Head On (song)

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"Head On"
Single by The Jesus and Mary Chain
from the album Automatic
Released November 1989
Format 4x7", 12", CD3, cassette
Genre Alternative rock, post-punk[1]
Length 4:11
Label Blanco y Negro
Producer(s) Jim Reid, William Reid
The Jesus and Mary Chain singles chronology
"Blues from a Gun"
"Head On"
Alternative Cover
Cover of 7" number 2
Alternative Cover
Cover of 7" number 3
Alternative Cover
Cover of 7" number 4

"Head On" is a song written by Jim Reid and William Reid of the Scottish alternative rock band The Jesus and Mary Chain. It was originally recorded for the group's 1989 album Automatic and was released as a single in November 1989.


In the UK, it was released in seven different formats, including four 7" singles. One 7" single was released per week, and one of them included a cardboard box to house the full set.

Although the song only made it up to #57 in the country where the band first found fame, the United Kingdom, it peaked at #2 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart in the United States.

The song has been covered by several other groups, most notably the American alternative rock band Pixies on their fourth studio album, Trompe Le Monde.

Musical style[edit]

Denise Sullivan of Allmusic described the song as a "blueprint post-punk in the tradition of Joy Division/New Order."[1] The song relies on a synth bass and a drum machine,[2] latter of which provides a pop-influenced new wave beat.[1] While the song lacks the layers of guitar feedback of the band's previous works, it features a "1950s-style riff," provided by William Reid.[2] The song's style was also compared to the sound of Beach Boys.[1]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Jim Reid and William Reid, except where noted.

7" (NEG42)
  1. "Head On" - 4:11
  2. "In The Black" - 2:59
7" (NEG42XB)
  1. "Head On" - 4:11
  2. "Terminal Beach" - 2:25
7" (NEG42Y)
  1. "Head On" - 4:11
  2. "Deviant Slice" - 3:00
7" (NEG42Z)
  1. "Head On" - 4:11
  2. "I'm Glad I Never" (Lee Hazlewood) - 1:31
12" (NEG42TE)
  1. "Head On" - 4:11
  2. "In The Black" - 2:59
  3. "Terminal Beach" - 2:25
  1. "Head On" - 4:11
  2. "In The Black" - 2:59
  3. "Drop (Acoustic Remix)" - 1:52
  4. "Break Me Down" - 2:29
Cassette (NEG42C)
  1. "Head On" - 4:11
  2. "In The Black" - 2:59


The Jesus and Mary Chain[edit]

Additional personnel[edit]

Pixies cover[edit]

"Head On"
Single by Pixies
from the album Trompe le Monde
A-side "Head On" (Single Mix)

"Planet of Sound" (Live)
"Tame" (Live)

"Debaser" (Live)
Released 1991 (1991)
Format 7", cassette, CD
Recorded 1991
Master Control, Burbank;
Pacifique, Burbank;
Studio des dames, Paris;
Blackwing Studios, London.
Genre Alternative rock
Length 2:14
Label Elektra
Writer(s) Jim Reid and William Reid
Producer(s) Gil Norton
Pixies singles chronology
"Letter to Memphis"
"Head On"

"Head On" was covered by the American alternative rock band Pixies for their 1991 album Trompe le Monde. The Pixies' version was released as a single in 1991.


By 1991, the Pixies refused to film music videos for their singles. After a long debate with their record company in the United States — Elektra Records — the band relented and agreed to film a video, as long as the song was done completely live. Peter Lubin, the A&R representative of Elektra at the time, later explained the situation:[3]

Lubin then came up with the idea for the video. Twelve cameras would be placed, "dividing" each band member into three blocks. Frontman Black Francis was happy with this idea, so Scott Litt was then hired to produce the video.[4] After the video had been filmed, Elektra invited the "whole decision-making team from MTV" to view it. "Head On"'s video was then added onto MTV's rotation, with the video later receiving the "Breakthrough Video" award.[4]

Pixies' track listing[edit]

All songs written by Black Francis, except where noted

  1. "Head On" (Single Mix) (Jim Reid and William Reid) – 2:20
  2. "Planet of Sound" (Live at Brixton Academy, 26 July 1991) – 2:26
  3. "Tame" (Live at Brixton Academy, 26 July 1991) – 2:27
  4. "Debaser" (Live in Chicago, 9 August 1989) – 2:41

Other cover versions[edit]

Other groups who have recorded "Head On" include the Brazilian rock band Legião Urbana on their 1992 album, Acústico MTV, the Valencian glam punk band Gore Gore Gays and the Argentina's indie rock band El mató a un policía motorizado recorded it in Spanish. The alternative rock band squint recorded it live on a now very rare single tilted "Starkville, MS 6/02". Also covered by German band Beatsteaks on Boombox + X in 2011.


  1. ^ a b c d Sullivan, Denise. "The Jesus and Mary Chain - Head On". Allmusic. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Ramirez, AJ (January 21, 2014). "Makes You Want to Feel: The Jesus and Mary Chain's "Head On"". PopMatters. Retrieved November 24, 2014. 
  3. ^ Frank, Ganz, 2005. p. 157
  4. ^ a b Frank, Ganz, 2005. p. 158


External links[edit]