Track 18: Rocks, Primal Scream

Give Out But Don’t Give Up, 1994

Rocks.

A word with an impressive musical legacy. AC/DC had whiskey on them. Mick Jagger could only get his off when dreaming or sleeping. J-Lo advised us not to be fooled by hers, while both Neil Diamond and The Darkness made love on them. The latter with no ice.

The singular has an even more colourful backstory. David Essex asked us to rock on, Timberlake instructed us to rock our bodies, the Clash suggested we did it to (possibly at) the Casbah. Jacko wanted to rock with us, while Queen generously offered to do the heavy lifting. There are no doubt hundreds more, and that’s before we even start on rocking, rock n’ roll, Rockaway Beach, Rockin’ Chair, the Rock Steady Crew

It’s almost as if the music fraternity have identified a short, highly malleable term and bandied it about to avoid having to think of more original and meaningful lyrics. And we let them get away with it, fools that we are.

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Rock Lobster, there’s another one. Although I have an incurable dislike of the B-52s.

Primal Scream’s demands were clear: to get our rocks off. They even gave clear instructions as to what to do next (shake ‘em) and where the procedure should take place (down town). And they expressed all of this in one of the least complicated melodies ever composed, just two notes, on repeat. Yet sometimes the genius is the simplicity: it’s one of the most memorable choruses of the nineties, maybe of all time. Sing the first part to anyone in the street, and I predict at least three-quarters will sing the rest back to you, albeit it with a mildly surprised expression.

Perhaps it’s so simple because Primal Scream had exhausted themselves writing the verses. It’s not every tune that manages to crowbar analysis of crime, prostitution, addiction, economics, STDs, voyeurism, alcoholism and religion into little more than three and a half minutes.

Crocodile Rock. How did I forget that one?

As I’ve mentioned before, there was so damn much fantastic music around in the Nineties that it was hard to keep on top of it all, and some inevitably slipped by. Primal Scream were one such band for me. I always liked what I heard, kept promising myself I would delve a little deeper, but time and money were against me. I never even owned Screamadelica, which was a fixture on most CD racks two decades ago.

I did see them live, though, at T in the Park in 2002. They came on before Oasis and to say they blew them out of the water would be like saying Luke left a scratch or two on the Death Star. They were sensational; any band would have struggled to follow them.

Right, that’s it for this week. I have a new baby to change and a book to promote.

Let’s get the rock out of here.

Top three Primal Scream tracks (with the caveat I don’t know their back catalogue all that well – feel free to suggest others):

T in the Park 1994