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Members include Martin Duffy, keyboards; Bobby Gillespie (member of Jesus and Mary Chain, 1984-86), bass, vocals; Andrew Innes, guitar; and Robert "Throbert" Young (left band), guitar. Band collaborates with various other musicians on recordings. Addresses: Record company--Warner Bros. Records, 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91510.

Primal Scream, a band that combines a funky 1960s groove with 1990s technology, rose to the top of the U.K. music charts in 1991. Their album release that year, Screamadelica, was tinged with hippie hysteria, and the dispossessed youth of post-industrial, post-Cold War Britain bought it. Brantley Bardin in Interview magazine called the album "a visionary hybrid that pits Beach Boys harmonies against lost-in-space dub reggae, country riffs against gospel shouts, and Coltrane-ish cries of saxophone against acid house wiggles." Primal Scream's next LP, Give Out but Don't Give Up, released in 1994, also drew on various sources--England's acid jazz, rockabilly, funk, and heavy metal--and was an attempt to widen the band's audience.

Primal Scream came together in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1984, initially featuring Andrew Innes on keyboards and guitar, Robert "Throbert" Young on second guitar, and on vocals and bass, Bobby Gillespie--who also played drums for the Jesus and Mary Chain, which was becoming famous as well. At first, Primal Scream imitated bands like the Byrds, the influential 1960s group that melded country, folk, and rock. An early admirer, disc jockey Andrew Weatherall, tried to transform one of Primal Scream's songs, "I'm Losing More Than I'll Ever Have," into a more danceable tune. The result was "Loaded," which became a hit among the denizens of the "acid house" nightclubs. The music of that scene was known as rave, which spawned feverish dancing and raw emotion in an atmosphere of slide shows and other psychedelia. Clubgoers demanded a rhythmic dance mix, which was the same impetus that had spawned disco in the 1970s.

Primal Scream soon signed with an independent label, Creation Records, and in 1986, released two singles, "All Fall Down" and "Crystal Crescent." Their success with young, party-going Britons also attracted the attention of Warner Bros. In the 1980s major record companies such as Warner adopted the role of distributor for smaller companies to keep tabs on the burgeoning alternative rock scene. Warner's subsidiary, Elevation, released Sonic Flower Groove in 1987. Primal Scream then recorded the single "Ivy Ivy Ivy" for Creation. When the song "Loaded" became a hit, the band was switched to another Warner subsidiary, Sire Records in New York City, for American distribution.

A period of arduous touring began, an obligatory career move for the nascent Primal Scream. The band traveled throughout the United Kingdom to growing acclaim. Producer Jimmy Miller, who had worked with the Rolling Stones, then took Primal Scream into the studio. The group collected the songs written and performed on the U.K. tour onto an album, Screamadelica, which was released in 1991. The LP opened with the song "Movin' on Up," featuring acoustic guitars and congas, and concluded with the gospel hymn "Come Together," a song lasting more than eight minutes.

Bardin, in Interview, remarked that despite Primal Scream's "early love of Public Image Ltd.-like noise--and their heavy-metalish moniker--Screamadelica is no mere screechfest," and added, "In fact, songs such as the album's magnum opus, 'Higher than the Sun,' with its Walt Whitman-on-Ecstasy declarations of independence and bliss, are virtually soothing." Primal Scream also covered "Slip Inside This House," by Roky Erickson of the 13th Floor Elevators, to emphasize their alternative rock credentials. Screamadelica's success propelled the band into the international arena. In 1992 Primal Scream crossed the Atlantic to the United States, where they toured for five weeks. By that time they had hit the airwaves and earned heavy rotation on the nation's dance club turntables.

Primal Scream's next album, 1994's Give Out but Don't Give Up, drew some negative press. The band had purchased some gloss by hiring such noted studio hands as funkmeister George Clinton and Atlantic Records' veteran producer Tom Dowd. Dowd's resume includes work with Aretha Franklin, Rod Stewart, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the Allman Brothers. The sixtyish sound man, a wizard on the volume controls, had been present at the birth of rock and roll. Clinton provided an additional link to the gospel and soul sound.

Imported to replace Primal Scream's bassist and drummer were expert studio musicians from Memphis, Tennessee, and Muscle Shoals, Alabama. George Drakoulias, who had given a commercial spin to the Black Crowes, performed the mix. Primal Scream's attempt to resurrect an earlier rhythm and blues sound, however, came across to many as derivative and exploitative. Some critics felt that Primal Scream had abandoned its happy blend of high-tech dance music and soul. Rolling Stone's Steven Daly called attention to this backlash, noting that in reaction to Give Out but Don't Give Up, critics "have lately been lampooning the Scream as repro-rock turncoats peddling reheated boogie a la the '73 Rolling Stones and flying in the face of progress."

Lead singer Bobby Gillespie defended the collaboration in Request magazine, remarking, "I enjoyed working with these people. I guess there's kind of a conversational quality and directness now. It's more instinctive." Alan McGee, who had signed Primal Scream to Creation Records, told Billboard magazine, "All great bands reflect their audience, and Primal Scream is their audience.... It's the perfect time for a funk record, because the kids in the clubs are going back to funk." In 1994, Primal Scream filmed an MTV video for the track "Rocks" from Give Out but Don't Give Up at a YMCA in London's West End.

According to Sire Records publicity materials, Bobby Gillespie sees Primal Scream's mission as therapeutic: "The healing power of music is vastly underestimated. It's a way to relieve tensions, to get the poisons out of the body, music is a way to love people, an example of how good we all can be. It's a form of liberation and where there's freedom, there's hope. Our hope is to make strange and beautiful records that take the process one step further."

by Paul E. Anderson

Primal Scream's Career

Band formed in 1984 in Glasgow, Scotland, by Gillespie and Innes; signed with Creation Records and released two singles, "All Fall Down" and "Crystal Crescent," 1986; released debut album, Sonic Flower Groove, Elevation, 1987; toured Great Britain, 1990; released Screamadelica, Sire/Reprise, 1991.

Primal Scream's Awards

Gold record for Screamadelica, 1991; Mercury Music Prize for best album in Britain for Screamadelica.

Famous Works

Further Reading


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