Why I Love…Ghostdancing

The first Simple Minds song I remember hearing was Promised You A Miracle. I clearly remember seeing the video on this Saturday morning music video program we had on in Oz called Sounds. And I remember loving that X-Ray scanning equipment in the video.

The first Simple Minds song I really remember liking was Waterfront. But it was for the music. That driving bassline and crashing drums, along with those soaring, wailing guitars.

But the first song that REALLY had the potential to turn me into fully-fledged Simple Minds diehard was Ghostdancing. And it was the lyrics that did it.

It’s LOADED with imagery this song. Little did I know (and with only such a short history behind them compared to now) at the time that the opening line harked back to the earlier release of I Travel. I didn’t even KNOW about I Travel until I became a mega fan in 2014. The song was just never on my radar.

Politically charged….right at the point where Jim really wasn’t scared to talk of such stuff. Perhaps he isn’t scared now. Recently he said that “all that needs to have been said has been said” with regards to politics. You think so, Jim? We are closer than ever, yet equally more divided than ever. We need discussion, dialogue…if not then we are left with rhetoric, surely? I think people are scared to talk politics now because there is no “new way”. Everything is cyclical and that’s scary. It’s all regression and de-evolution. Ooh, I feel like I’ve gone all Adam Curtis! I digress.

I personally shy away from political debate because I feel out of my depth. I’m just a poorly educated high school dropout. What do I know about anything anyway?

And I had not long dropped out of high school when this song came along.

It’s rock. Proper rock music. Charlie’s opening riff is the first thing you take notice of. Then Jim’s dystopian opening lyrics (back to the beginning of I Travel) – Cities, buildings falling down (in five years nothing’s changed) – satellites come crashing down, then those big Mel Gaynor drums.

Jim’s vocal is slightly aggressive…determined. The world’s a tough place, but we can make a change “but in our corner of the world we’d meet to laugh and drink and plan our sequels” .

There was so much chaos and turmoil around. The industrial revolution was in its final days, and as the words of the song touch upon, apartheid in South Africa, famine in Ethiopia, continuing terror in Northern Ireland…and on top of all that, the height of the Cold War.

A song highlighting all this perhaps should be the LAST thing you want to listen to…but not for me! I loved it. It was unapologetic and in your face! I listened to it as much as I could until I eventually bought Once Upon A Time. I like Alive And Kicking and All The Things She Said…but it was the strength and guts of Ghostdancing and Sanctify Yourself that pulled me in to buying OUAT.

And it cemented me being a Simple Minds fan…but not enough to pull me away from U2 at the time, and not enough to have me explore their back catalogue extensively (already a substantial number of albums under their belts. Early Simple Minds were impressively prolific!). I do wonder if it had happened in 1985 where I’d be now. Most likely nowhere any different from where I am now.

Another song that uses what I call the “black light”. A Kerr lyric specialty. Juxtaposing the dystopian with, well, perhaps not the UTOPIAN, but with an optimism, a charge of courage to believe things will get better. You can make your life better. We can make the world better!

But like other Kerr lyrics I have highlighted as being in the “black light” (Premonition, for example), it ultimately ends in the dystopian:

“The car pulled up, the girl she jumped in,
The boy he wore a medal that was shining from his skin.
With the windows pulled up, their radio tuned in,
She’s hitting for the stars, he’s hitting for the moon.
She said ‘One last kiss while you look across the land.’
‘Move it into overdrive and take me by my hand.’
When the car broke,
The rebels saw smoke,
And they all went to heaven in a stupid fantasy.
Go.”

But…perhaps not! Because, that’s not the end of the vocal:

“Take me away. Blow, blow away.
Come on and take me away.
Come on and take me away,
Come on take me away, take me away,
Some sweet day.”

Is that optimism or resignation? Are we still talking about the “stupid fantasy”? Because he’s pleading “come on and take me away”? From this mess? This world?

Well, whatever way you’re meant to interpret them, they impacted upon me. I wanted “in” on that quest for, what I heard to be, escapism. “Take me away”, YEAH! Me too, mate!

It remained a strong favourite for many, many years.

Pre-mega fandom in 2014…just prior to it, say…June 2014, if you’d have approached me to name Simple Minds songs, one of the first I’d have given you, if not THE first would have been Ghostdancing, probably closely followed by Love Song.

Why Love Song got to resonate with me, I am unsure, because it is early Simple Minds and I had very limited exposure to early Minds. Perhaps it was because it charted in Australia and got radio airplay (apart from it being a naturally STONKING dance track! I mean, seriously…f*** me sideways!)? But that is for another time, and another “why I love”. Perhaps the very next one, as I have yet to do one for said track.

In summary…an amazing opening guitar riff…killer drums. Lyrics to die for. Wordy, anthemic. A call to arms! Yet also a mirror to the current world. Militant, defiant. Ballsy. Visceral!

I was in love with this song so, so much…and I am falling in love with it all over again just talking about it. It took some near 30 years, but it helped turn me into a mega Simple Minds fan. Without it, I doubt I’d be at this point now (if Jim is reading this, he is probably thinking, “Oh, shit…can we go back and un-record it? Can I un-write it?” Lol. Sorry, Jim. I’m sure I’ll eventually “pull my head in”).

And that is why I love Ghostdancing.

Of course I have chosen the performance on Live Aid for the video link, which doesn’t have those end fadeout lines I referred to in my blurb (but they are there on the studio version of the song). It’s just such an amazing performance of it, how could I *not* link to that version?! Enjoy! (Just don’t dwell on Jim’s outfit too much. Lol. Long gone were the black leather boots and better fitting white troosers…as for being shirtless? Not on a blisteringly hot day in the middle of July! Best we were spared!)

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