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Music

The strange reason Stephen Street stopped working with Primal Scream

Music is full of weird and wonderful stories. There’s something about musicians, particularly our favourite ones, where it comes almost as a guarantee that they have a host of madcap tales to tell, given their inherent penchant for not conforming to social mores. 

While this may not be the case so much these days, given that the futility of a ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ lifestyle and excessive behaviour has been thoroughly proven, in the extensive annals of music, there still exist numerous instances where we, the consumer, can heed just how pervasive this kind of lifestyle was.

Be it the 1950s or 2000s, musicians seem to have an uncanny ability, compounded by drugs and alcohol, to get themselves involved in capers that even the Carry On team would deem inconceivable. The stories of rock ‘n’ roll excess from the golden age of rock music, the 1960s and ’70s, have been told many times and are, quite frankly, overdone. 

Then if you move into the more modern decades, this hedonistic spirit still pervaded, even if the classic rock generation had provided many glaring examples of the dangers of excess. One could maybe even argue that the 1990s was perhaps the most excessive decade for music and culture to date. Hedonism ran wild and, aided by the optimism that the end of The Cold War and the advent of ecstasy brought, the decade partied into the next Millenium, with plenty of its own casualties. 

No record label summed this excess up more than Creation Records. Run by the brilliant but manic Alan McGee, the label was responsible for giving us Oasis, My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream and many more. If there was any band or artist doing anything worthwhile in the late 1980s and ’90s Britain, it was inevitable that they were on Creation.

In his 2013 memoir, Creation Stories, McGee recounted one of the more bizarre vignettes from his time as creation head honcho. This one involved Scottish rockers Primal Scream barricading themselves in a studio cottage with mattresses and threatening to pour boiling water over anyone who dared to enter.

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The band had spent a frustrating four weeks attempting to record their debut album with celebrated producer Stephen Street, who had helped bring the records of The Smiths to life. However, nothing was working, and it all got too much. This barricade was the final straw, and Street called time on the project. 

When asked about the instance by NME, Street said: “It wasn’t as bad as that! Though I’ve blanked a lot of it from my mind! It was just one of those sessions that didn’t quite work. There was a lot of arguing within the band. Being in the middle of that as a producer was hard to deal with and I was still young and learning my trade.”

He explained: “The band weren’t fully ready and Bobby (Gillespie) wasn’t the strongest of singers at the time either. There was so much negativity flying around that we called it a day. But they proved, in the end, they could do it – I remember hearing ‘Velocity Girl’ (in 1986) and I couldn’t work out where it came from, because nothing we were doing even came close to it.”

It’s a shame that Primal Scream and Street never managed to work things out, as, on paper, that would have made one hell of a record. Nevertheless, both would go on to have highly celebrated careers. In 1991, Primal Scream released the zeitgeist capturing Screamadelica, and Street went on to produce all of Blur’s most celebrated records. Some things just aren’t meant to be.