By Rick Fulton, © 2007 Edinburgh Daily Record
Taken for granted and eclipsed by support acts such as Nirvana, Radiohead and Coldplay, it seems James are finally getting the respect they deserve.
It may have taken 26 years and a six year split, but the world can’t get enough of these Manchester survivors, made up of the group that recorded the album Laid: Tim Booth, Jim Glennie, Larry Gott, Saul Davies, Mark Hunter and David Baynton-Power.
Tonight, they play a sold-out show at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange as part of T on the Fringe. And tomorrow they headline the Belladrum Festival in Inverness-shire following on from a triumphant show at T In The Park last month – as James played, standing in the wings were The Killers, Arcade Fire and Cold War Kids.
Singer Tim Booth admits the change of fortune is a surprise.
He said “We’ve been around for so long that it’s easy to take us for granted. That’s a natural human thing to do. When someone or something disappears everyone realises there’s a hole.
“I think we are playing the best we’ve ever played at the moment. I really think we will go forward from this. I don’t know how far because I think in this business there are glass ceilings for bands of our vintage.
“I think we are about to make one of our best albums and that’s all we can focus one.
“All we can control is making the music the best we can and the live shows the best we can.
“The rest is up to chance.”
While they hit number two with albums Gold Mother, Seven and Millionaires and number three with Laid, their eighth studio album Pleased To Meet You went to number 11 in 2001.
Shortly after its release Tim left the group.
Since then it seems the UK and especially Europe have been waking up to the songwriting power of the Manchester band.
Singles like Sit Down, Come Home, Sound and She’s A Star have been discovered as indie rock epics – as big as any made by U2 and REM.
While the original band formed in 1981, recent gigs, especially in Europe, have seen teenagers not even born when the band started at the core of the crowd.
Tim said “If you listen to our singles out of context with everything else I think people are surprised we weren’t bigger. People have said our songs are as big as U2’s, so why didn’t we become as big as U2?
“But the thing was we are a different band in terms of our personal lives and personalities.
“There were a number of times the door was opened to us and we could have gone through it to something bigger but we didn’t.
“We made a few choices not to go that way.
“For example, we refused to let them release Sit Down in America, because they wanted to do it two years after it had been a hit here and we felt it was a look backwards. We’d already made the album Seven and wanted to go forwards.”
Tim also claimed they stopped going U2 sized for their own personal wellbeing. The singer, famous for his shaman-like, head-whipping dancing said “I’m quite a vulnerable thing. I’ve had a history of ill health, with an inherited liver disease to spinal injuries to ruptured discs.
“I don’t think my physical make up could have taken that level of attention.”
While drug abuse and in-fighting split the band, since they reformed James in January of this year, the band have reconnected.
Formed in 1981 by original guitarist Paul Gilbertson and bassist Jim Glennie, who is now the only original member of the group left, the fledgling group asked drama student Tim to be their front man after seeing him dance at a disco.
The band changed their name in 1982 to James and kicked out the band’s founder Gilbertson because of his heavy drug use, replacing him with Larry Gott.
Tim admits the band were a dysfunctional mess. He had no qualms about their split in 2001 and doesn’t think about how big the band could have been had they stayed together.
He said “The split has been brilliant. We had to finish at that point – it just wasn’t working.
“We had all the usual rock n roll indulgences of drugs and alcohol that were plaguing us and we had an unwieldy democracy that just couldn’t make decisions.
“So far we are much better. Relationships are cleaning up and we are getting more communicative.”
Since the split Tim has released a solo album Bone and also returned to acting, notably as a villain in Batman Begins.
Reforming the band isn’t about money or nostalgia.
Tim said “James has never been a business. It’s been about a group of people and we make a quality of music together that we are extremely proud of. That’s been the glue.”
The singer doesn’t like the “give me more” mentality of youngsters today, who don’t treat drugs with the caution they deserve.
He has particular pity for Pete Doherty. Tim said “He has become famous for his drug taking and not his abilities. It’s sad.”
The band go back into the studio in October to record the new album.
Tonight and tomorrow at Belladrum they’ll play three new songs as they take their rightful place as one of the UK’s best bands.