Read an extract from The Psychedelic Confessions Of A Primal Screamer

Martin St John book cover

Last year I spoke to John Martin who was hard at work writing a book about his time in Primal Scream, I’m pleased to say the book is now available to buy and you can read an extract today.

Below you can read the chapter of how he came to join Primal Scream.

Order your copy of the book here.

The date: October 11th 1984.
The place :Glasgow, The Venue
The bands: Primal Scream! The Jesus And Mary Chain! Biff Bang pow! Ochre 5! Meat Whiplash!

At the time, I was working in a dead end piss factory in Bridgeton, the gutter east end, on the nightshift as a bottler. It was a total soul destroying nightmare of a job with no stimulating of the senses whatsoever. Watching bottles going round and round endlessly on a never ending loop, till one of the fuckers fell over on the merry go round and then pressing stop!

If you’ve ever seen the 1920s futuristic flick “Metropolis” of the workers toiling away ‘down below’, you’ll get the picture of abject misery I had to endure on a nightly basis. One recurring vision still pops up in my head of that particular dreaded period. This enormous fuck off clock that was situated bang right in the centre of the miserable workspace. Talk about ramming the intimidating tedium down yer throat? These warlords of the workplace were supreme masochists of the first order. Thank the heavens above for psychedelic garage punk from the 1960s appearing in my life- at this point in time as salvation.

I was already known in the joint as “The Psychedelic Kid” due to my penchant for wearing a blue paisley-patterned shirt along with my ever growing shaggy moptop sprouting up all over the place.

The A4 poster advertising the gig contained a striking, captivating image lifted straight from the life changing 1968 film IF….with the classic tagline emblazoned “Whose Side Are You On?” with an an angelic image of Malcolm McDowell with his schoolbooks on one side and on the other a snotty enraged image of Mick Travis brandishing a machine gun defiantly in the face of adversity. The other mesmerising slogan that we never used was “One Hand Grenade Of A Film” which could’ve perfectly captured the spirit of the assembled bill for this particular night’s entertainment.

Along side us, the other four bands performing were The Jesus And Mary Chain (current press darlings), Biff Bang Pow (Alan McGee’s powerpop combo), Ochre 5 (Supercomic Grant Morrison’s band) and Meat Whiplash (East Kilbride upstarts).

After a non eventful soundcheck, we all retired to The Griffin bar across the road to sink a few foaming ales to conjure up some Dutch courage to kool the nerves, as for most people it was to be the 1st time that we’d all set a Chelsea boot on a real live stage. In the pub we bumped into a few of the Cumbernauld music lovers who told us that they were hitting Nite Moves to see Flesh For Lulu. We tried to convince them to come along to our night in The Venue instead but they’d already bought their tickets-no luck guys!

Bob G at this point had been over the road taking care of business when all of a sudden he burst in to The Griffin to tell us that he’d been getting a bit of grief off some assholes outside The Venue. Within minutes the ever willing posse of Tam Dungo and Beattie were rounded up and sent over, with myself and Bob G remaining in the boozer supping our drinks. In no time at all the posse were back-problem solved.

After a few beers we then headed back over to The Venue, whereby I hit the toilet first, only to bump into Meat Whiplash who were busy tuning/de-tuning their guitars. No soundcheck for these guys-they were real raw power! They were the first band on and played a real short, feral set of grinding numbers to get us all in the mood. Next up were Ochre 5 and I can’t remember a darn thing of their set, the same for Biff Bang Pow. I must’ve been tanning the meagre supply of beers in our rider to calm the impending nerves as all of a sudden we were the headline group as The Mary Chain didn’t want the headline slot. As they hit the stage, the crowd had now swelled to about 100 sweaty, heaving bodies, creating a feverish buzz of energy and excitement. This was their second gig in Glasgow and by this time they’d already whipped up some precious press reviews concerning the fact they’d just signed to Creation Records with their first release ‘Upside Down’, ready to be unleashed on 7 inch vinyl real soon. Again their feedback drenched set was short and shambolic complete with lots of drunken stop/start moments that had a bemused crowd hollering and cheering them on to the glorious end. It didn’t help that Dino (the sound man) was at the helm producing his infamous muddled up mix. The Jesus And Mary Chain sure were different in attitude and sound but were still to convince me that they were the real, rocking 100% deal.

Bobby Gillespie and Jim Reid

After a couple of rehearsals in Beattie’s spare room and one in The Hellfire Studios to produce a workable set of tunes-our moment had come! We proceeded to work our way through our scanty, short set list of songs, culminating in the Subway Sect cover of ‘Nobody’s Scared’ for an encore. For this number I dropped the tambourine and produced Lux’s mouth organ forra blast as we blitzed our way through a real neat, hot wired version that brought the gig to its final conclusion.

Being on stage was thrilling and frightening at the same time, especially when you looked out in to the crowd and spotted yer friends half pished, grinning away like Cheshire cats, cheering you on. The set list is quite vague after the years rolling by but probably featured early versions of ‘It Happens’, ‘I Love You’, ‘Aftermath’, ‘Leaves’ and ‘Subterranean’. If Gary Barrett (The Bootleg King) was alive today, somewhere deep in his musical vaults gathering dust, there would be a dusty tape recording of this gig as Gary had recorded nearly every goddamn important gig in Glasgow from the the punkoid 1977 years onwards.

I remember playing our version of ‘Nobody’s Scared’ which was a complete blast as we could relax then and bust loose as it was the final song of the night. It was a real buzz hanging out afterwards with other band members and friends coming over to backslap and congratulate you on an excellent fun filled fiery night – it was to be another important year in music for me once more – year zero 11 October 1984.

One of our mates Grant, took some live photographs of The Primal’s onstage and there’s one of myself caught in mid-tambourine bashing flow grinning away and that picture for me summed up the night to a tee.

Primal Scream

Talkin to Jim Beattie later as we were packing the kit away, he collared me and asked “Right! Do you wanna be in the band?” He didn’t have to ask me twice and since The Cramps never had a vacancy for a tambourinist/maracca shaker I thought why the hell not! He didn’t really have to ask me really, as on that stage I already felt part of the group dynamics and couldn’t wait for the next gig to happen – let’s execute the fantasy now!

The cacophony of noise being on a stage had gripped my psyche and there was to be no turning back now. The line up for The Venue gig in October 11th 1984 is: Bobby Gillespie (vocals) Jim Beattie (chiming guitars) Robert Young (bass) Tam McGurk (Meat Whiplash drummer) and Martin St John (tambourine/mouthie).

Order your copy of the book here.

Read the interview with John Martin here.

Martin St John book cover