Screamadelica by Primal Scream

1991

The other day, when writing about “The Nashville Sound”, I quoted Jason Isbell as saying that he was living in the real world, not a Peckinpah movie. “You can’t root for the bad guy”. To be honest, I never root for the bad guy and it’s why I miss out on so much TV that people tell me I would love. I can’t watch “The Sopranos” because I can’t find anybody to root for. If I watch a programme where everyone is horrible, I can’t make any connection. A possible exception is “Billions” and Roo and I are currently watching the Season Five. Everybody hates everybody else. I’m not sure why I’m watching it. The other programme that may be an exception is “The Crown” where none of the Royal Family are portrayed as being people that I could “root for” but it astonishingly well made and I was certainly rooting for Harold Wilson.

I remember watching “Straw Dogs” many years ago. Although it was very violent, I did end up rooting for Dustin Hoffman, as I think Peckinpah wanted me to. The film has been criticised for glamourising and eroticising rape and I have no desire to watch it again but at least there seemed to be some moral core to it. On the other hand, in “Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid”, another Peckinpah classic, who were we supposed to be rooting for?

I never saw “The Wild Angels”, a 1966 film directed by Roger Corman and I’m very glad. The film stars Peter Fonda, Nancy Sinatra, Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd. The experience of making a film about a central character who rode a Harley-Davidson motorbike inspired Peter Fonda to subsequently make “Easy Rider”. The film concerns a Chapter of Hells Angels and after scenes depicting sex, alcohol and fighting, one of the characters (“Loser”) gets shot by the police attempting to escape arrest. The Angels assault a nurse who tries to stop them taking Loser out of the hospital. Without medical care, Loser dies and at his funeral, the preacher gives a perfunctory eulogy which is interrupted by Peter Fonda’s character who explains that he doesn’t want to hear any more but he wants to have a good time, he wants to party.

A headline in the paper last week was about the government’s attempts to “Save Christmas”. The latest lockdown is set to end in ten days time and this week Boris Johnson and his chums are going to announce what their plans are. As much as I despise the old Etonian and his merry mates, I don’t envy him the predicament he faces as he tries to balance mental health, physical health and economic health. It seems that everybody has an opinion which focuses on just one of these issues whereas the future wellbeing of the country requires a middle ground to be found. As for me, I don’t really care about Christmas. I’d like to see my sister and her family but I don’t really feel that I have to do this on December 25th. I’d rather the country does everything it can to eradicate the virus so we can go back to something resembling life before COVID. On the other hand, I’m in an economically privileged position so I can afford to be blasé about businesses going bankrupt. I don’t have young children for whom Christmas can be a special time. On the other hand (I have three hands) I think that Christmas is sold to us by the media as being something that reality can never live up to. Advertisements and Christmas specials show perfect Christmases where after, maybe a few disagreements, everyone happily sits round a huge table, laden with food, blissfully enjoying each other’s company. For some people, that is reality. For many others, the thought that everybody else in the country is having a truly happy Christmas makes for an especially miserable time.

My Dad always used to say that, when he was at work, his colleagues would be asking each other about their plans for Christmas for the whole of December. Everybody would discuss their plans and make sure that everybody else knew. On Christmas Eve, everyone would leave with good wishes that they have a lovely Christmas. Two days later they would be back at work and everyone would then spend a week asking each other about how their Christmas was. A huge amount of fuss over two days. Personally, I miss the week leading up to the end of the Christmas term when every Maths lesson would have a Christmas theme; the last lesson with each class would be a Christmas Quiz with “In Dulce Jubilo”, “Stop the Cavalry” and “Fairytale Of New York” on repeat; there would be two or three celebratory pub visits and the feeling of relief once the last lesson of term had finished and the partying was about to start was indescribable. At Netteswell, we used to have a barrel of beer in the staffroom for the Christmas party. If I was still working, it’s the build up to Christmas that I would miss, not Christmas day itself.

To summarise, I’m trying to say that I realise that everyone has a different perspective. I don’t really care if Christmas is “saved” but I do know that a lot of people will be anxious to meet up and have a lovely family occasion over the two days. Other people will be anxious to go out and celebrate beforehand. People want to be free to do what they want to do. They want to have a good time. They want to have a party.

“Screamadelica” was the third album by Scottish band, Primal Scream. It won the Mercury Music Prize in 1992. It was album of the year in “Melody Maker” and “Select”. In 2003, the “New Musical Express” voted it as the 23rd best album ever. It has sold over three million copies. Whereas the two previous albums had been indie-rock, this album tapped into the burgeoning house music scene and the use of LSD and MDMA. Bobby Gillespie is quoted as saying that the two albums he was listening to at the time were “Pet Sounds” by The Beach Boys and “The Marble Index” by Nico. I have no idea whether or not he was joking because as much as I love those two albums, I can’t see any beautiful harmonies or manic weirdness on this album. Their next album “Give Out But Don’t Give Up” is clearly influenced by The Rolling Stones and a common audience response during the playing of songs from “Screamadelica” is the “whooo whooo” that plays during “Sympathy For The Devil” so I would say that a more obvious influence was the boys from The Half Moon, Putney.

“Loaded” was voted by the “New Musical Express” as the 59th best song of all time and the samples from “The Wild Angels” are brilliantly incorporated into a dance song that demonstrates the buzz it’s possible to get from a communal mass gathering, the like of which I hope we don’t see over Christmas.

“I’m Coming Down” is in complete contrast and is much slower and laid back. If I was an expert on the drug culture of the Nineties, I’d be able to say which drug should be taken listening to this song and which should be taken for “Loaded”. I’ve never taken any drugs apart from caffeine and alcohol but in the parlance of the Sixties, I would say that speed is the appropriate drug for “Loaded” and marijuana is just right for “I’m Coming Down”. It’s spaced out with wailing saxophone and a dreamy vocal describing, er, coming down. It’s great, even without any drugs and I especially love the ending which samples the end of “I Knew These People” from the “Paris, Texas” soundtrack by Ry Cooder. This isn’t a song, it’s an eight minute monologue by Harry Dean Stanton talking about his life to his estranged son, Hunter who, at the end of the monologue replies by saying “Yep. I know that feeling.”

“Come Together” is over ten minutes long and a substantially shorter version got into the UK Top Thirty. The single version features Bobby Gillespie’s vocals but the ten minute remix ditches these in favour of a gospel refrain augmented by a sample of an impassioned speech about music and togetherness by Jesse Jackson from the Wattstax concert in Los Angeles in 1972. This remix became a dance floor anthem.

The first track on the album is “Movin’ On Up” which really does sound like The Rolling Stones would have sounded if they had embraced a Nineties dance culture. The song was produced by Jimmy Miller who produced “Let It Bleed”, “Sticky Fingers”, “Exile On Main Street” and “Goats Head Soup”.

Looking at the videos of Primal Scream playing live, I get it. I understand why people want Christmas to be saved. I understand why people want life to return to normal for the sake of their mental health. I understand the need for large shared communal experiences. I just think that we can’t wish ourselves back to “normal”.

Published by wilfulsprinter

Music lover

One thought on “Screamadelica by Primal Scream

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