In the late 80s, Primal Scream weren’t on anyone’s radar. They were just another aimless indie band.
“Nobody thought we were gonna make it,” Bobby Gillespie told NME.
But a musical change was sweeping through Britain, and he and his band would be making a massive change with it, albeit with some initial resistance.
“We spent ages trying to get the band involved,” said Jeff Barrett, press officer for Creation Records.
He and label boss Alan McGee were quick to embrace and espouse their love of the growing acid house scene. They had been attempting for some time to persuade their mates to trade in their proud punk roots for the abundant delights of dance culture.
“They were kind of sceptical at the time,” Barrett said. “But then they started dipping their toes in, and it took them all of about five minutes to realise what joys could be had with ecstasy.”
Once the band became entrenched in club culture, it was guitarist Andrew Innes’ idea to approach influential London DJ Andrew Weatherall to remix a song.
“Really, what we wanted to do was make a record that they would play at the clubs we were going to,” Gillespie explained to Absolute Radio in 2011.
Already a fan of their bluesy but soulful song ‘I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have’, Weatherall agreed.
He stripped the vocals, enhanced the horns and congas setting them to a sticky, dubby dance beat with various samples woven in. Peter Fonda’s testimony from the 1960’s film The Wild Angels would form the iconic opening salvo, as well as give the song its new name, ‘Loaded’.
I thought it was amazing when I heard it, I was just blown away,” Gillespie told Absolute Radio.
Its success as a single enabled the group to purchase new equipment, which in turn broadened their creative horizons.
“I think an important thing with the Screamadelica album is that we stopped writing on guitar,” Gillespie said. “Before that we were three or four guys jamming in a room with electric guitars trying to make rock’n’roll songs. But with Screamadelica all the songs were written on keyboards.”
Innes told The Guardian of the freedom that came with acquiring a sampler.
“Suddenly we could experiment,” he said. “You're a rock'n'roll band, but you can take a James Brown drum loop and play along with that. You can add horns, you can add strings… It was like we'd been painting in black and white and suddenly we had a full palette of colours to play with.”
Experimentation and an openness toward collaboration became the order of the day. The results are evident in the diversity of sounds across this record.
‘Movin’ On Up’ with its reach for the sky gospel chant actually started off life as a ‘crappy old ballad’ as Robert ‘Throb’ Young described it in the Screamadelica Classic Album episode.
There was the 60s soul meets 80s dance anthem ‘Don’t Fight It Feel It’, the chiming sitars and dub grooves of their 13th Floor Elevators cover ‘Slip Inside This House’ – sung by Throb.
The laid back and luxurious sax of ‘I’m Comin’ Down’ and the drifting bliss of more psychedelic inspirations like ‘Higher Than The Sun’, ‘Inner Flight.’
And of course the epic communal euphoria of ‘Come Together’, powered by a sample of Jesse Jackson’s 1972 Wattstax opening speech.
“It was one of the first to set off an explosion in our heads,” Daft Punk’s Guy Manuel told Melody Maker of Screamadelica’s influence.
“’Loaded’ is one of those change your life type songs…It made me start listening to guitar music because Screamadelica proved that so-called indie bands were capable of so much more,” Mark Ronson said.
Liv Hally of Melbourne duo Oh Pep! says the beautiful and broken song ‘Damaged’ with its ‘brutal honesty’ was a compelling inroad to recently discovering this record.
Yannis Philippakis of Foals reconnected with the album whilst on tour driving around Australia with Screamadelica on a mixtape. It helped his band refocus their creative mindset.
“For us, it was just realising that we didn’t need to be anything that anybody else thought we should be,” he told NME. “The only thing that matters is the way we feel about it and we wanna make music that’s free.”
Screamadelica is one of those cornerstones in music, capturing and expanding on the optimistic mood of the time in which it was made.
It won the inaugural Mercury Music Prize and topped many critics’ end of year album polls. But perhaps the more important measure of a classic album is in how it impacts and changes our lives.
In the early 90s, Myf Warhurst says she was going through a big personal transformation and that this record “had a firm hand in leading me astray.” Hosting her first house party, she says the album’s combination of “…indie, house, acid, gospel, retro and dub… reeked of party.”
“Screamadelica was the musical gateway drug to the new me,” she wrote in The Guardian.
“It offered musical forms I understood, mixed in with futuristic acid house beats. A new life began unfolding that was far less prim than the one I’d imagined.”
And it’s remained a worthwhile and long serving musical companion.
“It makes me feel both old and young, but mostly alive.”