On the back of the recent release of THE RETROSPECTIVE ‘Maximum Rock 'n' Roll’, we present an alternative take on the SPRAWLING genius of Primal Scream. Super-fan Ian McLeish dissects the band's GENRE-BENDING 30+ year career and examines their influencers and collaborators along the way.
Words and curation by Ian McLeish, artwork by Mick, concept by Keith
Across a lifespan covering four decades and counting, Primal Scream have fundamentally displayed two core characteristics. First, a shapeshifting restlessness - always on the move - directing themselves down whichever musical pathway inspires and excites them at the time. Second, a collaborative approach to making records, bringing on board whoever can help to make those records be the best they can be. This squad of likeminded conspirators and inspirers, merged with a rotating cast of band members and associates, has created a remarkable family tree, captured on this playlist.
Across the selection there are threads that link various records - songs that clearly inspired the group, legendary producers the band turned to in search of a sound, or simply tunes that act as companion pieces when attempting to catalogue the story of the Scream.
Take the first record on this list: Velocity Girl. A 1986 b-side, it represents the first iteration of the band, often cited as an influence on The Stone Roses’ Made Of Stone (but to these ears sounds better paired with Sally Cinnamon). Fast forward a decade and Roses bassist Mani is firmly embedded in the Scream team, helping to drive the uncompromising musical direction on Vanishing Point and XTRMNTR, as represented here by Kowalski, Swastika Eyes and Shoot Speed/ Kill Light. Mani was 100 per cent Primal through to 2011, departing only when the Roses reformed for their Heaton Park reunion shows, with Primal Scream in the supporting line-up (Mani debunked rumours he would play with both bands at these gigs, clarifying “You can’t ride two bikes with one arse.” Remember that one for next time someone asks you to take on too much.
The gamechanger for the band was undoubtedly 1991’s Screamadelica, with Andrew Weatherall at the controls. From that moment nothing would be the same again for the Scream and their mark on the 90s music scene was indelible. Weatherall had become the go-to remixer for many an act looking for an injection of adrenalin at the turn of the 90s (his first being Happy Mondays’ Hallelujah). Two of his biggest Screamadelica tunes, Loaded and Come Together, were showcased on a compilation album by the band’s record label Creation called Keeping The Faith. It was a record that highlighted just how hard label boss Alan McGee (childhood friend of Bobby Gillespie, Andrew Innes and Robert “Throb” Young) had fallen for the house music revolution, and featured a track called Dream Beam by a Creation act named Hypnotone (who produced Slip Inside This House, a cover of the 13th Floor Elevators track on Screamadelica, with vocals by a Mancunian singer called Denise Johnson). When Gillespie mentioned to Hypnotone that he was searching for a female voice to feature on the track Don’t Fight It Feel It, Johnson’s name was put forward. And so, another longstanding collaborator was welcomed into the fraternity.
That influential compilation includes another example of Weatherall let loose on a Creation-signed guitar band - his reworking of My Bloody Valentine’s Soon. Like Mani, Valentine leader Kevin Shields would go on to become another loyal Scream associate, a long-term touring member of the band and a producer on XTRMNTR. The Irishman was on the dials of Shoot Speed/Kill Light, along with New Order’s Bernard Sumner as guest guitarist. Sumner – who would also have his own acid house road-to-Damascus moment with New Order’s Ibiza-inspired Technique – can also be heard in no less than two other pieces on this collection: the Chemical Brothers’ Out Of Control, and his own track Plastic.
Elsewhere you’ll find songs shaped then and now by legendary US producers Jimmy Miller and Tom Dowd, as well as a few tunes just chucked in for the hell of it, but all of them inspired by Gillespie’s statement from 2013: “We’re never influenced by anything that we’ve done before; we just try and move on. We’re always different. We’ve never said it’s five fucking guys, but it always sounds like Primal Scream.” Exactly. And so it seems fitting to tail this playlist with Can’t Go Back, as I doubt they intend to ever do that.
Ian McLeish is a journalist and editor who once spent a memorable afternoon and evening in the pub with Robert ‘Throb’ Young and this playlist is dedicated to him. RIP Throb.
Afterword: I am absolutely loving this ‘Under The Influence’ series. One of the distinct pleasures of music discovery for me, is being converted to an artist you had previously never really become acquainted with. Although I’d flirted with Primal Scream via the albums Vanishing Point and XTRMNTR (and the Death In Vegas project), I hardly knew the band. Until now! Listening to Ian’s selections, and hearing them place alongside these intermittent ‘influencer’ tunes has drawn me in once and for all, 100% or nothing, so to speak! Time allowing (and vying for my attention along with the waterfall of music available these days) I look forward to exploring, and re-exploring, the Scream’s music and catalogue and just paying more attention if I hear them on the radio or in the background somewhere. I hope the collection has a similar effect for all of you that come across this wonderful playlist. Cheers Ian, Mick and Bobby Gillespie et. al. If I do bump into you in the Sony Music cafe next time Bobby, you’ll be giving me your opinion on the selection too I hope!