Bobby, Don’t You Think They Know?

Published on 8 June 2023 at 21:31

By Paul Laird

Author of "The Birth And Impact Of Britpop: Mis-Shapes, Scenesters And Insatiable Ones"


Bobby Gillespie is in the news. 


A tragic story about the passing of the gifted Martin Duffy and his relationship, financial and  otherwise, with the singer of Primal Scream has caused quite the furore. 


The pages of Bobby Gillespie’s autobiography, Tenement Kid, paint him as a sort of revolutionary  socialist. Barely a page can be turned without encountering some tale of his socialist credentials.  His dad was a trade unionist, his mum was a communist, they had photographs of the Black  Panther leadership hanging above the fireplace, Che Guevara came over for dinner every other  Sunday. Or something. The point is that Bobby Gillespie really wants you to know that he is a  socialist. He’s a man of the people. He means it ma-an. Viva la revolution.  


Right on. 


Bobby won’t like this but Margaret Thatcher once said; “The trouble with socialism is that  eventually you run out of other people’s money”. 

Fuck the Tories, right Bobby? 

Ding dong the witch is dead. 

Fuck Maggie. 

Etc etc etc. 


When it comes to people like Bobby Gillespie, Thatcher was almost right. 


It isn’t that Bobby Gillespie spends other people’s money, it is that he believes in socialism for  other people. He doesn’t actually want it for himself or his family. He wants all the benefits of  capitalism, and he wants to make sure that nobody else can access them. 


As a socialist Bobby believes in the redistribution of wealth. 

But not his wealth. 


His wealth he wasn’t even interested in sharing with Martin Duffy, a gifted musician who played  with Gillespie’s band, Primal Scream, for many years but who, we now know, died in poverty after  Bobby, and fellow Scream Socialist Andrew Innes, gradually cut him out of songwriting credits  and paid him only as a session musician. 


Martin & Bobby at the Q Awards


Speaking to the inquest following his fathers death, Louie Duffy said: After joining the band, dad  had started out as an equal member of Primal Scream but he was gradually cut out from getting  any songwriting credits, then touring and merchandise profits, eventually just being paid per gig.  My dad was so much more to the band than just a session man, his keyboards were an integral  part of their sound on every album, and he had always been a spokesperson, doing countless  press interviews for the band over the years.”  




In the pages of Nige Kessel’s excellent C86 book we learn the following about Gillespie’s socialist  principles: “The band were reportedly given £75,000, with - as the song-writers - Bobby and Jim  having a separate publishing deal worth fifteen grand each. The pages of Tenement Kid report  that “everybody was on equal wages, even the fucking tambourine player. We were totally  socialist about it.” Joogs remembers otherwise, describing a three-tier wage structure, headed by singer and lead guitarist. The percussionist was on the bottom scale, just £50 a week going into his pocket. “I was thinking. That’s not very socialist.”


Perhaps Bobby couldn’t afford to pay other members of the band the same amount of money as  he paid himself because, as a true socialist, he had private school fees to pay for his children? Or  maybe he didn’t know what was going on with Martin because he was distracted by signing the  contracts for the band’s music to be used on adverts for the Socialist Workers Party of Carphone  Warehouse? Or maybe he was out attending to the guttering on his home in Islington? 


The truth about Bobby Gillespie is that he isn’t a socialist. 

He is a rabid free market capitalist. 

I personally have no issue with that. 


The issue comes when you paint a picture of yourself as a man of the people, a warrior against  the system, a rock ’n’ roll maverick, but you are, in reality, a man isolated from the people,  insulated from the lives of ordinary people, a prop for the system, a bog standard rock star, with  all the usual cliches.  


In short Gillespie is a hypocrite at best…

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a year ago

A hypocrite at best is being pretty kind to the guy, especially in light of the story of what happened to Denise Johnson and Martin Duffy. I asked how an avowed popstar socialist could send his kids to private school under a Guardian article a couple of years back and got a fair load of abuse from his fans. I hope they’re feeling just a tiny bit chastened now. This is also the guy who bought an expensive Islington house near The Alma pub and then wrote noise complaint letters about it….a phoney of the highest order.