Weatherall Report #1
Andrew Weatherall, 6th April 1963 – 17th February 2020.
This week, we lost a legend. Andrew Weatherall was a musician, DJ, club-runner, producer, remixer, acid house pioneer, journalist, rockabilly, friend. He’s in with the bricks of The Face, just like he’s in with the DNA of modern British music. Year-zero fanzine Boy’s Own. Primal Scream’s epochal Screamadelica. Groundbreaking remixes for Happy Mondays, New Order, Saint Etienne, My Bloody Valentine. Sabres Of Paradise. Two Lone Swordsmen.
Weatherall did all those and so much more.
To mark the brutally untimely passing, aged only 56, of this most excellent gentleman, The Face are publishing a series of stories in tribute, some old, some new.
We’re starting in summer 1991, with an archive feature exploring his adventures with Primal Scream. A month or two before the release of the album that would reinvent British rock and dance music – when it seemed to be titled Scream-A-Delic – the magazine’s Lee Harpin interviewed the band’s Bobby Gillespie and Martin Duffy. Reflecting on their just completed UK tour, Bobby G put it like this: “We did what we said we’d do, just kick out the fucking jams.”
Then, expanding on that point in his own inimitable Boy’s Own style, the self-styled “Good Doctor A. Weatherall” treated us to his tour diaries. “Welcome to Club Scream-A-Delica,” he wrote, “not just another pop concert, but entertainment for the Nineties.”
By which he meant: the Nineties, and beyond, and forever. Rave on, Lord Sabre.
Enjoy the diaries, enjoy the memories, enjoy the music. As some great men once said: don’t fight it, feel it.
Are they the greatest rock’n’roll band in the world?
I’ve never listened to the first two Primal Scream albums and, to tell you the truth, I never really want to. Why should I now attempt to reassess a band who in my eyes have done nothing wrong? In the space of two years they have released four classic singles, the most recent of which succeeded in summing up the aspirations of everyone who had cherished the emergence of dance culture in this country: “Fa fa fa fa, hi hi hi hi, I wanna stay high to the day I die.”
Yes indeed, Mr Gillespie. If The Clash’s White Riot was 1977’s answer to recession and frustration, Primal Scream’s Don’t Fight It Feel It is its modern day equivalent.
Standing outside The Empire Ballroom in London’s Leicester Square at 3am in the morning, fans Jamie, Roger and Paul are just beginning to realise that they have reached the end of the road. Their efforts to see every date of the band’s July tour took them to Glasgow and back, and became an arduous lesson in hitching lifts along motorways, bunking train fares and sleeping, on one occasion, in the doorway of a public lavatory.
“Why do we choose to follow the Scream around the country? Well, if you attended just one of the tour dates you’d understand why we did it,” says Jamie.
If the group’s performance at Manchester’s Haçienda is anything to go by, justification for such loyalty is not required. Before they even take to the stage, it becomes apparent that this is no rock concert in the traditional sense. The introduction of DJs into the live concert format is not in itself an entirely new concept, but The Orb and Andy Weatherall are masters of the art.
As Primal Scream take to the stage, at least one third of the crowd remain with their backs facing the group. While the meaningless climbing-up-on-a-mate’s‑shoulders ritual – best reserved for outdated, outmoded stadium rock events at Wembley Stadium – is still apparent in some quarters, there are those who have truly grasped the ideals of club culture: these people are here to dance. From Loaded and Come Together to a cover of Lennon’s Cold Turkey, Primal Scream do not disappoint.
Three days after the final date of their tour, I meet up with Bobby Gillespie back in London. One thing is clear. He is physically knackered. A combination of unrefined hedonism and an energy and devotion to his art has not yet persuaded him to rest. Aside from an interview and photo session, he continues work on the sleeve and labels in preparation for the release of the group’s new album Scream-A-Delic this month.
“The tour was just fantastic,” he enthuses with a typical lack of modesty. “It wasn’t just about the band. We opened all the venues early, got a late licence, and included The Orb and Weatherall to maintain that club atmosphere. Basically, we did what we said we’d do, just kick out the fucking jams. Have you ever seen such energy anywhere else before?”
Martin Duffy, ex-Felt member, current Airstream(er) and keyboardist on the Primals’ tour, walks into the room and nods his head in approval. If Bobby Gillespie looks shattered , Martin looks even worse. “Yeah, I’m shagged as well,” he laughs before deciding to seek solitude.
On first impressions, you could be forgiven for thinking you had just met the last two remnants of that archetypal Sixties and Seventies rock’n’roll lifestyle experiment that went wrong the day rock stars became drug addicts and began dropping dead like flies. In fact , if it was not for their music, Primal Scream could easily be confused with another time and another place.
“The problem with rock bands these days [is] they’re not like us. We listen to dance music, soul music and jazz,” says Bobby. “All they wanna listen to is other rock bands. I mean, we love The Rolling Stones, but we don’t listen to just them. We go and listen to the people The Stones themselves were influenced by, people like Slim Gaillard.”
In their quest for this hybrid combination of what can be loosely termed rock’n’soul, Bobby Gillespie and his compatriots set out on a tour of the nation’s nightclubs two years ago. Immediately won over by the thriving dance music scene, Primal Scream began experimenting with this musical genre themselves.
“All of the band were going out to clubs such as Shoom at the start of ’89. You couldn’t help but be drawn into what was going on. If you want to talk about the rock’n’roll lifestyle, look what was and still is going on in the clubs. Compared to Primal Scream, you’ve got kids who do more drugs than us, and have more sex. Drugs are a massive thing in this country.”
Their immersion in club culture complete, Primal Scream met up with Andy Weatherall, who had expressed his admiration for the group in the pages of Boy’s Own magazine. The first result of their collaboration, Loaded, was a stupendous record based around the riff from an earlier Primals’ track and introduced the dance element into the band’s work.
“What really makes us sick are the accusations of bandwagon jumping and the idea that many rock journalists have got in believing that Primal Scream are now basically a front for Andy Weatherall. I don’t think Weatherall could have made records like Loaded before he met us. It’s like when people ask where we got the samples from for Come Together or for the ‘Gonna get high to the day I die’ line.
“We actually wrote those parts ourselves. It’s the combination of Andy and ourselves that’s just fucking brilliant. He can take that quintessential element from one of our songs and make it really focused. He’s got vision and inspiration, when these days most producers are just glorified engineers.”
According to one well-informed source in Bobby’s adopted hometown of Brighton, his transformation to dance floor rock’n’souler was recognisable at an early stage. “I remember him hanging about on the Brighton seafront in the early days of Primal Scream. His mates could be described as your typical indie-kid types. Gillespie would stroll about dressed all in black including a pair of black leather trousers he wore even in the heat of summer.
“Then suddenly things began to change. He found a new friend, namely a certain Shaun Ryder. From that day onwards, you could sort of predict what direction future Primal Scream tracks would take. He no longer dressed like he wanted to be Lou Reed, and it was as if his whole attitude had suddenly changed.”
Featuring the blissful lead vocals of Denise Johnson – who had previously worked on Hypnotone’s Dream Beam – Don’t Fight It, Feel It is probably the most radical departure yet from the Primals’ rock’n’roll roots. A listen to the new album provides further confirmation of just how little sense Primal Scream actually make. Who do they really want to be? Rock’n’ roll redeemers? Or post-Balearic super group?
This apparent lack of direction is ultimately part and parcel of the group’s appeal. From the newer tracks like Movin’ On Up to the established classics such as Higher Than The Sun, a transcendental beauty runs throughout the band’s work, music which defies the old established categories.
Unsurprisingly, Bobby Gillespie is suitably vague when asked to comment on the record. “Yeah – the album’s definitely strange, rather more erratic than I expected. No one track is the same. Instead, the listener is provided with a perfect example of the Primal Scream philosophy – we make songs with whatever style or whatever instrument suits that particular track. Whereas with the last two albums I’d rather listen to something else if I were returning home tonight, Scream-A-Delic really does stand up as a great piece of work by a great rock’n’roll band.”
EXCERPTS FROM THE SCREAM-DREAM DIARIES • TEXT: DOCTOR ANDREW WEATHERALL
One week of wild, on the road, rock’n’roll mayhem (almost)
MONDAY JULY 22 It’s hard trying to conjure up bright and incisive pictures of the drive from London to Birmingham, but then if I did you’d probably hate me for the rest of your life, so I’ll catapult you straight to the hotel car park. When I say hotel, I mean dwellings recommended by a youth organisation on a cost-cutting exercise. Rock and fucking roll.
“There’s a rivet factory over there,” points out a member of the firm; and that was the best view of a choice of two. Peace. I’m out of here.
The entourage swept into the venue to the accompaniment of Dr Alex “The Orb” Paterson’s immaculate dub collection. Alex The Orb is two-in-one: popular recording artiste and disc jockey. Tonight he played the gramophone. Backstage to negotiate the vending of some bits and pieces, the band appears. Bobby G, singer and collector of on-the-edge artefacts, records, visuals and anecdotes; Andrew Innes, life prez of the Scream branch of the T Rex fan club; Duffy, known to intimates as “Doodah” after the philosophy of life he has formulated along the lines of Dadaism, namely “Doodah-ism”. Get the picture? Denise is a chanteuse notch top, Hugo is a breakbeat technician. Also, amidst the rider rubble stand Henry and Toby, the band’s answer to The Stones’ Bill and Charlie. Not that they’ve got penchants for young women and immaculate tailoring, it’s just that they play drum and bass and don’t make as much noise during bouts of raucousness.
A recce of the punters revealed cults of all persuasions, from Michiko to Ride. How about a one-syllable band called Shite? Just picture the long-sleeve T’s: “SH” on the front and “ITE” on the back. Damn, the band could even walk out on stage and say, “Hello, we’re Shite.”
Back to the mountaineering lodge with two cameramen, Douglas (an ex-member of a classic pop group) and Tim (cadet and trainspotter supreme), who capture Throb (The Primals’ tattooed geetar messiah) calling up Arthur Lee in Los Angeles. “It’s alright, I always call him when I’m off my head, he loves it.” He loves it so much in fact he’s probably lying in a daze thinking, “Who’s that?” The rings go unanswered.
Sleep arrives to the strains of The Glitter Band’s Let’s Get Together Again, wakefulness to the sound of Doodah’s voice broadcasting a warning about Brummies: “Give them an inch, and they go bloody metric!”
TUESDAY JULY 23 The only thing that makes the drive from Brum to Manc bearable is hearing Innes dueting with Bobby G on Mott The Hoople classics. My hair grows longer as the beat gets stronger, gonna tell Manchester pedestrians the news.
From glam karaoke to messy scenes in 15 minutes, as Alex (agent provocateur and mate) takes a backflip down the hotel stairs and is driven to Withenshaw General, Moss Side Mercy Mission, Cheatham Hill Casualty or some such medical establishment to get himself stitched. I need a drink, and in an establishment that’s unlike a bus shelter or railway buffet bar. I go to the Dry bar anyway and cut the breeze until the 23 comes along. “Plenty room on top, next stop Haçienda.”
What can one say about the Haç that hasn’t already etc etc? Oh yeah, I know, the sound system isn’t loud enough! Picture the scene: the band are already 15 to 20 minutes the other side of late, Throb starts to need a Jack Daniels or six. “The reason I’m in a band is so I can demand stupid things. Just get me a fucking pint of Jack and coke.” Perfect.
Bobby G and Denise scream out a song, other backstage songs are edited, abruptly, by large men with no souls. Back to the Midland Hotel for Möet and biscuits.
WEDNESDAY JULY 24 Glasgow was ” proper”. When you hear this Sweatyism ( meaning “top hole” ) spoken by a Sweaty you’ll know what I mean.
Welcome to Club Scream-A-Delica : not just another pop concert, but entertainment for the Nineties. For one crazy nanosecond I think that the word “rave” isn’t such a shite way of prescribing an evening of young people’s organised hedonism.
A mile above the clouds I try and come to terms with the magnitude of room 326. The Ronettes sing, I and smell a pocketful of beautiful smells; memories of some fine Glasgow citizens; see you at the annual reunion; may you always shine like stars; dot dot dot. Fuck, where’s the boarding pass? Taft [a mate] is in the tenement gutter and all the stars have gone out…
THURSDAY JULY 25 From Glasgow to Nottingham, from the outskirts of nirvana to the suburbs of school-disco land. Enough said. The best thing about Nottingham was Bobby G and MC Mikey (tour manager and scapegoat ) swapping the hotel Muzak tape for Kim Fowley’s Funeral March For The Straight People: “…You wanna bury the straight people? I wanna hear the funeral march for the straight people. Straight people’s funeral song please. They’re the straight people with their short hair, and they’re nowhere. And they look and hate us long hairs…” Peace. I’m out of here double-quick.
FRIDAY JULY 26 “I bet there’s no council estates around here,” Bobby G observes as Scream On Wheels sets sight on Cambridge. No, but there’s bound to be a Lego Newtown not so far away. My geographical knowledge isn’t all it should be. Answers on a postcard or irate letters defending Lego Newtown ASAP. Fed and watered, I watch hordes of foreign exchange students gather for a social in the park. These same Euro-ambassadors are there at 4am, complete with campfires, prompting Bobby G to observe that if they tried this sort of malarkey in Glasgow they’d be a legitimate target for pent-up urban youths’ ultra-violence.
Thankfully, gangs of urban youth don’t roam Cambridge’s streets, and Bobby G and your very own good doctor are left to get lost in the backstreets. Discussions are of impressive architecture and plots that may have been hatched within.
SATURDAY JULY 27 The plot hatched within the Airport Hotel, Norwich was to deface a portrait of the current monarch with Don’t Fight It, Feel It stickers, in a Jamie Reid stylee. This plot worked, the Rev Paisley (who was rumoured to be in the same hotel) would have been mortified.
To keep the “plot” theme going, here are two that thankfully failed: Doodah’s attempt to fly the antique Spitfire parked in the hotel grounds never got as far as “chocks away”; and the plot to gaffer-tape swastikas onto the aforementioned flying machine never, thankfully, got as far as “Where’s the gaffer?”
But certain establishments bring out the evil prankster in people. They are temples to nouveau niche mediocrity. This particular temple had large china leopards and dalmations guarding the lifts, and a 3D picture of the first moon landing hanging over a flock wallpaper near the carvery. Passing members of staff and public alike look at the band the same way they’d view a pile of shite on the logoed reception carpet. Doodah toys with the minds of the staff by leaving a surreal message on hotel stationery saying that his stay had been “absolutely sweet-shop” and he would “treasure the experience like an island”.
Me, I’ll treasure the memory of a young Scream-ite questioning the £8 entrance tax: “Is it you lot or the promoter that sets the price? I don’t mind being ripped off by Primal Scream, but I wouldn’t wanna think it was anybody else.”
The same Anglian hipster went on to enthuse about things very metal, with no mention of one-syllable loveable mop-top combos… We sighed as one – there is some hope, after all.
SUNDAY JULY 28 Opposite the itinerary page for Bristol is written the legend, “Speed Kills”. In brackets it should also read “And Turns You Into A Moaning Bastard”. What am I doing in a Bristol Mecca complex, after a five-hour drive, listening to the soundcheck? It’s not as if I drag the Scream out with me when I go record shopping. My mood is lightened by certain sights: a moving (as in not sitting down) dancefloor, and a handful of irate punters complaining that The Orb hadn’t turned up as the man himself grooved and sweated right next to them.
Hands up, no excuses, I missed the messy scenes on the bus home to London. But, be honest: a van full of an out-of-it band and assorted liggers, or a bed at the Bristol Hilton? Get the picture… Yes we see.
MONDAY JULY 29 Monday morning coming down, wishing Lord that I was stoned. There’s nothing like a Monday train ride to make a body feel alone. Back home in London, it’s “Hi, how ya doing, smalltalk, smalltalk, smalltalk. Oh before I go, any chance of a squeeze for tonight?”
No, because I’m not even answering the phone. What can I say, you were either there that night or you weren’t: Club Scream-A-Delica at The Empire. It eventually made so much sense I could hardly talk. Or was it PTC (Post Tour Comedown)? Sweat, volume, inflatable whales, temperamental computers, doves, Tim and his friend in a silver lame frock, Paul and Ruth on the podium, the party afterwards (which I missed because I had to write this fucking thing!).
“You wanna know how the band performed on stage? What’s the point of trying to put it into words?”
“Please doctor, we wanna know!”
“OK. You know when you’re just sort of naturally wired, expectations high?”
“You start watching and something in the back of your mind thinks the whole set-up’s going to collapse in any second, your stomach knots up, breathing is difficult, hell you sometimes even pray. That, my friends, is the Scream.”
The best live long playing gramophone record is called Live And Dangerous [by Thin Lizzy] – it was really a description of Bobby G and The Queens of Country coined years before they even saw the light of day.
As PTC courses through my aching veins, the small area of my brain still functioning formulates a thought: “What happens next?”
What happens next is Club Scream-A-Delica: The Movie, the outtakes of which will become the sought-after cult artefact of the Nineties. This has been the slightest of glimpses – The Movie will be a glorious, lurid, melt-ridden exposé. I will end my days, in Phil Silvers mode, watching re-run after re-run in a secure medical facility, dribbling through a haze of morphine. Not now nurse, I’m too busy feeling great…
Powders and pills won’t cure my ills but they make me feel better for a little while…
Never revel in the ordinary.
Love, n’ that.
The good doctor, A Weatherall •
THE FACE LETTERS /October 1991