quality of early rock and roll as well as the tunefulness of ’60s pop. The album also put the band in line with the avant-garde movement, which was characterized by groups willing to trying any idea that would make their songs interesting. Psychocandy helped usher in an exciting phase in underground rock at a time when so much that was popular seemed to aim for safe mediocrity. Still, the group never aimed to stay in the underground.

“We made no secret of the fact that we considered ourselves a pop band,” says singer and guitarist Jim Reid. “At the time, indie music seemed to be a celebration of failure, and we wanted nothing to do with that. We had grown up watching the likes of Marc Bolan and David Bowie on Top of the Pops. We wanted to be pop stars. It seemed...that that was exactly the wrong attitude to have. If you wanted to be in a band, you were supposed to play in shithole rooms above pubs, and we wanted to break out of that.”

And while the album hardly made the Jesus and Mary Chain superstars in the commercial sense, it has become a landmark, serving as one of the primary pillars of what became shoegaze in the early ’90s. You can hear Psychocandy in the DNA of virtually every interesting guitar-rock band formed in the past two decades.

The band is currently on a tour celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the album. This time around, a human drummer will be keeping time, but early on, the Jesus and Mary Chain sometimes performed with drum machines and loops. That wasn’t always received well by fans.

“I remember we did a tour, and we had fired our drummer,” recalls Reid. “I think it was the Darklands tour. We took so much flak for that in America. Just before the tour, I remember meeting Robin Guthrie from Cocteau Twins, and I told him we were going on an American tour with a drum machine. He said, ‘Don’t do it! They’ll throw bottles at you!’ And they did! People were just like, ‘Where is the fucking drummer?’ We got a lot of abuse for that, because I guess America wasn’t ready for drum machines.”

After the band broke up in 1999, the legend of the Jesus and Mary Chain loomed large in popular music, and its influence has been cited not just among second-wave shoegaze bands, but also among psych bands and garage rockers who have embraced the fuzzy tunefulness that the act had perfected. In 2007, the bandmembers reunited, and it appears that they’ve found a way to make their tumultuous energy work. Has anything fundamentally changed for Reid and the band since they ushered in a new era of rock music in the U.K. with Psychocandy?

“We couldn’t have played Psychocandy“We couldn’t have played Psychocandy like this then,” admits Reid. “We were nervous people. It may not have come across that way, but the only way that we could handle getting on a stage would be to get absolutely fucked up, because we were just so shy. Especially me. I was supposed to be the singer in a rock-and-roll band, and I could barely talk to anybody that I met in a bar. The thought of being on stage and being a frontman was beyond terrifying to me. Now I feel a lot more comfortable with it, and that’s come with the decades.”

The Jesus and Mary Chain, with The Black Ryder at the Ogden Theatre, 7 p.m. Monday, May 11, $32.50-$35, 303-832-1874.

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