It’s never easy to followup a classic album. Countless bands have discovered that. In 1994, the latest band to realise that were Primal Scream. Three years earlier, at the height of the Acid House era, Primal Scream had released Screamadelica, a fusion of rock and dance music. Released on  23rd September 1991,  Screamadelica reached number eight in Britain, and was certified double platinum. After three albums, Primal Scream had finally made a commercial breakthrough. However, as time passed by Primal Scream realised that  it wasn’t going to be easy to followup Screamadelica.

Following the success of  Screamadelica, Primal Scream headed out on tour, winning over rock and dance music fans simultaneously. However, not everyone was happy. Previously, Primal Scream were a rock ‘n’ roll band. Bobby Gillespie, Primal Scream’s lead singer didn’t even like dance music. He was a died in the wool rock ‘n’ roller. Then he was introduced to the Acid House scene.

Bobby, who revelled in the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, dived in head first. He, like the rest of Primal Scream were embracing Acid House culture. Even after Screamadelica, the party continued. Tales of hedonism were commonplace. So were stories that certain members had flown to close to the sun. Before long, the party had lasted over a  year. Now it was time to record their fourth album, which became Give Out But Don’t Give Up which will be reissued on vinyl by Music On Vinyl as a double album on 23rd March 2015.

For Give Out But Don’t Give Up, Primal Scream’s songwriting team of Bobby Gillespie, Andrew Innes and Robert “Throb” Young penned eleven tracks. The title-track, the trio penned with George Clinton of Funkadelic and Parliament. Recording of the ten tracks began at the Roundhouse Studios, in London in September 1992.

When the Primal Scream arrived at the Roundhouse Studios, their lineup now included vocalist Bobby Gillespie, guitarists Andrew Young and Robert “Throb” Young and keyboardist Martin Duffy. They were augmented by various session musicians and backing vocalists. The sessions were stop start affairs, not helped by the band’s lifestyle. Some of Primal Scream had climbed onboard the horse, and embraced it. This wasn’t ideal for recording an album. It made the recording of Give Out But Don’t Give Up fraught with difficulties. 

Over the next two years, Primal Scream worked at various studios in Britain and America. Different producers came, and went. Among them were Tom Dowd,  George Drakoulias, David Bianco and George Clinton. They played their part in Give Out But Don’t Give Up’s sound. So did Jim Dickinson, The Muscle Shoal Rhythm Section, The Memphis Horns, Amp Fiddler and Toby Toman, Nico’s drummer. George Clinton and Denise Johnson were among the backing vocalists. Over the next eighteen months, at various studios, Primal Screamh and friends recorded  Give Out But Don’t Give Up. Eventually, it was completed and ready for release in March 1994.

When critics heard Give Out But Don’t Give Up it wasn’t well received. Far from it. It received a lukewarm reception at best. Many of the critics didn’t like it. They weren’t willing to give the album a chance. Mostly, that’s because it was so different from Screamadelica. There other reason was because it  was a return to the pre-Screamadelica sound.

Before Screamadelica, Primal Scream were good time rock ‘n’ roll band. They didn’t apologise for this. This was their sound. However,  that was before Screamadelica. Good time rock ‘n’ roll bands, according to critics, cultural commentators and tastemakers, were “so not of the time.” On trend was house music. Sadly, old style rock ‘n’ roll bands were out of fashion. So Primal Scream found themselves with an unfashionable album out, one that the critics almost sneered at. Despite this, Primal Scream had the last laugh.

Upon its release, Give Out But Don’t Give Up reached number two in Britain, and was certified gold. The lead single Rocks, reached number seven in Britain. Then Jailbird reached number twenty-nine in Britain. The only disappointment was that the ballad (I’m Gonna) Cry Myself Blind, didn’t fare better than number forty-nine. However, Primal Scream had proved their critics wrong. The only problem with  Give Out But Don’t Give Up was it was the wrong album, at the wrong time. If rock had been undergoing a resurgence in popularity, Give Out But Don’t Give Up would’ve been an even bigger success. With tracks like Jailbird, Rocks, and Everybody Needs Somebody, Give Out But Don’t Give Up is a hugely underrated album, from Primal Scream. 

Jailbird is the perfect way to open Give Out But Don’t Give Up. The track almost has a false start. Quickly, you wonder where the track is heading. Then blistering guitars and the rhythm section combine with percussion. They provide the backdrop for Bobby’s swaggering, sassy vocal. Accompanied by soaring backing vocals, Bobby struts his way through the track. It’s a return to form from Primal Scream, who are back doing what they do so well, producing good time, rock ‘n’ roll music.

Straight away, Rocks brings to mind The Rolling Stones, circa Exile On Main Street. Thundering, pounding drums join bursts of searing guitars. They set the scene for Bobby, who picks up where he left on Jailbird. His vocal is a feisty, aggressive and powerful. Later, soaring, quivering  harmonies sweep in. By then, Primal Scream are in full flight. It’s a joy to behold, as the comeback Kings pay homage to The Rolling Stones on a Primal Scream classic.

Just a lone guitar opens (I’m Gonna) Cry Myself Blind, the third single released from Give Out But Don’t Give Up. It’s a beautiful ballad, where a worldweary Bobby Gillespie shows his versatility as a vocalist. His vocal is needy, and hopeful as he sings: “baby I want you, baby I need you you.” Just then, gospel tinged harmonies are added. They’re a masterstroke. So, are washes of Hammond organ and stabs of piano. During the bridge, Primal Scream jam, and a guitar takes centre-stage. Aided and abetted by the Hammond organ, they set the scene for a soul baring vocal from Bobby on another of Give Out But Don’t Give Up’s highlights.

As Funky Jam unfolds, a cry of “get a little funky now,” sees Primal Scream head for the dance-floor. Soon, funk, acid house and rock are being fused by Primal Scream. However, it just doesn’t work. It sounds like a jam where the vocals were an afterthought. George Clinton, who remixed the track, didn’t cover himself in glory. It’s without doubt the weakest track on Give Out But Don’t Give Up. It’s as if Primal Scream, or their record company were determined to have a dance track on Give Out But Don’t Give Up. 

Big Jet Plane is a return to form for Primal Scream after the disappointment of Funky Jam. They drop the tempo, and guitars and Primal Scream’s rhythm section combine to create a wistful backdrop. Before long, Bobby delivers a vocal that’s worldweary. Tired of life touring the world, wearily, he sings: “fly me home on a Big Jet Plane.”

Free is another track remixed by George Clinton. The sultriest of saxophones and a slow, deliberate guitar is joined by a melancholy piano. Then Primal Scream leave space for Denise Johnson’s vocal. It’s tinged with hurt at the betrayal she’s experienced. Still she manages to sing: “free again.” Later, as anger and frustration boils over, she sings don’t want to touch me, everything is broken, I don’t love you no more.” Meanwhile, the understated arrangement allows Denise to centre-stage on what’s a heart wrenching ballad.

Call On Me is another good time rock ‘n’ roll song. From the get-go, Primal Scream are at their very best. That’s the case from the band are counted in. Blistering guitars, boogie boogie piano and the rhythm section kick loose. Bobby delivers another strutting, needy vocal. Accompanying him are stabs of blazing horns, and some good time piano. When all this is combined, it’s good time rock ‘n’ roll Primal Scream style.

Struttin’ is another track like Funky Jam. It’s a fusion of funk, rock and acid. Primal Scream’s rhythm section provide 4/4 beats. They’re joined by machine gun guitars, washes of Hammond organ and a myriad of sci-fi sounds. While there’s a rocky undertow to the track, it veers off in the direction of funk and Acid House. Mostly, it’s an instrumental, with the occasional burst of “Funky Jam” added. The result is a track that almost seems out of place with most of  Give Out But Don’t Give Up.

Washes of a bluesy slide guitar and an a firmly strummed acoustic  guitar combine on Sad and Blue. Soon, Bobby’s delivering a heart wrenching vocal. He’s then joined by sweeping, soaring gospel tinged harmonies and a Hammond organ. Meanwhile, the rest of Primal Scream provide an understated backdrop. Soulful, bluesy and beautiful, you think things can’t get any better. They do. Bobby sings call and response, before a blistering, bluesy harmonica is added. This spurs Primal Scream to even greater heights, as they fuse blues, gospel and soul, to create a quite beautiful, soul baring paean. It’s another of the highlights of Give Out But Don’t Give Up

Give Out But Don’t Give Up is the third track to be remixed by George Clinton. Although it’s funky track, there’s a somewhat experimental sound. Horns sound, before the rhythm section lock into a slow, funky groove. They’re joined by a sultry vocal from Denise. Rocky guitars, percussion and braying horns are then joined by Bobby. From there the vocals drop out, a funky jam unfolds. Primal Scream and friends show their versatility, fusing elements of funk, rock and even Acid House. Slow, moody, funky and sometimes, lysergic it’s very different from much of Give Out But Don’t Give Up. That’s why many people described Give Out But Don’t Give Up is an album with an identity crisis. That’s unfair. Primal Scream, like they would continue to do for several albums, were constantly reinventing themselves.

A wistful piano opens I’ll Be There For You. Soon, horns that sound as if they’re from a classic soul album sound and a Hammond organ plays. They’re the signal for Bobby to deliver a heartfelt, tender vocal. As he delivers his vocal, harmonies accompany him and an acoustic guitar is strummed. Then during the bridge, the rest of Primal Scream take centre-stage. Stretching their legs they jam, before Bobby, accompanied by quivering harmonies soulfully and sincerely sings: “ I’ll Be There For You.”  The way he delivers the beautiful lyrics, it’s as if he means every word.

Everybody Needs Somebody, which closes Give Out But Don’t Give Up, picks up where I’ll be There For You. It’s another slow ballad, where Primal Scream show a very different side to their music. Gone is the good time rock ‘n’ roll band. Replacing it, a band that’s responsible for an understated arrangement. Guitars and a piano play before Bobby delivers a melancholy, pensive vocal. His vocal takes centre-stage, as the arrangement unfolds. The guitar and piano become more prominent. Later, sweeping harmonies accompany Bobby. They’ve a slight gospel arrangement. Rocky guitars then replace Bobby’s vocal, as the rest of the band threaten to cut loose. That never happens, and Primal Scream ensure that Give Out But Don’t Give Up closes on on a soulful high.

Following up Screamadelica was never going to be easy for Primal Scream. They were caught between a rock and a hard place. Their traditional fan base were used to Primal Scream’s good time brand of rock ‘n’ roll. Many weren’t won over by Screamadelica. Rock ‘n’ roll and Acid House were strange bedfellows. For many, it was a case of never the two shall meet. By 1994, the Acid House era was all but over. Acid House, with its synthetic sounding music, was just the latest in a long line of musical trends. However, through Acid House, Primal Scream now had a fan base within the dance community.

While the Acid House was all but over, house music, techno and hip hop were all increasing in popularity. Dance music was here to stay. Many within the dance music community were still fans of Primal Scream. So, if Primal Scream released an album good time rock ‘n’ roll, this would alienate their new fans. Maybe, Primal Scream decided to release an album which would appeal to their old, and new fans. The result was Give Out But Don’t Give Up.

That might have seemed a good idea at the time. Here, were Primal Scream carrying on their fusion of rock and dance music. However, when the critics heard Give Out But Don’t Give Up they weren’t impressed. They didn’t hold back. Critics didn’t like Give Out But Don’t Give Up. Many accused Primal Scream of regressing, into an old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll band. That’s too simplistic though.

There’s much more than rock on Give Out But Don’t Give Up. There’s everything from Acid House to blues and funk, right through to rock  soul and Southern Soul. However, Primal Scream were at their best combining blues, rock, soul and Southern Soul. Whether it’s kick ass, swaggering rock ‘n’ roll or heartfelt, soulful ballads with a bluesy hue, Primal Scream are at their very best. They never miss a beat, bringing back memories of The Rolling Stones and The Faces in their prime. That’s not all. Sometimes, Primal Scream with their soulful, bluesy sound, sound as if they’re from Memphis, not Glasgow. For ten tracks Primal Scream can do no wrong. Where things go awry, are on tracks like Funky Jam and Struttin.’

Both Funky Jam and Struttin’ were remixed by George Clinton. However, it had been a long time since George Clinton was making either hits or dance-floor friendly records. Funky Jam and Struttin’ were the wrong songs on the wrong album. Give Out But Don’t Give Up would’ve been a better album without these tracks. By doing this, Give Out But Don’t Give Up would have been much stronger album. Maybe then, critics might not have argued that Give Out But Don’t Give Up lacked direction?

Twenty-one years have passed since Since Give Out But Don’t Give Up. Primal Scream went on to release another six albums. On each of these albums, Primal Scream have constantly sought to reinvent themselves. However, Primal Scream are at their best when they’re playing their own brand good time brand of rock ‘n’ roll. It’s music that’s truly timeless. That’s the case for much of  Give Out But Don’t Give Up. Whether they’re delivering their own brand of good time brand of rock ‘n’ roll, or heartfelt ballads, Primal Scream are doing what they do best on what’s the most underrated album in their back-catalogue.

Sadly, for too long, Give Out But Don’t Give Up, which will be reissued on vinyl by Music On Vinyl as a double album on 23rd March 2015, has been overlooked. That’s a great shame. It sees Primal Scream return from to what they do best playing rock ‘n’ roll. With Bobby Gillespie at the helm, Primal Scream the  last real rock ‘n’ roll band, fly the flag for rock, and the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle on Give Out But Don’t Give Up. They pick up where The Rolling Stones and The Faces left off with their own brand of good time brand of rock ‘n’ roll. Swaggering and strutting their way through  Give Out But Don’t Give Up, Primal Scream, the last gang in town, were back with a bang, after their adventures in Acid House.



1 Comment

  1. Lee H Preston

    I worked at Roundhouse during those “sessions” and ultimately joined them in Studio One for the final days in Camden. I could tell a few stories, but the Scream’s reputation for partying and drugs is hardly a state secret. Jimmy Miller originally came in (at the time I didn’t give a shit about the Stones, but I listened to his stories with mild interest)…sadly, Jimmy died the following year, apparently his “in tow” son Michael joined him not too long afterward. I have mixed feelings about every project I worked on…until I ultimately walked away from studio work. Those sessions were all about excess. For example, Throb hired in 23 Les Pauls, it was stupid. They were all taking taxi cabs back and forth to Brighton daily…I’m sure the transportation costs for the band exceeeded the daily studio budget. I met some interesting and enthralling characters on those sessions, also met some complete douche bags…such is life….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: