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23 September 2023, 10:00
Who was the artist responsible for the iconic artwork on the Scream's classic 1991 album?
Screamadelica was a landmark album for Primal Scream. Released on Monday 23 September 1991, the LP arrived the same week as Nirvana's equally era-defining Nevermind, but the two records had a completely different impact.
Primal Scream were founded in Glasgow in 1982 by Bobby Gillespie, whose schoolfriend was another huge music fan: Alan McGee. Gillespie's group existed more as a concept than an actual working band, and he achieved fame by becoming the drummer for fellow Scots The Jesus And Mary Chain during their controversial early years.
Bobby's band released their debut single in 1985 on McGee's new label Creation, but the Jesus And Mary Chain's Jim and William Reid told Gillespie to either commit to their band, or leave. Bobby chose the latter option and Primal Scream went on to release two garage rock-influenced albums: Sonic Flower Groove in 1987 and a self-titled second LP in 1989.
A chance meeting with DJ Andrew Weatherall led to the producer remixing one of the Primal Scream album's tracks, I'm Losing More Than I'll Ever Have. Now reworked as Loaded, the song crashed into the UK charts in March 1990 and made stars of Primal Scream.
Now properly affiliated with the club scene that had sprung up around acid house, Gillespie's next full length album was to mix indie guitar and dance rhythms perfectly. It was to be named Screamadelica.
The cover of the album features a brightly-coloured design - a million miles away from the dark images of leather trousered rock rebellion that appeared on the sleeves of the first two Primal Scream albums.
The image was painted by Paul Cannell, an artist from East London, who had first come into contact with the music business via the Heavenly Recordings label and their band Flowered Up. Heavenly's owner Jeff Barrett had met Cannell and was impressed by his paintings, so commissioned the artist to design a cover for Flowered Up's single Phobia, released in November 1990.
For good measure, Cannell also designed the Heavenly Recordongs logo, which is still used to this day: a chirping bird.
The Flowered Up sleeve led to a meeting with Primal Scream's manager Alex Nightingale and Cannell's first work for the band, which was for the single Higher Than The Sun in June 1991. The simple, childlike painting on the sleeve evoked a number of different influences.
"For a lot years I worshipped Picasso," Cannell told illustrator Marceline Smith in an unpublished interview. "He’s like an ultimate character. But I’ve got other influences. When I first started looking at paintings I was looking at Impressionist painters, Monet and people like that and thinking ‘This is beautiful’."
The same brightly-coloured painting style appeared on Primal Scream's Don't Fight It Feel It single in August 1991 and then defined the band's early 90s imagery with the arrival of the Screamadelica album in September of that year.
"Bobby wanted it to be a picture of the band sitting with a sexy model," remembered Creation boss Alan McGee. "But I said: 'No one will buy it'."
Part sunburst, part psychedelic face, the design adorned posters and t-shirts across the country and was used again recently for Primal Scream's announcement of some live shows for the 30th anniversary of Screamdelica.
"Bobby wouldn't play me the record, he just told me the title which I thought was cool," Cannell later remembered. "We spent ages sectioning out the painting and focusing on what he wanted from it. Bobby wanted jazz... abstract. He was very exact about getting it."
"It’s inspired by a lot of things," Cannell explained to Marceline Smith about his work. "It’s inspired by children. I pick up so many kids drawings off the street at four o’clock in the afternoon. It’s incredible, they’re great.
"I put them up here and in my house and people go ‘Oh, I like this one’ and you say, ‘How much would you pay for it?’ and they’ll go, ‘I’d give you 200 quid for it’ and then you say ‘Yeah... it’s a f**king kid’s drawing mate’."
Cannell had a number of other commissions for record sleeves during the early 1990s, including Manic Street Preachers' original issue of You Love Us and the collage that adorned the cover of their Stay Beautiful single.
In the mid 90s, Cannell made a bid for rock stardom himself, as the frontman in the band Crawl. They were, of course, signed to Alan McGee's Creation Records and Paul designed their artwork.
However, Crawl issued just one single on Creation in the January of 1996. Cannell never worked with Primal Scream again and as the millennium dawned, he withdrew from public life to work on his art.
Tragically, Paul Cannell took his own life in July 2005. When Screamadelica was included on a set of Royal Mail stamps in 2010 to celebrate the art of the record sleeve, Bobby Gillespie remembered Cannell fondly.
He noted: "Paul was an anarchist. He would definitely have got the humour of the Queen's head now being on top of his work."
In 2010 we issued a set of stamps featuring images of classic album covers.— Royal Mail (@RoyalMail) May 11, 2020
Included in the set were London Calling by The Clash, Park Life by Blur and Screamadelica by Primal Scream. #RMStampOfTheDay pic.twitter.com/3rP356RPOb
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