The Jesus And Mary Chain: “We wanted a legacy, to show we could write songs”

Jim and William Reid recall their early years and their debut Psychocandy

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With talk of tours and new albums, the Reids have come a long way from the drab Scottish new-town of East Kilbride in the early ’80s. Then, the self-confessed “neighbourhood weirdos” could only dream of getting through the day with digits intact. “I was going to be a carpenter, William was going to be a sheet-metal-worker,” remembers Jim. “We gave up our apprenticeships and that wasn’t well-received at home.”

“I worked in a cheese warehouse, which was fine ’cos you could slack off and steal cheese,” adds William. “But being a sheet-metal-worker was shit. The people were all missing toes and tips of fingers. I had to get out quick.”

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Signing on the dole, the Reids considered what opportunities lay before them. “We were young guys who were exploring what was possible,” confirms William. “I remember before I decided I was going to be a musician, I was thinking of being a playwright. I actually wrote some plays… I found them a couple of years ago. They’re so bad, though, they’re terrible.”

In their shared bedroom in East Kilbride, they began to plot and dream up their perfect band. “That’s how the Mary Chain formed, from late-night talks me and my right nutty brother used to have,” recalls Jim. “Punk seemed to be happening on a different planet. We’d gobble up the music papers and hear it all through Peel, but it just seemed so far away. So you take all the bits you’re hearing on the radio and reassemble them, and often you come up with something unintentionally unique.”

“That’s all we had,” continues William. “Punk happened, and that wall dividing possibilities and us was breaking down. You didn’t need to be The Beatles or the Stones, you could be the Ramones. The Ramones made the most epic music with just a couple of fuzz pedals.”

To counteract the boredom of East Kilbride, Jim along with his friend, Douglas Hart, sometimes in cahoots with William, would make their own entertainment, often utilising the fruits of the South Lanarkshire meadows. “One of the great things about East Kilbride is it’s completely surrounded by countryside, and therefore magic mushrooms,” says Hart, bassist from the band’s formation up until 1991. “We used to walk round the streets all night, go to this old paint factory, take acid or mushrooms, and smash it up with hammers. The noise of metal hitting glass or concrete would reverberate around the factory and in our thoughts. The sound of Psychocandy comes from who we were, and part of who we were was taking psychedelics in that industrial wasteland.”

But when they weren’t cavorting in factories, the brothers would stay up through the night, chatting about music, books and films – key among them were T.Rex, Bowie, Syd Barrett, A Clockwork Orange, Taxi Driver and William Burroughs. They finally put their plans into action when their father gave them some of his redundancy money to buy a Portastudio.

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