I last saw Jim Reid playing to a three-quarter-full Night and Day in Manchester towards the end zoo6. It was one of the first shows after Jim’s new- found sobriety, and he seemed nervous and distracted, despite the good will in the crowd and the constant cries of ‘Come on Jim’ from the faithful. I left the show that night convinced that it was all over. Jim didn’t seem to have the heart for it, and neither did we. It didn’t seem to be a fitting epitaph for one of the most important bands of the last twenty-five years. As a long-time JAMC fan, the months and years that followed the split were torturous. Jim’s first post- JAMC band, Freeheat, had finished prematurely when Ben Lurie relocated back to his native Australia, leaving one EP, an LP of odds-and- sods, and mostly unfinished business. Jim continued solo with some low-key singles and radio sessions, but no sign of an LP. William’s releases were erratic to say the least – there had been the odd flutter of activity on Myspace, but mostly silence/promises/rumours/silence.
In the mean time, Linda Reid, the brothers’ younger sister, had released an LP on Chemikal Underground (under the name Sister Vanilla). Little Pop Rock was ten years in the making and featured songs from both Reid brothers. During the recording of the LP neither Jim nor William had been in the same room, or indeed country, and the rumour was that they hadn’t spoke n since William walked offstage in LA in 1998. There were some Sicrer Vanilla gigs, but neither Jim nor William appeared in the line-up. There had been enough in all this to hint at the continued greatness of both Reid brothers, however. Listen to ‘Delicat’ off Little Pop Rock or ‘Dead-End Kids’ from Jim’s second Transistor-label single – both are wonderful, both were ignored by the wider industry, and, as that other great severed alliance once put it, ‘The world won’t listen.’
After Jim’s solo gig I sat in a bar with a couple of hardcore fans who had travelled to Manchester for the show and agreed that the future looked bleak, The one thing we never discussed was the possibility of The Jesus and Mary Chain reforming. It was never going to happen. And then of course it did. The Mary Chain played the Coachella festival in 2oo7, appearing higher on the bill than both The Arctic Monkeys and Amy Winehouse. The brothers were backed by the same band I’d seen in Manchester, featuring Loz Colbert on drums, Mark Crozier on guitar and long-time associate Phil King on bass. Not the expected line-up of Ben Lurie and sometime JAMC/Freeheat drummer Nick Sanderson. This was Jim’s solo band plus William. And there’s the rub. Individually they seemed destined for a fruit- less slog around the toilet venues of Europe on the back of under-funded and under-promoted singles (with the odd ‘Where are they now?’ feature in Uncut/Mojo/Q, etc.). Together they can pull Scarlett Johansson on stage to sing and not even introduce her; they can sell out the Brixton Academy, play Letterman and are even included on the soundtrack of TY hit Heroes.
This is a more fitting epitaph of both Jim and William Reid. They are ‘heroes’ despite themselves- unpredictable erratic and contrary to the end, with twenty-one faultless singles in a career that is approaching a quarter of a century. Let’s hope they don’t fuck up twenty-two.
Pete Astor (ex-Loft and Weather Prophets leader, and Creation records contemporary, on the Jesus and Mary Chain reforming)
In many ways I think reforming is not the best idea. Of course, I’m saying this as someone who took part and thoroughly enjoyed the reformation of my first band, The Loft, for a handful of gigs and a single a couple of years ago. Why do I say this? I think it’s to do with the way that a band made a difference, as the Mary Chain so definitely did, but did so with a whole set of conditions related specifically to the time they were first working. None the less, on a personal level, I think, for me, and I hope for the Mary Chain, it was and is a really valuable experience. Suddenly, you get the chance to step into some kind of time capsule and revisit all those tensions and inspirations that made you work so well together in the first place. Plus people get a chance to see and hear again what made you so inspirational. And because you may have learnt a couple of things in the mean time, you might manage to behave better towards each other and even have some fun. Good luck, maybe see you in the bar, afterwards. Or maybe not!