Posts Tagged ‘Mike Edwards’

Christopher Nosnibor

Books have a slower diffusion than records, although they too can have a far slower diffusion than the industry cycle accommodates. If it’s not a hit in week one it’s sunk and you’re fucked. This story is not a new one, although in his autobiography, initially penned around 1998, circulated as a .PDF around 2001 and finally first seeing the light of day in 2014 before being republished in 2019 – Mike Edwards lays it bare.

I never really got into Jesus Jones. Perhaps I never really ‘got’ Jesus Jones. Back in the early 90s, I was primarily into goth and industrial and the heavier end of the current bands – The Sisters of Mercy, Swans, Ministry, Therapy? were my staples and the bands I’d whack onto the sixth-form stereo, often to complaints from my peers – particularly a mate who was absolutely rabid about Jesus Jones and Faith No More. Jesus Jones always sounded a bit soft to my ears, a bit lightweight, limp, and poppy. Having seen them live for only the second time in 2021 supporting The Sisters of Mercy at The Roundhouse, I can’t say I was converted: they still sounded lightweight, limp, and poppy, but I did find a newfound respect: they played hard, and it’s hard to deny the hooks – and the fact that they’re survivors.

Death Threats from an Eight-Year Old makes for an interesting read, in that it is very much told from the perspective of a band whose survival wasn’t so assured having crashed out of favour and the public eye after their ascendance and commercial peak in the mid-90s.

The other time I saw them was on the way up. I laughed when their guitarist fell off the stage at Wembley Arena when supporting The Cure as part of Radio 1’s ‘Great British Music Weekend’ in ‘91. That doesn’t get mentioned in Mike Edwards’ autobiography. But then, there’s a lot that doesn’t get mentioned.

Having written on Charlie Beddoes’ autobiography being an atypical work, from the perspective of a hard-gigging musical who never attained the status of being a household name, Mike Edwards’ book is also atypical of the genre and while it’s not quite an inversion, following a riches to rags trajectory, it is certainly not your regular celebrity spill brimming with tales of rock ‘n’ roll excess, and is instead a tale of an unceremonious decline, of struggles and slogs, and mountain biking. There’s probably more in this book about cycling than music, which would be incredibly dull to anyone who isn’t into biking if it weren’t for the context.

There are no real anecdotes here, tour-based or otherwise, at least from the ‘fame’ years, but then ultimately, the sketchiness is integral to the overall arc of the narrative of this comparatively slim tome. The fame years – barely three of them – were a blur of touring and promotion, and Edwards captures this nicely.

It’s appropriate, contextually, that as much ink is devoted to detailing the laborious process of recording the fourth album as the entirety of the band’s preceding years – since both spanned around the same amount of time, and Edwards’ recounting of the frustration of both the practicalities of the process and dealing with label shenanigans is illuminating.

And it’s an interesting and worthwhile read for this. Groupies and TV appearances are the glamourous public side of being in a band: long hours slogging to achieve practically nothing for years is the grim reality behind the scenes, and these sections contain some of Edwards’ best writing, too.

It’s sometimes easy to confuse accessible for poorly written. Edwards’ book is accessible, and in the main well-written, although the prose is s shade patchy and sometimes feels rather rushed, leaving narrative gaps where it’s difficult for the reader to join the dots. A few pages in we read that his band played a show where his future wife attended, then just a dozen or so pages later, Jesus Jones’ career has exploded and is on the decline and his life and marriage are crumbling in disarray. Worse than this, there are times when he feels rather too keen to remind us just how fucking famous he was, and how we earned some decent wedge and despite things going down the pan, he managed to maintain his place in the higher tax band. It’s quite the contrast to Beddoes with her squats and cramped flats and sofa-surfing bandmates, and does make it that bit harder to be quite so sympathetic to his plight. That said, he offers insights and reflections which are quite moving, and you realise just how hard it must be to descend from such heights and so quickly.

Edwards certainly doesn’t hold back in his criticism of the British music press: ‘If you call a spade a spade, you call a British music journalist a cunt’ – although given the press’ general dislike of the band, it’s a loathing that’s not unjustified. The NME, in particular appear to ave been unnecessarily vindictive. His discourse on his and the band’s relationship with the music press is interesting, in particular the blackballing in the UK media of the band ahead of the release of Already, an album that completely bypassed me too, and now it seems for obvious reasons.

But if there’s any proof that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, the complete absence of any coverage of Already was clearly a major factor in its total failure to shift units.

And, more than anything else, Death Threats from an Eight-Year Old is worth reading for this insight into what happens when the press have no interest and the label can’t be arsed. The takeaway is, ultimately, that the music industry is as fickle as it gets, and just how fucked up it all is. Consequently, being a fan of Jesus Jones is by no means a prerequisite for reading this book, and it’s a quick and mostly enjoyable read which makes it worthwhile.