Once Upon A Time …. I Liked It

It was 36 years since the release of Once Upon A Time yesterday. I find it an anniversary that usually passes me by without any fanfare. Unlike April for Life In A Day. Or November for Real To Real Cacophony. Or even my birthday for Big Music (seemingly deemed to be early November these days as its release but I received my pre-ordered copy on my birthday in 2014).

But especially in September when we get the run of anniversaries just a day apart – Empires And Dance, Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call and New Gold Dream.

This is starting to sound like I am big on anniversaries and know them all….but I don’t. Once Upon A Time is a case in point. It slips my mind every year. Probably because of the time of year it happens. Ten days before my birthday. I’m usually preoccupied with that.

In 1985 I got the album for my birthday…I think. It might have been for Christmas….I have an appalling memory! I know I wanted it though and I did receive a copy of it for either of these occasions. It was the first Simple Minds piece of music I had ever owned. It SHOULD mean more to me! I SHOULD remember the date. There SHOULD be some significance to it, but alas….

Why? Why is that? Honestly? I think I have just grown weary of it. Which is sad. I feel sad that I feel like this. I didn’t feel this way about OUAT in 2014. But the whole Simple Minds back catalogue was so new to me then. I felt a nostalgia and a reverence for the album then. 

Move forward to 2021 and I can’t even play the album these days. Or more, I have little interest in playing it. Unlike with Real To Real, EAD, SAF/SFC and NGD – all of whose songs I never tire of. I just can’t bring myself to listen to Once Upon A Time.

It kind of scares me how tired of Alive And Kicking, Sanctify Yourself, All The Things She Said, and even the title track Once Upon A Time I have become. To a lesser degree it affects Ghostdancing and Oh Jungleland. I Wish You Were Here has been played minimally enough not to be too affected. And when I played the album back in the day I would always skip Come A Long Way anyway, so that’s pretty unaffected too. And I have grown to appreciate the song in recent years.

I rarely talk in the negative like this about Simple Minds. Well…I try very hard not to talk in negatives, anyway. (We are the “meek and unambitious” and we shall not have our voices heard!) But…I do feel mournful that I have grown so weary of OUAT – for without it, I may never have become a Simple Minds fan at all! Either the fairweather fan I had been since the day of its release up until the summer of 2014 – or from that point on until the present day in fervent fandom.

I hope my love returns. I hope with enough of a break, and the passage of time, I will feel able to listen to it once more. It might depend on certain changes to the live setlist though – or my not going to any more Simple Minds gigs. Or fewer of them. I don’t know. 

As soon as I had posted my piece about the “Seven Year Itch” and not really listening to them at all much, it turned it around and I was listening to them again. Maybe just posting and the airing of this will have me listening to OUAT again?

Stranger things have happened…

Simple Minds at Musilac Festival, Aix-Les-Bains – 2022

Announced last night, Simple Minds are to play at the Musilac Festival at Aix-Les-Bains in 2022. They play on Friday, July 8th.

I have already been contemplating it and already been looking tentatively at flights to the nearest European destinations. Grenoble would be ssoooo handy – but Easyjet only fly there from Edinburgh in the winter months. Next handy is Lyon, with flights from Edinburgh to Lyon (no flights to/from Lyon from Glasgow) twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays. So it would be fly in on Wednesday, leave on Saturday. Okay, fair enough. Means I’m there two days early. Not bad. And perhaps getting to Aix from Lyon would be easier than travelling from Geneva?

Geneva is the best option for flights. Flights are daily between Edinburgh and Geneva – but then there are two coaches to take to get to Aix from there. One to Chambery, then from there to Aix. It was a long day’s travel! I didn’t get into Aix the last time until about 7pm I think it was. Or maybe 7.30? But it’s summer and there’s plenty of daylight.

It seems to be a quicker, more straightforward journey from Lyon to Aix.

From what I can see so far of the line-up, it’s not exactly the killer lineup it was the last time I went. Not only were SM on the bill but so was Depeche Mode and The Stranglers! This time I see Sum 41 and Dropkick Murphys on the bill with. Neither band is one I am into and I am only vaguely familiar with Sum 41. I know one song of theirs but I can’t even remember what it’s called….

Are Simple Minds the headline act? Probably not. Why have they been put on the bill with these two bands? Where the hell is the connection? The day before Skunk Anansie are on the bill. I wish SM and SA were on the bill the same day!

And I have no idea if my friend Françoise would be going again.

As much as I am sitting here mulling all this over, contemplating it, the less inclined I am to seriously consider it. Too much to weigh up. The logistics. The cost. Accommodation. The festival bill.

It is a fantastically organised festival. I had a great time – all things considered. Aix-Les-Bain is a lovely place. And if I got to spend time with Françoise again, that would be lovely. And…it’s the day before Jim’s birthday. I could kid myself I get to spend his birthday (almost) with him. Sad fucker that I am!

I’ll keep an eye out on the Musilac site, social media, etc, to see who else ends up on Friday’s bill. I’m interested….but…we’ll see.

Review – The Velvet Underground (Documentary by Todd Haynes)

I think this documentary ended up posing more questions than it answered. 

Firstly, it doesn’t sugarcoat the notion of Lou Reed being….well…actually perhaps they DO sugarcoat it. Because what became obvious was that to label Reed “troubled” is somewhat of an understatement. I actually started to wonder how anyone managed to work with him. Certainly John Cale was finding it difficult towards the end of his part in the Velvet Underground story “if you were nice to him, he only treated you worse”.

The one thing I’d say to Jim after seeing this film is when you say you’re not worthy of tying Lou Reed’s bootlaces – you do yourself a MASSIVE disservice, Jim Kerr. You really do! 

The film starts with a quote from Baudelaire – “Music fathoms the sky.” That immediately had me thinking of Jim for in the New Gold Dream tour program, he’s given the name “Kid Baudelaire” in brackets. Attributed from Adam Sweeting? A nickname the rest of the guys give him? Who knows?

A Warhol film image of Lou Reed appears fairly early on. Just that straight-at-the-lens, nowhere-to-hide portrait shot, the camera rolling for several minutes. A childhood that didn’t sound overly loving, but they talk to his sister Merrill and she makes the counter argument of it being easy to pin all of Lou’s troubles on his childhood and upbringing. 

Several minutes later we move on to a similar half of the screen moving image portrait of John Cale. This is how little I admit to knowing about The Velvet Underground and its individual members – I hear John Cale speak and….he sounds like he usually sounds….with a New York twang. And then, he speaks again and sounds WELSH! Like, a proper Valley boy-o! 

I know! I should know better than this. I should be more knowledgeable. A lot of the time I do feel incredibly ignorant about a lot of things. 

A lot of the film centred towards PRE-VU. Lou and John and how they got into music the way they did, their influences, and how they met and formed The Primitives. 

All of that I found good. Sterling Morrison remains a mystery. Moe Tucker seems a very lovely woman. Doug Yule seemed a very fitting replacement for John Cale. 

It flowed well up to the point we got to when Warhol became involved and Nico joined the group. Then, for me, the documentary became a bit…rushed. It spent a lot of time on the preamble but then not much time on the Velvet Underground itself, once a modicum of success came.

Also, whenever they played Venus In Furs, it was DEAFENING! Venus In Furs was ssooo much louder than anything else within the audio, other Velvet songs, people speaking, etc, etc. It was a real wallop to the ears.

I kind of came away a bit…unfulfilled by the experience. I wanted more and something different. I probably wanted to learn more about Lou Reed than I did. I certainly wanted to learn more about the band than I felt I did. 

What I did learn though (or had confirmed to me) is:

  • The Velvet Underground are definitely punk. They are the TRUE pioneers of punk. Forget the “avant garde” schtick, although that does apply too. They’re punk.
  • John Cale is Welsh (I know! Lol).
  • Lou Reed was a douche canoe (at least at that time) and I honestly don’t know how anyone worked with him.
  • Delmore Schwartz was a massive influence on Reed.
  • Jonathan Richman is a sweetheart, and just about the only person to say something nice about Lou. And it explained why The Modern Lovers’ Roadrunner is ssooo much like Rock ‘n’ Roll to me. (Though it is meant to be a homage to Sister Ray – shows you how familiar I am with Sister Ray!)
  • Nico was a drifter. Lost, trying to find purpose in her life.
  • Warhol gave us “celebrity” and fame for fame’s sake. He’d love Love Island and Big Brother, and probably Gogglebox too.
  • Without Warhol no one outside of NYC would have heard of VU.

So, last night, in bed. Wanting to listen to some music to help me drift off to sleep, did I choose the “Banana Album”? Or White Light/White Heat? Or The Velvet Underground (aka album three)? Or Loaded? 

Nope!

I chose to listen to The Modern Lovers – the original set of recordings from 1972 that were finally released in 1976. 

And to paraphrase words from Roadrunner “I’m in love with Jonathan Richman”. We could all do with keeping that childlike wonder. Oh, man. Even in the documentary – you just want to reach in through the screen and hug him!

In summary of the Velvet Underground documentary. Did I enjoy it? To a degree. Did I find it insightful? Again, to a degree. Did I enjoy it as much as the previous music documentary I saw (The Sparks Brothers)? Naw.

If I was to give it a mark out of 10 – where the Sparks Brothers doc gets a firm 10/10. The Velvet Underground documentary gets a 7/10. The best bits were the interviews with John Cale, Moe Tucker, Jonathan Richman and Mary Woronov. 

It wasn’t quite what I had hoped for or anticipated. For one I didn’t expect to come out of a Velvet Underground documentary thinking “Aawww, Jonathan Richman – he’s sssooo sweet!” Lol

Can I recommend it? I guess. If you’re a REAL diehard Velvets fan, it probably isn’t going to give you much more of an insight in all honesty. Novices interested in the band and the period and wanting to know more…you might learn some stuff, but for me personally, it didn’t completely fill the remit.

And so, I shall leave you with this, influence of an influence that leads to an influence. And I love a fade-in!

Minds Music Monday – Disconnected

I have been back listening to a random shuffle mode playlist of Minds songs over the past couple of nights. Perhaps my “Seven Year Itch” has been quelled? 

Sometimes I get distracted. My thoughts wander. As I am so familiar with some of the tunes, and this will sound awful – but….you can “zone out”, if you know what I mean? Definitely not confined to Simple Minds songs! Mostly they just insight a thought or a memory and the mind wanders off in thought.

As it did last night. 

I admit to not being the biggest fan of the album Cry. I find it hit and miss. Many fans see it as the first “return to form”, yet bizarrely for me, I see it more as the dip … almost like they are trying too hard to get back to fluid creativity. It feels … forced. Which makes sense, given where we are in the Simple Minds timeline. For me, the next album (Black And white 050505) is the “return to form” that exponentially builds up to Walk Between Worlds.

As for the Cry album, there are exceptions – I ADORE Spaceface. It is my “go to” happy song. That should have been my “drugs song” choice for Billy’s show last weekend. I’m sure Jim would say it actually isn’t about drugs…but the lines within “she don’t need no rocket ship / just close(s) her eyes and takes a trip / baby’s big on aviation / baby loves a levitation” and the chorus, “she’s a spaceface floating round / she’s never coming down” NEVER COMING DOWN (ie: she’s as high as the proverbial kite, man)

Spaceface makes ME “high”. It’s awesome. 

The other song on the album I have grown to love is Disconnected. 

So, last night it plays and I am listening to the words, thinking “everybody needs to feel respected / not disconnected” – I wish! I do wish…Mr Kerr. “I don’t wanna hear the sound of your wide world when it comes crashing down” – okay then. Block your ears, Kerr! “I can only help you if you’re sure you wanna keep me hanging round” DUH!!!!! Like you have to ask, boy-o! 

And then I start thinking … this is all a bit of a contradiction, isn’t it? “Everybody needs to feel respected” – but then “I don’t wanna hear the sound of your wide world when it comes crashing down”…??? What happened to “Everybody needs to feel respected”???? 

I ended up thinking about it quite philosophically in the end. And came away from it feeling like the “Everybody needs to feel respected / not disconnected” line was a MASSIVE oxymoron compared to the rest of the lyrics. 

I guess I’m not meant to take them LITERALLY – us overthinkers tend to do that kind of shit, eh? We’re a bit of a drain and a drag like that. 

So…the only line I feel I can take from it is “Only in my dreams I feel protected / this is reflected in all that I believe” – not even sure I can take the second part of the line  – just that first bit. And when I talk of “dreams”, I think I mean the word very differently to how Jim interprets it and uses it. Dreams are on a par with ambitions for him, I think. Whereas for me? Dreams are “pie in the sky” wishes that will never come to fruition – or those actual “nocturnal visions” that happen to many of us somewhere, some time in our lives (as I appreciate that not everyone believes they dream, or feels they have dreams…as in actual visions during sleep).

Would I be “respected” for my own definition of dreams, I wonder? 

I am still pondering the “meek and unambitious” post as well. That left a mark. I felt the same things happening when listening to Disconnected, as the feelings that happened with the “Ambition” post. 

Ambition isn’t a dirty word. And I fully understand why the word “ruthless” is placed with it. To be “unambitious” may indeed be “unsavoury” – but it is usually, as far as I see it…a side effect of ill mental health. I don’t know anyone who sets out to be DELIBERATELY “unambitious” …. but hey ho. What do I know? I’m not a psychiatrist. 

Anyway, this is getting overly-philosophical for a MMM post. Let’s just enjoy Disconnected.

A “Then And Now” To Lament On

A post on SMOG from G Man about 5×5 Live and setlists and favourites and what not has me maudlin today. Forever lamenting I missed that tour.

The photo he used for it – a montage of screenshots from an interview of the period looked like a piece of Kristen Whitehead’s montage work. Aye, it was.

The third photo – top right. His expression reminded me so much of a photo from Virginia of him from many years before. Same expression. Much how I feel about missing out on 5×5 Live.

Such is life…

The Battersea Poltergeist – And Other Podcasts

Want something SPOOKY to get your teeth into for Halloween? Then may I suggest the Battersea Poltergeist?

I have spent the past week freaking myself out listening to this podcast at night…in bed…in the dark. Literally shitting myself! Lol. It is really creepy – well I found it creepy. The story centres around a house on number 63 Wycliffe Road, Clapham, home of the Hitchings family. It’s the winter of 1956. Strange things are happening and they seem to centre on 15 year old Shirley, daughter of Wally and Kitty Hitchings. Are the family being haunted by a poltergeist? You can listen HERE

Another podcast I listened to before that was the sad and harrowing story of missing 6 year old Mary Boyle. She disappeared when walking back to her grandparents house in Donegal in 1977. She has never been found. Over the past 44 years suspicion and accusations abound, leading to family relationship breakdowns. The podcast is called No Body Recovered. And you can listen to it by clicking the link HERE

The latest one I have started just last night is called Limelight: The House That Vanished. It’s the story of Neville Presho and his family. After starting a new life in New Zealand, Neville and his wife Fiona decide to return to Ireland with their young family to the remote island of Tory, located nine miles of the north coast of Ireland, off the coast of Donegal. When he moved to New Zealand, Neville left a house on the island, but when he returns to the island to live there with his family, his house is gone! Where did it go? How does a whole house just disappear without anyone on the island seemingly noticing or caring? The link to this podcast is HERE

The Quiet Side Of Midnight – Priptona Art

The “art” very much comes and goes in waves these days. I must be needing some visual therapy as I have found myself working on the visual side of things again these past few days.

I don’t feel anywhere near as depressed and “affected” as I did this time last year leading up to my birthday (thank God!). Last year I was in a VERY bad place – but the “art” has me on the lookout.

All the talk of “it’s okay not to be okay” – that is NEVER how I feel. It is how I feel for everybody else….not for myself. Never have done. I am NEVER okay with not being okay.

But! For today, at least, I am okay.

He helps. He always helps. (Shhh! Don’t tell him. Lol)