I get quite angry when British television does a retrospective on the 1980s and comes up repeatedly with the same boring old cliches about how the 1980s was all big haired yuppies in shoulder-pads and red braces quaffing champagne while listening to dreadful soul-less synthesised Pop and bragging about Thatcher and the Falklands and Charles and Diana.....BOLLOCKS!! That isn't what the 80s was about to me and my friends! To us it was all grit and great music. It was The Smiths, Crass, New Order, Creation Records, Sarah Records, Sonic Youth, Channel 4, genuinely dangerous alternative comedy, Coal Not Dole stickers, Greenham Common, The Miners Strike....it was about making a difference, not sitting around patting yourself on the back.
So when the 1980s ended I did feel genuinely sad. I remember clearly Griff and I standing on the floor of our local Jive Emporium on the 31st of December 1989 watching the countdown to New Year on the big screens, and I turned to him and said, "Well, that's it then. The end of our generation". "So, you think we're the children of the Eighties then?" he replied. "What else could we be?" I remarked. Had I known how the Eighties would be portrayed by future generations, I might have kept my opinion to myself, but I did genuinely feel that a specific time was coming to an end. In January 1989 I decided to document the final year of the Eighties in Diary form, and it's quite depressing that the youthful bright eyed and bushy tailed, over excitable, easily pleased young man who writes the first entry is replaced by a bitter cynical, downtrodden unhappy individual who brings the diary to a close.
The final entries are full of vitriol and bile, heartache and disillusionment and were soundtracked by an album which, for me, summed up the death of 1980s and the end of my generation.....the eponymous second album by Primal Scream!
Primal Scream, and Bobby Gillespie in particular, have always been cast as Indie chancers jumping on every bandwagon in an attempt to be cool, but if you look back carefully you'll see that in actual fact they were always just a step ahead of the rest; they made C-86 music before 1986, they made swirly psychedelic music two years before The Stone Roses released their rather familiar sounding debut album, they made the first truly great Rave generation album in 'Screamadelica'; and with the album we're focusing on tonight, they pre-empted Grunge by releasing an against-the-grain leather-kecked Rock album beneath which beat a broken heart of love lost.
And it was this album that played out alone in those final weeks of 1989.
As November 1989 kicked in and I knew now for sure that SHE wasn't coming back, I bought three album one Saturday afternoon; 'Dum Dum' by The Vaselines, 'Workbook' by Bob Mould(ex of Husker Du), and Primal Scream's second album. Of the albums, I expected the Primal Scream album to be the lesser of the three....little did I know it would become a permanent fixture on my turntable as the final weeks dragged on.
The album became like both a serenade and a requiem to the end of such a fantastic year, the end of the Eighties, and in many ways to the end of a way of life for many of us. Hank Williams once sang "Those wedding bells are breaking up that old gang of mine" and within 6 months of 1990 two of my friends would be married. Others disappeared into a shady world of hard drug use, others just stopped calling. The band that I had played in since High School would only last 6 days into 1990 before splitting up on January the 6th. My youth was falling apart and disappearing, taking many old friends with it.
But let's look at Primal Scream's eponymous album and reflect on it's bittersweet glories....
First single from the album set the stall out beautifully; 'Ivy Ivy Ivy' is a raucous leather bestrewn beast of a thing underpinned by Bobby's almost too sweet vocal. You get the feeling that Bobby can't really rasp or roar like his idols can so he replaces the vocal with a gentle, almost tremulous wail that creates a beautiful dichotomy tenderness within the confines of rock music....
One day somebody might record the sound of the sun setting, or capture the actual sound of a leaf turning from green to Autumnal brown. The reason I say this is because the next track I've chosen, 'I'm Losing More Than I'll Ever Have'(a perfect title for the times) has become synonymous with the changing of Indie music from guitar based shimmer to Dance inflected hedonism. Little did I know it at the time but the fade out of 'I'm Losing More Than I'll Ever Have' would form the basis of Primal Scream's most instantly recognisable single 'Loaded'; a song which formed the touchstone of a night in April 1990 when Griff, myself and a couple of friends organised our own DJ set which we also called 'Loaded'. Thus yet another 1980's quirk was replaced as, instead of playing live music as we always had, we were playing our record collections at full volume to a room full of paying mugs....er, I mean 'punters'.....
I had hoped to include the track 'Kill The King' next but no accompanying clip exists to feature with it. The song though is a beautiful, psychedelic gem that wouldn't have disgraced 'The White Album'.
And so to the two most important tracks on the album, beginning with 'Lone Star Girl' another raucous blast which opens with the line "Hey Wendy, you move me!". In the 1980s I had two relationships with girls called Wendy, both of whom left an indelible stain upon my easily bruised heart, so when Bobby gets to the chant, "Hey Hey Wendy Wendy Wendy" you wonder if it's possible to say the word 'Wendy' any more times in a song without sounding silly. Even the Beach Boys song 'Wendy' doesn't feature the word 'Wendy' so many times(although it does feature Brian Wilson coughing on the keyboard solo!!). So as a grand Hurrah to all the girls who led me astray through the 1980s, each armed with a (metaphorical)knife bigger than the previous, 'Lone Star Girl' is my kiss-off to you all....
And so to the most important track upon the album; 'You Are Just Dead Skin To Me', again a perfect title that sums up how I was feeling at this time.
This song is a song that I played to death from the moment I got the album home until the Eighties and all it stood for and all it meant to me and my friends vapourised in a heart beat on that December night. It's a song about putting on a brave face while being unable to accept that something special has most definitely ended. Whether it's an all important relationship, or maybe the end of a friendship, or maybe the final days of a certain time and place; or maybe that your entire youth and all the things you burned for, all those nights you escaped from the confines of the family home into the company of your alcohol soaked friends or the perfumed arms of a beautiful girl, all the nights you sat crying listening to your favourite songs, all the nights you laughed yourself hoarse in the company of your dearest friends, all those 7" slices of vinyl that are more permanent fixtures in your psyche than even the deepest tattoo, all those scars you attained which look cool on the outside but which tear you up inside, all those girls who never stayed, all those nights when you just......existed! "I don't care now// You are just dead skin to me......"
Primal Scream would become much bigger on the 1990s but 'You Are Just Dead Skin To Me' remains the one track which I will love them forever for; an anthem for my own doomed youth.
Whenever I hear talentless journalists berate Bobby as some derivative flybynight I smile quietly to myself and thank the lord that he's not, and never will be, Noel Gallagher!
The 1980s then....just dead skin my Friends, just dead skin......
You can download Primal Scream here