James are often accused of being underachievers, of failing to fulfil the potential they had and not becoming as big as, say, U2. The accusations are wrong, very wrong, and the success of the band’s Best Of album in 1998 is as big a signpost as any to their popularity and achievements.
Contrary to popular belief, James were more than just lead singer Tim Booth. There is also David Baynton-Power on drums and percussion, Jim Glennie on bass guitar and backing vocals, Saul Davies on guitars and violin, Mark Hunter on keyboards, Adrian Oxxal on guitars, and Michael Kulas on backing vocals, guitar and percussion.
The James story is one of various record labels, bad luck and brilliant songs. They began, as so many bands did, on Factory, putting out their first two singles on the label in 1983. But by 1986, they’d moved to Sire to release their debut album, Stutter.
Having replaced drummer Gavan Whelan and added David, Saul, Mark and trumpeter Andy Diagram, the band released second album Strip-mine and a critically acclaimed live album, One Man Clapping and promptly signed for Phonogram.
The year was 1989 and the world began to notice James with the release of their Gold Mother album, complete with the brilliant albatross that was Sit Down. The band broke through and followed the release up with the million selling Seven in 1992.
They went on to recruit Brian Eno for their next album, a move that turned into a masterstroke when the subsequent product was the immense Laid (and it’s sister project Wah Wah), and album that also broke them in the USA.
At the cusp of greatness, Black Thursday happened. While recording the next album, Whiplash, in America, founding member Larry Gott announced he would no longer tour with James, Tim announced his plans to record his long-stalled solo project, and the UK taxman announced the unfortunate discovery of an overlooked James debt of roughly £150,000.
Despite the subsequent Greatest Hits album and two more albums, Millionaires and Pleased To Meet You, it was a blow that James never seemed to recover from. Tim Booth announced he would be leaving the band after their 2001 tour. Where that leaves the rest of the band is something we’ll just have to wait to see.
Things you might not know:
– James recorded a version of Ring The Bells for the X-Files series at a studio in Hollywood that was powered exclusively by solar energy.
– Four months after they had left the label, James received a fax from Sire demanding to know why they’d released the self-financed One Man Clapping album.
– Larry Gott doesn’t appear in the Born Of Frustration video. He was mugged the day before the shoot and sent the band manager dressed as him to take his place!