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As one of the first groups to be dubbed "the next Smiths," James became an institution on the British alternative music scene during the '80s and '90s with their pleasant folk-pop. Early in their career, James were blessed by praise from their idol Morrissey, which turned out to be both a blessing and a curse. The group was pegged as second-rate Smiths, yet continued to tour and record, eventually gaining a sizable following. In the late '80s, James, like many of their British peers, became involved in the acid house-inspired "baggy" scene and recorded the baggy-inspired "Sit Down," which became their breakthrough hit. Shortly after "Sit Down," James became more experimental, culminating in a collaboration with Brian Eno that resulted in their biggest American album, Laid, in 1993. James took four years to follow Laid, by which time their audience had returned to a cult following.

James formed in Manchester in 1982, when Paul Gilbertson (guitar), Jim Glennie (bass), and Gavan Whelan (drums) met Tim Booth (vocals) at Manchester University and asked him to join their fledgling band. During the next year, James became regulars on the local club circuit, and by 1983, they had signed to Factory, releasing their debut EP, Jimone, later that year. Two years later, their second EP, James 2, was released, and Morrissey, the lead singer of the Smiths, publicly endorsed the group, asking them to open for his band. By the summer of 1985, Larry Gott had replaced Gilbertson, and the group signed to Sire Records. Working with producer Lenny Kaye, the group recorded its debut, Stutter, that year, releasing it in early 1986 to generally positive reviews.

Over the next two years, James toured constantly, building up a solid fan base. They released their second album, the folky Strip-Mine, in 1988. The record failed to capitalize on their live following, and the band departed Sire the following year, signing with the independent Rough Trade. On their new label, James released the moderately successful "Sit Down" and the live album One Man Clapping, which climbed to number one on the indie charts. In 1990, Whelan was replaced by David Baynton-Power, and James expanded to a septet with the addition of keyboardist Mark Hunter, violinist Saul Davies, and trumpeter Andy Diagram. The new lineup signed to Fontana Records and released Gold Mother in the fall. Following a handful of minor hit singles, Gold Mother finally became a breakthrough success in the spring of 1991, when a re-recorded version of "Sit Down" -- now boasting a contemporary baggy beat -- climbed to number two on the U.K. charts and became a staple on U.S. modern rock radio. Although the success of "Sit Down" was a blessing, it also was a curse, as the single became all James were known for. The band began to rebel in concert, playing almost nothing but new material, and its next album, 1992's Seven, was perceived as a misguided stab at big arena rock.

For the follow-up to Seven, James stripped away Diagram and worked with producer Brian Eno. The resulting record, Laid, was a quieter, more ambitious album, and it received some of the band's best reviews. While the album was ignored in the U.K., it was an alternative rock hit in the U.S. on the strength of the title track, which became a crossover hit. During the Laid sessions, James recorded another album's worth of experimental music with Eno that was released in the fall of 1994 as Wah Wah. The album received mixed reviews and the group took an extended break throughout 1995, partly due to guitarist Gott's departure. In 1996, Tim Booth recorded a collaboration with composer Angelo Badalamenti (Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet) entitled Booth and the Bad Angel, which received generally positive reviews.

With guitarist Adrian Oxaal in tow, James returned in early 1997 with Whiplash, a more straightforward record that was greeted with mixed reviews. Released in 1999, Millionaires, recorded with new guitarist Michael Kulas, was initially released only in the U.K. Their spectacular follow-up, 2001's Pleased to Meet You, was also available only in the U.K. A few months later, frontman Tim Booth announced his departure from the band he founded nearly 20 years before, and James called it quits following a winter tour of the U.K. in December 2001. The break was short-lived, however, as the band re-formed in 2007 and embarked on a tour in support of the double-disc compilation Fresh as a Daisy: The Singles. The following year saw the release of Hey Ma, James' tenth studio album. The band returned in 2010 with a pair of "mini-albums" called The Night Before and The Morning After, respectively, before late-2011 brought a short, but novel, U.K. tour on which the band was backed by both the Orchestra of the Swan and the Manchester Consort Choir. In 2012, the lavish and long-awaited box set The Gathering Sound was issued, and included previously unreleased audio material alongside long-unavailable video concert footage. Details of the Max Dingel-produced La Petite Mort emerged in February 2014, and this first post-Mercury studio album was released four months later in June. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography


Track List: The Night Before EP


from Laid till now
always nice
I have loved this band since I was in high school in the 90s. So sad that they never had a bigger following.
LOL @ the list of albums. One of these things is not like the other...
One of my earliest memories of thinking I was cool was with this song
Alaskan Pipeline...g e n i u s
my to die for favorite band ever!!! Can never see them live too many times!!
You're driving me crazy, when are you coming home? AWESOME song and video! <3
gabbysilbaug h
ATTENTION INSTAGRAM USERS GO FOLLOW @_gabbers20_ g r e a t photos and inspirationa l quotes GO GO GO THANKS����
I have seen them three times, in totally different settings each, and always great...I remember hearing Sit Down on the radio at Northern Illinois University when it was first out....saw Born of Frustration' s video on 120 Minutes, went out and bought Seven the day it was out...then bought every album in their back catalogue... t h e y are a group that does NOT disappoint.. .
As I type this I'm listening to my 'James' channel on Pandora and one of my absolute favorite mixtapes (remember those?!) that
One of the greats.
tonya_l_john s o n
why is the james(gospel ) included in this group....The James' Rescue Me is a gospel group from Chicago, IL
Yes me too, It's one of my favorite bands
Once I listened to the album Laid in 1995 I have been forever hooked on James. Probably one of my favorite bands.
yes james has got all..very artfull
have to add similarities to U2, also.
Getting Away with It (All Messed Up). A masterpiece.
Most underrated musicians of our era.
Tim Booth is a relocated alien compated to what passes for singers these days, he's an absolute original and pure, simple genius. His poetry and use of sound to express it is beyond amazing.
The album "laid" still ranks among my all time favorites
Who dubbed them 'the next Smiths' I wonder? Someone with no clue about musical styles maybe.
merylanderso n 7
Was introduced to James via my British BF and saw them live for the first time last month. FANTASTIC SHOW!
I remember hearing "sit down" on a college radio station in the early nineties and going out to get tickets to the show at The Paradise in Boston I went alone because none of my friends could make it .....It ended up beig one of the best shows I ever went to
where are my pants anyway?
hamiltonvick i e
This song hearing it for the 1st time is really bad. Surprise me more often
this is insane !! Tim used to stay at my parents beach house with us in the early 90's and told us he was in a small band trying to get into the bar scene in the U.S.!! I never thought they were this big. I just started using this website and decided to look up his band ! I love this website !
I was in a bar earlier this week and a James song came on and everyone started dancing and singing! It was a great moment :)
I love this Band!
skylinedrive r 0 5
Saw them at Radio City Music Hall after waiting for years to see them in the US.
This band is incredible with the poetic words of Tim booth's vocals and the extreme talent of all the musicians, there is nothing like it.

The new "Hey Ma" album is amazing. There are the Smiths and there are the Joneses but nothing can compare to James. They are masters of music with poetic value and extreme talent.
tinycoffee20 0 0
I cannot say enough about james..espec i a l l y "Born of Frustration" . This is an alltime life song...the personal depth and poignancy of the lyrics...the outstanding layered production and crafting with horn section. the entire thing is magnificent.
Good! Going to see them in MSP this weekend! I can hardly wait!
Do not miss them live, they put on a *great* show.
Well, I guess they're the next Smiths. They are kind of gay.
Agreed. Great Band
Truly a great band thanks for the reminder Pandora.
Do they have a myspace?
I love their songs
I'm going to go to Amoeba sometime this week, thanks to everyone for the advice! I'll let you all know how it turns out :)
Samantha - I tend to go for "best of" albums when trying out a new band, since you usually get a good variety of their material, and James' is no exception. It's hard to recommend just one album, since there really is a big variety from one to the next. I'd go for the Best of.., and then if you want more, figure out which songs you liked the most and pick the album(s) that featured them.

(Or, at that point, it might be easier just to buy "Fresh as a Daisy" ;-))
*bounce* Just got my tickets to see James live in Boston in September. I was _this_ close to going to visit my in-laws in England just to see James when they started announcing all these U.K. tour dates, so it was a super bargain to see them closer to home. ;-)
Seven is great, you have to give that one a listen, awesome arrangements ! !
Laid is the only album I've heard... and I love it!
If the other's are like Laid, then you can't go wrong.
Otherwise, listen before buying. Disappointme n t might be in store.
you're probably best to start with the best of james (1998) or, if you wish, fresh as a daisy: the singles (2007) -- a double album and, therefore, more expensive. if you prefer albums proper, start with laid (1993), whiplash (1997), seven (1992), and gold mother (1990). note that early james, while excellent, is quite different than their post-1990 material.
I really like what I've heard but I'm lost as to which album to start with! Anyone have any suggestions?
I remember when they started playing "Laid" on MTV, yes kids they used to play videos on MTV funnily enough, kinda different and weird which was cool to me, the song playing now is pretty decent "Fine"
You got it right, Heather! It is nice to know that they are kind of a secret to those who bother to get to know their music. Great band.
the song Alaskan Pipeline sounds like James Blunt's Surrender song (or VICE VERSA)
new album comming out! http://www.w e a r e j a m e s . c o m /
Consistently one of my favorite bands for nearly 20 years (ouch). I sometimes wish they were more well-known in the U.S. (or at least known for more than just the song "Laid"), but in some ways it's nice, like a little musical secret.
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