By Alison Leigh
I am a dramatic person. I have had a bazillion friends in my life as it’s my nature to breeze through experiences and people and find what inspires me– I am drawn to all sorts of people until there’s a falling out of some kind. I move from segments of life to segments of life and have little constants. In fact, the only real constant I have is music and it’s a ginormous part of my life. Books? Yes. Movies? Definitely. TV shows? Art? An obsession for weird knick- knacks? Let’s not talk about that now. It’s MUSIC. Like Madonna’s song, which thank god I just remembered it, Music. Makes the people. Come together.
One band that is being plucked from 1987 right now for my story that has had a HUGE influence over my life and continues to do so is The Jesus and Mary Chain; and the bounds and leaps I have made since that first time I ever heard them, are definitely noteworthy in their own right.
The first song I ever heard from them was Nine Million Rainy Days from a preppy friend I had. She and I shared a new found love for the Cure and Depeche Mode because her older brother was into it and she would snag his music and play it for me. She and I parted ways shortly thereafter but remained school mates. She stayed preppy, I began my journey.
Nine million rainy days
Have swept across my eyes
Thinkin’ of you
And this room becomes a shrine
Thinkin’ of you
And the way you are
Sends the shivers to my head
You’re gonna fall
You’re gonna to fall down dead
As far as I can tell
I’m being dragged from here to hell
All my time in hell
Is spent with you
I have ached for you
I have nothing left to give
For you to take
I have no more empty heart
Or limbs to break
And the way you are
Sends the shivers to my head
You’re gonna fall down dead
As far as I can see
There is nothing left of me
And all my time in hell
Was spent with you
I decided to leave my current home situation with my mother and half-sister and soon-to-be ex-step-dad. I had been depressed, ignored, repressed, oppressed, suppressed- It was the combination of over-parenting because I was always grounded, and severe under-parenting because I was denied the ability to show my talents in any way. They were squandered. I took any chance I could to get involved in something at school, but only if it was free and didn’t require a ride (which was never). I was an angry redheaded step-child and I had only one outlet I could get away with. It was MUSIC.
Upon discovering bands like The Cure, Smiths, Depeche Mode, Dead Milkmen, Echo and the Bunnymen etc, I had to get it all. Every last drop of music that made my spirit soar and created an outlet from my insane angst had to be acquired, and I lived in a very small remote town with parents who wouldn’t drive anywhere, with no friends because my parents didn’t let me do anything ever. So it was challenging, but I did it anyway. I was on a mission.
I did what any child of a broken home tends to do at some point- I asked my father if I could move in with him and his family in the suburbs outside of Philly. He reluctantly said yes, (he had offered it to me as an option a number of times and so he had to) and I moved in post haste.
First week of school I was beginning to learn who people were and see who was nice. I had this large but attractive black-haired pale guy in my French and gym classes and he was loud and obnoxious and rude and instead of being super picked on, (which he still was of course) he threw it back like only an intelligent, goth, gay, teenage boy could. I had a backpack I had painstakingly drawn every band name I loved onto and so he whispered to me at our first day of gym classes during orientation.
“Pssst! Hey! Do you like Love and Rockets?” I turned and said “Um, what?”
“Do you like New Order? Do you like Joy Division?” I politely said “No, I haven’t heard of them.”
“Do you like the Jesus and Mary Chain?” I was like “YES! 9 Million Rainy Days!”
This conversation went on for the rest of the class and the rest of the upcoming weeks and months. The next day I had a bunch of “compilation tapes” he made for me of whole albums like Darklands, Psychocandy, and Barbed Wire Kisses by JAMC, Express by Love and Rockets, The Sky’s Gone Out by Bauhaus, and some Alien Sex Fiend fucking record which we LOVED. To DEATH.
This music was way darker than the bands I had previously been getting to know. My new friend exclaimed immediately upon meeting me that he “worshiped” the JAMC. He joked and said he had an altar that he literally sat at and prayed to this band. He was exaggerating but, really, he wasn’t. His entire bedroom was plastered with their posters; he had every single thing they ever put out, and he talked about them constantly.
What I heard was brilliant, loud, shrieking guitars and deep bass lines with sleepy, practically dead sounding vocals — with a strange pop undertone (sometimes) that made it catch. Except the words were so fucked up and wrong and amazing, that it lit a FIRE in me. The song “Cracked” for example:
This was my all time favorite song to blast when my mom was driving me insane. I would be so angry at her and how she was treating me that I would listen to this on 11 and hope she heard it and was offended.. She didn’t, and she wasn’t. I didn’t care.
My dad on the other hand, he wasn’t gonna be having any of this song- riddled with the “F” word, scary sounding, loud as shit — no way. Headphones it is then- and that creates another universe when you listen to this stuff like that. Directly into your eardrums. It was wonderfully satisfying! And my friends and I would always sing it at each other when we were hanging out. So fun to sing this with a bunch of other angry teenagers dressed in black.
The JAMC came to Philly to play a show with the, then fledgling, Nine Inch Nails. All my friends went, and I didn’t of course. See, my family is a bunch of pseudo-Christians that go to church, but treat people like crap and judge the hell out of everyone. They knew I hated church and didn’t believe that gays were bad people etc., so when they caught wind of my new favorite band, The Jesus and Mary Chain, they were not fooled. They knew it was sarcastic in some way and that I didn’t decide to start listening to religious music all of the sudden. This band, they threatened my parents. All the way in Riegelsville, Pennsylvania, my mom was upset by two guys in Scotland making crazy music that gave me a backbone and some sort of power. It was so fantastic..
I eventually had to leave my dad’s house because I could not handle how strict he was and he threatened to make it worse for the following year, so I bailed back to my unstable mother’s house where a new dude was moving in and my sister and I didn’t particularly love him. Yep, the angst was not going away any time soon. No siree.
I continued to love this band my entire life and through the years of getting into punk rock and then older glam and rock stuff like the Gun Club and Lords of the New Church, T. Rex, The Stooges and the like, The JAMC were always good old friends hanging out in the back of my collection. I don’t listen to them every day anymore or anything, but I know all the songs and love them unconditionally.
One day, a really good friend of mine who happens to be a beautiful, amazing, sexy witchy strong intelligent woman, who I used to work with in Seattle, pulls outside of the shop in the rain and calls me out to her car. She had news for me. She met a guy and fell in love while she was on a trip to San Francisco. He’s got an accent and they fell hard and fast for each other and she loves him and she’s moving to London. It was William Reid of The Jesus and Mary Chain. She tried to downplay it because she wanted everyone to know she had in fact, fallen in love with the human being that is William Reid, not the man who alongside his brother, changed the face and sound of alternative music forever and of whom she was an undying fan, but William. The man that she loved.
I however, didn’t give a FUCK and squealed like a child! I was blown away. I wanted to travel back into my youth to tell my 14 year old self and brag to my friends that one day I would go to London and meet him myself and welcome his first child, the 2-week old baby they had together, into the world like one of the family.
Due to my friendship with his wife and her young daughter from a previous relationship, I got to know him on a much more personable level. I convinced them to leave London and move to Southern California where I had relocated, and they did it in no time. That was weird. I helped influence their lives and for that I feel kinda cool. I babysat for them, and got to see them in their most private settings- sometimes in PJs listening to William play random songs he made up on the acoustic guitar. My friend and I would be hanging out in the house and he would be down the hall mixing an album on Pro- Tools. And I got to hear it. There. In their home as he was creating it. I was awestruck.
My friend is such a wonderful woman who I look up to like an older sister, and we have a lot in common but I’m not half the woman she is. She truly inspires me and I loved watching her family grow and becoming a part of it in my own way.
I eventually left the area too, and made my way back to the Lehigh Valley and decided to bring some of the wisdom and experience I had gained to a town that could use a little sprucing up. Get a place to live, have a dog, open a hair salon. Start a ‘zine. I was doing it.
I just saw William last night for the first time since I moved back here which has been 8 years or so. It was like no time had even passed. I still talk to my friend all the time and try to get out to see her and other friends when I can, but he kind of fell off my radar after they
eventually split up.
I will say, the time I have spent with this band, and now being able to bring as many friends as I want to their concerts and get all access passes and be treated like family after all this time is a wonderful thing. I feel honored to know so many people who continue to blow my mind and make me laugh and think and create new memories. I am now considering the possibility of going to their shows in New York this week and singing back up vocals for Just Like Honey. Because last night when William and I were singing it together on the bus, he said I could do it and I want to. I wonder if it will happen?? It will be at IRVING FUCKING PLAZA haha… that sounds crazy.