Book Review – Barbed Wire Kisses: The Jesus & Mary Chain Story by Zoe Howe

Barbed-Wire-Kisses-The-Jesus-and-Mary-Chain-biography

In the summer of 1986 I was twelve years old, and just getting into music. For my sins I used to buy the now sadly departed Smash Hits magazine religiously. One week, in amongst glossy, colourful images of the Pet Shop Boys, Madonna And Spandau Ballet, I came across a spread featuring two of the most miserable looking bastards I had ever seen. Black clothes, dyed black hair, eyeliner, drainpipe jeans, boots. Just looking at them you got the impression they were dangerous. Not to be fucked with. It was almost like they were the antidote to the preening pop glossiness that littered the musical landscape at the time. Looking back, they obviously spent a lot of time and effort trying to look like they didn’t give a shit. Whatever. In a time when image was everything (not so different to 2014, then) they stuck out like a sore thumb. It was the Jesus and Mary Chain, and I was hooked instantly, before I’d even heard any of their songs.

A few days or weeks later I was listening to the Radio 1 chart show on a Sunday afternoon, and one song stood out. It was called Some Candy Talking. Yep, It was the Mary Chain again. Some people say that particular song its about heroin. The band deny it, but they would, wouldn’t they? At the time I didn’t care. I didn’t even know what heroin was. All I knew was that single was fucking epic, and unlike anything else around at the time. I knew they had an album out, which would have been Psychocandy, and rushed out to buy it. But the single wasn’t on the album. Not on the cassette, anyway (it was on the CD, but I don’t think I had a CD player). What the fuck? Who doesn’t put their hit singles on their albums? After a while I realized that Psychocandy had been released the year before, and Some Candy Talking was from an EP of new material. No problem, I thought, it’ll be on the next album. But it wasn’t. That next album was Darklands, and I bought it anyway, because by that time April Skies had been released, which is truly one of the best songs ever written. I didn’t get to own Some Candy Talking until the 21 Singles compilation came out in 2002, still an essential album. Anyway, enough about the music. What about the book?

Zoe Howe is a dedicated music writer, and does a fantastic job of bringing the Mary Chain story to life, charting their rise from a council estate in East Kilbride to their creative and commercial peak, and then back down again. She writes in a sympathetic, accessible style, and while she is obviously a fan, she doesn’t allow this to colour her opinions too much. It’s painstakingly researched, with input from many of the main players in the story, including Jim Reid (the nice one). Also included are a comprehensive discography and a timeline, which helps you put everything in context in the grand scheme of things.

At its core, Barbed Wire Kisses is an archetypal rock n’ roll story of love and success, debauchery and violence, of two waster brothers being given the keys to the world and throwing them away in a drunken rage. The Mary Chain had the spiky attitude of the Sex Pistols, and the unabashed creativity of the Velvet Underground. Predictably, the story effectively ends in an acrimonious split whilst on an American tour in 1999, with William and Jim Reid both paying a heavy price for years of substance abuse. Like a shooting star, they were never meant to last. Happily, though, after years of avoiding each other they briefly reunited in 2007 to record a song for the Heroes soundtrack. It was called All Things Must Pass, which is weirdly prophetic when you think about it. A new album was rumoured to be in the works, but we are still waiting for that. They are, however, back on the road this winter to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Psychocandy, the album that should have had Some Candy talking on it but didn’t. Unless you bought the CD.

(Polygon, £12.99)

Advertisements

About cmsaunders

I write stuff. Pretty much any stuff. My dark fiction has appeared in Asphalt Jungle, Raw Nerve, Roadworks, Dark Valentine, Screams of Terror, Shallow Graves, Fantastic Horror, The Literary Hatchet, Gore and numerous anthologies. My first book, Into the Dragon's Lair – A Supernatural History of Wales was published back in 2003, and I've worked extensively in the freelance journalism industry, contributing features to numerous international publications including Fortean Times, Bizarre, Urban Ink, Loaded, Record Collector, Maxim, and a regular column to the Western Mail newspaper. I lived in China for over five years where I taught English during my search for enlightenment, before moving back to the UK in January 2013 to work as staff writer on Nuts magazine. Later, I was senior writer on Forever Sports magazine and associate editor at Coach magazine, before leaving to chance my arm in the world of pro freelance. In recent times I have devoted more time to dark fiction, my latest offerings being No Man's Land: Horror in the Trenches, X SAMPLE and Apartment 14F: An Oriental Ghost Story (Uncut). I also edit, copy write, and ghost write. I am represented by Media Bitch Literary Agency and drink far too much coffee. View all posts by cmsaunders

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: