brothers Jay and Michael Aston began playing music in 1980 when
they formed Slav Arian with guitarist Ian Hudson and a drum machine.
Though the Astons grew up in Porthcawl, South Wales, they moved
to London in 1981 and renamed the goth-influenced group Gene Loves
Jezebel. The trio played several live shows and was quickly signed
by Situation 2. In May 1982, the label released Gene Loves Jezebel's
demo single "Shavin' My Neck." The band then added bassist Julianne
Regan and drummer Dick Hawkins. Regan left soon after to form
All About Eve, leaving Ian Hudson and Michael Aston to alternate
on bass until Peter Rizzo joined in 1984. Hawkins also split for
a time — replaced by John Murphy and later Steve Goulding — but
returned in 1983.
Gene Loves Jezebel released two more singles in 1983 before their
debut album Promise hit number one in the U.K.'s indie charts.
In 1984, the group recorded a John Peel radio session for BBC
and toured America with John Cale. After returning to England,
Gene Loves Jezebel released the singles "Influenza (Relapse)"
and "Shame (Whole Heart Howl)," but then waited a full year before
second album Immigrant appeared in mid-1985. (It's not very surprising
that the album was recorded with a lineup change, this time drummer
Marcus Gilvear instead of Dick Hawkins.) Immigrant also hit number
one on the indie charts, but during a tortured American tour,
founding member Hudson left, and was replaced by former Generation
X guitarist James Stevenson.
The year 1986 brought a contract with Beggar's Banquet and, subsequently,
popular-chart success for the group. "Sweetest Thing" hit the
Top 75 in England, and the resulting album Discover (which included
a limited-edition live album called Glad to Be Alive) reached
the expected indie-chart top spot and also did well with college
radio in America. Chris Bell became the band's fifth drummer later
that year, and Gene Loves Jezebel's fourth album The House of
Dolls was released late in 1987, yielding a single, "The Motion
of Love," that grazed the U.S. charts. The Astons turned their
attention to dance with the single "Heartache," but Michael decided
to leave the band by mid-1989.
In a small twist of fate, Gene Loves Jezebel gained its highest-charting
American single the following year, when "Jealous," the major
single from Kiss of Life, reached number 68 in August 1990. Two
years later, Jay Aston and co. released Heavenly Bodies, which
did well in Europe and on American college radio; the group's
American label folded one year later though, and after a few sporadic
live shows, Gene Loves Jezebel called it quits.
As early as 1992, Michael Aston had been working with a new band
called the Immigrants. Two years later, he re-formed the band
as Edith Grove and released a self-titled album. Michael and Jay
began working together again that same year, and later recorded
two songs with Stevenson, Bell and Rizzo for a GLJ best-of compilation,
released in September 1995. While Jay performed occasional acoustic
shows under his own name, Michael played with members of Scenic
and released a solo album, Why Me, Why This, Why Now, in 1995.
Gene Loves Jezebel reformed in 1998 for VII, released in 1999
on Robinson Records. It was followed that same year by both Love
Lies Bleeding and Live in Voodoo City. Giving Up the Ghost appeared
in early 2001. — John Bush