The Jesus and Mary Chain are a Scottish alternative rock band formed in East Kilbride in 1983. The band revolves around the songwriting partnership of brothers Jim and William Reid. After signing to independent label Creation Records, they released their first single “Upside Down” in 1984. Their debut album Psychocandy was released to critical acclaim in 1985 on major label WEA.
Brothers Jim and William Reid had been inspired to form a band as far back as 1977, having heard groups of the British punk scene; in the early 1980s they formed their own. William stated, “It was perfect timing because there weren’t any guitar bands. Everybody was making this electronic pop music.” Before forming the band, the brothers had spent five years on the dole, during which they wrote and recorded songs at home and worked out the sound and image of the band. Originally called The Poppy Seeds, and then Death of Joey, they initially told journalists that they had taken their eventual name from a line in a Bing Crosby film, although six months later they admitted that this wasn’t true. Other accounts suggest that the name derived from an offer on a breakfast cereal packet, where customers could send off for a gold Jesus & Mary chain.
The success of “Upside Down” led to interest from WEA-subsidiary Blanco y Negro Records which signed the group in early 1985. The group released the single “Never Understand” in February which reached number forty-seven in the UK Singles Chart.The label had initially refused to press the single due to its B-side, “Suck”, but went ahead given the alternative put forward by the band, a song called “Jesus Fuck”. The band were eager to get “Jesus Fuck” released, and Alan McGee got as far as producing test pressings of a re-issue of “Upside Down” with the song on the B-side, before the band insisted that Blanco y Negro include the track on their next single. The follow-up, “You Trip Me Up”, was delayed due to staff at the pressing plant refusing to press it due to the presence of the song, now re-titled “Jesus Suck”; The single was released in June 1985 with a new B-side, “Just Out of Reach”. John Peel got the band to record a second session for his BBC Radio 1 show in February 1985 (the first was only a few months earlier), and the band also made a TV appearance on Whistle Test in March and The Tube the same year. The third single for Blanco y Negro, “Just Like Honey”, released in October, gave them their biggest hit to date, reaching No. 45.
Eager to avoid the violence of earlier gigs and to give an opportunity for their songs to be heard without distortion and feedback, the band planned to perform several unannounced acoustic sets supporting Sonic Youth, but this was abandoned when the plans were leaked. Their debut album Psychocandy followed in November that year. The album fused together the Reids’ two primary influences: the guitar noise of The Stooges and The Velvet Underground with the pop songwriting and melodies of The Beach Boys, The Shangri-Las and Phil Spector; In fact, the album’s opening song, “Just Like Honey,” borrows Hal Blaine’s famous drum intro from The Ronettes 1963 classic, “Be My Baby”, produced and co-written by Spector. The record received unanimously positive reviews and is now considered a landmark recording. Drummer Gillespie announced his departure from the band in October 1985, to concentrate on Primal Scream. He had recorded most of the drums on Psychocandy, with John Moore filling in when Gillespie was unavailable, eventually joining the band to replace him. John Loder also acted as a stand-in drummer when Gillespie was unavailable for live performances.