At last, a cleaned-up Scream are fit to play their iconic album live
IF YOU AMBLE along to Oxegen’s Heineken Green Spheres Stage on Sunday at about 10pm, you’ll come across a sight many thought impossible. You may well be, as many have been before this festival season, left rooted to the spot and dropped of jaw by the spectacle of a clean and sober Primal Scream. Truly, this is the eighth wonder of the rock’n’roll world.
There’s wonderful poetic symmetry to the fact that Primal Scream will be playing Screamadelica, which the NME recently voted the “Druggiest Album of All Time”. To put that somewhat unorthodox accolade in context: Screamadelica was judged to be “even druggier” than Miles Davies’s Kind of Blue (which is really some going) and anything ever released by The Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground, Sly and The Family Stone, The Happy Mondays and Spiritualized.
It doesn’t take a degree in “Albums made under the influence of Grade A Narcotics” to know that Primal Scream’s top ranking signifies something perversely heroic.
Leaving aside whether the band could have recorded Screamadelica while clean and sober, the happy fact is that, in their current state, Primal Scream can actually play the album live – and very well. As well as such a majestic piece of musical work deserves.
We all know that Screamadelica won the first Mercury Music Prize (still the best-ever winner) and that it demonstrated how even a cul-de-sac indie band could douse themselves in house music and create an era-defining musical moment. But little is known of the extent of the advanced pharmacology that went into its recording. In the lead-up to the album, Bobby Gillespie had gone to a warehouse party to score some speed and first gazed upon the then still underground house music scene.
Ecstasy changed everything for the previously alcohol- addled musicians. Guitarist Andrew Innes best summed up those rapidly changing times.
“You went from being out at some indie club where some drunken idiot would start trying to pick a fight with you to this incredible new-sounding music and beautiful girls and everyone’s being friendly. You’d bump into some football hooligan and think, ‘Oh God, here we go’, and he’d give you a cuddle and that would be your new best friend for the night.”
Screamadelica wasn’t easy to make because the band would go out clubbing on a Thursday night and not come home until the following Monday, which left only three days a week for recording. “It was a love of music that brought us all together and that’s what we really get excited about,” Gillespie said at the time. “But we also get excited when the drugs turn up . . . really excited.”
There was also the not-at-all insignificant contribution of DJ Andrew Weatherall, who took Primal Scream’s dreary I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have and, in a moment of inspired alchemy, turned it into Loaded, which turned out to be one of the most significant single song changes of the past few decades. There was also the arrival of an Akai S1000 sampler in the studio, which demonstrated the endless possibilities in the art of sampling.
There will never be another Screamadelica, and all concerned in the music industry have moved on from those debauched days, as record companies now employ “lifestyle coaches” to monitor their charge’s behaviour and all of that.
Go and see Screamadelica being played on Sunday night. It’s more than just an album.
Primal Scream: Bobby Gillespie: plays Oxegen on Sunday