Wasted on the Youth Guest Blog: Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite on The Jesus and Mary Chain

Sep 16, 2010
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(Under the Radar’s Summer 2010 Issue is a special issue named the Wasted on the Youth Issue that features musicians and actors talking about their childhood memories and things they loved when they were kids. We’re also posting web-exclusive essays that were not printed in the issue, including this one by Stuart Braithwaite, guitarist/vocalist for Scotland’s Mogwai.)

The 1980s were fucking shit in Scotland. Our country was governed by a party that no one here elected who’s main objective was to defecate on us from a great height. The music that we were force-fed was anemic, bland constipated crap that sucked the very soul from your being. Even former gods like David Bowie were making records that sounded like they had been shat out of the anus of the bland monster.

Somewhere in the middle of this hell ride from a concrete new town in Scotland appeared a band who were seemingly oblivious to the sanitation process that we were being subjected to. The Jesus and Mary Chain were different. They wore black leather rather than white chinos. They smothered their music in feedback rather than pulverize it with new fangled technology to starve it of any connection to humanity. And to put it simply, they didn’t give a fuck.

Taking their cues from almost forgotten musical legends such as The Velvet Underground, Can, and The 13th Floor Elevators, they sounded unlike anything else around at the time. But a disdainful attitude, cool clothes, and a good record collection aren’t enough to really make a difference. The Mary Chain also had fucking amazing songs. Their first single, “Upside Down,” was probably the most important single from this island since “God Save the Queen.” Blistering feedback annihilated its saccharine refrain. I would say it was like an evil Phil Spector, but that seems a bit dark now. It was also one of the first releases on Creation Records, who would go on to become one of the most seminal record labels of the next 20 years. There were also riots at their shows, but it says a lot about how good the music was that the riots are far less interesting than the records.

They followed this with their debut album, Psychocandy, which is an utter classic, peppered with amazing singles. They followed that with the amazing “Some Candy Talking” single, which upset a Radio 1 DJ so much due to its drug reference that he snapped a copy, live on air. You don’t hear about that kind of thing too much these days, sadly.

They released a B-sides collection, Barbed Wire Kisses, next, which in all honesty is better than most band’s best studio records. They kept making good records but like their heroes The Ramones didn’t change their formula too much and never quite regained the impact of their mid ’80s hey day.

Fuck Margaret Thatcher. Fuck Queen. Fuck Princess Diana. The Jesus and Mary Chain were the 1980s.

(Stuart Braithwaite is the guitarist/vocalist for Mogwai. The Scottish post-rock band formed in Glasgow in 1995. The band’s Burning concert film was just released on DVD, accompanied by the Special Moves live album, by Rock Action. Their last studio album was 2008’s The Hawk is Howling, released by Matador.)

 

 



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