Melody Maker | Feature | 10 March 1990 | Photos: Joe Dilworth
"I still like quite a lot of the old Primal Scream songs, stuff like 'All Fall Down' and 'Velocity Girl', but I don't think our first album was as good as it could have been," says Bobby Gillespie. "The main problem was that we loved the melodies so much that we were too careful and, by making sure every note was perfect, we lost the spirit of many of the songs. It would have been a much better record if it had sounded a bit rougher.
"When it came to the second album, we decided it was stupid to spend days and days working on a single song, so we recorded a lot of the tracks at the first take. We just wanted to bang everything straight down and concentrate on capturing the moment. But although we were really happy with it, the reviews were disappointing. Several journalists simply couldn't understand how we could do a rock song like 'Ivy Ivy Ivy' one minute and a slow ballad, using just a voice and slide guitar, the next. Instead of being praised for our diversity, we were accused of being schizophrenic.
"I daren't think what the critics are gonna say about our new single. Nor do I particularly care. The most important thing is that we know 'Loaded' is a great track, probably one of the best records we've ever put out. I'm not even bothered about how our fans react to it. We lost some of our original following over the last LP, but we also gained a lot of others who'd never been into the band before and I'd be daft not to expect the same sort of thing to happen again.
"In the month or so before the single was released, it had advance orders of over 7,500. It was exciting because those pre-sales weren't due to radio airplay or getting good reviews in the music press, but as a result of people hearing it at a club or a rave. It's the first time that anything like that has ever happened to us. With 'Loaded', we're playing a totally different ball game."
Even those with only a vague knowledge of Primal Scream's past will be surprised to learn that "Loaded" is a dance record. It's been one of the most popular club tracks of the last few weeks.
Primal Scream's guitar-based pop and their acknowledged admiration for the sounds and the spirit of the 1960s, especially The Byrds and the year 1967, made them both musically and ideologically the perfect indie outfit for much of the latter half of the 1980s. Last year, their second album revealed a broader interest, but that seemed to be of no great consequence to many. The record topped the indie charts for several weeks. "Loaded", however, is likely to be seen by the purists as a betrayal of much that the band once stood for.
The single is the result of Primal Scream joining forces with Andrew Weatherall, a DJ at clubs such as Shoom and Future, as well as at numerous raves. He is also one of the remixers of Happy Mondays' "Hallelujah" and a regular contributor to the Boy's Own dance music and football fanzine. Although "Loaded" is based on "I'm Losing More Than I'll Ever Have", a song on the "Primal Scream" album, it's probably fair to say it is as much Weatherall's work as that of the band.
Only the bassline and the slide guitar are recognisable from "I'm Losing More", while heavy rock power chords, a popadelic guitar solo and the rattle of a tambourine have been added from other Primal Scream tracks. There's also the odd poke at a piano, countless blasts of horns and the voice of Peter Fonda sampled from the biker movie "The Wild Angels". A couple of whoops and the words "I'm gonna get deep down, deep down" are Bobby Gillespie’s only vocal contributions. A Soul II Soul drum pattern, borrowed from a bootleg dance mix of Edie Brickell's "I Am What I Am", smooths all the elements together.
Although some will see "Loaded" as an attempt to hitch a ride on the highly successful Happy Mondays and Stone Roses bandwagon, Gillespie has been talking about his love of hip hop and dance music since 1987. More significantly, the new single has far more in common with an old Stax record and, at times, with The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy For The Devil" – a favourite track with a couple of DJs at the earliest acid clubs – than with anything that has been issued in the last six months. It's almost as if Primal Scream have merely become a touch more cunning at disguising their fascination with the 1960s.
"I see 'Loaded' as a dub record and I think it's closer to the sort of radical reconstructions that Jamaican producers like Joe Gibbs used to do with reggae songs in 1973 or 1974 than anything," declares Gillespie. "Hopefully people will realise it has a different angle to something the Mondays or the Roses might do. I don't think we can be accused of jumping on any bandwagon. It's not like we're The Wonder Stuff. Apparently they're now looking for a DJ to remix them even though only a year ago they took the piss with 'Who Wants To Be The Disco King?'.
"Although we obviously knew that Andy Weatherall was a DJ and we asked him to give the song a groove, we didn't necessarily expect him to turn it into a dance track. Like us, his musical tastes are very broad. He's into the Pistols and The Clash and Funkadelic and Sly Stone, as well as house music. Also, this was only the second time he'd ever been in a studio, so in some ways it was just an experiment. We all knew the whole idea could suddenly collapse.
“But the point is that even though Andy didn't know what the fuck he was doing, he had the enthusiasm and the attitude to want to give it a go. That kind of spirit is what really matters. That's what's missing from so much of today's indie rock and pop music. I mean, how the hell can someone like Birdland seriously be touted as a great British band when they're nothing but an extremely bad imitation of the UK Subs?
"The whole rock scene is a fucking joke. Most of the bands leave me cold. Apart from The Jesus And Mary Chain and The Cramps, all the gigs I've been to recently have been incredibly dull. It really pisses me off to walk into a venue to find there's no sense of excitement or danger, none of the atmosphere that I can remember when I went to see bands like The Clash when I was younger, and to see half of the audience sitting on the floor staring into each other's long faces. What I wanna know is why the hell they bother going out in the first place.
"A rave or a club is an entirely different thing. The music is energetic and the people have an adventurous spirit. The whole house music scene has the same kind of vibrancy that punk used to have and that's why so many young kids are into it. They don't wanna know about The Sundays and 'Reading, Writing And Arithmetic'. They wanna get loaded, get wasted and have a fucking good time."
Bobby Gillespie is adamant he's not taking sides in any rock versus dance music argument. He says that a song should be judged on its individual merit rather than its musical style and he notes his admiration for artists as varied as Hank Williams, Sun Ra, John Coltrane, The Beatles, Thin Lizzy, Ornette Coleman, Bo Diddley, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Marc Bolan, The Clash and Robert Johnson. The list goes on and on. His belief in the benefits of diversity is further supported by the fact that the B-side of "Loaded" juxtaposes a different, poppier mix of "I'm Losing More Than I'll Ever Have" and a thunderous version of the MC5's "Ramblin' Rose".
"'Ramblin' Rose' is what Primal Scream are like live now. We're a total energy zap with lots of speed and noise, the sort of stuff people can really get off on. We've had a few house kids wander into some of our gigs and, on a couple of occasions, they've come up to us after the show and said that although they don't normally listen to rock music, they could appreciate the energy of what we do onstage and that kind of response is very pleasing.
"It'd be great to think that somebody who buys a copy of 'Loaded' having heard it in a club will get the record home, flip it over and discover 'Ramblin' Rose'. At first they probably won't know what the fuck's going on, but after a while they might get into it and perhaps even want to pick up an MC5 album when they next go to the record shop. At the same time, those who buy the single just because it's by Primal Scream might realise what dance music can offer. Ultimately, all we're saying is that people should open up their minds a lot more. Some may be pleasantly surprised."