By Neil Peacock
It’s Friday night, the telly is tuned into the (then) eclectic Channel 4.
The Countdown clock has been run down, and a nation’s youth awaits the new edition of The Chart Show – the latest hits, the dance and indie top tens, amazingly trite facts about the groups, all encompassed in head-spinning computer graphics.
The highlight is the Indie chart, but tonight the best songs are glossed over; the forward button’s on, the picture spins out of control, that is until the producer stops at ….. well who the hell ARE this lot?
“Monday morning, oh no, I can’t escape, suburbs calling, oh no, it’ll have to wait…”. A voice from a bachelor pad springs out from the screen, bedroom in disarray, he’s singing about being skint and waiting for his giro to arrive. He’s singing about my life. The picture fades out, fuzzy images cut into suburban lanes, tree-lined streets, and the rest of these sharp suited hipsters dragging a couple of old bangers and a scooter off to the pub. Or so that’s how I remember the video by Jim Jiminee.
It was over 20 years ago and I haven’t had the opportunity to see the video until this week. I think my memory served me pretty well. More importantly, in a few fleeting moments, they had caught my imagination, what one might call a seminal moment that embeds and pulses within your brain over the years.
Jim Jiminee hailed from Fleet in Hampshire, comprising Kevin Jamieson (lead singer/guitar), Peter Dyes (lead guitar), Delphi Newman (keyboards), Nick Hannan (bass), and Lindsay Jamieson (drums). Another notable ex-member was Harriet Wheeler from The Sundays who had sung in an early incarnation of the band called Cruel Shoes. Jim Jiminee sounded like the best of Mod-style indie-pop combined with surprising elements of skiffle and subtle jazz, Kevin sang about relationships as tragicomedy, life on the dole; semi-routes to small town madness.
Their first EP Do It On Thursday, released in 1987, is an indie classic, when indie actually meant independent. It was, rightfully, a top 20 indie hit, featuring four life-affirming songs; the type that made you want to throw your best hat in the air, kiss your dearest friend, throw yourself into your neighbour’s goldfish pool, that sort of thing. They were all suffused with natural energy bursting life; they made signing on the dole sound like the finest thing you could do.
This was followed the following year by the equally excellent I Wanna Work EP, and now they were actively looking for a job, but on their own terms – ‘I wanna work for my pleasure, I wanna find myself a boss, I’ve had it up to here with leisure, but I don’t like playing squash.’
The EP included the jazzy pop of This Is Your Life, a tune about a rich girl, poor man relationship. One tune I’m Your Candidate, exposed the world of slimy politicians, ineffective local MPs; ‘THE UNEMPLOYED, TO HELL WITH THEM’, Kevin exclaims as if reading aloud from a Tory Party manifesto, backed by much guffawing and loud applause. Combining dark humour with politics, it is easy to see the connection some critics made between Jim Jiminee and some of Madness’s early recordings.
Then came the magnum opus, Welcome To Hawaii, a record I was glad to find in Probe Records in Liverpool, and one I listened to frequently during the summer of ’88. The album showed a slightly more reflective side with songs like She’s Gone Too Far and Wasting Away, but generally the mood was upbeat and carried on the quality of the singles, in particular on A Habit Of You – a song about addiction that only love could bring. The original album came with a lyric insert and on the back a great photo of Jim Jiminee wearing garlands and looking slightly bemused on a typical English beach, an obvious reference to the title of the LP. The vinyl, released by Cat and Mouse records, is now worth a small fortune although it was reissued in the early noughties by the now defunct label Vinyl Japan.
Like a doctor of good taste, my enthusiasm for the record made me loan it out to a friend I was living with during my university days. He loved it too, and 18 years later I’m still waiting for my copy back. Some people would call the cops, but I still have faith that my friend, who lives in another part of the country now will do the decent thing … one day.
The final EP Town and Country Blues was released in the Spring of ’89. Sadly, it disappeared almost without trace, and I was unable to find a copy until long after the group split. By this time Delphi had left, and the video, which appeared to be filmed in a disused trailer, was featured on The Chart Show. The mellow, but very fruitful, The Honest Truth gave us a sneak preview of how they might have developed. The other songs were a demo from ’86 called Hunting Out Of Season, and a piano ballad version of Do It On Thursday, Kevin singing the song like a Hampshire Sinatra propped up at the bar at 4am wanting one more for the road.
Without a decent promotional campaign, the single stalled and, after recording The Thatcher Years, – posthumously issued by Vinyl Japan – Jim Jiminee split up. It’s a shame this wasn’t released at the time. Although not as cohesive as the first album it contained many gems including the Kinks-style satire of Man In A Tracksuit, the regretful If You Search For Love and, potentially a great single in the final track Impetuous Girl. They also performed another standout song from the LP, Never Let Her Go (or at least Kevin does) for a German TV channel again bedecked in garlands whilst the other members try to put him off his playing, funny to watch if you ever find the footage.
To outsiders they will only be seen as a small footnote within popular music history, but to those who caught them live (I sadly did not) or bought their records at the time (I gladly did) they left a glowing imprint and a warm smile upon one’s face whenever I listen to them. Do it on Thursday? Why wait? Do it today.