"I remember hearing Dire Straits in the car to the studio and thinking 'this radio poison is exactly what we're going to try and destroy'": Your guide to every Jesus And Mary Chain album in the band's own words

A portrait of the jesus and mary chain in black and white
(Image credit: Mel Butler)

This year The Jesus And Mary Chain turn 40, marking the anniversary with a brilliant new record titled Glasgow Eyes and a forthcoming autobiography. There are a lot of tales to pack in: East Kilbride brothers Jim and William Reid formed the band in 1983 to cure what they saw as a music scene that needed saving. The medicine they prescribed came in the form of Velvet Underground-inspired rock’n’roll, their songs combining the pop euphoria of 60s girl groups such as The Ronettes with frazzled bursts of guitar feedback. 

The production in their music got cleaner as the records progressed but that was no reflection of the relationship between the often-warring Reid brothers – there’s a reason for the long gap in between albums six and seven. They split up in 1998 and reunited in 2007, but it took another decade before they made an album together again. Glasgow Eyes shows that they have momentum behind them again, the sound of a band eager not to trade on past glories. 

Throughout their career, The Jesus And Mary Chain have made music that teeters on the tightrope between harmony and chaos, between melody and noise, between pop and destruction. It has been an electrifying, mesmeric journey, one never short of drama. “Too many people make music with the idea of a career,” says singer and guitarist Jim Reid. “With us and with bands that do it for the right reasons, they do it because they have to do it and anything that comes as a result of that that makes your life better is a bonus. You do it because you need to.” 

Buckle up as Jim takes us on a tour through The Jesus And Mary Chain’s back catalogue.

Louder line break

Psychocandy (1985)

With Psychocandy, I immediately think of Wood Green, [engineer] John Loder and me, William and Douglas [Hart, bassist] in that little garage that he’d converted. Southern Studios was John Loder’s studio. He’d bought an end of terrace house and a terraced house and he’d converted the end of terrace house into a recording studio. The living room of this end of terrace house was the live room and the control room was the garage at the back. From the outside, it just looked like a terraced house but inside he had a warehouse, a recording studio, a suite of offices and he lived there as well. I remember the taxi ride from Fulham to Wood Green, hearing Dire Straits on the radio in the car on the way there and thinking ‘This is exactly what we are going to try and destroy, this radio poison we have to endure’.

We felt pretty good about it when we finished recording it. We felt as if we’d captured what we were looking for. At the time, it seemed like a lot of people in the music press had felt that we were a flash in the pan and that our time was up. I don’t think people had figured that the album was gonna be that good really, I think they felt it was going to have the singles that had already been released and what sounded like a bunch of B-sides to back it up. I think every song on Psychocandy could’ve been a single and I think that took a lot of people by surprise. There were good reviews but they seemed rather grudging to us. We had a sense that the knives were sharpened but when the actual record was presented to these people, the knives were put away in the draw for another day. 

 Darklands (1987)

After Psychocandy, we didn’t know what to do. There was a lot of people saying things like, ‘They should split up, they’re going to ruin it, Psychocandy was great but they’re never going to be able to top that’. So we went away and we didn’t know what to do next. In the end, we thought, ‘What would be the most shocking thing that we could now?’ and we thought it was, ‘Let’s take the feedback off, let’s do an album with no fucking feedback and see how that goes down’. Also, we thought that everybody talked about the guitar sound and not enough people talked about the songs, so we thought ‘Let’s do an album where it’s all about the songs and not about the guitar sound’. It had the desired effect because people were like, ‘What the fuck?!’. 

People say things about Darklands being our hit album, but Psychocandy sold more, it’s just that it seemed like Darklands was a bigger record because it had hit singles on it. But Psychocandy sold better. 

Automatic (1989)

This did have a couple of hit singles but Head On stiffed. We thought that was the big hit single on this record but it came out and died a death, didn’t dent that Top 40. It felt like in Britain at least, it was the beginning of the slide for the Mary Chain. The whole baggy thing had started by then and we started to feel a little bit like, ‘Hold on, we’re not the new kids on the block anymore, something else is going on’. 

I remember around that time the Melody Maker did a cover feature and the headline was, ‘The Jesus And Mary Chain – RIP?’. That kind of summed up everybody’s attitude towards us at that time. It was worrying, we weren’t happy about it but it was like, ‘Well, what next?’. Things seemed to be carrying on anyway so we weren’t exactly terrified but a headline like that, you can do without.

Honey’s Dead (1992)

We had just bought The Drugstore [the band’s own London studio] and we didn’t know what direction to take next. We just let the record take its course. We were working with Alan Moulder again and we went in and decided to try and make a record that was technology-based. It was a lot of samples, a lot of drum loops, a lot of guitar loops and we wanted to do a kind of punk technology album. By that time, we’d kind of given up on hit singles, we’d tried for hit single success and by then we realised it was never gonna happen, so we decided to fuck it – ‘What’s the first single going to be? Let’s make it Reverence' [a song with a main hook that went “I want to die just like J.F.K"]. We thought that was funny, ‘The record company will shit when they see that decision, imagine presenting this to radio!’. To be fair, [label chief] Rob Dickins thought it was good idea. And then it came out and it was fucking Top 10, it went at Number 10, we were pishing ourselves! 

We did a remix of it that was even more extreme than the seven-inch version, we put it out as a twelve-inch and called it Reverence (The Radio Mix) and there was some people that reviewed it who were slagging us off and going, 'They’ve sold out, a radio mix?' The radio mix sounded fucking mental, it was a joke calling it a radio mix!

Stoned And Dethroned (1994)

We’d talked about doing an acoustic record for a long time and people kept saying, ‘When are going to do this record?’ and we said, ‘Let’s do it now’. So we went in with the idea of doing an acoustic record and we kind of discovered that it wasn’t going to work as an acoustic album. We also realised you can never really force a record to be what it doesn’t want to be, you just let it take its course. Unfortunately, it was the first record where we started drinking and taking drugs in the studio, before that we were always totally sober [in the studio]. We never got out of it whilst making records and this was the first one where that rule got done away with. 

The other idea as well as it being an acoustic record was that we were going to record it in a month. By about nine months later, we hadn’t recorded a fucking note but we’d spent almost the entire nine months in The Queen’s Head, the pub across the road from The Drugstore. We’d spent nine months talking about making a record. Then by about the tenth month we thought, ‘Maybe we should actually do something’. Going into the studio with drink and substances around, that’s when the weird arguments started to happen. Nothing hideous at that point but that’s when the shit started to creep in. It never really filtered through musically, I never believe that we made a bad record as a result of the relationship going the way it did, but this is when the shit started to creep in to the situation. 

Munki (1998)

Munki again just took so fucking long. During the process of making it, the relationship that was already a bit damaged at the beginning between me and William, during the course of this record became unbearable to the point where, the last half of the record, we were making it as two separate bands because me and William couldn’t be in the studio together anymore. He was going in with the rest of the band and without me, and I was going in with the rest of the band without him. Weirdly, I don’t think the music suffered at all. I think it’s as good as any Mary Chain record but unfortunately, it felt like everyone seemed to want the Mary Chain just to fuck off at that point. Britpop was happening in the UK and grunge was happening in the US. Both of those scenes, I felt like we should have been embraced by both of those musical scenes but we seemed not to be. 

Damage And Joy (2017)

Damage And Joy was a rebirth. When the band broke up in 1998, I could not have imagined Mary Chain getting back together or more particularly another Mary Chain album. The idea that there was another record was miraculous to me. We had some songs that had been released in other forms [during the hiatus] that never got a crack, nobody had really heard those songs and I just felt that they were too good to just be obscure and forgotten so they should be brought under the Mary Chain umbrella, so that’s what we did. It wasn’t all stuff that had been recorded before but there certainly was things there. It all went to make what I call a great Mary Chain record.

Glasgow Eyes (2024) 

There is usually deliberately not much of a plan as to how it’s going to sound because we believe that a record takes its own shape as you start to record it, but with this one there was loosely a plan to make it more electronic than we have done in the past, more synths, more obvious drum machines, that kind of thing. A lot of our B-sides were like that, on albums we’ve used drum machines and synthesisers but they’re never up front, they were never the main instrument. I suppose it’s just overdue – we’ve always been into music like Kraftwerk or Can, so it was something that should’ve been done years ago but we’re doing it now.

The favourite moment for me with any record is when you realise it’s finished because there’s so much stress along the way. When you get to the point where you realise, ‘This is it, we’ve made another record’, the amount of stress that’s taken off of your shoulders is just immense and it just feels so good to have another record. This one’s not even out yet but William is already talking about another one. We’re no spring chickens but as long as we can keep doing this and it feels good, I don’t see any reason to stop.

Glasgow Eyes will be released via Fuzz Club on March 08. It is available for pre-order now. 

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.