Melody Maker 1/31/98

-Winner by a Neck Edited by Carol Clerk

James' Tim Booth has revealed how a Tibetan healer is helping him recover from a neck injury which has been plaguing him for months.

Booth hurt his neck onstage in Vancouver in April last year, at the beginning of a six-week US tour. The band called off the rest of the dates while doctors told Booth to remain horizontal for seven days. He was then ordered to rest for at least six weeks.

The injury had not healed at the end of the six weeks, but Booth carried on as James played the Lollapalooza tour and Reading Festival, where he surprised fans by appearing in a neck brace.

The pain got no better as the weeks went by, and it was only last week that Booth was well enough to attempt physiotherapy for the first time.

Nevertheless, James are coming back with a full schedule, and they launched their latest projects with an acoustic gig last week in a London studio. Bernard Butler, Zoe Ball, Orbital, Jo Whiley, Texas, Dubstar, and Chris the mechanic from "Coronation Street" were among the audience watching the band run through a selection of favourites and a couple of new songs.

"Destiny Calling", one of the new tracks, will be released as a single on March 2. Along with "Run Aground", another new song, it will be included on a greatest hits album, "The Best of James", which follows on March 23, and a UK tour will follow.

Dates are Manchester Apollo (April 11), Glasgow Barrowlands (13), Doncaster Dome (14) and London Brixton Academy (17).

The band will be playing electric instruments on the tour, although the may separately set up a few acoustic gigs - which the specially enjoy, being multi-instrumentalists. They plan one for Radio 1 and another in Manchester, possibly on a barge. Acoustic gigs are also less of a threat to Booth's neck injury, which is more serious than anyone realised at the time.

"At one point, I was looking at being crippled," he said. "I only started doing any exercise, physio, in the last week. Before that, every time I tried to do physio, I'd be on my back for two days. It just wasn't healing. I couldn't lift a paper bag."

The Maker suggested that playing the Lollapalooza tour probably hadn't helped his recovery.

"It probably would have been quicker if I hadn't done those dates," he agreed. "We couldn't get out of them because of insurance. It was very interesting, I was one of the main survivors of Lollapalooza. A lot of bands split after that, or got seriously damaged. I think I did quite well."

"I was being moved around all the time in the bus and I had to withdraw and be quite quiet, and I had a nurse with me virtually the whole time."

"I'll still have to be more careful for a while but I can't not react to the music. I'm a dancer, and dancing's the thing I love. I adore it. I can't stay still. When I had the neck brace on at Reading, I was still moving more than most people. So we'll see how it goes. I'll be a bit tentative on this tour, and the band will be shouting at me if I forget."

Asked if he intends to do what the doctors tell him, he said: "I've never really gone with established medicine, ever since I nearly died of a liver disease. I've had a number of injuries, but they've also been life-saving."

"Illness is an amazing teacher. I'm happy with the end result, and I've gone through hell in some periods, but it teaches you a hell of a lot. I will get better from this one."

"As I said, I feel it [the healing] has really started now. If you'd asked me two months ago, I'd say it hadn't started."

"I've been having some really good treatment from a lunatic. I know enough shamens and healers around. I'm seeing a Tibetan doctor."

"I had two ruptured discs in my lower neck - the spongy discs between the vertebrae. Two of them burst. Eventually, the bones fuse together naturally. That's what traditional medicine says, but I don't necessarily think that's what we'll be doing."

"You can heal anything, that's my attitude. I've done that before."

James, meanwhile, have been working on new material - "the best we've ever done" - with a view to an album release in the autumn.