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In the mid-'80s, James singer Tim Booth was often compared to Morrissey of the Smiths. While the folksy guitar pop of the Smiths and James exhibited similarities, Booth didn't wallow in Morrissey's anguished observations about life and love. Booth formed James in 1982 with Paul Gilbertson (guitar), Jim Glennie (bass), and Gavan Whelan (drums). Throughout the '80s, the band received airplay on college stations, gradually developing a cult audience. In 1991, James re-recorded "Sit Down"; the track was James' breakthrough hit on American alternative rock stations. With the uplifting "Sit Down," often the highlight of James concerts, the group distanced itself from criticisms of being a Smiths clone. Three years later, the song "Laid" became a smash on MTV and U.S. radio stations; James even performed at Woodstock '94.
During the summer of 1994, Booth collaborated with composer Angelo Badalamenti on Booth and the Bad Angel, a project that was initially suggested in the early '90s. On the British TV series Friday Night at the Dome, Booth expressed interest in working with Badalamenti. However, Badalamenti was unfamiliar with Booth's work, and it wasn't until 1993, after a James gig in London, England, that they finally saw one another in person. Booth and the Bad Angel was released in 1996. After Booth and the Bad Angel, Booth began recording again with James, releasing Whiplash in 1997 and Millionaires in 1999.
As the new millennium dawned, Booth left James to pursue his own projects. He devoted time to dance and meditation, and then he returned to acting — most notably appearing in Christopher Nolan's 2005 movie Batman Begins — and released his solo debut, Bone, in 2004. Three years later, Booth joined James for a tour that later expanded into a full-fledged reunion beginning with 2008's Hey Ma. A pair of EPs by James followed in 2010, and then Booth released his second solo album, Love Life, in the spring of 2011.