While I’m probably in the minority on this one, I’ll go to the wormy grave swearing that the first Jesus & Mary Chain single is also the best they ever released. Both sides are deliriously noisy boppery free of much of the haircut-n-mope posturing that hung over later JAMC discs with increasingly self-parodic silliness. And yes, those endless Velvets comparisons are valid insofar as the shade-wearing and the fact that the drums here are pure cymbal-free Tucker-style cavestomp, but the Jesus & Mary Chain were always far more “pop” than the VU were – they just do a good job of obscuring it with sheets of feedback and a generally rotten attitude. “Upside Down,” for example, is all sullen moaning and mountains of echo and white noise wrapped around some uptempo Buddy Holly r’n’r. Simple, concise, GLORIOUS! Just a follicle behind in the quality race is “Vegetable Man,” a near-perfect cover of the blown-mind, ultra-fucked, loony-psych Pink Floyd outtake, one that destroys the Soft Boys recording from a few years earlier, and one that is in fact excellent enough to stand atop the winner’s podium as THE version of the song (unless the Floyd guys are hiding some incredible unbooted take in the vaults). Nothing revolutionary on either side, just a savvy rethink of ’50s and ’60s rock as informed by the sundry weirdnesses of the intervening decades. The Power of Negative Thinking box finally made both of these songs available on CD (“Upside Down” was previously reissued as part of Barbed Wire Kisses), but as a self-contained release, it’s tough – NO! IMPOSSIBLE! – to beat the original 7” for sheer, giddy wunnerfulness.
One thing I still haven’t figured out, though: Which is the actual FIRST edition of the single? I’ve seen folks claim that status for each cover variation – red, black, blue (which is what I own), and yellow – but nobody seems to be speaking from any real position of authority. Clue me in if you can!