The Creation of Miss Lucifer

‘Miss Lucifer’ is a song by Primal Scream from their 2002 album Evil Heat. Evil Heat was the follow up to their critically acclaimed album from 2000 XTRMTR. The latter was a full-throttle chunk of extremely aggressive millennial nihilism. Evil Heat is the natural successor. Reviewers at the time commented on its nigh-on impenetrable walls of electronic production effects but slightly ‘lighter’ tone. Lighter, that is, compared to the likes of ‘Kill all Hippies’ and ‘Swastika Eyes’; which is to say, Evil Heat is still pretty dark. The chanting, Mansonoid ‘Rise’ was originally called ‘Bomb the Pentagon’ until, of course, someone actually did. ‘Skull X’ sounds like the guitar part of ‘The Stars That Play with Laughing Sam’s Dice’ fed back through a tiny transistor. The songs which are actually slower and quieter like ‘Autobahn 66’ and ‘Some Velvet Morning’ are chilled-out but only in dialated, mainline kind of way. Its no surprise that ‘Autobahn 66’ was a favourite of Tony O Neill when he was writing his contemporary heroin classic Down and Out on Murder Mile (2002). None of these songs, however ‘upbeat’, have anywhere near the good vibes of Screamadelica (1991) (which is not a bad thing, mind you).

And then there’s ‘Miss Lucifer’. Doing the publicity rounds at the time of the album’s release Bobby Gillespie spoke at length about how the track was “electronic garage band future rock n roll”. In essence it’s a short, cocky guitar tune, but thanks to producer Jagz Kooner, its been twisted up and spat out as a spiky electro number. The lyrics, such as they are, go on about somekind of sexy, psudeo-nazi punk dancing about in “leather boots” and a “nazi hat.” And that’s it.

It was the first single off the album; it got some passable reviews and did fairly well for the couple of minutes it spent in the charts. Where things start to get a bit more interesting is with the promo video. It was directed by Dawn Shadforth, (fresh off her success from directing Kylie Minogue) and shows a malevolent, dancing succubus and two rasping familiars hitting the local nightclub. The clip starts with the Miss Lucifer character leaping up into the world from a black, viscous pool at the bottom of some awful looking underground car park. This manifestation doesn’t seem to bother the local boy racers, probably because their car park / nightclub already looks like an urban hellhole. A couple more demons won’t matter that much. Until they start to try and claw their club conquests to death, that is.

Its not clear the extent of the band’s own involvement in the video. They don’t appear and Shadforth is known for editing alone and designing her own choreography. The idea of a sexualised demon bursting into a nightclub is not new; see Jacob’s Ladder (1990) and even Species (1995). However, the imagery of the video is particularly evocative of ‘Havoc’, a short story by James Havoc that first appeared in his collection Satanskin (1992).

Satanskin was the tenth publication from Creation Books and James Havoc was the pseudonym of Creation’s publisher and editor-in-chief, James Williamson. His earlier book Raism (1989) was the first Creation publication and Williamson would go on to write several more using the Havoc moniker. In ‘Havoc’ the title refers to the name of a malevolent, extremely sexually predatory ‘she-vampyre’ who is supplied with meat, “adolescent playmates”, by the unnamed narrator. Havoc is accompanied into this world by “two excoriating hounds Leatherface and Teatcleaver”. The earthly manifestation or “rising” of these three demons is described as a liquid process comparable to that of the ‘Miss Lucifer’ clip:

[…] coated in vixen turmoil, fangs raging at the sun. She had perfected the art of coagulating, becoming as petrified as the reflection of a goat in obsidian or, again, gushing like carious starlight over the spires of primitive, hymnal bone that sheltered mankind. Mastiff fodder. Their raving lips pulped the fruits of sin – Death with three depraved heads.

As with the fluidity of the characters in Shadforth’s clip, the demons are said to have ‘poured in through meshed doors and windows’ and even the actual appearance of Havoc is similar to the creature in the video, with her elongated tongue and eyes that seem ‘drugged, remote, like a reptile doll’. Shadforth’s clip though ends with a rather trite confrontation and retreat. By contrast Havoc’s story is much more interesting as the narrator gradually takes the place of the demon.

It’s easy to make superficial links across different media like this, mainly because neither text is particularly original. The reason why I find this particular echo significant is that it points to the interesting history that exists between Havoc / Williamson, Creation and Primal Scream. Creation Books was originally set up as Creation Press in 1989 by Williamson and Alan McGee, head of Creation Records. The project was intended as an adjunct to label’s primary work in music. The pair did interviews together during the early period and on one occasion spoke to Tony Wilson about books being “the new rock ‘n’ roll”. A tiny snippet of this is visible in the Creation Records documentary, Upside Down (2010) and it can be heard on the album American Pensioners on Ecstasy (1991). Primal Scream signed to Creation in 1985 and the label handled all of their releases until 2000 when McGee closed down the operation. Williamson’s involvement with Creation records prior to 1989 is unclear but according to an interview he gave with Divinity magazine in 1991, it seems that he first met the band in 1986:

They were my second set of friends. The first lot got boring. I ran into them at gigs. I used to see the Pogues a lot too at that period. Primal Scream were my favourite live experience. I used to work with their original press agent Jeff Barratt in a shop in Bristol. Jeff used to put bands on up there and that’s how it all began. We had a shop and the opening party was something like the seventh ever gigs by the original Jesus and Mary Chain.

In the same interview Williamson talks about going on tour with the band. This not such an unreasonable claim given Primal Scream’s notorious proclivity for surrounding themselves with an extended entourage of friends and hangers on. More specifically, according to one or two hints in David Cavanagh’s history of Creation records, My Magpie Eyes are Hungry for the Prize (2001), it’s likely that Williamson was involved in an early incarnation of their fan club.

Writing in his introduction to Premature Ejaculations 1989-1999 (2000), a collection of Havoc material, Williamson nods to this period, claiming that an unrealised Havoc project was Loaded (Inflated Egos And Petty Debauchery): Confessions of a Primal Scream Groupie. Obviously, Williamson’s riff upon the conceit of the invented persona suggests that this project was just as imaginary as his fetch, but a few other details are verifiable. In support of the Raism book, Creation Records put out an LP, The Church of Raism (1989), featuring Williamson as Havoc reciting sections of the text backed by a band that featured the Primal Scream rhythm section, Robert Young and Andrew Innes. At the same time Williamson also made a very short Super-8mm film, Crimes Against Pussycat (1989) The title refers to a film mentioned in Ed Sanders’ book about Charles Manson, The Family (1974) and it was used as the title of a text that later appeared in Satanskin. The film is a loose assemblage of white faces and brief S/M shots. There’s no discernable plot but according to Williamson it features “James Havoc as Lucifer and a topless Meredith X as ‘concubine to the pig kingdom’”. Also in the film is Bobby Gillespie as ‘Gilles de Rais’. According to Jack Sergeant, Crimes Against Pussycat was not shown publically until 1999 and its only just become available online.

The combination of Lucifer and Gilles de Rais is typical of the ‘trangressive’ style that Creation managed to articulate within the space of their first few publications. ‘Raism’ is a direct reference to Gilles de Rais, the nobleman associated with Joan of Arc who became the historical source of the Bluebeard legend and subsequent research interest of Georges Bataille. In 2005 Creation published Dark Star, an anthology chronicling the crimes of de Rais. When speaking of Lucifer Williamson doesn’t mean this in a Miltonic sense, but he’s referring instead to Luciferian persona of Mick Jagger, a la Performance (1970), ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ and by association Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising (1972/1980). Divinity picked up on this personal, professional and symbolic ambience:

What Kenneth Anger was to the Rolling Stones, James Havoc is to Primal Scream […] Anger was a kind of non-aligned dark muse (similar to Manson’s lurid links with the Beach Boys) and Havoc’s relationship with Bobby Gillespie and Creation records’ ecstatic head honcho Alan McGee has all the trappings of just such a warped symbiosis

The partnership with McGee didn’t last long and by 1992 Creation Press had become the ‘globally distributed’ Creation Books. Under the almost exclusive editorship of Williamson, the company has, to date, published on a consistent series of obsessions: horror, sex, decadence and rock music in which Anger, Manson and Dennis Hopper all make regular appearances. In Havoc’s writing and that of his court scribe Stephen Barber a distinctive register appeared that covered these themes in a language of terminal ecstasy, solar impulses and incandescent velocity. Their 2004 / 2005 catalogue was emblazoned with a brief list of favourite words that could be taken as something akin to a company manifesto: “Peace, Love, Harmony, Ecstasy, Velocity, Atrocity, Creation”.

Primal Scream of course went onto cultivate a slow-burning superstardom coupled with a successive process of reinvention. What remained throughout their work though was a similar sloganeering lyrical style, shot through with comparable imagery and a parallel emphasis on the shadow side of the 1960s. In addition to the content of Evil Heat, Screamadelica features references to Roky Erickson and The Wild Angels (1966) whilst Vanishing Point (1996) was an extended homage to Richard Sarafian's 1971 end-of-the-sixties road trip of the same name.

Creation Books and Primal Scream emerged from the same potent stew of literary and cultural references. Whilst the latter has far outstripped the success of the former, the shade of Williamson / Havoc remains visible throughout their career. Pull back the veneer of mainstream success and the signposts of this particular underground origin continue to be active. To turn to a Williamson-esque phrase, both projects explore the incandescent velocity of the terminal sixties.

Very special thanks to Calum Iain at http://kvlt-kvltvre.blogspot.co.uk/ for providing a copy of the Divinity interview.

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