Identical twins Jay (John) and Mike Aston enjoyed cult appeal as Gene Loves Jezebel in the UK goth community but achieved greater success in America.
The pair grew up in the South Wales town of Porthcawl, together with guitarist Ian Hudson. After obtaining a drum machine, the trio became known as Slav Aran for a while, before changing their name to Gene Loves Jezebel and moving to London.
A record label called Situation Two released a collection of their demos in May 1982, entitled Shavin’ My Neck, and live performances began to feature bassist Julianne Regan and drummer Dick Hawkins. Even Jay’s girlfriend, Kim Chambers, swelled their ranks for a BBC Radio 1 session.
Her space was filled by Ian Hudson, who handed the guitar spot over to Albio De Luca in time for the tragic Screaming (For Emmalene) (1983).
Hudson reverted to guitar when Luca and Goulding departed, and Dick Hawkins and John Murphy returned to provide a two-pronged drum attack. Murphy departed again before their third single, the strong, commercial Bruises (1983).
Their debut album, Promise (1983) was promoted by a John Peel BBC radio session. A trip to the USA in 1984 to work with John Cale ensued, before returning for two quick-fire singles Influenza (Relapse) and Shame (Whole Heart Howl).
After an abandoned session with Steve Harley, ex-Spear of Destiny drummer Chris Bell arrived in place of Dick Hawkins, but it was a year before The Cow hit the UK independent charts, preceding the in-demand album Immigrant in June 1985.
After Desire in November, the band left for a massive North American tour, a traumatic time that led to Ian Hudson’s departure, ex-Gen X guitarist James Stevenson taking his place.
The album Discover (1986) – with drummer Marcus Gilvear back onboard – came with a free live album and flirted with the charts via a more refined sound, alongside the single Heartache which hinted at a passing interest in dance music.
By now the band had made significant inroads in the USA – including a 55-date tour in three months – where they subsequently concentrated their efforts.
It was almost a year before The Motion Of Love, revealing a new subtlety in their music. This was more fully explored on the disappointing album House Of Dolls (1987), housing a more lightweight, club-oriented feel than previously. From it came Gorgeous, a month later.
All was not well in the Jezebels camp and Mike Aston left the group in mid-1989. Ironically, the band gained their highest-charting American single the following year, when Jealous, the major single from Kiss of Life, reached #68 in August 1990.
Two years later, Jay Aston and company released Heavenly Bodies, which did well in Europe and on American college radio but the band called it quits shortly thereafter.
Michael Aston began working with a new band called the Immigrants. Two years later, he re-formed the band as Edith Grove and released a self-titled album.
Michael and Jay began working together again that same year and later recorded two songs with Stevenson, Bell, and Rizzo for a GLJ best-of compilation released in September 1995.
While Jay performed occasional acoustic shows under his own name, Michael played with members of Scenic and released a solo album, Why Me Why This Why Now, in 1995.
Gene Loves Jezebel re-formed in 1998 for VII, released in 1999 on Robinson Records. The reunion proved to be short-lived, and through much of the 2000s, Jay and Michael each recorded and toured with bands calling themselves Gene Loves Jezebel (Jay in the UK and Michael’s largely working in the US).
Michael Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel was responsible for the albums Love Lies Bleeding (1999), Giving Up the Ghost (2001), Exploding Girls (2003), and Dead Sexy (2009), while Jay Aston’s version of the group issued the discs Accept No Substitutes (2002), The Thornfield Sessions (2003), and The Anthology, Vols. 1-2 (2006).
In 2008, the Aston brothers ended up in a lawsuit over the legal rights to Gene Loves Jezebel before reaching a settlement that allowed both to use the name in different parts of the world.
Albio De Luca