Around fifteen years ago, I was at a mate’s birthday party. There was a chap there wearing today’s artwork across his chest, on a t-shirt. I wandered over to him at one point during the knees-up, nodded at his top and said: “Nice tee, mate.”
He looked down, and then at me. “Thank you,” he said when he had decided I was not a threat to his safety.
“Amazing album, too,” I proffered.
He looked at me like I just said something in a foreign language, which it turned out I had.
“Album?” he said, and it was then I spotted his accent. European, probably Spanish, I thought.
“Yeh. Album. You know: a long player. 33 1/3. A record.”
He looked down again then back at me. “This is a record? I have not heard it.”
At the time, I found this incredible: how could he not have known he was wearing Primal Scream’s Screamadelica? How comes nobody had ever mentioned it to him before? And how comes he’d never heard the record, which was at least ten years old by then?
It occurred to me later what a UK-centric view it was that I had held; of course, in those pre-internet days there was no reason why someone living overseas would necessarily have heard a landmark record by a bunch of Scottish blokes whose previous output had veered between twee indie-pop and balls-out indie-rock before finally having their record utterly transformed by Andrew Weatherall (RIP).
Here’s what wiki has to say about the artwork, which as well as covering the Spanish chap’s chest, also now adorns my wall:
The album cover for Screamadelica was painted by Creation Records’ in-house artist Paul Cannell. Cannell was allegedly inspired by a damp water spot he’d seen on the Creation Records offices ceiling after taking LSD.
Which seems rather appropriate, when you think about it.
It’s difficult to describe the impact Screamadelica had on me back in 1991. Sure, I was already riding the Madchester groovy train by then, but this was something different. We first got a taste of things to come in February 1990, with the release of Loaded, and I didn’t know of anyone who didn’t adore that record at the time. Certainly I was surprised to learn it only got to #16 in the UK charts: back then, there was quite simply no getting away from it at the time, it was just everywhere. So we were positively moist with anticipation for the full album; when it finally dropped we knew we were being treated to something special, a whole new record remixed and reinterpreted, taking the band to newer sonic heights than frankly seemed beyond them, given their previous output (which, twee indie-pop/balls-out indie-rock fan as I was, I loved).
You’ve probably been watching, as I have, the re-runs of old Top of the Pops on BBC4 of a Friday night, and will have been just as entertained as I was when they popped upon it recently; entertained not just because of the song, but for the amateur attempts to mime, and for Bobby Gillespie trying to lip sync the few words he actually has to say (and bear in mind, this fades out before it even gets to the ‘Oh Yeah!’ bit, that everyone looks pleased as punch to get right in any indie disco throughout the land, that’s not many):
And yes: that is Ride’s Mark Gardner plinky-plonking away on the keyboards for no apparent reason, other than they needed to have a keyboard player and he was available. What’s odd is that Ride weren’t even on the show that week, so I do wonder if he was just hanging around the studios, begging someone to let him play with them.
Just in case you weren’t aware of the extent to which Andrew Weatherall (RIP) utterly transformed the band’s sound, here’s the song he was handed and asked to remix. He handed them back Loaded, almost entirely unrecognisable from its source. If you didn’t know it, you could be forgiven for thinking they were two completely separate tunes, unlinked in any way:
Although that featured as the B-Side to Loaded when it came out in 1990, it had already appeared on the Scream’s second album, Primal Scream, and if you need further evidence of just how vastly Weatherall (RIP) transformed them, here’s the lead single from the same album:
…and then compare still further back, with one of the singles from their debut album:
I love all those records, but you can’t tell me that Weatherall (RIP) didn’t transform them. For the better. As he did with pretty much every record he remixed or created.
Screamadelica deserves to be described as art.