Sonic Flower Groove: remembering the baptism by fire that shaped Primal Scream’s colossal legacy

20 years ago a group of Glaswegians burst into the world with their debut record Sonic Flower Groove, a premiere effort which nearly tore the band to pieces. It was a turbulence perhaps created by an oversupply of potential energy – of course, nobody in the band knew what kind of juggernaut the name Primal Scream would come to represent.

1987 was a year when CDs begun to appear, when the first glimmers of house music were worming their tendrils into the singles chart, when Pet Shop Boys and Madonna were enjoying their time upon the throne. ‘Indie’ was little more than a phrase passed around underground circles in whispers, a movement which wouldn’t enjoy a mainstream foothold until the early ’90s.

Sonic Flower Groove was ripe with the characteristics which would come to represent that wave; a jangly, guitar driven pop that took pride in its own blemishes. Primal Scream predicted the future in 1987 and like most visionary forebears, their early work was only retroactively praised.

primal scream sonic flower groove 1987 bobby gillespie

In 1987 Primal Scream released Sonic Flower Groove, a record that burned the band to ashes and laid the groundwork for their phoenix-like ascension.

By the time they sauntered into the Sonic Flower Groove recording sessions, co-founder Bobby Gillespie and Jim Beattie had been jamming together for roughly five years, having a crack at everything from Velvet Underground covers to an abandoned industrial noise project.

Enjoying a staggering amount of roster chaos, Primal Scream’s teething years were fraught with disarray, inter-act conflict and an amount of trauma which would bring The Sex Pistols to their knees.

Perhaps one of the band’s only perfect strokes during those times was the choosing of their own name. Synonymous with Arthur Janov’s published bible of Primal Therapy, Gillespie and Beattie titled the band after a vocal invocation of deeply repressed pain.

Broadcast upon a Britain which was far from ready for its brashness, Sonic Flower Groove confounded the popular sphere. Now celebrated as a far-seeing retro classic, the backlash from Primal Scream’s first LP ate away at the band from the inside, eroding any confidence they had left like an unforgiving parasite.

Beattie would leave the act forever, going on to establish Spirea X and Adventures in Stereo. The debut album also saw Gillespie finally abandon his position as drummer in The Jesus and Mary Chain, and by 1988 Primal Scream was himself plus guitarists Andrew Innes and Robert Young.

Sonic Flower Groove is a record you could listen to forever. Rippling with gentle psychedelia and bursting with the vigour of one of Britain’s most iconic frontmen, it almost hypnotises you with a positivity that betrays the band’s disorderly upbringing.

Gentle TuesdaySonic Sister Love and May The Sun Shine Bright For You radiate with a nostalgia that matches early cuts from The Beatles, steeped in gorgeous swathes of pop sensibility. Love You and Leaves are beautiful love songs in their own right, neatly disguised by Primal Scream’s outward-facing psychosis.

It’s a early showcase of the band’s utter prowess, a crystal ball’s peek into what would become of the drama-fraught Scotsmen. Though Sonic Flower Groove‘s immediate reception damaged its creative fathers in a way that will never be repaired, its enduring legacy has ensured them a spot on music’s canonical timeline.

Four years later in 1991, Primal Scream would release their opus Screamadelica, a sojourn into acid house territory that would catapult them onto a world stage. What followed was a heritage of reinvention, Gillespie’s penchant for popular enhancement consistently driving his act into new territory with uniformly excellent results.

20 years since Sonic Flower Groove confounded the press, Primal Scream are still in the business, releasing their lustful pop anthology Chaosmosis only last year. While other rockers boasting a similarly expansive discography have fallen to reunion tours, best-of records and cringeworthy modern collaborations, Primal Scream are yet to lose their edge.


Primal Scream will be touring Australia in February 2018 for the first time in five years. Catch the dates below, and grab your tickets here.

Thursday 15th February – Metropolis, Perth
Friday 16th February – HQ, Adelaide
Sunday 18th February – Forum Theatre, Melbourne
Tuesday 20th February – Enmore Theatre, Sydney
Wednesday 21st February – The Tivoli, Brisbane