Sadly inevitable. Too much uncertainty around. And, for me, this tour was off last year – even though it had initially been rescheduled for the end of this year. I wasn’t going to be travelling there. And I had resigned myself to the fate of money squandered. I didn’t like my chances of selling my tickets on. So on a personal note, I am thankful for the tour cancellation because I know I will get refunds on my tickets now. I am grateful not to be resigned to swallowing up another loss of funds. Small mercies.
I feel for my friends there. Australia is a loooong way and not everyone can just get on a plane and travel to the other side of the world to see the band they love. A few Aussie fans have been fortunate to do that, but there are some who would never have those funds or opportunities. My heart really does go out to those guys.
I hope Simple Minds will make it back out there again sooner rather than later. In the meantime – don’t be disappointed with the band, or their management, or the promoters. They have done all they can to try and get these things to go ahead. They are losing their livelihoods and the live music scene around the world is on its knees! I know Jim and Charlie and the rest of the band will be as disappointed and disheartened as the fans.
It’s this bloody pandemic. It’s Coronavirus, Covid-19…whatever you want to call this absolute cockwomble of a thing! And government ineptitude by and large. You know, the whole world. EVERY COUNTRY could have done with the leadership of New Zealand. Every country could have done with a Jacinda Ardern as their leader. Had every country stayed locked like NZ did, then maybe just MAYBE we’d not be in the state we’re in right now the world over. But we’ll never really know.
Bass. That Forbes bass. It’s the linchpin to the Simple Minds sound at that time. Those basslines are one of the things that distinguished them from others and made them stand out. And what a bassline that starts the title track to Sons And Fascination.
I don’t really know what the sound is that accompanies that bass – something percussive? A hard synth tone? Some kind of sound like a “thwack” to try and explain it in an onomatopoeic way.
Jim talks about them having repetitive loops and riffs during this time and not so much melody. The melody comes later, by his reckoning. But for me, the melody is already there. To me, loops and riffs CAN have melody too. And Mick’s synth work on this track is melodious. A shining synth melody, twinned with an understated guitar riff. A short and bright riff.
Those opening lines! “Summer rains are here / savaged beauty life / falling here from grace” – knockout punch! Sorry, Jim Kerr, but that is abstract poetry right there! Almost a haiku – but at 5/5/5 syllables. All his lines in rhythm. 5/5/5 – 5/5/6 – 5/5/5 -2/2/2 – 2/2/2 – 5/5/5 – 5/5/6 – 5/5/6 – 2/2/2 – 2/2/2 – 5/5/5 – 5/6/6 – 5/5/6 – 2/2/2 – 2/2/2 (numbers representing the syllables per line of the song)
Let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about what is fast becoming my final wish. To ask Jim about certain lines in this song. I don’t really know why it has been such a point of focus for me but that almost choral set of lines? The “ma son / warm land / semi monde” lines have fascinated me all these years. Especially the last of the set of three.
I read an interview. I’ve read so many early interviews. I never remember where I get what quote from where. But I remember Jim talking about his Da. About how, for a working class man, for a guy that was a builder’s labourer, he was “cultured”. But it was something he didn’t shout about or boast about. A man’s man! But he liked to be knowledgable and he liked reading and he liked the theatre. And he liked music, of course. Jim has memories of his dad taking him to Govanhill library as a wee boy to join the library and get his library card.
I think Jim became quite the “chip off the old block” insomuch as he loved his pals and his football and being a guy – your typical Glasgow boy. But something more was always calling. The desire for knowledge and a thirst for learning, for travel and of being “cultured” ensured he wasn’t going to be just another Glasgow boy. That a different path was laid out for him.
In this interview he had talked about seeing shows at the Citizens Theatre. He just vaguely brushed upon it, so I have no real clear reference of what he saw there and when. As far as I am aware, the Citizens was a serious playhouse. Not a place where you’d go and watch a pantomime or see a comedy performer.
Researching up on it – yes – it’s PROPER theatre! Where you’d see the likes of Shakespeare and Beckett. Ibsen and Brecht. And …. Noel Coward.
And so, it was in 1977, right in the middle of the UK punk explosion – where a group of Southside boys got together and made a racket under the rather lewd name of Johnny And The Self Abusers – a play Noel Coward had written in the 1920s, made its theatrical debut at the Citizens Theatre in the Gorbals.
Did the boy in the punk band go to “the Citz” to watch a play about 1920s “high society” nobs? Well, only he knows. Lord knows I have tried to ask him! Perhaps for some reason I can’t quite fathom he’s ashamed to confirm it? Or, conversely, he doesn’t want to admit to a denial? Either he’ll appear terribly “un-punk” for having been to such a play in 1977 or he’ll feel a let down for not appearing quite as “cultured” as he has alluded to in the past.
In the grand scheme of things, it matters very little. I have just always had an intrigue about the use of the term in the song and wondered if that (the play) was some vague spark that caused its usage.
It’s strange how some things can connect in ways you never expect. The Citizens has had its share of theatrical acting alumni come through its doors. One such talent was Pierce Brosnan, who had a stint plying his craft at the theatre around the time. He had a role in Semi Monde. And he (Brosnan) was my very first crush. There’s just something about those dark-haired, blue-eyed, Catholic, celtic boys, eh? They give me the “sucker punch”.
So, let’s just pretend that the inspiration for the use of the term was down to that – him actually seeing the play – rather than he just banged some French girl and she perhaps shouted it out in the throes of passion and he liked the sound of it and used it.
Can I be that French girl?!
Jim has recurring themes. A recurrence happens in the song Book Of Brilliant Things – “thank you for the voice, the eyes, and the memories shine”. But very similar lines are used (and as for as I am concerned, used superiorly) in Sons And Fascination – “thank you for the voice / thank you for the eyes / thank you for the good times”. They are used more emphatically in SAF.
He paints such a collage of things in the song. Of nature. Of a metropolis. Of motorcades: “golden guns and cars / styles and motorcades” and celebrations: “parades are leaving town”. I see 8mm film – images in my head of the things he sings about. Almost like a Pathé News reel.
It’s the cohesion of the album. It’s European travelogue. It’s a reflection of life in this point in time. It’s cinematic without being pompous. It’s a window. And it is still a reflection of what is influencing them musically but now also so very much their own! Their own voice! Their own image. Their stamp. Their mark! And, it’s indelible. For as much as it paints the picture of the now in 1981 – the Europe of 1981 – it has become timeless.
The song had the original working title of Sulphate. And it was one of those tracks Mick had worked on. One of the ones he had given to Jim on cassette. One of the ones that Jim fell in love with in his walks around Glasgow.
I absolutely adore Sons And Fascination. I’m so glad they worked with everything. That all the songs felt too precious to ditch anything and throw anything away. And I know it was done from the perspective of “wiping the slate clean”. But what a way to wipe the slate clean. What a way to blank a canvas!
Had they not done what they had done with Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call we may never have ended up with the album we got with New Gold Dream. And this is why I will forever hold Sons And Fascination in such esteem.
Inked on my skin.
I have a number of live versions as favourites. One is one that was recorded in San Francisco in November, 1981, specially for Billy Sloan’s show in Radio Clyde and aired in July, 1982, the night before a gig they had at Tiffany’s.
Another live favourite is a more up tempo version recorded from an FM broadcast, a Tiffany’s gig from December, 1981.
And we can’t leave it without a link to the album version. Masterful.
One final extra, if you’re interested in learning any more about it – links follow to a program on STV that aired a few years back about The Citizens.
I think it has been coming for some time. I think I might be spent. Done. I don’t think I have any more to give.
It is a heavy heart that I say this with. My personal fandom for Simple Minds has altered. I love them. I absolutely love them! I can still wax lyrical about them. Lord knows I can wax lyrical about Jim! He is just…all things to me. And I say this knowing how absolutely darn pathetic it is – but I honestly can’t remember what a day feels like without thinking of him. I am, quite literally, Kerrsed. (Have to throw in a pun there somewhere!)
But I feel like I…
I will try to articulate it well.
The Simple Minds catalogue as it stands is finite. It will expand at some point in the future – yes. But there is only so much of “List your Top 5 songs” and all that kind of stuff I feel able to engage in.
It feels like it is becoming a hamster wheel. Around and around and around. Favourite album. Favourite song.
Speculation also drives me insane too. It’ll come when it comes, FFS! The new album. The recommencing of the tour. Jim’s “tome” of fiction. And currently…there is not much “doing” at SMHQ and Jim is obviously just not wanting to engage with the fans in social media any more – which is his absolute right, of course.
But that was the thing that drew me into the fanbase! That’s what drew me in to Facebook! His presence and interaction with the fanbase. I can’t emphasise enough what that meant! And how different that set Simple Minds apart from any band or artist that I had ever liked before. The human touch. Making the intangible feel tangible. That is what made you feel most special to me, Jim. The voice is one thing, the songwriting another. The stage presence another. But it was all wrapped in a bow with your…approachability.
I was always someone who just stayed out on the fringes. I was never one to really put myself “out there”. Years of self-doubt, social ineptitude and of mental ill health.
In recent times I have wondered if many of the things I see that made me feel different as a child and made things difficult for me were signs of ASD that were never picked up? That I masked too well and it went undetected? It happens to a lot of women with ASD. And as the wording goes – Autism SPECTRUM Disorder, there’s a spectrum there with some elements of ASD being stronger and more obvious in some than others, etc, etc.
I grew up with strong “stimming” traits. I rocked back and forth almost constantly as a child. The only time I would stop is when I was out somewhere, at school, or if we had house guests that didn’t know us well I would find alternatives. I would swing my legs back and forth or find other “stims” to do. I especially did the rocking when listening to music. It was the ultimate excuse to do it. I was listening to music! No one felt it was very strange then. But they did if I did it while watching TV or just…sitting and being. I also bite my nails. And not just my nails but the skin around my nails also. I eventually stopped the rocking in early adulthood but I still bite my nails and skin badly.
So…I have always felt somewhat alone. School was never something I enjoyed in a peer group sense. I loved learning and craved learning but I always felt incredibly uncomfortable around my peers and then when the bullying started, it escalated those feelings ten fold. I started staying away from school a lot as a result.
It took so much for me to step into the Simple Minds fanbase. I had NEVER socialised on this scale before, and I mean NEVER.
I can still remember how absolutely petrified I was going to my first SM gig and the idea that the people I had been talking to online would meet me just scared the crap out of me. I had tentatively agreed to meet someone from the fanbase at the gig, but I chickened out. I was just too overwhelmed. Meeting one new person is nerve-wracking for me but put that in a gig scenario where the person you have agreed to meet is there with maybe five or six other people around them and I am being introduced to them all…
It eventually happened. Bolstered largely by encouragement from Jim. The interactions I started to have with him gave me a confidence I had never possessed. It led me to do things I could only had previously dreamt of. I went on national TV to partake in a quiz, FFS! Something I had dreamed of for nearly 20 years, probably longer than that. And I did it, twice!
And those trips brought me to Glasgow and I fell in love with the city. And as a result of that, the city is now my home. And I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else! It feels as much “home” as Sydney ever did.
My hang ups are my hang ups, you know. They are mine to work through.
These days I just feel – estranged from the fanbase. It’s not a place I am feeling very welcome or comfortable being in. It is why I have, for the most part, stepped away from SM fan groups. There has been some petty differences and rather more disconcerting spats. I have never been great with conflict.
I certainly do not have the patience, zeal and diplomacy of Gordon Machray, for a start. His endless enthusiasm for the band and the music really is something to be admired. It is down to him that the Simple Minds Official Fan Group (SMOG, as I have often referred to it) is what it is now. All inclusive and all encompassing. I hope there are others more capable than me who will be willing to step up to the plate and help him in his time of need – as I guess it has become obvious that that really isn’t me.
This blog will continue. In what capacity, I am unsure. I am determined to see through the Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call 40th Anniversary celebration. Beyond that…who knows? It’ll probably just revert back to what is ultimately some crappy, Jim Kerr obsessive fangirl site – in hardly any way linked to Simple Minds at all – just the tenuous point of a link being Jim’s “raspberry ripples”.
I guess I never really was much of a fan then, eh? And perhaps I never did “earn my stripes”.
The times had been great…for the most part. Apart from the whole “real fans” affair. I really could have done without that. But hey ho. There we go. We are fallible and all make mistakes in life.
I still don’t know what the future holds. None of us do. But I feel that whatever my future as a Simple Minds fan is, it will probably be confined to here on this blog and my own personal social media profiles.
When you consider the tracks on the album that have just gone by – the thumping drum and bass monster of Boys From Brazil and the pre-techno genre Euro dance beat of Love Song – there is a calming and stillness to This Earth. A soft rim shot (that’s what that particular percussive sound is called in the pro world) and slow haunting reverb guitar start the track off before Mick comes in with simple but gorgeous synth melody. It feels as if a magic carpet has arrived to take you on a meditative ride.
Soft little hushed tones from Jim accompany the music before he comes in with a pondering set of questions – “What’s your name? What’s your nation?” There is now – after the rush of the previous two album tracks – a definite “sense of order / sense of speed” – at least a reduction of speed to the more tranquil and more….meditative.
More fragmented lyrics still “shakes his hand / turns away / turns his back and walks away”. Jim seems to have recurring themes in his lyrics. Quite a bit of hand shaking and walking into, out of, or generally around spaces. There’s a lot of walking. I guess it is reflective of how much of a walker (yes, that’s “waLker” lol) he is. Some elements of songwriting, no matter how much you feel are not a reflection of you personally can’t help but be a mirror.
Reading up about it, it was initially an instrumental and was released as an instrumental only version on the B-side of Love Song. Jim added the vocal at the latter stages of the album recording. Probably having walked around Glasgow for days on end listening to the track god knows how many times on his(?) or Brian’s(?) Walkman. Each time I hear it I think of the reply I had from him about listening to music while walking (or jogging as the post he had written had alluded to) around Glasgow. I’ll include it below as it is a piece of “conversation” I cherish. I cherish all the interactions I’ve ever had with Jim and I despair the thought of it being past tense now. “All things must pass”, I guess. I feel as if I have been in mourning twice in recent years. Losing my mum at the end of 2019 and then…well…
I have probably highlighted this bit of conversation several times over already, but here goes…
I used to think that was a ridiculous kind of bravado to claim that. To say “no birdsong could compete”. But he is right. No birdsong can. But the birds aren’t trying to compete with Mick MacNeil’s or Charlie Burchill’s genius. They’re just the males in the species competing with each other for “top bird”. To get the best females. I pretty much think Mick had that part covered as well – without trying. Cheekbones you could cut yourself on.
For me, this song has Charlie Burchill’s best guitar solo. By far. It almost sounds off key. But that makes it stand out. And it’s haunting. Like his guitar is weeping. It is so beautiful. And then to match it to Jim’s lyrics after the solo ends – “screaming edge of light / shines so, shines so hard”. Those lines exactly encapsulate what Charlie has just produced with his guitar.
I had my “heavenly moment” with this song. The Walk Between Worlds tour of 2018 and it starting at the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow. We were just a few songs into the show. The songs that you’d expect to get things under way. The ones the early diehards love – I Travel, Celebrate, Love Song… and then…THEN came the B-side to Love Song in lyrical form. As soon as the jangling guitar, the soft percussive beat and synth melody began, I almost fell to my knees in raptures! There was talk of surprises being on the setlist leading up to the tour. Unexpected things that would keep the diehards happy. And of course by this time I was one of those diehards.
I had never expected much from the promise of surprises. I know sometimes that Jim says one thing and means another. I was cynical enough to keep my expectations in check for fear of disappointment. This one floored me. I was ssooo happy! I just wanted to shut myself off from everything else that was happening around me. I closed my eyes and just let the whole thing wash over me. To just let it soak into my skin and try to keep myself in the moment.
I don’t actually recall much of how the song actually sounded on the night. I remember Jim and Catherine sharing vocal duties on it. I remember feeling blissful hearing the music and anticipating Charlie’s solo which was just about note perfect from my vague memory of it. The memory is vague because I suffer from a kind of sensory and emotional “overload”. When things are very special or mean a lot to me, it overwhelms me and plays havoc with my memory recall. I have the worst memory as is – but when it is a special thing, a moment that I REALLY WANT TO REMEMBER – then that is guaranteed to be the thing I remember least – or worse still can’t recall at all. A lot of things I wipe from memory completely. Thankfully in these modern times with Smartphones being rather ubiquitous, there is not much need for me to have to rely on my memory recall – thank god! But it would still be lovely to be able to recall it first-hand from my own memory bank. To feel all the things I felt that night as the song was playing rather than the vagueness of knowing it meant the world to me to hear it being performed and wanting to savour the moment.
I know this is not the most information rich post about this song. There’s never really been much said of it. Never much talk about it. It’s quiet and sparse and glorious. Understated. Simple and beautiful. Mick MacNeil at his very best. Charlie Burchill at his very best also. And Jim Kerr at his most lyrically enigmatic. Quiet and sparse – but also expansive. Cinematic. “Worldwide on the widest screen” – latter lyrics that also sum up the atmosphere of This Earth That You Walk Upon. This whole planet is home to us. This big blue planet that we really should be taking much better care of but never will. Humans by nature are just far too greedy and selfish. Even those who otherwise appear altruistic still have these awful human foibles. We all do. Sadly it is also what makes us human. We don’t seem to be able to learn and change what makes us the worst example of humanity.
But alas, I digress some. For I am sure This Earth That You Walk Upon is just meant to be enjoyed as a reflection of all that is good and joyous about this world. The vastness of it. The nature of it. A soundtrack to the world, of our place in it and of nature.
I’ll offer two versions here. The album version with the lyrics and a version of it from the Walk Between Worlds Tour in 2018.
I listened to this last night (see link at the end of post). Wow! OMG – the Swedish crowd at this place LOOOOVE them! They just love them! It’s on a par with listening to a Glasgow gig for audience reception.
It’s a gig recorded from the crowd so the quality varies. Jim is not always super clear but the sound from the music is good enough. It would be fab if there was a better quality version of this gig out there somewhere. But in lieu of that, to have this one is enough.
Only the fifth airing of Someone Somewhere In Summertime and the crowd just absolutely love it already!
Just…the reactions from the crowd. This really makes the whole gig. The reception songs like Sweat In Bullet, Promised You A Miracle, I Travel and, in particular, Sons And Fascination get are just wonderful.
And the crowd sings along too! I wanted to cry tears of joy when Jim intros Sons And Fascination and the crowd are already chanting “Semi Monde!” before the song even starts! I love this crowd. I could imagine being in the throng and feeling like I was in amongst “my people” – you know what I mean?
And I really love this version of Room as well. I love it when Room has a little bit of the Velvets Rock N Roll in the middle of it. I almost wish they’d have covered it properly.
I know this is the “DUH!” statement coming up but – I LOVE JIM! I really, really love Jim.
I’ll confess that my initial interest in this gig was purely because it was on the day of this gig that Jim wrote the lyrics to New Gold Dream (the song) … and I just have this lasting image in my head…
He supposedly had the words come to him while he was in the bath. Before the gig? After the gig? I’ve no idea but…I just enjoy the imagery it conjures up in my head of this…ADONIS…languishing in a bath and then…
In mind’s eye, it’s a GLORIOUS image! There’s not a towel to be seen. 😜🤓❤️
Anyway, forgive my ogling perversion. The link to the YT clip of the gig is below. It really is a good’un. Not so much for sound quality – but for atmosphere – it’s definitely a new favourite.
A couple of things to highlight from recent days. One is an interview (well, part one of an interview said Neil Saint in reply to a comment left on the FB post) with Kenny Hyslop about his days in Slik. You can listen to the interview by clicking HERE
UPDATE: There is a part two of Kenny’s interview with Neil Saint in which he talks about his time with SM. You can listen to that HERE
I’m still yet to listen to it myself, but will do imminently. And I will link to part two when it airs.
The other is this (linked below)! A rare 1979 bootleg of the Minds playing a gig at Orebro University in Sweden. It was on November 1st, 1979. I have just turned nine years old the day before and Real To Real Cacophony is about to be released.
I don’t think this is a full set on this bootleg, but it’s more extensive than what I’ve been exposed to from this gig previously. There’s a good blend of tracks from Life In A Day and Real To Real. Premonition is a bit of a cut up job and Jim fluffs on lyrics several times throughout. Nerves getting the better of him, I guess. Fluffing only in the sense that lyrics end up out of order – and I am far too much of a pedant not to notice. In amongst the album tracks there’s also Here Comes The Fool and their cover of White Light/White Heat getting an airing.
I started listening to it last night and had to stop before hearing WL/WH and Chelsea Girl.
Obviously it isn’t the best bootleg going as far as sound quality is concerned. It has its moments though, and I am always appreciative of there being bootlegs from so early on to listen to. Jim even has a go at engaging with the crowd! Which I find amazing for that period, because he rarely utters a word at this point in time. And when he does talk, he sounds as nervous as hell!
You can’t escape it. The thing that hits you when your first hear this song is Charlie’s pedal affected riff that makes it sound for all the world like a cow has entered the recording studio to add a repetitive “mooooo” to the music. It’s a bit of an “in joke” in amongst the Simple Minds fanbase, but we love it all the same! Oh, and…the backbeat. The “holy backbeat”. The drumming is awesome!
There isn’t a lot of information on the song on Dream Giver, which means it remains one of Simple Minds’ most elusive songs. I mean…what the heck is it about actually? The lyrics are Jim at his most ambiguous.
“He wants the world screams everything” – men are petulant and demanding? “She’s a country feel for life” – women are mysterious and a frontier to be explored and possibly tamed? “Follows in love, love brings the fall” – it’ll only end in tears? Love makes fools of us all?
I guess this is a prime example of what I was talking about in last week’s MMM about songs not really having to be about anything at all.
I have long talked about two lines in the song being the most either enigmatic, or the most poignant.
The first of the two is the line, “first tear forms in the right eye / this is the eye that’s crying first” – it is SUCH an ambiguous, perplexing line. It’s always induced a head scratch and a pondering in me. I have never been conscious of my tears falling at different points from different eyes. I find it such a strange and curious notion.
When I was reading the Alasdair Gray novel, Lanark, last year, I happened upon a passage of the book which read as follows…
“I must be a very cold selfish kind of person. If Mum died I honestly don’t think I’d feel much about it. I can’t think of anyone, Dad, Ruth, Robert Coulter, whose death would much upset or change me. Yet when reading a poem by Poe last week, Thou wast that all to me, love, for which my soul did pine, etc., I felt a very poignant strong sense of loss and wept six tears, four with the left eye, two with the right. Mum isn’t going to die of course but this coldness of mine is a bit alarming.”
Gray would have probably written those words in the late nineteen seventies, if not earlier. He had been writing the novel since he was 20 years old. Lanark was first published in February, 1981. Had Jim actually read a copy upon release? I know he likes to devour his books and seemingly during that early period, Charlie was an even more voracious reader than Jim. Did those words in the book spark something within Jim and result in that line in the song?
If you remember from last week and the excerpts from interviews I shared when posting about In Trance As Mission, Jim said that inspiration came from all kinds of places.
“More and more ‘image’ is important for bands now,” Kerr enthuses, “as opposed to the sound of jumping up and down. You can be inspired by various actors, playwrights, books, documentaries and magazines – the whole thing. It’s just opened up and inspiration now is coming from everywhere, as opposed to what was rock standards.” (Jim talking with Ian Cranna for New Sounds New Styles magazine printed in the December 1981 issue.)
The other line is one I find quite downcast and melancholy from Jim, on the surface, but it ends up shining and giving hope like many of the lines he has written does. “When the other side of midnight calls / remind me I’m glad to be here.”
I can interpret it either one of two ways, dependent upon my mood. The melancholic way – “another day is gone and I need a reminder that I am here and life is meant to be enjoyed”. Or the uplifting way “after midnight, it’s a new day. Give me that kick that it’s great to be alive”. There’s an element of doubt in it, “REMIND me I’m glad to be here”. If you are to derive true positivity from it, you shouldn’t need a REMINDER of being “glad to be here”, should you? But then I guess it begs the question, what is “here”? Here in this moment? Here on earth? Here, existing? Here, with you?
Yes, I do over-analyse as you can see. But it’s about learning. Getting to the heart and meaning of the song – if there is indeed meant to be one.
There is also a bone of contention I have with some of the words printed for the lyrics. I am sure that during the second verse that he doesn’t merely repeat the same line over again but splits it up accordingly “breath is in, breath is out / I’m not saying anything, I’ve said too much – breath is in, breath is out / I’m not seeing anything, I’ve seen too much.” That’s certainly how I hear it on the studio version anyway.
Now let’s talk about sparsity. I love the space that Jim’s obfuscatory lyrics give to the music of the songs. But also, especially for this song, the words almost act as another instrument. His voice and his words. He has said numerous times that he’s not a musician – because he doesn’t play an instrument. But you use your voice, Jim! THAT is your instrument and back in the early days of Simple Minds more so, and particularly during this period, coinciding with your words, you really DID use it that way. The nuances, the way you used your voice to manipulate the delivery of words. Your accent coming through some, the protracted delivery of others. All of that is using your voice as an instrument. Okay, it’s not opera. You’re no Pavarotti. But for me, 70 Cities is a prime example of your voice needing to be there. I love the song so much but I don’t listen to the instrumental version of Sound In 70 Cities because….it feels like nothing without your voice and words in it. Something is lost on Sound In 70 Cities without Jim there. I don’t think it was ever meant to be heard just as an instrumental anyway. It’s a “filler” for the Sister Feelings Call album. Rather crazy that at the end of so much creativity during those sessions that the release of two albums means the second ends up with not enough time filled on it!
Speaking of sparsity… It has hardly appeared on the setlist through the years. It was there for a time on the final leg of the Sons And Fascination tour as well as the early leg of the New Gold Dream tour of 1982, but after that, not a zip. Not until 30 years elapses and they’re on the 5×5 Live tour. It’s a mainstay for the sets on that tour, with just the odd omission here and there when the setlist is reduced for festival slots and suchlike. But then nothing again since 2012.
It is an absolute marathon of a song to perform live vocally though. You have the ability to overdub and merge vocal parts in the studio so the way the vocal parts are layered in the studio is incredibly hard for Jim to replicate live. Live versions required vocal backing harmonies from other band members (namely Forbes and MacNeil in the early runs, then Grimes and Gillespie latterly, I am guessing) to not make it such a vocal slog for Jim. Even with that help, it’s a rather tricky affair.
Getting into the bootlegs as I have done recently I was in raptures hearing live versions of 70 Cities from the 1982 gigs. Firstly from Tiffany’s in Glasgow on July 14th (performed TWICE in one night – the second being even more lively than the first, which you wouldn’t expect at a gig – as a result the second is favoured by me over the first), then at the Hacienda in Manchester a few days later. There is also one from when they played Coasters in Edinburgh in September ‘82 available to hear on YT, and finally one from Toronto in November of ‘82 – which is probably my favourite along with the second of the two performances at Tiffany’s.
Of the modern versions, there’s a cracking one from Cologne in 2012. And I can’t talk of the modern day ones without mentioning the version on the 5×5 Live album – Jim audibly expressing his love for his home away from home, Sicily, rolling off a bunch of town names in his most poetic of “Glasgow Italiano” accents. It’s hard not to smile listening to it, swept up in the sheer joy in his voice. As much as I enjoy that version, Cologne wins out because there is great video footage that accompanies it and Jim is AS HOT AS FUCKING FUCK on that tour. Jesus! I’ll regret not being this kind of SM fan at that point every day of my life. The memories other fans have. And the stories they have of meeting him and him just…going for a drink with them or just…hanging around for a bit. Not just rushing off. It sounded amazing. IN MY DREAMS!
Of course I am amazed and happy with all that I have experienced – but I’ll always dream of more. I’ll always want more! I can’t help it.
You’ll find links to all the versions mentioned below – with my two favourites viewable within the post.
Well, not quite. Norwich anyway. The University of East Anglia, in fact.
I found myself on the hunt for something for someone last night and…going down the usual “rabbit hole” one invariably ends up at.
I was on Twitter looking for relevant info to what I was searching for (no luck!) but I happened upon a couple of photos shared of Jim performing at gigs – which are FLIPPING AMAZING (and previously unseen to me – will share them further below) but also stumbled on this tweet about a lady named Ruth Selwyn-Crome and her memories of seeing Simple Minds on the New Gold Dream tour when it hit the UEA on December 6th, 1982. Excerpt below…
Whatever got him to that look – dying his hair (well, he had been doing that from almost day one of Simple Minds), caking on the dark makeup around his eyes while accentuating and exaggerating his pallid skin tone and combining that with the clothes he wore at that point – he sold himself absolutely and completely right! Whether that was instinctual, or just a “happy accident” and not as with other things he’d do, ruthlessly and meticulously planned, then – hats off to him either way. It was a masterstroke of a look that absolutely matched the sound and mood of New Gold Dream and of that time in general.
I used to refer to him as “Laird Dash Fandango” or “my Goth Prince” – like a kind of New Wave … messiah (almost). He seemed to meld the elements that were all floating around at the time – the dark eye make up and pallid skin was straight out of the goth scene – but Jim was no goth. The baggy trousers and the knee high riding boots, matched with scarf-wearing reflected elements of New Romanticism but again, Jim wasn’t a New Romantic – his way of dress was more understated and still harked back to the traditional a lot of the time. Those baggy troosers simply matched with a collared shirt and some loafers, with the only other hint of a nod to New Romanticism being a flashy belt he’d wear more as a sash or a shoulder of ammunition and have his socks pulled up over his trouser legs, more for the purposes of not tripping over those loose trooser legs. I do find the look of him in this period striking and ssoooo aesthetically beautiful.
The 50 year old me would love to go back to the 11 year old me when seeing the Promised You A Miracle video for the first time and whisper in her ear, “No, just look at him! Really look at him! You have this Aussie idea of a man in your head, all “golden”. But this guy? He’s REAL gold! Celtic gold! Trust me. There will come a time in your life when this man will be EVERYTHING to you! Take him in now! He’s beautiful. Stop fussing over his nipples, because BELIEVE ME, you’ll be fussing over his nipples for very different reasons in the years to come!” Lol
But…I wildly digress and this post is meant to be a link to Ruth’s experience of seeing the Minds in Norwich in ‘82, not my wishes and dreams and feelings on His New Wave Goth Prince Laird Dash Fandango Kerrness.
You can read Ruth’s full piece in the “Memory Tent” section of the University of East Anglia website – LINK HERE
And now, the promised photos… (source links viewable by clicking the photos)
When a song…and indeed a WHOLE ALBUM starts with the line “for just one moment in time I hear the holy backbeat” – then you know you’re in for something very special.
The band were convinced of its merit as the opening track to the album, but Steve Hillage took a bit of convincing. He felt it was “a bit long, but in retrospect, it’s so emphatically strong in putting across the overall vibe on the whole record. It’s a really good first track.” He was won round to the band’s way of thinking.
The title of the song could sound like a corny dad pun heard out of context but it instantly conveys the mood and tone of the song – movement, travel, open spaces, passages through time, the learning experience through exploration, through travelling.
Jim, back then, would seem quite dismissive of his lyrics in some ways. He said he hated the notion of his words being deemed poetry and dreaded the idea of people taking them out of context and away from the music. “My words go with the music.” They do indeed. But even a title – as the very first thing you hear or see, and unavoidably taken out of context initially, provides some notion of what the song is about.
Obviously songs don’t have to be about anything in particular. And maybe some Simple Minds songs feel like that to some people. Jim’s writing style was certainly ambiguous most of the time in the early days. And esp. during the Sons And Fascination period.
Jim also talks about the desire for “greatness”. He wants to matter in this world. He wants his life to have meaning and purpose. He wants his life to matter. Any person with a modicum of feeling that they want to feel like their existence on earth MEANS SOMETHING can understand and appreciate that.
The second verse to the song can sound pretentious as a result but he is just expressing that feeling in the lyrics – “for just one moment in time I want to walk where it is, sustain a stature in life”.
And then there is talk of the process of writing on the road. The hours of travel between cities, towns and venues and how it gives him the chance for “down time” and time to think and create. The monotony of the drive and the motion giving him time to sit and write. Looking out the window of the mini van or tour bus, time to collect his thoughts and just be quiet and insular for a time. Time to “recharge”, but also time to create.
He talks about every line being “a painting”. That every line to a song has a different story within it.
Below is an excerpt from an article printed in Melody Maker on March 27th, 1982. The band are “moving on”, telling Adam Sweeting “just what is going on”. They’re still touring the SAF/SFC albums but are changing direction. Promised You A Miracle has just been recorded. They’re on tour in France.
“I see a town by the track / can’t see the road for the tears.” Upon reading that excerpt way back when I did the first time, it brought that line to life for me. To read that he, Jim Kerr, of all people, is as overwhelmed by the music he helps to create as any of us. I just found that incredibly emotional. And I always think of that every time he sings that line of the song. Even though he is actually talking about the beautiful music of Seeing Out The Angel in the article, in my mind’s eye I see him on the coach looking out the window, hearing the music and feeling and looking overwhelmed…and beautiful. As beautiful as the words and music themselves.
I can’t see my words for my tears…
Before I continue on with the lyrics and the Kerr fanaticism…let’s talk about the amazing musicality of the song. The opening – Derek Forbes by far has to be one of the best bass players on the planet. He just nails the opening visual of the song’s intent, its mood, with a rhythm of movement. Then understated, soft staccato drums from Brian. The time signature is in 9/8 – and I love this most about Simple Minds. They’re not afraid at all by experimentation and don’t stick to the regular time signature of most songs, the regular 4/4, 4/8 or 8/8 time signatures. No. I can see why they’d get the “art rock” schtick at times – but they are sooo above that. It’s never contrived. Never formulaic. It’s organic…and it shows. You hear it in the life of the music.
Simple, long notes from Mick encapsulate smooth lines of long highway roads and Charlie’s beautiful high wailing riffs seem to denote frames of images | this house | that shop | this bare tree | that run down car | while still instilling the movement of travel…”you gotta move on”.
And because Jim’s words are so fragmented in this song, it gives space for the music to breathe.
Back to that “holy backbeat”…
There are also visions of dreams and how they can be a positive life force. “In dream a dream a / courage of dreams.” And it certainly won’t be the last time Jim will talk about the positivity of dreams. The positivity also enforced by an almost violent note “something crashing into my life / something crashing against the white rocks.”
It has been, from the first time I heard it, my favourite opening track on any Simple Minds album. I Travel is, of course, also fabulous. Other favourites are Up On The Catwalk, Moscow Underground and Blindfolded. But the love I have for Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call starts at the beginning…from the get go…track one.
Among the favourite versions of the song I have are, of course, the album version, but also a live session version performed for the Kid Jensen radio show on Radio One in February, 1982.
Also I wanted to share the contrast of the thirty years of space between performances. In Trance As Mission was never performed live again after 1982 until it FINALLY reemerged into the setlist in 2009. The first of the two comes from Newcastle in November, 1982. The second nearly a full 30 years later, also from Newcastle, the 5×5 Live gig on July 8th, 2012. The day before a certain someone’s 53rd birthday. Fifty-three and FLAMING HOT! 🔥🔥
SOURCES: The Simple Minds “Holy Bible” – Dream Giver (for the Hillage quote esp.) | for the Smash Hits article – Brian McCloskey on Flickr | other article excerpts are from my own collection.