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.