The Water Babies – Part One – Cruelty

I do like to listen to various things at night. A radio comedy of varying types, usually the Friday Night comedy podcast (which for the past six weeks has been Dead Ringers – so will assume we must be back to a series of The Now Show) and repeats of Cabin Pressure…audio books, read out as “The Book at Bedtime” or similar, and various radio plays and novel adaptations.

I’ve had this one on my list for a few weeks and looked at how much time I had left to listen to it late last night. When I saw “2 days” on the time left, I thought I better get cracking!

The trouble is, I have a tendency to drift off to sleep when I start listening to these things as I tend to start listening to them at rather ungodly hours, like 2am in the morning.  As it went with The Water Babies…though it wasn’t quite that late last night, and I did manage to stay awake some way in.

But I was enthralled. Enchanted. Bewitched by it. Beautifully sad and poignant, it hooked me in immediately. I couldn’t miss out on listening to all three episodes properly, so I downloaded them and will share them here over the next few days.

You’ll find part one below…

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Why I Love…Changeling

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The dancefloor. Frigging hell! Did Simple Minds know how to fill it back in the day. I guess they still do to be fair.

But let us rewind back to 1979. Rockfield Studios in the Welsh countryside. Five young men from Glasgow are in the studio making the followup to their debut album. An album that really couldn’t be more different to the first. They are still just babies, with the average age of them being just 20. They are still very much learning their craft. Recording in the studio next door are none other than Iggy Pop and David Bowie. Could life get any sweeter?

Yes it could. These five young men band together and make one of the best dance tracks of the late 1970’s as you are ever likely to hear.

OKAY! I’ll be the first to admit that…given all the changes in lyrics that Jim Kerr has made in SM songs over the years…esp. early on (he would rewrite songs entirely from demo to album recording), it’s quite a thing that there wasn’t a change made to the opening line to Changeling. I suppose that was the curse of there being no demos for Real To Real Cacophony. They went straight into recording.

The sticking point, lyrically, is that horrible propensity for snidey shits to take the mickey out of the opening line and continue to sing along to Wombling Free, which I’ve got to say…I don’t know what it does to Jim…but to me, it fucking pisses me off no end!

Perhaps we should concentrate on the musical structure of the song for now? Synths and bass opening with an instant dance hook. Drum grooves quickly follow and then a simplistic yet fab guitar riff. Industrial dance grooves. Fuck these boys were good at them! There’s nothing quite like this on Life In A Day. They hadn’t made a sound quite like this, yet…but boy does it signal the start of a very identifiable early “Simple Minds” signature sound. An aural “watermark”, if you will.

I really don’t know anyone who could listen to this track and not tap their feet or their hands and just get hooked in by the groove.

In spite of what the Arista execs hear at the UK HQ with Real To Real Cacophony in which they appear utterly dumbfounded, they do seem to make the right choice in having Changeling as the lead (but unfortunately subsequently ONLY) single off the album. How they didn’t then follow it up with Factory and Premonition is anyone’s guess. One can only assume they were already becoming concerned that SM was going to leak money hand over fist.

Changeling has no chart success, so one assumes that is why there are no other singles released from the Real To Real Cacophony album.

The failure of the single to chart can’t be down to it being deemed “not good enough” by the music consumer of the time? Just listen to it! Was it just overlooked from a then pretty flooded market? Singles at this point sold in their THOUSANDS every week. Albums had their importance then too, but the single was still king at this point. To the point where single picture sleeves were at their height. A single was packaged with as much of a visual selling point as an album was at this point in time. Every Simple Minds single released so far had been in a picture sleeve…Changeling being no exception. Did the picture sleeve “sell” the single? Hmmm…I’m unsure it did much. Life In A Day was certainly simplistic in its design, but it made an impact nonetheless. As for Chelsea Girl? She was on the mark. Jim was on the mark for wanting that Jean Shrimpton painting as the cover.

But for Changeling…I don’t know what a greyscale image of some hosepipe really tells you about the song. There’s a kind of industrial look to the cover, yes…but where I think the texture and simplicity of the Real To Real Cacophony album cover works to sell it (luring you in wondering what the hell this album is about as the cover actually gives NOTHING away by design) – that same simplistic approach falls flat for the Changeling single.

Back to the song itself. Let’s get back to those lyrics. Young Mr Kerr, what you on about, boy? Lol. For me, I gotta say that Changeling is a very rare beast in that it is all about the tune, the groove and not much about The Boy’s songwriting…for a change. I still love the words…but they mean fuck all. Lol. But hey….some of my absolute favourite Bowie songs are pure gobbledegook. The Burroughs technique has a lot to answer for, sometimes. I couldn’t write a song that means SOMETHING…let alone one that doesn’t really mean anything at all but sounds like it does anyway. And to me…that’s master craftsmanship.

In summary? In the simplest terms, it’s a dancefloor filler. Possibly Simple Minds’ first. At least one of the first, blazing a trail for more killers that follow…I Travel, Celebrate, This Fear Of Gods, Love Song, The American…the list goes on (and on and on 😜).

And that is why I love Changeling.

(PS: Jim can’t mime to save his life….but I bloody love him anyway!)

I Love You, You Big Dummy – Magazine Mania

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These things take hold with me at strange, perplexing and kind of random times. I am a rather habitual beast. When I get gripped by something…if it really takes hold, it becomes quite an obsession for a time. And then they remain habits.

I’ve been trying to branch out my musical taste. It really is quite limiting, I guess, and I have never been that good at absorbing new discoveries. I tend not to give things enough of a chance to wow me. If it isn’t immediate – and therein lies the hypocrisy because very rarely has any musical love I have gained of a group or artist been THAT instantaneous – I tend to give up rather quickly.

These days, I tend to try in small doses until such time as my interest gets super piqued and the thing starts to bite and then I start to OD.

The newest bite is Magazine.

I KNOW! But honestly, the “new” music that is around these days rarely takes hold with me. A few acts filter through, but very few of them sound genuinely new.

So…Magazine. There had been bugger all of their stuff on Spotify for AGES. So much the case that when I wanted to take a listen of Real Life again last week, I went straight to YouTube. It was only a couple of days later did I go and take another look at Spotify. Blow me down with a feather! Quite a bit of the Magazine catalogue is now up there – Real Life, Secondhand Daylight and The Correct Use Of Soap up there for a start…and quite a bit besides.

I suppose the thing that got me diving in again was this. Seeing Howard Devoto’s words on Pete Shelley and hearing that snippet of their most recent musical collaboration it got me wanting to explore Magazine again.

I’ve listened to the first three albums several times over this past week. I think that for me…despite some of the more well-known tracks being on Real Life (Shot By Both Sides, Definite Gaze, The Light Pours Out Of Me) and The Correct Use Of Soap (A Song From Under The Floorboards, Sweetheart Contract, Thank You (Fallentinme Be Mice Elf Again) – Sly And The Family Stone cover), my fave album of the three so far is Secondhand Daylight. And the fact that was the album they were touring with when SM were their support touring with Life In A Day – God I wish to fuck I had a TARDIS!

To start, apart from their own material, they do STELLAR covers! I titled this post “I Love You, You Big Dummy” because I just fell in love with it on the first listen. Revealing my musical ignorance, I had NO IDEA it was a cover of a Captain Beefheart song. I was at least familiar with Thank You (Fallentinme Be Mice Elf Again) and its origins, thanks to a certain Mr Kerr. I’d love to ask him what he thinks of Magazine’s version, but I am trying not to harass the man currently. Best not to badger. Leave the insipid enthusiasm for the blog, eh?

I think back to my interview with Bruce and him saying he tried to get Simple Minds out of their contract with Arista earlier than they did. That he approached Simon Draper some 18 months before they signed to Virgin. At that point, Draper was unconvinced, “Why would we want Simple Minds on our books when we already have a “Simple Minds” – Magazine?” Perhaps I am nuts…biased…wear rose-tinted glasses – but I really don’t hear that much of a musical similarity. Certainly not to the point Simon Draper was making – that they were TOO SIMILAR to be record label stable mates. WTF? Well, as it transpires, it would seem that Simple Minds’ signing to Virgin seemed to signal some kind of death knell for Magazine. They released one album shortly after the SM signing – Magic, Murder And The Weather. Then there is nothing new until the band reforms in 2009 (a rather short-lived reformation).

I am yet to listen to Magic, Murder And The Weather…I really am quite absorbed with the other three for now.

My favourite track? I heard it for the first time proper last night, and then immediately played it again…and then again…and again. I just found it jaw-dropping. Not really sure why. I just loved what I felt was an edginess and rawness to it. Actually I do know why…fuck me…that bassline from Barry Adamson!!! FUCK OFF!

Yes…I can feel a new love affair blossoming. It’s very rarely “love at first sight” for me musically. Most things are a slow burn.

Magazine are the latest slow burn to suddenly become a fireball. Will they remain a powerful flame? Will they fizzle out and simmer away in the background like many of my recent other new loves? Roxy Music, Talking Heads…

All I know is the appreciation is finally there.

Remote Musical Collaborations

A friend – Scott – has been really lovely in giving me encouragement and support with the drumming practice. He plays guitar and bass and has taken a few of my drum samples and added to them.

I never thought this would become “a thing”. That someone would want to use my drum parts to fool around with and add bits to.

I’m sure Scott wouldn’t mind me saying that it’s all very amateur, but I love these little remote jams. I am feeling like I am some pro muso working on actual music collaborations.

Thanks for the permission to share this little snippet, Scott.

He said I I could give it a title. Not sure what to call it, really. Perhaps seeing as Scott IS a Scot, we can call it “Razzy Jam”? Lol. I don’t know… All’s I know is, I like it 🙂

It’s a rough cut, not tidied up at the ends…in true “rough jam” fashion. “Razzy Jam” – with pips 😁