VINYL SESSIONS – PRIMAL SCREAM: SCREAMADELICA
“Just what is it that you want to do? We wanna get loaded, we wanna have a good time”
Back in the autumn of 1991, British indie guitar pop resided as a polite and unassuming genre driven by a populist music press unable to see further than the next twee female-fronted pop sensation (for five minutes). ‘BritPop’ was an age away so it was down to hip-hop and the burgeoning electronic/dance music sub culture to represent the vanguard of innovation and the shock of the new.
The late 80s were a bleak and frustrating time for Primal Scream. Their self-titled second LP had been a disappointment; feeling that they lacked direction, Creation boss Alan McGee booked them on a tour of “any sh*thole that would have them”. Jokingly dubbed the “Tear Up The Atlas Tour”, the jaunt saw them play tiny venues in far-flung corners of the UK – but, crucially, during the tour the band met DJ Andrew Weatherall. The single ‘Loaded’ duly arrived.
The vibe of ‘Loaded’ was unusual enough. The identity of its makers was what really startled. Primal Scream had already jumped from sweet-toothed jangle-pop to scuzzy proto-grunge. Reviewers found the band’s second self-titled LP an awkward experience, which explains why a further lurch in direction of ‘Loaded’ attracted as much mockery as delight. Great single, everyone agreed – but was it actually Primal Scream in anything but name? ‘Loaded’ had precedent – the warm, loping shuffle of the Stone Roses’ ’Fools’ Gold’ for one – but its status was set as much by what came after.
Gillespie wasn’t the only indie bandleader to find himself a new groove in the summer of 1990. Primal Scream formed in 1982 and while now a household name, initially struggled to capture this level of success with their first few releases earning middling reviews and lacking in commercial success. Bobby Gillespie and Andrew Innes had until the early 90s struggled to make the band work, lost for direction.
The release of their third album 1991’s ‘Screamadelica’ changed the trajectory for the group entirely, catapulting them into the charts and earning rave reviews across the board. The landmark album fused the club music of the late 80s and early 90s with swaggering rock n roll and glimpses of blues and soul. Just as acid house and ecstasy culture were emerging into the mainstream, the album takes you on a journey: the initial tingle of anticipatory excitement (‘Movin’ on Up’) through to the moment of coming up (‘Higher than the Sun’) through to euphoria (‘Come Together’) and finally to a reflective melancholy and the eventual comedown (‘Damaged’, ‘I’m Coming Down’) before eventually settling into blissful acceptance with one and the universe (‘Shine Like Stars’).
There had been glimpses of what was to come on the album in the shape of the singles that preceded it, of course spearheaded by the now iconic ‘Loaded’. The late great Andrew Weatherall fused the opening Peter Fonda sample and mashed together ‘I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have’ from the previous Primal Scream album with a range of samples; the result is legendary and set the tone for the progressive offbeat nature of the album. The single came in a full 18 months before the eventual album’s release, ensuring there was a public appetite for the LP. Weatherall’s fingerprints can be found throughout the album and played a large part in it reaching the status it has in the three decades following its release. Of course, none of it would have been possible without the sturdy backbone provided by guitarists Andrew Innes and Robert “Throb” Young, and the rhythm section of bassist Henry Olsen and drummer Phillip “Toby”Tomanov. It’s fitting that the winner of the inaugural Mercury Music Prize back in 1992 was an album which, by its very nature and the influential ripples it sent out, was routinely described as mercurial.
‘Screamadelica’ proved to be not just a game-changer for the band who made it, but a symbol of ideas and possibilities that shone brightly above the detritus of the post-Madchester landscape. ‘Screamadelica’ barely sounds as if it has aged a day and much of that is down to the fact that no-one has quite figured out how to get the particular blend of rock, groove and house music that permeates the grooves of the vinyl. For so many people, it remains the narcotic experience encapsulated subtly, beautifully and elegantly in aural form. “We never did ecstasy in the studio,” Bobby told the BBC’s Classic Albums series in 2011, “but the record came out of the experience of being involved in the acid scene and doing ecstasy. We’d find out where Andy was DJing, hire a car, and go off partying, listen to what was going on, end up in some stranger’s house having a good time, then get back in the studio to work on the Monday… or maybe on the Wednesday!”
The album will be presented by Howard Lowe of the Vinyl Collective The album playback will be followed by a Q&A session.
After a short break, we’ll follow the album with our usual ‘Dead Wax’ session. Bring along a 7” of your choice and hear it played through the Arts Centre PA. This can be anything you like, for any reason – the more ‘out there’ the better.
The bar will be open throughout.
Doors 12pm, Starts 12.30pm