Tenement Kid: Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie to publish memoir

Book charts the singer’s journey from his childhood in Glasgow to his band’s breakthrough 1991 album Screamadelica and their notorious live shows

Bobby Gillespie is to publish a memoir spanning his childhood in a working-class Glaswegian family and the breakthrough of his band Primal Scream with their third album, 1991’s Screamadelica.

Tenement Kid took shape during the first year of the pandemic, Gillespie said in a statement. “At the beginning of 2020 I wanted to challenge myself creatively and do something I had never done before. I didn’t want to write another rock record, I’d done plenty of those, so, I decided to write a memoir of my early life and worked on it all through the summer, autumn and winter of 2020.”

Bobby Gillespie’s memoir Tenement Kid is out on 28 October.
Bobby Gillespie’s memoir Tenement Kid is out on 28 October. Photograph: White Rabbit

He named the book in tribute to the first 10 years of his life spent living in a tenement building in Springburn, Glasgow, before the dwellings were evacuated in prime minister Edward Heath’s “slum” clearances. In 1973, Gillespie’s family moved to the Mount Florida neighbourhood, where he met Alan McGee, who would later sign Primal Scream to his Creation label.

The memoir follows Gillespie as he leaves school at 16 to work as a printers’ apprentice and discovers rock’n’roll thanks to Thin Lizzy and the Sex Pistols, leading to the formation of Primal Scream in 1982 and a spell in the Jesus and Mary Chain in the mid-80s.

The book continues into the period that transformed Primal Scream from indie makeweights to cultural phenomenon: the second Summer of Love, the Boy’s Own parties that were a cornerstone of acid house, and Gillespie’s pivotal meeting with Andrew Weatherall – who would produce Screamadelica – in an East Sussex field.

“His musical views, his aesthetic, is very similar to ours,” Gillespie told the Face of Weatherall in August 1991. “It opened us up to a different approach to making music. I didn’t just hear one record and think, ‘Wow, we’ll make a house record.’ We’re a rock’n’roll band, but we like going to clubs and getting pretty wasted.”

Released in September 1991, the album produced some notoriously hedonistic live shows – first a run of unconventional club dates a month prior, with low ticket prices, late licences and DJ sets from Weatherall and the Orb – followed by a tour that saw the group’s drug use become as notorious as their music.

The group’s reputation often prompted similar responses from the crowd. Reviewing for Melody Maker in 1992, critic Simon Price declared the atmosphere at Brixton Academy as “a Hieronymus Bosch inferno … little girls on ecstasy being dragged out by ambulance men, toilets whose squalor approaches Reading festival levels …”

In a diary of the Screamadelica tour published in the Face, Weatherall summed up the mood of the tour: “Welcome to Club Scream-A-Delica: not just another pop concert, but entertainment for the 90s. For one crazy nanosecond I think that the word ‘rave’ isn’t such a shite way of prescribing an evening of young people’s organised hedonism.”

Tenement Kid will be published by White Rabbit on 28 October 2021. “Bobby Gillespie’s memoir cuts a righteous path through a decade lost to Thatcherism and saved by acid house,” it said in a statement.


Laura Snapes

The GuardianTramp

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