ARTIST: PRIMAL SCREAM
This Sunday (April 3rd), at 9pm, you’re invited to share a listening session with some likeminded souls, wherever you might be. This can be experienced either alone or communally, and you don’t need to leave the comfort of your own home to participate. Full lowdown here:
‘Screamadelica’, the third album by Scottish indie-rockers Primal Scream, was a departure from their previous recordings. Taking up the baton from Madchester’s Indie-Dance exponents, the Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses, Primal Scream put their finger firmly on the pulse of cultural change, triggered by the Acid House movement of the late ’80s, and instinctively set about soundtracking it, capturing the essence of the era more than any other album – it was a zeitgeist bullseye.
DJ Andrew Weatherall played a crucial role. Having given the bands second (self-titled) album a favourable review in the Boys Own Fanzine, he was approached to remix one of its tracks, ‘I’m Losing More Than I Ever Have’. What resulted was the stunning hybrid offspring, ‘Loaded’, which would become one of the defining tracks of the period following its 1990 release, giving Primal Scream their first UK hit (reaching #16).
The title was taken from the dialogue sample that starts the track, which had been lifted from the 1966 Hells Angels flick, ‘The Wild Angels’, with actor Peter Fonda’s words resonating loud and clear a quarter of a century on – ‘we wanna be free, we wanna be free to do what we wanna do, and we wanna get loaded, and we wanna have a good time, and that’s what we’re gonna do…’. It was a genius juxtaposition, setting the ideal mood for this mainly instrumental downbeat groove, which Muzik magazine would list as one of its 50 most influential dance records, describing it as ‘something akin to ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ for the E generation’.
The unmistakeable influence of the drug ecstasy is etched into the grooves of ‘Screamadelica’. Bobby Gillespie, the band’s vocalist, is said to have taken his first E at one of the Shoom nights in Manchester, which were held at Legend, the club where I had my greatest DJ highs back in the early ’80s (Shoom, of course, being the seminal London Acid-House night which began in 1987). He was introduced to ecstasy by Creation Records supremo Alan McGee, and described it as a mind-opening experience, which certainly sparked his creativity. Weatherall, in conjunction with Hugo Nicholson, headed up a pool of producers that also included The Orb, who worked their magic on the super-chilled ‘Higher Than The Sun’, and Jimmy Miller, the former Rolling Stones producer, who very much evoked their spirit, helping kick things off in style with ‘Movin’ On Up’, before, later on in proceedings, bringing the mood deep down with ‘Damaged’.
Well over a year prior to the eventual album release, I remember hearing ‘Come Together’ (the follow-up single to ‘Loaded’, and subsequently another top 30 hit) for the first time – it was at Red Alert, the Manchester-based radio pluggers whose office was in 23 New Mount Street, the building that housed half the city’s music-based companies at the time, including my own Murdertone Productions, which looked after the crew I managed / produced, the Ruthless Rap Assassins. They had some 12” white labels, one of which I was kindly given, and I was blown-away with the pace, build and atmosphere of the Weatherall mix (running at an epic ten minutes plus), which would appear on the album in preference to the vocal Terry Farley mix, the A Side of the single. As with ‘Loaded’, the track starts off with a spoken sample, this time the Reverend Jesse Jackson’s invocation at the 1972 Wattstax music festival (hosted by Stax Records at The Coliseum stadium in Watts, Los Angeles). Being someone who was heavily into sampling from movies and TV, via my work with the Rap Assassins, I was hugely impressed, and later down the line, when I put together my Essential Mix for BBC Radio 1 in 2009, I nodded in the direction of ‘Come Together’ by using a variant of the Jesse Jackson speech on the opening and closing tracks.
‘Screamadelica’ was both a critical and commercial success, peaking at #8 on the UK album chart, whilst it would go on to pick up the inaugural Mercury Music Prize in 1992. Further acclaim would include it’s placing at the top of Select magazine’s albums of the ’90s, and the runner-up spot in the ‘Best 50 Album’s Of Q’s Lifetime’ list.
Following the release, I saw Primal Scream in Manchester – complete with vocalist Denise Johnson, who was making a triumphant return to home turf (I knew Denise, who also worked with A Certain Ratio and Electronic, as well as recording her own material). Andrew Weatherall was deejaying that night and I remember briefly chatting to him on the tour bus after the show about a track I’d produced the previous year, which he’d picked up on – a cover of the Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White Rabbit’ by Mind Body & Soul.
Twenty years on Weatherall is back on the road with Primal Scream, as they celebrate the upcoming anniversary of ‘Screamadelica’. Remaining tour dates are on the official website:
I should also draw your attention to a fascinating programme on BBC6 Music last November, where he highlighted the music that inspired ‘Screamadelica’. It’s available to steam / download here:
Your own memories are always welcomed, and, should you join us for Sunday’s session, it’d be great if you could leave a comment here after you’ve listened to the album sharing your impressions – how the music affected you, who you listened to it with, where you were, plus anything else relevant to your own individual / collective experience.
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