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The Primitives were formed in 1985 by PJ Court (born Paul Jonathan Court) (vocals, guitar), Steve Dullaghan (bass), Peter Tweedie (drums) and Keiron McDermott (vocals). Vocalist McDermott was replaced by Tracy Tracy (born Tracy Cattell). Tig Williams replaced Pete Tweedie on drums in October 1987.
The band were part of the indie music scene of the mid-1980s alongside bands like The Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, the Soup Dragons and the Wedding Present. Their major rivals within the 'blonde pop' scene were Transvision Vamp and The Darling Buds. They received valuable publicity when The Smiths singer Morrissey was photographed wearing a Primitives t-shirt.
The band's early singles were released on their own Lazy Records imprint. In late 1987, they signed the label over to RCA, who released the band's material from then until their split. Their first album, Lovely (1988) reached No. 6 in the UK Albums Chart, and produced two Top 40 hit singles: "Crash" (UK No. 5, US Modern Rock No. 3) and "Out of Reach" (UK No. 25). "Way Behind Me" was released as a single soon after, and was included on later versions of the debut album, as well as on the follow-up. Towards the end of 1988, the band had a sell-out tour of the UK, climaxing in two nights at London's Town & Country Club.
The band's second album Pure (1989) was preceded by three singles - "Way Behind Me" (UK No. 36, US Modern Rock No. 8), "Sick of It" (UK No. 24, US Modern Rock No. 9) and "Secrets", (UK No. 49, US Modern Rock No. 12).