A Celtic State of Mind – Kevin Graham’s Screamacelica: Psychedelic Sunsets & Germinal Ekeren

Here at ACSOM, we love Celtic and music (we also love our families). This Screamacelica feature is going to marry our two loves by looking at an album or song that has soundtracked a certain period of our lives, whilst also focusing on what was happening at Celtic when it was released. We won’t always select the big-hitters; we will also look at the often forgotten and ignored musical nougats.

No better place to start than the album that is the inspiration for the title of this feature.

Primal Scream released Screamadelica on 23 September 1991. The conception of the album, though, was in early 1990. Andrew Weatherall, a club DJ and publisher of the famous Boys’ Own fanzine, took the end section of the Primals’ I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have, borrowed a drum loop from an Italian bootleg version of an Edie Brickell tune, and expertly added a Peter Fonda sample to create Loaded.

“I think we married a rock ‘n’ roll attitude and sensibility and songwriting instinct to Andy’s knowledge of the dancefloor and contemporary rhythms.” said the band’s frontman, and massive Celtic fan, Bobby Gillespie to Classic Rock magazine when speaking about the LP. The album propelled the band from being largely-ignored to darlings of the music press. They went from being leather-clad, Byrds and MC5-influenced, party animal rockers to leather-clad, acid house rock crossover party animals.

Gillespie commented about the success: “I thought it was going to be just a really cool underground album, like Tago Mago by Can. But then it started getting amazing reviews and just kept selling and selling. I believe it’s sold a couple of million now.”

The cover of the album is as striking as the music. Taken from a painting by Paul Cannell, it was termed the ‘psychedelic sunset’ and perfectly suited the music within. Warm, weird, trippy and full of hope. The striking red background chosen over the original blue design was the right decision.

The week before the album was released Celtic were lining up against KFC Germinal Ekeren in the UEFA Cup first round. This was Liam Brady’s first European tie as a manager and it’s fair to say that the 27,000 that turned up weren’t full of hope as the willowy Gary Gillespie led the Celtic team out. Ekeren paid tribute to the album’s front cover with a strikingly bold and brash yellow and red kit that was more memorable than their talent.

Celtic hadn’t scored in four matches. They had been beaten by Rangers and St Johnstone and drawn blanks against Airdrie and St Mirren. Brady was still trying to find a balance and a system that worked. The Celtic team that night was: Bonner, Morris, Wdowczyk, Grant, Whyte, Gillespie, Miller, Fulton, Nicholas, Cascarino and Collins.

Charlie Nicholas was to comment that this was his best season since 1983 and he put Celtic in front from the penalty spot. This wasn’t the sleek Charlie that left in 1983. No, this was Charlie who was built like the side of a hardback thesaurus but he still had talent. His poked through ball for Collins to win the penalty is one that not many would attempt never mind execute. The French referee after he awarded the penalty stomped around like a Monty Python character booking the protesting Ekeren players at will.

Before we scored the second goal, captain Gillespie had gone off injured and was replaced by Mark McNally. The second goal saw Nicholas score after a scramble in the box following great work by Steve Fulton on the wing. It wasn’t all one-way traffic and Pat Bonner was called into the action on a few occasions as Celtic struggled defensively, which was a damning feature under Brady. For all the attacking talent, we were defensively weak.

Celtic were the only Scottish side to win in Europe that night, with Rangers, Aberdeen and Motherwell all losing. The Celtic fans also found out that Andy Walker was going to Newcastle on loan for one month as he was fed up playing in the reserves with Darius Dziekanowski, John Hewitt and Martin Hayes. The squad really was a mish-mash of talent, inconsistency and some who were just lacking in direction.

‘Just what is it that you want to do?
We wanna be free,
We wanna be free to do what we wanna do.
And we wanna get loaded’

On the 30 September 1991, members from the Tommy Craig CSC, met at their local pub to prepare for the 1000 km journey to Antwerp in the Flemish Region of Belgium. Michael Dickson was one of those fans…

“Six guys left the Culten Bar in a Sierra estate,” began Michael. “Two in the front, three in the back, and one in the boot beside the bags and carry-out. We drove to Dover, got the ferry and then the train. We stayed in a wee place called Brasschat. A wee B&B with a Basil Fawlty-type owner. He was an interesting character.”

With Screamadelica being an album that would dominate end-of-year music lists, with songs that became mainstays of radio for years to come, I asked Michael if his travelling party listened to the LP on that long and uncomfortable-sounding trip to Dover.

“Nah, mate. Rebels all the way.”

Since the first-leg victory, Celtic had enjoyed a relative upturn in fortunes by beating Airdrie and drawing with Hibs. A sell-out 7,000 crammed into the Veltwijckstadion to see the second leg of this tie. The Celtic team on the night was: Bonner; Morris, Wdowczyk , Grant, Whyte, Gillespie, O’Neil, Galloway, Coyne, Nicholas and Collins.

Mike Galloway was going through what was to be remembered as his purple patch in a Celtic shirt. He missed the first game through suspension but had an eventful night in the second leg. He opened the scoring after 11 minutes by making a lung-bursting run from the centre of defence and playing a ball wide to Brian O’Neill. His cross was expertly knocked back out by Tommy Coyne into the path of the eager Galloway, whose first time right-footed shot flew into the top corner. A goal of great technique from both Coyne and Galloway was enthusiastically greeted by the travelling fans behind the goal. A right old much-missed terracing bounce.

Michael continued: “It was a wee stadium, from memory. About 1,500 Tims, I think. We were two-up from the first-leg, so should have been comfortable. Mike Galloway scored a thumper early on and that was that.”

The Belgians equalised just before half-time and Celtic once again had Pat Bonner to thank for the tie not becoming one of those regular fraught European away nights. As the game was drawing to a close, and with the Belgians realising they were beat, second half substitute Tony Cascarino had three great chances to score, but of course he didn’t.

As we are all aware, the nineties weren’t much fun for the Celtic supporters, but during that time we had a dark self-deprecating sense of humour that represented the genetic makeup of our support. That night in north Belgium saw a staple of that humour born in the most awkward of circumstances. In the 37th minute, a fully committed Mike Galloway broke 18-year-old Zairian winger Nsumbu’s leg.

“One of their top men suffered a broken leg,” recalled Michael. “The Tims started singing, ‘Always look on the bright side of life’. That song stuck for a while. Ekeren may have been its birthplace. Charlie Nick was dancing to it when the ball was up their end.”

As the well-oiled and boisterous travelling Tims left, little did they know what the awaiting Neuchatel Xamax would bring. Eight years later, KFC Germinal Ekeren merged with K Beerschot VAC to become Beerschot AC. The new club folded in 2013.

Primal Scream’s fortunes changed forever that month. It would be a number of years before Celtic’s fortunes changed and led to the success we now drink in. Bobby Gillespie recalled what made Screamadelica such a good record:

“Andy Weatherall was a bit of a punk. He wasn’t a musician, but what he had was ideas in abundance. I think the best records are not just made by people with loads of technique, it’s about attitude and imagination.”

I think all great Celtic teams also have the same ingredients.

Kevin Graham

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