“We started during the era of Joy Division and the Buzzcocks,” says Jim Glennie of James. “It spilled over into the Smiths, New Order, and the beginnings of Simply Red. The Manchester scene came along, though we were there before it. It’s gone now, but we’re still around.” He laughs. “Guess it all means something, hey?”
It looks that way, though Glennie could easily win first prize for understatement. It’s no surprise that James have broken through in Britain after nearly ten years of sweat and patience. Ten years of building an audience. Album by album. Song by song. Fan by fan.
But it finally paid off in 1990. The band’s third studio outing ‘Gold Mother’, went platinum over there. It delivered four UK hits, spearheaded by the anthemic ‘Sit Down’ – which after rising high in the indie charts early on, unexpectedly shot to number 2 in the UK Top 40 nearly a full year later. James’ first full-length concert video simultaneously hit the top spot in the UK video chart. Due to their captivating live performances, sold out tours, the band was asked to headline major European festivals, including the prestigious Reading Festival in England.
On this side of the Atlantic, Fontana released ‘James’ in mid-91, a retrospective collection designed to introduce the band to America. They began as a foursome in Manchester : Tim Booth, Jim Glennie, Larry Gott and original drummer Gavin Whelan. Today, James is seven members strong : Jim Glennie (bass), Tim Booth (vocals / lyrics), Larry Gott (guitar), Dave Baynton Power (drums), Andy Diagram (trumpet), Mark Hunter (keyboards) and Saul Davies (guitar / violin).
Now there’s ‘Seven’, the fourth studio album – one that’s already pumped out a UK Top 10 single ‘Sound’. Produced by Youth (formerly of Killing Joke), the band and Steve ‘Barney’ Chase at the Manor in Oxfordshire and Olympic Studios in London, the new songs span a widescreen, technicolour range of different moods and messages.
After the band signed with Manchester-based Factory Records in 1983, their debut EP ‘Village Fire’ and two subsequent singles ‘Hymn From A Village’ and ‘What’s The World’ (later covered by The Smiths), caught the attention of key British critics. Although James shift to Sire Records in 1985 resulted in two extraordinary albums ‘Stutter’ and ‘Strip-Mine’, the band broke camp again and moved to Rough Trade in 89 to unveil a live collection ‘One Man Clapping’.
All of it paved the way for the success of ‘Gold Mother’ in Britain during 1990-1. But it’s James potent stage performance that have cemented its bond with audiences there. As Jim Glennie sees it, “A lot of our concerts end up quite celebrational, though there’s a mixture of emotions going on. It can be stripped bare. Not sad, but emotive. On the other hand, we have some songs that are pretty nasty, with cutting lyrics. We have songs that are quite uplifting as well. Overall, we try to be positive. We want people to leave feeling knackered and sweaty, feeling they’ve gone through a range of emotions. We hope they feel better because of it.”
The challenge now? To make their mark in the US – something the band members trust they have an honest shot at with ‘Seven’. As Jim Glennie admits, “All we’ve ever wanted to do is to have the opportunity to let people listen to our records. To say to them, ‘Do you like it?’ and if they don’t, then fair enough. We’ll content ourselves with playing in the drummer’s kitchen.”
“But you know, we’ve always had this belief in what we do. Almost an arrogance. There were times when it felt like there was no place for us. We’d start feeling down, but then we’d walk into the rehearsal room and songs would appear. Wonderful songs. That’s why we kept going. It’s why we’ve kept faith. It’s the main reason why we’re still here.”