James are an English rock band from Manchester. They formed in 1982 and were active throughout the 1980s, but most successful during the 1990s. Their hit singles include "Come Home", "Sit Down" and "She's a Star". Following the departure of lead singer Tim Booth in 2001, the band became inactive but re-formed in January 2007, returning for a new album and international tour. To the date, the band sold more than 25 million albums worldwide.
James were formed in 1982 in Whalley Range, Manchester, when Paul Gilbertson convinced his friend Jim Glennie to buy a bass guitar and form a band with him. Their line-up solidified with the acquisition of Gavan Whelan on drums. They played a string of gigs under the names Venereal and The Diseases and, later, Volume Distortion, before settling on the name of Model Team International, then shortened to Model Team.
They performed mostly improvised material derived from jam sessions, supporting The Fall at an early gig. Vocalists and other musicians drifted rapidly in and out of their line-up, until the band encountered Tim Booth at a student disco. Gilbertson invited him to the band's scout hut in Withington to join the band as a dancer.
After a brief period under the name Tribal Outlook, the band renamed themselves James in August 1982. A gig at The Haçienda caught the attention of Tony Wilson of Factory Records. He offered James an album deal with Factory, but the band, by now a settled live act, were worried about tarnishing their material in the studio and settled instead for a three-track EP. Their debut release, the Jimone EP, was recorded at Strawberry Studios, Stockport, in August 1983 and released on Factory Records in September. It was named single of the week by major music papers in the UK, and led to a tour supporting The Smiths.
Although they were now being touted as the 'next big thing', several complex issues slowed their progress. Gilbertson's drug problems presented the band with no choice but to ask him to leave. Booth and Glennie had joined a sect named Lifewave that imposed many restrictions on their lifestyle and threatened the band's stability. The band's second EP, James II, was released over a year after the first and accompanied by a feature on the cover of the NME, Gilbertson having been replaced by the band's guitar tutor Larry Gott. The first two EPs would later be collected as Village Fire. Reviews were once again positive, and Factory were eager for James to record an album with it, but the band believed Factory were purely image-based and left the label, striking a deal with Sire Records.
Their third release, the Sit Down EP (no relation to the song of that name) came out in February 1986, and was followed by their debut album, Stutter in July of that year. The album reached number 68 in the UK Albums Chart. Low on money and lacking coverage and promotion, the band recorded their second album, Strip-mine, attempting a more conventional song structure in an attempt to please Sire. The album almost went unreleased, but after undergoing a slight remix to sound more radio-friendly, Sire released the album in September 1988, over a year after it had been initially completed. However the album only reached number 90. After finding a clause for ending their contract, the band left Sire. Desperate for money, the band members were driven to the extreme of participating as human guinea pigs in medical experiments at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, earning them a place on a TV documentary about the desperation of fallen rock stars.
James had by this point earned themselves a reputation as a solid live act and had built a solid fanbase. Sales of James t-shirts were particularly successful in Manchester even before they reached the Top 40. James financed the production of a live album with a bank loan, One Man Clapping, and the help of Rough Trade Records. The album went to #1 in the indie charts, reinvigorating media interest in the band.
In November 1988, drummer Whelan became involved in an on-stage fight with Booth and was asked to leave the band. He was replaced by David Baynton-Power a few months later. During the following year James greatly expanded their lineup and sound palette by hiring three new members - guitarist/violinist/percussionist Saul Davies (whom Gott recruited from an amateur blues night), keyboard player Mark Hunter and onetime Diagram Brothers/Pale Fountains trumpeter/percussionist Andy Diagram (the latter a noted avant-garde musician). This new seven-piece line-up went into the studio to record the third James album.
New singles "Sit Down" and "Come Home" became strong hits in the independent charts, and the latter featured on the compilation album, Happy Daze. The album, Gold Mother, was intended to be released on Rough Trade but the owner of the label, Geoff Travis, believed James could only reach an audience of 20,000 to 30,000. The band believed they had more potential than this and bought the rights to the album from Rough Trade. A successful winter tour in 1989 attracted a deal with Fontana Records, and the band ended a difficult decade on an optimistic note.
Gold Mother was released in June 1990, just as the 'Madchester' movement, with its wave of popular Manchester-based indie bands, focused public attention on James and won them mainstream recognition. Singles "How Was It For You", the remixed "Come Home" and "Lose Control" all made the Top 40, and the band's newfound success was re-affirmed when they played two sell-out dates at the Manchester G-Mex at the end of the year. In March 1991, when the popularity of "Sit Down" led to a re-recorded version being released as a single, reaching #2 in the UK Singles Chart. Gold Mother was re-released to include "Sit Down" and previous single "Lose Control", and the album sold ten times more copies than Travis originally predicted. The song became one of the biggest-selling singles of the year.
The band members spent the rest of the year recording their next album, Seven, which was released in February 1992. It reached #2 in the UK Albums Chart (its lead single, "Sound", had followed "Sit Down" into the top 10 a few months earlier) and earned the band some recognition in the US as they embarked on their first Stateside tour. The band's activities culminated in a sell-out show to 30,000 people at the Alton Towers theme park in July, broadcast live on BBC Radio 1, following which Andy Diagram left the group.
James were subsequently invited on an acoustic tour of the US supporting Neil Young at a series of natural outdoor venues in the autumn. They returned to England refreshed and ready to record their new album with Brian Eno, whom they had originally approached to produce Stutter but who had been unavailable at the time. Eno set about bringing out the ambience in James' music, and took them through a recording process that the band later described as a "journey of self-discovery". The process resulted in not one but two albums: the 'song' album, Laid, and the experimental Wah Wah, which showcased the band's improvised jams recorded on the spot, then mixed by Eno. Booth's vocals were then added to the results.
Laid was released in September 1993 to positive reviews. As well as being a success in the UK, the album also broke the band in the US, shipping over 600,000 copies and charting at #72 in the Billboard 200, propelled by the immense popularity of its risqué title track on US student radio. The band spent most of 1994 touring the States. Wah Wah was eventually released in September 1994 to a lukewarm reception.
The recording of the follow-up album faced difficulties from the start. Two key members of the James organisation resigned - guitarist and key composer Larry Gott (who left the group in order to spend more time with his family) and manager Martine McDonagh (who had had a sometimes fraught romantic relationship with Booth, resulting in a son called Ben). Booth announced that he also wished to take a break in order to record an album with Angelo Badalamenti. At around the same time, there was the discovery of a £250,000 tax bill owed by the band.
Determined to continue despite the setbacks, the band set up studio in Baynton-Power's house. Former Sharkboy guitarist Adrian Oxaal was drafted in to replace Gott on guitar, while Booth returned periodically from the States to add his vocals. 1996 saw the release of Booth's album with Badalamenti (Booth and the Bad Angel). The new James album, Whiplash, followed in February 1997. The album proved a successful comeback, reaching the UK top 10 as did the single "She's A Star".
The band toured to promote the album, recruiting new member Michael Kulas while in the States, on rhythm guitar. Booth suffered a neck injury while dancing on stage in the US, resulting in a series of tour dates being cancelled as he underwent emergency surgery, and the band being offered a place instead on the Lollapalooza tour. In March 1998, a greatest hits album, The Best Of, was released, compiling all the band's hits since their signing to Fontana. The album reached #1 in the UK Albums Chart, and sell-out tours throughout the year followed.
The band then returned to the studio to begin work on their next album, Millionaires, which was released in October 1999. The album did not reach the phenomenal sales level predicted, but still entered the chart at #2, and sold over 150,000 copies.
After the disappointing performance of Millionaires the band chose to start anew in their approach to their next album, working with Eno once again. They spent most of 2000 recording the album; writing the songs, then performing them live before actually recording them. They embarked on a small-scale tour in the autumn of that year on which their setlists consisted almost entirely of new material. The album, Pleased To Meet You, was released in July 2001. The album's artwork featured a composite image of the faces of all the band members to create a new person. The album reached only #11, the lowest position for a James studio album since their signing to Fontana.
Shortly after its release, James reached the end of their contract, and Tim Booth announced he was leaving the band to concentrate on other projects of his own. They played a farewell tour of the UK at the end of the year. Their final hometown gig, at the Manchester Evening News arena on December 7, was recorded for a live CD and DVD, Getting Away With It... Live. Past members Larry Gott and Andy Diagram rejoined them for the tour, and Brian Eno also joined them onstage at London's Wembley Arena during the tour. The albums Gold Mother, Laid and Whiplash (each containing bonus tracks) were re-released by Mercury Records the following year, as well as a b-sides compilation entitled B-Sides Ultra.
A planned compilation of material from the band's Factory and Sire years was announced in 2001, but the album, 'Strange Dancing' was never released. The first two James albums, Stutter and Strip-mine, were re-pressed in June 2007, but without any additional rarities.
Booth continued as a solo artist in 2004 with the release of his solo album Bone, co-written and produced by Lee Muddy Baker.
A new compilation album, The Collection was released in late 2004, and Seven - The Live Concert (a DVD version of a previously released video) in 2005.
In January 2007, music magazine Filter cited an announcement on singer Tim Booth's personal website, saying that "Tim will be rejoining James in early 2007 for a series of live shows to be announced very soon". At the same time, James' old website was replaced by a new domain holder at www.wearejames.com. The site confirmed the line-up as that which recorded the album Laid: Booth, Gott, Glennie, Davies, Hunter and Baynton-Power. Booth confirmed in interviews that he became convinced to rejoin the band after meeting up with Glennie and Gott the previous November for a jamming session, out of which new songs were born.
The initial five dates of the tour were expanded to seven on the day tickets went on sale (26 January) due to high demand; the whole tour had sold out by close of business. The tour took place during late April 2007, and was followed later in the year by more live shows, including festival appearances at T in the Park and V Festival. The band also appeared at Summercase, Barcelona's top music concert in Spain during July 2007. Andy Diagram also rejoined the band as trumpet player during the festival tour. April saw the release of a new compilation album, Fresh As A Daisy - The Singles, accompanied by a DVD compilation of all the band's promo videos.
The new album Hey Ma was released on 7 April 2008, peaking at #10 on the UK album charts, and a three-week tour to promote the album commenced on 10 April 2008. An arena tour of the UK called "We Are Sound" followed in December, on which two new songs (Porcupine and Look Away) were previewed as tasters for a new studio album. A live album with a selection of songs recorded during the 2008 spring tour was exclusively sold at the merchandise stalls of the "We Are Sound" tour. Live in 2008 was limited to 5000 copies.
The band announced plans to release two mini-albums by April 2010. The Night Before was released on the 19 April, although its follow-up, The Morning After, was released later than expected, on 2 August 2010. Following the release of The Night Before, the band embarked on a UK tour, the Mirrorball Tour, premièring songs from the album. Another UK tour took place in December. Both this tour and the US release of both mini-albums together as a 2CD set called The Morning After The Night Before. A 19-date North American tour began in September to promote the combined album as well as showcase the songs before the UK tour.
At the beginning of 2011, Tim Booth announced that he was working on some new solo material, although James remained active, participating in the Lollapalooza festival in Chile.
The band have been confirmed to appear at Hard Rock Calling 2011, taking place on June 24 in Hyde Park, London. They are being joined by The Kaiser Chiefs and Headline act The Killers.
- Main article: James discography
- Studio albums
- Stutter (1986)
- Strip-mine (1988)
- Gold Mother (1990), issued in the US as James
- Seven (1992)
- Laid (1993)
- Wah Wah (1994)
- Whiplash (1997)
- Millionaires (1999)
- Pleased to Meet You (2001)
- Hey Ma (2008)
- The Night Before (2010)
- The Morning After (2010)
- 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography, 5th, p. 492493, Edinburgh: Mojo Books.
- Indie band James reform for tour, BBC News, 24 January 2007.
- Stuart Maconie: Folklore, Virgin Books, 2000 (ISBN 0-7535-0494-4).
- Official website
- James Facebook page
- James at MySpace
- One of the Three (Fan Site)
- Reseña en Español
- James interview
| Tim Booth Jim Glennie Larry Gott David Baynton-Power Saul Davies Mark Hunter
Adrian Oxaal Paul Gilbertson Gavan Whelan Andy Diagram Michael Kulas
EPs: Jimone James II Village Fire Chain Mail
Studio albums: Stutter Strip-mine Gold Mother Seven Laid Wah Wah Whiplash Millionaires Pleased to Meet You
Live albums: One Man Clapping Getting Away With It... Live
Singles: See here
Compilations: The Best Of B-Sides Ultra The Collection
Videos: Come Home Live Getting Away With It... Live Seven: Live Concert
Brian Eno Booth and the Bad Angel Madchester