The tail end of the ’80s saw a small explosion of female-fronted jangle-pop bands from the UK like The Sundays, Transvision Vamp and The Darling Buds cut a psychedelic, sugary swath thru the charts. The catchiest and most succinct of the group was The Primitives, who received a glowing endorsement from none other than Morrissey himself.

With the exception of Suede, usually a Moz endorsement meant the kiss of death (Bradford or Gallon Drunk, anyone?), but in this case, the quiffed one was quite right – The Primitives were pure pop perfection. Led by vocalist Tracey Tracey, the group soaked up the shimmering guitar jangle of The Smiths, added the chug of The Ramones, and topped it off with ’60s girl group melodies, all in neat little two-and-a-half minute gems.

“Crash” was the single that broke the band in the States and is probably the best summation of their sound. While it made waves on Modern Rock radio, it wasn’t until years later that it would cross over.

The original “Crash” from Lovely:

The band released their second album, Pure, in 1989, a short year after their first. Pure found the band cranking up the guitars and aggression a bit, but not so much the pop sheen was lost. While the album saw three singles hit the U.S. Modern Rock Chart, it’s still seen as a bit of a failure compared to the first, a notion I disagree with. The band merely had the misfortune of being on the RCA label in the U.S., a fate nearly as bad as being championed by Morrissey. “Secrets” is another pop treasure that saw plenty of airplay on MTV’s 120 Minutes:

But it’s personal fave “Way Behind Me” that still gets plenty of play from me, with its finger-snapping beat and cold diss lyrics:

I don’t remember what you said
I’m gonna leave the past behind me
all those lies inside your head
took my hand and lead me blindly

I’m gonna try my best move
I’m gonna leave you way behind me
I’m gonna try my best move
I’m gonna leave you way behind me

The Primitives released a final album, Galore, in 1991 to a much colder reception and the band called it a day a year later. But in one of those strange rock resurrections, “Crash” found new life in 1995 when a remixed version appeared on the Dumb & Dumber Soundtrack in 1995 and Top 40 took notice. Funny thing, though…while the remix featured more guitars, keyboards and backing vocals, The Primitives had nothing to do with it. The song lives on to this day…a remake by Matt Willis is featured in the new Mr. Bean movie Mr. Bean’s Holiday.

“Crash” peaked at #3 on the Modern Rock Chart in 1988.
“Secrets” peaked at #12 on the same chart in 1989.
“Way Behind Me” peaked at #8 on the same chart in 1989.

Get Primitives music at Amazon. Both CDs are out of print, but there are plenty of used copies to be had. For some strange reason, the band’s work is not available on iTunes. Good job, RCA.

About the Author

John C. Hughes

John C. Hughes began his Lost in the ’80s blog in 2005 and is now proud to be a member of the Popdose family, where he’s introduced LIT80s’s companions, the obviously named Lost in the ’70s and Lost in the ’90s, alongside the slightly more originally named Why You Should Like…

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