Punks, Drunks and Junkies
Welcome to the Gillespie Hall Of Fame - the most gloriously wasted rock’n’roll stars ever assembled on one C90. From Patti Smith and The MC5 to Crazy Horse and The Faces, Bobby selects 24 songs that triggered Primal Scream...
by Andrew Perry
Silly question really. Do you fancy making a tape for us? You know, just slap on any old stuff you’re listening to at the moment...
It’s like luring Brian McClair onto a footie pitch for a knockabout, or suggesting to John Major that he tinker with European unity, or strapping an axe on Keith Richards and begging, "write us a classic". We’re leading Bobby Gillespie onto home turf.
As well as housing the starryy-eyed vision and golden-blue voice behind Screamadelica’, the Primal Scream mainman is a well-known collector of vinyl ephemera. Home taping is one of his personal passions, and before you can say "original copy of’Spiral Scratch’ by the Buzzcocks on New Hormones" Gillespie Towers is ready to witness the compilation of a killer cassette.
Chez Bob is a basement flat amid the decaying grandeur of Brighton’s Victorian squares. Next door, funnily enough, is a solicitor called Mr Loader. Inside, several surprisingly tidy rooms where all the right rock icons, the ones you’d expect of Bobby, catch the eye.
There’s Elvis Presley and the Sex Pistols in the kitchen (someone’s done the washing-up), Syd Barrett in the hallway, and a pale blue Vox Phantom guitar leaning against a cupboard. Love and Tim Buckley are in the front room, plus neatly-stacked records, tapes and CDs wherever physically possible. Bobby’s flat could be any young hipster’s he’s got an avocado bath-room suite, but even in there either Brian Jones or Keith Richards is looking at you.
"Oh, the pictures, they’re old," Bobby croaks. "Been up there for years."
Indeed, the glass from the mounted centrefold of the Stooges’ ‘Funhouse’ LP has shattered and lies in a pile on the carpet.
And today Bobby is also shattered. He’s Brian Jones-cool in white silk scarf and black, painted- on trousers and turtle neck, but he’s plainly shredded - not from full-on indulgence in the Primal Scream lifestyle but from jet-lag. He and the band have been recording in Memphis, completing two tracks for the imminent Scream EP, ‘Dixie-Narco’.
The lead track will be ‘Movin’ On Up’, the soaring opener of ‘Screamadelica’. From the Memphis sessions, there’s a ballad in the "really strung-out" vein of ‘Damaged’ called ‘Stone My Soul’, and a cover of’Carry Me Home’ written, but never officially released, by Beach Boy Dennis Wilson.
"That really is a desolate song," warns the singer. The forth cut ‘Screamadelica’, he describes as a "ten minute disco mantra". Perhaps Gillespie has reason to be bushed, but if there’s one thing to help shake off the post-studio torpor, it’s the three current fave tunes he has lined up to kick off what promises to be one serious C90. He cues up the first silver-labelled single. Will this be a psycho- active celebration of human vitality? Bobby slumps into an armchair beside the deck, eyelids barely apart. No, side one could be heavy going...
1 DlON (Wlth The Phil Spector Wall Of Sound Orchestra) Born To Be With You (1975)
A sonorous blend of piano, strings and slide guitar gets kicked along by the famous Specdrums, apparently at half peed. A sax moans mournfully and Dion wails a parched lament as the Wall Of Sound heads for death’s door. Spine-chilling stuff, eh? Bobby? Bobby? Oh dear.
"It’s absolutely beautiful, isn’t it?" he splutters suddenly. "It’s almost like a New Orleans funeral march. You just imagine it’s raining and it’s really hot and sticky and there’s a huge procession of people with top hats and umbrellas doing the Second-Line dance."
He springs to his feet.
"You get an umbrella and go like that." He raises an arm aloft and kicks like Frankie Vaughan. We’re on the way...
"It sounds really arrogant. Fucked but gloriously fucked. Wasted but gloriously wasted. It’s victorious! When I die, I hope it sounds like that."
2 MOTT THE HOOPLE Trudi’s Song (1971)
Already he’s up and has located a gentler ballad from the early ‘70s rock outfit led by Ian Hunter. Suffused in aquamarine imagery, it’s soothing as the lapping tide at sunset.
"That song makes me feel really calm. It’s very Dylanesque, but there’s enough of Ian Hunter’s personality in there to make it his own. If you really want to hear him doing Bob Dylan, I’ll play you this..."
He dances over to his Hoople corner and pulls out ‘I Wish I Was Your Lover’. Bobness is strongly, instantly evident. Chuckles all round.
"But the lyrics are good on ‘Trudi’s Song’ - ‘Oooh-ooh-ooh I got my babe’, that’s the bit I love.’She’s a right-on child’... I dunno, it sounds good. This girl I know heard the song and she thought it sounded like me singing! I don’t think so at all."
3 THE FACES Debris (1971)
The first minor calamity strikes. Which track to choose by Rod Stewart’s launch-pad combo? Bobby settles for this gorgeously laidback early ‘70s rocker, actually sung by bassist Ronnie Lane.
"I like a lot of records that make me feel calm," he states, and we’re getting the gist. "They’re generally quite melancholy songs, and that’s one of them. It’s very ‘70s in that it goes, ‘There’s more trouble at the depot with the General Workers’ Union’. Nobody would write that in a song these days because we don’t have a trade union movement any more - the Tories crushed it.
"That’s not why I like it, though. There’s a feel to it that transcends the lyrics. The Faces were as good as The Rolling Stones, I think. There may be a couple of Faces tunes on this tape, actually..." Oh, a Faces tape? "It’s a Faces lifestyle, isn’t it?" He reconsiders. "I’ll have to think hard how to follow that."
4 BIG STAR Thirteen (1972)
Easy. This lovely acoustic number from the band so openly revered by Teenage Fanclub surely fits the bill. Or does it?
"I like this because of the lyrics," chuckles Gillespie, a wicked grin on his face. "He’s trying to win the love of a 13-year-old girl (reciting from memory):’Won’t you tell your Dad to get off my back / Tell him what we said about Paint It, Black/ Rock and rol is here to stay/ Come inside, but it’s OK /And I’ll shake you’..."
"And it’s beautiful music. Normally songs about people trying to get hold of young women are really sleazy and fast, aren’t they? This is really delicate and tender. Fantastic..." His face clouds. "But I don’t know if it fits or not."
It does. You’re doing well. Keep going.
"I’m trying to get a flow, but sometimes you have go way back and start again..."
No, really that was great. What’s next?
5 PATTI SMITH Piss Factory (1974)
A bitter half-spoken from the mid-‘70s priestess, accompanied poundingly angry piano. Not too hard, Bobby?
"No," he fires back. "This is a song I think people should know about, I heard this at a very early age and it had quite an effect on me. It’s about a girl who has a job in a factory. She’s saying I’m young and I don’t want to spend my life getting up at eight in the morning to work with people I don’t like .
"It made me feel good that somebody felt the same as me, but she had articulated it better than I ever could. It’s a powerful thing - true to life, you can relate to it. You get a lot of lyric’s these days that are obscure or just plain bad, where people are trying to hide the fact that they don’t have anything to say. These lyrics are extraordinary."
8 MARlANNE FAlTHFULL Sister Morphine (1969)
From the model and doomed girlfriend of Mick Jagger, a tortuous version of the song best known from he Rolling Stones’ ‘Sticky Fingers’ LP. MC Bob now has the bit between his teeth.
"She sings it far better than Mick Jagger," he reckons, "because it’s a song of experience, like ‘Piss Factory’. If you listen to her voice, she does sound pretty strung-out. The song’s about being addicted to morphine and she was a heroin addict. She went through all that, and that’s why there’s so much pain in her voice.
It’s the blues, basically. I don’t think you can sing the blues, if you ain’t got the blues. You could play this to someone who doesn’t know much about her and I’m sure they could still hear it’s a great record. So I’ve put it in."
7 DENNIS WILSON Thoughts Of You (1977)
A harrowing but exquisitely romantic ballad from the late Beach Boy, with sweet piano bits and then effect-laden weird-outs. This is getting very heavy.
"Aye, but I like to listen to this sort of stuff when I’m on my own," offers Gillespie by way of explanation. "His image is really macho. He was a beautiful looking, well-built Californian guy and he lived a pretty debauched life. You listen to that song, though, and it’s very tender.
"Again," and here’s the continuity, "His voice sounds really sad and hurt. Also, I think Dennis is overlooked as a songwriter in favour of Brian. (Reflects a moment) I’ve gotta follow that up now, haven’t I? I’ll just see how James Carr works after Dennis..."
8 JAMES CARR (At The) Dark End Of The Street (1966)
Heart-breaking tune from the Memphis soul axis, often referred to and, indeed, sung within the Scream camp.
"Yet again," exhales an increasingly troubled Bobby, "a voice loaded with hurt. It’s a tragic song, about an illicit love affair. While we in Memphis we met the guy who put this record out on Goldwax. He said that he was sitting playing poker with Dan Penn and Chips Moman and he goes, I want you guys to write a song for James to sing. So they popped a few pills, went away to the piano and came back a couple of minutes later with ‘Dark End Of The Street’."
The laughter subsides, and the next track’s already spinning.
9 CRAZY HORSE I Don’t Want to Talk About It (1971)
Another slow, bitter-sweet melody, this time from the band famed for backing Neil Young’s toughest solo operations. The singer here, Danny Whitten, died of a heroin overdose later in the ‘70s. If you thought Rod Stewart and Everything But The Girl’s versions were downers, try this on for epic tragedy...
"This was a number one hit for Rod in 1977," Bobby recalls, "and a lot of people have covered it, but one come close to this. Danny Whitten actually wrote the song and I don’t think many people know that, so it’s going on the tape. So emotional, beautiful."
The record spins for several minutes. "Wow" is heard at regular intervals. Finally, Gillespie states the obvious: "This tape is going down and down, isn’t it?"
He grabs a Scott Walker album. "God," he mutters, "this really is a sad song."
10 SCOTT WALKER Duchess(1968)
The steel guitar, the strings, the soaring, speaker-filling voice... It’s all too much.
"The lyrics at the end go,’I’m lying, she’s Crying!’ And there’s a bit earlier where he goes,’I feel like a thief when you’re bleeding". That’s a heavy line. Really guilt-laden."
A minute or so passes in silence. Bobby has another lyric for us: "With your shimmering dress, itsays no, it says yes, it says I have nothing left for concealing’. (He exhales) Phwww... They’re all sad songs, eh?"
We’re in trouble.
11 LEE HAZLEWOOD Wait And See (1968)
The threat of Back-tracking becomes reality. We have Lee Hazlewood, but only after a series of false starts. There’s one-time New York Doll Johnny Thunders (too long), ex Mama And Papa John Phillips (way too long), Dusty Springfield ("not sad enough"!) and Ann Peebles ("This is getting on top of me, I might redo the first side").
This crisis is averted with Hazlewood’s late late-night bass croon, but it’s far from the desired 180-degree mood-swing...
"It’s really down, isn’t it?" Bobby fails to apologise. It’s another guilty song, but really delicate and honest. It’s probably best to listen to on your own, really personal. You get a better feeling from it like that, you feel protected, you feel better."
The spool runs out and the machine clicks off.
How about an up side now?
Upside SIDE 2
12 JIMMY REED Baby What You Want Me To Do (1964)
With his rough, lazy R&B slouch, Reed picks up the atmosphere. Night has long since fallen. It could be a good one yet.
"Yeah!" cried the DJ, perhaps sensing the same thing. "This is really good music to get drunk to. Well, it’s great music anytime, but especially when you’re drunk and your system’s slowed down. It’s really sloppy and sleazy and sexy - everything that rock’n’roll music today isn’t. I would say the years from 1977 up till now are probably the worst ever for rock music."
So here comes the rock’n’roll. Invigorated by the raunchier mood, Gillespie leaps towards his Johnny Thunders section - a reprieve after the dead axe hero’s failure to fill that troublesome slot last time.
13 THE HEARTBREAKERS Pirate Love (1977)
A vintage punked-up riff staggers in and Gillespie has finally left downersville...
"The greatest rock’n’roll guitarist ever!" he beams, bouncing on the edge of his seat. "Thunders is one of my all-time heroes. He always looked great, he always dressed well, and, even up to the time he died, he was always an outsider. He never gave in to society.
"And that’s prime Heartbreakers rock’n’roll. It’s a right cool, sleazy song. (He sings) ‘Pirate love is what I’m wanted for, pirate love is what I’m looking for’ (gets up on his feet). That’s what rock’n’roll should sound like! Really electric and exciting and sexy. It’s got a really good strut to it."
He demonstrates while pulling out the ‘Early Recordings’ of fuzz guitar pioneer Link Wray.
14 LINK WRAY Fat Back (1963)
A portentous rockabilly axe instrumental of carnivorous character... "In fact," decides Bobby, "Johnny and Link are my favourite two guitarists ever. It’s really delinquent music, not like today’s. I mean just listen to it! It’s powerful, violent...and you think of sex, really. Sex, violence and flying saucers.
"You feel like you’re on a motorcycle, or riding in a fast car. It’s the kind of music that makes you feel like going out to have a good time."
Whizzing nicely along the road tape-wise, then, except that Alex Chilton’s ‘Bangkok’ is deemed "not powerful enough after Link". So, yes, it’s out with the Five.
15 MC5 Sister Anne (1971)
Just the ticket. As the thunderous heavy-rock chords crunch in off the MC5s’ lesser known third album, ‘High Time’, this is a glaringly correct choice. Gillespie’s up, shaking imaginary maracas, clapping along, smiling blissfully. A cracker, which is probably why Primal Scream self-productions have been credited to ‘Sister Ann’.
"Yeah, it’s great isn’t it?" he enthuses between bounds. "I just put it on and it makes me feel incredibly powerful. It makes you feel like you can do anything. You get a real shot of adrenalin off it. I mean, have you ever heard pure energy like that on a record?" (Heads are honestly shaken) Incredible, a real full-tilt boogie, but how do you follow ‘Sister Ann’?"
Still out of breath, he fixes up Bo Diddley’s "Who Do You Love’. Superb mid-‘50s gear but, at the end, BG looks concerned. He’d faded the MC5 and left the levels down at zero.
"Aw, I’m sorry, I’ll have to tape that again...Hang on, I’ll put this on instead."
16 THlN LIZZY Don’t Believe A Word (1976)
A further hard-rockin’ thriller with all the crunchy flavour of the wild (and late) Phil Lynott.
"They were one of the biggest influences on our band," the Screamster confesses, "because they were a real teenage thing. Everybody in the group was a fan. When we first met Andy Weatherall, that was one of the things we had in common - big Lynott fans. We actually do a version of this song live, really heavy like that."
For once a sequel doesn’t seem to present a problem.
"Right then, a bit of Memphis soul, I think." Except...
17 MINK DEVILLE Spanish Stroll (1977)
A mellow, doo-wop ditty of Chiltonesque grace that gets Gillespie back in the mobile mood.
"That record makes me feel very happy," he explains simply. "You put it on and strut about the house. Like it says in the song, ‘Finger on my eyebrow, left hand on my hip’ (he tries it out a while)- you don’t have to explain why you like something just listen. I don’t want to bore people with history lessons."
Already he’s digging out... What? Aha, the Memphis soul strikes back.
18 FREDDIE SCOTT Am I Grooving You (1967)
A groin-grinding rhythm makes sure that the answer to Scott’s question is most definitely affirmative.
"A great dance record," Bobby affirms. "You hear that and you’ve gotta move to it. You can’t stand still. This is where the Stones were coming from when they were doing stuff like the ‘Exile’ LP, listening to a Iot of records like this. It’s got the same kind of feel to it. Aye, great stuff."
19 TAPPER ZUKIE (And The Musical Intividators) New Star (1977)
Rough and ready mid-‘70s reggae waxing with up front dancehall vocals and echoing dub effects that boom out for body action.
"It’s the thing you play first thing, when you’ve just woken up. Another song that makes me feel ‘up’. I like a lot of ‘70s reggae because it kind of flows, it’s sort of liquid. It’s dubby, but there’s a good song in there.
"The lyric goes,’They’re killing off the youth, but every day a new star is born’. It’s really defiant and insurrectionary, a song about fighting back and not giving in. Very inspirational, very spiritual."
With that under his belt, Selector Gillespie heads for soul/disco turf. There’s fluff on the needle, though.
20 GEORGE McCRAE Rock Your Baby (1974)
21 DETROIT EMERALDS Feel The Need In Me (1972)
The good-time vibe prevails with these two exquisite Northern grooves. Soft, romantic voices abound.
"These two just make me feel happy," offers Bobby. "Records like this are really joyous and I like that kind of music too. That’s the other side to the first side of this tape! I don’t really think any of those songs are miserable, but they are kind of ‘down’. These are pure joy, though.
"Actually, I always thought our song ‘Shine Like Stars’ was like a George McCrae song. I mean, I could imagine him doing it like that, but not us. We can’t play like that, unfortunately."
He trails off, perusing the Emerald’s LP sleeve where a black girl in a fur coat, crushed-velvet hot pants and thigh-length boots stands leggily in front of a big limo.
22 THE SPINNERS I’ll Be Around (1972)
Suitably inspired the wax wizard takes it back to Detroit - the first at Chipmunks speed - and the seeds of doubt over his choices are sown once more...
"Aw, this tape’s a real pain in the arse," he moans. "I don’t think half of it has taped, to be honest - I never took the pause off."
It’s OK, the lights are going on the tape deck.
"Right, well, this is a great song too, produced by Thom Bell who was one of the great Philadelphia people. A really talented guy. It’s a sort of ‘I’ll be there’ song."
A bit like the next.
23 THE CHAlRMEN OF THE BOARD (You’ve Got Me) Dangling On A String (1970)
Top Ten classic from the soul group led by Norman "General" Johnson.
"This came out on Holland, Dozier and Holland’s label after they left Motown. They were pretty talented guys, too, The General had a real bleeding quality to his voice - he’s not yelling...I think Kevin Rowland of Dexys must’ve been abig fan ofThe General... I dunno, it sounds quite happy at the start, but the chord progression gets quite melancholy."
Eighty-seven minutes gone, three to go..."Aye, we’ll get one more song on here."
24 CHUCK BERRY I'm Talking About You (1961)
A prime early cut from (yet another) "King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll".
"I love the lyrics on this one," he cackles, between strokes on his air guitar. "He’s supposed to get it on with this girl: ‘let me tell ya ‘bout a girl I know, I saw her walkin’ down an uptown street.’ and, y’know, he’s into her. I love the feel of it - almost out of tune, really funky and dirty and... Actually, we jam this song sometimes."
SO THE MARATHON IS OVER, AND THE C90 is full. As he surveys the line up Bobby explains there are no current dance faves included because a recent flatmate took most of the House collection with her when she moved out.
"So let’s see what we’ve got. I think it’s quite a good mix of stuff. I mean, I could’ve made a mad tape, with some jazz and things, but I’ve made a pop tape instead. I suppose I could change it."
No, no, Bob, that’ll be just excellent, honestly. You’re looking tired after all that hard work - perhaps we should’ve left the down stuff till later and had some rock numbers to start with.
"What do you mean? Dion! Ya cannae get much more rock’n’ roll than Dion! Nor The Faces! Nor Big Star. Nor Patti Smith... It’s a total rock ‘n’ roll tape, man!"
He grabs a pair of pens, gold and White, and christens the cassette shell with a big star (ha!) and the perfect title: Rock’N’ Roll Music.
But of course.
Originally Appeared in Select February 1992 Copyright © Select.
Pep Up The Turmoil