With the instantly recognizable pounding of the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” and one of the most brittlely distorted guitar lines ever put to tape, alt-rockers the Jesus and Mary Chain laid the groundwork for one of the most copied rock & roll sounds of the past three decades. The group’s marriage of chaos and calm on “Just Like Honey” and the rest of the album the song kicks off – the band’s 1985 masterpiece Psychocandy – has reverberated through the works of My Bloody Valentine, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and A Place to Bury Strangers, among other indie-minded malcontents. It’s a jarring sound – is there even rhythm guitar on singles “Never Understand” and “You Trip Me Up,” or just feedback? – that the Jesus and Mary Chain would never fully replicate on their subsequent LPs.
Now, the reunited band – led by hell-raising brothers Jim and William Reid – are celebrating the record’s legacy with a U.S. tour, on which they’ll play it in its entirety. Last year, they brought Psychocandy and all of its attendant screechy, buzz-saw guitar parts to a few shows in Europe and were pleased with how it went.
“We were pretty sure that we weren’t really interested in recreating our Psychocandy period,” Jim says in his thick Glasgow brogue. “Mary Chain’s show then was all about being totally fucked up onstage. When we realized, it’s about the album – it’s not about all the shit that went on around the album – and the fact that there’s a fair chunk of the album that’s never been played live, it seemed like a good idea.”
Rolling Stone caught up with Jim, whose humor is eternally droll, so he could explain how the group turned the U.K. – and subsequently the world – on its ear with just a couple of out-of-control guitar pedals.
Why is now the right time to revisit Psychocandy?
If we don’t do it for the 30th anniversary, that’s it. Thirty-five’s gonna be gettin’ down the road a bit. It’s a now-or-never-type thing, so we’re going for it.
How did it feel to revisit the album in Europe last year?
It’s a bit like looking through an old photo album. You don’t really remember what was going on when you were writing them.
What are your most vivid memories of making the record?
I remember we had quite a professional attitude towards the recording process. People probably imagine that we just fell into the studio off our tits and made a record, but there was no drink and drugs at that time in the studio. We went in there and just set about making a record as well as we could. In later years, recording would be a very, uh, fucked-up affair, but at that time, we had quite a professional work ethic.