Reflections in 2016 – May/June/July

AWell, for starters, I was happy to be home away from the scorching weather! What happened in the final couple of months when I was in Oz, made me realise why I hadn’t been there in the summer for 17 years! My trips home had always been in the autumn/winter. I had been back a few times in April, but don’t remember ever experiencing an April quite as warm as this one. So, yes. I was glad to be home and feeling cool.

May, I started to move the art along. Days in May revolved around art and staying active. Doing lots of walking. Like…LOTS of walking! I spent quite a bit of time adding to my Simple Minds collection, adding magazines (featuring articles of them in it), more vinyl, more cds, and general merchandise and memorabilia to the mix.

The second of the art pieces I had done that Jim was willing to sign had come back. But he had mistakenly signed it for me, instead of my friend, Janis. So I quickly sent another copy off (I initially just sent two…one for Jim to keep and one for him to sign for Janis. I didn’t feel worthy of a signed copy for myself, so I didn’t ask). He was gracious enough to rectify the mix up and sent a signed copy for Janis back to me, which I subsequently sent on to her International signed-for (there’s no way I wanted that to get lost in transit). It made its way safely to her.

In June I really started to make steps at trying to turn what I was doing with the art into making a living for us. I opened a shop called Free Wonder Style on Etsy. Etsy is an online market for handmade arts and crafts. It seemed the right place to start. I selected some pieces that I hoped would not infringe on any copyright and had them made into A3 prints. I also had some designs printed as mugs and t-shirts. I had a very limited stock to begin with and built it up over the following weeks.

I hit the ground running! The shop had barely been running a week when I had my first big sale. An order from Japan of three prints and three mugs. I was AMAZED! A huge sale like that straight away. I thought maybe this thing had real legs! But…It has been a struggle since. There have been some sales, and some friends have been really amazing…and you guys know who you are (thank you!)…but hopefully it’ll be all on the up again (but that’s for a future “reflections” piece).

The momentum I had, being buoyed by that first sale was great. I plugged and plugged the site. I gave away freebies and everything, to try and drum up interest, but it flatlined after a while…and I stopped pushing it so much. The great thing about social media is you can use it as a cheap…almost free…advertising tool. But if you don’t keep up the momentum, it call fall away. I was treading a thin line of trying to get my stuff seen and get people interested, but always mindful that I may piss friends off by “overselling”. I tried hard not to do that.

I by no means want to make a fortune from it! I just want to be able to support myself, doing something I love. I’ve probably chosen one of the most difficult things for myself to make a livelihood from. There is so much competition out there! And so many more talented people. More talented than me. But that can be the case with many people in the arts. Some people can be the most talented people ever, but they just don’t have that (a now tainted term!) “X factor”, that extra “spark” or something different about them. I am by NO MEANS saying I have that! I am merely hoping I do. That maybe it’ll go somewhere.

July saw the highly anticipated boxset release of New Gold Dream [81-82-83-84] and, oh my days! It did NOT disappoint. It was the most beautifully packaged thing, ever. And aspects of why Jim was enjoying my art pieces so much fell into place! As it was all being put together, he must have been seeing this stuff, and quite a few of my pieces…the fab ones, were based around songs from New Gold Dream, just by coincidence. So that was probably a big factor as to why he was liking my pieces so much (perhaps I am selling myself short? I wish!).

I do think NGD is kind of the pinnacle of Jim’s songwriting ability. Of course he has written many beautiful, sexy, emotional, and joyous songs since….and before that…but all the elements that show him off to be the most excellent lyricist that he is are all there. It is just the perfect amalgamation. Romance and yearning in Someone Somewhere In Summertime. Playful and seductive in Colours Fly And Catherine Wheel. Poppy and catchy…yet with a slightly dark heart in Promised You A Miracle. Melancholic and haunting in Big Sleep. The joyous and optimistic effervescence of the title track. And that joy and optimism carries on into Glittering Prize, but is rejoined by romance. Possibly the most sensual, yet enigmatic songs he’s ever written in Hunter And The Hunted, and then ending on an almost political note with King Is White And In The Crowd.

I sent a letter to Jim in which I just…pretty much did what I had done there. Extolled its virtues and thanked, not only him, but all those involved in bringing the album out, and it being repackaged in such a glorious way.  
I always say that Empires And Dance is my favourite Simple Minds album, followed very closely by Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call. But whenever I write about New Gold Dream, I always praise it so highly, I sometimes wonder if I am kidding myself, and should have done with it and declare NGD as my favourite.

The song for this period has to come off the boxset. There are many bonuses to be had on the boxset. Quite a few came out from the X5 boxset, but there were still new gems to be had. Full durations of songs, from the beginning of the tape recording and some early versions of songs and different mixes.

The two I found most fascinating and worth investing in the boxset for was a Monitor Mix of King Is White, the other was an early version of, not an album track, but a B side to Someone Somewhere In Summertime called In Every Heaven. The version on the B side is sunny, joyous, optimistic…celebratory. The early version is an entirely different beast. Slower paced…Jim has no lyrics for it at this point other than the title. It’s more haunting…but not melancholic…just…ephemeral. Listen for yourself as I wrap up this part of the look back to my year…

(Considering we “Brexited” in June…perhaps the song should have been The Communards’ Don’t Leave Me This Way?)

Leave a comment