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The Jesus And Mary Chain: Scots brothers William and Jim Reid have been delivering noise terror since the 1980s. Amid their dark lyrics and heavy menace, it's not surprising they first considered the tag Death Of Joey. Sadly the moniker wasn't inspired by the overdose suicide of a Kilbride mass murderer, as might be supposed, but the demise of the teenage boys' pet budgerigar. Wisely, they decided the choice had to be buried too, before they encountered ridicule.
The author was misled by the band and had to keep going back to find to truth - which is that the choice was an evolution of "Daisy Chain" and intended as meaningless.
When I first approached the Reids' record company, the Chain repeated that the name was inspired by a breakfast cornflakes packet, which had an offer to send for a "Jesus And Mary" linked bracelet. Checks confirmed the obvious: major cereal manufacturers in the U.K. stated that their free gifts would never include such a religious item because of the danger of offence.
When this was pointed out, the Chain switched to another tall story: it came from dialogue in a Bing Crosby film. I dutifully ploughed through videos of every Crosby film (pity me), with no success.
By now I was aware of various other explanations offers by the duo: that it was a solid gold $200 necklace advertised in a magazine. That it was a chain letter. That it was an order of Catholic nuns (cf Sisters Of Mercy). That it was a religious shrine in Greece or Mexico. That it was an obscure satanic cult ... All false. A more likely theory is that it came from McGee's Club, London, owned by their manager Alan McGee, where they played gigs. The problem with this is that the name came before they moved to the British capital.
William Reid finally said: "These stories are wrong ... We knew the word Jesus was sacred to Christians but after all Jesus is the commonest name in some places. Nobody minds the 'Mary." (Cf Jesus Jones.)
The band's publicists were aware of its shock value, as they later confided in the author (maybe they were impressed or bemused by my persistence). "We know it would upset people." This "likely to offend" aspect rebounded on the Reids when they were banned from U.S. TV shows on account of the name, which they refused to shorten to "J.A.M. Chain" as prudish producers suggested. (Cf "B.H. Surfers" for Butt Hole Surfers.)
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