Minds Music Monday – In Trance As Mission – In Celebration Of Imminent Anniversary of Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call

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.

Dundonian Done Good

There was a wonderful piece and accompanied Zoom video interview in local Dundee paper, The Courier, with Ged Grimes over the weekend.

He discusses what’s been keeping him busy during lockdown (namely working on an orchestral arrangement to songs from the Bard’s Tale VI game that he provided the music for – as well as some new Simple Minds music on the horizon), his love of his home town, cycling and food.

You can read the article and see the interview by clicking the link HERE

Minds Music Monday – Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call – Recording Begins

In a small village called Little Chalfont, in the Buckinghamshire countryside near the town of Amersham…. five band members and a producer that they (the band) admit to having slight reservations about (they wanted Todd Rundgren but he only worked out of Sigma Sound in New York and Virgin deemed the idea too expensive to hire him, then it was proposed they use Martin Rushent but he was unavailable, or Steve Lillywhite but he was deemed too expensive also at that point in time) enter a recording studio and started to record what would be, for me, quite possibly their most remarkable album(s). There may have been trepidation to start with. And it may have continued to be fraught with indecision, but what sprang forth from it, in hindsight, is…wondrous!

Steve Hillage sounded the least authoritarian producer you could wish for, which one could argue wasn’t what a still fledgeling Simple Minds needed at that point – their three album recording history with John Leckie meant that it was an entirely unknown dynamic for the boys when they entered Farmyard Studios with “old Cabbage Head” to record their 4th and 5th albums. They sounded as if they needed the discipline that Hillage lacked giving them – at the time – but it also released something profound too. Perhaps a modicum of freedom that they needed? Yes, it meant they were indecisive about which songs to work on, but wow! I mean, talk about spoilt for choice when you feel your hands are tied and say “we’ll take them all in!”

📸 Rupert Hine with Andy Scarth at Farmyard Studios
– curtesy of ruperthine.com

Perhaps this is why we’ll never see a Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call boxset? Do we have it all already? Well…I can’t imagine that is true! Just last night on the Dream Giver site I read about demos that were recorded at CaVa Studios in Glasgow. And when I interviewed Jaine Henderson a couple of years back she had told me that initially Love Song was offered to her by Jim to perform and record. Imagine it! What would be their biggest hit of the time – until Promised You A Miracle is released 12 months later – might not have even been a Simple Minds hit! Jaine wasn’t persuaded. She wasn’t a singer or performer.

I’m guessing those CaVa demos are what ended up on the Silver Box set that Virgin brought out in 2004? There are demo versions of Love Song, The American, Careful In Career and Sweat In Bullet on there – as well as (dare I mention it?) the forgotten Life In Oils – which fell somewhere between the tracks of Empires And Dance and Sons/Sister. Already too much new stuff they were working on as the Sons/Sister sessions started, it got ditched, much to mine and John Leckie’s consternation.

They nearly called him (Leckie) back into the studio, they ended up so directionless with Hillage – but would we have ended up with what now feels like such a rich tapestry? The album needed to formulate and end up shaped in the way it was. A bulging overspill of creative energy. A band oozing with an abundance that sees them on the cusp of something grand. You can feel it. You can almost taste it! With long hindsight, and even with its (SUBTLE) imperfections both Jim and Charlie value it for the creative tour de force it was.

For your listening pleasure – a fantastic recording of them made in San Fransisco while they were on tour. Recorded by Frank Gallagher, no less, and aired exclusively on Billy Sloan’s radio show for Clyde Radio back in July, 1982. I’m assuming the recording was made the previous November as they played San Fransisco on November 7th, 1981. They didn’t tour the U.S. again until 1983 and SAF was no longer on the the setlist by then.

Enjoy!

Source material from simpleminds.org and ruperthine.com

How (Why) I Fell In Love With Jim

For the past two nights I’ve listened to the latest Art&Talk upload of the soundboard of SM at Glastonbury in 1995.

Hearing a crowd as big as that singing and chanting Minds songs – it’s amazing – and it really does make me wish I was part of some of that history. At the moment it feels like that is all that’s left to grasp on to. Jim is always espousing that the band are always looking forward and never going backwards – there isn’t much choice for the fans right now but to look back.

After listening to the Glastonbury set, and hearing that chanting crowd fade out, and thinking of my past years as a fan, and pondering recent events and forever questioning stuff….I wanted to go back again. I just wanted to hear Jim talk rather than sing. To hear some of … the “real” Jim Kerr.

There are certain things that had me “fall in love” with him – perhaps it’s too strong a term for it – but to get “enamoured” by him, infatuated, mesmerised… to adore him.

Watching very early Simple Minds footage was a starting point. Seeing how very different he was when the band started. He had a real quirk. He certainly wasn’t like your typical “rock star” early on. His awkwardness was quite visible. But for me, that made him all the more mesmerising. I was awestruck by seeing how he was back then. I’ll never forget how truly jaw-dropping it was to see the Hurrah’s footage the first time. That “THIS IS JIM KERR?!” moment. It was the first trigger.

The more I explored, the more I was bowled over by the songwriting – the lyrics. I buried myself in learning them. Reading the lines as he sang. Gravitating to certain songs, and within those – favourite lines. Absolutely falling in love with his writing style and the words and how he’d convey them and sing them…the nuances in his delivery. And those elements are strongest during Empires And Dance, Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings Call, New Gold Dream and to a lesser degree, Real To Real Cacophony. Real To Real still has very strong lyrical content that I love, as does Life In A Day – but vocally he isn’t quite there yet – though I still very much appreciate the nuances.

Out of immersing myself in the lyrics, I could feel the influences of Bowie and Burroughs, and probably to a lesser degree Lou Reed and Bryan Ferry.

The love of the lyrics had me wanting to share favourite lines but I wasn’t sure how I was going to do that. I didn’t want to merely type them out and then talk about them. I wanted to do something more. Something that expressed how much of an impact they were making upon me. That I was kind of living THROUGH them. That they were changing me. Altering my perception of things. That I was learning and falling in love with them. That I WAS in love them – and as a consequence, falling in love with him. Being awestruck by a man so young writing so amazingly and expressing it in a way that was different to the way others did. It took YEARS for any ego in Jim to be evident. I guess it had to come to the fore eventually.

But that aspect is of Jim the showman. A young man learning his craft who comes of age. After a while the stage persona seemed very different from the man off stage. And watching videos of him being interviewed in the early days, it just compounded the things I was feeling. The early performance videos certainly played their part, but I think the interviews played an even BIGGER part. Because there, the vulnerability shows – esp. visually if he is struggling and the stutter and facial ticks are still present. That quirks in him instead of being a turn-off, were much more a turn-on. A mark of “oh, he really is just ‘one of us’, he just happens to be smart and eloquent (despite the stutter) and beautiful with it.”

And so the “art” evolved from wanting to express the way I felt about the lyrics. That I was listening to them and taking them in but also that…this young, beautiful man was writing them – he had to become the centrepiece of the “art”.

And the more early interviews I watched, the more I fell for the man as well as the words.

And then to be sharing them and have him in the present day take notice of them and appreciate them? Acknowledgement from him was the final nail in the coffin.

That your heart is already bursting with love for someone, albeit in a retrograde kind of sense, and then in the present moment, the man who was once that young, idealistic man acknowledges (inadvertently on his part, for sure) your….infatuation of him. I don’t think I was really prepared for that. And I guess I really did lose my marbles. Because IT FELT AMAZING! It felt reciprocated! Like…he got it! He got what I was feeling.

So…the interview from 1984 with Billy Sloan – it was one particular thing that really just…yeah. It allowed for “time travel”. To really feel what Jim was like then. He’s confident and bold and bolshy, but also there is still him trying to keep himself grounded. Just little things too. Something as silly as his laugh. Just, the way he talks about the guy in the crowd in Cork with the glasses and the way he bursts out laughing – it just makes my heart burst! And how he talks of Glasgow and how he sees the future of Glasgow – like a little soothsayer. And he’s a wonderful idealist. He really DOES believe the words of Promised You A Miracle, that “everything is possible”. And you can’t help but be swept up in that! As “glass half empty” as my tendencies are – I ADORE him for his optimism. His gleaming, shining idealistic nature. These are the things that have me in love with him! He has so much faith, so much belief…not just self-belief – but he wants it for EVERYONE.

If you’ve never heard this interview, just listen to it. Listen to him. (I’ve linked to it below.)

I go back to this interview on the odd occasion. I can’t tell you how many times I listened to it in the early days of my fandom. Especially during my time out in Australia with my mum during 2015/16. The latter months of my time there, I would listen it almost nightly. I went through a point where…I dunno…I went through one of those stupid points where I thought I’d pissed him off and that “things were coming to an end” and I just listened to this interview almost every night. It and episodes of Cabin Pressure (the BBC Radio 4 comedy starring Stephanie Cole, Roger Allam, Benedict Cumberbatch, and writer of the series, John Finnemore) were my nightly kind of wind down.

Some nights I’d be in tears having listened to it…just awed by him. Chanting under my breath as I was listening “he’s just so beautiful. I love him.” It’s silly! It’s really silly, I know!

And there was this element with the art that while the Jim of now was appreciating it that I could dream that it would mean the Jim of the past – that young idealist, that he would love them too – because in all honesty, I don’t think I fell in love with 2016 Jim, I fell in love with early 1980s Jim. Because I love the words of that young Jim. That one that felt like he was part OF something. The one that wanted people WITH him. The one who expressed faith and wanted to SHARE the spoils. The one who said “the prize is the race itself”. Not the one who feels APART FROM things. Not the one who, despite trying to stay grounded, inevitably got caught up in the ego and status of it all.

I want to believe there is some of that Jim still present in today’s Jim…but it doesn’t feel very evident right now.

I don’t know why I am still pining to talk to Jim. To converse with him, to feel a kinship, to have what feels like a friendship with him. I used to be convinced that the young Jim wouldn’t look at me twice. And that may be very true in a sexual attraction sense – I am all the things he seems to not show any attraction to at all, short, fat, needy, emotional, unsure of myself, socially inept, weak … pathetic. Not an Amazonian beauty – just some silly, stupid bint. Full of self-loathing and with the constant need to be liked.

He is all things I am not. Of course there is sexual attraction there. I dunno. I really don’t know what I am writing or what I am trying to say here. I think I am just trying to do something with this blog. Trying to get out of this writer’s block I have again.

The band. The music. For me personally, it’s all down to Jim. He very quickly became my focal point. Him and his lyrics and how he expresses himself. I guess there was something a bit “outsider” I saw in him. That thing that Mick MacNeil described as him looking like he should have been in “special school”. Lol.

He has…a presence. He’s charismatic and an enigma in the same breath. Exudes cool and nervousness in equal measure. It makes him human. He feels tangible yet so intangible at same time. He’s a paradox. And it makes him endlessly fascinating! So…I obsess over him because he never stops being enigmatic. I never tire of pondering him…being drawn to him. Awestruck and mesmerised by him. And just….so in love with him.

https://youtu.be/5YXbKcyKceg

Priptona Talks – To The Anchoress

The new album by The Anchoress, The Art of Losing, is the follow up to debut release Confessions Of A Romance Novelist.

Under her everyday name, Catherine Anne Davies, she had been a touring member of Simple Minds since 2015 and also toured as support for the band as The Anchoress during their UK leg of the 2017 Acoustic Tour.

Co-producing and co-writing work also in 2017 and touring as a guest artist with the Manic Street Preachers, as well as featuring on the track Dylan & Caitlin on the Manics’ 2018 release, Resistance Is Futile.

October, 2020, saw the release of her collaborative album with Bernard Butler, In Memory Of My Feelings. The album received many plaudits and could well be nominated for the Mercury Prize this year.

As a writer, producer, engineer, multi-instrumentalist and solo artist, Catherine is quickly amassing an impressive body of work.

It was a huge honour to have Catherine agree to an interview for the Priptona blog.

Please enjoy Priptona Talks…To The Anchoress.

The Art of Losing is out now and available HERE

The Exchange – The Anchoress and James Dean Bradfield

Wow! What an amazing song and video was released today by The Anchoress! The Exchange with James Dean Bradfield on guest vocals and guitar is just OUT OF THIS WORLD!

And for a video of this magnitude to be made in lockdown – it’s incredible!

GIVE IT A WATCH! I IMPLORE YOU!

Three days until The Art of Losing is released.

Four days until the new “Priptona Talks” interview arrives to the blog…

Has the penny dropped yet?

The Anchoress On Front Row

Catherine Anne Davies – aka The Anchoress was a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row programme on Tuesday night. In case you missed it, you can listen here. This will remain a permalink of her interview.

I listened in live and it was very good. She was very eloquent, esp. when giving her response to the arts funding boost offered in the latest budget. A mere piss in the ocean. Then again, they dared only give NHS nursing staff a MEAGRE 1% pay rise. Oh, all that money saved from leaving the EU was going to go STRAIGHT into the NHS. Was it just…

Anyway, the wait is nearly over! The Art of Losing is out on Friday, and the Q and A with Pete Paphedis for Rough Trade will happen on Friday evening as well. This is going to be some album launch!

In the meantime, here is the Front Row interview for your lugholes to enjoy.