jakub | June 8, 2023

Primal Scream keyboardist Martin Duffy inquest hears he died after “having to sign on to benefits to get by”

The family of late Primal Scream keyboardist Martin Duffy have paid tribute to the musician, and suggested that his death followed suffering from a lack of finances after parting ways with the band.

It was announced in December that the musician had died aged 55 after suffering multiple skull fractures.

Now, six months on, an inquest in Brighton on Tuesday (June 6) heard that the keyboardist — who was a member of Primal Scream for over three decades — was struggling financially at the time before his death, with his family have suggesting that this was partly due to the lack of financial support.

“Dad had played on every Primal Scream album – had songwriting on at least two – but still the band chose not to offer him the opportunity to get his share, at a time they knew he really needed financial help,” read a statement from his 19-year old son Louie, who also alleged that his father was cut out of a £5million deal to sell part of the band’s back catalogue (via The Argus).

Martin Duffy
Martin Duffy performing live with Primal Scream in 2019. Credit: Ollie Millington/Redferns.

“He wasn’t consulted or even told about it,” he added. “I remember dad telling [frontman] Bobby Gillespie on the phone that he was having to sign on for benefits to get by as he had no savings but the band offered no support either emotional or financial.”

The inquest also heard that Duffy was diagnosed with prostate cancer during lockdown and was battling an alcohol addiction. According to his son’s statement, his physical and mental state worsened after he was “forced off the tour”. This came following a gig in Glasgow, when the keyboardist was made to leave the lineup due to his struggle with alcohol, and not allowed to play until he had the issue under control.

This decision, according to his son’s statement, saw him “age 10 years in a matter of weeks” and left him “not able to cope any more”.

While his son highlighted the financial situation his father was struggling with in his statement, he did reiterate that money may not have been enough to save his dad.

“I am well aware that financial reward may not have saved Dad from himself – we will never know,” he began. “But I do know that while the band were reaping the rewards from touring ‘Screamadelica’ a classic British album, he was having to live month to month – just being paid session fees to perform it – when in fact he had played such an important part in creating it. I know Dad found this really insulting and not right. His 30 years of loyalty to Primal Scream was never repaid.”

Growing up in Birmingham, Duffy joined indie band Felt at 16-years-old, with the band going on to sign with Creation Records. He was then a part of iconic ’90s band Primal Scream for three decades — who became famed for their third studio album, ‘Screamadelica’, which arrived in 1991 and contained the hit songs ‘Movin’ On Up’ and ‘Loaded’.

Later in his career he also contributed to Gillespie‘s 2020 album with SavagesJehnny Beth, ‘Utopian Ashes’.

Primal Scream performing live onstage
Primal Scream perform live. CREDIT: Getty

At the time of his passing, countless tributes poured in from the music world, including from the Primal Scream frontman, who called the musician a “beautiful soul”.

“Martin was a very special character. He had a love and understanding of music on a deep spiritual level. Music meant everything to him,” he wrote. “Martin was the most musically talented of all of us… He had a swift eye for the absurd, the surreal and the ridiculous. He lived to laugh and play music. He was loved by all of us in the Scream. A beautiful soul. We will miss him.”

In a separate statement, the band’s bassist Simone Marie Butler also paid tribute to Duffy.
“You would struggle to find a more genuine, gifted, funny, kind hearted, caring, naturally talented person who played like no one else,” she said. “It was an honour to play on stage with u this last 11 years, be your friend, shares tours, the ups and downs and the laughs. You were and are one of a kind. Your light will always burn Duffy. Everyone who knew him loved, everyone who met him loved him. He was a pure genuine soul.”

In the latest inquiry, however, Duffy’s son claimed that neither he nor his family have heard from the other members of Primal Scream in the time since his father’s passing. He also described the circumstances in which he believed his father died.

“I lost my dad too soon. I know his death was an accident but I just wish he hadn’t died feeling so unappreciated and distraught about having to sell our home,” he said. “He didn’t deserve that. He was truly loved by so many people and along with his music, this love is his legacy.”

A spokesperson for Primal Scream said that the band had no further comment on the inquest when approached by NME.

Dr Karen Henderson, assistant coroner for Brighton and Hove, recorded a conclusion of accidental death through alcohol intoxication – noting that Duffy died on December 18, 2022 after suffering multiple skull fractures. The inquest concluding that his accidental death was caused by severe traumatic head injury as the result of multiple falls. It was heard that Duffy had a history of alcohol abuse, which contributed to his death.

Primal Scream
Credit: Brian Rasic/Getty Images.

“I am satisfied he was a gifted musician and, for almost all his adult life, he was princely associated with the band Primal Scream,” said Dr Henderson, as reported by The Mirror. “He was a devoted father, partner and friend to many.

“He had a number of personal difficulties. In 2021 he underwent successful for prostate cancer, he had financial pressures from the lockdown and was distressed that he was not able to play gigs with Primal Scream, but he had a problematic relationship with alcohol.

“Advised by some members of the band to take some time off and seek help for his alcohol dependency, he did not sustain contact with [the charity] Change, Grow, Live.

“In the weeks prior to his death in light of his ongoing difficulties that were both personal, financial and work-related, his alcohol dependency spiralled out of control to the detriment of his mental and physical well being.”

Duffy also famously stepped in at the last minute to play with The Charlatans when they supported Oasis at Knebworth, following the loss of Rob Collins. “Martin Duffy stepped in to save The Charlatans when we lost Rob – he played with us at Knebworth and was a true friend,” Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess wrote in tribute. “Another tragic loss of a beautiful soul He toured with me in my solo band too – he was a pleasure to spend time with. Safe travels Duffy.”

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