Hard-to-find

Dubby Gillespie

It’s no surprise that Primal Scream made a dub album. Back in the day, the core of musicians that constituted the band genre-hopped happily from subculture to subculture as freely as Bobby’s bob grew from curtains to bowl to boho banker and back again.

From tambourine-bashing Velvet-apers (in style, sound and subject matter) to strung-out and wrung-out Stooges/MC5/Dolls copyists, they alighted at the kaleidoscopic, stadium indie of Screamadelica within 3 albums in just over as many years. It barely needs pointing out that Bobby Gillespie and co have always worn their influences proudly on their sleeves, but point out we must. Whether those sleeves are made of denim or leather or silk or rhinestone and patterned in polkas or paisley is neither here nor there.

Today on this program you will hear gospel and rhythm ‘n blues and jazz,’ goes the sampled-from-Wattstax Jesse Jackson on the album version of Come Together. ‘All those are just labels. We know that music is music.’ Primal Scream merrily adopted that motto more than most.

Betwixt the hiccup of the Stonesy-yet-flat Give Out But Don’t Give Up and the big beat boutique of XTRMNTR came Vanishing Point and its companion piece, Echo Dek.

 

Vanishing Point is where you’ll find the singles; Burning Wheel, Kowlaksi, If They Move Kill ‘Em and Star, all terrific artistic statements in their own right; other-worldly, socially-conscious, sample-happy and interesting from every angle, but Echo Dek is where you’ll hear the album tracks let off the lead, allowed to wander and take whichever turn they fancy.

Stoned immaculate, it’s an ear-opening collection of tracks, a filling-loosening window rattler put together via the combined sonic mastery of Brendan Lynch and Adrian Sherwood, who between them produce and remix 8 of Vanishing Point’s tracks to create 9 fresh cuts. VP track Stuka is on the receiving end of 2 remixes, each of which closes a side on the vinyl version.

Primal Scream Revolutionary

Taking their cue from the masters of the genre, cave-like bass guitars boom, snare drums crack away like pistol duels at dawn and modern whooshes and blips and bleeps assault the senses with refreshing regularity. Yer actual Augustus Pablo has his melodica mangled into oblivion on Revolutionary, the remix of Star, while Prince Far I’s vocals filter through the gaps in Wise Blood. Last Train, the band’s contribution to the Trainspotting soundtrack rides in on a bed of sweet Philly guitars and wacked-out dub – more melting melodicas, police sirens, a very Weatherall underbeat – and takes even longer to arrive at its tripped-out destination.

Primal ScreamLast Train

The whole album suggests long sessions at the mixing desk under the creative fug of some chemical or other. It’s long-form music, as expansive and wide as the average Primal Scream fan’s waistline 20 years down the line (sweeping generalisation notwithstanding) and simply epic to listen to. These days it may well be my favourite Scream LP.

It’s no wonder Echo Dek confused the majority of Primal Scream’s audience, waiting hopelessly in vain for Screamadelica part 2. The band would further wrong-foot their diminishing fan base by next releasing Evil Heat, an album that features guest vocals from Jim Reid and Kate Moss, deconstructs songs made famous by Lee Hazelwood and Felt and adopts another uber-cool genre to hang its hat on. “There’s always been a Krautrock influence to our music,” lied bare-faced Bobby at the time. Autobahn 66 (I mean, come on!) is a cracking track though, but one for another day.

Alternative Version, Cover Versions, Get This!, Hard-to-find

The Great British Take-Off

Augustus Pablo is perhaps to the melodica what Les Paul was to the electric guitar. Until Augustus, reggae was all about the boom of the bass and the pistol crack of the snare. Pablo took his melodica and made it central to the dub reggae records he played on, fighting for ear space amongst the booms and the pistol cracks, the bringer of other-worldly melody in an already expansive soundscape. Dub reggae is proper long-form music. It’s widescreen, epic and simply massive to listen to. But you knew that already.


When Augustus Pablo teamed up with dub pioneer King Tubby, the results were dynamite. Their ‘King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown’ takes the easy flowing lovers’ rock of Jacob Miller‘s ‘Baby I Love You So‘…..

Jacob MillerBaby I Love You So

…..and sends it into outer space with a heady treatment of clatters, bangs, melodi-ka-ka-ka-echos and all manner of sonic enhancements…..

Augustus Pablo/King TubbyKing Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown

It‘s a very influential record. If you know your musical onions, you’ll spot traces of the production in all manner of records, from Massive Attack and St Etienne to New Order and Primal Scream. Would New Order’s ‘In A Lonely Place’ be the record it was if Martin Hannett hadn’t turned to his inner King Tubby for inspiration; Other-worldly? Yep. Claustrophobic and menacing? Yep. Liberal sprinklings of melodica? Yep, yep and yep. It’s dub, man! A rainy, grey, 80s Mancunian, British take on dub, but dub nonetheless.

New Order In A Lonely Place


Primal Scream currently have a very good (and very limited) 12″ on release featuring a dark ‘n dubby remixed take on their own 100% Or Nothing which stretches towards the 10 minute mark, cramming in as many booms, bleeps, skank-filled echoing guitars and, yes, melodica as possible. Somewhere between New Order’s In A Lonely Place and King Tubby’s dub-in-a-cave production, with half-inched vocal refrains from Funkadelic’s One Nation Under A Groove, it’s very good. Echo Dek part II, even. Forever with his finger on the pulse of what’s hot and what’s not, Adam over at the ever-wonderful Bagging Area featured it last week.

In the early-mid 90s, Paul Weller was fond of adding tripped-out, elongated versions of the a-side or even his lesser-known album tracks to his singles. Remixed and re-tweaked almost exclusively by Brendan Lynch, they could usually be relied upon to be the best thing on the single. The Lynch Mob version of debut album track Kosmos is fantastic. Clearly influenced by King Tubby, Lee Perry and all those other progressive-thinking sonic architects, it’s waaaay out there. We have lift off!, to borrow the sample at the start.

Paul WellerKosmos (Lynch Mob Bonus Beats version)

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but it’s best listened to whilst you drive on the M8 on a hazy summer’s evening, just as the sun is setting and an aeroplane is taking off from Glasgow Airport, vapour trails shimmering in the mid-July heat, a stroke of luck that befell me once after dropping folk off at the airport.

le-mod-ica

Anyway, back to Baby I Love You So. Back in 1986, when alternative acts were trying to keep up with the rockist jangle of The Smiths or creating their own heavy, heavy monster sound of goth, 4AD act Colourbox released a very good version.

ColourboxBaby I Love You So

Replacing the melodica with electric guitars may have ‘indied’ it up a bit, but it loses none of its heavy dub or pulsing groove as a result. It’s a genuinely faithful version, replete with sonic wizardry and skanking galore. It’s also a tricky one to track down online, but here‘s the 7″ version, above, and the extended 12″ version below.

ColourboxBaby I Love You So (12″ version)


Cover Versions, Hard-to-find

Never Mind The Bollocks

So, the dust has settled on RSD ’16. That’s ‘S‘ for ‘Shop‘, by the way. ‘Store‘?!? Pfffffttt. Not in my house. I celebrated this year’s event not in the queue at my local record shop (we have a decent one in our town, but I wasn’t planning on getting into a scrum at half 7 in the morning), but rather up Goat Fell on the island of Arran. It’s classed as a large hill, I believe, not even Munro status, but let me tell you – I might’ve scrambled my way up a hill, but I came down a mountain. My legs are still aching as I type. At the top there are sensational views of the west of Scotland and beyond; in one 360° sweep you could see Bute and the mouth of the River Clyde, the two Cumbrae islands, the Mull Of Kintyre (no mist rolling in from the sea on this clear day) and there, on the horizon beyond Ailsa Craig, the east coast of Ireland, faint as a bookies’ pencil line on last week’s National betting slip, but there in front of the naked eye all the same. Arran’s jagged peaks below us made us feel as though we were on top of the world, perhaps the same feeling you might’ve experienced when you landed your grubby mitts on whatever slab of black plastic you were desperate to part upwards of £15 for yesterday. I dunno, but I’m pretty sure my experience just felt a lot more cleaner and honest.

arran sunsetArran from the ferry home last night.

I’m not really a fan of RSD. I’m all for the promotion of record shops and music and buying records and all that, but I find the whole thing a ridiculous cash-in by everyone involved. Why would you pay silly money for a reissued Associates 7″ when you can pick an original copy up on eBay for 75p? I don’t get it. But I’m a total music snob – I love exclusivity and uniqueness, so I do kinda get it when bands release one-off tracks especially for the day. Last week I picked up Paul Weller‘s Flame-Out (from RSD ’14) for 99p. Couldn’t get it for love nor money two years ago, but there it was, sad and unloved (and still shrink-wrapped), some unscrupulous scalper’s failed pension plan cast adrift on eBay for eagle-eyed digital crate diggers like myself.

s'express promo

Maybe in a couple of years I’ll be able to pick up a mint copy of Primal Scream‘s offering for this year, a surprisingly good take on, of all things, S’Express’s Mantra For A State Of Mind. The original is terrific; end of the century disco music, all rinky dink Italo house piano, sugar coated in bleeps and whooshes and carried along on a wave of hysterical female backing vocals. If you listen very carefully you’ll hear the sound of Bobby G and co taking notes as they prepare to record Don’t Fight it, Feel It. How has no-one noticed this until now?

S’ExpressMantra For A State Of Mind (Elevation Mix, Parts 1 & 2)

pscream 16pscream16pscream16

Primal Scream slow things down rather a lot. Their version sounds like something they might’ve done 25 years ago and comes across like S’Express on Benylin. It’s got Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce on guitar duties and that very same hysterical lassie that S’Express used to beef up the original version. It‘s bloody magic, truth be told.

Primal ScreamMantra For A State Of Mind

pscream 16

If you had the chance to talk to Bobby, he’d probably fix you straight in the eye and tell you straight-faced that their version was a punkrockdoowoppsychedelicatrippedoutcidhousepartycomedowngroove or other such bollocks, Little Richard jamming with Sun Ra and produced by Lee Perry, StonesWhoPistolsClash-influenced with, y’know, added bongos. But you know and I know that Bobby is now one big lanky streak of a caricatured stupidity, about as current as that Grand National bookies’ line I was talking about earlier. Primal Scream nowadays are a total irrelevance, with record sales as flimsy as Bobby’s fringe. Apart from Kasabian fans, who still likes them? If they made more records in the vein of Mantra, though, Primal Scream would still be hot property.

Right. I’m off to seek out that Radiohead 12″ from RSD ’12. I hope I get it before you.

 

Cover Versions, Hard-to-find, Kraut-y, New! Now!

Slanging Match

So the new Primal Scream album’s here and before a note had been heard, the knives in this house were already being sharpened. From the rubbish cover that looks as if the work experience boy was given a generic shot of Bobby and 10 minutes with a laptop, to the list of cliches masquerading as song titles on the back – River Of Pain, Culturecide, Tenement Kid, Invisible City, Goodbye Johnny, Elimination Blues – I had this album down as a stinker, another one of those disappointing albums the Scream have been turning out with increasingly diminishing returns since the high watermark of the double decade-old Screamadelica.

ps 2013

But y’know what……..?

It’s not all bad. In fact, some of it’s pretty good. And bits of it are really very good indeed. Opener (and lead single) 2013 seems to have split opinion amongst the critics, and at 9 minutes long, it’s not perfect radio fodder, but I like it. Bobby’s clearly determined to write an era-defining chronological anthem (think Stooges 1969, or Stooges 1970 come to that, or 1977 by The Clash). It reminds me of golden-age Psychedelic Furs, if they ever actually had a golden age, replete with a rasping saxophone line not heard since The WaterboysA Girl Called Johnny. Very similar, Bobby. Very similar indeed. Elsewhere, vocals are whispered where previously they were mangled into that accent that was more yer actual Florida then Mount Florida. Acoustic guitars flutter against a backdrop of We Love You-era Stones psychedelia. Keyboard swells and electro bloopery compete with Zeppelin drums and turned-up-to-11 Les Pauls through Marshall stacks. Textured. That’s the word I’m looking for. More Light is a textured album. A textured album that’s about 4 tracks too long, but never mind. Is it obtuse of me to say that, for me, the best tracks are the bonus tracks? They’re certainly the most interesting by far.

Nothing Is Real/Nothing Is Unreal (above) is terrific – a proper motorik, Krauty groover that really benefits from David Holmes’ polished sheen. If the whole album was like this, we may be saying it’s the best Primal Scream album since Screamadelica. Actually, the publicity surrounding the album would have you believe that, but this track is truly wonderful.

For Record Shop/Store Day this year, Primal Scream brought out a 12″ of them doing Sonic’s Rendezvous Band‘s City Slang. Sonic’s Rendezvous Band was a mid 70s alt-supergroup, formed by Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith of the MC5 and featuring Scott ‘Stooges’ Asheton amongst other garage band no-hit wonders. City Slang is a pretty intense piece of proto-punk, full of elastic band bass, cheesegrater-thin guitar solos and a stu-stu-stuttering chorus, a testifyin’ punk rock call to arms. Heard once, never forgotten. Heard for the first time, it’s one you’ll want to play again and again. Just as well the original 7″ has the same song on both sides – wear out one set of grooves and you’ve still got another to batter the hell out of. That SRB had only one track was neither here nor there, City Slang remains something of a masterpiece. It also happens to be one of Alan McGee’s favourite records, as he told Plain Or Pan a year or so ago.

Best ever punk rock single, as he so succinctly put it. You can read more about Alan McGee’s favourite records (something of a Plain Or Pan scoop at the time, though you wouldn’t know from reading it) here.

sonicrendezvous_city_front

Anyway, Primal Scream’s version  is a faithful-to-the-original, full-on heads down punk rocker. For men pushing 50 and more, this is either admirable or rather sad. I’ll let you be the judge on that one.

Contrast And Compare:

City SlangPrimal Scream

City SlangSonic’s Rendezvous Band

Cover Versions, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find

Strummertime blues

Last night’s excellent BBC4 scheduling of The Clash documentary ‘Westway To The World’ and the hour’s worth of live footage that followed it had me going all misty eyed and regretful. To paraphrase Kevin Keegan, I would have LOVED to have seen The Clash live in action on stage. LOVED it. Sadly, age decrees that this was never to be, although I did once see yer actual Clash in the flesh in the strangest of situations.

clash

Woo oo oo oo! Can you feel the force?

Clashophiles will no doubt correct me here regarding accuracy of the dates, but my story concerns the summer of 1982 (I think) when I would have been 11. John Menzies in Irvine Mall had a huge ‘Combat Rock’ display in the window and The Clash were playing at the Magnum Leisure Centre, 20 minutes walk away. It was a roasting hot day and my brother and I were wandering up the mall. Right across from John Menzies there was a huge something going on. 4 or 5 guys dressed head to toe in denim, leather, shades and the coolest haircuts this 11 year old had ever seen were surrounded by some of Irvine’s finest ambassadors. I recognised someone who was in 6th year at my school amongst it all. He seemed quite excited. “It’s the fuckin’ Clash! The fuckin’ Clash! For fuck sakes, it’s the fuckin’ Clash!” I looked at the Combat Rock display. I looked at the guys in leather and denim. So it was. It was The Fuckin’ Clash. Being 11, it didn’t have the same seismic effect on me, but I still remember it well. I mentioned this story to my brother about a month ago. He remembers nothing about it at all. But then, he was 9 years old.

Round about 1989 I started playing in bands and one of Irvine’s elder statesmen of rock told me how Mick Jones had given him a mohican in the dressing room after the Magnum show. Call me shallow, but I’m still dead impressed when I hear stories like that. By this point in my life I was a seasoned gig goer. The Pogues at The Barrowlands in December 1989 was one that sticks in mind for a number of reasons. Kirsty MacColl came on to sing Fairytale of New York. Joe Strummer played London Calling and I Fought The Law with the band during the encores.

strummer-shane

The Barrowlands was jumping so much that night that I almost fainted. I sat on the floor at the end with my pal until the place had just about emptied. We went to the front of the stage where the roadies were dismantling the equipment. Strummer’s guitar was right there, in front of me. “S’cuse me mate. Can I have that plectrum?” I pointed to Strummer’s famous Telecaster. “‘Koff“. I didn’t give up. “C’mon!” He chose to ignore me. “Pleeeeease? Thanks!” This time, the roadie looked at me with total contempt, turned his back on me and pulled the plectrum out of the scratch plate. Fuck! He pulled the plectrum out of the scratch plate!!! “‘Koff” he grunted as he handed it to me. Joe Strummer’s plectrum! In keeping with his down to earth image, this was no gold-plated custom-made job with his name engraved in it. Just a simple white Jim Dunlop USA Nylon .48 plectrum. I’m looking at it right now. Looks like any other plectrum. But it once belonged to Joe Strummer. My own wee piece of rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia.

joe_strummer-tele

But yeah, I’d have loved to have seen The Clash live. Here’s some Clash covers for you…

The Strokes do ‘Clampdown’, live from Alexandra Palace. I’ve taken this from a good quality FM broadcast bootleg that I’ve had for a while, although it may also have been a b-side to one of their singles. In keeping with later-period Clash it sounds less cheesegrater thin, more widescreen and wide-eyed thanks to the heavily delayed guitars. I like it.

Primal Scream do ‘Know Your Rights’. If The Clash original was a speed-induced rockabilly knee-trembler in an alleyway, this version is a downer-heavy, dirty blues riffathon that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the Scream’s ‘Give Out But Don’t Give Up’ album. It’s taken from the obscure ‘Repetitive Beats’ ep which I’ve written about before.

Of course, The Clash were no strangers to covering other folk’s material. Amongst others, ‘I Fought The Law’ by The Bobby Fuller Four, LLoyd Price‘s ‘Stagger Lee’ and ‘Brand New Cadillac’ by Vince Taylor And His Playboys have all been given the Clash City Rockers treatment. But you knew that already. Happy listening.

Cover Versions, Hard-to-find

My Bloody Frustrating Valentine

My Bloody Valentine are back on a brief tour and the reviews have been a wee bit mixed. Some people claim they can’t hear the vocals. Some people say the show they’ve attended is the best thing ever. Some people say the noisy bit in ‘You Made Me Realise’ isn’t noisy enough. Some people say the shows are too loud. Too loud! It’s My Bloody Valentine not James Blunt. Jeez. Lets hope they get some sort of new material together soon. It’s been too long. Anyway, until then…

In anticipation of their Barrowlands shows this Wednesday and Thursday I thought I’d post these obscurities and curios. First up, My Bloody Valentine do their version of Louis Armstrong’s ‘We Have All The Time In The World’. This is taken from a 1993 Island Records charity CD called ‘Peace Together’ which set out to get young people from both sides of the religious divide in Northern Ireland working together. There’s a fair amount of Irish artists on there (U2, Fatima Mansions, Therapy?, Sinead O’Connor etc etc, you know the rest) but the My Bloody Valentine track is easily the best thing on it. Hear for yourself.

In 1998, Kevin Shields produced a one-off, released-for-a-day-then-deleted Primal Scream single. ‘If They Move Kill ‘Em’ was taken from the ‘Vanishing Point’ album, but Shields buckled and bent and twisted and distorted it inside out. It sounds backwards in places, it sounds under water in other places, it sounds other-wordly in the rest of the places. It sounds as good as the cover (below) looks. It. Is. Fantastic. Even better, there are two mixes! The My Bloody Valentine Arkestra mix and the 12″ Disco MIx (my favourite – it has a bit in it that sounds an awful lot like Jimi Hendrix‘s ‘Crosstown Traffic’). The ep also featured 2 mixes of Primal Scream covering the Jesus & Mary Chain‘s ‘Darklands‘. What the hell – here’s Darklands and here’s Badlands. Happy listening.

‘If They Move Kill ‘Em’ sleeve

*Bonus Track. Andrew Weatherall‘s seminal, yes, seminal remix of MBV‘s ‘Soon‘. It’s My Bloody Valentine, but you can dance to it! It’s a belter! If you’re reading Mr Shields, many of us would like a new album or single or chord or anything.

Kevin Shields – bloody frustrating

Hard-to-find

Albums where the title track went missing #1

‘Screamadelica’ by Primal Scream is a modern classic. From the cover art on the outside to the last faded twinkling bit of percussion on the digitized grooves of ‘Shine Like Stars’ it’s as landmark an album to my generation as ‘Revolver’ was to my dad’s. Possibly. It’s also one of a number of albums where the title track is missing. Led Zepppelin‘s ‘Houses Of the Holy’ wasn’t on the album of the same name. You can find that track on ‘Physical Graffiti’. The Doors‘Waiting For The Sun’ is on 1970’s ‘Morrison Hotel’, released 2 years after the album of the same name. And Primal Scream‘s ‘Screamadelica‘ isn’t on the ‘Screamadelica’ album. But it should’ve been. What was already a great album would have become a really great album.

Dixi Narco ep cover

‘Screamadelica’ (the track) is a 10 minute potted history of everything Primal Scream were about in 1992. It was released on the ‘Dixie Narco’ ep to promote the album. The lead track ‘Movin’ On Up’ took all the plaudits (and the airplay), but if you kept your record spinning past the pseudo-druggy ‘Stone My Soul’ and the barely-recognisable, electric piano ‘n’ pedal steel cover of Dennis Wilson‘s ‘Carry Me Home’ *, you’d’ve found ‘Screamadelica’. Produced by Andrew Weatherall and Hugo Nicolson, they add all the necessary bleeps, squelches and tyre screeches to keep it contemporary, although it starts off like some Blaxploitation movie soundtrack. The brass refrains. Giddy black female vocalists. Thumping George Clinton-esque rhythm section. Some Bobby Gillespie ‘Wooos’. A flute solo straight off of ‘What’s Going On’. The phased guitar-as-percussion track. How very John Squire. Talent borrows, genius steals they say, and Primal Scream certainly nicked from all the right reference points. I think this is one of Primal Scream’s very best tracks, and why it was never include on the album of the same name I’ll never know.

*Footnote. ‘Carry Me Home’ was written as an anti-Vietnam protest song and was considered, but not included on the Beach Boys 1973 ‘Holland’ album. Travesty! My copy comes from the ‘Bamboo’ bootleg, which as many Wilson watchers now know should really be spelt ‘Bambu’. You can download the track here.

* Footnote 2. ‘Dixie-Narco ‘sounds great. ‘Dixie’, the south of America, where the blues, jazz and all that great music comes from. ‘Narco‘. Short for, oooooh, ‘narcotics’. Sounds a bit dangerous. A bit rock’n’ roll. A bit Primal Scream. Not many people know this, but Dixie-Narco is the name of a company who make soft drink vending machines. Stick that in yer Marshall stack and smoke it.