Record Collector Article
JOHN REED LOOKS BACK OVER THE CAREER OF THE OUTSPOKEN BOBBY GILLESPIE
AND HIS BAND, WHO ARE BACK WITH A CONTROVERSIAL NEW ALBUM
Gillespie must have an impressive record collection. The outspoken Scot
has, over the last few years, mounted an evangelical crusade to educate
the great unwashed about his passions. Patti Smith, the Rolling Stones,
the Ramones, the MC5, Love, the Who, the Byrds - if all of Gillespie's
enthusiastic tirades on the richer elements of rock's tapestry were
printed, the book would be several inches thick. His unerring obsession
with rock'n'roll also led him to form Primal Scream, a band which he
devoted to creating music as powerful, uplifting and beautiful as his
idols - and with their last album, 1991's "Screamadelica", they
Bobby's recent stance, however, has switched from offensive to
defensive. After a two-year sabbatical, Primal Scream's return in March
with a Top 10 single, "Rocks", and a new LP, "Give Out But Don't Give
Up", has attracted a fair degree of criticism. The best-selling
"Screamadelica" received universal praise for its musical ingenuity and
uncanny crystallisation of drug-driven club culture. In contrast, the
Primals' 1994 offerings have been panned in some quarters as derivative
retro rock, a criticism fuelled by the overt Stones reference points on
Dig a little deeper, though, and you'll realise "Give Out . .." is a
more varied collection than the critics have claimed, with the band
delving into funk, soul and rock like pirates able to plunder all the
treasures of pop history at will. And that's what Primal Scream are
about: what they've always tried to achieve, since their inception in
the mid-80s. Just take a look at Bobby Gillespie's waif-like figure as
he prances about on stage, seemingly half-cut, in the promo video for
"Rocks"; there's a sense of fun and mischief about the whole affair.
This isn't a reverent reconstruction of the Faces or the Stones in a
serious, Black Crowes kind of way. After all, Bobby Gillespie hardly
resembles the archetypal rock god - on stage, his gawky efforts at
Jagger-like posturing share more in common with Mr. Bean than Robert
Until 1990, Primal Scream was essentially an idea waiting to happen. A
string of precious, Byrds-influenced singles between 1985 and 1987
attracted a strong cult following, but this momentum was wilted by a
disappointing, over-produced debut album. Taking stock, Primal Scream
returned with a new line-up and a more mature sound in 1989, mixing
Stooges-type heavy rock with low-key, introspective ballads. But the
response was still lukewarm. It wasn't until one of the ballads was
radically remixed that Primal Scream finally came of age.
The result, "Loaded", sold more copies than their entire previous
output, and became an anthem which bridged the divide between
guitar-hungry rock audiences and beat-obsessed club goers. Fuelled by
this spectacular fusion, Primal Scream ploughed the furrow further,
culminating in the essen- tial, prize-winning "Screamadelica" album. It
had taken nearly a decade, but Bobby Gillespie had come a long way since
his early teens, rolling around on a friend's floor screaming his head
off while his mates concocted an unlistenable racket in the name of punk
A child of the early 60s, Bobby Gillespie grew up in a quiet suburb of
Glasgow, weened on the pop of the Beatles and glam rock. At an early
age, he became friends with Alan McGee, who was a couple of years above
him at school, and together they immersed themselves in music, old and
new. When punk arrived, McGee and Gillespie were totally awe-struck;
here was a vital, energetic sound that matched the raw aggression of
their favourite 60s bands like the Who and the Stones.
Inspired by punk's anyone-can-do-it ethos, the pair knew what had to be
done. Replying to an advertisement, McGee contacted Andrew Innes, and
together they started rehearsing to form a band, before drafting in
Bobby as 'vocalist'. Alan now recalls their very first attempts with
amusement: "We used to go round and drink beer at Andrew Innes's and
Bobby used to roll around and just scream! We had, like, four
rehearsals. That's January 1978." Gillespie is keen to emphasise that
his role was miniscule. "It was really Andrew's band," he told Brian
Hogg, author of 'The History Of Scottish Rock And Pop'. "They had
guitars and could play punk rock songs."
With names like the Drains and Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons, it's
probably just as well the trio never got any further than the living
room, but all three teenagers were hooked. Innes and McGee persevered,
briefly joining up with Neil Clarke (later in Lloyd Cole's Commotions)
in a new band called H20, who later had a couple of synth pop hits in
1983. An embarrassed McGee is keen to set the record straight: "I was
only in the band for three weeks, and four gigs. But Andrew Innes and
Neil Clarke also were both in H2O - if I'm gonna take the blame, then
they may as well get it too! They we realised it was gonna be crap so we
left and formed Newspeak, and then we formed the Laughing Apple."
McGee and Innes took their new band to London in 1980, and laid the
foundations for what became Creation Records, one of the 8Os' most
successful independent labels, currently celebrating its tenth
anniversary. The first hurdle was learning how to make records; the
Laughing Apple issued three singles in 1981/82, on their own
Autonomy and Essential labels. McGee's interests then spread
further afield, sad in 1982, he started up his own club to promote cult
indie bands like the TV Person- alities and the Go-Betweens. He was also
impressed by the enthusiasm of fanzines like Tony Fletcher's 'Jamming!'
and published two issues of his own 'Communication Blur'.
Although hundreds of miles apart; McGee and Gillespie kept in touch.
Bobby had left school at 16 and worked briefly in a print factory. The
work was dull and he soon left, but he'd made a contact which proved
extremely useful. In fact, not only did Gillespie contribute the
distinctive 'laughing apple' sleeve illustration for the group's second
single, "Participate", but he also organised the printing of the sleeves,
a factor which proved vital when Creation started up in 1984.
Bobby Gillespie soon teamed up with a school friend, Jim Beattie, to
create an unspeakable racket making "elemental noise tapes" in a local
scout-hall: Bobby would hit two dustbin lids while Jim messed around
with a guitar and fuzz pedal. Learning a few. basic chords, the pair
deciphered Velvets and Byrds covers like "Heroin", "Mr Tambourine Man"
and "Waiting For The Man" and then set about writing their own songs,
based around Jah Wobble (PiL were a big influence) and Peter Hook
Together, they named themselves Primal Scream, a term concocted by Dr
Arthur Janov to describe a cry heard in psychotherapy treatment, which
he used as the title for a 1970 book. Still essentially a partnership,
Primal Scream stepped out of the scout-hut and onto a stage in 1982.
Another of Bobby's friends was Caesar, lead singer with Glasgow act the
Wake, who currently record for the Sarah label. Bobby used to hang
around the studio with them, and so he ended up playing bits and bobs on
their early releases, and eventually played bass with the group for a
while. On their rare debut, "On Our Honeymoon" (Scan SCN 01, 1/82),
Gillespie programmed the keyboard on the B-side, "Give Up". Not that
exciting, admittedly, but on the next Wake project, an and keyboards and
album for Factory entitled "Harmony" (FACT 60, 1/83), he played occasional
guitar, bass and keyboards and even wrote the lyrics for one song, "The Old Men".
When the Wake played
some live dates, with Bobby on bass, the support was Primal Scream: Jim
Beattie on guitar and vocals and Bobby on 'percussion'. He also played
on the Wake's next single, "Something Outside" (12", Factory Benelux FBN
24, 11/83), their first John Peel session in July 1983, and can be seen
on the video for "Uniforms" on the various artists video, "A Factory
Outing" (FACT 71, 12/83).
Caesar remembers Primal Scream's live debut as being at Glasgow's Henry
Wood Hall, but this appears to be at odds with Gillespie's
recollections. "The first-ever Primal Scream gig was at the Bungalow Bar
in Paisley", Bobby later claimed. "We supported the Laughing Apple.
Only one song in the set was ours, and I remember it was just total
noise. That wasn't a real gig, it was a joke. There wasn't any shape to
The same can be said for Primal Scream's first recorded evidence. Two
cuts can be heard on a 1984 cassette issued by Scars' Robert King as
part of the fascinating 'Pleasantly Surprised' series specialising in
obscure, exclusive material by cutting edge indie acts. The 24-track
"State Of Alfairs" was sandwiched by a short, monotonous
industrial-sounding dirge simply entitled "Intro", and a more lengthy,
PiL/Throbbing Gristlelike experimental piece, "Circumcision", which
ends with some Eastern-style yelling. The music may have been in keeping
with their name, but this wasn't the direction Primal Scream were fated
"I just want to be a superstar." (Bobby Gillespie, 1990)
Instead, the pair wanted to indulge their growing love of 60s U.S. folk
rock by playing 12-string guitars and creating what Beattie later
described as "structured pop songs with real melodies".
Keen to draft in other like-minded souls, the pair approached a friend
of Innes's, Nick Low, and Stephen Pastel, who was exploring similar
ideas with his band, the Pastels. The pair ran Glasgow's Candy Club, and
towards the end of 1983 - maybe early 1984 - they gave Bobby a demo tape
they'd received, thinking he'd like some Syd Barrett recordings left on
the other side. Instead, he was captivated by the demo, a riot of
excessive guitar feedback and melodic three-chord pop songs reminiscent
of Phil Spector's girl group sound - Bobby had stumbled on the
Jesus & Mary Chain and they blew him away. Having contacted them to
find they shared his love of punk and 60s garage/psychedelia, Gillespie
recommended they send a tape to McGee, who promptly shared Bobby's
enthusiasm and lured the band to London to play at his club, the
During the early months of 1984, McGee was heavily involved in Creation,
the new record label he'd founded with a refugee from the TV
Personalities, Joe Foster. Early releases relied heavily on close
friends; the Pastels joined, while Innes conjured up the Revolving Paint
Dream, McGee invented Biff Bang Pow! and Foster created Slaughter Joe.
In the meantime, Primal Scream were evolving into a proper band. "I
didn't know I was going to be the singer", Bobby later recalled. Beattie
went a stage further: "We did a song called 'The Orchard'. Judith
(Boyle) was playing violin with us and Bobby had a cold, so we got her to sing. This meant a girl
was singing a lyric about a girl ... we burnt the master tape."
Eventually, the pair drafted in a bassist, Robert Young. "Robert had
been in a band called "Black Tuesday", Bobby later recounted. "We got
him for a gig at the Glasgow School Of Art. He was only in for one song,
but after four he left them and joined us." And with the arrival of a
drummer, Tom McGurk, Primal Scream were in business.
In the meantime, the Jesus & Mary Chain had signed to Creation and were
causing quite a stir in London with the brief, anarchic live sets. By
autumn 1984, they'd dispensed with their original drummer and needed a
replacement, in order to promote their debut single. And who better
than Bobby? True, he couldn't play the drums in the conventional sense,
but when he stood at the back with his slight physique and mop haircut,
hitting a snare drum as if his life depended on it, his resemblence to
the Velvet Underground's Moe Tucker was uncanny. Obsessive Velvets fans,
the Mary Chain's Reid brothers had found their replacement: on October
11th 1984, Primal Scream made their official gig debut supporting the
Jesus & Mary Chain at Glasgow's Venue, with Bobby then returning to the
stage as drummer with the Mary Chain.
Around this time, Primal Scream also circulated a demo tape, comprising
"Crystal Crescent", together with "Leaves", "It Happens" and "We Go Down
Slowly Rising". The session typified the band's early sound,
characterised by Bobby's wistful, effeminate handling of the songs'
In November, the Jesus & Mary Chain's first delivery of fuzz and
feedback, "Upside Down", not only rocked the indie scene but also put
Creation Records on the map. A European tour was followed by a major
label deal with WEA's Blanco Y Negro, and in March 1985, Bobby was
spotted with the Mary Chain on BBC-2's 'Whistle Test'. He also drummed
on the band's acclaimed debut album "Psychocandy", pre-empted by two
ear-bursting singles, "Never Understand" and 'You Trip Me Up".
Despite his mounting responsibilities with the Reid brothers, Bobby was
still able to pursue his ideas for Primal Scream, and in May, the band
issued their debut single for Creation. An early tune, "Hollow", was
abandoned in favour of the genteel "All Fall Down" and the more
energetic "It Happens", both of which recalled the age of 60s summer
pop. Housed in a beautiful sleeve with a Francoise Hardy-like photo,
this was the perfect antidote to the doom-laden goth sound which
dominated the early-80s indie scene.
Not content with being in two of the country's most exciting acts, Bobby
also involved himself in a fortnightly Glasgow club, Splash One (named
after a 13th Floor Elevators track) to air mixture of great records with
live music. As Bobby later explained, "there was nowhere in glasgow to
see those bands or hear that kind of music"
In order to swell Primal Scream's sound, their line-up was expanded by a
rhythm guitarist, Paul Harte, while Martin 'Joogs' St. John (real name
John Martin) and his tambourine injected a new enthusiasm. "Martin
brought an attitude to the group", Bobby later enthused. "We'd be
working out the arrangement to a song and he'd sit there encouraging us,
helping get a vibe going. He found the third Big Star album, which was a
big influence on the band."
With this new six-piece line-up came the Primals' first major press
coverage in August, which mentions an unheard song called "Careless". A
rehearsal tape from that period also contains the Spanish-like "Hollow"
and "Sometimes Everything", both staples of the band's early gigs.
Further tracks which have never officially seen the light of day were
aired in December, when Primal Scream taped a session for John Peel.
Alongside the band's eventual second single, "Crystal Crescent", and
"Afermath" and "I Love You" (which both graced the first LP) was the
"What we want in the future is enough money to record properly. I don't
mean six months in a studio recording one single like Tears For Fears or
some other shits - that's disgustingly decadent." (Bobby Gillespie,
In February 1986, Gillespie was given an ultimatum. The Jesus & Mary
Chain needed a full-time drummer - either he learned to play the drums
properly and abandoned Primal Scream or they'd find a replacement. The
decision was tough, as Bobby recalled: "I never really enjoyed being in
But the Mary Chain is Jim and William's band and I knew I could express
myself better in Primal Scream."
Without the distractions of the Mary Chain or the now-defunct Splash
One, Bobby channeled all his energies into his band. Harte departed,
soon renaming himself the Electric Cowboy. He was replaced by Stuart
May, who - like Bobby's girlfriend - had been in the Submarines, who
disbanded after a one-off single for the Head label. It was this line-up
which recorded the band's second 45.
The lacklustre "Crystal Crescent" was a disappointment to both the band
and their admirers, but the B-side, "Velocity Girl", was superb. Ninety
seconds of lyrical attitude, with a melody that soared and soared, the
song spearheaded an 'NME' cassette, 'C86', which profiled a clutch of
new bands from all over the country - and who gathered for a week of
gigs at the ICA. "Velocity Girl" was one of the year's landmarks - it
was voted No.4 in Peel's Festive 50 poll - and is rightly cited as the
inspiration for the Stone Roses' 1989 single, "Made Of Stone".
A second session for Peel was also taped in May, and featured three
cuts. "Leaves" eventually surfaced on the band's first album, but
nothing was ever seen of "Tomorrow Ends Today" or "Bewitched And
Bewildered". Then in July, Primal Scream visited the BBC's Janice Long,
and taped a longer version of 'Velocity Girl" (with an extra verse),
plus "Silent Spring", "Imperial" and the exclusive "Feverclaw".
Tensions started to rise within the band, as pressure mounted for
delivery of their album. With Alan McGee on the verge of securing a
link-up between Creation and WEA, McGurk and May were asked to leave the
band, who began 1987 without a drummer. Temporary stopgaps were found in
both Dave Greenwood and Dave Morgan (of the Weather Prophets, who were
also promoted from Creation to WEA's new Elevation label), as Primal
Scream entered the Welsh Rockfield Studios with producer Stephen Street.
Six weeks and £40,000 later, a whole LP's worth of recordings were
scrapped - but why?
"Residential life did not suit us," Jim Beattie later explained, "and it
got really bizarre. We started saying things like 'That cymbal's not
right' and changing clothes for every solo. In fact, I threatened
Stephen Street that I would play guitar in the nude!" The Rockfield
sessions must exist somewhere, but nothing has so far escaped on
Enter producer Mayo Thompson of 60s/late 70s experimentalists the Red
Krayola, and engineer Pat Collier, who supervised a fresh batch of
recordings for Primal Scream's long-awaited debut. A sneak preview of
what to expect came in March, when the band were profiled on the TV
programme 'Down The Line', which coupled an interview with mimed
performances of the band's two forthcoming singles, "Gentle Tuesday" and
The first of these was issued in June in a flurry of publicity. There
was even a promo video on 'The Chart Show', with Creation regular Philip
King taking the role of drummer. The song boasted a much fuller, more
polished sound than before, and Beattie's multi-layered guitar tracks
recalled the classic early Byrds line-up - as did the band's clothes,
for that matter. The 60s resurrection continued with the bonus 12" cut,
a version of the Shadows Of Knight's garage punk classic, "I'm Gonna
Make You Mine".
During the summer, Primal Scream's line-up shifted again. St.
John returned to art college, and Bobby's old friend Andrew Innes joined
as rhythm guitarist, in time for September's excellent new single,
"Imperial". Produced by Clive Langer and Cohn Fairley (which suggests it
was taped after the forthcoming album), it was backed on the 12" by a
dreamy, elongated cover of the Who's "So Sad About Us". The single was
performed live, together with "Gentle Tuesday" and "Silent Spring", on
the Scottish music show, 'F.S.D.', alongside Bobby's views on the
concept of psychedelia, which only heightened the anticipation for the
band's forthcoming LP. August's 'Music Master', the trade publication
detailing new releases, listed the new album, simply titled "Primal
Scream". with a track listing different from the final product, which
suggests the band were still unsure about the LP. In fact, three whole
tracks, "Tomorrow Ends Today", "Rock" and "Country", were abandoned
at the last minute.
The more evocatively-titled "Sonic Flower Groove" finally arrived in
October. Aside from the singles, much of the material sounded weak and
uninspired, and although some of the songs were superb, they lacked any
sense of spontaneity. In their search for perfection, Primal Scream had
foundered, unsure of how to capture the magical sound of their idols.
And sales were correspondingly modest, despite a nationwide tour in the
autumn, with new drummer Gavin Skinner. Uptight, with the fear of
failure hanging over them, the band were reaching the end of their first
chapter. Soon afterwards, Warners ditched Elevation and Gillespie and
Beattie suffered what is commonly described as an acrimonious split.
Beattie remained in Glasgow, while Bobby retreated to Brighton to take
"Jim was a folk-rock guitarist but Robert, who'd just switched from
bass, had a more bluesy and funky approach. We'd become a rock 'n' roll
band." (Bobby Gillespie)
At the start of 1988, the core of Gillespie, Innes and Young went into
hibernation on the south coast. Keen to extend their music beyond their
previous Byrds/Love fixations, they hardened up their act, and spent
months writing new material. In May, a new-look Primal Scream performed
at Camden's Dingwalls with a set scattered with new songs and a cover of
the Ramones' "Swallow My Pride". And in July, the band appeared on
Italian radio with a new line-up, airing tunes like "Ivy Ivy Ivy" (with
totally different lyrics) for the first time. Bobby even discussed the
songs as if they were in a prototype stage, commenting that some might
be merged together and claiming that a new single was planned for
In fact, it wasn't until February 1989 that the band emerged with their
new line-up and l6nger hair, but the projected single didn't surface
until July. Both drummer Philip 'Toby' Tomanov and bassist Henry Olsen
had played in the Faction, the backing band for Nico, whose on-the-road
tribulations outweighed even Primal Scream's well-publicised excesses.
Tomanov's past stretched back to Manchester acts the Blue Orchids and
the Nosebleeds, while Olsen's jazz background fitted in neatly with
Bobby's burgeoning interest in the likes of John Coltrane and Ornette
The new single, "Ivy Ivy Ivy',, was a rock record - in the vein of the
Ramones or the MC5, true, but overtly rock in a way which many fans
found difficult to swallow. Only on the flip, 'You're Just Too Dark To
Care", with its twisted tale of drug abuse, was there evidence of the
old Primal Scream.
September's self-titled album offered similar contradictions. On the one
hand, the Stooges-inspired, twin-pronged attack of Young's and Innes's
Gibson Les Paul guitars was like a pastiche of the Cult, but spliced in
between were some of the most captivating, haunting ballads ever
written. There was also a free single with very early copies, coupling
two fairly haphazard demos for the album.
Throughout the latter half of 1989, Primal Scream hurled themselves
headlong into a rock'n'roll lifestyle - if they weren't burning
themselves out with the excesses of touring (both self-imposed or
otherwise), then they were sampling the hedonistic delights of rave
culture at clubs like Brighton's Zap Club and London's Shoom. By chance,
they struck up a friendship with Shoom's DJ Andy Weatherall, who put out
a football/house music fanzine, 'Boy's Own'. Weatherall was dismayed at
the apparent indifference levelled at the new LP, and even reviewed a
Primal Scream gig for the 'NME' under the pseudonym, Audrey Witherspoon.
A dance DJ getting his rocks off to live covers of the MC5's "Ramblin'
Itose" and the Sex Pistols' "Did You No Wrong" - whatever next?
"Some hip hop I've heard is psychedelic. The use of space, the space it
opens up in the head."
(Bobby Gillespie, 1987)
"I think white
rock is in a slump. The most exciting things around seem to be happening
in black dance music."
(Bobby Gillespie, 1990)
"We wanna get
loaded, and we wanna have a good time."
(Peter Fonda, 'The Wild
On a whim, Andrew Innes gave Weatherall a tape of the album's most
uplifting cut, "I'm Losing More Than l'll Ever Have". Perhaps it was the
funky ending which prompted him, but it proved to be the most important
move in Primal Scream's history. Weatherall had scarcely set foot in a
recording studio, aside from remixing the Happy Mondays' excellent
"Hallelujah", but he showed an intuitive grasp of the possibilities.
Having stripped the track down to its bare bones, Weatherall added a
Soul II Soul beat from a bootleg dance mix of Edie Brickell's "I Am What
I Am", and a sample of Peter Fonda as a young, free and easy biker in
Roger Corman's late 60s cult flick, 'The Wild Angels' (which had graced
Mudhoney's "Superfuzz Bigmuff' LP a year earlier, incidentally). The
overall effect brought to mind the Stones' "Sympathy For the Devil", but
aside from a brief one-liner, Bobby's vocals were absent.
"Loaded" was justifiably a massive hit, selling around 100,000 copies.
Suddenly, Primal Scream were miming on 'Top Of The Pops' (with Ride's
singer on keyboards), and fronting magazines as prime movers in what was
labelled the "indie/dance crossover". A U.S. deal wasn't far behind -
signing to Sire, the band issued a mini-LP, and donated a trippy cover
of "Slip Inside This House" (like a psychedelic Happy Mondays) to the
old 13th Floor Elevators frontman Roky Erickson's tribute LP, "When
The Pyramid Meets The Eye".
Now that Primal Scream had embraced dance music, their live shows
(including trips to Europe and Japan) followed suit, and over the next
few months, backing tracks, DJs and samplers were incorporated into what
was previously an out-and-out rock set. The result was an exotic mixture
of sounds and styles, in keeping with the free-for-all, dance-all-night
rave mentality but still retaining a rock groove. One track, "Kill The
King", even drew on backwards guitars and strings and riixed them with
vocals and piano to create a suitably hypnotic effect.
"Gospel and rhythm & blues and jaz;' all those are just labels. We
know that music is music."
(Jesse Jackson, sampled on Come
In August 1990, Primal Scream delivered their second masterpiece. "Come
Together" was another dance anthem, with a strong gospel feel courtesy
of the Tabernacle Choir and a distinctive brass section. Several mixes
were available, spread over two 12' editions, but unlike the usual
monotony of endless remixes, each interpretation was refreshingly
different. Gillespie saw it as "a modern-day 'Street Fighting Man'",
although it probably owed more to Sly Stone's funk-rock classic, "I Want
To Take You Higher".
If so, June '91's "Higher Than The Sun" picked up where Sly's rallying
cry at the 1969 Woodstock Festival left off. The involvement of the
Orb's Alex Paterson and ex-PiL bassist Jah Wobble gave the single a
dreamy, dub-like sensation - Primal Scream had got "Loaded", felt an
overwhelming love of humanity on "Come Together" and now, it seemed,
they were on the come down, and feeling wasted. Ensuing live dates
introduced a couple more new arrivals, ex-Felt keyboardist Martin
Duffy and soul singer Denise Johnson, who'd previously worked with ACR
and sang on Creation act Hypnotone's first single. Extravagant live
shows were even more diverse than before, with imaginative covers of Sly
Stone's "Don't Call Me Nigger, Whitey", John Lennon's ode to heroin
withdrawal, "Cold Turkey", and John Coltrane's beautiful "A Love
It was Johnson who sang on the Primals' next single, the soulful "Don't
Fight It, Feel It", described by Bobby as "something like Chairmen Of
The Board with a Northern Soul feeling". With an astonishing about-face,
808 State's Graham Massey contradicted his group's previous scathing
attack on Primal Scream by contributing a remix of the track. Perhaps he
realised that the band were about to deliver 1991's finest album.
Issued in September, "Screamadelica" was the culmination of a
year-and-a-halfs work. This melting pot of psychedelic ideas, dance
beats and plaintive songs was scattered with Primal Scream's magpie-like
adaptation of the past; "Inner Flight", for example, relied on a Beach
Boys chord sequence. But the result was unerringly original.
"Movin' On Up" was the first nod towards the band's recent return to
their '89 rock roots. The album's most traditional moment, its strong
debt to the Stones was partly due to the involvement of veteran producer
Jimmy Miller, who'd worked with Jagger and Co. on a string of classic
late 6Oslearly 70s albums.
The song was then chosen to lead off January 1992's "Dixie-Narco" EP,
short for 'Dixieland Narcotics', which says much for the rest of the EP.
The soporific atmosphere of "Stone My Soul" and a cover of Dennis
Wilson's tragic "Carry Me Home" were taped at Ardent Studios in Memphis,
where Big Star and dozens of soul legends had recorded. Somehow, the
presence on the EP flip of the ten-minute 'disco mantra', named
"Screamadelica" perhaps because it condensed the ideas of the album
into one track, sounded odd. When the Primals had left for the States,
they left the rave scene behind - and it showed.
When Bobby Gillespie was impersonating Mick Jagger, singing "Movin' On
Up" on 'Top Of The Pops', it was the last we'd see or hear of Primal
Scream for two years, aside from a memorable pitstop at Glastonbury
Festival in the summer.
"I think it's time to stop saying 'This is a
dance record' and 'This is a rock record'. It's like saying all black
music is soul."
(Bobby Gillespie, 1990)
Recorded at locations as diverse as Los Angeles, Chalk Farm in London,
and Memphis (at Ardent again), Primal Scream's latest album, "Give Out
But Don't Give Up", reveals a band who've soaked up the spirit (in more
ways than one) of American rock'n'roll. The list of credentials is
impressive: veteran Atlantic producer Tom Dowd (who continues the Mayo
Thompson/Jimmy Miller pedigree), Jim Dickinson, and the legendary
Southern Soul ingredients of the Muscle Shoals rhythm section and the
Memphis Horns. George Clinton even steps into the remixer 5 chair,
turning "Funky Jam" into a latterday reinvention of the Stone Roses'
Maybe this is Primal Scream's "Get Back", or even "Rattle & Hum"?
Whatever your interpretation, though, "Give Out..." deserves more than
the lazy accusations it has so far attracted. Primal Scream have already
been responsible for one of the greatest, most imaginative albums of the
decade; only time will tell if they've delivered two.
Brian Hogg, Alan McGee, Tim Eames, Dave Wilson, Joe Foster, Andy &
Matthew at Creation and Tim Tooher.
Originally appeared in Record
Collector May 1994.
Copyright © Record Collector