Primal Scream - Classic Albums: Screamadelica
It would be hard to imagine anyone desiring a more thorough discussion of the (ahem) creation of Primal Scream’s classic 1991 record than is on offer here. There's a brief history of the formation of the group in Glasgow and their early career as a generally unloved indie rock band (running purely on the belief of label boss, Alan McGee), before attention is turned to that big bang moment when Andrew Weatherall remixed trad ballad 'I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have' into dancefloor filler 'Loaded'. Highlighting the accompanying shift in the band's attitude, manager Alex Nightingale describes how guitarist Andrew Innes once referred to The Orb as ‘like a disease not to be played on his stereo’. Of course, The Orb would go on to produce 'Higher Than The Sun', which remaining half of the duo, Alex Paterson, declares here as ‘the best thing I’ve ever done’.
Everyone is frank in their discussion of the ecstasy culture that Screamadelica came to symbolise perhaps more than any other album. Strangely mirroring that drug’s effects, the recording process involved the band surrendering their egos. Hence Weatherall was encouraged to take 'Loaded' as far from the original as he could; a hired vocalist, Denise Johnson, would steal the limelight from Bobby Gillespie on 'Don’t Fight It, Feel It'; and if someone was too ‘ill’ to make it to the studio, another member might pick up their instrument and fill for them on the track. Gillespie describes Primal Scream as ‘a band that’s no really a band’ and the documentary gives a clear picture of who did what and the precise influence of various outsiders. Weatherall in particular comes across as a big (and very funny) character.
Another fascinating strand is the separation of the band’s hedonists and sensible members (all two of them). While most look scarily fucked-up in backstage footage and recount anecdotes of debauchery, Henry Olsen (bass player at the time) has the air of a jazz musician as he describes chords and notes and admits that he and Denise read magazines on the tour bus rather than party. He’s keen to emphasise the creativeness of the musicians and tellingly, almost bitterly, refers to ecstasy as ‘some little pill’, as if not keen on the drug links constantly stressed by everyone else.
For those who caught the television broadcast, the carrot here is almost 30 extra minutes of discussion, all worthwhile. Slightly less interesting (especially if you’ve already bought the Screamadelica Live DVD) is a CD recording of the Olympia gig from November 2011. It doesn't change the fact that any fan of the album will want to add this excellent documentary to their collection.