James are a band who through their 1991 single Sit Down became associated with the Madchester scene but who are really a band with origins and inspirations far away from the spirit of those times. James from their early eighties origins have always been an unpredictable unit, even fey at times. There is none of the belligerent aggression of the Stone Roses in James but there are very adroit lyrics. Partly this is down to the lead singer Tim Booth. Oh rare Tim Booth! If Freddie Garrity of Freddie and the Dreamers danced like a frog in a blender in the 1960’s then Booth, when he gets in the mood, dances like a frog in a really, really fast blender.
Proving their longevity the band achieved something they had never previously achieved when, in 1998, their Best Of album reached number 1. James had started out in 1983 at Factory Music. Championed by Morrissey of The Smiths and manipulating influences from very diverse sources – early songs included sea shantie references – they built an amazingly devoted following which sticks by them up to the present. Their reputation grew through albums such as Stutter and One Man Clapping to the excellent Gold Mother in 1990. The single Sit Down followed with its well known middle section where all the audience are required – you guessed it – to sit down. It reached number 2 in the singles charts and in no time at all James became a big stadium player on both sides of the Atlantic.
This followed a re-release of Gold Mother and a new album Seven . Their recording high point was reached with perhaps one of the finest albums by any Manchester band, Laid , in 1993. Here the group with Brian Eno in attendance produced an ethereal mix of innovative sounds which sustained itself over most of the songs. Laid came as close as any subsequent Manchester music had to the sheer inimitability of The Smiths. The band’s best work after Laid was Whiplash in 1997 which was followed by the Best of album mentioned above.