Primal Scream’s Screamadelica turns 25 – Don’t Fight It, Feel It

Some records do not stand the passing of time in a dignified manner. They can be so tied to a particular era that, without the attendant cultural baggage they find themselves adrift without an anchor. 

Primal Scream‘s incredible 3rd album, Screamadelica, has no such moorings. It manages to pull off the difficult trick of capturing the feel and atmosphere of its time and yet still sounds fresh and exciting when played today.

Screamadelica arrived at a time when dance music’s influence was spreading out from the clubs and taking root across the world, infecting even the increasingly trad guitar based world of indie music.

The term ‘indie dance’ has been much used since the late 80s, but it was a huge cultural shift when indie finally stopped moping about and got its groove on. Following the acid house explosion and the second summer of love the musical landscape moved and bands were forced to respond.

The Happy Mondays and Stone Roses were symbolic of this cross-pollination, seamlessly and joyfully integrating grooves and dancefloor appeal into their guitar/bass/drums music. And once the floodgates were open, there was no shortage of hopefuls trying to force their way in and follow in more successful footsteps.

In truth, the dance explosion of the late 80s proved a difficult thing to ignore; bands either moved with the times or were left looking outdated and obsolete almost overnight. Even dyed in the wool twee indie darlings Everything But The Girl were swept up in the tide and released an album of dancefloor influenced tunes, the title of which summed the situation up nicely: Adapt or Die.

In this environment, Primal Scream were initially on the wrong side of the fence – a bastion of none-more-indie attitude and in thrall to the Rolling Stones and MC5. Their two albums up to this point had been quite traditional and were met with a lukewarm critical and commercial reaction. However, enlightenment, change and something of an epiphany were on the horizon in the form of the burgeoning Acid House scene.

The Scream’s record label boss, Alan McGee chronicles his own road-to-Damascus conversion to dance music in his excellent book Creation Stories. In one memorable chapter, he recalled taking a cynical and resistant Bobby Gillespie to his first rave and supplying him with Ecstasy for the first time. The effect was instant and unalterable – Bobby Gillespie fell in love with Acid House culture. “Gillespie got it,” McGee later said. “By about June, [he thought] he’d invented acid house!”

The band’s own journey from jangly 60s fetishists to lysergic pioneers began when Shoom resident Andrew Weatherall asked to remix I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have, from their self-titled 2nd album. To Gillespie’s delight, Weatherall removed almost all traces of the band, adding looped beats and film dialogue, leaving only the ghost of the original song. Weatherall rechristened the song Loaded and a classic was born.

Loaded was so loved by Gillespie that Primal Scream had found a whole new direction. Weatherall was invited back to sit in the producer’s chair for their next album, along with The Orb and programmer Hugo Nicholson.

But far from being freely accepted into the world of dance music, Primal Scream were initially the subject of much bemusement and suspicion. They were accused of being bandwagon jumpers of the worst sort, the type of band who were prepared to jettison their past and their ideals in order to climb aboard the groovy train, just for the sake of having a few hits.

This attitude was not uncommon at the time and the music press regularly poked fun at bands who claimed that they had always had a ‘dance element’ to their music, as they released supposed House remixes of their dreadful, lumpen offerings. You fill in the names, I cry too easily.

Further criticism was aimed their way, claiming that the band didn’t even play on their own records anymore. Weatherall himself said “The Scream never were and never will be careerists. Who ended up on the records didn’t matter, because Bob still wrote the tunes and it was still the Scream.”

What the press initially missed out on was the fact that the Scream team meant it maan. Most of the band, particularly Gillespie and guitarist Andrew Innes immersed themselves in the new scene enthusiastically. Unlike some of their peers, this was not a careerist move – Primal Scream talked the talk and walked the walk.

Screamadelica was the result of this mindset, a drug fuelled, opiated, comedown ridden masterpiece that the band still try to live up to and, in this writer’s opinion, have yet to equal.

Further classic singles followed: the groove of Come Together and the otherworldly Higher Then the Sun, perhaps the band’s high watermark.

By the time Screamadelica was released, the tide of opinion had turned in the Scream‘s favour and it was acknowledged that what the band were creating was way beyond any bandwagon jumping cursory remix nonsense.

The tracklisting of the album tells its own story of the altered states the band occupied during the writing and recording, Movin’ On Up. Don’t Fight it, Feel it, Higher Than the Sun, Loaded, Damaged and I’m Comin’ Down trace the narcotic journey with well rehearsed accuracy.

They also reveal a lifestyle that suited the times, one of excess and where taking drugs was to fit in with the zeitgeist. No matter what the initial reaction was to the Scream going dance, there was to be no doubt that they embraced it all with open arms, mouths and nostrils.

As the album developed, guitarist Throb wondered where he fitted into the band’s new direction. It is easy to see his point, Throb was born to be a guitar god, but his band had all but abandoned conventional instrumentation and were now seemingly part of a revolution that was consigning guitarists to the scrapheap.

Only the late addition of Moving On Up gave him something to work with and stopped him from leaving Primal Scream before they became the stars they always believed themselves to be.

The fact that this post-acid masterpiece was followed up with the disappointing Stones tribute album Give Out But Don’t Give Up has led many to question just how much of Screamadelica’s iridescent majesty was down to the efforts of Weatherall et al.

Certainly, he shaped and reshaped the songs, ruthlessly removing contributions by the band and replacing them with bleeps, beats and samples, but Screamadelica could only be a collaboration between band and producer and, in truth, could not have existed without all parties working together to define a decade.

Screamadelica proved a difficult album to follow, and it was to be many years before Primal Scream again found their mojo. 25 years later, they have risen to the challenge they presented to themselves and have created one of the most intriguing and idiosyncratic back catalogues in modern music.

Always capable of surprising, Primal Scream remain a difficult band to pigeonhole, but an easy band to love.


Lost Albums

One Dove’s Morning Dove White: “Screamadelica’s little sister, younger and more effortlessly cool than its grown up sibling. “

We all know how this is supposed to work.  A band comes together and make an album that is so good that people buy it in droves, we talk about it in hushed tones for years to come and the band go on to create an enviable canon of records and gigs.

Except it doesn’t always happen like that.  Sometimes incredible records fail to gain traction with the zeitgeist in the way that they should.  The result of this is that record and band stay under the radar, get pressured or dropped by a record company looking for a return on its investment and they break up, ignored and disillusioned.

There seems to be no readily discernible reason for this, other than success in the music business is more a matter of luck than of talent. In other words, bad luck and a lack of lucky breaks can doom bands and records to undeserved obscurity.

But this does not mean that these records are any less wonderful.  They still excite and amaze, they still float the listener away on clouds of musical perfection.  Their worth is measured not in terms of units shifted, but in souls moved.

Such a fate befell One Dove and their Morning Dove White album.

It is, without questions, a towering thing of beauty, but it was beset with difficulties from its inception.

One Dove came from the 90’s dance music boom, combining chilled electronica, dub and dance floor appeal.  Their first single Fallen was a hit in clubs at the time, which led to them signing to the influential Junior Boy’s Own label, changing their name from Dove, due to a band of that name already doing the rounds.

JBO released a superb Andrew Weatherall remix of Fallen, but already One Dove’s run of bad luck had started.  Fallen was withdrawn after just one week, following complaints about an unlicensed harmonica sample from a Supertramp song.

A second single, Transient Truth followed and gathered further acclaim for One Dove.

Junior Boy’s Own was taken over by London Records and the new masters wanted a more commercial sound for One Dove.  To this end, they brought in Stephen Hague to remix next single White Love.  Hague was a big name producer who worked with the likes of New Order, Pet Shop Boys and Erasure, so his pedigree was good. 

His work with the band earned them favourable comparisons to Saint Etienne and brought them wider attention.

However, the stage was set for tension.

One Dove resented Hague’s commercialising of their sound and resisted attempts to sugar coat their songs.  The release of Morning Dove White was delayed by a full year as the band fought with their record company about how they should sound.

The impasse was only broken when it was agreed that Hague coulis only remix their singles if they were in the studio with him at the time.

On its release, Morning Dove White only managed to make number 30 in the album charts.  Listening back to it now, this is a shame of near criminal proportions.

Morning Dove White is a sublime record.  As much as Stephen Hague may figure in One Dove’s story, this album has Andrew Weatherall running through its veins. 

In many ways, Morning Dove White is Screamadelica’s little sister, younger and more effortlessly cool than its more grown up sibling. 

Both albums carry the same sense of clubbing euphoria and both perfectly capture the spirit of the times in their grooves, but perhaps Morning Dove White is less likely to finish its bag of pills in one go and then fall asleep on your sofa for the rest of the weekend. 

Stealing Sheep Interview: “you have to be brave and push boundaries and experiment with your own vision”

Morning Dove White starts with off with Weatherall’s remix of Fallen, minus the Supertramp sample.  Singer Dot Allison introduces the album by seductively whispering ‘I don’t know why I’m telling you any of this.  One thing is, don’t ever tell anyone I told you this.  Don’t save me, just forgive me.  Forgive me, because I was only thinking of you.’

Straight away, Allison has drawn us in, made us her confidants.  We are friends and we want to know more.  The music is rich with Weatherall’s Screamadelica-esque swoops, beats and whooshes.  One Dove have created a sound that would be perfectly at home on the dance floor and for a post clubbing chill out session.

There is an unhurried fell to the songs, with the first two tracks clocking in at just under 18 minutes, a link to the fact that their roots lay in long nights on club dancefloors. 

Second track White Love exceeds ten minutes on its own.  Here in its Guitar Paradise Mix, it builds slowly, with guitar chords feeding back before the beats kick in.  

The drug references of the 90s are present and correct, with Allison singing ‘this powerful, this pure, behind our eyes.  And when I trip, when I fall, it’s just like velvet’. 

Despite being only the second track, White Love is the album’s centrepiece, an epic, sprawling trip of a song that, despite it’s length, never outstays its welcome. 

Breakdown carries the vibe forward with dub basslines and a Higher Than The Sun beat and Dot Allison lamenting ‘I remember the night you left me, the moon was full, I felt empty.’  It isn’t all euphoria for One Dove, as heartbreak and melancholy seep into their songs like cold night air.

 There Goes The Cure  and Sirens are blissful and almost beat free excursions, drifting along on a haunting piano or organ refrains, moments of calm and reflection.

The version of Transient Truth here is a dubbed out nine minute epic, with a Jah Wobble-esque bassline and runs of eastern melodies.  It is stunningly beautiful and the album’s least commercial sounding song.  So far on Morning Dove White, every track could be a single, but Transient Truth is out there.

Morning Dove White finishes with the yearning Why Don’t You Take Me, a straight forward pop song buried under layers of dub and a yearning not to sound too commercial.

Reissues of the album have extra tracks in the shape of various remixes, but the original Morning Dove White is more than enough.  It takes you out, shows you a good time, tells you how it has had it heart broken and walks home with you.  At the end you are best friends, you know each other and you will always be there for each other.

Despite these creative peaks and some extraordinary music, One Dove’s experience had been a frustrating one.  Part way through recording their second album One Dove split up, with the business side of the music industry proving too much for them and their creative vision.

Dot Allison went on to have an acclaimed career as a solo artist, releasing further beautiful music and collaborating with the likes of Massive Attack, Death in Vegas and Slam

But, for a beautiful fleeting moment, One Dove existed and our lives were the better for it.

There is probably an alternative universe where One Dove’s path through the world was smoother and their artistic vision was encouraged rather than whitewashed and where they are revered as gods, but for us here in this universe, we have Morning Dove White to love and to cherish.

And that is enough.