Primal Scream are a Scottish rock band originally formed in 1982 in Glasgow by Bobby Gillespie (vocals) and Jim Beattie. The band's current lineup consists of Gillespie, Andrew Innes (guitar), Martin Duffy (keyboards), Simone Butler (bass), and Darrin Mooney (drums). Barrie Cadogan has toured and recorded with the band since 2006 as a replacement after the departure of guitarist Robert "Throb" Young.
Primal Scream had been performing live from 1982 to 1984, but their career did not take off until Gillespie left his position as drummer of The Jesus and Mary Chain. The band were a key part of the mid-1980s indie pop scene, but eventually moved away from their jangly sound, taking on more psychedelic and garage rock influences, before incorporating a dance music element to their sound with their 1991 album Screamadelica, which broke them into the mainstream. The band have continued to explore different styles on subsequent albums, experimenting with blues, trip hop and industrial rock. Their most recent album, Chaosmosis, was released on 18 March 2016.
Formation and early years (1982–1984)
Bobby Gillespie moved to Mount Florida in southeastern Glasgow, where he attended King's Park Secondary School, where he first met Robert Young. Another schoolfriend was Alan McGee, who took Gillespie to his first gig, a Thin Lizzy concert. McGee and Gillespie were heavily influenced by punk rock, and they joined a local punk band, The Drains, in 1978. The Drains' guitarist was a 15-year-old Andrew Innes. The band was short-lived, and Innes and McGee moved to London while Gillespie chose to remain in Glasgow.
After the punk movement ended, Gillespie became disenchanted with mainstream new wave music. He met another schoolfriend who shared his outlook, Jim Beattie, and they recorded "elemental noise tapes", in which Gillespie would bang two dustbin lids together and Beattie played fuzz-guitar. They soon moved on to The Velvet Underground and The Byrds cover songs before starting to write their own songs, based on Jah Wobble and Peter Hook basslines. Gillespie later said that the band "didn't really exist, but we did it every night for something to do." They named themselves Primal Scream, a term for a type of cry heard in primal therapy. Still essentially a partnership, Primal Scream first played live in 1982.
First recordings (1984–1989)
Their first recording session, for McGee's independent label Essential Records, produced a single track entitled "The Orchard", with Judith Boyle on vocals. Beattie later claimed that they burned the master tape. After the aborted recording, Gillespie joined The Jesus and Mary Chain as their drummer, and alternated between the two bands. While The Jesus and Mary Chain became notorious for their chaotic gigs, Gillespie and Beattie expanded Primal Scream's lineup to include schoolfriend Young on bass, rhythm guitarist Stuart May, drummer Tom McGurk, and tambourine player Martin St. John. This lineup was signed to Creation Records, an independent record label founded by Alan McGee, and recorded the group's debut single, "All Fall Down", which received positive reviews.
After the release of the single, Gillespie was told by The Jesus and Mary Chain leaders William and Jim Reid that he was to either dissolve Primal Scream to join their band full-time or resign. Gillespie chose to remain with Primal Scream. Stuart May was replaced by Paul Harte, and the group released a new single, "Crystal Crescent". Its B-side, "Velocity Girl", was released on the C86 compilation, which led to their being associated with the scene of the same name. The band strongly disliked this, Gillespie saying that other groups in that scene "can't play their instruments and they can't write songs."
The band toured throughout 1986, and Gillespie became disenchanted with the quality of their performances. He said that there "was always something missing, musically or in attitude." They switched to McGee's newly set-up Warner Bros. subsidiary Elevation Records. Before the band entered Rockfield Studios in Wales to record their debut album, McGurk was asked to leave. The group subsequently began recording using session players. They spent four weeks recording with producer Stephen Street before deciding to halt the sessions.
May was subsequently dismissed; Gillespie's former bandmate Innes was brought in as his replacement, and the band found a new drummer, Gavin Skinner. With their new lineup, the band re-entered the studio, this time in London with producer Mayo Thompson. By the time Sonic Flower Groove was completed, it had cost £100,000. The album reached number 62 on the British charts and received poor reviews, with AllMusic calling it "pristine but dull." The backlash from the album caused internal strife within the band. Beattie and Skinner subsequently resigned.
The band, now consisting of Gillespie, Innes and Young, relocated to Brighton to regroup. Young switched to guitar, and they recruited bassist Henry Olsen and drummer Phillip "Toby" Tomanov, who had both been in Nico's backing band, The Faction. They traded in their jangle pop sound for a harder rock edge, or as Gillespie said, "[w]e had found rock 'n' roll." The band re-signed to Creation Records and released their first single in two years, "Ivy, Ivy, Ivy". This was followed by a full album, Primal Scream. The band's new sound was met with poor reviews, NME called it "confused and lacking in cohesion". Fans responded as unfavourably as the critics, with many of the old fans being disappointed or simply confused by the new sound. The album featured Felt keyboardist Martin Duffy guesting.
The band were first introduced to the acid house scene by McGee in 1988. They were at first sceptical; Gillespie said: "I always remember being quite fascinated by it but not quite getting it." The band developed a taste for it and began attending raves. The band met up with DJ Andrew Weatherall at a rave, and he was given a copy of "I'm Losing More Than I'll Ever Have", a track from Primal Scream, to remix for one of his shows. Weatherall added a drum loop from an Italian bootleg mix of Edie Brickell's "What I Am", a sample of Gillespie singing a line from Robert Johnson's "Terraplane Blues" and the central introductory sample from the Peter Fonda B-movie The Wild Angels. The resulting track, "Loaded", became the band's first major hit, reaching number 16 on the UK Singles Chart. This was followed by another single, "Come Together", which reached number 26.
The band entered the studio with Weatherall, Hugo Nicolson, The Orb and Jimmy Miller producing, and Martin Duffy now full-time on keyboards. They released two more singles, "Higher Than The Sun" and "Don't Fight It, Feel It" which featured the lead vocals of Manchester singer Denise Johnson. The album Screamadelica was released in late 1991 to positive reviews. Ink Blot Magazine said that the album was "both of its time and timeless." The album was also a commercial success, reaching number eight on the UK chart. The album won the first Mercury Music Prize, beating Gillespie's former band The Jesus and Mary Chain.
The supporting tour kicked off in Amsterdam, and it included a performance at the Glastonbury festival before coming to an end in Sheffield. Throughout the tour the band and their increasingly large entourage gained notoriety for their large narcotic intake. Around this time, the band recorded the Dixie Narco EP. Some of the tracks had a more American blues rock sound than previously, and displayed a P-Funk influence.
Give Out But Don't Give Up (1992–1995)
The band began work on their fourth album in Roundhouse Studios in London in September 1992.
In March 1994, the first single from the new album, "Rocks", was released. It was the band's highest-charting single to date, reaching number seven on the UK charts. The single was not received well, with NME calling them "dance traitors". The album Give Out But Don't Give Up was released in May to mixed reviews. Whereas some praised the band's new The Rolling Stones-influenced sound, some dismissed the album as tired and drawing too heavily on their influences. Two more singles were released from the album, "Jailbird" and "(I'm Gonna) Cry Myself Blind", both of which charted progressively lower.
While touring in support of the album, relations within the band began to wear down. The band's American tour, when they supported Depeche Mode, was, in the words of manager Alex Nightingale, "the closest we've come to the band splitting up." After the completion of the tour, the band remained quiet for a long period of time. Gillespie later remarked that he was unsure if the band would continue. The only release during this period was a single, "The Big Man and the Scream Team Meet the Barmy Army Uptown", a collaboration with Irvine Welsh and On-U Sound, which caused controversy due to offensive lyrics about Rangers F.C. and their fan base.
Vanishing Point (1996–1998)
After a short hiatus, the band returned with a new lineup. Gary "Mani" Mounfield, fresh from the well-publicised break-up of his previous band, The Stone Roses, was added as the band's new bassist, and Paul Mulraney was added as their new drummer. The arrival of Mani revitalized the group, who were considering disbanding after the failure of Give Out. The album was recorded in the band's personal studio in two months, and was mixed in another month. Most of the recording was engineered by Innes, and produced by Brendan Lynch and Andrew Weatherall.
The music on the album had a complex shoegazing dance/dub rhythm, harking back to the crossover success of Screamadelica, yet sounding significantly darker. Some songs on the album were inspired by cult 1971 film Vanishing Point; Gillespie said that they wanted to create an alternative soundtrack for the film. Other lyrics were inspired by the band's past experiences with drug abuse. Gillespie described the album as "an anarcho-syndicalist speedfreak road movie record!" The first single released from the album, "Kowalski", was released in May 1997, and reached number 8 on the British charts. The album, titled Vanishing Point after the film, was released in July and revitalized the band's commercial viability. It received almost positive reviews upon release, Entertainment Weekly calling it a "swirling, hypnotic acid-trip", and Musik saying that "this group's place in the history book of late 20th Century music is assured." The inclusion on the album of the title track from the film Trainspotting also helped cement the band's place in alternative modern culture.
The band scheduled a short supporting tour to take place during July. The band had to postpone the dates. This led to speculation that there were problems within the band, and that one of the members may resign. The band's press agent issued a statement saying "[i]t's not a drugs thing and it's not a nervous breakdown." Before the tour was scheduled to begin, Mulraney left the band and they were forced to use a drum machine. The initial dates were poorly received, but they eventually hired drummer Darrin Mooney and the gigs improved. Throughout the Vanishing Point tour Primal Scream employed the up-and-coming Asian Dub Foundation as a support act, helping them to break into the mainstream.
In February 1998 the band released the "If They Move, Kill 'Em" EP. This notably featured the bands' first collaboration with Kevin Shields, on his remix of the title track. Later that year, Shields joined the band on tour and would have a major influence on their sound in the next few years. After the release of the album, a collection of alternative mixes/remixes from Vanishing Point were released as the album Echo Dek, with the bulk of mixes done by Adrian Sherwood.
XTRMNTR and Evil Heat (1999–2005)
Recording sessions for the band's sixth album went well. The band were for the most part free of drugs, and their lineup had stabilised. Despite their new-found peace, the band pursued a harsher and angrier musical direction. Many of the songs they wrote had overtly political lyrics, Gillespie said the band wished to convey "What it's like to be in Britain in this day and age." The album featured multiple guest appearances, including the Chemical Brothers, New Order's Bernard Sumner, and former My Bloody Valentine guitarist Kevin Shields, who had become a semi-permanent member.
The first single from XTRMNTR, "Swastika Eyes", was released on November 1999. The song's overtly political content, Gillespie said it was about "American international terrorism", made it controversial. Nevertheless, it was a hit, charting at No. 22 on the British charts. XTRMNTR itself fared well, reaching No. 3. The political content was well received, with Allmusic calling it a "nasty, fierce realization of an entire world that has... lost the plot.". In 2009 NME charted XTRMNTR at No. 3 in The Top 100 Greatest Albums of The Decade.
In 2000, the band began recording their seventh album, Evil Heat, released in 2002. Though the political content was not as strong as the previous album, there was a song originally slated for the album entitled "Bomb the Pentagon", which was reworked into the song "Rise" after the 11 September attacks. The album, like many of Primal Scream's previous albums, had multiple producers. Shields produced several tracks, and Andrew Weatherall produced three tracks, his first work with the band since Vanishing Point. Kate Moss sang professionally for the first time with single "Some Velvet Morning", a version of the Lee Hazlewood/Nancy Sinatra song. The album also featured another guest appearance, Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant. In 2003 the double CD album Dirty Hits was released containing the better known works and some previously unheard versions and remixes of those tunes.
In June 2005, Primal Scream played a controversial set at the Glastonbury Festival, throughout which Gillespie was playfully abusive to the crowd and was alleged to have made Nazi salutes during the song "Swastika Eyes". They were eventually forced off by officials after overrunning their allotted time; the festival organisers were at that point already annoyed at the band when, in response to their invitation to join other recording artists in signing a Make Poverty History poster which would be auctioned off for charity, lead singer Bobby Gillespie instead altered the poster so that it read "Make Israel History". Gillespie later said that this was to show his support for the Palestinian cause.
Riot City Blues, Beautiful Future and Screamadelica 20th anniversary (2006–2012)
In an interview with NME, Gillespie said that the band had written "euphoric rock 'n' roll songs" for their next album. They intended to capture the energy of their live performances. The band chose Youth as their producer, which led to speculation that they had fallen out with Shields. Although the band themselves admitted that they were unsure of the situation, Shields subsequently joined them on tour.
The album's first single, "Country Girl", was released on 22 May 2006, and regular airplay resulted in a chart entry of number 5, their highest ever. It was also used by the BBC in the closing credits of the Grand National 2007 and as the backing track to a video celebrating the successes of the Scottish racing driver Dario Franchitti in the 2007 Autosport Awards ceremony in London. The album Riot City Blues was released in June and reached number five on the UK Album Charts. However, it received mixed reviews: Pitchfork Media called it "flat and dead", while AllMusic called it "a refreshingly retro rock & roll album".
In support of the album, the band toured the UK, along with selected dates in Europe. The band released their first DVD, Riot City Blues Tour, in August 2007. The DVD featured clips of the band's performance in London, as well as all their music videos and an interview with Gillespie and Mani.
On 26 August 2006, bassist Mani was arrested at the Leeds music festival, after what was said to be a drunken brawl. However, he was soon released and the band's appearance at the festival went ahead. Also around this time, Young left the band to go on sabbatical, failing to appear on their November 2006 UK tour. It was later stated by Bobby Gillespie that Young was unlikely to make a return. He was temporarily replaced by Barrie Cadogan of Little Barrie. Young died in September 2014.
After touring Screamadelica for most of 2011, on 18 October Gary Mounfield revealed he had left the band due to the reformation of his original band The Stone Roses. Debbie Googe (of My Bloody Valentine) was announced as his replacement. Simone Butler would join the band as bassist in 2012.
More Light and Chaosmosis (2013–present)
The band's tenth album, More Light, was released in May 2013 on the band's own label, First International, via Ignition Records. The new album was produced by David Holmes, who confirmed the release on his Facebook page on 11 January 2013. The first track taken from the album is "2013" with a music video directed by Rei Nadal. The first single proper is "It's Alright, It's OK", which was played in the UK by both BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music, as well as supported by leading alternative music stations XFM and Absolute Radio. The second single is "Invisible City".
Former guitarist Robert "Throb" Young died in September 2014.
In August 2018 it was announced that the band would release the original long-lost recordings made for Give Out But Don't Give Up for the first time, which were made when the band went to Memphis's Ardent Studios in 1993 to work on a new album with producer Tom Dowd and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.
On 24 May 2019 the band released a third compilation album, Maximum Rock'n'Roll : The Singles. The album contains seventeen tracks spanning the period from 1986 till 2016.
- Current members
- Bobby Gillespie – lead vocals (1982–present)
- Andrew Innes – guitar, keyboards, backing vocals (1987–present)
- Martin Duffy – keyboards, synths, turntables (1989–present)
- Darrin Mooney – drums, percussion (1997–present)
- Simone Butler – bass guitar, keyboards, percussion (2012–present)
- Former members
- Denise Johnson – backing vocals, co-lead vocals (1990–1995) (died 2020)
- Jim Beattie – guitar, keyboards (1982–1987)
- Stuart May – guitar (1985–1986)
- Paul Harte – guitar (1986)
- Kevin Shields – guitar, keyboards (1998–2006)
- Barrie Cadogan – guitar, keyboards (2006–2015)
- Robert "Throb" Young – bass (1982–1988), guitar, keyboards (1988–2006; died 2014)
- Henry Olsen – bass (1988–1995)
- Mani – bass (1996–2011)
- Debbie Googe – bass (2012)
- Tom McGurk – drums (1982–1987)
- Dave Morgan – drums (1987)
- Gavin Skinner – drums (1987–1988)
- Phillip "Toby" Toman – drums (1988–1995)
- Paul Mulreany – drums, programming (1996–1997)
- Martin St. John – tambourine (1986–1987)
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