The Lads Go Clubbing
Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie met creation boss Alan McGee back in the day in Glasgow and after a stint as the drummer with Jesus & Mary Chain, Gillespie migrated south and met up with McGee once again. The band signed to the eminent indie / Britpop label and released “Sonic Flower Groove” which received a lacklustre reaction. But then McGee introduced them to acid house and everything changed. They met Andrew Weatherall, one of the most popular DJ’s at the time who was playing at the now legendary Boy’s Own parties, and gave him a copy of “I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have” to remix. Andrew added a drum loop from the Edie Brickell tune “What I Am” bootleg, sampled Bobby singing Robert Johnson’s “Terraplane Blues” and then added a sample from Peter Fonda from the B move “Wild Angels”, and voila, they had their first major hit with “Loaded”. Time for an album then.
This inspired the band to work in a completely different way as Gillespie remembered, “Before that we would sit with electric guitars and try and write a chord sequence in the melody, a very traditional way of writing songs. But when we started working with drum loops, the sampler and the keyboard it just opened everything up to us. We started to write and think in a totally different way.” They began to put together an album in a studio in Hackney and as for the first time they had a budget to work with, they were able to indulge themselves.
Inspirations and Collaborations
Much in the way Primal Scream fused together acid house, psychedelic soul and good ole rock n’ roll, they also enlisted a wide variety of collaborators and drew from many different inspirations. They enlisted Jimmy Miller who had produced The Rolling Stones and Motorhead for “Movin On Up” and covered “Slip Inside This House” by cult sixties psychedelic band 13th Floor Elevators song. Robert Young actually sang on this song as Gillespie had collapsed and was ‘having a bad day’). Gillespie had another bad day a bit later as when he tried singing “Don’t Fight It Feel It”, he wasn’t ‘feeling it’, so they got in soul singer Denise Johnson who brought the song to life.
Going in yet another direction, “Higher Than The Sun” was produced by chill-out kingpins Dr. Alex Patterson and Thrash of The Orb. The band then wanted to include an instrumental in the way that Curtis Mayfield did on the “Super Fly” sound track they wrote the Weatherall-arranged “Inner Flight”. On the opposite side of the spectrum, “Damaged” was a ballad much like Velvet Underground’s ”Candy Says” and the band played this together in the studio unlike the rest of the album. They brought in former PiL bassist Jah Wobble for the “Higher Than The Sun: A Dub Symphony In Two Parts”and he imprinted it with his trademark edgy and sparsely funky bass-line. When the band first heard the finished result they weren’t impressed with what Weatherall had done so Weatherall took a DJ trip to Rimini and after mentally checking out for some time, he came back with a headful of ideas and added all sorts of noises like tin cans and bells and came up with the definitive version.
Running the Record like a Weekend
The band put their ego to the side, enlisting outside talent and doing whatever it took to make it work. The results speak for themselves and despite all of the influences, the album sounds like a cohesive effort. Guitarist Andrew Innes decided to run the order of the songs on the record like a typical weekend. He recalled the opening song was “like you’re going out, you put on ‘Movin’ On Up’ on, and that’s your going-out record on a Friday night when you’re having a shave, you’re getting ready… And then in the middle it’s the real trippy, psychedelic stuff, so that’s when your head’s full of stuff and you’re just in the middle of the dance floor. And then ‘Shine Like Stars’ is like a proper comedown. I thought, ‘I’ve got to run it like how we are.’”
In 1991 I was producing syndicated radio shows in The States and the album was due a domestic release on Sire Records. The label’s publicity department asked if I would like to feature the band on my program that went out to over 200 college radio stations. I was over the moon as the album was a soundtrack to my life at the time as it combined both the indie rock and dance vibes I so loved. We didn’t have the same kind of rave scene that was going on in the UK at the time and there was a very defined boundary between rock and dance in the USA (although ‘new wave’ had managed to traverse the line a decade earlier). I was looking forward to talking about the UK scene and all of the different musical styles with the band and went to the Warner Brothers building where the poor guys had been doing interviews all day.
I set up my microphone, pressed record and excitedly began firing away. Unfortunately, I couldn’t understand a bloody word they were saying! This is before I had Glaswegian flatmates or had spent any time in the UK. And if I couldn’t understand them, how could I expect kids in the Midwest to have a clue what they were on about? And they had probably had enough of interviews by this point and were leaning away from the microphones. Anyways, I managed to decipher a few answers and somehow got the sound-bites I needed and got them on the show.
They did return for another interview a year or so later as they had been recording in Alabama. This time they visited me in the recording studio where I worked and probably because they were more hyped having worked with the Black Crowes producer, this time they seemed happier, spoke clearly and I was able to understand their dialect. Little did I know at that time I would one day be living in the same neighbourhood at Bobby and would often see him in the local playground with the kids. Strange how things “Come Together”.