Primal Scream’s ‘Screamadelica’: An Oral History


Before they worked out how to fuse rock with dance with ‘Screamadelica’ in 1991, Primal Scream were just another indie band – and their self-titled second album had bombed. “We were going nowhere in 1989,” recalls singer Bobby Gillespie. “We weren’t selling any records, and nobody thought we were gonna make it.”


Creation Records boss Alan McGee was an early, enthusiastic ambassador for this new scene. “We were all bang on it,” he recalls. “We were all just E heads. I was phoning Bobby up at four in the morning saying ‘This is amazing! Shaun Ryder on stage in gold lame punching the air!'”


Bobby Gillespie took his first E – given to him by McGee – in April 1989. The experience would ultimately pave the way for the creative quantum leap that was ‘Screamadelica’. “If the first Primal Scream album was acid,” says the singer, “and the second one was speed, then the third phase was E.”



However, it was meeting producer Andrew Weatherall that truly set Primal Scream on the path to ‘Screamadelica’. The pivotal meeting took place at a party in Brighton. “It was one of those great nights,” recalls Creation boss Alan McGee. “At the end of the rave, at 11 in the morning, Weatherall came over and introduced himself.”


Initially the track wrong-footed the band’s indie fans (“They just didn’t want to hear,” says Gillespie). But it went down really well when DJs played it at dance nights – and it became the band’s first hit in February 1990, entering the charts at Number 16 and selling around 100,000 copies. “It sounded fucking amazing,” says Gillespie. We’d done it.”


‘Screamadelica’ came together piecemeal, but the bulk was recorded in six weeks over the summer of 1991 at Jam Studios in London’s Finsbury Park. E wasn’t the only drug involved. “I remember [keyboardist Martin] Duffy when we were doing ‘Inner Flight’,” says Gillespie. “He was tripping on acid. I remember him jumping on the mixing desk going ‘Bob, Bob, I’m pissing in the sky!’. It was beautiful.”


‘Screamadelica’ came out on 23 September 1991 and received breathless reviews. “A new language has been created here,” enthused Melody Maker’s Steve Sutherland, going on to say the band had created “the most revolutionary music in ages… Screamadelica is truly, literally WONDERFUL.” Stuart Bailie said in NME: ‘Screamadelica’ will be recognised as a musical benchmark for these times.”



And here’s Mark Ronson, who was 16 when ‘Screamadelica’ came out: “‘Loaded’ is one of those change-your-life type songs. I was only listening to hip-hop at the time, so I knew that drum break from various hip-hop records. It made me start listening to guitar music, because ‘Screamadelica’ proved that so-called ‘indie’ bands were capable of so much more.”