An Open Letter To Primal Scream

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Dear Primal Scream,

We have known each other a long time, a very long time.

It’s so long now that it now feels like some sort of historical epoch since our paths crossed in the early days of Creation Records. Bobby was Jesus and Mary Chain’s waif like drummer boy and Innes was already the shadowy figure behind that fab and mysterious Revolving Paint Dream, which was one of my favourite early Creation singles.
We were all temporarily part of the same family- the Creation noisenik vision of the brave new world, where you were the cool kids with the classicist take on rock n roll, I was a fucked up noise warrior in the Membranes on a high decibel suicide mission.

I thought it was time to write to you because I have been playing your now single, 2013, over and over.
It’s utterly mesmerising. It could be the best thing you’ve ever done. That sax break is pure gold, some say Psychedelic Furs and I get the X Ray Spex buzz because I was mates with dear old Poly but it also sounds like you- a bit seventies, a bit krautrock death disco, a bit Low period Bowie. The nine minute version is some trip which you can really get lost in whilst it remains urgent for every second. The song comes armed with great incendiary lyrics that deal out the truth saying all the stuff that needed to be said!

 

It’s been a long and strange trip. The early Primal Scream singles were honey drips of pure psych pop that, it could be argued, inspired the Stone Roses to create that wonderful debut album. After that you went through so many phases I’ve lost track, it was like a rampage through the best record collection in the world but oddly, you somehow, managed to always sound like Primal Scream and that’s the toughest trick of them all!

We have had some adventures over the years, I can still clearly remember the Boardwalk gigs in Manchester with the 50 people who went to everything- the 50 people that Noel Gallagher always talks about when I see him- the 50 who went to every gig in town and knew there music stuff, Noel was one of them, the youngest. It was always the whole mob when Primal Scream were in town and it was on those nights the Stone Roses turned up as well- it was rare to see them at gigs- they were always working so hard on their music, just like now!
Those early Primal Scream gigs were great- the deceptively jangling band that could kick- you had that undertow of sullen, switchblade, violence hidden by the cascading melodies- the dream pop band.
Photographer Ian Tilton once told me that he took your photos for Sounds up in Scotland and a butterfly flew past and how you said how beautiful it looked and then one of the band clapped it between their hands and crushed it! We always thought that captured the two ends of your spectrum perfectly!
I remember seeing you playing Manchester International- you had your debut album out then and the gig was great but it wasn’t that full- it’s odd how small the so called indie scene was in those days- these days its Manchester Apollo or bust- in those days it was the diehards and the fanatics.
After the gig a friend of ours was hit full on by a taxi in Rusholme. He was stood right next to me crossing the road and his body was tossed into the air. I held his head off the floor after he had landed and there was blood everywhere and you appeared out of nowhere and we chatted in the middle of the chaos. He survived.

I remember playing football around that time with you up in Glasgow just before you moved down to Brighton. It was sort of like an indie England v Scotland,where the Scottish team had two nippy wingers- you on one side and Stephen Pastel on the other. I think we must have lost, we were not in a good state that day – I know all losing teams line up their excuses but I think the triple bad acid was not helping our concentration.

I remember those days when E arrived and I remember seeing you round those London clubs in your leathers surrounded by the baggies. We used to laugh about a review I had done of you saying that ballads were for saps- I was joking of course and was buzzing when your best ballad, I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have”, was tuned into Loaded and because an anthem for the times and your Sceamadelica album perfectly sound tracked the E period.

There was that time round then in 1990 when I interviewed you for Sounds in the park in Hackney, near the Creation offices and you were talking about Led Zeppelin and then threw up in the waste bin. It was front cover for the xmas issue- the other music papers had photos of bands dressed as Santas. I insisted that Sounds had to have a cover of you as you were and it looked great.
Screamadelica was the moment and with the amount of drugs going round and the craziness you should have tuned out there but you survived and turned into a rock band getting your ya ya’s out with songs like the great Rocks before you got the greatest free transfer in rock n roll and got Mani on board and did the glorious trilogy of comedown albums of Vanishing Point, XTRMNTR and Evil Heat that really captured the confused and dark fluxus of the nineties/early nowties.

And for me that’s the greatest thing about your band, you are a rock n roll band that does the off the wall better than anyone- you always yearned to be the Stones but you were always great at being a stripped down post punk unit and I loved those three albums.

Sometimes it seemed you had read the rock n roll textbook too closely but you managed to escape that trap and the new Primals are in bizarrely rude health.

Last time I saw you and Innes was that justice tonight gigs in London when you destroyed it live with Mick Jones and Paul Simonon. That version of brand new Cadillac was total war. It was more than a gig. It was a rebirth and the new single is a continuation of that reaffirmation…

2013 lays down the law. Like 1977 by the Clash it defines the year and makes the numbers iconic whilst staring into the car crash of capitalism whilst getting released on a major label- and I love that- it’s like a rock n roll Robin Hood stealing from the rich and then critique them.

Few rock bands have managed to keep that edge and that’s why I’ve sent you this letter…

Yours in rock n roll
Brother John Robb

71 thoughts on “An Open Letter To Primal Scream

  1. A good track but unfortunately the bit before the chorus constantly reminds me of ‘Kokomo’. Not something one likes to be constantly reminded of. But have the Primals ever used the lyric “Come on pretty mama”? It’s certainly likely

  2. Describing Primal Scream as a band who’ve kept their edge strikes me as very odd. As far as I can hear all they’ve ever done is change their style to fit in, pure muso opportunism. They’ve sounded like about 5 completely different groups over time. Each to their own.

    • Signor Muerte

      The fact that this GREAT rock and roll group has sounded so different just blew me away and made me their #1 fan! I don’t look at it as opportunism, but artistic ability. When in my early teens I didn’t seem to appreciate too much their MTV heavy-rotation “Get your rocks off”, but when I had the opportunity to see a live act of Echo Dek on German music channel Viva 2 I was hooked! And afterwards I started diggin’! From the JAMC beginnings to Andrew Weatherall and dub master Adrian Sherwood friendships and their psychedelic music background it is all something to really LOVE! (like Everything Changes)

  3. andy- i get your point- but Bowie and the beatles did the same…

  4. Robin- you’ve just ruined i for me! mind you wasn’t kokomo the beach boys best ever single?

  5. The longer version fully does the track justice. Early Psychedelic Furs/X-Ray Spex/Death In Vegas – these are a few of my favourite things..

  6. It’s Hawkwind all over … Awesome stuff … It’s like a rewrite … A part 2 possibly of Urban Guerilla

  7. Anonymous

  8. Keith Goldhanger

    They headlined Reading in 1994. They could quite conceivably headline it again 20 years later. How many other bands could that apply to.

  9. Jack Barron

    it’s not bad, John. Mmm, I”ll have to play it again …

  10. Marico

    The Scottish team had two nippy wingers – Bobby Gillespie and Stephen Pastel.
    For some reason I can’t picture Stephen Pastel playing football . . .

  11. Who’s playing sax on it?
    The intro instantly put me in mind of jazz-era Blow Monkeys.
    (I say this as someone who would happily hear Bobby Gillespie do guest vocals on Professor Supercool.)

  12. Yes, Kokomo WAS pretty much their best. Anyway I’ve just read the interview with BG on Tumblr – my problem is not with the Primals’ records, which are excellent, but that he seems to voice what seems to be a consensus, that no one (else) in music saying anything about the world in 2013. But there is plenty of stuff out there, just not in the small world of (in the immortal words of Tommy Udo) guitar-bass-drums-and-some-cunt-singing. In the UK, look at Plan B, who is (at the moment) far more accessible/accessed than Primal Scream, and lots of excellent underground grime/rap artists on the underground . . . or, from the US, on the bill for the much-maligned new V festival, Kendrick Lamar – and plenty of other hip hop artists. Trad rock fans are strapped into a shrinking world where the light at the end of the tunnel appears to be the Strypes. And that’s just weird.

  13. Robin, true lots of people saying stuff, probably more than in ‘old days’ i guess ‘alternative’ radio forgets to play it!

  14. So do I, on a level, I’m just saying the idea they represent any sort of future is completely weird . . .

  15. Robin, you should still be a music writer – great stuff here!

  16. Ha! I missed some ‘important new band’ (who knows) in Camden when you really had to see them all. Rang TU next day to ask what they had been like, hence the immortal quote. Which I often quote. Music writing.. Well, prefer the odd rant with no professional obligations!!

  17. griettehake

    The next time I read a weblog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as a lot as this 1. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I really thought youd have something interesting to say. All I hear is often a bunch of whining about some thing that you could fix for those who werent too busy searching for attention.

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