The PrimevalsInterviews, papers, photos, misc.

It's planned to regularly add updates from Primevals' members
to be completed... come back

On 10 Nov 97 at 14:23, Alex Piandes wrote (in Bomp archives):
They were a comet from 84 to 88.
They are really special, mainly raw, dirty bluesy and trash with an incredible nasty slide guitar. may be a croos between the first Gun Club, some of the Cramps and 16 Horsepower (when they are not country).



Michael Rooney, february 2001

You had several gigs with the Gun Club ...

We played a few shows with the Gun Club and alsowith Jeffrey solo period. It is great to be able to somehow express some of my warmth toward my love for his music. They were truely an amazing group totally underated. I met him quite a few times, he was a truely captivating character.

You've played in a band called The Fatalistics

The Fatalistics were actually the Primevals playing cover versions : it was really quite funky. I dig and need the funk. I love Hendrix, Funkadelic, Sly, Marvin, Curtis, James Brown, Bootsy et al. It is in the blood, the soul is in the blood.

The Primevals did a cover of Suicide [Diamonds, Furcoat, Champagne : on Play New Rose For Me, a tribute to each other on New Rose Records]

I saw Suicide supporting The Clash in 1977 : this show was amazing for the hatred the audience showed
towards the group, so much so that a tomahawk landed on the centre of the stage. Then about 4 times in the late 80's plus a couple of Alan Vega shows. I really think they are a really important group. When I suggested we record the song 'Diamonds,Furcoat, Champagne' on the New Rose tribute we thought it would be different for us to try such a song with no guitars on it to see what we could do. There is some brilliant alto sax from a friend : Frank Hughes, it is quite thunderous.
Michael Rooney, january 2001

Tell us about The Primevals of the 3rd millenium ?
Are you still touring and recording .... projects ?

Right now The Primevals are not doing an awful lot. We played on Dec 23 at our favourite bar at the end of the street called McChuills. It was a really great gig. We rehearse from time to time and are working [slowly] on some new songs. We would like to do more but there does not seem to be a lot of interest. I would also like to release the unreleased songs which have been recorded over the last few years. I would like to record some new songs soon but we will see.....

How was that : A pure Rock'n'Roll band in Great Britain, where it's more relevant to be electronic or more trendy ? you were more kind of swamp than any Londonian hype ?

I started the band with a view to try something earthy with an approach that was uncomprimising. I was definately influenced by many artists but saw something lacking at least as far as Glasgow was concerned. Glasgow was full of bands looking to get a record deal the music was insipid really bland, clean and soulless. We had the typical gang mentality that you need and we just wanted to make some noise yet have good tunes. There was a swamp thing for sure maybe it was like our version of 'The Clyde is my Delta' with a little Tony Joe White thrown in who knows. We tried to weld a kind of musical cross fertilisation of different styles. When we jammed we tried to get close to that jazz ethic of the spiritualty, someone like Pharoah Sanders fused with the sonic screeching of the MC5, I dont know if we captured any of this but that was the aim.

Iggy said once (maybe in 1977) something like "PunkRock is a term invented by heartless people, full of disgust; that people do not even imagine that we make our music with our blood and sweat".
You had also a strong blues influence.

Iggy was really crucial, his ideas were really important he had the same ideas ages earlier but the blues thing was really prevalent in our music too.
Blues was really influencial. The earliest music I heard and loved was Stones, Animals, Them. They showed such wonderful interpretations of these tunes. I was blown away by seeing a Muddy Waters show in Glasgow soon after. In 1967 I bought Jimi Hendrix 'Are You Experienced?' in Biarritz, France and music really started to sound so amazing.
Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, I must have seen about 15 times you could say I was a true fan. 'Trout Mask Replica' is my favourite record of all time. All of this shaped my ideas. So I thought about all the music that was around in 82/83 and even though I was not a particularly good musician I decided to get the band together really for some fun to hear how it could sound.

How did came things with New Rose in France ?

We put out a 45 on our own label New Rose stocked it thinking it was John Felice from the Real Kids new band but they liked it and on hearing some stuff we had recorded on our own, decided to add some songs for the mini-lp 'Eternal Hotfire'. It did quite well.

How did you met Richard Mazda ?

We met Richard Mazda in London as we liked his work with the Scientists and the Fleshtones. He became a good friend even joining us on and off for years.

I've also read that you happend to play with David Johansen ... how was that ?

We did lots of shows with Gun Club, Cramps and David Johansen at old Dingwalls in London: he just breezed in so loud and funny he was fine. I really like his new Harry Smiths record.

Michael, you've made some solo recordings ....

I have done a lot of stuff at home nothing released on my own but I would like to do a real slow dark quieter record sometime who knows?

What are you listening to at this moment ?

Blues Explosion and Johnny Cash, well he is not so new but I like his new record.

e-nterview per email, jes

Tom Rafferty, january 2001

The Primevals was a pure Rock'n'Roll band ... Is it more easy to be R'n'R in Scotland ? How was the scene there ?

I met Michael Rooney in 1982. He was running a record stall, "Primitive Records" and I was buying them!. He helped me really get back into rock and roll and introduced me to a lot of great music. I was already a big Ramones fan, and I saw the Cramps in 1979 and Robert Gordon with Link Wray around the same time - those gigs were all big influences on me. He was pointing me in the direction of the New York Dolls, The Fleshtones, Elvis, The Gun Club, Iggy - American music. As we got to know each other better, I started working on the stall. He needed a guitar player for the band he was starting - I jumped at the chance.
He already had Rhod Burnett lined up, and we got a couple of Michael's friends to help us get going - Malcom McDonald on bass and Kevin Key on guitar. They were both good guys, who had played in a bunch of bands before.

There was quite a rocking scene going on - as I remember it, anyway!
When we started playing gigs, there was a pretty good range of places for bands to play - lots of pubs put bands on and there was a thriving club scene, too. Over the first year we branched out from playing in Glasgow to include Edinburgh, Dundee, Stirling, Aberdeen, Dunfermline, Kelso ... and London.
We had a few line-up changes early on and settled fairly quickly with John Honeyman on bass and Don Gordon on guitar. We played whenever we could and had great fun running around charged up on rock & roll!

Pretty soon I was sharing a flat with Michael and Malcolm - later John Honeyman moved in, too. The place was always on the go. The phone never stopped ringing when we had a gig that day, and there were always other people dropping in, saying hi, hanging out. [You can see the hall of that flat on the back sleeve of "Elixir of Life".]

There were quite a few other bands in Glasgow and around Scotland at that time who had at least some things in common with us, like James King & The Lonewolves, The Kissing Bandits - guys who were rockers.

What was the strongest influences of the band ? What music were you listening to ?

I was listening to The Saints, Jerry Lee Lewis, the MC5, The Gun Club, The Cramps, Link Wray, Johnny Thunders, Jimmy Reed. The Stooges were a big influence, too.
Michael has always had a great record collection so he was listening to a wide range - he'll tell you more. Rhod was listening to the Nuggets collection, the Fleshtones, and is also a huge jazz fan - Art Pepper, Louis Armstrong. There was a lot of Captain Beefheart around, too, and Howlin Wolf.

What do you remember from the Primevals era ? from the gigs ?
you played with the Gun Club, with David Johansen...

I have very happy memories of my times with the band - we had great fun, and we left behind some good records. Some of the best fun were gigs where we would just do covers - one night we played at a party and we played Roadrunner, My Baby Does the Hanky Panky, Down on the Street, Rumble, Louie Louie, Break on Through ... but it also mattered that we played our own songs. Whenever we played a cover, Michael would always tell the crowd whose song it was - I think that was cool.

It was also great to support the Gun Club - October 84 - and David Johansen - January 85. The gig in Paris on that tour was very special, too. We had been on the road for a while by then.

We often started with an instrumental - I'm Branded, or The Rumble. Later, we used Eternal Hotfire. It was a great feeling standing there in black leather blasting out primitive rock & roll. I remember one gig at the Art School in Glasgow - we started with The Rumble, and that went down a storm. Then Michael ran onstage (he was waiting in the wings), and when he grabbed the microphone stand it fell apart - and it got wilder from then on! There were a lot of broken strings that night - I was a very heavy-handed guitar player then.

Some of the gigs were pretty wild, and sometimes we didn't get as good a reaction as we should have, but we went out and did it. Often when we played a town for the second time we would see people coming back to see us and they would bring their friends. Later on, when the Beat Poets were gigging around Scotland people would ask me about the Primevals, and a lot of Scottish musicians I have met later on have told me that seeing the Primevals being a real wild rockin band was a big influence on them.

I actually left the band twice - the first time (February 85) I was exhausted and wanted to do some other things with my life. I was still living in the flat with all the guys, and I helped out at gigs looking after guitars sometimes. I ended up re-joining in August that year - Michael asked me "If we were stuck for a guitar player could you help us out for a wee while ?" I said yes straightaway, and played a gig 4 days later, after one rehearsal. Most of the set that night was new to me (and the band hadn't played much of it live either) - it became the Soundhole album. That period was the recording of the Janice Long session, the recording of Soundhole, and some great gigs.
When I left the band, in January, Malcom McDonald joined and he was playing a lot of slide. I was mainly playing rhythm, and I loved being back. The band started getting really busy again and much as I enjoyed it, the band needed someone who would drop everything to drive 300 miles for a gig and that wasn't me anymore. I had been back for about 5 months. I left before the band went to Europe to support the Cramps. Keith Bruce, who ended up forming the Beat Poets with me, drove the van for some of that tour - he crashed it on the first night!. It was a pretty wild time.
I went out to Paris to see them in March 85 - it was great! Alex Chilton was first on, then the Primevals, then the Cramps. I saw Chilton the following night at The Rex, as well.

Do you still meet the other members of The Primevals ?

I still see John Honeyman fairly often - for a long time he & Malcom & I all lived near each other - Paul Bridges, too. Paul was in the original lineup of the Beat Poets, but left in early 1987 to join the Primevals - I totally understood why. Paul drums on the "Glasgow, Howard Missouri" EP.
Rhod lives in London, I think - the last time I saw him was at a Primevals gig in Glasgow a few years ago - it was great to see him again. When I can, I go to see the band. I also played a couple of gigs on guitar with Michael, John & Paul when the guitar players in the band they had for a while (The Fatalistics) were double-booked. The gigs went well - River Deep Mountain High, Shakin Street, One Night, and some old Primevals tunes. We still bump into each other at gigs now and again - when we go to see people like the Rollins Band or the Blasters. It's always good to catch up with the guys again.

Which were the bands you apprecieted in the 80's ... which are they in the 3rd millenium ?

In terms of bands I liked in the 80s - not many 80s bands! My constants have been The Ramones, The Stooges, Link Wray, Dick Dale, The Raybeats, Them. And then other music - John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Glenn Branca, Rhys Chatham, Otis Redding, James Carr, Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf ...

As well as the bands above, we listened to a lot of music - The Nomads, James Brown, Television, The Doors, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Suicide. And there were always great one-off singles, people like Johnny Restivo, Sanford Clark, all the Nuggets bands .... I got more and more into instrumental rock & roll and especially surf music, so that's what I ended up playing in The Beat Poets. We formed in 1986, put records out, played on TV, did the music for a BBC program called Ran Dan. John Honeyman joined us in the early 90s - our original bass player moved on. John has been pretty constant since then.

Right now I'm listening to more jazz than anything else. Monk, Coltrane, Sun Ra. I'm playing guitar in a band which plays Thelonious Monk tunes - that's a stretch but good fun. But I will still crank up the Saints or the Stooges! And the
Beat Poets have had a rest and are rehearsing again soon. So I'll be digging out Jon & The Nightriders, Dick Dale, the Bottleups, the Fantastic Baggies, Lonnie Mack ...

e-nterview per email, jes

SCOTCH & SLIDE & Rock’N’Roll
from Nineteen (the best ever french magazine) / N°25, fev.88
by Alain Feydri

1985, photo Youri Lenquette
Avant le plongeon dans la saga des Primevals, une nouvelle tombe à l’instant : Richard Mazda, le producteur de leurs derniers disques, s’est décidé à passer de l’autre côté du miroir. Et un primitif de plus, un.

eureusement, en attendant d’hypothétiques jours meilleurs, Glasgow, leur ville, offre aux Primevals, un following substantiel et généreux qui ne leur fera sûrement pas défaut quand ils fêteront, au printemps prochain, leurs cinq ans d’activité. Au moins, Mickey Rooney ne doit-il pas regretter le temps pas si lointain où il dealait des disques d’occase - rien que du bon - sur les planches branlantes d’un étal de week-end. La position idéale, stratégiquement parlant, pour recruter le noyau dur d’un groupe le batteur Rhod "Lefty" Burnett et Malcolm McDonald, aujourd’hui guitariste mais qui tenait la basse lors des premières apparitions publiques de la bande. A leurs côtés, Kevin Key à la six cordes, un amide Rooney, et Tom Rafferty qui partira juste après le premier album et sera remplacé sans surprise par le déjà mentionné McDonald, absent du disque. L’autre gratteux à l’époque est un dénommé Don Gordon qui les mettra à l’automne 85, tandis que le bassiste Rodeo" John Honeyman est, lui, fidèle au poste depuis "Where Are You", premier single du groupe, un autoproduit qui voit le jour sur Raucous Records à la mi-84.

Son tirage confidentiel n’empêche pas un bon accueil de la presse locale, relayée par quelques fanzines de pointe, ricochets qui finissent par amener le groupe à la porte du 7 de la rue Pierre Sarrazin. C’est donc en France que paraît le bien nommé Eternal Hotfire. Une demi-douzaine de morceaux sur lesquels le gang affiche tempérament et maturité, dans une veine, il est vrai, peu exploitée Outre-Manche. Un rock sombre, marécageux, qui évoque les Cramps, le Gun Club, le delta blues des rafales de guitares au milieu desquelles se détache la gouaille de Mickey dont la voix est pour beaucoup dans le verdict final. Et dès le second titre, "Blues At My Door", apparaissent ces giclées de slide maintenant devenues la marque du groupe, presque sa signature. Tout ici ou presque (Rafferty a filé un coup de main pour deux morceaux) est de la plume de Rooney, et si tout n’est pas de premier choix (anodin "See The Tears Fall"), il y a du très grand, notamment ce "Have Some Fun", meilleure plage de la rondelle. Les jalons sont posés pour la suite.
Le disque leur vaut, chez nous et dans toute l’Europe, leurs premières poignées d’inconditionnels persuadés d’avoir sur le pick-up les premiers pas d’un grand groupe. Tous ont en tête cette phrase du premier titre, quand Rooney clame à qui veut bien l’entendre "I’m looking for a love and my emancipation". Ils n’auront pas longtemps à attendre. Les cinq Ecossais lancent en effet un raid sur l’Hexagone. Bref et discret (une date à Paris, une autre àToul), mais tout de même. Dans la foulée, ils retournent au Park Lane Studio de Glasgow pour un single explosif, "Living ln Hell"/"Walking In My Footsteps", la B-side étant créditée au batteur, et donnant lieu sur la pochette à une abracadabrante comptine d’introduction dans laquelle il est beaucoup question de marais, de chasseurs, de serpents, de guêpes et de mauvaises herbes. Fans déclarés de blues, les Primevals ; et même si dans la forme, ils s’éloignent pas mal des douze mesures, l’essence de plus d’un de leurs titres renvoie directement à certains de leurs maîtres comme John Lee Hooker ou Lightning Hopkins. Quand on dit qu’ils font du rock swampy, faut ajouter qu’ils y mettent du leur.

C’est donc assez naturellement qu’on les retrouve ensuite en support act sur plusieurs dates de la tournée anglaise du Gun Club. Ils descendent même à Londres pour l’occasion, et y jouent en compagnie de David Johansen, touchant au passage un public légèrement élargi, ce qui les conduit tout droit, en septembre 85, dans les studios de Radio One, où ils sont les invités de John Peel. Un maxi tiré de l’émission sera commercialisé l’année suivante ; l’occasion d’entendre le groupe exécuter, trois mois avant l’enregistrement de Sound Hole, quatre titres de ce futur second album; versions d’ailleurs très proches de celles qui figureront sur le Lp, à l’exception peut-être de "Dish of Fish" qui sera bien élagué dans sa mouture définitive.

Pourtant, quand les Primevals se présentent sur la ligne de départ du nouveau trente, c’est à l’état de quatuor, Gordon étant parti on ne sais trop où. Rooney et les autres battent alors le rappel des vieilles connaissances et, l’espace des sessions, Tom Rafferty redevient un Primeval à part entière, apportant comme dot sa myopie et sa passion pour la surf music. Sound Hole est aussi l’occasion d’une rencontre plus qu’heureuse, celle d’une poignée d’Ecossais entêtés et d’un producteur yankee en exil. Pour l’aficionado éplucheur de pochettes, Richard Mazda n’est alors que l’homme qui a dirigé les Fleshtones sur Roman Gods et Hexhreaker. A ses nouveaux protégés, il va donner leur vraie dimension. Sound Hole ne fait pas de cadeaux et aligne sans coup férir onze perles truffées de slide guitars vagabondes, et de refrains cogneurs "Prairie Chain", "See That Skin", "Spiritual", le renversant "Nutmeg City", et puis "St Jack" le magnifique, déjà présent sur les Peel Sessions et qui finira même au répertoire des bordelais Flying Badgers. Comme quoi, malgré tout, les Primevals ne s’adressent pas qu’à des sourds. Quelque temps plus tard, New Rose éditera un 25 cm trois titres avec "Elixir Of Love" tiré de l’album et un duo d'inédits puisés dans les séances de décembre 85.

En Angleterre, on voit alors le groupe jouer en compagnie des Scientists et des Fleshtones, après avoir assuré la première partie des Cramps lors de leur tournée européenne de mai 86. Le tour débute à cinq, avec un guitariste de renfort, mais la recrue ne fait pas longtemps l’affaire et le groupe s’en débarrasse en Belgique après quelques dates seulement. Ce n’est que partie remise. A l’été Gordon Goudie est enrôlé à la guitare. On le retrouvera au printemps suivant, au menu du nouveau maxi du groupe.
Renouant avec 1e studio de Park Lane, toujours en compagnie de Mazda, les Primevals réservent cette fois-ci une surprise de taille à leurs fans, le titre fort du nouveau disque, "Heya" étant une reprise vigoureuse d’un vieux tube des années 60 (original par J.J. Light), gros succès radiophonique de l’époque. Les Ecossais lui donnent une seconde jeunesse, lui offrant un emballage rutilant qui malheureusement ne suffira pas pour voir ce refrain barbare ré-escalader les hit-parades. Question d’air du temps. Sur le maxi, le groupe a pourtant glissé un "Heya, part 2" bien déjanté qui justifierait à lui seul l’achat du skeud si on n’y trouvait aussi un extraordinaire original de Rooney, "Down Where The Madness Grows".

"Heya" n’est pas pour autant la première reprise que les Primevals aient gravée. Quelques mois auparavant, ils avaient déjà revisité le "Diamond, Furcoat, Champagne" de Suicide pour les besoins de la compilation Plav New Rose For Me, un titre qui, depuis septembre, est également offert en prime aux acquéreurs de "Live a Little", le nouvel album. Celui-ci est la suite parfaite de Sound Hole. Moins poisseux, peut-être, mais fort de morceaux qui vous mangent un peu plus le carafon à chaque écoute. C’est encore et toujours Mazda qui pointe à la console, plus impliqué que jamais même, puisqu’on le voit crédité de parties d’orgues Hammond, de chœurs et de percussions, et qu’il va jusqu’à prendre en charge personnellement le design de la pochette. La face 1, très pleine, est toute illuminée par son troisième titre, "My Dying Embers", irrésistible, et par "Bleedin’ Back", ballade tordue à vous coller le bourdon. L’orgue de Mazda, plus la voix de Rooney en train de toucher le fond... Le real blooze. "Cottonhead" qui débute la face 2 est bien, lui, dans la lignée des "St Jack" et autres "Prairie Chain". Puis c’est "Justify", déjà présent sur le maxi, "Early Grave" où chacun y va de son grain de sel, Honeyman s'époumonant le temps d’un chorus d’harmonica bienvenu même si ce n est pas encore lui qui vous fera oublier Magic Dick, enfin "Burden of the Debt", sans doute le meilleur titre de la bande, qui enroule sous de tranquilles déferlantes de la rythmique, son refrain qui évoque les meilleur des Saints post-punk. D’ailleurs Rooney a bien ce je ne sais quoi qui fait penser à ce vieux corsaire de Bailey. Probablement le chant, qui s’abreuve chez les deux hommes aux mêmes sources: rock and roll et musique noire. Tout ce qu’on peut alors souhaiter aux Primevals c’est de continuer a se bonifier à la façon des Australiens. Nous avons besoin de gens de leur trempe. Et tiens, quand plus haut il était question de ténacité, sachez qu’on a retrouvé cette année la trace de Tom Rafferty qui se consacre aujourd’hui à sa passion, le surf instrumental, au sein des Beat Poets, un quintet dont l’Ep, Glasgow, Howard, Missouri devrait faire passer un bon moment aux amateurs du genre. Et savez quoi

L’homme aux manettes n'est autre que Kevin Key, le tout premier gratteux des Primevals. Le monde est petit, pas vrai ?

The Primevals, 1985, photo Youri Lenquette

David Belcher samples life as a...
to Paris with The Primevals, february 1985

A CREASED map of the French capital; an empty SNCF duty free carrier bag; a handbill advertising the Primevals ("de Glasgow") at Club Opera Night, rue Gramont, Paris; 26 francs, 25 centimes in loose change; a yellowing newspaper article which reveals that the Primevals formed because they were "ennuye par le train-train quotidien" (and, no, they didn’t know what it means, either); a crumpled reporter’s notepad, doubtless belonging to a crumpled reporter, with a perplexing message in starring and irregular block capitals barely recognisable as my own: "AU SECOURS! LA CLEF EST BRISE EN FLOCON! NOUS SOMMES TRAPPE!" … nope, a fortnight hence and it still doesn’t make sense.

in a french landscapeIt had, of course, seemed simple beforehand. Join the Primevals ("de Glasgow") on their short tour of France. Sample life on the road as part of a l0-man rock’n’roll odyssey by van to London, Paris, Toul (the Airdrie of France) and Pagny-derriere-Barine (the derriere of France, but picturesque and friendly with it).

Five gigs inside seven upside-down days and nights, 1600 miles of back-to-front touring (most tours end safely at home rather than 60 miles from Luxembourg) which lost the band around £400 but gained them plenty of new admirers.
Our end result should have been a classic tale et white-line fever. Big beat madness! Wilful mayhem! Trashed hotel rooms! Cadillacs in the swimming pool! Hard days’ nights!
Yes? Well... only a bit, sort of.
What we have here is a moral impasse: how does one present the Primevals as anything other than the wholly decent, thoroughly companionable souls they are without betraying them by making them seem like whiter-than-white refugees from the cast of Summer Holiday and thus not in the grand old tradition of rock’n’roll excess to which their music belongs?

In answer to that let us zero in on, say, the sublime melt-down of their first French gig, in Paris, and moments when (and how to say this without embarrassing them?) the Primevals bore aloft the tattered rock’n’roll standard... music as a statement of rebellion, ecstasy, and anything and everything not readily acceptable in polite circles. In short, the Primevals conserve their rock’n’roll excess for the stage. Any band who trumpet their off-stage notoriety are in the business of delusion and self-deception.

Above all else the Primevals are fans, mindful of fans’ fragile hopes. They are dedicated and preoccupied in their pursuit of the imperfect essence of this rock’n’roll thing, a volatile substance compounded from sweat and -a swaggering spirit of self-sacrifice.

If this is the credo which underpins the performing section of the tour, there are other cock-eyed theories we might use to try to make some sense of our travel and travail, a fatigue-blurred, dream-like jumble of disconnected images and sensations, the recurring questions, "What does it mean?", "Why are we here?" and (most commonly) "Where are we?"

Perhaps we could advance some conceit about rock’n’roll being the last bastion of youth in an era of Reagan-omics, Blake Carrington chic, draconian government cloaked in images of kindly-faced paternalism. This thought was prompted by thr sight of one such grey-haired old eminence trying unsuccessfully to pick up girls in a Paris nightclub.

Deeper into France we continually pass small, well-kept war cemeteries, quiet and dignified memorials. Perhaps it’s the case that where once young people died in uncomprehending international conflict, now they are bound by common foreign non-languages and attitudes, punk Britannia, the esperanto that is Be Bop A Lula.

Any violence is in sonic form (and aimed at overturning the senses rather than harming them) or in the ritualised mayhem of the slam-dancing which Pagny-derriere-Barine’s 12 hard-core consenting punks inflict upon one another at the Primevals’ second, concluding, French gig, a whirl of big boots, spiked hair, studded belts, flailing bodies, split lips.

Yet maybe the only valid principle of the rock’n’roll life is that it entails compulsory hanging about in cold and dirty surroundings for indefinite periods, never knowing exactly where you are or when and whether you’ll be somewhere else; not eating wisely or sufficiently; smoking and drinking too much. A life of too little sleep and money, no bath, no bottle-opener... perhaps it is like the army, only no one gets hurt. Above all, it’s fun. This was it…

We begin the week on home ground on a Saturday night at Glasgow University. Our restrained student hosts seem not to be paying attention, torn between singing rugby songs in the bar or dancing awkwardly to some flat and conservative sounds in the flat and conservative disco downstairs. That’s not where it’s at, chaps. The Primevals relax with a warm-up for the real business.
Sunday is a travelling day. Four of our hired van’s 15 seats have been removed to allow the carriage of drum kit, five guitars, basic amplification, and bags and baggage. It’s comfortable, if cramped.
Over the van’s constant soundtrack of old music (unnamed blues singers, the Doors), new-in-old (the Velvet Underground), and old-in-new music (the Cramps) Tom Rafferty (see cast-list) outlines the Primevals’ code: they are aware that their music - the darker side of the 'sixties refined by 'seventies punk aggression and the grimness of the ‘eighties - fits none of the criteria for current large-scale success.

A bigger record company than their present one (the Paris-based New Rose label who are organising the French section of the week) would demand hits, would demand changes, air-brushed smiles, softer musical options, a general bending to what a big label would see as the public will.
As the Primevals play primarily for their own enjoyment, this course would not be acceptable. "The questions we ask ourselves are: ‘What’s the point in continuing if we don’t enjoy the music?’ and ‘if we were to become mega-successful, would we enjoy living in LA?’ The answer to both is ‘We wouldn’t’."

Their present aim - a deceptively simple one - is to continue as they are, answerable to no one but themselves, although with a measure of financial security, thus avoiding becoming "one of those bands forever on the road, living from gig to gig because they need the money front tonight to buy the petrol to get to tomorrow because they need the money from tomorrow to eat in order to reach the next gig and perhaps get closer to home the day after."

Their LP "Eternal Hotfire" has sold over one thousand copies in Britain inside two months and in excess of three times that amount in Paris alone. French fans, a little outside the mainstream of pop fashion, would seem to prefer the band’s brand of uncompromising deep-roots rock’n’roll, a fact underlined by the sale of 30 copies of the LP in New Roses shop on the morning after their initial French appearance.

This goes some way to alleviating the depression of their first London date. Alice in Wonderland operates on Monday nights in the red-lit rabbit warren thas is Gossip disco in darkest, dankest Soho. Above its basement locale is the Golden Girl Club, a tawdry clip joint marked by fluttering hands behind its wire-mesh windows, unseductive female voices inviting us in to join the false heartiness of the rest of the male clientele. And somewhere - if the neon sign is to believed - somewhere else in this crumbling block is a Chinese restaurant.

Alice’s crowd, reckoned to be among the prime movers and shakers, groovers and fakers of a burgeoning new "scene" - hippy nouveau - are far from welcoming, too. Blase, self-regarding. masked in eye-liner, as mind-expanding as a bri-nylon psychedelic shirt with matching head-band. One of them has their collective version of tte ‘sixties off to a T. Beneath the strips of toilet roll which hang decoratively from the low ceiling he sits with a glazed grin and assails each passer-by with the plea: "Do you have any Acid?"
No band is going to have this lot rocking in the aisles. In addition tonight’s hired sound equipment is practically useless. the Primevals play heroically and inaudibly to polite applause and a few appreciatively nodding heads.

The next night, as support to ex-New York Dolls David Johansen at Dingwall’s, is infinitely better in terms of sound, performance, and audience reaction.

For nearly 20 years Dingwall’s has been a cosily-scuffed music industry haunt, an influential place in which to see and be seen. Tonight we have one of the presenters of BBC2’s Whistle Test, New Rose’s UK representative (who had been far from impressed in Gossips), one of the Alarm (dunno… they all look the same to me) and, acting as supporters, two of the Commotions (Lawrence and Stephen).

    More seasoned, more disparate, the crowd are here for veteran Johansen (who proves unaffectedly charming off stage and prime showbiz all-American ham on it) but allow themselves to be won over by the Primevals’ brash enthusiasm. The Whistle Test man seems baffled as well as impressed, requesting a live tape. At the very end of the night the DJ plays a Primevals’ track. Three somewhat shopsoiled punters breakdance to it with erratic gusto. Success?

Tom Rafferty face to face with the PrimevalsClub Opera Night is a wedding cake with chandeliers, a small ornate erstwhile theatre with its seats removed; an arena for monumental Parisian cool, Gallic self-absorption. No one dances with anyone else or to impress anyone other than him or herself.

Their cool does melt for the Primevals but is swiftly re-imposed when the lads reappear among them at the bar afterwards. Parisians never buy anyone a drink.

Disco Chez Paulette, in effect a village hall attached to back of Pagny-derriere-Barine’s sole pub on its sole street, reels and rocks with the hottest reception and the oddest audience. Singed-looking young punks posture and barge in front of the stage as a severely disabled pipe-smoking old buffer hops about on the off-beat in a preoccupied way among them.
Part youth club, part freak show, the evening is enlivened further by a female punk with a live white rat on her shoulder as a fashion accessory. For a swig of anyone’s beer her boyfriend sticks the rat down his throat, leaving the tail visible ("ah, yes … er, tres bon - no, no you keep the bottle!").

The week’s most abiding memories stem from Chez Paulette. Tom folded double on the floor backstage after the fourth encore, wracked, clutching his chest… George looming impassively on stage to head off an oddball in a ski-jacket who felt the need to express his solidarity with the Primevals by challenging any or all of them to a fight… of Brendan absent-mindedly pushing a wormy little punk off the stage headfirst... of being interviewed in the crowded main bar by a tape-recorder-wielding member of the local support group, the Panics.

The bad, painful memories linger, too. Don being relieved of a bag containing a new pair of jeans and £60-wortit of guitar strings at Dingwall’s. The theft of 100 francs, a watch, and a leather jacket from the Opera Night dressing room. The fearful slagging the Primevals’ LP and onstage demeanour received at the hands of the New Musical Express in two successive editions, stunted, petty, and sneering references to Michael (Mickey, geddit?) Rooney's name and to the band’s retention of their daytime employment (in other lives the band are, variously, studying honours history at Strathclyde University, working in the Virgin Megastore, working as a hospital nursing auxiliary, programming computers).

It was fun, too, largely courtesy of the obscenely apt verbal ripostes and wall-scrawlings of Mr Kenny Bridges. I shall miss not being a part of the Primevals beast and our being stared at in traffic jams.
I shall never forget (nor, I suspect, will I be allowed to) perpetrating what I would like to describe (were I a braver, less accurate man) as the tour’s prime moment of transcendent rock’n’rolI outrage, viz. my wilful snapping of a hotel key in the door lock, an act which led to my encasement for four hours on the day when we were meant to travel home (hence the panic-stricken note in fractured French which was meant to speed my release).
Our one sensible conclusion is thus: buy the Primevals’ LP now, see them at your earliest opportunity (on Friday in fact as support to the Revillos at Glasgow University) because your life will be immeasurably improved by the experience and because we deserve to go to California by Concorde for the next tour.

Oh, and vive le rock’n’roll Primeval - and hang your train-train quotidien, Jack, whatever it is.


George Sinclair — driver, road manager, practical organiser, a man of immense commonsense and presence; the chief reason for our safe passage.

Kenny Bridges — road manager, a one-man inter-continental graffiti blitz on behalf of Motherwell FC

Brendan Moon — tour manager, the possessor of an impressive briefcase and the disconcerting habit of forgetting people’s names ("this is the band… er Jim, Bob … er …")

Michael Rooney — vocalist extraordinaire, a man of quiet intensity and extremely pointed shoes.

Tom Rafferty — guitar, "Does he actually have eyes behind those sunglasses?" a bystander asked.

Don Gordon — guitar, often mistaken (to his increasing annoyance) for Paul McCartney.

Rod Burnett — drums, arrived in Paris with £3 in his pocket, left with the world at his feet (almost).

John Honeyman —bass, a stoic.

Two journalists — a nuisance mostly.


The Primevals time has come

from Sounds, UK / february 16 1985
by Lindsay Hutton

GLASGOW, and indeed Scotland as a whole, seems to have a band in every nook and cranny these days, but the premise that the nation is crawling with musical genius is pure fiction. A figment of infertile minds. It’s my basic mistrust of this ‘explosion’ that’s largely responsible for my taking somewhat too long to clue you in on the emergence of the Primevals.

I’m not about to tout these guys as same great white hope - it’s way too early and generally detrimental to pull that kind of number. A six-track album untitled ‘Eternal Hottire’ has just been released by New Rose and it’s given me a few reasons to feel optimistic. For starters, there’s the strident Peter Gunn-esque, ‘My Emancipation’ and the way they rhyme ‘blaspheme' with ‘hillbilly queen’. Little things, mayhap, that are bound for solid oak. The Primevals’ sound is much more honest than that churned out by the sundry surrogate Velvets around.

So here we are, in a cheesy Glaswegian hostelry. There are four Primevals present and the bar staff are hell bent on polluting my tape machine with the deafening Bronski bash hovering several decibels above our conversation. A hazardous condition, to be sure, but one that had to be endured in order for singer Michael Rooney to clue me in on how long I was in the dark.

"It all began around spring ‘83. I had a stall in the local market called Primitive Records, dealing with second-hand stuff and rock‘n’rolll in general. Tom Rafferty and myself got acquainted through that, and we discovered we had mutual aspirations to get a band together. Then Lefty Burnett got interested. He was with Hela And The Headhunters at the time, so they fell apart and he got on board the Primevals. Don Gordon and John Honeyman appeared soon after, and their addition completed the group."

The debut single ‘Where Are You?' came out on Raucous Records in April 1984. Press wasn’t exactly abundant but the reaction in terms of sales was no slouch. Jello Biaffra (of the Dead Kennedys) found the 45 to be unobtainable in Los Angeles and wrote direct to secure his copy. That gesture, as much as anything, encouraged the band to weather the storm of relative indifference.

"There were people we approached who more or less guaranteed 300-plus of an audience, but they passed us up and ended by booking people like Fiction Factory, who were doing well to scrape 90! Most people don’t set out in the evening primarily to see a band, anyway. Getting bevvied and whatever comes well before any consideration of live entertainment. They see a group as something which interrupts the disco for a little over 30 minutes. That’s not a long time to make an impression.

"We can’t be identified by a specific look or sound. For the Primevals to be dubbed an out-and-out garage band or anything cut-and-dried would be wrong. We’re attempting to encompass a wide range of ideas whilst striving to retain the thread that runs through all the best rock‘n’roll."

SINCE THE dawn of ‘Eternal Hotfire’, gigs have been becoming more frequent. As well as a bunch of shows around Scotland, the boys are about to hit London in the region of Alice In Wonderland’s and Dingwalls. They played the latter once before...

"It was audition night and the reaction was good. Mind you, the other three bands were pretty naff! You could say it was a heckuva way to travel just to get a reaction, but it whetted our appetite to play outside the locale we’re used to. We’re hungry to reach as many people as possible. The bottom line is to put on a good show, and if we make a mistake we’re inclined to repeat it so the audience thinks it’s deliberate. There’s no point in knocking over the PA after four songs or wearing a shirt with ‘F***’ across it. We’re concerned with channelling the energy into positive contact."

What’s going to happen if some smart-ass decides that they’re too derivative and sets out to make an example of them?

"The whole concept of originality these days is ludicrous, " says Michael "There’s every chance that even supposed innovators like Elvis or Hank Williams did a little borrowing here and there. Rock and roll wasn’t heavily reported then. The people who matter don’t listen to music with an originality detector. What is important is the way new life is breathed into primordial ideas.

"We’d like to make same really good records. The kind that it’s hard to talk through while they’re playing."

Are the locals aware of the evolutionary growth?

‘They know we have a reputation but they’re not sure what to do about it. People have begun to shout for our original songs, too. We phased out cover versions a while back and only resurrect them for situations like third encores or a party, "Michael explains.

The spectre of hard graft looming on the horizon isn’t dampening these guys’ spirits none. They know full well the futility of a flash in the pan, and they’re prepared to pay their dues in the time-honoured tradition.

They’re off to France soon. The Primevals will do well there. Maybe they won’t have to rely on day jobs for much longer. The Primevals’ punchy unfront beat just can’t be beat. May they never lose it.

Lindsay Hutton

photo by Alan Donaldson "The cover shot was taken shortly before we went onstage to support the Gun Club in Glasgow, October '84" (same session than photo on Eternal Hotfire sleeve)



taken from Eternal Hotfire - LP

photo by Alan Donaldson

The Primevals

Captain Beefheart's birthday party
The Primevals organised (and played, of course) tribute nights on Captain Beefheart's birthday in january 1999 & 2000 in Glasgow.
Captain Beefheart's birthday party, Glasgow 15/01/99 : photo of the Cobramatics who did the show with The Primevals that night.
the other Primevals :
USA, Boston, 1983 or so (might be after our scottish friends, anyway, that's no problem) : John Felice, just after the Real Kids and the Taxi Boys formed the Primevals (and before reformaing again the Real Kids, and after John Felice & the Lowdowns).
The bostonian Primevals were : John Felice, Alan "Alpo" Paulino, Pete Taylor, and Billy Borgioli. Billy and Pete would later end up in the Classic Ruins together, along with Frank Rowe.
Actually I think they released just one song under that name on a compilation LP.
you may visit Joe Harvard's rockinboston or Real Kids' All kindsa disks
Richard Mazda Mazdaworld! Richard Mazda produced the Primevals, the fleshtones, Birthday Party, Wall of Voodoo : visit his own site

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