Wednesday, 7 November 2007

The Jesus And Mary Chain - Live At The ICA (Bootleg cassette, 1984)




Everyone has a favourite gig, just as they have a favourite record. Mine was not so much a favourite gig, more a full-blown, road to Damascus epiphany. After the events of the night of Saturday the 29th of December 1984, I knew that the day-dreams I'd had of joining a band had crossed over from mere dreams to being something which I could no longer control : I just had to be in a band. I didn't know how, at that point; and it took a few years before it happened, but it all stems from one gig.
I'd seen punk bands before this that made me love them, I'd even seen Duran Duran who made me love the idea of pure pop music, but I'd never been jolted into action. This gig was the impetus which I needed, and its sense of anger, violence and sheer physical release shaped everything I ever did as a musician.
So, on that Saturday night, I entered the ICA, to see The Jesus And Mary Chain. The gig was part of a week of performances, showcasing new and emerging talent. This meant you got a real mixed bag of shows, none more so than for this one. The Mary Chain were supported by pre-Raphaelite folksters Shellyan Orphan, who went down like a lead balloon with the sweaty crowd of punks, who'd obviously come down to take a look at the drunken bunch of Scots who were being hailed as the musical apocalypse. The entire front row watched in utter disbelief as Shellyan Orphan proceeded to come on stage, sit down on some stools, and then, to utter bemusement, got an artist friend to paint an Oil painting whilst they strummed their baroque ballads. Every now and again, the singer would say, mid-song, “Hey, what d'ya think of the painting?” In a wonderfully cut-glass home counties accent. I could hear the bloke next to me saying to his mate: “I'll tell him what I fuckin' think of his fuckin' painting if I fuckin' catch that poncey fuckin' twat outside later” It was nothing short of a miracle that the band escaped with their lives. Clearly, the audience had bigger fish to fry- absolutely everyone in the building was there to see the Mary Chain, and the tension was palpable as they shuffled onto the stage. And then......
....And then they did nothing. For about 10 minutes. In front of a virtually psychotic crowd, waiting for them to fail, waiting for them to pass out in a drug-induced coma (the papers were full of rumours that they basically lived on Amphetamines). The atmosphere at the front of the crowd was turning ugly, so I retreated to the side of the venue. I can see myself there now, I was wearing my long black crombie coat (de riguer at the time) a dark paisley shirt, buttoned to the neck, Tight black drainpipes and Shelly's brothel creepers. I was sandwiched between a bloke with a Leather Jacked festooned with the cover of “Punk's Not Dead” by the Exploited and some journalists, notebooks at the ready. We watched the crowd as they began to get more and more restless, shouting for the band to do something, anything. Anything at all.
After around five minutes, where they did little more than kick things on stage, the noise began. Gently at first, a small shrill whistle singing out over our heads. It went on for a few minutes more, until it morphed into recognisable feedback. The first few thwacks on the stand up drum were greeted with sarcastic cheers. Drumming for them at that point was of course Bobby Gillespie, with Shades covering most of his face, and dressed head to toe in leather. Jim and William Reid prowled around the stage, in an advanced state of refreshment. Jim, in particular, looked like he was unsure whether he was awake or not. William sat on the floor, with a black Gretsch guitar, aimlessly turning the knobs on his amplifier. And then, they finally started playing.
Six songs. That's all you got, and it was actually quite a long gig for the band (I remember the Electric Ballroom show coming in at a shade over 17 minutes) Starting with a piercing version of “In A Hole” and ending, 20 minutes later, with an inhuman shriek of noise, as “Jesus Suck” collapsed in on itself. In between those two points were twenty of the most exciting musical minutes I've ever seen. I've yet to see a band reach the same dizzying heights of nonchalant aggression since. I still don't think I'll ever see a better gig. I vividly remember every single second: Jim laughing at the stupidity of it all during “Vegetable man”, William's solo in “You Trip me Up” exploding from the bowels of the song in a sudden slash of simple genius....it was just wonderful.
Even the combative audience seemed to have been forced into submission by the wall of noise: the effect of the sheer brutality of the sound was to make you clench your fists (I had marks from my fingernails on my palms for the rest of the night) but the fists never ended up lashing out. The feedback had all of us in its thrall;gritting our teeth as this screaming monster of a gig passed over our heads.
At the end of it all, I felt drunk, giddy from the noise, unsteady on my feet. I emerged into the night air of The Mall with my teeth on edge, my ears whistling, and my heart absolutely pounding from the sheer magic of it all. It's been beating that way ever since.
There have been bootleg albums of the gig around for a number of years, I bought a few, eagerly expecting them to help me recreate the night in my mind, but they were without exception, all rubbish. Normally missing a song, or badly recorded, none managed to live up to the original bootleg cassette of the gig I bought in Camden market, a week later. The tape remains, for me, the definitive record of that night's show.
It's a pretty hefty download, around 30meg, but if you have any interest in the Mary Chain whatsoever, it's a must. Enjoy. I guess the download may mess with my fileden limit, so I'll leave this link up for less than a week-if you want this one, be quick about it :)

Jesus And Mary Chain CD's available here.

24 comments:

Ian said...

Now that was a cracking piece of writing. The full road to Damascus moment. And one that rang true with some of my formative gig-going experiences, although I sadly never got to see the Chain in their prime. Mind you though, they did pull a blinder at the recent Brixton gig.

Ooh, and a fabulous download, too - thankyouthankyouthankyou. Off to annoy/educate my work colleagues now!

iain said...

Cheers Ian :)
I am obsessed with this gig, I know every single note of the set, I've lost count of the number of people i've pissed off by playing it to them: giving them the full commentary as it's playing "...and this is the bit where the guitar makes a sound like a gerbil being stepped on! And here's the bit where Douglas hart is SO FAR out of tune he almost creates a new tonal experience....."

Tim said...

I wish I was there...although I saw them a number of times subsequently apparently that was the one!!

Was it sold out?

Thanks - I'm off to download it...be great to see your top twenty gigs (in no order)...I can send you mine.

Tim

Paul Groovy said...

Thanks for posting this mr B.
I am proud to say that I WAS there and your description of that night does it justice.After the Living Room gig I didn't think that they would get to play anywhere out side of Mcgees place-this night was worth having to sleep in a photo booth on Waterloo station waiting for the first train home.

iain said...

Paul, why had i forgotten that you were there too? I'm sure we must have discussed it at some point over the years :)
I'm going through a slew of old cassettes at the moment, I'll be cherry-picking some of the best bits and putting them up on the blog soon..........

Paul Groovy said...

Iain,
Haven't quite of the hang of the blog thing yet(and my pc at work is useless) but have just managed to put up a live TVPs gig from 1980 over on my Groovy Black Shades blog.

So It Goes said...

Yes, Iain, great gig memory. Makes me wish I'd been there (but not to see Shelleyan Orphan...)
And where are your votes for my Festive Fifty poll??? Hmmmm???? ;-))

James D said...

This sounds better than the tape I have, low volume and a lot of hiss on mine. Those bootleg LP's were a let down, the ones I have either have two tracks missing or they fade the songs in and out (missing a chunk out of "Vegetable Man").

One good early Mary Chain bootleg LP was "Cutmedeadnailmedownandkickmyhead" (all one word), two sets recorded to mixing desk, credited as 'Live at Westminster Abbey' but actually from a Creation Records mini tour of Europe in late '84.

JC said...

Yup...Ian called it spot on. A cracking piece of writing.

It seems that the ICA gig was an event that truly lived up to all the hype that surrounded it and, more importantly, what was said about it immediately afterwards.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much. Love it!

sergi

julie said...

yes it was sold out that night. i was there too and i remember it exactly how it's written here. it was the first time i met jim, and i am now..his wife.
thanks for the download

Anonymous said...

Cool post ... but I missed it ... would be great if you could repost the gig ...

Ben Etc said...

the holy grail came online and i missed it.

but thanks for providing the 1st proper account of this event that i feel i can actually trust. i long imagined it all based on the few clues provided by scant mentions in Smash Hits (that's all we had out here) and lazy mainstream american press one-liners that might have come my way many thousands of miles away from the action. but based on knowing it happened, plus what i heard on BBC world service version of Peel, plus just the one or two photos i'd seen of them -- was more inspiring than anything else. ruined my life they did.

ben

iain said...

Hey Ben...
I tend to leave the link dormant now, otherwise my download limit would get hammered...but if you need it, just email me (address is on the contact section of my blogger profile page)
iain

Ben Etc said...

cheers - and meanwhile ... " i can't explain exactly what i'm doin' standin... (with this amazing guest bassist playing w/ us)"

http://youtube.com/watch?v=T6ogWgG0UOY

Anonymous said...

the link no longer works.
any chance you could repost it?

Anonymous said...

A repost would be REALLY nice!

Thanks

dcoffey said...

please, please, please make the live download available again.

Novemberer said...

Argh, it's gone!

Novemberer said...

Oops, just found it, thanks for reposting...

mike said...

I really enjoyed reading your piese on the ICA '84 gig. I lived in London for 10 years from '87 and saw JaMC on there but I cannot remember the venue, only that it was late '87 or early '88 and the show was great and kinda sureal. I too was inspired to start a band at that time, but not by JaMC, rayher by a garage band called Helltrain who were previously known as Bad Karma Beckons - but that's another story. I too would love to hear this gig and would have emailed you directly (as you suggested to another commenter) but could not find an email address on your profile page. Pain-time again: could you possibly re-up this? You just have too many gems on here...

viagra without prescription said...

The Jesus And Mary Chain released a string of albums, singles and EPs between their 1983 formation and their 1999 breakup, one of the best that I have listened live !!!

Unknown said...

please, please, please make the live download available again.

Iain Baker said...

My original upload is no longer available. However, it's been grabbed by many people, and i've no doubt it's out there somewhere. I googled it (out of interest) last year, and got multiple hits for postings of the audio file on various forums, etc. The mb size was EXACTLY the same in all occasions, so I can only surmise it's copies of my original file...