Sweet Jesus
'Volume' Issue 3
The compilation CD that accompanied this magazine included this Sweet Jesus track:
original version of track from Rough Trade Singles Club single
produced by Sweet Jesus & Dave Morris
engineered by Dave Morris at Workshop Studios, Redditch
Sweet Jesus
Ben Bentley: guitar & vocals
Paul Collins: drums
Roy Priest: guitar
Dave Priest: bass
Feature: Robin Gibson
Photos: Rob Deacon
Simplicity is the key to all the greatest rock 'n' roll. That's not to say Sweet Jesus are simple - just that they've got a grasp of what Little Richard, Marc Bolan, the Sex Pistols and all those two minute 58 second hollers were really about. That's why their first three singles have been called 'Honey Lovin' Honey', 'Phone Freak Honey' and 'Real Babe' (see - they're getting better all the time). That's why they don't have many words but what ones they do are worth a sackful of soliloquies. Bob Dylan may indeed sleep easy tonight, but he's bedded down in a different dosshouse and it was never as much of a gas as the one in which Sweet Jesus lay their pretty heads. And just like Little Richard had his bouffant when he said "Awopbopaloobopalopbamboom" and Bolan his glitter when he called on 'Telegram Sam', Sweet Jesus interface Ben Bentley wears a feather boa as he evokes a spirit or two.
"It's one of my earliest memories, Bolan on Top Of The Pops."
Alright, so shopping at miss Selfridge is the limit at the moment. But that may not be for long. Feted last year by radio shows the nation over before they'd even sent in a demo, never mind made a record, Sweet Jesus write furious and addictive songs - short howls and gales of guitar like out of the Pixies' greatest moments, a gorgeous melody (usually just the one) and Bentley's startling voice floating across the top. They don't last long but they're 100 per cent addiction - like all the best fizzy sweets.
"When we played in Liverpool there was this guy down the front, screaming - It's all on tape! Your voice is all on tape! But afterwards he said he loved it. It was, like, confusing him or something..."
Startlingly enough, atop all this, Sweet Jesus are interesting. For a young band with no recountable track record before the moment Bentley opened his gob and discovered, in a Noddy Holder-like moment of wonder, that he could sing like that, Sweet Jesus have a crystal clear idea of what they like, what they want and what should properly be happening while they're getting it.
They want to be pop stars. They admire the distance between band and crowd that other bands wish to hack away - and they know on which side of it they'd rather be. They think that rock 'n' roll should annoy your parents and that those should certainly never be seen at a gig. In a backstagey, Stella Artois sort of way their views - which still tend to stumble out, but that won't be lone either - largely ring the bells rung by Nik Cohn, the only writer who could sum up, in a few paragraphs and better than any band, all of the spirit of rock and not let any out.
"The thing about primal rock 'n' roll is... I don't quite know what I'm saying, but I kinda wanna die from it."
They like the word 'primal' - although they reckon it could refer as much to hair as to 'Ace of Spades' by Motorhead. They like girls, the way they go to the toilet together; they like sex; they like hair and they think music should be about all those things. Being part of the AIDS generation is not a problem - Sweet Jesus insist sex is surprise and imagination and not sitting down for a pre-match conference.
"I think if you couldn't have sex any more, you'd wanna die anyway. And I think the more sex moves away from being practical, the more interesting it gets. It would be really interesting if it got to the stage where people got a sex machine - off the government or something"
Bentley's press release states that he's a day-dreamer but he's not so sure. What he is sure about is that he was "screwed up" about the age of 18 and had some kind of mental breakdown in the middle of, incongruously enough, an architecture course at college. He just stayed in his room and he came out the other side thinking the exact opposite of what he thought when he went into it. He can't remember anything about being at college at all and he won't be building any churches.
"I liked that breaking down period in a way. I've got really fond memories of it in a really stupid way, you know. I remember not being able to put my clothes away. I was taking them all out of the wardrobe, rearranging them, and putting them back in."
No matter whether they get big fast, like Nirvana did (unlikely) or remain underground, long, like the Pixies did (likely), no one is claiming that Sweet Jesus are going to set the rock world alight. No one ever does any more - none of 'em take matches out with 'em anymore, anyway.
But at least they're making the best sort of noises and backing it up with the right kind of worldview and, in times when most of those who raise a flicker of interest can be marginalised as either second-hand hippie trippers, phoney punk rock warriors or blokes just staring at the floor, they're some kind of minor visionaries. They're being practical, really, although they wouldn't care to hear you say it. It's like, Vive la generation gap, and we'll bet that's a girl too...
"I don't care what people think to be honest. I've got, like, a kiss-my-ass attitude to what people think... it can manifest itself in many different ways. I think it's arrogance."
All quotes: Ben Bentley
'Volume' CD / magazine, issue 3.
Grateful thanks to David Gladwin for the transcription.
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