It was in the summer of 1985 after watching their 3rd single release ‘You Trip Me Up’ promo video on Channel 4’s Max Headroom TV programme, that I became intrigued with this band.
I was aware of this band’s existance from about March 1985, appearing in various music papers and magazines that I had started to buy. I had just discovered The Damned at the time and was unable give The Mary Chain my full attention. Too busy engrossed in The Damned’s fine and impressive back catalogue, swotting up on the history of Punk. Oh, and I was somewhat distracted by Dave Vanian’s frilly bits.
It wasn’t until The Mary Chain’s live performance of ‘Just Like Honey’ and ‘Inside Me’ on UK music programme The Tube (transmitted on 11th October 1985) I finally came to my senses and I fell in love. I was somehow rendered speechless and the whole world seemed to have stopped for the duration of their performance. Ever since then, The Mary Chain have some how wedged themselves in that happy place in my head. Thankfully I had taped this life-changing moment and was therefore able to watch this performance over and over again to my heart’s content – until YouTube was invented, so I can now watch that performance and many more Mary Chain warm, fuzzy delights whenever I want :-).
Their sublime and iconic debut album ‘Psychocandy’ was swiftly purchased upon it’s release in November 1985 and was on heavy rotation on my turntable for the next year or so, as I festered under my cloud of gloom in my teenage bedroom, crimping and backcombing my hair to bouffant perfection and destroying the Ozone Layer in the process. It was a perfect album. An album with absolutely no filler tracks whatsoever. I was totally absorbed.
Their second album ‘Darklands’, released in 1987, joined a well-played Psychocandy and was received with much love as I continued to cocoon myself in my bedroom until 1988 when I ventured out into the big, bad world and went to Art College.
Every subsequent album from The Mary Chain has featured heavily at various stages of my life, which no other band has managed to do. In 1989/90, ‘Automatic’ was continuously played in both the make-shift photographic studio I had made in the student common room of Cleveland College of Art & Design and on my cassette player in my Mini 1000 as myself and fellow photography student Kirstie cruised the North Yorkshire Moors looking for dead things to photograph. Carefree and happy days. The Mary Chain have got me through a variety monotonous day jobs (listened to ‘Honey’s Dead’ continuously for several months on my Walkman during my bus commute to the daily grind of work), 1 long-term relationship breakup (Stoned & Dethroned) and 1 divorce (sadly that was Munki and I haven’t been able to listen to it in its entirety until a couple of years ago), as well as quality ‘me’ time blasting around the twisty roads of West Yorkshire on my cafe racer wannabe Honda 400/4 motorcycle. They’ve been my comfort blanket, reassuring me that everything’s going to be OK as I find that safe, happy place in my head.
I cannot really say what my favourite Mary Chain track is. There’s too many to choose from. It would be wrong of me to give preference to one track over another as I can honestly say I just love their entire back catalogue. They have never failed to disappoint me with whatever their latest offering – unlike some bands I’ve liked over the years. You know the ones that release a blinder of a debut album but fail miserably with their 2nd or 3rd albums or just simply disband never to be seen or heard again.
I do love other bands too, but this may encompass only a certain era of that band (with the exception of The Damned). The Sisters of Mercy are good example. I absolutely love any pre-1985 Sisters and you’ll always find me on any nightclub dancefloor throwing some questionable shapes to classics such as ‘Floorshow’, ‘Good Things’, ‘Body Electric’ and the original ‘Temple Of Love’. I maybe seen as pompous Goth snob, but I literally ‘walk away’ (sorry, bad pun) from the dancefloor whenever post-1985 Sisters tracks come on. I remember walking down the dark, dingy steps of that lovable hole of a nightclub Le Phono, Leeds in 1990 and almost toppled over in my spiky-heeled pointy boots in absolute shock hearing the thrashy guitar-licks of the tracks from ‘Vision Thing’. Far removed from the beautiful, melodic guitar riffs of Gary Marx. It was different. It was a change from the Sisters I had known and loved. But it wasn’t for me. I crawled back to my beloved Mary Chain like an unfaithful girlfriend.
It took me 10 years to finally see The Mary Chain live which was at Leeds Metropolitan Uni on 1st July 1995. I was 2-3 years too young to attend their early fiesty and lively gigs. By 1988 I had discovered boys, booze and bands – whilst being a student at Art College and I had a rather limited income. Most bands I saw between 1988 and 1990 were local to where I lived at the time. The Mary Chain didn’t take a detour between Leeds and Newcastle to sunny Teesside (the closest to seeing the Mary Chain was when former JAMC member John Moore rocked up with his Express Way at Redcar Coatham Bowl supporting Pop Will Eat Itself in 1989).
It could also have been that none of my peers seemed to like The Mary Chain, despite themselves being into the alternative/post punk scene in the 1980s. Yeah, I know, I was a misfit amongst the misfits. So I kind of kept my JAMC fetish to myself.
Between 1990 and 1995 I literally lived in Le Phono nightclub in Leeds getting high on the vapours of Patchuloi oil and smoke machines. I finally found the exit door and got to see The Mary Chain in 1995, although I don’t actually recall anything of their performance.
I was accompanied to the gig by a work colleague and seasoned Munich Beer Festival goer Mick Connor. It was unfortunate that the venue was opposite a rather fine drinking hole called the Dry Dock. The ‘drinking a mate under the table’ gauntlet was thrown down as I proceeded to do exactly that. I endured a slightly embarrassing moment when I fell off a barstool due the slippery surface of my ultra-shiny black gloss PVC jeans. Nothing to do with consuming 4 pints of cider, black and Pernod. The drinking continued once in the Met and the last thing I recall was asking Mick who the support band was (which turned out to be indie band Drugstore). Anything that happened after that remains a mystery. I’d like to think I passed-out with excitement as soon as Jim Reid opened his mouth. However, I suspect what really happened was less pleasant.
With hindsight, I wasn’t in that happy place in my head. I was going through a painful long-term relationship break up, I hated my job as a senior admin monkey for the local council and I felt I had lost all direction and purpose in my life. The only things that made sense was going out to gigs or clubs, leaving the dis-interested boyfriend at home, getting completely wasted and listening to The Mary Chain. It took another year to turn things round and ended up getting a life-line of a job – working on the editorial team of motorcycle publication Back Street Heroes. I left Leeds and the boyfriend and headed west to Manchester with only my motorcycle, my cat and my Mary Chain records.
It was about this time in 1995, (unknown to me as I had not hooked with Mr Butler at this point in my life), that Mr Butler’s mate Charlie briefly managed The Mary Chain (as mentioned on page 192 of Zoë Howes’ JAMC bio ‘Barbed Wire Kisses’). I have also learnt since Mr Butler and I got together, that former Mary Chain drummer and frontman of Primal Scream, Bobby Gillespie stayed over the infamous Billingham Goth House – where Mr Butler, Mark Mori of Teesside Goth legends Momento Mori and Charlie lived – in late 1986. Mr Butler recalls Bobby discussing the contents of Mr Butler’s record collection which consisted mainly of The Sisters of Mercy, Cocteau Twins, Play Dead and a copy of The Shangri-Las ‘Leader Of The Pack’. Precise details of this discussion are a little blurry due to Mr Butler being under the influence of Mr Smirnoff and it was 30 years ago.
Blog Update 04/02/16: An incident that happened during Mr Gillespie’s visit has made its way into Ben Vendetta’s novel ‘Wivenhoe Park’ – page 66. I was discussing with a friend of mine the incident relating to some photos I uploaded onto social media of the glory days of The Billingham Goth house. Ben saw this post (bearing in mind I had not read Ben’s novel, and Ben was not aware of the incident itself that happened at No.27 Sidlaw Road) and said “That’s in my book!” 🙂
More bizarre Mary Chain related trivia – John recently bought a black Suzuki Swift Sport in Manchester only to find it was originally registered from the Suzuki Dealer in East Kilbride. Oh, and for added comedy value, my next door neighbour is called John Moore.
Fast forward 20 years since my drunken meltdown at that Mary Chain gig, I saw The Mary Chain at Newcastle during their Psychocandy tour commemorating 30 years since it’s release. Yes, 30 years, which scares the crap out of me, as I have no idea where that time has gone. Psychocandy and this band are still relevent to me now as they were back in 1985 and again, the world seemed to have stopped turning for the duration of their performance, just as it did for me all those years ago back in 1985. I became somewhat emotional during the Newcastle gig as I clung onto every word and every note I heard (thankfully I wasn’t a raging beer-monster that night and enjoyed the gig with some clarity). Only another 3 bands have ever reduced me to tears when seen live – Cocteau Twins (1996), Balaam & The Angel (2014) and O.Children (2011).
The gig itself was pure perfection. Yeah, sure, no one’s perfect and we all have our faults. But you see past the imperfections and love what you find on face value. What I have for The Mary Chain is unconditional adoration and love which has lasted 31 years and showing no signs of fading.