Primal Scream is one of Scotland’s longest running rock bands that have enjoyed a prolific career since their formation in Glasgow in 1982. Fronted by Bobby Gillespie who is the band’s only constant member, they have had many line-up changes over the years and have experimented with a wide variety of different sounds.
Gillespie was formerly a member of fellow Scottish indie band the Jesus and Mary Chain and it was when he left them that Primal Scream’s career started to take off. During the release of their first two albums, they were a relatively unknown shoegaze band. It was not until the release of the third album Screamadelica in 1991 which incorporated elements of dance music, that they started to have mainstream success. Here is a list of their ten best songs from their long and diverse career.
# 10 – 2013
Opening up our top 10 Primal Scream songs list is a song from the band’s tenth album More Light released, as the title of this song would suggest, in 2013. Prior to the record’s release, bassist Mani had famously left to re-join the Stone Roses leaving guitarist Andrew Innes to see to bass duties during the recording. In many ways, the title is reflective, because it showed that the band was still musically relevant in the fourth decade of their career.
# 9 – Accelerator
Here we have one of the band’s heaviest and angriest tracks taken from 2000’s XTRMNTR. This album marked a resurgence in the band’s success, reaching number three on the Uk album charts and being very well received critically. Lyrically, the band is very fired up here with this track and its respective album being amongst their most politically charged material. It also took a different direction musically, having a more industrial sound to it.
# 8 – Shoot Speed/ Kill Light
This track is also from XTRMNTR and is one of the album’s highlights and its closing number. It is one of the less angry cuts on the album which makes it a great choice for the ending track. Even though this song is more hypnotic-sounding than the album’s other tracks and has a danceable feel to it, it still has an element of aggression and energy that makes for a very intense listen. Bernard Sumner of New Order plays guitar as a guest appearance.
# 7 – Zombie Man
Here we have a surprising track from 2008’s Beautiful Future. This album does not sound like what you expect from Primal Scream, sounding almost like Alice Cooper, which is further emphasized with the title and lyrical content. Although some may view it as sounding a bit silly, it nevertheless has a very infectious guitar riff and a good sense of swagger that has always been something that Gillespie has possessed.
# 6 – Come Together
Now we veer more into the band’s classic territory with the second single from Screamadelica released in 1990. The song reached number twenty-six on the Uk singles chart. There are two versions of the track: the four-minute single version and the full ten-minute album version which was produced by Andrew Weatherall who sadly passed away earlier this year. This is the superior version, being a ten-minute piece of sublime dance rock.
# 5 – I’m Gonna Cry Myself Blind
1994’s Give Out But Don’t Give Up was the follow up from Screamadelica and was considered a disappointment by many. After the success of the previous album which is considered a pioneering record to this day, the band took a massive U-turn musically by going in a more classic rock/bluesy direction. This track, however, is a standout. Sounding more than a little like the Rolling Stones, Gillespie puts in a very soulful performance.
# 4 – Rocks
Here is another track from Give Out that was the album’s lead single and one of the band’s biggest hits, despite the album not being one of their best. Like many of the record’s tracks, sixties and seventies classic rock is the main influence here. Even though the track is considered to be a nineties classic, it sounds very much like something from the sixties, being very anthemic and a track that always goes down a storm live. It reached number seven on the UK singles chart.
# 3 – Get Duffy
With 1997’s Vanishing Point, Primal Scream decided to do away with the retro rock influences and instead took inspiration from a wide variety of styles such as dub and krautrock which all in all made for a much more experimental and interesting final product. This track is a very spacey piece and is also an instrumental meaning that Gillespie is not involved. It is also somewhat reminiscent of music from the seventies but in a completely different kind of way.
# 2 – Imperial
At the surprising number two spot is a very early track from 1987’s debut album Sonic Flower Groove. The song is the best track on the album and is a prime example of how good the band were in their early shoe-gazing days. Although the album reached number sixty-two on the UK album chart, it was not a massive success critically or commercially which led to the band briefly splitting up after its release before Gillespie reformed the band with different members.
# 1 – Loaded
At the top spot on our Top 10 Primal Scream songs list we have the lead single from Screamadelica which is among the band’s most celebrated and iconic songs. It was produced by the aforementioned Andrew Weatherall and is actually a rearrangement of an earlier song called “Im Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have” which was featured on their self-titled second album.
The song is notable for its use of a sample of Peter Fonda’s rebel speech from the film The Wild Angels at the beginning. It was released as single eighteen months before the album in 1990, with the single version being shorter at 3 minutes as opposed to the full seven-minute album version. It reached number sixteen on the UK singles chart making it their first top forty hit and marking the start of their career as a commercially successful act. Over the years, it has become to be regarded as a classic in both alternative rock and dance.
Updated May 23, 2023
Top 10 Primal Scream Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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