1988 Andy Ross, then deputy head honcho at Food Records, opens
up his briefcase in Camden's Devonshire Arms. Inside is an inferior
brand personal stereo with no discernible bottom end. Excitedly,
he places the crappy headphones upon your correspondent's ears
and presses the play button. I hear the trademark wall of noise,
the sound of guitars being churned up in a barrage of electronics,
the insistent, incensed chorus.
"So Crazyhead have discovered that there was always a dance element
to their music?" I say. "Or have Gaye Bykers finally worked out
how to play their instruments?" Wrong and wrong. The name of the
band is JESUS JONES and the song, 'Info Freako', a £125 demo,
sniffs the proverbial pissed on lamppost that is the Top 40 when
it is released the following February. It sneaks in at 42. Around
that time, the assured, beret-wearing, basketball-booted Jesus
H Jones (aka Mike Edwards) and his cohorts start appearing in
the press. Edward's moniker is perfect: religious icon-drug acronym-everyman.
And in a world obsessed by soundbites, Edwards attitude is perfect
too: he handles himself like he was on a personal crusade to reboot
rock 'n' roll at a new year zero. On paper then, it's already
in the bag but what about in the flesh?
Early on, JESUS JONES play a gig in the packed bar of London's
U.L.U. in a four-one formation. At the back is mild- mannered
janitor and drummer Gen (Simon Matthews); upfront it's a three-pronged
axe-attack plus keyboard player Barry D (aka Barry Dogg, or plain
ol Iain Baker), head shaking like a fermenting Pet Shop Boy. Guitarist
Jerry de Abela Borg is virtually pinned into a corner by bass
player Al Jaworski's (Alan Doughty) unfeasibly flailing hair extensions
and Edwards' uncontrollable exuberance. It's official! The compression
of dance, hip-hop and rock through one mixing desk works onstage
In June the band release a second single, 'Never Enough', another
Number 42. JESUS JONES become Eurostars, playing the Lorelei Festival
in Germany, then come home to take a tin opener to David Bowie's
arse, playing support to the rusty Tin Machine. The live spectacle
is further tested during a U.K. tour and at Reading Festival,
after which JESUS JONES reach Number 46 in September with 'Bring
It On Down'. The album, the aptly-titled 'Liquidizer' follows
a month later. The album sleeve lists 38 influences as far ranging
as Big Black and Eric B and all of them seem to have been pureed
in the rush to blend the entire back catalogue of western civilisation.
It notches up a respectable 32 and goes silver before the year
is out. In November, synchronicity strikes when JESUS JONES cover
grebo godheads Crazyhead's 'I Don't Want That Kind Of Love', for
the Food Christmas E.P. The video is recorded for the princely
sum of £24.95 at Star Trax in Piccadilly's Trocadero. The band
finish off the '90's in style, playing at The London Town & Country
Club (now The Forum) and having praise heaped upon by all the
February 1990 Meanwhile, there's another revolution going down
in Romania which doesn't involve samplers and skater chic. Instead
of sending food parcels, Britain send a Food act (and two other
bands lost to the mists of time). There are rumours that JESUS
JONES will be kidnapped and held for ransom, and consequently
they are escorted by 250 conscripts wherever they go. The teenage
soldiers prefer dancing about with their rifles in the air to
forming a human wall to stop any stray sniper bullets. Everyone
shares a brief moment of hope in the prospect of a united Europe,
and each of the gigs culminates in a heartfelt rendition of 'Keep
On Rocking In The Free World'.
On JESUS JONES return they discover they have moved up into the
premier league. Their next release 'Real Real Real' reached Number
19 in March. After appearing on all the right stages at all the
right times throughout the Summer - including Glastonbury and
Reading - JESUS JONES go west in September, for their first tour
of Canada and the U.S. (where 'Liquidizer' had been released in
the U.S.). Back in Blighty, 'Right Here, Right Now' is released
sans samples from Prince's 'Sign O The Times' and reaches 31.
It's followed by a U.K. tour. By December, they have their first
Top 10 - 'International Bright Young Thing' is a U.K. Number 7.
January 1991 JESUS JONES second album, 'Doubt', enters the U.K.
chart at Number 1, going gold overnight. Mike is at home when
his manager calls with the news. Does he throw the TV out of the
window? No. Mike thinks, 'shit, that makes us the new New Kids
On The Block.' Fortunately for Mike's sanity, the album drops
down the chart quicker than you can say "Morrissey" but a disaster
is round the corner. After touring the U.K. and the U.S. (plus
releasing their poppiest single to date, 'Who? Where? Why?', which
reaches 21 in February), America goes ballistic for the JONES
boys. In July 'Right Here, Right Now' reaches Number 2 in America,
and 'Doubt' sells over a million copies. JESUS JONES come home
in style, playing to 72,000 at Wembley Stadium supporting INXS,
then fly back to America for the MTV Awards. Much to the disinterest
of their roadies and the astonishment of the band they pick up
a gong for Best Band Named After The Son Of God.... No, just kidding,
it was Best New Video. Mike's speech in full: "We're going to
call it Eric." Meanwhile, young upstarts EMF are reaping similar
rewards but despite peer pressure, JESUS JONES refuse to be drawn
into a Blur V Oasis scenario.
January 1992 From the sublime to the biologically perverse, JESUS
JONES head off to South America where the "MTV stars" perform
to 250,000 at Rock In Rio. For the second time in their lives
they are escorted everywhere by armed bodyguards, and even going
to a cafe involves having your hair ripped out by the roots and
having to call the cops to get out again. After being flashed
at by boys, girls and a few people of indeterminate sexuality,
JESUS JONES return to headline the more prosaic Slough Festival
in July. Bon Jovi decide they need a dash of this future sampler
thing and ask Edwards to remix one of their singles but have second
thoughts at the last minute.
January 1993 The band release album number three 'Perverse', in
which JESUS JONES take music made by sampler to infinity and beyond.
It reaches Number 6 in the U.K. Mike seems to be obsessed about
making music for tomorrow today. A precis of all the press he
and Iain do at the time: Techno! Techno! Techno!
"The album was really good," says Edwards now. "It was our most
adventurous and most principled, that's why it failed... If you
call half a million failing." Edwards, though, is starting to
reach saturation point. Disillusionment by expectations of record
sales is followed by lacklustre performances on the 'Perverse'
tour. Cabin fever has set in and the band are too busy holding
each other out of hotel windows to realise that their leader may
be on the verge of a mid-career crisis.
In September he starts writing again but finds himself bored with
the process of making a JESUS JONES record. Instead, he remixes
others (incl. Roxette), writes and produces three songs for Traci
Lords, contributes a chapter to the book Love Is The Drug and
makes music for the spaceship sim. computer game, Absolute Zero.
Over the next 12 months, between clubbing and mountain biking,
Edwards writes 12 songs, which take the songs on 'Perverse' to
their illogical extreme. Edwards feels increasingly trapped by
the need to make more and more principled music, and starts to
lose a grip of his personal life.
September 1994 Everything goes prickly pear shaped. Edwards splits
up from his wife and Food reject the new material (where's the
tunes?). JESUS JONES lick their wounds in the Far East, playing
with Japanese superstar, Hotei. On his return, Edwards bites the
bullet and writes 16 more songs in three months. There are still
nods to the latest club developments - a drum 'n' bass vibe sneaks
in here and there - but Edwards has become less obsessed with
being different and more concerned with writing good pop songs
January 1995 JESUS JONES enter the studio with Ian Richardson
and Nick Coler. The next album is going to be a band thing, not
a one- man show. After four months in the studio, neither Edwards
nor his record company are satisfied that they've captured the
back to basics band feel. Edwards is so fed up that in November
he goes mountain biking in Tibet and climbs halfway up Everest.
Meanwhile, back home Jerry tinkers on ideas for the album, Iain
is off DJing all over the world, Gen was drumming for a couple
of other bands, and Alan is playing in Chicago with a bunch of
expats including Jon Langford under the name, The Waco Brothers.
Rolling Stone rates the Clash-cum-Pogues pish-up.
January 1996 A light bulb is turned on above JESUS JONES's collective
heads. They approach Martyn Phillips (whose credits include Erasure
and an American No.1 single 'Right Here, 'Right Now' by some famous
band with a familiar name!) to remix a few of the songs. Phillips
though, wants to remix the whole thing.
In April, to avoid cabin fever and to road test the new material,
the band do a short, low-key tour, during which they literally
play a toilet (albeit a converted one) in Tunbridge Wells. Not
only have JESUS JONES not been forgotten but fans from all over
the world hear the news by word-of-internet, and people from as
far afield as L.A. and Australia appear at tiny venues in Stoke
JESUS JONES are invigorated but, on their return, the measured
pace of Phillips' remixing finally proves too much for Gen, who
leaves the group in September to join Baby Chaos. Jerry describes
it as the bleakest moment in the band's career.
May 1997 JESUS JONES return. Cue the 'Second Coming'/'Back From
The Dead' headlines. Cue the music: a single 'The Next Big Thing'
and an album, 'Already'. Cue the pre-release teaser: 'This time
they've made a band's album....'
'Already' is unashamedly reminiscent of old school JESUS JONES
- Edwards vocal style for instance is an unforgettable as it is
consistent - albeit exploring new sonic territory, especially
on the self-explanatory 'Wishing It Away' and 'February', a tune
about seasonally adjusted depression. There are songs about the
sensation of falling off mountains, destiny, alien abduction,
consumerism gone mad and the depravity of the Roman Empire as
seen through the eyes of the News Bunny on Live TV. And, perhaps
most importantly, there's a song about fallibility. "We did a
promotional tour of South America in 1993," remembers Edwards,
"and it was basically a scam - it just happened to be Summer there.
And that's pretty much the way things are now. And to be honest,
I think that's the way things worked before, but for me that was
never enough. It had to be the grand scheme as well we're not
just here to have fun, we're here to do something worthy, which
Mike Edwards had to stop for a while to remember why he wanted
to make music and JESUS JONES had to stop to let the rest of the
world catch up with how they made it. As Romania begat Sarajevo,
so 'Liquidizer' begat Pop Music as we know it at the end of the
millennium, where breakbeats and samples are now as commonplace
on a rock 'n' roll record as a Fender guitar. But Edwards is not
interested in smugly telling everybody, 'I told you so'.
"I don't want to get into that 'I invented rock 'n' roll', because
I've had it with all those soundbites and grandiose claims. That's
another thing that bores me about our past." Now when Edwards
says "I invented rock 'n' roll, dontcha know?" he says it with
Written by Shaun Phillips - 1997