THE HEART OF THE RE-UNION – The Primitives On Getting Back Together, 1980s Nostalgia And What It’s Like to Have Morrissey Wearing Your T-Shirts

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Blending ‘sixties bubblegum pop with punk guitars and indie attitude, the Primitives Crash-ed their way into the charts and many a schoolkid’s hearts in the mid-1980s.

Reunited at the end of the noughties by the tragic death of their original bass player, they’re preparing to head out again for a short UK tour in the Winter.

Guitarist Paul Court and frontwoman Tracy Tracy tell Matt Catchpole about encountering Bros, being championed by Morrissey and childhood heroes Josie and the Pussycats – though they may just have been fibbing about that last one.

You disbanded for 17 years between 1992 and 2009, what brought you back together?

Paul:  I’d had a vague idea about contacting everyone in 2008 to see what they thought of a first album 20th anniversary show, but I found out Tracy had moved to Argentina, so that put paid to that. The news of the death of our original bass player Steve (Dullaghan) put us back in touch with each other early the following year. We hadn’t spoken or seen each other for seven years at this point. Tracy was back in the UK for a while and later that year we ended playing the opening night of a local music scene exhibition at Coventry’s Herbert  Art Gallery. Things just progressed from there.

You’ve now been together for longer than the original line-up lasted – has it been better second time around?

Paul:  It’s been good to have total freedom, though we probably needed to be told what to do a bit the first time round as we were young and stupid.

Has the music scene changed much since you first started?

Paul: Immeasurably – apparently you used to be able to make money from selling actual recordings of your music, though I can’t say we ever did. That’s just a sideline these days.

Alexandra Bastedo
Alexandra Bastedo

Who were your heroes growing up?

Paul: Josie and the Pussycats.

Tracey: Alexandra Bastedo (from 1960’s TV series The Champions)

There seems to be a real nostalgia for the ’80s/’90s indie scene at the moment – why do you think that is? Have you bumped into any old friends on the festival circuit?

Tracy: Nostalgia normally creeps in after 10 or more years has passed, and also everything is so easy to revisit nowadays. We’ve bumped into a few old faces. Particularly last year, because we played several festivals that were centred around the ’80s, ’90s scene.

You’re from Coventry – were you influenced by the Ska/2-Tone scene starting out?

Paul: No not directly – The Swinging Cats maybe…having a female upfront and so on. It was good that something local was making an impact, I think that made things seem possible for people.

You were labelled as part of the ‘blonde pop scene’ with Darling Buds and Transvision Vamp  – did you find that patronising?

Tracy: Yes a bit, but nothing that a quick change of hair colour couldn’t see off.

Was there a lot of sexism in the indie scene at that time? Did you feel pressured into doing anything you weren’t comfortable with?

Tracy: We never invited anything like that, so no, not for us.

Paul: I remember doing a photo session in Italy and the guy from the record company gesturing that Tracy should stick her arse towards the camera – we just laughed at him.

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Crash was a real breakout single for you – could you tell it was going to be a big hit?

Paul: The previous single Thru The Flowers had got to 60 something and that was on an indie label, so we thought Crash had a chance of getting nearer the top 40. It was a bit of a gamble though because grass roots interest in the band was beginning to wane and we didn’t know if releasing something as polished and commercial sounding as Crash would be the final nail in the coffin.

Of all the songs you’ve recorded, what’s your favourite and why?

Paul: I don’t have a favourite – I could probably pick 10 from when we started to now. Crash would be about 9.

Tracy: Earth Thing or In My Dream at the moment, but it changes all the time as there are so many to choose from.

Morrissey in his Primitives duds

Morrissey was an early supporter – you’re probably sick of being asked about him – but when did you first discover he’d been wearing your T-shirts?

Paul: Whenever a photo first appeared in the NME or whatever it was. We heard he really liked us from seeing us live in early 1987, but we didn’t really believe it till we saw the photo.

He introduced the band on stage at the ICA in 1987 was that a surreal experience?

Tracy: Kind of – for some reason we had loads of penny sweets spread out on a table in the dressing room –  our manager thought we needed a sugar rush or something. Not sure what Morrissey would have made of that – not the customary Rock n Roll dressing room scene.

Paul: We didn’t really know what to say to him, so we pushed Tracy towards him and hid.

Were you ever a fan of The Smiths?

Tracy: Not fans as such, but admirers. They were one if those bands that soundtracked an era and you knew that they would always come up with the goods.

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Any showbiz anecdotes, or tour shenanigans you’d like to share?

Paul: We were once in a big shared dressing room for a TV music award show in Ireland with lots of your late ’80s faves –T’Pau, Wet Wet Wet etc, and the TV crew were fretting because Bros hadn’t shown – anyway they slunk in about 2 hours late, their little heads bobbing, chewing gum and basically not giving a shit.  I remember thinking they’re the most punk thing in the room right now.

Many people are describing 2016 as the weirdest year ever, what with all the celebrity deaths and political turmoil here and in the US – how’s it been for you?

Tracy: Quiet for us really – we went to the US for a one off show in New York, but apart from that and a few other dates we haven’t done a lot.

Paul: Definitely a good year so far for hiding in a box.

What current bands do you admire?

Tracy: I’ve been listening to Tame Impala and Still Corners.

Any chance of a follow-up to 2014’s Spin-O-Rama?

Paul: We have new songs, but there won’t be another album.

  • The Primitives play Glasgow, Darwen and Sheffield on November 11, 12 and 13 for more information check their Facebook page here.


About the author

Full time journalist, music lover (obvs) and truly terrible guitarist. You can find Matt on twitter @matcatch