The Primitives formed in the summer of 1984 in Coventry, England, originally comprised of Paul Court (guitar), Keiron McDermott (vocals), Steve Dullaghan (bass), and Pete Tweedie (drums). This lineup never issued any recordings, and Keiron soon left the band, returning to his job at a Coventry library. On behalf of the remaining members Keiron placed a handwritten note in the library seeking a lead singer for the band, listing as influences the Birthday Party, the Velvet Underground, the Cramps, and the Jesus & Mary Chain, leading Tracy Tracy to apply.
After playing gigs in and around Coventry the band began working with manager Wayne Morris, recorded some demos and formed the independent label Lazy. Thru The Flowers was released as a 12" single in May of 1986. Soon after the single's release the band was invited to play a series of Radio One sessions, including broadcasts by BBC hosts Janice Long and Andy Kershaw.
The band returned to Cabin studios in mid-1986 to record their second single, Really Stupid. The single was released as a 7" and 12" in October, 1986, quickly becoming a hit on the UK independent charts, aided by the creation of the group's first music video, which received limited play on UK television. Really Stupid was produced by Paul Sampson, who would contribute production work and occasional instrumental support to the band for much of their career.
By 1987 the band was steadily raising their profile through a combination of concerts, single releases, and radio sessions. A Saturday Live radio broadcast in January previewed a pair of songs ("Stop Killing Me," "Buzz Buzz Buzz") from the third single on Lazy, Stop Killing Me, released on 7" and 12" in February, 1987. The single soon hit number one on the UK independent charts. The inclusion of the demo version of "Shadow" on Foods Records' Imminent 5 compilation in March of 1987 was followed by an additional John Peel session, recorded on March 31, 1987. As a way of thanking their fans for their support the band pressed a special free 7" single to give away during a concert at the Astoria in London in May of 1987. The single featured "Ocean Blue" and "Shadow," songs that would later appear in different versions on their first album. The band continued to expand their repertoire, introducing entirely new material in a July session for Janice Long (including a cover the Beatles' "Ticket To Ride"). Making use of their rapidly developing musical skills, the band decided to revisit their first single. In August, 1987, the new, cleaner version of Thru the Flowers was released as a standard 7", a limited 7" with a bonus track, and a 12" single.
In December of 1987 they signed to RCA. The end of 1987 also saw the replacement of drummer Pete Tweedie with Tig Williams, who joined just before the band had the opportunity to support Echo & the Bunnymen on a major UK tour in December of 1987.
The band's defining moment in terms of chart success came in February of 1988 with the release of their first single for RCA, Crash. A song that began as an undistinguished early demo was transformed by the band's increasing musical skill and Sampson's production work into a pop masterpiece. The song catapulted the band into top-5 chart success in the UK, and led to appearances on Top of the Pops, the Old Grey Whistle Test, and numerous other UK music programs. RCA augmented the standard 7"/12" singles of Crash with a limited 7", a 10", and a Japanese 3" CD single. Aside from a pair of "live in the studio" demos, the 12" also featured "Things Get in Your Way," one of the finest B-sides of the band's career.
"Crash" heralded the March, 1988 release of Lovely, the band's first album. Comprised of 14 tracks and lasting just 35 minutes, the album was a classic blend of noise and melody. Though several of the tracks would be familiar to longtime fans, the album versions of the songs were remixed or re-recorded. The album sold more than 100,000 copies in the UK, and over 200,000 copies in the United States.
A re-recorded version of Out of Reach was released the following month, with a variety of live tracks included as B-sides to the different formats of the single (7", limited 7", 12", and CD single). The highlight of these was a cover of the classic Stooges song "I Wanna Be Your Dog." The group also recorded another session for John Peel prior to embarking on a Spring, 1988 tour of the UK in support of the album.
August, 1988 saw the release of Way Behind Me. The 7"/12" singles were again augmented with additional formats, but this time the band's ever-evolving promotional packaging began to catch up with them. In addition to a boxed cassette single with 2 pins, a limited 7" was available with a postcard, pin, and sachet of bubble bath.
After numerous UK performances the Primitives toured the United States for the first time in November and December of 1988, including dates in Los Angeles, Boston, and Washington D.C. Following the end of the tour in December bassist Steve Dullaghan decided to leave the band, switching to guitar and joining former-Primitive Pete Tweedie in the band Hate.
The first half of 1989 saw little in the way of new releases or public performances, but the band was hard at work on new material. In July of 1989 they put out Sick of It, the first single from their forthcoming album. By August of 1989 Lazy re-released the group's first three singles as the Lazy 86-88 collection.
Bassist Andy Hobson (later with the Pretenders) briefly joined the group for their second new single, Secrets, released in September, 1989. A surprisingly polished demo version of the song is available as a bonus track on the CD single, which sounds closer to a fully-formed, elaborately produced alternate version of the single rather than a demo.
The Primitives' second album, Pure, was released in October, 1989. Expanding on the strengths of Lovely, Pure featured strong melodies, more complex production, and greater variation in the sounds employed. In addition to production work Paul Sampson played bass for much of the album.
Whereas the stage design for previous tours had been limited to the placement of a car onstage (a play on "Crash"), the November, 1989 UK tour for Pure featured stage decorations with childlike drawings of flowers, clouds, and the sun. Paul, Tracy and Tig were joined by Andy Hobson (bass) and Clive Layton (keyboards) for the tour, which included the Pale Saints as an opening act. Those who were fortunate enough to attend shows during this period were treated to the performance of a an unrecorded song, "You Don't Know."
The band followed the UK tour with several headlining dates in the US prior to a undertaking a major North American tour in support of the Sugarcubes in February and March of 1990. The Primitives finished the year by touring Japan and contributing a cover of Elvis Presley's "(You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care" to The Last Temptation of Elvis tribute.
Breaking their long association with Paul Sampson, the band began to record new studio material with producer Ian Broudie, a musician with Big In Japan and the Lightning Seeds and producer of many notable artists, including the Colourfield, Echo & the Bunnymen, and Alison Moyet. While the new songs were clearly recognizable as PJ Court compositions, the production work by Broudie brought out a fuller, denser sound than before. This was particularly in evidence on the first new single, the phenomenal You Are The Way. Released in the UK in July, 1991, it is inconceivable that this song was not a top-5 hit. Amazingly, even the Primitives agreed with this assessment, telling the NME, "It's the best thing we've done." A promotional UK 12" featured "You Are The Way (September Mix)," remixed by the Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie, named after the Cocteau's London studio, September Sound. An additional 12" was pressed with a club remix called the "Re-Ravishing" mix, but was never distributed due to concerns over use of a Transglobal Underground sample (though it did surface on the internet years later).
The band had begun a 25-date UK tour in June/July 1991 to promote the new single, retaining Clive Layton on keyboards and adding Neil Champion on bass. The tour included a variety of coastal venues, and featured some particularly unconventional choices, such as playing at a wine bar on the Isle of Wight and at the pier in Portsmouth.
The second new release, the Spells 7"/12" EP, came out in October, 1991. The band's 12th single was the first to feature Paul's vocals on the lead track, "Earth Thing," with an accompanying video with a rare spotlight on the group's songwriter. The EP also featured two hypnotic tracks sung by Tracy, "Empathise" and "Haunted," as well as a second song by Paul, "Under My Spell." A limited 12" featured live versions of "All the Way Down" and "Way Behind Me" from the Moles show in Bath. Toward the end of 1991, the band's version of the Christmas classic "Silent Night" appeared on the independent compilation A Lump Of Coal.
The last single from the album, Lead Me Astray, was released in March, 1992. As enjoyable as the A-side of the single was, an additional reward lay on the B-sides. A full eight live tracks from the Bath Moles show were released on the various formats of the single: "Outside," "You Are the Way," "Slip Away," "Earth Thing," "See Thru the Dark," "Stop Killing Me," "Sick Of It," and "Give This World to You."
In April, 1992, the Primitives' final album was released. Galore was a very different work from it's predecessors. Though it is still quite recognizable as a Primitives album, the songs feature different guitar effects, greater use of subtle harmonies, more integration of keyboards into the songs, and more prominent bass lines. In addition to the singles, Galore featured extremely strong album tracks, particularly "Kiss Mine," "Give This World to You," and "See Thru the Dark." The album closed with a cover of the Nightcrawlers' garage classic "The Little Black Egg."
Like the singles that preceded it, RCA decided not to release Galore in the United States. Many fans in the US were unaware that the album even existed. It is impossible to know what kind of chart success the singles and album would have had if they had been available in the US market, though their potential was strong. The band was in the unenviable position of having excellent material to promote but being unable to effectively do so due to the size of the venues they were playing and the lack of support from their label. The band recorded a cover of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra's "Some Velvet Morning," releasing it as a white label promo in 1993. The single received extensive airplay on nighttime radio in the UK, though at the time no one realized it was the Primitives. In the face of these challenges the group ultimately decided to disband in 1993.
Fortunately for fans, the demise of the band did not mean that no new releases would be forthcoming. In 1994 the group's biggest hit was remixed as "Crash - The Ô95 Mix," and was included on the excellent soundtrack to the atrocious film Dumb And Dumber. The 1994 Bombshell collection featured singles, acoustic versions of singles, B-sides and compilation appearances, and a demo of "Crash". In 1996 The Best of the Primitives was released, a 21 track collection of the band's singles and key album tracks. Several of the band's live sessions for the BBC were collected on the 1998 compilation Bubbling Up.
In the mid-2000s a series of new collections began to appear. The Thru The Flowers: The Anthology collection on Castle Music in September, 2004, featured the songs from the first four Lazy singles previously gathered on the Lazy 86-88 collection, along with a mix of singles and rarities. The Buzz Buzz Buzz collection released by Neptune in May of 2005 was a reissue of the BBC sessions from Bubbling Up. The similarly-named double disc collection on Castle Music, Buzz Buzz Buzz: The Complete Lazy Recordings from August, 2006, included the four Lazy singles, "Nothing Left (First Version)" from the 1987 Sonic Sounds 2 EP, BBC Sessions from Janice Long (June 17, 1986), Andy Kershaw (July 17, 1986), and John Peel (October 15, 1986 and April 13, 1987), and 14 tracks from a 19897 concert at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London.
After the Primitives split Paul went on to form the group Starpower with Neil Champion on bass and Tig on drums. Their 7" single Turn My World was released in 1993 as part of the Rough Trade Singles Club, a subscription program which provided patrons with one single each month. "Turn My World" was an energetic pop song, highly influenced by the Velvet Underground. The B-side of the single was a cover of the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band's "I Won't Hurt You." Tracy joined the group for their 1994 12" single Drifter, singing with Paul on a pair of masterfully produced psychedelic tracks. The title song uses ephemeral keyboards to good effect without diminishing the energy of the track. The B-side to the single was Primitives' cover of the Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra track "Some Velvet Morning," previously released as a white label promo in 1993.
In its later form Starpower added Rob Lord on keyboards and John O'Sullivan on guitar/vocals. This lineup eventually evolved into Hedy, retaining Paul Court, Neil Champion, and John O'Sullivan, with Richard Williams on drums. In 1996 Hedy released their only recorded work, the Superfine CD single. Superfine saw the band reunited with producer Paul Sampson, to great effect. The title track was without a doubt one of Paul Court's best compositions, and his best vocal performance as well. Unfortunately, Hedy had an even shorter life than Starpower, disbanding soon after it was formed. Paul Court subsequently turned to graphic arts, pursuing photography and taking up painting.
In 1998 Tracy contributed vocals to Pink Bomb's trance single Indica, which was released in multiple remixed versions. The extended trance of "Indica" contrasted sharply with the short, tight, noisy pop songs that made the Primitives famous, but it turns out that Tracy's voice is well suited to both styles. In 2002 she returned to the dance world, providing vocals for the "Seahorse" track by breakbeat DJ's Slackers Delight.
Steve Dullaghan tragically died in February of 2009, and in the aftermath of his passing the members of the Primitives vowed to keep in touch, and some weeks later they made the decision to reform. Paul Court, Tracy and Tig Williams drafted Raph Moore on bass. The band played their first gig at the opening of the Coventry Music Exhibition on October 2, 2009, followed soon after by a show at London's Buffalo Bar on October 9. The positive reception to these shows led a short tour of the UK in April of 2010, and a single date in the United States, at the Bell House in New York, followed by scattered UK dates the rest of the year. Inspired by their newfound success, the band began recording new material working with their original producer, Paul Sampson.
The first new recordings were released on March 7, 2011, as the Never Kill a Secret EP. Issued as a 7" and digital download (also pressed as a promotional CD), the EP kicks off with the stellar originals "Rattle My Cage" and the title track, matched with a pair of covers, "Breakaway" by Toni Basil, and "Need All the Help I Can Get" by Suzi Jane Hokom. The band undertook a brief UK tour to support the EP, and continued recording.
A cover of the song "The Witch" was offered as a digital download by Elefant Records, as a special "Halloween Mix," appropriately enough on October 31, 2011, followed by the Turn Off the Moon EP on April 16, 2012, available only as a digital download, including three covers: the title track, originally by Sue Lyon from the 1962 film Lolita, "Can't Stop the Want," by famed go-go dancer Sandy Sarjeant, and Toni Basil's "Breakaway," previously issued on the Never Kill a Secret EP. A video for "Turn Off the Moon" was produced, showing the band playing while Tracy sings while coyly sitting up on a half-moon.
The covers on the singles foreshadowed the band's forthcoming album, Echoes and Rhymes, a collection of obscure Ô60s and '70s songs sung by female vocalists. Released on April 23, 2012, the album included Jackie DeShannon's "Till You Say You'll Be Mine" and Nico's "I'm Not Sayin'," among a host of lesser-known names. Other highlights included "Panic" by the New York girl group Reparata & the Delrons, Sue Lyon's's "Turn off the Moon," and "The Witch" by Adam and Eve. Videos were produced for "Panic," with suitably psychedelic colors and retro video clips, "I'm Not Sayin'," a rare chance to see Paul on lead vocals, and "Sunshine in My Rainy Day Mind."
A tour of the UK followed in May of 2012, and the band closed the year by contributing the sardonic "You Trashed My Christmas" to the Elefant Records Christmas compilation, A Christmas Gift For You From Elefant Records.
A new single, Lose the Reason, was released on February 18, 2013, as a limited 7" and digital download. A video was filmed for the track by director Chris Croft, using a split screen to perfectly capture the dichotomy depicted in the lyrics. The single featured the B-side, "Always Coming Back," a mellower counterpoint.
On March 25, 2013, Everything's Shining Bright: The Lazy Recordings 1985-1987on Cherry Red Records gathered all the Lazy Records releases previously included on the collections Lazy 86-88 and Buzz Buzz Buzz: The Complete Lazy Recordings, adding three early demos, an entire live concert at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London, on August 15, 1987, and seven unreleased tracks from recording sessions in late summer of 1987 which were intended for the band's debut album on Lazy, to be called Everything's Shining Bright, which were shelved when RCA signed the Primitives. All of the seven tracks were re-recorded for the band's actual debut, Lovely.
As if the treasures on Everything's Shining Bright weren't enough, on June 18, 2013 Lovely was reissued in a special 25th anniversary edition on Cherry Red Records. In addition to the original album a bonus disc was included featuring "Way Behind Me"/ "All the Way Down," the single versions of " I'll Stick With You" and "Out of Reach," Crash 12" single B-sides "Things Get in Your Way" and "Crash (Demo)," the acoustic version of "Way Behind Me," the "Beat Version" of "All the Way Down," and live renditions of "Dreamwalk Baby," "Really Stupid," and "Crash."
2013 was also the year of the festival for the Primitives, with the band appearing at the Minifestival de Musica Independent de Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain, the South Pop Festival in Seville, Spain, the Wales Goes Pop! 2013 festival in Cardiff, Wales, El Festival Do Norte in Arousa, Spain, and the Scared To Get Happy festival in London.
It is all too rare an occurrence that there is a second act for a band as full of promise as the Primitives so clearly were. Freed of the struggles of compromise and record company politics, the band are back to a D.I.Y. ethic that recalls their origins with Lazy Records. It remains to be seen where the Primitives go from here, but it is evident they will be charting their own course.
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