Sounds, November 22, 1986 [needed]
Sounds, January 31, 1987 [needed]
New Musical Express, February 2, 1987 [needed]
New Musical Express, March 12, 1987 [needed]
New Musical Express, August 8, 1987 Heavy Petal [needed]
New Musical Express, August 15, 1987 [needed]
Melody Maker, August 15, 1987. Perfumed Gardeners
Rolling Stone, 1988. Review of Lovely.
Q Magazine, 1988. Review of Lovely
Stereo Review, Nov 1988. Review of Lovely
•Melody Maker, January 2, 1988. Concert Review: The Hibernian Club, Fulham
Melody Maker, January 30, 1988. Playground Twist
Melody Maker, January 30, 1988. Single Review: Crash. [needed]
•Melody Maker, February 27, 1988. Concert Review: The Portland, London
Number One, March 12, 1988. Primitives
•Melody Maker, March 12, 1988. Shrink Rap: Tracy Tracy of The Primitives Takes on the MM Shrink.
•Melody Maker, March 19, 1988. Primitive Methods
•New Musical Express, March 26, 1988. Helter Skelter
•New Musical Express, March 26, 1988. Some Candy Talking: Review of Lovely.
•Melody Maker, March 26, 1988. Concert Review: The International, Manchester.
•Melody Maker, March 26, 1988. Daydream Believers.
New Musical Express, April 30, 1988 [needed]
•Melody Maker, May 7, 1988. Concert Review: The Royal Court, Liverpool.
Melody Maker, May 21, 1988. Pet Rocks. The Primitives/Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie, Town & Country Club, London.
Graffiti Magazine, Vol. 4, No. 8, June, 1988. Nice To Cats!
•Rockpool Magazine August 15, 1988. Tracey Traces The Primitives Past To Present
Billboard, August 20, 1988. "Crash" Course.
•New Musical Express August 27, 1988. The Light Shine Out Of Their Behind.
Melody Maker, September 3, 1988. Concert Review: Boston Arms, London [needed]
Record Mirror, October 1988. Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery.
Los Angeles Times November 30, 1988. Britain's Primitives Pull Their Punches.
The Boston Globe December 6, 1988. The Primitives: A bit like early Blondie/In concert at the Channel, Sunday night.
The Washington Post December 8, 1988. The Primitives' Petite Punk at 9:30.
•Melody Maker Dec 17, 1988. Exiles in Mainstream
Melody Maker Dec 24, 1988 Blonde by Chris Roberts [needed]
Seventeen, March 1989. Wanted: Male Singer.
Melody Maker, July 8, 1989. The Primitives: Red Dawn
Melody Maker, July 15, 1989. Concert Review: Electric Ballroom, London. [needed]
Q Magazine, 1989, Review of Pure
Melody Maker, September 2, 1989. Before The Crash.
Record Mirror, October 1989. Pure And Simple.
Melody Maker, October 14, 1989. Red Not Dead [Review of Pure] [needed]
Melody Maker, November 18, 1989. Concert Review: Leed University [needed]
Newsday December 7, 1989. Amateurs at Being Primitive.
Los Angeles Times December 12, 1989. Primitives' Pastiche Lacks Panache
The Boston Globe December 14, 1989. Primitives, Big Dipper: Pop music with an edge.
The Boston Globe December 18, 1989. The Primitives pack intensity into their pop: The Primitives with Big Dipper at the Channel, Friday night
Melody Maker, December 23, 1989. Concert Review: The Cat Club, New York City. [needed]
The Toronto Star January 5, 1990. Primitives rob their own cradle with pup philosophy, nursery pop
The Toronto Star March 2, 1990. Primitives seek hard edge in soft times
The Toronto Star March 8, 1990. Sugarcubes blow Primitives off the stage
New Musical Express March 10, 1990 The Primitives in California [needed]
Newsday March 15, 1990. The Sugarcubes: On the Edge of Arty Conceits
The Washington Times March 15, 1990. Two albums, tours strengthen Primitives
Melody Maker, March 24, 1990. Concert Review: Beacon Theatre, New York City. [needed]
Melody Maker April 27, 1996 Where are they now? by Mark Roland [needed]
•B-Side Magazine, August/September 1990. The Primitives Civilized.
Record Collector, Oct 1990. The Primitives: Michael Robson Tracks The Indie Band Who Arrived With A "Crash."
Melody Maker, July 6, 1991. Concert Review: Moles Club, Bath [needed]
Melody Maker, July 20, 1991. Zebra Crossings.
New Musical Express, July 27, 1991. End Of The Pier-Oxide Blonde.
Melody Maker, August 10, 1991. Concert Review: On Golden Blonde - Scalloway and Isleburgh Middle School, Shetlands [needed]
Melody Maker, January 11, 1992. Concert Review: Subterania, London [needed]
Q Magazine, 1992, Review of Galore
Q Magazine, 1994, Review of Bombshell - The Hits & More
Melody Maker, April 27, 1996. Where Are They Now?
Vox, Issue 92, June 1998, Review of Bubbling Up: Eighties janglepop sessions
Go! Magazine, January 30, 2001. Primitive Reactions.
Text of all articles/interviews held by respective copyright holders. Please forward any concerns or requests for removal to e-mail address below.
Melody Maker, August 15, 1987. Perfumed Gardeners.
The greatest thing since dolly mixtures, a cross between Blondie and the Pistols, brilliant and beautiful and twangy and...well, Chris Roberts reckons The Primitives are all these things and more.
If the present is forever and forever is a gift, The Primitives are promising to give your heart a bump. I mean, lift.
Are they the last real pop group? Are they Penelope Pittstop crooning "I Wanna Be Sedated"? Are they a kind of sun-in-Blondie to the grebos' Television? Are they accident or design? Are The Primitives as perfect and supreme as I have known all year or are they better than that? Does Tracy pray? When did mysterious Paul first realise he had a willy? How did Pete hurt his lower abdomen? Why does Steve write "Why no grapes this time?" on my white label of "Thru The Flowers" (a treasure)? And how come the bushes are singing?
Flushed with natural curiosity, I went to sunny Coventry to ascertain the answers to these and other questions. I had a very comfortable seat on the train, and my bacon sandwitch was good and hot.
The Primitives' manager - Wayne, tee-shirt designer and aspiring novelist - refuses to let the band relinquish their indie status yet, even though the mega-offers have been gushing in. He takes me to a recording studio where the four young people are watching "Emmerdale Farm".
"Shush, we're watching 'Emmerdale Farm'."
So Steve, the one who isn't lazy, makes coffee, and then we all go to sit on the grass in the park. Pete tells me what being arrested in Berlin at 4 am is like. He was dancing on top of a car. "Doin' my Fred." The Primitives were also strip-searched when returning from Holland. "They ask you if you like The Beatles just as you're taking your underpants off."
The new single in not a racket. "It's a bit more refined," Steve says. "From the first day we got together we've told people what we wanna sound like. Now we're beginning to get there it shouldn't surprise anybody. We're a subtle mixture of thrash and melody. There's nothing wrong with naivete, but now we want to be..."
Paul: "I just think I'd be better at it than most."
How do you mean, "better"?
"Look better. Just act better, really. There's too many 40-year-olds in the charts. Neil Tennant looks like a naughty vicar. But people buy that cos they're told to.
"And we spit on women and children. We get slagged off sometimes for not being political - that's garbage because these hip hop bands they go on about are the most hedonistic ever, it's all self self self. We all voted on Election Day. Then dropped acid and went down to the park. Margaret welcomed us back."
Steve: "Do you remember when you were about six or seven and went down to the park, and you couldn't go on the swings cos there were big kids there? Well we were those big kids, and it was great."
Paul: "It's amazing how interesting plants can get."
Pete: "Hang on - this is a dodgy line we're walking here, people. It's self-management, innit? I wouldn't recommend drugs to everyone. Just all my friends."
Tell me - why do your audience give you finger-paintings which say "Lust and Existentialism - Keep On Screamwalking Baby"?
Pete: "What does existentialism mean?"
What does anything mean?
"Oh. We get a lot of cases at our shows. People who throw little plastic parachute men at us. And confetti. And cornflakes."
Steve: "We climbed a 900-foot high mountain in Port Talbot the night before we played the Astoria and Tracy drank all that brandy. You could see forever. When the sun came up you could see Swansea. And it was...smelly."
Are you intellectuals?
Pete: "I'm not very intelligent, no."
Steve: "Being in this band has got me distorted. I haven't had a chance to expand my consciousness. No time to read. Working too hard."
Paul: "People think if you're quiet yhou must be deep. But it just means you're boring."
Pete: "I want to get into motorcycle maintenance. Does that count as an intellectual pursuit?"
Paul: "And I want to get into cooking. But my kitchen's such a state that I just get put off every time I walk into it."
Ah yes, the kitchen with the slugs. Can you hear that?
Pete: "Yeah, the bushes are singing. I'll get the game warden on them."
Paul: "Tracy tends to get boys backstage trying to snog with her. Really horrible boys. We just stand in a little group and laugh."
Tracy! There you are! Hello.
"They follow me. It's not very nice."
Tracy wants to make a film one day. "A lush entertainment."
"Really Stupid" and "Stop Killing Me" have already proven The Primitives to be the best hope this country has for transcendent but energised singles. "Thru The Flowers" (the remake) takes a jump and a gamble, beckons in some violins, relief and dynamics. Wants to be hummed rather than whipped. If the others were an assault, this is like tailing her her round the shopping precinct with shades on. Then maybe like buying her an ice cream with a flake in it. The Primitives want to cal their debut album, yours with the new year, "Lovely". I encourage this. Damn right! I hear some of it, and am embarrassed by riches. I actually say, "Yeah, I can't really articulate...but...y'know..." It makes me realise how journalists must feel when they're there for the inception of something big, some awesome great yummy slice of pop history. I'm in an active daze as this whirl of "Pretty Vacant" marrying "Union City Blue" shreds the air. A piece of bright yellow paper has abbreviated song titles on it.
Primitives song titles. It says: "Flowers Kill Dreamwalk Nothing Ocean Change Shadow Buzz Run Stick Reach Carry Bright She Don't Space."
Case rests. It sounds like you're in love.
It sounds like she's in love with you.
So we get some biscuits and decide to go indoors.
How many chords are in Primitives songs?
"Oh, three, always three."
"Oh no, it's got to be three."
What we think we'll do is let each of the group interview me on their own for a few minutes. Probe a bit. Meanwhile Pete the drums is in agony.
"Oh me loins, Paul, me loins."
Gird 'em, Pete. Gird 'em. Hey...what does a loin look like? No I know, I know, but I mean - they do exist right? So say if some surgeon had to hold one up and say, 'this is a loin'...what would it look like? Cos women have 'em too, don't they?"
Pete: "I've got a great big love."
Tracy: "Well, that's all you need."
Pete: "Bless her, she's tryin' isn't she?
Come, fair Tracy. Let us away from this madding rabble and speak in soft tones of mellifluous resonance until the twelfth of never, or at least till the tape runs out. Lucozade?
I SAY A LITTLE PRAYER
"I really enjoy what we're doing. I wouldn't want to do anything else. What do I want from it? Perhaps security, in a way. Money. I may as well try to get enough from what I do to live the way I want to live."
Which is how?
"Oh, a big mansion on a hill. Loads of animals running around wildly. Goats and sheep. My mum and dad have got a farm in Australia. Chickens, cats and dogs."
You're really into money, aren't you?
"No, I'm not, I'm not! Does it sound like that? No! I don't 'cherish' it! There's just...things I'd like and I can't have. It's hard to survive on my dole cheque, two little figures a week. What we've had drom The Primitives has had to go straight back in. Does it sound like I'm a moneygrabber? Does it? I'm not. I'm not. No I'm not. I'm not at all."
Can't buy the best things in life, any old how...
"So they say, yeah."
But you're not convinced?
"Um...it's true in some senses, but...you've got to have money. I want love and understanding as well, but I think...that will come along. When it's right. I'm a great believer in fate. A lot of things have happened to me as if a path had been laid out for me to walk. The Primitives for a start. I came back from Australia wanting to join a band, and I went to the library and saw this ad..."
Do you think of yourself as a good singer?
As a good performer, then?
"No. I've still got a lot to learn. Getting over nerves. I'm taking drama lessons now - lots of exercises for the voice and breathing, body language, projection, doing silly things with your mouth. Havingh conversations going 'blublublub'...that broke down a few barriers."
You seem very confident onstage recently. Being all rude with that balloon and stuff.
"It's a different person. It's me trying to be somebody else. I'm still not happy with it."
So why does everyone like you? Is it just because they fancy you?
"Erm...that's very hard...I suppose some of them do. Some say, 'Aw, isn't she lovely? and all this sort of thing. It's all very nice. I don't know. I think it's because I am..."
And cute? How about cute?
"Yes! I've had that all my life, it's terrible. 'Isn't she cute? Isn't she small and cute?' So...I suppose...well, that's it really."
Tracy is quite emotional when "the mood takes" her. This happens during sad black and white films, especially "Lassie."
"I don't like crying. I don't really like...coming to emotion. But I try not to be cold. You have to cry to stop it building up until worse things happen. Sometimes crazy things happen."
Do people refrain fropm asking you about sex because you're "the girl"?
"I thought girls were supposed to be demure young ladies and keep that sort of thing quiet."
Is that right?
"Speaking for myself, then yeah, but obviously others might not be so worried. Sex is more important for some than others - if boys want to brag about it, they do...It's not just cos I'm a girl that I don't. I wouldn't anyway. Perhaps I was madly in love with sombody and it was very special, then I'd brag about how happy I was, that sort of thing. If I could find that person."
Tracy's ideal man would be gentle, nice, kind, good looks not important. She's not very afraid of death.
"I do think there's something else afterwards, I hope there is. I believe in some sort of force if not the sole figure of a 'God.' I do pray, I still pray. Just little things, that things will turn out. They do get answered actually, surprisingly, yes. But then perhaps I'm not praying for something that's that impossible in the first place."
How do you go about it? Do you say, "Dear God...", or what?
"Um...it's normally late at night, and I do go like this..."
She places her palms together. A priest would be riveted.
"...But I don't actually address anybody."
Do you say thank you afterwards?
"Ha! No, but I should, shouldn't I? Pay my dues. But I mean - whoever isup there I'm sure they can see whatever I'm saying."
Tracy thinks age 60 would be a reasonable time to go.
"Once I've done everything I've set out to achieve. After The Primitives I want to apint something or invent something which'll leave my name behind when I'm gone. I'd like to leave my mark. Something as simple but brilliant as the wheel."
Simple but brilliant. The Primitives. Like all major artists, Tracy has five cats. "One of them doesn't miaow though. It cheeps." Tracy undersells herself. This is how we know she's the real thing.
WINDY MILLER LOSES HIS HEAD
Paul is not a quiet guitarist but, when he talks, "soft-spoken" is an understatement.
"Seen those adverts with the 'Trumpton' puppets on? They're really good."
What are they in aid of?
"Bread. we were just watching one where - remember Windy Miller? - where his head falls off."
Wast 'Trumpton' a major influence on your career?
"Nah, han, I was never into 'Trumpton' at all. 'The Magic Roundabout" was spot-on though. Sugar lumps, cows, and stuff."
What gives you your peak moments of happiness in life?
"When you wake up feeling okay and you've got something to do that day and you have a bath and walk out of the house and...y'know, just walkin' downtown feelin' alright. For some reason you feel really happy. You polish your shoes or something."
Are baths important to your music?
"They are, yeah. In fact I have to have a bath to write a song these days. Because you have to be clean to pick up a pen."
Absolutely. What's your earliest recollection?
"That'd be '66 or '67, when I was four or so. Weird things like - walking around naked, getting told to put clothes on. It was a bore to have some old lady across the road shouting at me to put my clothes on. I remember urinating on one of those pushcars that you sat in and kind of peddled. The kid ran and got his mum and I was sent to try and clean it for him."
So when didyou first realise you had a willy?
"I was about six, playing 'tag' at school with my mate and his sister. It was 'You've got the lurgy', that game y'know. So I went 'You've got the lurgy' to his sister, and she goes 'No I 'aven't, look'and she pulled her knickers down. And I thought, 'Gosh, she hasn't got a willy. She's got something else.'That's when I realised there was a difference."
Do you understand girls better now?
"I've got a girlfriend now, she's okay. I was like celibate for about two years...don't know why. What was the question? Have I got it sussed? Oh no. No-one has. I'm coming out more these days though. Before, the thing I liked doing most was sitting at home on my own, lounging around. But ever since the remote control broke on my telly, it's like halfway across the room to the telly. So I might as well go out.
"I went to a pub on my own the other day. It was great. Everyone looksat you. 'He's on his own, look!' Like you're weird or something. I actually need a good manservant, I think, cos blokes are supposed to know how to fix plugs and screw in light bulbs. And unblocking dreains is far too technical..."
Paul used to be a bit of a hypochondriac. He was convinced he was on his way out. Eventually he would like to die in a chair watching TV, having been certified a cross between Max Wall and Sir Henry Rawlinson.
"I've just written a kind of mild version of 'Eve Of Destruction.' The world's definitely in a bad way."
Can The Primitives help that at all?
"No. Only superficially. Only in the way somebody could maybe listen to our record and forget for a minute."
What's your most secret secret?
"I couldn't really tell you that, it'd blow my whole image."
Which is the enigma, the introvert...?
"No no...I always think, 'Oh, I should say something now cos I haven't said anythiung for half an hour and I'm with these people...I was a bit brainwashed at school, actually. I didn't wag it enough. I thought the teachers were God, like the police and the government and everything. I thought they could do anything they wanted. I didn't realise they were just people...
"I like walking fast. I'm sure people in front of you slow down deliberately just as you get near them. So you slow down behind them. They you think maybe they're one of these self-defence women who are getting ready to turn and give you a chop. It feels so good when you pass them and keep on walking, and you're innocent..."
Do you believe in love and romance?
"I've got this attitude to life which is like - if you've got a picture on the wall and it falls down, you put it back up. If it falls down again, there's only so many times you'll pick it back up before you just throw it in the bin. I live my life like that."
Who's your favourite philosopher? Windy Miller?
"The drunken old men who live in town. I don't really know any others. Zebeddee was alright."
Time for bed!
Which brings us quaintly to...
THE NETHER REGIONS
So, Pete the drums, is this the worst injury you've ever had?
"No, the last time I saw you I had actually split my foreskin open, and that was reallyrough. You know the bit underneath that connects it all up? Well that had ripped completely, and..."
Thankyou. Thanks. Thanks a lot. Do you have an unorthodox sexual technique or something?
"Yeah I do, but I don't go jumping off the wardrobe or anything. Bad things just keep on happening to me. I keep going out with these tough old women that want you to stay in there all night, and...er...they forget I'm a young buck.
"Aw, I've been so ill lately. And it's all been around my nether regions."
Tracy said you'd talk non-stop about "quaffing and shagging."
"Aw, that's a sad indictment. I'm the throwaway comment artist. I'm the comedian."
"No! When we're recording I'm a miserable bugger. I much prefer doin' giggies to recording. You've got people smilin' at you, grinnin'...lovely, it is. Although, at the Astoria, I actually cursed God in his heaven halfway through 'Stop Killing Me' ".
And look what he's done to your nether regions...
"I always wanted to be a guitarist anyway. I like idiosyncrasies. Our songs are getting quite...knowledgeablenow. We've mellowed. It's physically more interesting. They'll say 'Aw, they've gone all wimpy', but we're sick of howling. Y'know, I never get asked about the musical parts of the band... " OY! None of that on myshow, matey!
STRINGY BITS AND THINGS
That's what is says on The Primitives' black box of, um, stringy bits and thingies. I told you there were a million reasons to love this group. "The worst thing that could happen to me," bass wizard-type Steve is saying, "would be to go deaf. I'd be a basket case."
The only times he's not listening to music are when he's eating or reading, or watching "Paris, Texas." He dscribes The Primitives as "pretty universal", which I will steal.
"I just like being content; I suppose I'm a bit boring really. I'm not a very ecstaticperson. I'm the last one who's gonna jump up and down and dance on the table. It's more like...internal. I quite enjoy a bit of depression now and again, especially if you know something goods' gonna happen in a couple of days' time.
"Until I was 12, I was the only child in a one-parent family. I'd often be on my own from leaving school one evening till going back the next morning. So I don't really care about other people's opinions. I have a basic belief in myself. I always knew I wanted to earn my crust playing a guitar. Everyone used to laugh, but I'm almost there now, aren't I? We're the most realgroup I've ever seen..."
Memo: it is not necessary to swallow walruses' intestines, or take a drip to a substructure, to be "real". But, whereas fizzy pop is real in the extreme, flat pop is not even remotely real. If The Primitives were marooned on a lighthouse, the first thing they'd do is run up the stairs to the top, to see if the bubbles babbled.
Something else someone says today is that in Coventry, everyone knewthat Coventry FC were bound to win the cup. This is said without any mystic pretensions. Deadpan. Then comes the sting: "Just like 'Thru The Flowers' is going Top 40. You just knowthese things."
I never know thosethings, but it seems at least entertaining that the loveable and charming Prims should follow in the footsteps of such as Plastic Penny, Susan Maughan, Wink Martindale, Strawberry Switchblade, The Adverts, and Thunderthighs. After all, didn't they give awaysingles at their last London fling? When I pass my psychosis exams I'm going to daub "Play Shadow For Me" on their necks...
With everything shining bright, The Primitives play two nights at the ICA this week (August 14/15). They'll be precisely as loud and flawed as Warhol's Marilyns. A breath of fresh hair. The night is young. Stay pretty. Amen.
Rolling Stone. Review of Lovely. ***
Art pop or pop art, it makes no difference - in a perfect world, every song on this record would be a hit. The Primitives play as if they were late for an appointment, but the don't let their infectious Sixties-style melodies get lost in the shuffle. Precise, pounding drums and wall-of-fuzz guitar are perfect foils for the smooth, cool vocals of Tracey Tracey, who is also the band's tambourine player. The Primitives invite comparisons to Blondie, the Go-Go's and the Buzzcocks; in other words, this is power pop to the nth degree.
"Crash," the first single, is a perfect little pop tune armed with a killer na-na-na chorus; "Spacehead" is another in the same vein, this time with a brilliant two-note guitar solo. But Lovely is not just a string of three-minute gems. Even that could get tiring after a while, so out come the tablas and sitar for some Beatlesque psychedelia on "Shadow." The band also slows it down on the gorgeous "Ocean Blue."
Lovely is only thirty-five minutes long, but as the Primitives amply demonstrate, brevity is the soul of pop. - Michael Azerrad.
Q Magazine, 1988, Review of Lovely (www.qonline.co.uk)
Maybe they're reviving it, maybe it never went away; at any rate here it comes again, that classic pop genre of the late 1970s-the short, sharp punk ditty. Buzzcocks and The Ramones were its best original exponents, well able in their different ways to capture that delicate balance between the macho toiling of solid-body electric and the airy innocence of a simple, catchy tune. Now, 10 years later, three young men from Coventry and a girl singer they found through an advert have put it back into the Top 5 with their first single release for a major label, Crash. Track one, side one of their debut album, Crash is a song which is as difficult to dislike as it is impossible to defend against charges of blatant copyism.
Otherwise, there is a one-note guitar solo on Spacehead, guitars breaking up into white noise-the famous buzzsaw effect-at regular intervals, as well as all the three chord tricks you could wish for. Tracy Tracy's voice has just the right mixture of dreaminess and perkiness to preside over the hectic scampering of the lads' instruments, and nothing seems to go on for more than two and a half minutes.
The Primitives have certainly not been blessed with a very original songwriter in Perfect Paul, but he can embroider some neat guitar arpeggios around his little hums. And producer Paul Samson holds monotony at bay by treating every song as if it were being played by a different group. On Run Baby Run he makes them sound like a sort of acoustic pop duo and the album basically stops off at all points from there to the hell-for-leather thrash of Stop Killing Me, one of their early indie single.
Throughout Lovely there is an amiable spirit of cheerful perseverance in the face of natural limitations. This, given that The Primitives have already managed to blag their way on to Wogan as well as stealing into the Top 10, should guarantee them a future presence, even if it doesn't make them a force to be reckoned with. -Robert Sandall
Stereo Review, Nov 1988, Review of Lovely
The Primitives have too much regard for the frothy pop of the Sixties--way too much. They sometimes sound like the Beatles or the Byrds, but too often they sound like Herman's Hermits and Annette Funicello. These references, unfortunately, overpower the rest of the music, so the overall effect is one of deja vu--you recall the groups that are being quoted instead of listening to the Primitives. Lead singer Tracey Tracey's high, light, voice and elfin phrasing further contribute to the weightless quality of this material. The only thing that cuts the sweetness is the extremely distorted sound of some of the guitar work, which gives some of the songs a punkish edge, but the gimmick wears thin. -Ron Givens
Melody Maker, January 30, 1988. Playground Twist
On a collision course with perfection, 'Crash' looks about to catapult Coventry's Primitives into the nations affections. Steve Sutherland met Tracey, Steve and Paul to assess the strategy behind their destiny.
Their new single, "Crash", is the perfect single because it does everything you expect it to and it still surprises. It's traditional yet new, of its time, yet timeless; representative yet beyond characteristics. It belongs with The Pretenders' "Kid" and Blondie's "Hanging On The Telephone" as an example of what The Primitives unashamedly call classic pop. It is commercial as in non-elitist, it is open as in closed, it says nothing in that it says everything. It is short, it is sweet, it looks backwards to look forwards and it is very, very Eighties indeed.
"CRASH" is a single made by fans, not disciples. It embraces without shame, it echoes its influences, it has no axe to grind. It samples in spirit without resorting to the mundane actuality of a practice which has promoted what is essentially a lack of imagination as an outlaw act. It is very modern in that it isn't modern at all and, despite what all the mags might tell you, there is a strong but fairly silent majority out there who will support the standards set by "Crash", who will rally around the personality over the producer any day.
Some say pop, based around the singer-songwriter, was like art before Warhol - precious, elitist and useless - and then hip hop came along and liberated it, mechanised it, made it more honest. The Primitives disagree. They reckon "Crash", as they used to say, is the real sound of the suburbs and Annie Nightingale will play it, week in and week out, for eons and eons to come.
Why is "Crash" so heavenly? Well it lasts barely two minutes and it features guitars.
And yet there are those, philosophers and tacticians, theorists and dreamers, who will expend ink within these very pages telling you that perfection in pop is nowhere near where it's at. They'll tell you perfection involves formula and compromise and planning and predestination and all things pop shouldn't be. They'll tell you perfection is the antithesis, even the enemy of spontaneity, of inspiration, of the essential otherness that hoists pop out of the realms of show business and into the realms of art.
And, of course, they're not wrong. Which is not the same as saying they're right.
Paul, who writes the lyrics and looks a bit rockabilly, reckons: "What we do is a lot more real, a lot more personal than just having a load of electronic equipment which somebody switches on and presses 'Go' and, three and a half minutes later, you've got a song. Things aren't so rigid..."
Rigidity, in fact, is not part of The Primitives' make up. They tell me their debut album, due out in April, is as varied as anything they've ever heard. I tel them that, although they've been featured on some four front covers now, your average Joe still doesn't know who they are. They don't come ready-made with an image or even an anti-image. They don't fit.
"I don't think we don't fit in," says Tracey who is tiny and looks tired from their recent stint supporting The Bunnymen. "If you look at the charts we don't fit in but, then again, we would because we're something which his totally different and exciting and fresh."
"We'll still be weirdos is we get in the charts," says Paul. "The average wag about town will still say we're weird and go down to the pub and say 'Look at those poofs', y'know?"
Outsiders on the inside. The best of both worlds. Sounds ideal. Sounds, uh, perfect...
"The Monkees' stuff was perfect wasn't it? 'Hello I Love You' by The Doors. There's no way you could improve them. They're there and they're gonna last because they're faultless. They do everything a good pop record's supposed to do. For two and a half minutes or however long they last they're totally captivating."
So what makes some music better than others?
"Imagination and spirit," says Steve, who carried gig tickets in his wallet like scalps. His most prized one is Laurie Anderson at Hammersmith Odeon. Others include AllAbout Eve, 10,000 Maniacs and the Stones.
"You can listen to a record and think 'Yeah, those people went in with the sole intention of pleasing themselves and worried about what other people would think afterwards' whereas it's really obvious to spot the people who've gone into a studio and gone 'Hey, let's get a hit single out today!'"
Isn't imperfection a part of perfection? Doesn't there have to be disharmony to complement the harmony, threat behind the innocence? Doesn't everything have to be superrealist?
"That's very important," says Steve. "When we first started we were just noise. We were a real thrash and I don't think we ever want to lose that totally because an awful lot of what we listen to for our own pleasure is thrash. I woke up this morning to Sonic Youth's 'Sister' at full volume."
Noise, of course, is symbolic of rebellion...from a format if nothing else. How does "Crash" kick against its influences?
"Well...I don't think we've ever done anything that was truly original," says Paul. "Everything we do is a hybrid of what's been done before. I think it's important to be different, but I doubt if anybody can do anything totally original anymore. I mean, what could you possibly conceive?"
"Originality stopped about 1968," says Steve, who recently interviewed R.E.M. for a fanzine. "The only original thing left to do is to mix influences and create a hybrid which is slightly different to things that other people do."
Should the perfect pop song seek to be more than just a pop song? Should it look outside itself?
"Well, we've always been of the opinion that pop music should really be pop music and shouldn't be mixed with anything else. That doesn't mean we re a bunch of non-thinking morons - we've all got opinions of life and how to live it and stuff but we don't really want to ram our opinions down other people's throats."
"Pop music should be an escape," says Paul. "It should be like a holiday from life."
I take it that you think pop music isn't very good at the moment.
"It's crap," says Paul, "'74 was better than now!"
So part of your motivation is to do something about that?
"Yeah. Without wishing to sound pretentious," says Steve, "I don't think there is anybody who is actually doing what we're doing. I can't think of anybody who sounds truly like us, who've got the variety and depth we've got."
So what is it you think you do?
"Hopefully take the best bits from the things we like and rearrange them," says Paul.
"We didn't actually go in to try and write the perfect pop song with 'Crash'," says Tracey. "It's just a mixture of everything we like. It just evolved that way."
What is the perfect pop song?
"Something that's short...sweet...and exciting."
"I haven't bought a record for ages I'm afraid," says Tracey. "I can't really think of anything at the moment. Sorry."
Well, tell me about the difference between inspiration and plagiarism. Tell me what doesn't make you The Cult.
"There's been times when we've been arranging songs and we've thought 'Shit! That sounds exactly like the chorus out of whatever' so we've changed a few notes around, tried to keep the feel without ripping totally. Our inspiration is the feel," says Steve, "rather than the actual notes. We try to recapture the spirit without stealing the sound"
THIS is Eighties popspeak something that's crept upon those of us with memories and we're unsure how to take it. From burning rejection to avid assimilation in 10 years. It smacks of respect which, history shows, rather than encouraging experimentation, serves to inhibit the nurturing of novelty so vital to keeping pop alive.
"Personally, I totally disagree with that" says Steve. 'We're all music fans and there's no way we can lust abandon that. Just because we're in a group doesn't mean we can just disregard what's gone before us."
But don't you yearn for the destructive thrill?
"Um. . .it's difficult to sit here and discuss it, says Steve. "I'm gonna sound like one of Nephilim now, but we didn't actually sit down and say 'Right, we're gonna be in a band. This is what we're gonna do'. It's all very natural."
Just because you don't have a manifesto, doesn't mean you don't stand for something. The very fact that The Primitives' records will attract far more attention than their performance in the press is a revolution of sorts in itself.
"That's what we're in it for, primarily, the music. The rest is stuff you have to do to make people aware we exist. We buy new shirts and get our hair combed and stuff but that's just part and parcel of the business. It's the same as talking to people like yourself - we've had to learn to sit down and talk to total strangers about personal things. The first five or six interviews we did, we must have been really awkward because we'd get asked a question and there'd be about three minutes of total silence with everyone looking at their feet and shuffling around and stuff and there'd be just yes and no answers."
You can always tell lies as long as they're entertaining and you don't feel they're likely to have some detrimental effect on what you do hereafter. Don't look so crestfallen - let's have some fun. Let's do a Sugarcubes rather than a Nephilim. Let's take the wacky route to enlightenment.
Okay? If the Primitives were a book what would it be?
Steve: "God...what a question!"
Tracey: "For me it would probably be a fairytale book of night-time stories."
Paul: "I saw a book once called 'Know Your Fish' —that's quite appropriate because about 80 per cent of the audience reminds me of fish, just flapping around and stuff. And I start to think 'Are we fish as well', y'know 'in an aquarium?'"
Steve: "It would have to be something quite popular without being over the top commercial. A good strong cult film with an atmosphere. It would probably be one of those bizarre Sixties road movies where nothing seems to happen until you've got to the end and then you look back and realise what it was all about'
Paul:" 'Vanishing Point'."
" 'The Wizard Of Oz' because it all turns out alright in the end."
Steve: "That's the same thing really. That's a road movie without the cars."
What if The Primitives were a haircut?
Tracey: "Probably Steve's - unmanageable!"
Steve: "Davy Jones' mop on a windy day."
Paul: "I'm of no fixed haircut at the moment so I'm undecided."
Steve: "Vodka and orange - that's our drink..."
Tracey: "Gets you where you want to go!"
Paul: "I'd like to be just a clear glass of water."
Very level headed.
Steve: "Totally out of character that one!"
What if The Primitives were a drug?
Steve: "The really obvious response is glue...or acid. Something that alters your perception. Cosy and warm. Gives you a nice feeling of shaky security."
So there's a psychedelic dimension to the band?
Steve: "Yeah - that any my haircut."
Paul: "We've taken tea many times."
Steve: "We'll leave it at that."
Okay, if you were a car, what would it be?
Steve: "It would be something old and battered. Something that's had a good life and been well abused but still has a solid engine and chassis."
Tracey: "Something classic."
Steve: "Hm, maybe. With that nice evil edge."
What about a work of art?
Paul: "I'd say the Venus De Milo, but, y'know, no arms so it couldn't play the guitar."
Steve: "That's what makes it a work of art, having no arms. It's like us, perfectly flawed."
Steve: "A cat. Soft and cuddly with a mind of its own."
Paul: "A moth, because, up close, they're really interesting."
Tracey: "A porcupine - I think that sums us up. Prickly and able to curl up into a ball to shut people out."
Steve: "Heh, heh, pet subject this one."
Paul: "Something Victorian maybe, one of those prostitutes lying in a bed."
Paul: "No, not him. He left too much messy business."
Steve: "Something with style and taste and a little imagination...like acid baths or something...We'd probably ring up and laugh, y'know? 'You haven't got us yet!'"
Okay, what if The Primitives were a meal?
Paul: "Something sweet and filling."
Steve: 'An odd mixture - something like roast chicken and custard."
Tracey: "Coconut meringue. Hard on the outside, soft in the middle with a nice cherry on the top."
" 'The Magic Roundabout'." This is Paul and Steve in unison.
"The people who made that were wigged...seriously out of their faces." This is Steve. "They're almost child molesters in a way. This is one of our pet subjects - those little five minute programmes that used to be on before the news. We know them all intimately."
What about "Trumpton"?
"No, I was never into that. It was too normal."
It was ultranormal! It was surreal - the perfect community, like The Beatles' "Penny Lane". It was almost middle class though."
So The Primitives are palatable but weird, attractive but deep, wacky but comfortable - how antagonistic!
Paul: 'We like sweet voices, catchy melodies and a f***ing racket underneath."
Tracey: "There's a constant battle going on."
Paul: "Between our on-stage selves and our off-stage selves as well."
Steve: "Onstage you can jump about and be a bit of an idiot and pull stupid faces and stuff like that which, in the normal course of events, you wouldn't even contemplate doing. What we do onstage is a lot of people do on the dancefloor. Y'know, the idea of getting on a dancefloor is 'Hey, look at me. I'm not in a band, I can't play anything but I like this record and I wanna express myself to it'. That's what we're doing onstage.
Paul: "None of us are very good dancers so we have to be in a band."
Tracey: "You speak for yourself!"
Steve: "It's the only release. When we first got together we were real shrinking violets, real wallflowers."
And now you're rock 'n' roll rebels?
Steve: "Well, I don't think any of us could ever go back to the traditional lifestyle where you get up in the morning. Monday to Friday, and have Saturdays and Sundays to go out and get drunk and rest and see your friends and that. Weekends simply have no meaning to us anymore. In fact, more often than not, first thing in the morning when we're away from home in a hotel or something, the first thing everybody says after 'Good morning' is 'What day is it?' It's really disorientating, the whole process."
What kept them sane on the last tour was toy squeaky toy gopher called Godfrey with whom they'd have conversations at three in the morning and whose appearance round the dressing room door silenced The Bunnymen for fully 10 minutes.
Paul: "I had a stone once and that kept me sane. Just a stone in my pocket."
Steve: "When we were at The Manor studio for 10 days or something, they had this piece of rock which was used to prop open a door and we adopted it. We gave him a Sony Walkman and let him listen to Sonic Youth, wrapped him in a scarf, gave him a cushion, painted a face on him and, y'know, Rock was one of us for those 10 days."
After that, I don't mind so much asking something dumb like this: What's the worst thing that could happen to The Primitives?
Steve: "If I lost the ability to play a musical instrument or if I went deaf, I think I'd probably end my life on the spot."
Paul: "For us personally, physically, to get in a car crash. A car smash for the band would be the best thing, almost, because we'd all go together."
Tracey looks doubtful.
Steve: "We had a really good conversation about four o'clock in the morning the other night and we reached the conclusion that, if you really wanna last in rock 'n' roll, somebody's gotta die."
Paul: "For us personally, physically, to get in a car crash. A car smash for the band would be the best thing, almost because we'd all go together."
Tracey looks doubtful.
Steve: "We had a really good conversation about four o'clock in the morning the other night and we reached the conclusion that, if you really wanna last in rock'n'roll somebody's gotta die."
Paul: "And then we thought, 'Are they really dead?' because, being involved in this business, you realise everything's bullshit. Is there this little community of supposedly dead rock stars raking in much more money than they would if they had stayed alive?"
That's a tad cynical isn't it?
Steve: "Well, the only disappointment so far has been a sort of loss of naivety with regards to music. We haven't quite got to the stage where we listen to a record and can't really listen to the whole without ending up thinking 'That's a nice reverb on the bass drum', stuff like that."
That's the problem when your hobby becomes your job. What you once did to relax is now your work.
Steve: "I find more and more that the stuff I listen to to relax is so far removed from what we're doing it bears no relation whatsoever. It's like an escape. I'm still escaping..."
Aren't we all kids? Aren't we all? - Steve Sutherland
Number One, March 12, 1988. Primitives
TRACEY SAYS "I never use my surname professionally and I don't think anyone knows what it is", but according to Primitive Paul Court, "that's because Perkins isn't very nice."
TRACEY THINKS her hometown Coventry is "alright but there's nothing to do there. I share a house with someone and my five cat's who I'm fed up of talking about. Just this once, their called Jet, Prince, India, Captain Pugwash, and Tit (for short)."
TRACEY USED to live in Australia: "My parents emigrated there a few years ago. It's possible to do really well there. You can have a massive house, a swimming pool, and lead a life of luxury. I got tired of it so I moved back to Coventry to join a group. I was the only female who answered their advert."
TRACEY HAD "never had a proper job like being a secretary, but I made and sold clothes in Australia and took them round the markets in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne."
TRACEY SAYS "it's pretty poor being a Primitive. We haven't got two pennies to rub together. If I had some money I'd go out and get a 1957 white Porsche like James Dean's."
TRACEY THINKS that "doing Top Of The Pops is good fun but very much a waste of a day. They make you hang about for hours and the audience don't care who you are anyway. They've gone along to be seen on the telly."
TRACEY COLLECTS "hats and scarves and bits and pieces from my travels."
TRACEY LIKES "The Bangles, Prince, The Triffids, Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood, and Marc Bolan. I've got a very dated taste in music."
TRACEY'S FAVOURITE films are "Teen Wolf 2, Angel Heart, Up The Junction, and The Apartment. I like Robert DeNiro, Hattie Jacques, Roger Moore, and Steve Martin."
TRACEY READS all the time, "especially film star's autobiographies. This And That by Betty Davis is great and so is Edith Piaf's autobiography."
TRACY'S FAVOURITE COLOUR is "aquamarine."
'PERFECT' PAUL COURT
PAUL COURT is "a self-made man. I just picked up a guitar and plugged it in. I'm not very good but I like sounding raw and rough. Ideally I want to be like Lennon and McCartney or The Byrds."
PAUL SAYS "The Primitives pinched our name from dozens of places. There have been loads of bands called The Primitives. The best one came from Blackpool. They were a garage band in the 60's who made the Rolling Stones sound like Sad Cafe. We've got the punk rock ethic definitely, that attitude. Abunch of scruffs. I like the fact that we sound sinister or kitsch."
PAUL COLLECTS "tasteless socks and purple cushions."
PAUL'S FAVOURITE bands are "hopeless punk like the Jesters of Newport and Venereal Crisis."
PAUL LIKES to relax by "going and getting drunk and having a good lie-down. But we never get the time anymore. Other bands would have gone out and celebrated their first appearance on TOTP but we had to go to the bloody studio for eight hours."
PAUL WATCHES "the odd film. I like The Pawn Broker, Psycho and The Stepfather. My favorite film stars are all seedy undesirables - Rod Steiger types. We all like Jack Nicholson too.
IF PAUL HAD ANY MONEY he'd "move out of the proxy terraced slum I live in and buy somewhere decent. I'd miss the outside toilet, though."
PAUL USED "to go see the Specials for fifty pence at the Dog And Trumpet. I like Terry Hall. I don't like Paul King."
PAUL ENJOYS "doing people's gardens for a small fee. I admire Rick Astley because he used to be a market gardener didn't he?"
'SENSITIVE' STEVE DULLAGHAN
STEVE SAYS "being in the Primitives is bankrupting me. I made more money on the dole."
STEVE THINKS "the name, the Primitives, is a bit at odds with us as people because we're not especially camp apart from Paul and our music can be very sweet and sickly."
Being in a band has made "us very insular and intimate. We've been with each other every day for the past two years now."
STEVE LIVES "in one room with all my belongings piled up in no particular order."
STEVE'S AMBITION is "to have enough money so I don't have to borrow twenty pence to catch the tube."
STEVE MET MORRISSEY "we stood and stared at our shoes for half an hour until he got up and said 'you bloody miserable sods!' and stormed off. He did introduce us at an ICA concert which seemed like and odd thing for him to do. He didn't have to do it. If we do meet him we don't ask him for advice, we usually talk about socks. Morrissey likes wool socks by the way so don't bother sending him nylon ones."
STEVE TOTALLY INFLUENCES "all of Paul's reading and film tastes. I like John Steinbeck, The Catcher In The Rye and everyone should know the best film ever is Paris, Texas. River's Edge and No Way To Treat A Lady are also my favourites. Actors? Harry Dean Stanton and DeNiro. Bruce Dern is always good too, even in crappy TV movies."
STEVE SAYS "the Primitives motto is: for every pound we make, we spend two."
STEVE AND PAUL STARTED "our own label called Lazy in Coventry because nobody was the slightest bit interested in us. They still don't take much notice and why should they? Who are we anyway?"
Melody Maker, May 21, 1988. Pet Rocks. The Primitives/Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie, Town & Country Club, London.
NOT as blonde as I might have expected. Two sell out nights, phrases like "triumphant" and "all-conquering" being dispatched by even the neanderthal bouncers, and enough people in black and white tee-shirts to populate Carnaby Street until the end of the century. I've an idea that this blondeness might only be skin deep.
Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie twitter in and out of the darkness, with a bit of Bauhaus here, a bit of Nick Cave there, a lot of Big John (ex Blood Uncles) all over the place. They bludgeon you for a bit, then leave. I'm beginning to feel like a snooze.
Tracy Tracey (nee Tracy) saunters on looking like Ruth Ellis, her pop group arranging themselves in the nooks and crannies of a stage set that includes two crashed cars and a giant pop-art pile up. Very colourful, very lively. You can see how they COULD be perfect. When the metal stops shearing though, when the moment of collision turns to a lifetime of paraplegia, all The Primitives can do is rage sweetly.
The Primitives have lots of songs. Millions of them! You can tell what every single one of them is called by the way that the title wallops in before the cheers of recognition around you have died in a thousand throats. The bass drum doesn't puncture so much as offer support, the guitars doggy paddling towards the molten fuzz. It's as tame as the Mary Chain when it should be as frisky as The Darling Buds, as drenching as Blondie, as intangible as The Shangri Las. And it goes on forever.
"Crash" is the exception, an elliptical surge, a knickerless romp into the bloodied sugar bowl, a victory. Sadly, most of the rest, be it "Out Of Reach" or "Stop Killing Me" or "This One's Got Guitars In It And They Aren't Half Buzzy", stumbles into the car bonnet and curls up like a big, warm doormouse.
I'd like to love The Primitives, like to feel that they gave me everything I want from my glittery pop, like the to anoint rather than to annoy. Roberts disagrees of course, claims that the two shows were the very summit of the blonde Himalayas, that the stage twinkled with flames and his heart with rubies. He may be right. I wish.
The cliftop looks 100 miles away from down here. Far from lovely. -Paul Mathur.
Graffiti Magazine, Vol. 4, No. 8, June 1988. Nice To Cats!
New bands often have to resort to gimmicks to get the often overtaxed attention of the so-called music press. It is always a huge relief on the part of the aforementioned press when a band lives up to, or even beyond, the hype. The Primitives have done just that. With the Top Five British hit single "Crash" and their Top 10 debut album, the too modestly titled Lovely, the Prims have become the current darlings of the critical elite.
In fact, the press has become so enamored that they've spared Tracey Tracey, the diminutive blonde-bobbed singer for the band, the label "chart chippie", which they have gleefully bestowed upon the Debbies, Tiffanys and Samanthas that abound of late. Says Tracey: "The Debbies and Tiffanys go into the studio and come out an hour later -- Hey presto! -- with a number one hit. That's not us at all, and I think the Primitives will be around a lot longer because of it."
Mind you, the band have not been averse to a bit of subterfuge in the past. Their first single, "Through The Flowers", cost "£6 to make and went to #2 on the indie charts." Then there was the firing of their original drummer, Pete Tweedie, last year. Not content with the usual excuse of "artistic differences", the band attributed his departure to Tweedie's perverse proclivity for torturing cats. "Oh, that," Tracey says now. "That was just the press, wasn't it?"
And how about manager Wayne Morris? With Malcolm McLaren at the apex, the British music scene has been weighed down under a mountain of Barnum-esque managers. Morris, it seems, helped finance the band by opening a T-shirt emporium that featured the phenomenally successful (and equally tasteless) "concert" T-shirt for "Hitler's World tour 1939-45." "It probably was a bit unsound," Morris stated in the NME recently, "though no politics were meant to be implied. But it did make a lot of money for us, which was then pumped into the band."
When the record was finally completed, three years, three producers and two drummers later, Morris charged A&R men 1,000 to listen to the tapes, with the cheques to be made out to him personally. When one company refused to line the manager's pockets, but wanted to hear the album, a donation was made to the Coventry Cats Protection League instead. Who says there's no justice?
Tracey says about Morris, "Well he is a colorful guy!"; however, she attributes most of the attention he gets to the fact that he lives in London, while the band ("Perfect" Paul Court, guitar; Steve Dullaghan, bass; Tig Williams, drums) live in Coventry. At any rate, now that The Primitives are getting their rightful due, people are falling all over themselves with comparisons to every credible band with a female vocalist. To me they sound more like the Jesus and Marianne Faithful Gang (that's '60's breathy Marianne, not '80's foghorn Marianne) than Blondie or The Pretenders, but Tracey makes a strong point that The Primitives are a band, not a singer with a group. "We're four people getting together, sorting it out and writing it down," she says. "You can't get away from it. We're a band, full stop." - Perry Stern
Billboard, August 20, 1988. "Crash" Course.
Embraced by Britain, which devoured their hit single "Crash," the Primitives stand ready to take on the U.S. with "Lovely," their debut album on RCA Records.
As it was in the U.K., "Crash" is being worked here as the album's leadoff single. Featuring a hard charging guitar wash adorned by the cool, unaffected vocals of lead singer Tracey Tracey, the song has been likened to early Blondie material.
However, as for any comparisons to Blondie vocalist Debbie Harry, Tracey says, "I listen to Nancy Sinatra, Blondie, the Pretenders--there's quite a few things in my vocals. I never picked one particular person...I listened to Edith Piaf as well."
Tracey originally connected with the other members of the Primitives -- principal songwriter/guitarist Paul Court, bassist Steve Dullaghan, and drummer Tig Williams -- by answering a want ad in a newspaper. "They were desperate, and so was I," she recalls.
The mating produced three alternative singles on the group's own Lazy label, two of which hit near the top of the U.K. indie charts. The band subsequently signed Lazy to RCA. "Lovely" entered the U.K. charts at No. 6, fueled by "Crash," which Tracey refers to as "a pure pop song with the right ingredients."
The Primitives have already started work on a second album. Look for a U.S. tour in early 1989.
Record Mirror, October 1988. Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery.
Following the success of 'Crash', hordes of wannabee Primitives bands have been pursued by the major record companies. But what of the original article? As they release a new single, Tony Beard finds out whether the Primitives' powered pop Renaissance is still on course...
Remember that week in March when the gods were smiling and the unthinkable happened? You know, when a record so full of itself - not to mention those radiant guitars —shimmied its way into the nation's charts? We're talking about 'Crash', of course, the Primitives' smash that, for three minutes at least, put pop back on its feet with a smile on its face. Since then we've seen both Voice Of The Beehive and Transvision Vamp bluster their way past security in a flurry of flouncy tresses and blonde curls, leaving the Prim ones to retreat to Coventry. Five months on and it's time to restate and reassess their position, the classic pop Renaissance (part two) starts here.
VIDEO HYPED THE RADIO STAR
When you've just about written the year's most perfect pop song ('Way Behind Me' is easily the closest we've come thus far), then world domination is but a sleekly produced video away. So, as the band prepare to shoot the accompanying video, we find ourselves stuck in the same damp Kings Cross streets Bob Hoskins trod while filming 'Mona Lisa', trying to keep warm in the back of what can only be described as an elongated Batmobile, a 1950's Cadillac limo.
Trouble is, we're not having much luck. The odds, including the Police and the might of the magazine distribution empire, are stacked against us. It appears filming must stop, temporarily at least while vans delivering mega–selling mums' magazine Bella and The Fishing Times interfere with the celluloid celebration of the Primitives' finest minutes. Has pop been reduced to this? And does it mean that their attempts to rip off the one hit wonder tag will be foiled? Curses! To the Batmobile Tracey!
"But we've already had two hits!" she splutters, clearly mortified at the suggestion. "'Out Of Reach' made number 22 so we've nothing left to prove. It's not our intention to aim for top 10 singles, we're a real band for whom life doesn't just begin with 'Top Of The Pops'."
Will 'Way Behind Me' be the one to see the band re-establish their position as pop craftspersons?
"Beats the shit out of 'Crash'," asserts guitarist Paul from the front seat. "That sounds really limp now, it doesn't really cut it. 'Way Behind Me' is like Lulu meets Beethoven with a little bit of God thrown in. If you turn it up loud enough you can hear Him rumbling, like He does on all good records."
Is pop your religion?
"Not really, though it can be for a lot of people," begins bassist Steve.
"Mind you, you could compare us with those TV evangelists because we're both up there on telly shouting at the camera for money. Only we do it with a little subtlety."
HEAVEN UP HERE
It's not such a daft comparison either, because through their peroxide prayers, the Primitives seem to be offering their own kind of heaven. It doesn't last long - never much more than a couple of minutes - but it's worth waiting for, eh Steve?
"I like to look on our songs as little holidays from life. Nobody could ever gain any kind of inspiration from our lyrics, we'll never change anyone's life, so we try to thrill 'em; make 'em happy."
"It's a dangerous thrill though," maintains Paul. "A real buzz that comes from knowing we're not the usual type of band."
The beauty of the Primitives lies in their ability to make bubblegum songs into more of a (pop) art form than a get-rich-quick ploy. But even though, for a month, 'Crash' became the only record to listen to, it is now almost worthless; last season's sensation. Are they worried this will happen to the band themselves?
"People were bound to get tired of that record, I know I did even before its release, but this one's different. I can't get it out of my head," says Paul. "No one will get tired of the Primitives, we won't allow them to. We're vital!"
But vitality depends on change. Is a new direction imminent?
"This is the first time we've had the chance, or ability, to really diversify, so we wanted to make all the four tracks on the single entirely different. There's a long way to go before we consider ourselves the greatest pop band in the world, but in the meantime we'll provide new flavours to try. This month's is strawberry, next it'll be banana. We're gonna have scratch `n` sniff panels on the sleeve," giggles Tracey.
What makes classic pop, Primitives fashion, different from that of, say, Abba or Kylie Minogue? "Attitude," sums up Paul. "They've both made some really infectious records, but they're an unhealthy infection because they're so insubstantial. They brainwash you into buying them. Besides, they're churned out on a conveyor belt, ours are written with a sense of fun."
"We're a bit edgy compared to all the nice people on 'TOTP'," murmers Paul. "We don't fit into the star syndrome, so we ignored the rest of the bands when we were on 'TOTP', apart from one guy from the Christians who was waiting outside the toilets and wanted to know if I was about to have a piss or a crap. We weren't aloof, just shy I s'pose. We're still very naive, but better that than turning into some ego-tripping idiot.
"I do feel a bit important now though, sitting here in me film make-up talking to you, but we're probably the least important people on the set. I keep expecting the director to come and tell us to clear off!"
"We can see through it all," Tracey explains. "I don't see it as anything unusual, what we do isn't that worthy of attention. This business is all so temporary, so false."
"People expect you to have all the answers to the world's problems. I can't even sort out my own!" chuckles Steve behind his shades.
"I like the idea of being a pin-up though," shouts Paul's ego. "If kids want to fantasise about me, fine, so long as it keeps 'em happy while they're growing up. Once they're old enough to know better they'll stop. Mind you, so will we."
"I think it's good that there should be someone in a band you can fancy," says Tracey considering her own position. "I used to love Donny Osmond but I never sent him a dirty letter. "I get them all the time."
Is that because the Primitives are a sexy band?
"I prefer to think we're sensual..." Ooer.
THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN'
Two years ago you couldn't move through a Primitives feature without stumbling over numerous, and lazy, Blondie comparisons. But now the wheel has turned full circle and the band's image, identity and sound is threatened by a new breed of girl/ boy/guitar bands, headed by the shambling Darling Buds, the leaders of what is fast becoming a talent competition for Prims impressionists. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery etc, so how do they feel?
"I'm not sure," Tracey's being diplomatic, carefully avoiding a slanging match. "I'm sure they're insulted by it, like we were with the Blondie tag. But I don't think they'd be around if 'Crash' hadn't done so well, and they certainly wouldn't be on a major label. Record companies do like to follow trends, don't they?
"But the Darling Buds are so schoolgirly, y'know, 'How many words can we fit into one line?' We have simplistic lyrics too, but they're not written down on the back of a cornflakes packet. We take time to achieve the right amount of gooeyness, we don't want to be too sickly. It's a precise art," says a deadpan Paul.
"Worst thing is when the press call them Primitives copyists and then slag us both off, writing crap like, 'The world doesn't need a second Primitives cause it never needed a first' ...Yes it bloody does!"
At last, the end is upon us, and with it comes the chance to say something silly. A message for the readers perhaps?
"Don't take it too seriously," replies Steve.
Life or the Primitives?
"IT! The rock 'n' roll it that always crops up. Watch out, it'll get you in the end!"
And if it doesn't, 'Way Behind Me' will. - Tony Beard
Los Angeles Times November 30, 1988. Britain's Primitives Pull Their Punches
It may have been a case of unrealistic expectations at the Roxy on Monday night.
The Primitives, a British band making its local debut, is part of an unusually large crop of promising rock groups that have surfaced this year.
The best moments in the Primitives' first RCA album, "Lovely," salute some of the most inviting strains in the melodic and invigorating pop-rock tradition. Among the wide-ranging and endearing touchstones: Phil Spector, Blondie, the Mamas and Papas, the Byrds, the Bangles and -- for a recent touch of mystery -- Jesus and Mary Chain.
While Primitives songs like the dizzy, exuberant "Crash" -- a former No. 1 single in England -- demonstrate the band's ability to merge these rich influences into a knockout package, the strength of the music rests in the areas of subtlety and charm rather than originality or viewpoint.
It's fun the way the band updates the classic sounds and the ease in which lead singer Tracey Tracey makes some of songwriter Paul Court's teasing rhymes work. In "Spacehead," Tracey Tracey makes an awkward rhyme sound as smooth as something by Cole Porter: "What is that boy on?/He's such a strange pers-on."
Yet, the band fails on "Lovely" to make the songs add up to anything more than an interesting collection of pop exercises. Aside from the quaintness of construction, the tunes don't give the band an identity or a direction.
This lack of definition is not uncommon with debut albums, but it puts pressure on the band to fill in some of the blanks on stage.
In recent months, two other members of the promising international crop of bands -- Iceland's Sugarcubes and Ireland's Hothouse Flowers -- have defined their somewhat shadowy album images with galvanizing shows at the Roxy. The Flowers, especially, reached out to the audience in a joyful sense of communion that further accentuated the idealistic strains in its debut LP.
Everything seemed in place at the Roxy for the Primitives to make a similar breakthrough. Rodney Bingenheimer, a local taste maker and deejay who has championed such predecessors as the Bangles and Blondie, was on hand to personally give his blessing.
The first glimpse of the Primitives was promising: Tracey Tracey, a tiny blonde dressed in upscale mod-'60s fashion, stood somewhat deadpan while surrounded by four scruffy-looking musicians.
It was a nice, if still ill-defined, piece of irony about the role of "girl singer" in pop music, especially in the '60s when most of the singers and girl groups were just puppets for male writers and producers.
But neither Tracey Tracey nor the band did anything with the imagery or irony. Her "reserve" as a performer and singer seemed, after a while, to be more a limitation than a strategy. And the rest of the band, including Court, didn't help brighten things.
A bigger problem was the music. Instead of filling the songs with the bright, stimulating colors demonstrated on the record, the band gave almost everything a tougher edge. Rather than adding commentary to the songs, this simply made the music seem anonymous.
There were points, however, when the poppier elements of the music took hold. One was at the end when the band finally got around to "Crash." At the first note, the males in the audience near the front of the stage began bounding about with an energy normally found at a punk show.
They not only collided, but climbed on each others backs. It was good that the band had a song that was so energetic and fun, but it was also a bad sign: It was more interesting to watch the audience than the punchless band.
In a way, that moment symbolized the disappointment of the evening. Where the Hothouse Flowers blossomed under live scrutiny, the Primitives seemed to all but wilt. - Robert Hilburn.
The Boston Globe December 6, 1988. The Primitives - In concert at the Channel, Sunday night/Primitives: A bit like early Blondie
About eight years ago, David Lee Roth - then lead voice of Van Halen, now a solo artist - was on the phone, explaining his semi-irrational love for T.Rex. "They only had one song," he said, "but I loved that song." That was a great, succinct, pop-music point. Variety might be the spice of life, but some groups know their limits - and the delights of those limits.
Roth and his music have nothing to do with England's Primitives, but Roth's T.Rex thoughts do: The Primitives - a quartet from Coventry, fronted by an aloof, blond, black leather-jacketed, mini-skirted singer named Tracey Tracey - operate within a fairly narrow pop/punk range. They play speedy, catchy, punkish (circa '77), quick-hit rock 'n' roll that's set up against Tracey's desultory vocals and expressions of ennui, frustration, or, occasionally, pleasure. Tracey is a woman who can, over and over, sing the line "I'll stick with you" and put it across in the most (purposefully) unconvincing fashion. Yeah, she'll stick with you until something better comes along. Or, she'll grab the pleasure of the fleeting moment. Then, sorry, bye bye, love.
All this, of course, makes you look back to early Blondie. The Primitives' Tracey and Blondie's Deborah Harry share that penchant for disconnection - for singing "flat" vocals and embittered lyrics that glide over peppy rhythms and hook-filled melodies.
Tracey's most impassioned plea at the Channel Sunday night was her last one:"Stop killing me!" And, Tracey was every bit the ice queen. Her stage presence - few smiles, minor movement - mirrored the music perfectly. (Later, she said that that was atypical: "I was a bit unhappy on stage, but what can you do? - grin and bear it?" Bad monitor/vocal mix.) The rush came from drummer Tig Williams and bassist Steve Dullaghan; the guitar buzz came from Paul Court. None of it insubstantial.
About 20 songs were played in about 50 minutes, including one cover, the Velvet Underground's "I'll Be Your Mirror," and the most prominent Primitives' hit (a top five song in England), "Crash." It is the Primitives' best song - there's a more melodic, wave-like swoop and a killer pop hook - but the band played it just as they did every other song. It was a nugget, not a centerpiece. You got the feeling that the Primitives shun anything that hints of overstatement.
In sum, they're a subtle band that understands the concept of the rave-up, but backs off a bit when that becomes too apparent. It is, rather, like the flip-side of the Bangles, owing to the legacy of the Buzzcocks: smart pop/punk with an eye cast toward the downside. - Jim Sullivan, Globe Staff
The Washington Post December 8, 1988. The Primitives' Petite Punk at 9:30.
It's unusual for a headlining band at the 9:30 club to play at a lower volume than the between-sets music, but that's just what the Primitives did Monday night. Bringing their kinder, gentler punk-rock to Washington, this English quartet (supplemented onstage by a keyboardist) sounded surprisingly innocent.
It would probably be asking too much that the group that made this year's most appealing power-pop album, "Lovely," also be a dynamite live band. Singer Tracy Tracy and company confirmed the appeal of such elegant, tuneful gems as "Out of Reach" and "Nothing Left to Say" without adding anything much to them. Before the encore, one fan called out, "Play 'Crash' so we can go home." They did and we did.
The show opened with the Pursuit of Happiness, Toronto trad-rockers who trade on singer-songwriter Moe Berg's wit. That wit is no lethal weapon, but the quintet played Berg's one-liners hard enough that they sometimes sounded like actual songs. -Mark Jenkins
Seventeen, March 1989. Wanted: Male Singer.
It almost sounds like a fairy tale. There she was, standing in the local library in Coventry, England, reading a little hand made poster on the wall -- "Wanted: Male lead singer for band into Nick Cave and Iggy Pop." So what dowes Tracey Tracey, a very talented, albeit very female, singer do? " I wanted to be in a band," says the petite vocalist. "So I just thought, Tough it---and went ahead to the audition."
And there, waiting for their future lead singer, were the boys in the band: guitarist/vocalist Paul Court, drummer Tig Williams, and bass player Steve Dullaghan. "We were kind of surprised when Tracey walked in," says Steve. "But after we heard her sing, we knew we had to give it a go." Smart move. Because Tracey was the final element needed to form one of the most exciting pop bands to come out of England in 1988, the Primitives.
With a name like the Primitives, you might expect typical rock 'n' roll behavior from the band. No way. These are four performers who take their jobs and their music very seriously. "From a very early age, we all knew it was going to be music and nothing else." says Steve. Okay, they may act serious, but one listen to their debut album, Lovely, and you know the Primitives are having a lot of fun, too. They practically dare you not to start dancing to their songs--especially the infectious smash hit Crash.
When we caught up with this rockin' quartet in the middle of their first American tour, they were exhausted and exhilarated by the overwhelming reception they'd received. They had to admit their future looks bright. "We're about to go back in the studio to record our second album," says Paul. "The new songs are very danceable. We all feel they're the best we've ever done. Really fresh."
If there first album is any indication of what can expect, we can hardly wait. - Claire Connors
Melody Maker, July 8, 1989. The Primitives: Red Dawn
In the process of recording their second LP and with their new single, 'Sick Of It', about to be released, The Primitives are looking to further the success of 'Crash' and 'Lovely'. Chris Roberts chats to Coventry's finest and discovers there's life after blonde.
TC: "Poor innocent me. And all this time I thought you were a bona fide blonde."
Marilyn: " I am. But nobody's that natural. And incidentally, f*** you."
TC: "Okay, everybody's cleared out, So up, up."
[Truman Capote, from "A Beautiful Child" in "Music For Chameleons".]
Are you proud that "Crash" was the 94th biggest selling single of 1988?
Paul: "Yes, that's quite good, that is."
Tracy: "It was what?"
Didn't you know that? You didn't know that.
"No! It was what? Really?"
You didn't know! It was a slice of pop history. It sold even more than "Shake Your Love" by Debbie Gibson!
That's what I thought.
"God. Really. Who else was in there?"
Oh Kylie, Cliff, Yazz, all the greats. No one with black clothes. Is there a sense of achievement?
"There is, yes, but I think there's still got to be a bit more..."
Tracy Tracy is no longer blonde.
"A lot more..."
Tracy Tracy, once blondest of blondes, the very fountainhead of the imagery of Aryan feminism, is now a redhead. What does this mean, readers? Should we deconstruct it's glaring symbolism ? Is is something to do with the passage of time, the transition from sunbeams to eternal flames? Is it an indication that The Primitives want no misconceptions around their burning wrath, their combustive ire? Can we no longer raise caprice to the dimensions of a system? Is this the death og the last and cheekiest gold dream, or just it's maturity into menace and mayhem? Does it signify that "destructive" now outranks "disposability"? Basically, when you get right down to it: Has somebody plucked the stars down from the sky?
Not really, no. The girl got bored and fancied a change, and The Primitives are better than ever.
Getting bored is something The Primitives are very good at. They are dab hands, virtuosos, at getting bored. The Midlands give you good practice. They get bored during video shoots. They get bored during photo sessions. They get bored on the bus, in the cinema, in the pub. Traveling around the world, they learned many new ways of getting bored, but can be bored with equal conviction at home. You name it, they'll get bored with it. Their comeback single is called "Sick Of It". Fortunately, it happened to be the greatest single ever made.
That enigmatic faraway look on Tracy's delightful visage? The one you always took for precocious wisdom, charming arrogance, narcissistic self-passion? The one which made you wonder what she was thinking? This is what she was thinking: I'm bored.
Ennui, however, has often fuelled the greatest pop moments. Tedium sparks off tirade. Tedium, when you think about it, is second only to love as a source of inspiration. Second out of two ain't bad.
You realise, by the way, that "Sick Of It" is the greatest single ever made?
Paul: "This week it is, yeah. Maybe for two weeks."
That's kind of what I meant.
But you should've kept the title as "Sick Of It All".
"Too many one-syllable words."
We mull this over. Crucial stuff.
The Primitives are filming the video for "Sick Of It" in an East End synagogue. They mime through the tape about 400 times. I could've sat through another 400 quite happily. It was like having your favourite pop group perform in your front room, except you're in an East End synagogue. It helps that the intro to "Sick Of It" is the greatest intro in the history of the world, one of these rare intros which gets everybody anticipating the thrill of a lifetime. It helps that the song is the rapture of rage, a throwaway holocaust, all sweetness and spite.
Paul Court shuffles over during the break and does a very good "self-effacing".
"I dunno," he mumbles. "It's a living, innit?"
The Primitives simply do not realise the brilliance of what they do. I, on the other paw, appreciate it only too well. I'll admit I am prone to blanket approval of The Primitives. Somewhere between us lies the truth. Except that for me, my truth is the truth.
And whose daffy truth is this that's happening now? For the bass player in this video is none other than Pete Tweedie, the drummer who left the band some time ago after an unsightly dalliance with one of Tracy's cats, recently rumoured to be selling tee-shirts on the Birdland tour. (Peter, not the cat.)
His favourite expression is, "Awright, me old roister-doister?"
Erm, fine, yes. I didn't know you could play bass.
"I can't. I can jump around for the sake of the video scenario, there is some confusion as to whether we're meant to be doing an interview thing. It might be sensible to get it done. Although, we might get bored. We could just forget it and go down the pub where it'd take us a little longer to get bored. It's a tough decision.
The Falcon excels itself for seedy low-grade gutter-life filth tonight. It's as if it's putting on the Ritz for the youngsters from Coventry. It's even playing Specials records, horridly enough. We sit on the pavement. No on recognises the Primitives. Hell, no one even recognises me?
Before you can say The Peking Massacre, we're onto The Big Subject.
No Tracy, I don't think it's dreadful. It was just a shock, that's all. How long has the axis of the Earth been so tilted without my knowing? I mean, how long have you been a redhead?
"Mentally, about eight months. Physically, two months. Is it really that big a deal? I just wanted a change. I've been bleaching my hair on and off for eight years, and I was just sick of it. Ah, Yes. A pun. Anyway the condition of my hair was going downhill, so I had to choose--I could either be bald or red."
Tracy pronounces "bald" as "bold". All people from Coventry do. Tracy's from Australia, but don't split hairs. I'm too polite to point it out.
"So I chose red. Seriously."
You're telling me it's serious.
"Plus there was the excitement angle as well. I mean, I was having so much fun being a blond. It was like; slow down, heart condition. I'm definitely having less fun now, thank God."
And not being preferred by gentlemen, I suppose?
"Oh, I don't know about that."
Well, redheads are characterised as angry, passionate, intense and...and...and fiery, that's the one, fiery...
"But I had those qualities anyway, Chris."
"She looks," says Paul, leaning over, "like she should have a cobra, I think. Some sort of snake."
"And some tattoos."
"I don't know why that is."
A couple of nights later we get more organised. Sort of. The Primitives' second LP, the follow-up to the stunning and underrated "Lovely", will be called -- it gives me tremendous and unqualified joy to announce -- "Pure".
"The word has slightly sinister overtones," says Paul.
But you said that about "Lovely". Maybe you see sinister things in things people don't see sinister things in generally, if you see what I mean. Lovely and pure are usually taken as fine good decent Christian words.
"But they're sinister when a band like us uses them. Or any rock'n'roll band."
Give me an example of something that's pure. I'll start you off: snow.
"A child in a bathtub."
"Pure doesn't necessarily mean nice," says drummer and Welshman, Tig. " It could be used in the context of pure evil. Total evil."
Do you feel pure at this moment, Paul?
"I'm going through a purging process. I knew someone once who ate nothing but fruit and water for weeks to purge themselves. Didn't work though."
Have you had any pure experiences lately?
"You've got me there."
Sometimes The Primitives are infuriating interviewees. When the dreaded tape recorder is on, Tracy tends to stare off into the middle distance or down at her vodka and black. Tig tries nobly. Paul will be alternately inspired or bloody useless. He has the kind of perverse sense of humour I like very much, but which makes doing my job marginally easier than knocking down the Berlin Wall with a toothpick. As the songwriter, however, he has a certain prerogative for intermittent avert poeticism.
"Last night was quite pure. I'd had a horrible day in the studio, hadn't seen any natural light, just felt the heat all day. Then I was walking down this road at about 11 and I could smell the flowers, and it was just starting to rain, like really light rain. And it felt as if I was having all the aggression of the day washed out of me."
Tig puts forward "Sick Of It" as an example of purity, and indeed there can be few finer. Originally, it was to be the B-side to a "load of simpering crap" called "Secrets".
Are you pressurised to be more simpering?
"No," says Paul, "that was my fault actually, cos I wrote the song. It's probably the third worst song I've ever written."
"Yes, agrees Tracy, "It's dreadful. I hate it."
"Actually," says Paul, "I haven't seen anybody from our record company for ages. I don't know who they are. But I love them."
Tig: "If they did phone us, there'd just be enormous silences, we'd probably start talking about the weather and stuff."
So what are you SICK OF?
Paul: "All the artless prats who seem to run everything. Anyone who has power is obviously blind -- that's what the job entails. Who? Anyone. Governments, Trendsetters, Brian Tilsley. It's a bit open -- could be the state of the world, could be I'm just sick of being asked to pay the rent and stuff."
Do you get angry about things or do you just think you're supposed to?
"That's it! So many people say they are, just cos it's called for. You watch the news and you hear all this serious bad shit but if you were really that bothered , individually, you wouldn't be able to live. You'd really go out and f***ing do some damage to summate, to make a point."
Tracy: "But you don't just ignore it. I don't. I mean, I don't use aerosols anymore!"
Paul: "Good, so little things make big things. But that's all you can do."
Some would say you were all style and no substance.
Tracy: "All style? Style?? Us??"
Yes. One pure idea, sound, look, no confusing complexities.
Which is why I like it.
You look like no one's ever said this to you before?
(They look like no one's ever said this to them before.)
Paul: "I can think of a lot of bands that are what you just said, but..."
Tracy: "I think there's more to us than your -- dare I say it -- Transvision Vamps."
Dare you say it?
"I've said it! Woo woo!"
Why is there more to you?
Paul: "Because our fingers hurt more. We sweat more than they do, bleed more than they do. And we're probably not as pampered. Pampering can kill a man. How about some more beers? In a way though, I do think they are...quite good. The singles...and that."
Tracy: "Yeah, but..."
Paul: "Let's not talk abut this band any more. Stop now."
Tracy: "Oh, all right then."
Tig: "So that's Transvision Vamp and the weather barred."
Paul: "Good bit of Transvision Vamp we've been having lately."
What I fail to communicate to The Primitives is that Dumpy's Rusty Nuts sweat. Hawkwind sweat, Depeche Mode probably sweat under certain lighting. If we want seat we can find it in any crappy old hovel. We want an illusion of glacial grace, of effortless raw power, from our pop stars. However this is the stumbling block. For me, The Primitives are potentially our finest pop stars, a national treasure. But to themselves, they're a bunch of nerds from Cov.
A lot of people are madly in love with you, Tracy. You realise that?
"It's not that they're madly in love. It's just I'm a female. I'm up on stage, and people look up to it. I've never thought, 'Oh yes, that front row is in love with me'."
Do you think you appear cold and calculating, an ice maiden?
"No, no, though a lot of people say that to me. I'm certainly not trying to give that impression. I don't develop a certain mood. I'm just trying to relax under all the nervousness really. It's just...a myth. I don't know what it is.
So you're not posing impassively?
"There probably is a certain amount of posing there. But I'm obviously not doing it correctly if that's what everyone's getting from it."
Anyway, people will say you look like All About Eve now. (A joke. A small joke.)
"Oh, God. I'm disappointed with you. You just have to accept that sort of thing. I mean -- do people really care that much about image and hair color?"
Paul: "It's sexism, basically. They wouldn't say it about a boy."
Yes they would. In pop music they would. This is the whole point. If Jenny saw that...
"That Jason Donovan had shaved his head..."
Thank you Tig. If Jenny saw that, she'd rush round to Julie's house and tell her. They'd think Armageddon had come.
Tracy: "But they'd still like him for it."
Tig: The guy out of INXS -- what's his name? He looks like a complete and utter dingo now."
Paul: "I hadn't thought all this. But maybe changing from blonde to dark is a bit radical, yeah."
Tracy: "But should I stick to that routine, keep my blonde hair for the rest of my career? I mean, does it really matter?"
Paul: "The time does come when you stand and look at yourself and think, 'Blonde hair is cheap'."
Tracy: "I don't think blonde hair is cheap! How dare you! Ha!"
Ha, she still has a heart (Mine conceivably.)
Paul: "No, I don't mean...well, I do mean. I mean peroxide-from-the-chemist blonde hair. It's clichéd. Better red than bald, I say."
As if by magic, I produce from my hat that day's Daily Mirror. On the full-colour front page there screams the ultimate trash headline: "MARILYN LOOKALIKE SUICIDE -- She Lived Like Marilyn...And She Died Like Her. "In terms of real life, this is pretty damn sick (over on page two, Reagan Slams China Killings).
In terms of Warholian pop art, it's a towering classic. A fake reproduction. Tracy reads it keenly, hands it back and says, "Sad".
That's all. Quite right too. It has nothing to do with her.
I consider inventing a musical movement (to sweep the nation) which reveres Rita Hayworth as it's icon. We could rape in all sorts of ascendant people across the board from Harriet Sunday to Vicky Fuzzbox. What's more, we would be known as The Reds, a name not lacking in emotive and ideological status. But then I remember the existence of Mick Hucknall and decide that, in these times, continuity is a dated and bourgeois concept.
Are you worried that, while touring America and recording, you've been forgotten as one-and-a-half hit wonders?
Paul: "It hasn't been that long! It's not a couple of months!"
Tracy: "No, but it seems a lot longer. Some people have moved on to other bands of the same ilk. Or not of the same ilk, if you know what I mean."
Paul: "There are other bands that have seen what we've done, copied it, jumped in and tried to steal our thunder. But if they've got nothing of their own in the first place, they're not gonna survive."
Is this album more "grown-up"?
Paul: "Pure and rhythmical and natural. It's got more body in it. And soul. Body and soul, you could say. And it's deeper. Expressing things less superficially."
Tracy: "I felt very detached from 'Lovely', but I can relate to these songs more. Half the songs I don't know what they're about, but what I think they're about, they are about..."
Makes sense to me.
"I mean Paul wrote them so I'm just like the average person on the street. Like with 'Sick Of It' I just thought of rainforests, the ozone layer, governments, stuff like that. I just make my own picture and give it to the record."
Are these songs laying your heart bare, Paul?
"Not really, not totally. Some songs have obviously got a penis attached to them. and there's no way a girl could sing it unless you were just trying to be 'weird'. So it's only as far as The Primitives would allow."
Of course. The Primitives remain The Primitives. Flash. The surface thrill, the sheen rush, the distillation of "Hound Dog" through TV Eye" through "Holidays In The Sun" through "Hanging On The Telephone". "Sick Of It" features a cover of The Velvets' 'I'll Be Your Mirror' on the 12-inch, also a Lee Hazelwood/Nancy Sinatra spaghetti western parody called "Noose". Another imminent track is "Summer Rain", which is pristine, pert and perfect and laden with cascades. Furthermore, you can pretend you thought it was called "Submarine" and make everyone chuckle faintly.
Here comes my interesting, possibly Freudian, error. Now, do you think "Sick Of You"...
Paul: "Sick Of You"? Isn't that Iggy Pop?"
Ah. (After 5,000 interviews, 3,000 of these with The Primitives, I have made the cardinal mistake. The most basic of basic. I have got the name of their bloody single wrong and they are six inches away from me and this is live. Brilliantly, ever so brilliantly, with a brilliance in fact which flashes from my lips like lightening, I brazenly bluff it out.) Yes, that's right -- I thought we'd talk about Iggy Pop for a bit. My chin juts up.
Clear, I think. That was brilliant. Three young faces look back at me somewhat scornfully. Tracy wrinkles her nose. I am not clear. They know me better than that. In the state of Embarrassment on the river Faux Pas, I am creekbound. But there is no end to the human ego's defiance of the inevitable.
Okay, yeah, but anyway you see my point...
Desperate, but spirited.
A kind of tightrope kind of snaps. Hysteria says: "Yummy! Floodgates!"
Paul: "What point? Where was the point?"
Tracy: "You didn't finish it! You didn't even start it!"
Intriguing: Next it'll be arthritis, and I'm sure that'll be fascinating too.
Do you care Tracy?
The Primitives. The records. All this stuff.
"Oh definitely, it's a big part of my life."
What would it make people do, ideally?
"Get up and dance and break a few chairs."
What have you got against chairs?
Paul: "They should listen to "Sick Of It" when they've had some kind of heavy drug. I've often listened to music like that and thought, "Oh this is great, I wish we did records that people would put on when they were in this state. We have done already, But I think you might even be able to smell this one."
Will it rouse people?
If you like.
Tracy: "Without a doubt."
Paul: "It will rouse people on tacky dancefloors all over the UK. It'll come on and they'll suddenly jump out there and bong into each other."
Will it make people "smash the system" or "assassinate Thatcher"?
"It might help one man do that, somewhere in the world."
Did "Crash" change your lives?
Paul: "We went to more places and experienced more weather. We're more secure, but also more insecure, if you can see that. No, cos --the more secure you are, the more worried you are about becoming insecure. Like, pop bands haven't got that long a lifespan. What the hell do you do after The Primitives? Back to washing dishes, perhaps, if they'll have me. Open up a shop selling general household items, I imagine."
Serve a useful role in society?
Not like pop music.
"Well it isn't, is it, really? It is for us, but...generally it does about as much as a soap opera does."
Tracy: "People need it. They need something to admire, or...lust after. It's got to be there. Kids want to dream about something."
Paul: "You get fan letters from people getting really personal. They've seen our photographs and heard our records and really believe that we're something else..."
Tracy: "We are something else, Paul."
Paul: "I mean...other-worldly. We get weird letters like, 'Can you help me, I really like the band, but I wet the bed'. Who are these people? What do they look like?"
I thought I'd forgotten to post that one. Do you feel different to the whippersnappers I met playing 'Thru The Flowers' at The Oval Cricketers two years ago?
Tracy: "Yes, we feel feel like Swing Out Sister now."
Paul: "Only in photo sessions. The other day we were traveling in a little van, sitting on amps and that, and that felt like when we used to come down to London to do those gigs. I felt like I ought to have a doner kebob in my hand to complete the experience.
"Oh, we've had little ventures into the mainstream, and what you have to do to be part of that, but we've always slipped back out again. There've been two times when I've felt like a pop star. Getting shuttle aeroplanes from Heathrow to Newcastle with The Sisters Of Mercy and Johnny Hates Jazz. And once when I was in the library in Cov and 'Crash' came on the radio in the street outside. And it was good being on Top Of The Pops, where you just felt everyone hated you. All these nonentities."
When they're old and grey, Tracy, who rarely writes anything down in her diary any more, will sit in a rocking chair and do her knitting. Paul will shout at young people in the street, telling them he fought four world wars for them. Tig, who keeps plane boarding cards as souvenirs, would like to have "some worth in the world". - Chris Roberts
Q Magazine, 1989, Review of Pure (www.qonline.co.uk)
Last year's debut LP saw The Primitives cross the booby-trapped bridge from indie cultdom to 'Top Of The Pops' and chart success. Pure should consolidate their burgeoning popularity and elicit a brace of chartbound singles. Whilst erstwhile bottle blonde Tracy Tracy has returned to her (brunette) roots, there is little deviation from the winning musical formula arrived at on their critically feted debut. Belted out with lashings of post-punk aggression, the archetypal Primitives song combines the guitar mauling of The Jesus & Mary Chain with a classically simple, eardrum-friendly melody, and then filters the whole shebang through a diaphanous gauze of shimmering psychedelia. And although the lyrics would scarcely tax the intellect of a mentally deficient porpoise, songs like Shine, Sick Of It and Can't Bring Me Down are perfect examples of prime time pop music-transient trashy and effortlessly hummable. -Paul Davies
Melody Maker, September 2, 1989. Before The Crash.
This week sees the release of 'Lazy 86-88', a compilation of rare and not-so-rare Prims singles. Paul Lester takes a trip down memory lane with the Coventry-based foursome.
'Lazy 86-88'. Paul: "WELL, THE FIRST FOUR SONGS ARE crap for starters! That first record goes for £30 now, those four songs made up our first 12-inch EP, and we did 'Thru The Flowers' as a demo. We managed to get half an hour studio time to remix the four tracks, but the woman who was mixing them was pretty pissed off that she only had half an hour. We thought we could do it in that short space of time in those days, though. Actually, they sound worse than a demo, like they were recorded on a tape recorder at home. When we actually did those songs we thought they were great, but now...they're not even charming.
"We like the LP as a whole, though, there's some really good stuff on there. It's a shame there's so much bad stuff as well. Also, because it's been compiled chronologically it goes from really crap to, kinda like pretty good. They should've mixed it up a bit. It kinda tells a story, I think.
"The LP should chart, yeah, cos a lot of people didn't know about us then. But they'll probably be a bit disappointed...We've got real dedicated fans who buy everything we do, every format."
Tracy: "The cover's great. Not sure about the photos inside, though. But I like the colours, especially the turquoise bits."
Paul: "We wanted to look like The Stooges in those days, some kind of satanic garage band. We probably still do now, in fact. Anyway, the new album's out in November, which'll overshadow this one, no problem. Still, it's served its purpose."
"Thru The Flowers" (Original Version). Paul: "Apologies here to Pete Tweedie, because it was the first time he'd got behind a drum kit. Before that it was a Beano annual being bashed, or something."
Tig: "I wasn't anywhere near The Primitives when this was recorded."
Paul: "It's a pretty trippy song, like a lot of our stuff. Nothing too strong being passed round the studio, no, not in them days. But even now we haven't really changed. Any spare time we get we just do the same things we always did, watch TV or see friends."
Tig: "I think success is changing us back to normal. When you start out you have all these grand ideas in your head but you soon fall back to earth when it all becomes work, just another job."
Paul: "The one good thing about 'Flowers' is the feedback solo, one of the best ever. It was an accident, it kinda bends really nicely. Personally, I always liked Roland Howard (sic) out of The Birthday Party."
Tracy: "I can play a few chords myself, when the mood takes me."
Paul: "She won't cut her nails, though!"
"Across My Shoulder". Paul: "That was just us trying to be Echo And The Bunnymen, I reckon. I've heard McCulloch's new one, I quite like it."
Tracy: "I reviewed it on 'Round Table' last week. A horrendous experience that was. Jason Donovan was there, too. He was naively pleasant. And fat. He had a really chubby face. We got on wonderfully well."
Paul: "They're pretty cheap, those first songs. They're not even disposable pop. They're kinda like rubbish. Pop doesn't even come into it. I can't bear to listen to that early stuff now."
"She Don't Need You". Paul: "That's just kind of a Ramones-type thing that goes on for about one and a quarter minutes."
Tracy: "I can't even remember that, or even how it goes."
Paul: "We did a really good version of it on a John Peel session, we did it really basic 'cos that's the thing nowadays. But hearing it back it don't sound that good. Has anyone done a cover version to improve it? No, but we heard about a cabaret singer doing a cover of 'Crash'! Underneath it, 'She Don't Need You' is quite a good song underneath all of the racket. Someone played it at 33 rpm, and that sounded quite good. Tracy sounds like Nico. It sounded like Swans, actually.
"Lazy". Paul: "There's probably about five seconds of the song that are any good, and they're all spread out, occasions where the drums are in time and the vocals are in tune. The words're all right, yeah, but that song could've been a lot better. If we did it again, I'd probably add some harmonies to it, maybe slow it down a bit, make it more gutsy without thrashing out. How did I get that drawling sound to my voice? Lack of practice."
Tracy: "I think when we were doing 'Lovely' it was a lot more interesting, we'd learned a lot more and felt more confident about what we were doing. I mean, half of this stuff I can't even remember doing."
Paul: "They were all recorded really fast as well, like two songs in a day. Writing them was even quicker."
"Really Stupid." Paul: "That was one of the best songs we did, the first one to hit the mark. It was the first time we ever used harmonies, and that really worked. Was it directed at anyone in particular? I can't honestly remember. I think it might've had a bit of Edwina Currie in there, but this was before the egg episode. No, there's no one individual who's annoyed me that much that I'd write a song about them. Mick and Jerry? Nah, Paula and Bob maybe. It's just a song about annoying people. I did get asked if it was about someone in Coventry who I knew, but it wasn't.
Tracy: "Coventry's okay, actually. We got stopped this morning at the station by some people wanting autographs, but normally no one's really all that bothered about us. Mind you, I did get a £5 note by someone for my birthday. He told me to treat myself to something nice with it! Got some good presents for my birthday. Got an Austin A35, collectors item. 30 years old. It's brilliant. I haven't passed my test, though, so I haven't actually been in it!"
"(We've) Found A Way (To The Sun)". Paul: "Don't know where those brackets come from. The original title didn't have any. This one's The Primitives tripping out again, I'd say, tripping out on existence, on life itself! These songs were written in a really horrible, little dingy room, like me looking out of the window and imagining what the world would be like, sitting in the park somewhere, or just lying in the sun.
"What stuff inspired these songs? The Velvets, I suppose, and The Beatles, things I listened to when I was younger, like The Stranglers."
Tracy: "Siouxsie And The Banshees was all I liked."
Tig: "I bought The Tourists' album."
Paul: "No dance music, though. Mind you, we get some strange dances going on at our gigs. We did a gig where there was this guy on a chair right in front of us pretending to masturbate very, very frantically! Very exaggerated gestures, too. But he was way out of time with the music."
"Where The Wind Blows." Paul: "Teenage Death Song Number One! Yeah, there were times when I was younger when I thought about topping myself, but...People improve with death, certainly, especially pop stars, people who wouldn't have been as good if they hadn't died."
Tig: " 'Improve with death!' Brilliant! Like maturing!"
Paul: "Like all those heroes that died young, no one'd be interested if they hadn't died. They'd probably be doing crap things by now. What would be a convenient moment for The Primitives to die? When the next album isn't selling that well, I'd say. We'd get cult status then."
"Stop Killing Me." Paul: "Sort of a sado-masochistic love song."
Tracy: "I'm very sort of hazy about all these songs really, they're fairly abstract to me now. The new stuff I can sort of connect with it, but...I'm pretty distant from this. I always used to make up little things and 'Stop Killing Me' always reminded me of those sort of Twenties silent movies where you'd have the man chasing the woman trying to die her down to the railway track, that sort of thing."
Paul: "We never really had those kind of school, youth-club or outside the chip shop experiences. We always tried to avoid that. It might sound like that now, but...
"We find ourselves using these song titles as phrases now, but they you realise they're everyday phrases, like "Really Stupid", it's amazing how often we hear that now."
Tracy: "I'm always saying 'We've found a way to the sun.'"
"Buzz Buzz Buzz." Paul: "Kind of rockabilly, I think that one was. We never liked The Polecats, no. 'Buzz' just turned out that way. We didn't think, 'Oh, let's write a rockabilly song.' But when we put down the drum track we thought it did sound like rockabilly, so...It's another song about falling in love, I s'pose. Adrenaline, and all that stuff buzzing round. Being young and in love...
"A lot of people seem to do their best work around the age that we are now, early Twenties or whatever, the stuff they do when they start out. (Weirdly, the brilliant new Rolling Stones comes on the radio at this point.) I don't know how their backs can take it!"
Tracy: "I don't wanna be in the music business when I'm 45. I'll probably be in a cottage somewhere selling antiques."
Paul: "I wouldn't mind being a gardener in a large, stately home."
"Laughing Up My Sleeve." Paul: "I think Steve said that phrase, 'Stop laughing up your sleeve over there in the corner' when he said something and I was sniggering. I thought that was quite good. Then I heard it on 'Grange Hill' and I realised he didn't make it up. That's what it's about, though. Sniggering in corners at people. It's not something I'd do now."
Tracy: "People don't so much snigger at us in Coventry as stand and stare at us. A lot of them ignore us, like students and things. But some watch our every movement. And you get people saying. 'It is, isn't it? Like the hairspray advert."
"Shadow" (Guitar Version). Paul: "This is us trying to be like Sonic Youth, I think."
Tracy: "I like doing that one live, it's quite interesting. Not your run-of-the-mill."
Paul: "That's kinda like the first psychedelic song for The Primitives. 'Paint It Black'? Not sure about that, I'll have to listen to it. Maybe. We don't have any Indian records at home, no, apart from odd things like The Chocolate Watch Band doing little snatches of sitar, but that's about it. I listen to all types of music, though, Nancy Sinatra, Jim Foetus, whoever."
"Thru The Flowers". Tig: "This was the one where we got all commercial and stuff, we got on 'Wogan.'"
Paul: "He was all right, really, the obvious jokes about the BBC tea, like you'd expect. I had a piss next to Barry Norman as well. This version of 'Flowers' is a bit twee."
Tracy: "I think the first one has a certain charm about it, though, cos it was like the first record that we ever did, and that was in a matter of about six weeks of being together, not even that."
Paul: "We recorded it as a demo, but when we re-recorded it it didn't sound any good so we had to use the demo. We don't get nostalgic hearing these early songs now, that's kinda worn off now. Maybe a year ago we would have.
Tracy: "I heard 'Crash' on Friday and that was a bit weird. But not this stuff."
"Everything Shining Bright". Paul: "We tired to sound like The Gun Club, but it didn't work. It did when we did it live. It's quite good, though, that one. One of our faster ones. 'Bright's a bit trippy, again, 'Everything Shining Bright' is the kind of phrase you could imagine hearing coming out of Woodstock, or something. All that stuff is coming back now, like Shakespear's Sister, all the trippy colours and all that.
"The future? Should have at least one more year of The Primitives!"
Tig: "We never like to plan more that one year in advance. Year by year, album by album."
Paul: "No, can't see too far off, really. 'Bright' was a pretty optimistic signpost towards the 'Lovely' album, though, a pretty good way to end this record. But even 'Lovely' could have been a much better record, considering the amount of major label money that was spent on it. I mean, we probably spent on one of those 'Lovely' tracks what it cost to do this whole compilation put together!
"The stuff we're doing today is what we should've been doing back then. But we know more now. We know that, to sound powerful, you don't just whack the guitar really hard. There are other ways...We've got the rhythm bit sorted out now, as well, instead of, like, everyone trying to fight against each other. We're working through it all..."
Tig: "It's a shame that we had to grow up in public, but that's the way it is with us."
Paul: "Yeah, some bands are spot on from day one and then they go downhill."
Tig: "The way we've developed is real, no one's been conned by it really. It's evident what our progression has been."
Tracy: "I'm really proud of the fact that we've got a history now. Also, going by that (points at "Lazy 86-88"), we can't really get much worse!
Record Mirror, October 1989. Pure And Simple.
"This is where it all happens. Where careers are made and destroyed," says Tig as we survey the dozens of gold and silver discs that surround us. Perched at the end of a conference table in the boardroom of RCA headquarters, Tracy, Paul and Tig search for a plaque bearing the name of 'The Primitives'.
"I could do with another one of these," smiles Paul. "Mines looking a bit lonely on the living room wall." Coventry's finest first achieved chart success with 'Crash', a top five hit in February 1988, followed by 'Lovely', their debut album described by Paul as "a bit disjointed because of interference from outsiders". Further hits with 'Out Of Reach', 'Way Behind Me' and their recent cracker 'Sick Of It', have confirmed The Primitives as one of the few bands to make a successful transition from the independent scene to the big, bad world of the majors. Stage two of the band's master plan is 'Pure' (which includes 'Sick Of It' and the current 45, 'Secrets'), an album that houses the diverse talents of Tracy and Paul with greater panache than its predecessor.
With the likes of The Wonder Stuff following in the freshly trodden footsteps of The Primitives, they seem to be taking the right path in offering the record buying public a viable alternative to the tabloid pop of Stock Aitkin Waterman.
"It's something of a crusade I suppose," admits Paul. "All kids know about is crappy pop music like Jason Donovan. They feel obliged to go out and buy his records because he's on the radio, on telly and in all magazines."
"We felt completely isolated when 'Crash' was in the charts, but now it's quite encouraging to see decent guitar bands being commercially successful."
Short of smuggling a shotgun into the studios of 'Top Of The Pops', our hopes must rest with the honest pop of The Primitives. - Iestyn George
Newsday December 7, 1989. Amateurs at Being Primitive.
THE PRIMITIVES and SEE NO EVIL. Tributes to great New York sounds and scenes past. The Cat Club, Tuesday.
THE PRIMITIVES, the five-piece group from Coventry who played at the Cat Club Tuesday night, whisked in on the least plausible of British pop conceits. As naif singer Tracy Tracy breathed sweet bubblegum over the band's modest noise, the Primitives made a knowing case for pop innocence. In their neat black turtlenecks or T-shirts, working familiar territory with the wonder of fresh discovery, they sang small, stood small and played small. They were a Pebbles and Bam Bam version of the Velvet Underground, singing of inexperience where Lou Reed ran down experience. On their new album, "Pure" (like all media savants, they know how to grind a point home), they even cover the Velvet Underground's "I'll Be Your Mirror." They didn't play the song Tuesday night, but the specter of the Velvets loomed large.
Like anyone who consciously tries on the mantle of primitivism, the Primitives know more than they let on. For all its contribution to the history of rock and roll, England still got there second, and the English still approach the music as outsiders, finding ideologies where Americans see only discrete phenomena. Americans can play like amateurs, but the English play the science of amateurism.
Last year innocence was a big thing in English rock, and the Primitives had a string of No. 1 hits. This year it's still a big thing. Obsolescence doesn't have the kick it once did.
But if they were reading from a script, the Primitives never let on. Tracy Tracy, her voice even smaller and younger than herself, sang almost in a child's whisper, buoyed by Tig Williams' unflaggingly snappy beats. This was surf music for people who will never surf, teenybopper tunes buried in the dirty sounds of electric guitars. The triumph of the Primitives is that they stage the contradictions as congruities, the noise as part of the bubblegum. It's just the static on a close-and-play phonograph turned up really loud. For an hour, the band made the familiar sound new and fresh. - John Leland.
Los Angeles Times December 12, 1989. Primitives' Pastiche Lacks Panache
Armed with a brace of bracing, brazen pop singles ("Crash" and "Way Behind Me"), at least onegreat change of pace (the shimmering, 6/8 "Summer Rain") and just about the whole left wing of the cultural warehouse (everything from Blondie to the Velvet Underground, anyway), British POP group the Primitives powered through nearly an hour's worth of pastiche at Bogart's on Saturday.
At worst, 'twas pleasant, if a bit lacking in panache. (If the Primitives had more of the latter, then they'd be Transvision Vamp -- but panache is about all TV has....)
Pixilated, henna-headed chanteuse Tracey, guitarist Paul Court -- a regular nick off the (Johnny) Marr, he is -- and aggro drummer Tig Williams are the quintet's core, but too often the bottom-heaviness of it all left the dulcet vocalist in the sonic dust. She may be cute, but there's no substitute for being able to command a stage. - Don Waller
The Boston Globe December 14, 1989. Primitives, Big Dipper: Pop music with an edge.
The Primitives and Big Dipper, two bands that play the Channel tomorrow night, come from very different worlds - the Coventry area of England for the Primitives, Boston for Big Dipper - but they share an attitude about what constitutes good pop music. For them pop music has a prominent melody, a repeated hook line, but a certain amount of strangeness - say a bit of buzzsaw guitar - lurking on the fringe. Big Dipper is more full-throttle; the Primitives, especially in the persona of singer Tracy Tracy, seem to possess a bit of diffidence, detachment.
Tracy, however, says that's changing somewhat on this, their second US tour. Last time through town, riding high on the underground hit "Crash," Tracy struck an impassive stage presence. "I wasn't bored," she maintains. "Perhaps I may have felt a bit awkward. But static was how I was feeling at that point. Now I feel as though I want to jump about and not necessarily have a good time - I was having a good time before - but I think I've lost a bit of the nervous tension."
The Primitives, which formed in early 1986, came out of England's independent rock scene. At present, while they're still thought of as an underground band in America, they straddle their native country's independent and mainstream worlds. "Sick of It," their current single, gets some radio play here, but in England it hit No. 24 on the chart.
"I suppose we have the best of both worlds," Tracy says. "I think it's hard to define the Primitives. We fall between categories. There's definitely the pop side to us and there's also a darker, more sinister side." When the band clicks, it's often the tension between Tracy's vocals and attitude - she's definitely not content most of the time - and the semi-manic rush of the music that makes it work: Everybody's not pulling in exactly the same direction. - Jim Sullivan, Globe Staff.
The Boston Globe December 18, 1989. The Primitives pack intensity into their pop: The Primitives With: Big Dipper At The Channel, Friday night
We liked the Primitives just fine when, a year ago, diminutive singer Tracy Tracy stood more or less impassive, a la early Debbie Harry of Blondie, and her three male mates created a manic pop blur all around her. A nice, simple, workable contrast: the blase amidst the blast furnace, even if the end result felt a trifle detached.
We like the Primitives even better now that Tracy's learned how to move and emote, and the band's musical dimensions have grown by leaps and bounds. Such was the case at the Channel on Friday before a reasonably packed house - the Primitives hit the stage just after the snowstorm hit Boston - with the band whipsawing through an 18-song set. The Primitives, which include guitarist-songwriter Paul Court, bassist Paul Sampson and drummer Tig Williams, do not stretch out the tight pop songs that comprise their "Lovely" and "Pure" albums; they do, though, pack more intensity into them. On record, the Primitives can be thought of as pleasant, light; live, at least at the Channel, they played with a ferocity not far from that of the Jesus and Mary Chain.
Like the Mary Chain (and scads of others), the Primitives have latched onto the Velvet Underground's theory of beautiful noise - fuzzy, distorted guitar set off against a gorgeous melody - and they employ it well. They're also injecting bits of psychedelia into the sound "Dizzy Heights" followed the current semi-hit "Sick of It," with a shimmering, swaying guitar line that could have come from the Stones' "Satanic Majesties" period. And, finally, one more comparison namedrop: The Primitives have that Buzzcock-ian manner of slamming home a hook, an idea, in a compact space and, then, quickly moving on to another equally satisfying plateau.
A lot of what Tracy expresses is sweet-voiced anger or bitterness, harsh stuff. In "Sick of It," she's bummed because there's nothing she even wants to steal; in "Crash," she's almost merrily unconcerned about a friend's impending collision; in "Stop Killing Me," well, that's obvious. It's the sound of gleeful pessimism. But, she can turn the tables, and "I'll Stick with You," with it's floating "Me, I'll stick with you" declaration and ingratiating melody - accompanied by Tracy's exuberance - lends a cool counterweight. The woman's got a heart of gold after all. And the band's moved up from the interesting to the exciting level.
Big Dipper is in that realm, too. The Boston quartet, just signed to Epic - bassist Steve Michener gave a nice, droll chat about how they should now demand respect on the circuit - plants one foot in pop and the other in terse, grinding rock 'n' roll. At times Friday, that churning sound recalled the early Gang of Four - a knotted squall. Big Dipper, most often fronted by singer-guitarist Bill Goffrier, pack a lot of information and detail into their songs, even if, when you add it up, it's not all crystal clear. Big Dipper favors the oblique, likes a bit of mystery, but they also dangle the big hook in front of you: "Faith Healer," "All Going Out Together." The band, which unveiled a few new, and very good tunes, can play to the mainstream, while maintaining its underground roots. - by Jim Sullivan
The Toronto Star January 5, 1990. Primitives rob their own cradle with pup philosophy, nursery pop
The Primitives Pure (RCA/BMG): Remember The Flintstones episode when Pebbles and Bam-Bam became child pop stars with a perky little version of "Let The Sun Shine In"? . . . you get the idea.
Coventry, England trio the Primitives - all in their early 20s - deal from the same deck of benign puppy philosophy and nursery rhyme melody.
Like an early, pert, Debra Harry, vocalist Tracy (who needs a last name when you sound 9 years old?) doesn't so much sing as daydream her way through catchy minimalist musings on the weather ("Summer Rain"), walking out the door ("Outside") and the subtle points of conversation ("Secrets" and "Never Tell").
Indeed, the first listen through this second album is all too beautiful, a breezy treacle of swirling, repetitive, acutely simple guitar pop - until telling moments of post-punk exuberance (the slashing, hambone electricity of "Sick Of It") and pseudo-pyschedelic licks ("Dizzy Heights", a droning mantra replete with buzzing sitar lines) arrive to suggest something more disquieting.
Thus, like the band's 1988 debut, Crash, the sum of Pure's disparate but unflappable parts is at once simple and meditative, bright, broody and moody, measured out with layers of linear stringwork and unfettered, up-front production.
Very pretty, too, if you allow for wishy-washy lyrics that say nothing and still manage to be self-contradictory. To wit: Side One's melancholy baby-talker, "All The Way Down" (peppered with banal rhymes like "Falling down again/spinning round again/going down again/I'm upside down again/Eight miles low/you just don't know. . .") is answered, perplexingly, by Side Two's "Can't Bring Me Down". Like a yo-yo, no?
Still, the Primitives make pop for mood, not study. Tossed into the cradle of '90s pop, it amounts to an appropriate pacifier. - Mitch Potter and Craig MacInnis
The Toronto Star March 2, 1990. Primitives seek hard edge in soft times
Tracy, singer for the Coventry group the Primitives who has not yet encumbered anyone with her last name, is almost angry these days.
Her wrath, what there is of it, is directed at the current and sorry state of British pop. As for American pop, well, she won't even get into that.
"Right now, it's like somebody tossed a soft blanket over the entire lot of us," Tracy allows after some 10 minutes of rhetorical chatter down the wire from Minneapolis.
"On one hand you've got a batch of transparently retro groups like Transvision Vamp just churning out the same old things.
"On the other hand there's the formula production crew of Stock, Aitken and Waterman (the savvy triumvirate responsible for Rick Astley, Kylie Minogue and an goodly dollop of similar pop puffery) polluting the airwaves with artist after artist.
"If you can call them artists."
You might have guessed the Primitives aren't much for London town.
"We still live in Coventry - which doesn't have much of a scene - because the isolation and distance from London is worth it. Besides, our families are there."
They will finally deliver a Toronto debut (a flu bug forced the last-minute cancellation of a November, 1988, visit to the Siboney) Tuesday at the Concert Hall on a double-bill with Iceland's Sugarcubes.
Raised by post-war parents on a steady diet of Byrds, Beatles and Velvet Underground, Tracy says the group has its own idea of retro music, but not one that overrides the Primitives' distinctive blend of swirling, almost child-like pure-pop and occasionally exuberant, edgy rock.
"For better or worse, we seem to be fairly introverted, and able to operate separate from the trends.
"For example, our first album, Crash, was made out to be something of a masterpiece by the British press, which is a bit silly. We try to convey moods, but the songs are fairly elusive, they don't lend themselves to careful dissection.
"And this album (the current Pure) hasn't been quite as well received, but everybody in the band far prefers it.
"If there's any reaction to outside things, it's that the band seems destined to turn away from the lightest pop stuff. There's a darker side to the music that we're being drawn to." - Mitch Potter
The Toronto Star March 8, 1990. Sugarcubes blow Primitives off the stage
Final tally: Iceland 1, England 0. It wasn't supposed to be a contest, but Tuesday's Concert Hall double-bill of pop bands the Sugarcubes and the Primitives was so glaringly uneven, one might as well credit the night's best moments to geographic isolation.
The Sugarcubes - they happen to be the hottest, and indeed, the only group ever to find celebrity outside their home base of Reykjavik, Iceland - simply entertained the pants off their dour opening act, Coventry-based Brits the Primitives.
Giddy and grinning, determined to spread a skewed gospel of cabaret-pop nearly too odd for words, the Cubes clearly wanted to be there. The Primitives, prone to swirly, child-simple pop melodies, seemed burdened with the fact that their sophomoric, 35-minute set was keeping them away from a rerun of Roseanne, or something like that. Bored? They were bored stupid.
But those Sugarcubes rendered that tedious, unnecessary beginning worthwhile, at least. Imagine a cross between early B-52s and the late, profoundly bizarre Klaus Nomi - that brings you close, but not quite to what the band is about.
Led by lovely elfin songstress Bjork Gudmundsdottir and her screaming, trumpeting foil Einar, a set of the Sugarcubes is not so much a collection of songs as a collection of campy dramas, played out laughingly against a subtle and ever-changing backdrop of guitar, bass, keyboards and fascinating polyrhythms. Unbound to convention, the group ran the gamut from danceable soul to punk-jazz, as often as not in the same piece.
After leading the crowd through a failed Icelandic singalong, and later, a tribute to "our favorite bookseller in Iceland," Einar stopped the show dead in its tracks to shout down an audience member who, he believed, was holding a chain in his hands.
"Get out," he demanded. "I don't want to see a chain in here. I don't like violence."
The guilty patron did, in fact, walk out. Two songs later, Einar had returned to tongue-in-cheek form, sarcastically growling "Why Not Just Shoot Me?"
As for the Primitives, boredom notwithstanding, this is simply a poor live act. Encumbered by singer Tracy's paper-thin pipes and cardboard stage presence - and wispy, scratchy melodies that, even by pop's superficial standards, are brutally simple - the band didn't have the chops to enliven the occasionally interesting contents of their two albums.
Those albums, Crash and the recent Pure, work as a fragile, minimalist balance of contradictions: blithe pop melody and darker, more disquieting rock music. On stage, though, the band proved ungainly and under-rehearsed, failing to effectively communicate either side of that split personality. - Mitch Potter
Newsday March 15, 1990. The Sugarcubes: On the Edge of Arty Conceits
The Sugarcubes With The Primitives. Arty conceits and new waves. Beacon Theater. Tuesday. The legacy of the new wave, 10 years down the line, is an audience and a license for arty affectation. Constitutionally marginal - even if its margin is now big enough to fill football stadiums - the wave allows its acts to focus on marginal conceits, blowing them up to the exclusion of other human character traits. This was the way particularly of Blondie (which made an icon of Debbie Harry) and Devo (which palmed off a precocious teenager's conceit of devolution as a world view), and continues to be the way of the B-52's (who speak through the dormant objects of kitsch). All angle themselves to shrink the world to an idea, and riff on this shrunken world from somewhere in the corner. From this marginal, consciously limited perspective, the acts strive for clarity and an original voice.
No such luck for most of Tuesday night at the Beacon Theater, where the Sugarcubes and the Primitives spoke their conceits but little else. This language, in which esthetic affectations stand in for human understanding, is seductive, but articulate only in a few hands. It's a language of inanimate objects - nice aural furniture, but often uncommunicative.
The Sugarcubes, from Iceland, came off as part arty new wave band, part comedy review. Singers Einar Orn and Bjork played off each other like a post-punk Burns and Allen, couching all of their remarks in deep irony. While the group played oddly asymmetric music that owed as much to psychedelia and folk as to punk, Orn and Bjork revved engines, advised diners to eat the menus, and professed to be sick of it all. They mocked their audience playfully. Throughout, they played the outsiders: angry, confused, faced with a world that they didn't create, and that they could pierce through irony.
It was an exhibition of smart-alecky fun, but from the evidence of the group's records and Tuesday night's show, the Sugarcubes just aren't that smart. Only when they pulled away from the easy irony, and Bjork's voice floated ethereally over the noise, did their show transcend the obvious. In those moments, the Sugarcubes became human, and a whole lot smarter for it.
The Primitives, who opened the show, brought a much clearer conceit. A contrived testimony to youth power, they combined Tracy Tracy's sugary bubblegum singing with heaps of guitar noise. They stumbled, they made amateur mistakes, and floated the prettiest melodies lightly over their gnashing sound, so that it felt like they were moving at two speeds, or in two directions, at once: toward the Archies and toward the Sex Pistols. I found it appealing but limited. In their push toward youthful disarray and teenybopper melodies, they push themselves toward insignificance.
If you bought the conceits of the Sugarcubes or the Primitives Tuesday night, you were probably home free. But if you didn't, you might as well have been your dad at a B-52's show: You could tell the groups were working real hard to be idiosyncratically charming, but you couldn't tell why. - John Leland
The Washington Times March 15, 1990. Two albums, tours strengthen Primitives
It's not hard to imagine Tracy, the tiny, demure lead singer of The Primitives, staring fawn-eyed with fear at a concert audience of thousands expecting her to sing.
For years, in fact, Tracy struggled with stage fright and never strayed far from her microphone stand. "I used to stand out there, and I was petrified," she says with her British lilt. "I was just so scared before. It [singing] was the one thing I had always wanted to do, and I couldn't, really," because of nerves.
With steady touring, her voice has strengthened, her confidence has grown, and her stage presence has opened up. Concertgoers can expect a more relaxed front woman when The Primitives open for Holland's The Sugar Cubes tonight at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium.
"It's getting better," Tracy says. "I move around more and move about. I try not to be so self-conscious."
The group, from Coventry, England, has released its second album, "Pure," a collection of catchy, upbeat and unfailingly polite pop tunes that ring with layered guitar work and Tracy's naif sing-song.
Tracy (no last name given - "It's just Tracy," she sniffs), drummer Tig Williams and singer-guitarist-songwriter Paul Court, joined by tour musicians Andy Hobson and Clive Layton, are midway through a U.S. tour with The Sugar Cubes.
Despite second billing, the tour "is going really well," Tracy says. "It's surprising to see there are a lot of people coming into these gigs straight away. We go on at 8 o'clock, and when we step out there the place is three-quarters full. That tells us a lot of people are coming to see The Primitives."
The band came together five years ago, when Tracy responded to a music-trade rag advertisement calling for a singer. Earlier, she had been living in Australia with her family and singing in bands Down Under, but she decided to return home.
She recalls the first encounters with Mr. Court and Mr. Williams: "There just seemed to be sort of an atmosphere, really. We didn't really talk to each other that much. It took about a year - six months, actually - for us to strike up conversations. We'd just sit in the corner of a room and rehearse."
Spurned by major labels, the band formed Lazy Records and released three well-received U.K. singles in 1987. Then the majors perked up. RCA Records released the band's first album, "Lovely," a critical rave that put The Primitives over the top in Britain and made them a hot alternative act here, where the album sold 200,000 copies.
The band owes its sound to the multihyphenated Mr. Court, whose songwriting and guitar playing echo bright pop, straight rock and moody psychedelia in turns. The new album's first single, "Sick of It," puts raspy guitars against an insistent bass line and Tracy's endearing voice.
Musically and lyrically, "Sick of It" is about as rude as The Primitives get, with Tracy telling her unsatisfying other, "There's nothing here that is real/Nothing that I'd stay here for/Nothing I'd like to steal/And I'm sick of it all."
Tracy says the musical arrangements are simple: "[Mr. Court] writes a majority of the songs and gives me the songs he doesn't want to sing."
"In the beginning the guitars were intolerable," she recalls. Her tiny voice fairly squeaked behind walls of distortion. But the band's sound has gotten more restrained.
"I wouldn't say it was gentle. It's still sort of quite raucous and raw. And I can sing a lot louder than I used to. . . . [The voice] is still quiet now. It's not that powerful, but it's getting better."
Tracy had no formal voice training, just a desire to sing. She grew up surrounded by music and says, "Like most people, you just start singing when you're really young." As a teen-ager, she was bored with school and dropped out to pursue singing.
Today she is singer as well as reluctant focal point/sex symbol for the band. "I don't actually accept that, and neither does the band," she says. "People like to sort of push me forward and make me out to be something. You are expected to be a mouthpiece for four or five people, and that gets to be difficult."
Such problems don't loom too large over The Primitives' sunny horizons. "Sick of It" has reached the Top 20 in Britain, and the band will return home shortly to record a four-song EP before embarking on a tour of Japan.
Meanwhile, The Primitives keep evolving. Tracy suggests the band's next offering might be moodier. "I think we're heading for the more dark side of 'Pure,'" she says. - by Sean Piccoli
Record Collector, Oct 1990. The Primitives: Michael Robson Tracks The Indie Band Who Arrived With A "Crash."
Since Two-Tone, Coventry's musical output has been decidedly low key; but the Primitives' rise from indie status to the Top 5 and U.S. tours has put the city back on the musical map. The band's melodic power pop and blonde female lead singer attracted early comparisons with Blondie, but the Primitives have commercially overshadowed contemporaries like the Darling Buds and the Shop Assistants, and their early long-deleted indie singles now command high prices.
The Primitives emerged from the much-touted independent scene of the mid-Eighties that reared, amongst others, the Jesus And Mary Chain, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, the Soup Dragons and the Wedding Present. Many of these, including the Primitives, brought a welcome breath of fresh air and a sense of fun to a scene dominated by the more po-faced 'goth' bands. And many wore their influences on their sleeves; a love of melody and the Sixties (the Monkees, the Velvets and the Byrds), fast Ramones-influenced guitars, and the pop innocence of the Buzzcocks and Orange Juice. This was the backdrop for the Primitives' formation, and no other band went on to encapsulate all these ingredients so perfectly.
Attracted as much by shared haircuts as anything else, Pete Tweedie (drums), Steve Dullaghan (bass), Keiron (vocals) and Paul Court (guitar/vocals/songwriter) came together in July 1985 under the roof of European Son, Coventry's premier clothes emporium, owned and run by and ardent T-shirt designer Wayne Morris, and took their name from one of Lou Reed's early incarnations. With an average of eighteen, and a deepfelt desire to "see how loud we could get", the band's early efforts were a noisy mixture of Gun Club clichés.
After the semblence of a set had been established, several London gigs followed, avoiding the "deadpan" audiences of their hometown, before Keiron's departure sent the band back to Coventry in search of a replacement. Three months later, an ad in the local library attracted the attention of one Tracy Tracy ("No one will ever know my second name") fresh from a "comfortable, happy family life" in Australia, and a musical past in "punk rock band" the Funwits. Beauty met beast and the two made their compromises; Paul Court began writing songs with "melodies a bit stronger; trash a bit more limited", and the band started to attract fanzine writers like the Legend! after several well-received London gigs. With Wayne Morris as their manager, they were able to step into the studio soon after, setting up the Lazy label in the...
[Lazy 01 was R]ecorded on borrowed equipment during February 1986 (with "Thru The Flowers" mixed from an October 1985 demo) at the 16-track Cabin Studios in Coventry (which remained the centre of Primitives' recording activities), the EP reached a modest No. 22 position on the Music Week Independent Chart, but more importantly, gained the attention of Radio One producers who booked the band for two sessions aired on the Janice Long and Andy Kershaw shows in the summer of 1986. The tracks performed were: "I'll Stick With You"/"Really Stupid"/"Run Baby Run"/"Nothing Left To Say"/"Where The Wind Blows"/"Across My Shoulder"/"Spacehead"/"Crash" respectively.
Like many other highly-prized debuts, though, the EP suffered from sub-standard production, and although the lead track had a definite attraction and strong melody, the band have disowned the other tracks as "not even charming". Rumoured white label copies (HEAD 1) featuring a different track order, apparently circulate amongst collectors for around £50 a copy.
More success with the fast and furious "Really Stupid" earned the group another radio session, this time for John Peel, where they performed "Buzz Buzz Buzz", "Shadow", and "Stop Killing Me" along with a faithful cover of Marianne Faithfull's Jagger/Richard composition "As Tears Go By". Meanwhile, the promo video for "Really Stupid" was aired on various night-time TV programmes.
7" Mayking test pressings have occasionally surfaced, fetching £30, as do 12" white label test pressings in plain sleeves with sticker and press sheets. "Really Stupid" is also available on a semi-legal Polish picture disc coupled with "Thru The Flowers" (although these items are rumoured to have emanated closer to home), and on the 'NME' twin tape mail order-only compilation, "Indie City". A triple album radio promo compilation, including "Really Stupid", sells for £12.
Following the 'NME'-sponsered "C86" rock week at the ICA, the venue collaborated with EMI to plan another such event for January 1987, featuring the Primitives alongside up and coming names like the Wonderstuff, the Blue Aeroplanes and Voice Of The Beehive. Finding their name advertised before contracts had been finalised, and to complicate matters further, sponsors EMI requesting rights to two songs to be included on a souvenir "Dotted Line" two-album set, the band renounced the whole event as little more than a "pale imitation of C86" and withdrew, followed en suite by Pop Will Eat Itself, Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie and Tallulah Gosh. Instead, the Prims toured Europe before returning to tour consistently to promote their third 45.
Rush-released to compensate for their absence from the ill-fated ICA rock week, 2,000 copies of "Stop Killing Me" were mispressed in a back-to-front sleeve with Tracy on the front cover, which are now worth £15 each. The song itself was more overtly melodic and accessible than previous outings, and the band were rewarded with (very) minor chart hit.
In contrast, the 12" track "Laughing Up My Sleeve", complete with Paul Court's nasal singing, trundled along in a Velvet Underground vein, before gradually building up to a blinding finish of superb feedback guitar, a welcome break from the band's usual pop feel. White label test pressings of both formats fetch £20 and £30 respectively, and promotional copies were rumoured to contain a free poster, while a pair of 12" test pressings featuring the A-side on one disc and the 12" B-sides on the other, sell for similar sums. "Stop Killing Me" was also included on the "State Of Independents" compilation (TT 041). Incidentally, promo videos for both "Really Stupid" and "Stop Killing Me" were screened on "Whistle Test".
"I don't rate myself as a singer like Debbie Harry; I don't even think I sound like her!" argued Tracy in answer to critical comparisons, both visually and musically, with Blondie. But the vinyl evidence that Tracy wasn't simply standing in the shadow of the platinum blonde came with "Ocean Blue", free to those who attended the band's Astoria concert on 29th May 1987 (although copies also appeared at subsequent gigs). The song's "slow, meditative, relaxed end-of-night aura perfectly contrasted the wild, eastern excursion into sitar and tabla (courtesy of Pretam Singh, recommended by band engineer Paul Sampson) that dominated "Shadow". In retrospect, it's a shame that they opted not to give the 7"a full release. A demo version of "Shadow" preceded the freebie by appearing on the fifth Foods Records compilation "Imminent 5" (BITE 5), released in March 1987, nestling alongside material from Yeah Jazz, Jack Rubies and BMX Bandits, among others.
"From the first day we got together, we've told people what we want to sound like", assured Paul Court in interviews. "Now we're getting there". With the new single -- a revitalised "Thru The Flowers" which abandoned the fast, fuzz guitars in favour of Byrds-like arrangements -- a confident £12,000 promotion was aided by the sighting of Morrissey decked out in a Primitives T-shirt, who declared his "sporran had caught fire" upon witnessing the band live earlier in the year.
Morrissey's rumoured appearance at the group's August ICA shows remained just that -- but audiences were treated to surprise covers of the Beatles' "Ticket To Ride" and the Stooges' classic "I Wanna Be Your Dog" (which has since provided a live finale for the House of Love and Sonic Youth). Official mixing desk tapes of the August 15th show, coupled with the April 16th Camden Palace and the 29th May Astoria Theatre dates, were available by mail order only from Lazy towards the end of 1987.
Several of the limited 7" EPs are actually regular copies mispressed with the EP sleeve and label, although collectors obviously prefer the three tracks intact. Test pressings are valued at around £15 while white label 12"s fetch the more reasonable price of £10.
Meanwhile, the charming "Nothing Left" (First Version) was donated to a Sounds freebie EP, alongside contributions from Voice Of The Beehive, the Soup Dragons and the Band Of Holy Joy. Another Peel session -- "She Don't Need You"/"Ocean Blue"/"Everything Shining Bright"/"Dreamwalk Baby" -- and a chance appearance on "Wogan" (preceded by heady praise from Terry) boosted the single to top of the independent chart (14th best-selling indie of '87) although it only managed to 'bubble under' in the Gallup chart. However this was tarnished by two thorns in the Primitives' side; a contractual dispute with former booking agency Prestige Talent, and the sacking of Pete Tweedie, whose departure (allegedly due to his maltreatment of Tracy's cats) must be the most original 'excuse me' not since Glen Matlock's love of the Beatles lost him his place with the Sex Pistols.
By December 1987, support slots on a major Echo and the Bunnymen tour -- introducing new drummer Tig Williams -- attracted major label attention from London and Chrysalis. Feeling the time was right to make the move to a major ("being in a successful indie band, you get the terms you want, and we're now in that position"), the Prims eventually placed their trust in RCA, a label "not pointing any fingers", which allowed Lazy to continue under the band's guidance.
"Crash" was a perfect blend of pure pop and chiming guitars firmly steeped in a Monkees tradition, and after two 'Top Of The Pops' many saw this as a major achievement, since from the crop of indie bands from which the Primitives had emerged, only the Jesus And Mary Chain had managed to combine signing to a major with singles chart success. "All these dreams soon became pieces of plastic that are relegated to the local jumble sale", admitted Paul. But "Crash" yielded several limited formats that collectors would dearly wish to find at jumble sales. Especially rare are the limited 7" EP ("the long and the short of it on seven inch in remixed sleeve"), the signed 10", and copies with a free chocolate bar. A further variation came in the 12" which offered a demo version recorded in October 1985 (from the same session as the original "Thru The Flowers"), initial copies boasting an attractive, free poster.
With the "smooth transition" to a major label behind them, "Crash" was released worldwide; imports from Australia, West Germany and Japan (also on a 3" CD [RCA R10D-10] with the regular 7" tracks) are most commonly available for about £5, while U.S. promo 7"s and 12"s (with title sticker) fetch £5 and £8 respectively.
The heavy promotion for "Crash" largely concentrated on Paul and Tracy, at the expense of the "four bodies in one head" image portrayed with previous sleeves and interviews. Not only did this unnerve many loyal supporters, but it embarrassingly led the 'Guinness Book Of Hit Singles' to mistake the Primitives for a "U.K. male/female vocal/instrumental duo"!
The Primitives' debut LP was originally scheduled for a September 1987 release under the menacing "Helter Skelter" tag (the promo tape -- allegedly sold to RCA for £1,000 -- circulates at a more 'collector friendly' price of £12 or so), but eventually surfaced as "Lovely", representing something of a 'greatest hits' retrospective of the band's brief career. This may have united the four-piece, but it left doubts among the critics as to whether the quartet's devotion to touring had taken preference to the writing of new material. The familiar sounds of "Crash", "Thru The Flowers" and "Stop Killing Me" were joined by first-time vinyl outings for "Carry Me Home" and "Don't Want To Change Anything". Alarmingly, only six (three of which had already appeared in radio sessions) of the fourteen tracks were completely new, but this didn't stop the album from selling over 100,000 in the U.K. alone.
In retrospect, "Lovely" provided plenty of variety, but repeated listenings revealed that it lacked a true depth and consistency. One of the new tracks "Out of Reach", was duly re-recorded as the Primitives' next single, issued on various different formats. Apart from the A-side, all the cuts were recorded live (the first to use the Digital Audio Tape system) during the band's first headlining tour of the U.K. to promote "Lovely" in the spring of 1988. More live tracks, from the same source, appeared on a BBC radio promo compilation LP that sells for £40+, originally broadcast in full during Radio One's "In Concert" series.
A throwaway bubblegum feel on "Way Behind Me" continued the Primitives' obsession with pop perfection, although the flip "All The Way Down" allowed Paul Court to explore a harder, more sinister edge, with a Mary Chain vocal drone over a glorious biting guitar. The single had been premiered during a final John Peel session alongside "Things Get In Your Way" and "Keep Me In Mind" in April 1988.
Meanwhile, manager Wayne Morris continued to see his ideal band "as cute and attractively packaged as a milky bar", and introduced the latest in a long line of Primitives accessories -- a sachet of bubble bath, which was initially given away with "Way Behind Me" until Gallup banned the free gift. The sachets were subsequently kept under record shop counters, available to those who were clever enough to ask.
In the States, the single was coupled with the "Lovely" version of "Thru The Flowers" (8840-7) and chosen as the follow-up of to "Crash" (a firm college favourite), promos of which sell for £5 or so. Australian and Canadian copies fetch similar sums, while U.K. white label 12"s are valued around £10, although most copies of the limited edition 7" officially came as white labels with just the catalogue number printed on top.
Returning from several weeks in America, Steve Dullaghan decided to call it a day. Bored with playing bass, and keen to pursue a separate career as a guitarist, Dullaghan officially left the band on December 9th, to form Hate. Rumoured to be working with other ex-Primitive Pete Tweedie in the initial stages. Hate now consists of Martyn Bates (previously with Eyeless In Gaza) and Dullaghan, and both are writing and recording material in Coventry for forthcoming release.
For the foreseeable future, and the release of new material, the Primitives were to remain a trio: hardly Bananarama, but utilizing similar tactics, breaking all previous records with a dazzling array of formats and cover versions ("As Tears Go By" and the Velvets' "I'll Be Your Mirror"). In addition to the host of officially released items, the most sought-after versions include Japanese and U.S. promo CDs, and U.K. and U.S. promo 12"s, selling for £8-10.
"A thrash of white noise", "Sick Of It" was taken literally by some as the band seemed to be struggling for inspiration. Originally planned as a B-side, the song at least steered the band in the harder direction Court and his songwriting talents were taking him. Filmed in an East London synagogue, the promo video saw the return of Pete Tweedie (modeling a Birdland T-shirt, Lazy labelmates whom the Prims were touring with) to the ranks as a surrogate bassist "because we only know five people, so we had to take him". The short list of interested parties continued to grow, though, including ex-Bros bassist Craig Logan (!) and Andy Rourke, from the Smiths, thanks to an 'exclusive in the CoventryEvening Telegraph'. However, the search eventually stopped in Sheffield, and ex-Junk bassist Andy Hobson joined the fold during rehearsals for the forthcoming tour.
Warm-ups for this, and low key promotion for the single saw the band play support to Birdland in London and Brighton. Having spent and introspective year behind closed doors, Tracy emerged as a redhead ("mentally for the past eight months, physically for only two"), finally shedding the Blondie tag, and leaving Wendy James and recently rejuvenated Debbie Harry to fly the 'blonde bombshell' flag.
"We're keen to get this part of our career over with," admitted Paul Court, as "Pure" modestly reached the light of day. Moments of divine inspiration kept the album together, and thanks to a splendid production, it proved to be a far more lasting and enjoyable listen than it's more commercial predecessor. Occasionally, the arrangements were disappointing, not helped when Tracy's voice faltered, but the LP's few weaknesses were restricted to side 2, leaving the listener to enjoy a steady run through side 1, especially on "Shine" and "Dizzy Heights".
These were the peaks the Primitives should have been exploring, rather than falling from grace with the derivative "Lonely Street" or the band's next single, "Secrets" (recorded with Jonathan Richman in mind, but without his subtlety). Once again, the numerous issues proved a nightmare for collectors, although Court's moody "I Almost Touched You" boded well for the future. White label promo copies of the LP sell for £10 with press sheet, as do autographed copies, which were available exclusively through Our Price stores.
And again, numerous promo items for "Secrets" have surfaced.
The inevitable major tour to promote the album and single took in "some of the strangest and most obscure ports of call in Britain", but was hit by rearranged dates (caused by the complexities of an ambitious 'Alice In Wonderland' stage set) and muted reactions. This only tended to confirm the group's decision to embrace solo projects ("we're well-established enough for it not to cause too much panic"), and Tracy has been writing and recording her own material while Court is intent to work on a backlog of out-take tracks stored up over two years.
Welcomed with open arms and billed as "a great English rock band with a real power pop sound", the Primitives regrouped earlier this year "refreshed and restored" in America for a second tour of the West Coast, supporting the Sugarcubes. Over here, the band contributed "(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care" to another 'NME' compilation, an array of Elvis covers in aid of the Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy charity, entitled "The Last Temptation of Elvis".
Having shed the Blondie comparisons in favour of a harder, more mature sound, the Primitives have reached an interesting stage in their career. As they've said, the band are now fully established firmly in the public eye, and yet seem quite distant to the current musical trends. But far from becoming marginalised, the Primitives' formula has yet to fail them, and hopefully, Court's increasingly diverse songwriting and musicianship will win through and allow the Prims to come of age. - Michael Robson
Melody Maker, July 20, 1991. Zebra Crossings.
"I'll tell you something weird about zebras," confides Primitives guitarist and beat movie extra Paul Court. "The stripes on their neck, right, they go right up to their manes. I'd never realised that before."
It's very, very late. I'm talking to The Primitives, they who are back and it's like they've never been away, in the bar of an endearingly weatherbeaten hotel on the Isle Of Wight. We are talking about zebras. We are talking about zebras because either the Primitives are bloody awful at talking about pop music or - and I refuse, for the moment, to rule out this possibility - I am. Whatever, I have made vague sashays in search of snappy, self-deprecating quips about "surviving", "starting again" and what bands do before they come "back" and have come away with a tapeful of long pauses and earnest responses.
I wanted Marx, Groucho and I got something somewhere between Harpo and Karl. So we are talking about zebras. Our other reason for doing this is that a few weeks back, in the course of making a video for the coolly danceable new single, "You Are The Way", Tracy Tracy was nearly killed by one. "I was just sort of standing there holding this rope, patting him and talking to him," explains Tracy, "and then this car alarm went off and he just bolted."
"They are not gentle creatures," continues Paul, "not like they look on the plains in those documentaries. It was dead surreal though. There were these trees, there was this cute little river with tennis courts around it, and this mad zebra pulling Tracy in her white suit...."
All this, dear reader, because Paul thought the guitars on the new offering, "sounded a bit like a zebra looks." Tracy, therefore, has very nearly laid down her life for a metaphor. When I discover this, I am hers.
HERE'S a joke. What goes "bang...bang...bang"? A machine-gun in Ryde. Why? Wight's port town in possibly the least apocalyptic metropolis on earth. It will not be the setting for the end-of-the-millennium novel. It's only just the setting for tonight's show. The council have pulled the plug on the original venue due to utterly inexplicable concerns about the band's "undesirable audience." Proceedings have therefore been reconvened in a local wine bar which will not be bidding to host the next cat-swinging Olympiad. As it happens, however, the gig is something of a minor stormer, every gets as crazy as startled zebras over "Really Stupid", "Stop Killing Me", and "Crash" and the new ones suffer only from unfamiliarity, not comparison. Except the one about the little black egg, which is tres twee and profoundly horrible. Afterwards, the band autograph photos, plates and onions and everyone decides it wasn't that bad after all.
"It was okay," decides Paul. "But I don't really like doing places that small. Too much sweating for my liking. It's not particularly glamourous, is it?"
And The Primitives know about glamour, of course. Not so long ago they had monstrous hits, played in very big halls to audiences as undesirable as they liked and when Tracy forsook the bleach for an auburn tint around the time of "Sick Of It", the Berlin Wall come down. They were entirely splendid pop stars at a time before the goalposts were moved by the kind of people who actually know what goalposts are and things got a bit grim. "Exactly," nods Tracy. "I think pop music definitely needs The Primitives."
Yeah. Would you care to elaborate on that?
"Well," she says, "we're a lot more...sort of honest, real, more real than a lot of other stuff around. We stare you in the face, you know. What you see is what you get, basically."
This is not what I was hoping Tracy would say. What I was hoping Tracy would say was: "Pop needs us because I remain a Beatrix Potter goddess, part Debbie Harry part Mrs. Robinson, these chaps here continue to distinguish themselves by being just that little bit less anonymous than they're supposed to be and besides which we retain our effortless charm and sound as gorgeously precocious as we ever did. And sorry about the one about the little black egg. Don't know what came over us." Tracy does not say this. Tracy continues to regard me with an air of slightly tested patience. It's great to watch, but I resolve to try harder.
SO, yeah. "You Are The Way." And that B-side, "Hello Jesus." I like that one. Are they at all grounded in any conventional religious convictions?
"Well," says Paul, only briefly thrown by such a sensible question, "'You Are The Way' is like one of those things you see written on a placard outside a church, and I just thought it would sound good in a song. 'Hello Jesus' is kind of tongue-in-cheek, but I didn't want it to offend anyone, so I wrote it in a way that someone might hear it and take it seriously."
Weird. Do The Primitives have anything to say, as such?
"No! God no," they chorus, amused and horrified. This is as it should be. And just as well, because:
"Sometimes," announces Paul without any prompting whatsoever, "it's difficult to be taken seriously, having a female singer. It's really hard to get anything across. But," and here he notices a look of magnificent reproach from Tracy, "it has been our fortune as well."
But surely (this is good), this is and was the problem of the people who think that, not yours.
"True," nods Tracy, "but it does reflect on us. But I really don't think it would have made us any more cred if I had been a boy."
I reckon (this is great, I've done well) that the problem is that people - not at all incorrectly - associate the woman pop singer with all that is glamourous about pop music. But then - completely incorrectly - they fail to differentiate between glamour and frivolity.
"You know," she says, "I think you're on the right track there."
"You Are The Way" is out on July 22 on Lazy through RCA. The Primitives are on tour now. -Andrew Mueller.
New Musical Express, July 27, 1991. End Of The Pier-Oxide Blonde.
They invented indie-dance music three years ago, and now they're the sexiest band around! Yes, we are talking about THE PRIMITIVES, the first jingly guitar band to cross over into the charts all those music fads ago. Simon Williams meets them on the comeback trail over a packet of peanuts.
"I had the most enjoyable time at Pontins once," reveals Tracy Tracy, now let in from the cold and attacking vodka and oranges in the gloom of the hotel's abandoned restaurant. "I won the Princess Of The Year competition. I was most delighted. I won a voucher for £10 and bought a doll with it.'
Right on! Childhoods and seasides. As inseparable as heavy drinking and hangovers. To celebrate their Big Return after 18 months in oblivion, The Primitives have embarked on a seven-week binge around Britain. Now halfway through, they're on the seaside leg, playing thoroughly bizarre places like Portsmouth pier and striving to recapture that naive essence of family fun in Bognor Regis. Some hope.
"We wanted to rock the holiday camps, that was the idea," explains guitarist Paul Court, wistfully. "We wanted some of that tacky showbiz elements about the coast. But this tour's destroyed my childhood memories completely: going back to the Isle Of Wight, I just realized it was like Scunthorpe with a bad cold. Only a bit drearier."
If the traumas of revisiting the past weren't enough to contend with, The primitives are also using some pier pressure to revitalize a career which seemed to grind to a halt when the '80s called it a day. Wherein lies a story.
Once upon a time (1986, actually) there were two bands peddling opposite extremes of post-Mary Chain noise. Both were on the same label (Lazy), played gigs at the same place (The Clarendon), and both could be spotted in the same niterie (Head Club) AT THE SAME TIME. Coincidence? Yup.
One of the bands, The Primitives, subsequently rode the crest of the bubblegummy blonde wave and surfed into the Top Five (in days when guitar bands didn't do that sort of thing) with 'Crash'. The other group, My Bloody Valentine, took two more years to crack Hitdom and eventually inspired a legion of teenagers with predilection for speaking inaudibly and staring at their footwear to buy effects pedals and bombard Creation towers with demotapes.
"There's a lot of bands around now who can say they listened to the Valentines," nods Tracy Tracy slowly slowly. "But are there a lot of bands who can say that they listened to The Primitives?"
Hang on! That's my question!
"No, because we're not as insular as that," argues Paul. "What we do isn't such a set thing, it's varied. Also, I think people have still got the idea that we're some sort of guitar bubblegum band, but that was over three years ago! It's good to see the indie stuff getting into the charts now, but I think we were forerunners of a lot of what's gone on recently. We definitely started the ball rolling by being successful with 'Crash'.
"I think people will realize we were at the front of things years ago with 'Crash', helps Tracy Tracy, "because we were the only band like that in the chart."
"Oh f--- it! We started the whole thing!" beams Paul. "Sick Of It' was the first indie dance record! Almost.'
"People don't realize 'cos they've forgotten what it sounds like, but 'Sick Of It' was indie dance rock, and we were on Top Of The Pops doing that when The Stone Roses were like Primal Scream with an 'O' level! But it was an accident, we didn't realize that breakbeats were gonna be the big thing! We should have followed it up with something else in that ilk."
"Yeah, but the single after that was edging towards really bland pop," sneers drummer Tig, as though talking about a different band. "That's not the direction we should have gone at all."
The Primitives moved to the foggy periphery of the pop circus as the Manchester crew rolled into town and stole the show. Paul's still shaking from the experience.
"There was some good stuff there, but it was being made by fat middle-aged glue sniffers...wiht BO. There was no glamour or anything. There's nothing wrong with a bit of ant-glamour but I think that was taking it a bit far, myself. The whole thing was a celebration of dreariness -- I mean, how many of those bands ever told jokes?"
If you thought that being out of sight meant that The Primitives were out of the running, at five o'clock in the morning they really start flexing their defensive muscles and start staking their place in the current confused scheme of things.
Notorious for criticizing their own releases -- Paul says of their last album, 'Pure', that "One side was psychedelic, but the other side sounded like The Smiths with a fuzzbox. It was pretty crap, basically!" -- 1991 finds The Primitives absurdly happy with their soon-to-come third LP, obscenely chuffed with the flouncy new single 'You Are The Way' ("It's the best thing we've done"), and have the hardship of "starting all over again" softened by the fact that they know all the pitfalls to avoid, having tumbled into all of them headfirst in their previous chart life.
Almost as if to symbolize this rebirth, Tracy Tracy has gone, erm, re-blonde.
"I'm blonde anyway, it's in my head," she explains enthusiastically. "I think I'm far sexier as a blonde. I felt sexy as a redhead, but I don't think people took as much notice of me, and I want people to take notice because I think their quite vital. Does anyone want another drink? Can we have 33 vodkas? Cheers! I also think sexuality is a vital part of our music, and I think 'You Are The Way' is a fantastic, raunchy kind of song."
"It's a magic carpet of a single," grins Paul proudly.
"I think..." deep breath..."I think it's a good record to F--- TO!", bellows Tracy Tracy.
CLANG!! Oh dear. The waiter has fainted.
"I think The Primitives are one of the sexiest, most attractive bands around!" shouts Tracy Tracy, now thoroughly into the swing of things. "I really do! I don't find Ride attractive, or The Charlatans!"
"Oh, I dunno. I'd snog with Ride, Blur, any of 'em" leers Paul. "There's a lot of sexy bands around now. If I was a 13-year old girl I think I'd find Blur very sexy.'
Right! But your not a 13-year old girl Paul, your a 20something bloke in a five-year old band and it's getting light outside and the chef's turned up to start making breakfast and my head hurts. So why the hell should people still listen to The Primitives?
"UMMM...'Cos we're God's own garage band...And we've got a divine right to be The Primitives!"
You have, too. The Blonderer returns. - Simon Williams
Q Magazine, 1992, Review of Galore (www.qonline.co.uk)
Two and bit years down the line from what was arguably their most consistently enjoyable album, Pure, The Primitives return with 12 new Ian Broudie-produced cuts. Little has changed. Sure, the songs might be slightly less frenetically paced than their elder siblings but basically the formulaic female vocals, enigmatic word play and buzzsaw guitar lines gilded with pretty melody breaks (and a touch of the old FX pedal on the crossover dance track, Earth Thing) -is much as before. That's the good news. The bad news is that well crafted though these tunes are, they suffer by comparison with the group's earlier works. Apart from Cold Enough To Kill, a cozy curl-up-by-the-fireside ballad and The Little Black Egg, a seemingly pointless piece of whimsy but nonetheless enjoyable for it, there's a noticeable lack of the instantly hummable hooks found on past glories. - Graeme Kay
Q Magazine, 1994, Review of Bombshell - The Hits & More (www.qonline.co.uk)
Despite, or perhaps because of, conforming to every cliche in the sub- Blondie post-punk-pop rule book, Coventry's The Primitives dumped three pleasantly forgettable janglers into the overflowing trashcan we now fondly remember as the pop charts of the latter half of the 1980s. They're all here in descending order, from Crash (1988, Number 5) through Sick Of It (1989, Number 24) down to You Are The Way (1991, Number 58).
Even the inclusion of a couple of acoustic versions and demos does little to improve matters. Occasionally, on such as the wistfully hypnotic Empathise, hidden depths begin to be plumbed but their creativity soon surfaces on to the calm seas of mediocrity. Even so, this is a compilation that raises a lot of questions. Like, Katrina & The Waves, anyone? How about The Photos? Whatever did happen to Transvision Vamp? - Johnny Black
Melody Maker, April 27, 1996. Where Are They Now?
Formed in Coventry in 1985, The Primitives' Blonde status was achieved through the worship of the band's singer, Tracy Tracy, so good they named her twice. Actually, her name was Tracy Cattell and she was from Australia. The Primitives one moment of proper fame came with their first big-seller, "Crash", a lively sing-a-long with lots of la la's, which reached Number Five in 1988 and has since been regularly heard as the soundtrack to any light-hearted television scenes involving car crashes. "Crash" was released on their own label, Lazy, which was backed by RCA, but after its intial success the band went into a steady decline from that moment on, although a few more Top 40 singles were squeezed out. In an interesting parallel to the Darling Buds' loss of their unique catalogue number just prior to their final demise, so The Primitives were stripped of their own label just as their fortunes nose-dived. Their final chart single, "You Are The Way", appeared on RCA and managed a paltry Number 58. Dogged by acrimonious personnel shuffles throughout their career, the band finally split up in 1992 when their album, "Galore", flopped.
Vox, Issue 92, June 1998, Review of Bubbling Up: Eighties janglepop sessions
Bubbling Up (New Millennium).
With their acetylene torch guitars and candy floss tunes, The Primitives were surely the first Britpop band, ten years early. Additionally, guitarist Paul Court only nodded respectfully towards rock history rather than plundering it like Noel Gallagher - and Tracy Tracy's breathless vocals were infinitely preferable to Liam's whining.
The band, though loved by critics at the time, are now forgotten. The live-in-the-studio tracks on this CD of BBC sessions may sound slightly flat compared to their multi-layered official releases, but if we had never heard those, this would seem like perfection.
Shame on fickle critics.
(4 stars out of 5) - Sean Egan
Go! Magazine, January 30, 2001. Primitive Reactions.
When the jingly jangly pop heaven that was Crash reached number five in 1988 The Primitives joined an elite group of Coventry bands who had made a serious dent in the charts, a group which included The Specials, The Selector, Lieutenant Pigeon and King.
For some reason, however, all Street Talk in the Coventry Evening Telegraph could do was slag them off.
The group had been together for a couple of years, rehearsing at Foleshill's General Wolfe pub. Street Talk delighted in reporting that "they expected to be fed for nothing and frequently left the room covered in cigarette packets and newspapers."
In January 1988 The Primitives embarked on a major tour with Echo and the Bunnymen. When the tour came to the NEC, Street Talk had the knives ready and waiting.
"The drummer plays as though he's got weights tied to his wrists" wrote Demetrios Matheou. "The songs have little calibre and originality and singer Tracy's voice is buried beneath their deafening dirge.
"The Primitives are going to be old news before they even get started unless they do something pretty drastic."
How Tracy, guitarist Paul Court, bassist Steve Dullaghan and drummer Tig must have laughed when Crash entered the charts at number 29 in February. How the laughter must have increased as it climbed to number five.
The success of Crash, which was produced by Paul Sampson at the Cabin Studios on London Road and became a hit across Europe, changed everything for the band. Manager Wayne Morris said at the time: "We played in Manchester the other night. There were about 1,500 people in the club and another 500 locked outside."
"Even I had trouble getting in" recalled Tracy. "They had to clear a path through the crowd so we could get inside."
Street Talk, however, still had something of an angry bee in its collective bonnet. They were incensed at their inability to find out Tracy's surname. They knew she drank at the Dog & Trumpet, Busters and the Rose & Crown. But they couldn't find out her second name.
Now THAT'S journalism. It was Cattel if you're still wondering.
They relished reports of Tracy allegedly telling revelers not to photograph her in a nightclub when they had no intention of doing so, a story denied by Tracy.
And they found it impossible to say anything nice without adding a stinger at the end. Example: "Tig's drumming was superb and the guitarists played with striking strength.
"But, as always, Tracey's voice sounded wafer thin, quite devoid of power or character, and unable to compete effectively with the rest of the band's output."
Amazingly Street Talk seemed surprised when interviews and new press photographs weren't forthcoming.
Eventually Morris banned the group from talking to Street Talk, a move which prompted this handbag grabbing outburst: "And now Morris says his obedient group will never talk to any of us, ever again.
"Well, Prims, nobody here at the Evening Telegraph is going to lose sleep over that.
"For we'll still be in business long after the public have forgotten your second rate bubblegum music." All together now, "ooh, shirty!"
The debut album, Lovely, came out in April '88 and although not a classic, it was pretty good. And relatively successful.
With the Primitives' star rising high, Street Talk needed to find a writer who could say something nice, and in John Myles they found him. He described the album as "bubblegum pop's equivalent of the Jesus & Mary Chain."
A gig at the Birmingham Powerhouse in May '88 was described as "a glorious noise from beginning to end" and " a superb hour's worth of perfect pop."
Returning from an American tour, the Primitives again enjoyed chart success with the single Sick Of It, which entered at 33 on July 23rd 1989.
Popularity in their home city, however, seemed pretty hard to come by. As Sick Of It climbed the charts a spokesman for Our Price in Coventry's Shelton Square told Street Talk, without any prompting I'm sure, that the single was "not exactly selling like hot cakes."
"You can have a band with a lot of local interest, but the Primitives don't appear to be one of them. I think their chart position is more to do with the backing they've got from a big record company and popularity elsewhere than a big following in Coventry."
Unfortunately, the band members also echo these tales of anonymity in Coventry.
Guitarist Paul Court told Time Out magazine how he and drummer Tig went to buy a bass guitar for new member Andy but encountered a rather unconvinced shop assistant.
"She just stared at us and said: 'Are you students or what?' and refused to let us have the bass until Wayne rings up and says we ARE the Primitives."
It gets worse. Paul continued: "I was upstairs by the bar a minute ago and I heard some students saying 'Oh, The Darling Buds are downstairs'."
Adding to their problems on a local front was the fact that other Street Talk writers, Chris Wilson, Tracey Harrison and Demetrios Matheou, were continuing to stick the boot in.
"Tracey's undernourished voice is drowned by the more impressive guitars" wrote Chris Wilson.
"The Primitives may be determinedly independent, but they show little individuality. A black hole beckons" wrote Demetrios Matheou.
Unfortunately, the journo was right. The city's best post 2-Tone band to make an impression on the charts plunged into obscurity.
So what happened? They had the initial success. Surely it was all there for the taking.
Tracy Cattell said: "It was a very uncomfortable time for us. We were taken by total surprise and we weren't really comfortable with that.
"It happened so fast. We didn't know exactly what was happening. It was just like a whirlwind."
Another possible explanation is that when a band starts to make those early inroads into the realms of national and international success, they can normally rely on a groundswell of support from their home town.
And that's usually backed up by a fiercely loyal and supportive local music press, willing the band to do well.
But not in Coventry in the late '80s. Would things be any different if it happened now? By Christ, I hope so. - Dayle Crutchlow
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