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 megaselling 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.