The Psychedelic Confessions Of A Primal Screamer by Martin St. John
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November 20, 2016
If you have ever wondered what it would be like to be at the birth of one of rock n roll’s bastard offspring then this book is for you. Martin St John was Primal Scream’s leather gloved flailing skeleton, bashing away on the tambourine in the 1960s obsessive, garage psyche, mid-eighties period.
This Thursday 24th November, Martin St. John launches The Psychedelic Confessions Of A Primal Screamer at The Old Hairdresser’s in Renfield Lane, Glasgow at 9pm. There will be a reading followed by a screening of rare archive films and a psychedelic punk soundtrack till midnight. Here’s an excerpt all about the legendary Splash 1 club in Glasgow, and the rise of the ‘Anoraksia’ phenomenon.
In June 1985, Splash 1 Club nights finally appeared, to breathe some much needed action, time and vision into a floundering Glasgow music scene. Initially we all got together one night to thrash out ideas on how we could bring this vision alive. At the end of the night, the new committee was down to 7 social deviant members: Grant McDougall! Billy Thompson! Derek Lowdon! Bobby Gillespie! Paul Harte! Karen Parker and Louise Maxwell. The club itself was bang central, not far from Queen Street rail station and went under the name of ‘Daddy Warbucks’. I always thought it sounded kinda gansterville until I found out where the name came from – ‘Little Orphan Annie’ – a bleedin’ kids’ film!
Primal Scream had already played at the same venue in October the previous year when it was called ‘Gigi’s’ – what’s with all the Hollywood monikers? I suppose it was meant to sound exotic and glamorous. It sure didn’t have the same ring to it as ‘The Ultratheque’ that’s for sure….Speaking to Billy (Thompson) recently I hadn’t realised that Derek Lowdon was the chief catalyst in jumpstarting the Splash 1 nights as he was the main guy who produced the capital dosh with the other 6 members providing lesser amounts. If only myself and Big Paul (McNeil) knew that at the time, we would’ve joined the other 6, come onboard and cashed in too! The Splash 1 gang made up an enterprising mix of people using their varied skills such as Bob G (printers and Creation), Karen Parker (chief cashier since she worked in a bank), Lowdy and Grant McDougall plus Billy T (enthusiastic newstart promoters) with the rest of the groundlings (plus me and Big Paul) helping out creating poster ideas and pasting them up along with concocting the cassette mixtapes.
The first band to headline was The Loft with Big Paul’s band The Submarines going down in Splash 1 history as the first ever band to appear onstage on the hallowed stage albeit as the support band. The A4 poster for the gig contains a vivid orange image of Malcolm McDowall (that guy again) outta A Clockwork Orange purring away in his Durango buggy, peering out menacingly with the bands names scrawled at the side. On the top of the poster ‘A Splash 1 Happening’ was emblazoned with the blurb ‘A psychedelic garage soundtrack’ and all for the princely fee of £1.50. Splattering our way up and down Woodlands Road, pasting and posting at a rapid pace, worming our way into the town, we got collared by the local beat bobby but Lowdy had a quick word in his ear and all was forgotten. That boy sure had contacts in low places! The first Splash 1 happening was a rip roaring success, so a couple of weeks later Grant, Billy and Lowdy got to promote a group of their choice: Big Flame, a kinetic, thrashy group and the total opposite of the Creation bands cutting about at the time. Support on that night came from local kinetic, thrashy band ‘The Mackenzies – hi Bev! With 7 different people with 7 different tastes in music, this clash of tastes and opinions was certainly going to produce some friction baby but reflecting back now, nigh on 30 years it was the correct choice.
As the word was spreading like wildfire, with Splash 1 fever taking a grip on people’s psyche, an explosion of Bobby Gillespie doppelgangers mushroomed outta nowhere producing a severe case of ‘Anoraksia’ in the streets of ‘No Mean City’ (Glasgow schmucks!) All of a sudden you couldn’t move in Splash 1 (and Paddy’s Market) for midget like 5ft indie kids with moptops all snaffling up an abundance of old 1960s style anoraks that had been hanging around on clothes rails for years before, untouched. I’ve gotta admit I had too much rockin’ bones in my body to purchase one of these ridiculous items of clothing, but some people surprisingly succumbed to this dose of ‘anoraksia’ very easily. Step forward Jim Beattie – who always claimed that his particular dose was actually a climbing cagoule – good wan! Another interesting curio that started to sprout on people’s backs was the Breton stripey t-shirt thang. There is actual proof of this phenomenon existing, as I have a precious Splash 1 vhs recording of footage where you can spy Bob G and his striped cohorts in all their sartorial glory, posing and chatting away on the edge of the dancefloor. Maybe it was some sort of unconscious nod to the Velvet Underground, we’ll never know for sure…..
The ‘Bob G Clone Phenomena’ got real strange and embarrassing at times especially when you were hanging out with the real Bob G, (who at least saw the funny side of it) and you’d spot these guys down Paddy’s Market (local flea market) or hanging out at Splash 1. The whole caper even got an article in The Glasgow Herald as it gripped the whole Scottish nation. Believe it or not but even that uber trendy monthly magazine ‘The Face’ also got in on the whole Splash 1 shebang at the time. One of their roving reporters created a piece on the ‘anoraks and tambourines’ of the scene even getting Alan McGee to compile his personal Top 10 Tambourine tracks! In amongst the Shangri Las! Vic Godard! Elevators songs is the classic McGee wind-up group: Anoraks From Hell who created a catchy ditty called ‘Waiting On Napalm’ The article took on a humouresque tone and made out that everyone who appeared at Splash 1 Happenings all wore bleedin’ anoraks and rattled a tambourine onstage – Holy Zils!