Indie heroes of yore PRIMAL SCREAM are back, straining at the leash
with a harder, greasier, rocking new single 'Ivy, Ivy, Ivy'. STUART
MACONIE hears singer BOBBY GILLESPIE slander his indie roots and rave
about their new, raw Les Paul driven sound. Pictures: CHRIS CLUNN.
"In March, The Jesus And Mary Chain journeyed to Belgium fora television
appearance to promote their second single. According to manager McGee,
the band destroyed the set, damaged the expensive audio-equipment and
then deigned to be interviewed on a couch while drummer Bobby Gillespie
and an unnamed girl 'were practlcally having sex, and everyone tried to
ignore it'... Gillespie was a budding enfant terrible in his own right,
quite able to satify a journalist's tape-recorder without mentioning the
Reids, riots or feedback". From The Jesus And Mary Chain by John
"I was in this club watching some band and this guy comes up to me and
says 'God, it's Bobby Gillespie. l've got all your records, you've got
to let me buy you a drink'. "I was really thirsty so I said 'I'll have
an orange and lemonade please' and he said 'No, what'lI you have?' I
said 'Orange and lemonade, really'. in the end he said 'I can't do that,
I want to tell my friends about this and I can't tell them that when I
bought Bobby Gillespie a drink he had an orange and lemonade!"' It isn't
stretching the point too far to call Bobby Gillespie a legend. Well, a
bit of one anyway. Enfant terrible, eminence gris, lots of French
phrases no one quite understands have been written about Mrs Gillespie's
little boy. This, let us not forget, is the man who fell trom the stage
at Wembley in an advanced stage of relaxation, to the amusement of
several thousand people. This, the self same Gillespie who had to be
told in the dressing room later that a gig had been abandoned due to a
riot involving tear gas grenades. Bobby hadn't noticed.
If Bobby Gillespie had done nothing else but play the drums (standing
up; these things matter) with The Jesus And Mary Chain, immortality
would have been assured. But what people forget is that Bobby was never
more than 'on loan'; Primal Scream came first and his faith in that
vision has nevr been dimmed through the protracted silences and the rock
'n' roll excess.
At their best, Primal Scream are one of the most exciting pop groups of
their generation. Tempestuous, radiant, unique. Their influence, while
subtle, has been profound. A workable blueprint for guitar orgy and pop
heaven. Ask The Stone Roses. And the good news is; they're back.
"I suppose the question everyone will want answering is where have we been
all this time. There's nothing particularly complicated to say. We've
just been writing songs and trying to get a new sound. We aren't
particularly prolific. But the sound we've got now we're really pleased
with it. We're going to blow people's heads off!"
It's three years since
Primal Scream released 'Crystal Crescen/Velocity Girl' and two since
their debut album 'Sonic Flower Groove'. The former is the kind of
single that comes along once in a while and effortlessly sets an age in
motion. The latter is a majesticinstance of guitar bravura, a collection
that viewed the crests of 60s achievement from an agnostic distance. I
loved it. in fact I think I liked it rather more than Bobby Gillespie
"I loved the songs. They're great songs. But not the approach. it
was too pristine, too sanitised. They were great songs but they didn't
translate into great records. In fact, 'Ivy' is the first recording
we've made that I haven't been disappointed with."
'Ivy, Ivy, Ivy' is
the new Primal Scream single available now on Creation records.
Gillespie is aware that his line of reasoning is a rock cliche; 'this is
our best record' translates as 'this is our new record' in most
interviews. But when you hear 'Ivy' you may just understand Bobby's
Gone are the plangent echoes of The Byrds, gone the bright shards
of 12-string. 'Ivy' is a song from the dragstrip orthe drive-in. A song
that kickstarts into life in a blue cloud of petrol and cruises around
chewing gum for a few minutes.
It isn't an ufler volte face, and
is still compatible enough with the Primals longstanding pop vision not
to alienate the old guard like me, but it is harder, greasier and less
coy than before.
I heard two different strands in it. Dirty biker hard
rock and aglorious bubblgum teen melody The Four Seasons would have been
pround of. Bobby becomes so excited I thought for amoment he might kiss
That's exactly what we want! Great! I'm glad that's what you think.
We want to play exciting white rock music but the trouble is that most
rock groups can't write songs. They just plug into the fuzz pedal and
blast away. I want Primal Scream to be about power and melody. 'Ivy' is
a powerful rock song with a beautiful tune."
And does this mean the
glitter and chime of 'Sonic Flower Groove' has gone forever? Will you
still perform those songs live?
"No. Well we may still do 'Imperial'
because we cant f---- about with it. But the new line up means a change
in sound. In the old band everything used to revolve around that pretty
12 string sound. Now Robert, who used to play bass, is playing guitar.
So we've got two Les Pauls making this amazing raw sound. I know it's
another cliche but this is the most settled line up we've ever had.
have to remember the bands who inspired us to pick up guitars in the
first place were the Pistols and Public Image. There's more space in the
sound now. We're looser, funkier, more fun."
There is the danger though
that you've thrown the baby out with the bathwater. A lot of folk (me
included) thought you were just fine the way you were. "When people hear
the album, they'll realise we're still a great band. Except now we've
got more drive, more freedom. The album is quite strange and eclectic.
Now Primal Scream can be anything from hard Les Paul rock to string
By defauft, Primal Scream nearly came to symbolise a musical style
Gillespie is virulently scathing about: indie pop. Maybe it was that
fringe (still going strong, by the way) or perhaps that the sublime,
ageless 'Velocity Girl' was the opening paragraph in that anorak
Whatever, it led to Primal Scream being lumped in with the 'shamblers';
a group of youngsters who had fallen heavily for the Velvet Underground
as portrayed by Orange Juice. Bobby Gillespie today takes the officially
sanctioned 'cool' line on the subject. "We never had anything in common
with all of those bands. We got a phone call asking us to be on an NME
compilation and we said 'OK'. If you look at my record collection you'll
see I have no time for that sort of stuff; lndependent music is pretty
inferior. They can't play their instruments and they can't write songs.
"I don't like putting other bands down, it just looks like sour grapes
because they sell more than us. It isn't that. Prince sells more than we
do and I've no complaints with that. But McGee tells me about these
bands who are, apparently, popular and taken seriously by the press and
l can't believe it. They're awful."
Bobby resolutely refuses to name
names but I don't think its hard to pick a band who typify'. In fact,
it's a gift. Does he despair the current musical scene?
"I think white
rock musjc is in a slump. Most of the exciting things around seem to be
happening in black dance music."
Gosh, I've never heard this one before.
Sorry, you were saying.
"When white rock music is at it's best, it's the
most exciting thing you can get. But at the moment there's too many
extremely ordinary bands who are totally tuneless. People aren't going
to gigs anymore, they're going to clubs."
Wasn't there a temptation then
introduce a dance element into Primal Scream?
We're not that stupid. We couldn't do it if we tried; When white people
make dance records they just turn the snare up."
I can't agree with him
here. Nowadays white and black dance music both use exactly the same
computer generated beats. But no matter, Bobby does have an interesting
theory about the accursed indie scene.
"The dawn of independent music,
it's meant anyone can make a record... and that's a bad thing. There
have been more crap records in the last eight years than ever before."
But you're an indie band. Don't you have any allegience to Creation?
"I have a great loyalty to Alan McGee. He's afriend and he's the only
person I trust completely."
'Ivy', if a new direction, still puts down
musical roots in the golden days of the '60s. Bobby is understandably
cagey sbout going into fine detail here.
"In the past, my interviews
have just read as lists of great bands from the '6Os. Everyone knows
what my influences are. It's still a brilliant era; a time when rock
music was incomparably powerful in young people's lives rather than TV
He's been taken to task for this supposed rivlalism in
the past but he's indubitably right. Foral shIrts aside , pound for
pound the '60s pop scene leaves today's looking about as vital and
vibrant as lard. An era free of the current debilitating division
between chart and left-field music. Have Primal Scream returned to save
"The live shows are going to blow people away. We've got the
right attitude, a real 'F-you arrogance but at the same time we want to
give people a reaiiy good time. There's not enough craziness and weird
stuff around at the moment. Those Les Pauls are going to be screaming!"
You have been warned.
Originally appeared in NME, 5 August 1989
Copyright © IPC Magazine Ltd.