Books

Tenement Kid by Bobby Gillespie review: Primal Scream star strikes a tangible note of melancholy

Yes, he’s prone to absurd purple prose, but the Primal Scream frontman occasionally reveals a surprising willingness to laugh at himself, writes Paul Whitelaw.

The cover of Tenement Kid by Bobby Gillespie.

Tenement Kid by Bobby Gillespie is out now (White Rabbit, £20).

Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie was always destined to be Bobby Gillespie.

The scion of socialists, he grew up surrounded by Che Guevara posters, radical left-wing literature, plus folk, blues, rock, pop and country records.

This, as his enjoyable memoir Tenement Kid confirms, is a true believer steeped in politics and pop culture. He absolutely lives and breathes music. Gillespie often comes across as a rather silly and earnest character when interviewed, but when parlayed by his own hand that romantic zeal is endearing.

Yes, he’s prone to absurd purple prose, but he occasionally reveals a surprising willingness to laugh at himself: oblivious and self-aware all at once. A sweet soul.

The most arresting passages are those in which he captures the febrile, incestuous activity of Scotland’s underground music scene in the Eighties/early Nineties (the book ends with the release of Screamadelica). There are drugs. Lots of drugs. Freebasing was “fun”, apparently.

He also strikes an unforced yet tangible note of melancholy: we will never be so young and free again.

That ennui is reinforced by the fact that two of Tenement Kid’s main players – DJ Andrew Weatherall and Scream guitarist Robert ‘Throb’ Young – are no longer with us.

Tenement Kid by Bobby Gillespie is out now (White Rabbit, £20)

@paulwhitelaw

This article is taken from the latest edition of The Big Issue magazine. If you cannot reach local your vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Parasol Against the Axe by Helen Oyeyemi review – electrifying, experimental writing
Books

Parasol Against the Axe by Helen Oyeyemi review – electrifying, experimental writing

The Hearing Test by Eliza Barry Callahan review – a droll insight into a year of loss
Books

The Hearing Test by Eliza Barry Callahan review – a droll insight into a year of loss

Top 5 books about the British seaside, chosen by crime writer William Shaw
Books

Top 5 books about the British seaside, chosen by crime writer William Shaw

The Other Valley by Scott Alexander Howard review – the moral conundrums of coming of age
Books

The Other Valley by Scott Alexander Howard review – the moral conundrums of coming of age

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know