In my vlog post yesterday in discussing my visit to the record fair on Saturday – I mentioned that I had picked up a copy of Ken Lockie’s album The Impossible. I had very little knowledge of what I was buying. Only the vague idea that somehow Jim was involved in it. That he provided backing vocals on it was what I believe it to be. On that hunch I bought the album when I saw it there in the rack.
Even the guy whose stall it was was flummoxed when I presented him with the record asking him how much he wanted for it. Flipping it over and perusing it he says “where did you get this?” (ie: from where within the boxes on his stall had I retrieved it.) I showed him where. “Is he Scottish?”, he enquires further. “Erm…maybe? I’m not sure.” It was like the blind leading the blind. (In actual fact he’s a Geordie.)
When I got home, I looked over the sleeve notes. I see Jim’s name on the back, still at this stage none the wiser as to what his exact role is. I also see to my surprise the name Steve Hillage on the production side.
And here we are! Yes! This MMM has yet ANOTHER loose Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call link. I’m not sure of the timing of the release of the album – most things about it just show a release date of 1981. Jim’s appearance on the album on the credit notes shows he appears “courtesy of Simple Minds”, so I am guessing it was released as Simple Minds were still negotiating their deal with Virgin?
It’s a bit of a “who’s who” list of guest appearances on the album. I mean, geez, Nash The Slash is on the track with Jim! John McGeoch and John Doyle (both former bandmates in Magazine and later in The Armoury Show) both guest on the album as well. And former bandmates in Cowboys International appear too.
So I guess this is where Jim got his first exposure to “Old Cabbage Head” as a producer? I really would love to ask him about it. If he had any recollection of it at all. I mean, was he even in the studio with Ken to lay down his BV? Or was it just done elsewhere? Another studio in another part of the country? Did he meet Hillage then? Or was the meeting up with Hillage not until they actually started working with him on SAF/SFC? I guess these questions are like peeing in the wind and will have to remain as ambiguous as his lyrics. Guesswork.
The sum of Jim’s contribution is on this track linked below. The lead single off the album – Dance House. Lockie of course returns the favour by being a backing vocalist on SAF/SFC.
I’ve got to say, this track has become quite the earworm – hence the artwork it inspired last night. Enjoy!
There is a path that leads me here to this post. A path that was an unexpected but wonderful stroll. The stroll continues, still. I’m not sure how much of this I can explain. Best to keep it a bit cryptic and vague. We love ambiguity – ain’t that right, Jim?
Suffice it to say one thing led to another.
There is a Sons And Fascination link here. Or should that be “Sons And Fascist Nations”? An explanation of that in due course.
A couple of my most prized possessions in my Simple Minds collection are copies of albums produced for the overseas market. One album released for the U.S. market via Stiff Records was titled Themes For Great Cities and was a compilation of tracks from Real To Real Cacophony (Premonition) to several tracks from Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call. The other is a version of the Sons And Fascination album released by Virgin Records for the Central American market.
There are patterns on the cover. The artwork by the one and only Mr Malcolm Garrett, with photography by Peter Anderson. You can see shapes and a figure. I could see a figure on these covers.
Then there is the reissue of I Travel by Virgin Records in 1983 which bares a photo of Jim, taken by graphic designer Garry Mouat, on stage in motion as if marching. “In central Europe men are marching” always springs to mind seeing that cover. What I never really took in is what appears in the overlay of the photo of Jim and I didn’t see it properly until Malcolm was kind enough to show me this…
I did see that something was overlaid on the photo of Jim but what I didn’t know was that it was a variation on the figure seen on the Stiff Records “Themes” release and Mexican version of SAF.
I also missed the very obvious figure on the Sweat In Bullet sleeve art. Mostly due to the fact the figure has the head of a photo of Elizabeth Taylor.
And so…why did I alter the title of the album to “Sons And Fascist Nations” earlier, I hear you ask? Well, here’s the thing. In talking to Malcolm about the album cover photoshoot with Sheila Rock and asking him about the cars, we got to talking about other art relevant to the Sons And Fascination period. He told me about certain things that inspired some of the cover art. This included him telling me about the image above and that it was inspired by similar figures like it that had appeared in a book he had seen. The book in question is called “Mostra Della Rivoluzione Fascista”. Issued in 1932 to be a compendium to an exhibition on Fascist propaganda – a “celebration” of the 10th anniversary of Mussolini’s march on Rome. Seemingly exhibited in a building erected specifically for this solitary purpose – also known as the “Mostra Della Rivoluzione Fascista”. The exhibition proved so popular that it extended beyond its initial intended six month run and ran for two years. It was seen by almost 4 million visitors by its close towards the end of 1934.
You can view selected pages of the book by clicking HERE
I will state here Malcolm’s initial reluctance to have me write and publish this post and he had approval of this before posting. And I do understand the reluctance. You wouldn’t want to be seen condoning Fascism! But it’s about art and the aesthetic and not the political. Well, that is how I see it. This post nor we as individuals are condoning Fascism! But when it came to the use of the “Marching Men” (as they have come to be called during our conversations) and the line in I Travel “in central Europe men are marching” (long since changed by Jim since he now always sings “all over men are marching”). It conjured up the exact imagery used on the Virgin released I Travel cover.
I missed the image of the Marching Man on the Sweat In Bullet cover, yes, and I don’t see the link quite as obviously as with I Travel but listening over some of the lyrics then… it could be “ambition in motion” or to “grow in size” or to “grow more / take more” that makes it fit?
Either way, all four covers featuring the Marching Men are striking and impressive. And they certainly make a statement.
Another short point – as I was researching to do other posts that were SAF/SFC themed, I shared an article from New Sounds New Styles printed in 1981. Ian Cranna interviewed Jim for the piece. Check out the magazine layout! Guess who was behind the layout of New Sounds New Styles? Yes! You got it!
By this point, the band had only appeared on the back cover of their albums. On Life In A Day they were on the back cover and also on the back of Empires And Dance. Inner sleeves too. But only the inner sleeve of Real To Real Cacophony. Not up to this point on the FRONT COVER of an album. Not until Sons And Fascination. They were reluctant and the images of them are somewhat obscured but the images reflect the movement and motion of the music contained within. The “travelogue” musical sensibility of the album. It was a masterstroke. Perfectly encapsulating the audiovisual.
I find the whole aspect of the cover art for the Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call albums and singles…erm…fascinating. And if I do then I thought others would too.
Below are a couple of YouTube clips showing footage of the Mostra Della Rivoluzione Fascista, including a modern day (in Italian) look back at the exhibition as well as footage from the time of a visit to the exhibition from Mussolini himself!
A massive thank you to Malcolm Garrett for allowing me to tell the story of the Marching Men images and what inspired them into being.
Taking a break in the usual proceedings with Minds Music Monday this week. The focus has been (and will continue to be for the weeks to come) tracks from Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call as we approach the 40th anniversary of its release in September.
If you’re already tired of getting out to the pub, going and meeting up with friends and once again socialising and enjoying the sun – then you can read up on the previous weeks MMM’s by clicking on the song titles and the link.
This week’s MMM is a bit of a sick joke of a choice for us Glasgow residents (I have to stop myself from saying “us Glaswegians” because obviously I am not Glaswegian, just a mere resident of this amazing city) – as we are still in the strictest lockdown in the whole of the UK and that my friends means NAE TRAVEL for us.
So! Enjoy your freedoms, other UKers and if you find yourself at a loose end, then do check out my previous SAF/SFC themed posts.
Au revoir! (I ain’t going nowhere.)
P.S. I hope to have more to come to do with I Travel and Sons And Fascination during the week – something that involves a kind of collaborative thing with one Malcolm Garrett – finger’s crossed. Stay tuned! 🤞🏻🤞🏻
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.
In the early 1980s (as in 1980, 1981 and early into 1982) Simple Minds were accused of being “too Euro-centric” and of not putting enough of their focus into closer to home – what was happening in the UK, or even just in Glasgow itself.
Why should there be criticism of such a thing? Why should a band that originates from one place feel compelled to focus their music within one region or one area of geography? And besides, the United Kingdom is in Europe, is it not? Glasgow, beyond being within Scotland and the UK is also in Europe, no?
Jim was very pragmatic with his response to such things. And of course he was right to point out that the band are constantly touring Europe and are experiencing and witnessing things happening there so why would they not write about those things?
With that said, some songs DID focus on “home”. A case in point is Boys From Brazil. Despite its title seemingly alluding to Brazilian youths, it is actually a title lifted from the novel by Ira Levin (which actually does have young Brazilian characters in it). The book centres around a plan for a new rise of Nazi’s with a “new Hitler” at the top. Fascism and Neo-Naziism was on the rise in the UK, with the likes of the National Front gaining an undercurrent of support. (Oh how things cycle round and round.) Simple Minds’ version of Boys From Brazil was an ambiguous look at the alarming growth of movements like the National Front.
I’d like to share a memory of when the song most impacted on me. It wasn’t upon first listen, although of course that must have made a large enough impact. You can’t not be bowled over by those drums! It was the first thing that hit me. It would be the first thing to hit anyone listening to the song for the first time. The beat is relentless! More on that in a moment.
So this memory of mine is of coming back from a gig. A gig that I still can’t quite believe I attended AND enjoyed! At this point in time, I am in my very earliest days of Simple Minds fandom. Barely three months in, in fact. It was September 25th, 2014. The gig? Nana Mouskouri at the Royal Albert Hall. I know! How “rock n roll”, eh? Well, let me explain the circumstance.
At that time I was kind of being a “pro comper” – I was entering competitions on a full time basis. Searching for and entering as many competitions as I could find to enter each and every day. There are LOADS of competitions you can enter out there, with varying degrees of prize worth. I did this for about 12 months or so and had some success with things that I won. Ultimately though, it didn’t seem worth the time and effort I was putting into it to carry on with it full time. The best prizes I have won have been entering competitions outside of my stint at pro-comping.
Anyway, one of the prizes I won during this “pro-comping” time was for a pair of tickets to see Nana Mouskouri at the Royal Albert Hall. I had entered thinking that it would be cheap enough to get into London on the coach and that I’d at least get to experience a concert at the Albert Hall for free.
It was really great. The seats were good. Not waaaaaay up in the gods, but not really close…just middling, with a decent enough view. A few weeks after the gig, Nana was turning 80, and although she wasn’t exactly prancing about the stage like Beyoncé, she did put on a really good show. I enjoyed the spectacle and the fans loved her.
On the coach ride home back to Luton, I listened to some SM. I was devouring the music voraciously at that point. Visiting Dream Giver daily, searching the web for photos and just wanting to know everything there was to know and already just sssoooo solidly gone on Jim. Lol. Despite the style of the gig and the genre of music on offer, I still had a post-gig buzz. I was fatigued but my head was buzzing. I had taken my iPod Touch with me in case I “got bored” while travelling and I could have the music as my companion. (I’d like to point out at this stage also that I was actually with my OH that night, but we sometimes do our own thing to keep occupied during such travelling journeys.) I put on a shuffle mix of SM songs. About 4 or 5 songs in and just as we get onto the M1 motorway stretch of the journey out of London, Boys From Brazil kicks in. It was really dark in the coach and there was one of those screens which shows footage of a front facing camera that is pointed at the road.
So this is my lasting image of hearing Boys From Brazil. Sometimes when it plays I am taken straight back to that coach coming home from the Mouskouri gig. That dark motorway and my ears just awash with this amazing music and my mind wandering with the views inside and outside the coach as well as being mixed with the imagery the song itself conjures up for me…dapper young men looking all “fantoosh”, drinking champagne from fine flute glasses, cigarettes held gently between forefingers and middle fingers, languishing by a pool, basking in sunshine. The very air of sophistication. Think Minds at the Kensington Roof Top garden circa 1981 – the Sweat In Bullet video, the promo photos for the release of Sons And Fascination. It is all that it conjures up in me. I’m sorry, Jim, but what were you saying about not being sophisticated? …
To come back to a excerpt of Jim’s talk with Ian Cranna placed at the top of the post (and also within his words with John Gill), though it certainly wasn’t his intent or objective, I do find the imagery I see in my mind’s eye that Boys From Brazil gives off has an air of romanticism. And having never been exposed to the book or film and not being familiar with the plot, the lyrics are definitely too ambiguous to give any kind of clue that the song is meant to be a passing comment on fascist movements in Britain. I would say probably Heaven 17 were more direct with their (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang. On the odd occasion perhaps ambiguity doesn’t pay? As wonderful as it is for “artistic licence”. But the Jim Kerr of that time built lyrics solidly on “ambiguities and fragments”. It made Simple Minds songs all the more mysterious for it. And combined with that sound it was a hypnotic meld.
Let’s discuss musicality of the track. Wow! Those drums! Honestly. I like to view that drumming work on Boys From Brazil as Brian McGee’s lasting legacy for his time with Simple Minds. I’ve seen comments in recent times describing Brian’s drumming as “dependable” and “adequate” but I think he was much more than that – and I think Jim would agree.
I really couldn’t talk about Boys From Brazil without discussing the incredible contribution that Brian McGee gave to Simple Minds. The thing that astonishes me to this day is…beyond the hours of driving the band around in crazy backwaters and all that was perilous in that…was that, as a drummer, he was self-taught. Self-taught at a time when there’s no Internet and no way to just … go onto YouTube and watch drum tutorials and be able to pick up how to play that way. And no video recording either – well certainly very little for home use anyway – so I am guessing all he had to go on to try and learn was by somehow being exposed to watching other drummers play. And for all that, if Brian is deemed only worthy of being referred to as “dependable” and “adequate” – WELL GIVE ME F***ING DEPENDABLE AND ADEQUATE, because I think he’s frigging fantastic!
Those drums drive the whole musical expression of the song. It might be ambiguous in storytelling, but it isn’t in any way ambiguous in musical intent. It veritably pins you to the wall and makes you pay attention for the whole of its five and a half minute duration.
A lot of fans talk about the “classic line-up”, referring to it being the team of Kerr, Burchill, MacNeil, Forbes and Gaynor. But just listen to the rhythm backbone dynamic of Forbes and McGee (who then went on to team up in Propaganda as well), and if you are going to put a label of “classic line-up” to Simple Minds, then that’s the one! Kerr, Burchill, MacNeil, Forbes and McGee.
Those drums, that monotone single key synth note, then a flash of colour, then bass lines to die for…and then that rich, almost baritone depth of voice that Jim has at that time just all blend and grab you by the throat and just…assault you with musical perfection. Everything I love about this song. EVERYTHING! How relentless the rhythm is, that endless mono-tonal synth note, the understated guitar riffs from Charlie, and the richness of Jim’s voice and the nuances to his singing style. It is just utterly, utterly perfect.
It has never been performed live to a crowd. From what I have heard, it HAS been performed in soundcheck, so it has very nearly made it to a live airing.
In video interviews in recent years, Charlie seems keen to want to do it but for some reason, Jim seems more reluctant. It is weird that the reluctance seems to come from Jim. Perhaps he thinks it is too perfect? Hmmm, I doubt that would be his reasoning. I do feel somewhat forlorn that the two songs I love the most in the whole Simple Minds catalogue, Boys From Brazil and Wonderful In Young Life, are destined never to be performed live. But…perhaps it is a blessing in disguise? Again, I’m not sure about that. Wishful thinking on my part. It is somewhat perplexing that a band that prides itself in their live performance would resist certain songs and never perform them.
As a result of this, all I have to share is the studio version of the song. Not even a demo version exists as far as I am aware. But would I want to hear a demo version of “perfection”? I think I would. I am always interested to learn how a song has developed and how it progressed.
I do dream for a Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call box set.
Additional source material for this post provided by the “Simple Minds Bible” – Dream Giver Redux – www.simpleminds.org
Never enough gratitude can go to Simon and his amazing website. Thank you ❤️
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.
The post I did about “The Walking Experiment”. The one that FINALLY led me to finding the quote about the line from In Trance As Mission? The Alice In Wonderland “rabbit hole” of a post that took me what felt like FOREVER to sort out?
Well it led me down yet another rabbit hole today. Because one of the reasons for that post was prompted by a “conversation” with Jim. Submersing myself in the sounds of Sons And Fascination like I have these past weeks, and especially the past few days, I’ve come to the conclusion that…he was absolutely right.
Despite my response to him at the time (see above), I really didn’t feel that way as such. I was using some diplomacy at the time because really I was thinking “Oh, come on, Jim! The music’s great but…how can you say it’s BETTER than birdsong?!” (Which is basically what his reply amounted to.)
That conversation was on my mimd this morning, as was the MMM post on In Trance As Mission. I awoke early this morning. Around 6am. Too restless to go back to sleep, but still a bit too bleary to get out of bed (and the alarm not set to go off until 7.10am), I decided to listen to some Minds music. Namely, live versions of the title track of Sons And Fascination. Having satisfied that desire and with some time still before the alarm was due to go off, I decided to listen to the instrumental version of Seeing Out The Angel. At the end I’m lain there thinking “he is absolutely right. No birdsong DOES compete!” I miss those conversations with him! I really do.
When I finally got up and out of bed and got all the little things I do each morning all sorted, I sat at my iPad and wanted to find the post itself. The post from Jim that started the conversation about listening to music while walking and of birdsong. You’ll find the link to it posted above. Things he says, the things he’d say to me would always resonate so much. A case in point that my “walking experiment” post in response to that conversation was almost one whole year later! And I’m STILL writing about it nearly five years on!
Finding it led on to me seeing another post that Jim made just a couple of days prior to the “Midnight Walking” post. It’s a post about the Sons And Fascination Tour in the U.S. – the post actually labelled “In Trance As Mission”. (Click title to view original post.) *P.S. In the comments, Otto is right, the gig advertised was in 1984 not 1982.
And I read the words attached and … I am wishing all over again. Wishing hard. And crying my eyes out, dreaming of a friendship with him like this! Like the time of being at that age and living as a young adult in that place and time would allow. To be deemed his friend. To mean even a SMIDGEN to him as to what he means to me!
Before my eyes go too blurry….
The artwork on the poster. Malcolm Garrett has been telling me about the figure in the artwork. He described the figure as a “marching man”. I did always wonder about the figure. He was very gracious in telling me about it and where the inspiration came from. It’s all very fascinating. And it is wonderful to be in contact with “MX”, but I fear he is much more of an inspiration to me than I ever could be to him. (I mean, as if I EVER would be!) As I say, he has been gracious enough to converse with me and it has been highly appreciated. I feel ridiculously unworthy of any such rapport. And I hardly know what to say to him most of the time because I fear tiring him out with endless Simple Minds talk.
My post about “The Cars Are The Stars – Auto iMaGes”? Again whilst looking for the “Midnight Walking” post and the birdsong talk, I saw this…
Jim saying he loved that photoshoot. MX said the same thing to me. I wonder what Sheila Rock’s memories of it are? One day I might pluck up the courage to ask her. The imagery certainly encapsulates everything the album conveys musically. The “musical landscape” of the album. Such collective creativity astounds me and leaves me in awe. And to feel I have what are even…passing friendships with these people…
That Jim ever even took any remote interest in the things I made or the words I’d leave in the comments – that I get to email Malcolm Garrett and talk to him – that any of them even pretend to give a hoot about me or even take a minute to respond to me just…
That I can genuinely state that Virginia Turbett is my friend…
That they don’t flick me away like a pesky little ant…
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.