Manchester Evening News 2/23/98

-Manchester (and Success) Bound - Thanks to a Crystal Ball...HOME JAMES by Adam Moss

When vocalist Tim Booth was searching for new members to help return Manchester band James to the forefront of the British music scene there was only one person, outside the band, he knew he could rely on -- his clairvoyant.

His trusted Manchester-based confidante and adviser - Avril - offered him two names and addresses and, sure enough, her explicit detail was spot on and the last two pieces of the James jigsaw were set in place.

The more cynical among us may write this off as lucky or the height of coincidence but Tim, a man whose success speaks for itself, is nobody's fool -- and he knows something extraordinary when he sees it.

He says: "Avril, a clairvoyant in Manchester, has been guiding my business decisions for the past 10 years and I see her a lot. You have to put your own spin on what she tells you but she has been a wonderful help to me for a long time now.

"It's not something that I talk about a great deal, possibly because many people wouldn't understand, but I know and see a lot of clairvoyants. I suppose it suits my particular brand of lunacy."

It's both ironic and well-timed then that, following Tim's crystal ball confessions, James' new single is titled Destiny Calling. It's out next Monday and is followed by the band's Best Of compilation and two live home-town shows at the Apollo Theatre on April 10 and 11.

And Tim's just grateful to be around to take part in the return of the hugely popular band, who've been touring their unique brand of inspiring pop longer than any of their Manchester contemporaries.

The singer feared he might have to hang up his microphone and dancing shoes for good last year after a pain in the neck developed into a spinal problem which was close to leaving him paralyzed. Incredibly, it was the alternative medicine of a Tibetan healer which saved him from life in a wheelchair.

He said: "I hurt my neck on stage in April last year at the beginning of an American tour. We called off the rest of the dates and I was told to lie down for seven days and then rest for at least six weeks." The injury hadn't healed at the end of his recuperation period and Booth stunned fans by appearing on stage at the Reading Festival in a neck brace. It wasn't until November that the freak injury -- two ruptured discs in his neck -- began to feel llike it was healing after help from a Tibetan doctor who practised alternative medicine.

Tim says: "I could have been disabled for the rest of my life by this injury. I've never really been one for conventional medicine. I got into alternative medicine when I almost died from what was supposed to be an inherited and incurable rare liver disease when I was 22 and it was controlled by alternative medicine. It's obviously not for everyone, but it seems to work for me."

Tim is pleased to have come through it, for obvious reasons, but also wants to repay the loyal fans who stuck by the band during their seven-year wilderness.

He says: "There are not many bands who can go seven years without success and still have a huge fan base. We have been incredibly fortunate in that respect."

"Until last year it was four years since we had played a live show in the UK. The reception we received, especially in Manchester, was just amazing. We could feel the great wave of relief, not just within the band, but among our fans, when we finally had another hit again."

Tim is promising the fans' faith will be repaid 10-fold with the Best Of compilation, a handful of heart-stopping live shows, the new single and, later in the year, an album of brand new songs.

In the meantime he is to appear on stage in Bolton, without his band and microphone, when he takes the lead role in a new play, soon to be announced, which he described as "pretty intens." His faith and neck restored, Tim believes 1998 will be James' best year ever. Why? Well, because Avril says so.