Neon Lights – The Cover Of The Covers – Which Led Off The Beaten Track

I have over the past few days found myself super intrigued by the artwork of the Neon Lights album.

I suddenly started to wonder who designed it, and more importantly, who wrote out the tracklisting on the cassette cover. It didn’t seem like it was Jim’s writing but I couldn’t help but think how awesome that would have been had he written it out. It’s one of the things I love about the cover art of Life In A Day, that Jim has hand written the credit notes.

So that had me thinking about what a great choice for a cover design it (Neon Lights) was and who had been behind it.

I was surprised (and somewhat disappointed) to learn that, looking into it, it was a team of artists at a design and marketing firm in The Netherlands that came up with it.

As a consequence of trying to learn more about the cover art, it had me at the Dream Giver site (which turned into me being Alice spiralling down the rabbit hole!), reading an article – and interview with Jim – printed in The Scottish Sunday Times on September 23rd, 2001.

I started to read it. It was a very frank interview. My focus soon turned to something else (though still wanting to find out about the Neon Lights cover art).

I’ll link to the interview at the end of the post, but in it Jim talked about (among other things) his relationships with Chrissie and Patsy and he described them as “women of their time”.

Seems a bit of a pigeonhole to put them in…

Like, they were “flavour of the month”.

That can’t be though.

Then again, he goes on to say… (interview excerpt below)

If the arrangement sounds a bit too cosy, it is. “I might make it sound like there was logic to the break-up of my relationships, but there were periods of disillusionment, fears, chaos and sadness,” he says.

“I was never the one to give in. That’s part of the modern way. People give in, because they can.

“The magazines suggest if you’re not having ten orgasms a night or you’re not having eight holidays a year then you’re not having a great life. Expectations are very high. If it doesn’t happen, then they’re off. But the fallout when it goes wrong is awful. I just thought: ‘I could do without this for a while and it’s better not to get involved.’ I wouldn’t trade those moments or emotions for anything but I’d be wary of them should they crop up again.”

Have they? “No. Marriage is about ‘the one’ and I don’t believe in that any more. It’s great if it works out but it’s a tall order. Now I think if there is a right person, they’re right for you at that period in your life.”

“That period in your life”? Okay, I get the idea of considering things in a finite way. I mean our LIVES are finite and there’s an element of the realist “self-preservation” not to get yourself caught up with the fairies with a rose-tinted glasses view… but…

I don’t know. The article just had me thinking about things. It’s never a thing that I feel comfortable in talking about – even if he did seemingly discuss this in public in a newspaper.

But I admit I have wondered for a while now how you become someone who he holds dear. Really dear. Someone who he sticks by – because it seems quite a rare thing from the outside. Rarer than the veneer seems to give off.

Esp. in terms of the opposite sex. I mean, how many people GENUINELY stay good friends with exes? I know there are children involved – but beyond that, or in spite of that – not many are successful at it.

I mean, in my own very limited experience of ex-relationships…or just…RELATIONSHIPS, full stop… I’ve had one other previous relationship and one rather…intense friendship, I guess you’d say.

My only other lasting intimate relationship, was with a boyfriend I had for about 18 months. I had just turned 19 when we met. We broke up because (in retrospect rightly so) he had had enough of my constant jealousy.

I didn’t see him for a while after we broke up. But then he started to come round and visit me. It became “friends with benefits” even though I knew he was with someone else (the person he broke up with me to be with). And I almost did a very, VERY bad thing. Full, honest, disclosure here – for a brief amount of the “friends with benefits” time – I tried to fall pregnant. NOT to trap him! I had no plan to tell him I was even pregnant. I had no intention of ever telling him I was pregnant and that he was a father. I was at a point where I was so wanting to be loved that I thought having a child would be the way to get love.

I very quickly came to my senses. And luckily before I ever succeeded in getting pregnant! I mean, geez. I’d have loved the kid had it happened – but, other than this brief time – this crazy little window of a few months – I have not wanted to be a parent. I have constantly doubted my ability to be anything like a responsible person and certainly did not want to subject anybody to a world that I feel, for the most part, offers much more bad than good.

Have I ever had any friendships from past “relationships”? Lol. One steady boyfriend and a total of three sexual partners (the boyfriend being one of the three) – no! Not seen or heard of or from any of them for over 25 years.

My longest lasting friendship is with a guy. We met when I was still dating my boyfriend. We’ve been friends (with periods of no contact) for over 30 years. But, he was never an ex. But it is how the first period of no contact came about. He wanted more than friendship. I didn’t. The friendship strained. I loved him. Absolutely loved him. I still do. He was there for me at my mum’s funeral in 2019. He means the world to me! But I was never “in love” with him. I broke his heart. And he still loves me. He still tells me! And he is so strong and so amazing, and he has two beautiful daughters.

It feels very exposing to talk like this. But that is the extent of my “past relationships” experience. An ex-boyfriend and two ex…”lovers”, I guess you’d call them. I dunno. I was never into one night stands, so they were guys I knew, but we weren’t dating. It’s another lifetime ago anyway.

Back to Jim, and the pondering of relationships with exes. I am reminded of “the good ex” comment that a lady left a few years back on a post Jim put up on SM FB. I think it was when Chrissie’s memoir came out and he posted about it. The comment read “You’re a really, really good ex!” And Jim replied with, “True. I am the best ex on the planet…was always an ambition!” Lol.

I know it’s his silly, flippant sense of humour at play to a degree – but he DOES seem to have a point!

I have been pondering this for some time now…what makes a friendship with Jim Kerr endure? What’s the secret? What’s the special ingredient? It’s just a question that endlessly intrigues me that I have endlessly pondered for about…just a little under 5 years now.

From about the time he posted this…

It made a profound impact on me, this post, even back then. I found it very telling. Telling of what, exactly, I’m really sure. I don’t know. I seemed to read something into it at the time, and it has always stayed with me.

Anyway…this has been a very long-winded post that meandered so far away from its original purpose that…geez, I’m not even sure WHERE we ended up, but there you go! It’s Saturday night in mid January in Glasgow – during a lockdown in the midst of a pandemic – what else is there to do?

Anyone with any theories on how to be Jim’s friend for a REALLY long time? Then let me know…

Interview in the Scottish Sunday Times HERE

Weekend WhirliGIG – Tiffany’s, Glasgow, July 14th, 1982

It’s a proper old style bootleg – but a good quality one – from in the crowd rather than the soundboard.

And you get to hear said crowd go mental when Jim intros certain songs, or hear how raucous the applause is when certain songs end. Most of the setlist sparks rapturous applause and reactions, to be fair.

It’s great to hear a recording of 70 Cities As Love Brings The Fall from that time. It was on the setlist through the latter part of 1982 – from the summer onwards, but I don’t recall hearing too many recordings of it.

I started listening to it last night but did my usual and started to drift off during King Is White And In The Crowd and came round during Celebrate (the mention of “she rag doll” brought me round, I’m assuming – me obviously thinking “Hey, I’m not with Jim, being his rag doll. Oh, bugger!” Lol).

Also lovely to hear an early appearance of Someone Somewhere (In Summertime), introed by Jim under its WIP title of “Summer Song”. The song was all but complete. Not sure if the repeating of the first verse for the second verse was because at that point Jim hadn’t written the second verse, or that he just made the faux pas he sometimes did (even once fully written and previously performing both different verses) of just mistakenly repeating the first verse.

The gig was just a few days after Jim’s 23rd birthday, and his voice was just sounding sooo amazing. I absolutely ADORE the way he was sounding at that point in time. There was a real richness to his tone at that point. It’s probably why I fell asleep in all honesty – just his gorgeous voice serenading me to sleep.

I will pick it up from King Is White this evening and listen to the rest of the gig.

And I just noticed the rest of the setlist. An encore of Promised You A Miracle – no surprise there, but also one for 70 Cities?! Wow! I mean, it’s a real vocal challenge for Jim at the START of the gig, let alone at the END of it! Bloody hell!

I honestly can’t imagine what I would have been like being able to see them (him!) then. I think anyone around me would have run the risk of slipping on my drool. Lol – I think I need to find an appropriate gif…

Anyway! Before I end up drowning in a pool of my own drool thinking about Jim at this gig, I better go!

Enjoy!

The Local Authority

I started listening to the Bitter Sweet Symphony experimental offshoot – or “curveball” (if you will) of the main weekly “Are You Not Entertained?” podcast last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. Let me explain…

I confess that it isn’t something I listen to regularly (the AYNE podcast) as, well….I’m not majorly into sport, and certainly NOT football, so unless they talk more about the sport I can get a handle on, or like (cricket, snooker, darts, strongman events, curling, figure skating – I admit that is a crazy mixed bag…but I like what I like! Lol) … I’m gonna be kind of all-at-sea listening in regularly.

Jim has been on the show a couple of times, so when he highlights that fact, I’ll tune in.

At the start of the New Year, Jim posted on SM FB to talk about Billy Sloan and informed us fans of the offshoot to the AYNE podcast in which hosts Roger and Grant had interviewed Billy with a view of having a regular feature that explores the marriage of sport and music in people’s lives. Billy agreed to be their first guest. And what, with Billy being Billy – as with some Scots who, give them a subject they can get their laughing gear around and they’ll talk the leg off an iron chair about it – Roger and Grant really got their money’s worth with Billy! And a life of brilliant anecdotes they felt unable to cut and truncate. The whole interview so worthy of airtime, they decided to air the whole thing but break it up into two parts.

Billy and I at Oran Mor after the Caezar gig in 2018. Photo taken by my good friend, Ronnie McGhie

I listened to part one last night. And I am really looking forward to hearing part two tonight.

The first thing that made me just think “eeeeh!” was hearing that Billy started out his journalistic career just down the road…like LITERALLY just down the road in Springburn! Springburn had a local rag (the Springburn Times – I’ve no idea if it still exists, I’ll assume not, but I’ll look into it) and so he started out with them and sister local rag the Bishopbriggs Times.

It’s a small world!

The first part of the podcast was 55 minutes. The second part is coming in at 1 hour 45 minutes. I mean, strap yourselves in, peeps! Lol. But, it’s gonna be some ride. Just listening to first part last night and hearing the story of his afternoon hanging out with Muhammad Ali in London was just…crazy stuff.

The link to both parts is below. Enjoy!

Bitter Sweet Symphony – Billy Sloan Part One

Bitter Sweet Symphony – Billy Sloan Part Two

P.S. Don’t forget Billy still is very much right in the throng of things and is still very much the authority on music here in Scotland and in Glasgow in particular and has his own weekly show on BBC Radio Scotland on Saturday nights at 10pm GMT.

Priptona Talks – To Stuart Crouch

Regular visitors to the blog will be able tell how much graphics and the visual arts feature here and in my life in general. I’m a bit of an amateur artist and love creating my own visual interpretations and I also like to draw and paint (even if I am not very good at it). One aspect of art that has featured heavily as a focal point for me personally is album artwork.

In my latest interview in the “Priptona Talks” series, I spoke to Stuart Crouch of eponymously named Stuart Crouch Creative about his career as a graphic designer and of his work with Simple Minds as their current graphic art designer.

The Empires and Dance album cover that helped inspire Stuart’s first cover art he produced for Simple Minds.

What made you interested in graphic design? At school I wasn’t really sure what graphic design was but I liked painting and drawing, creating stuff. I was very into music and would make my own mix tapes and draw the covers – copying the logos and graphics from Smash Hits.

How did you start out? We didn’t have a 6th year at my school but my art teacher let a bunch of us take our O Levels a year early so we could then take our A levels in the 5th. My plan was to then go to art college but for a number of reasons I ended up skipping that and joined the art department at Barclays Bank as an apprentice. From there I went to an company in Covent Garden who specialised in movie video covers and then onto an agency called Peacock. This would have been the early 90s and that was my introduction to album cover design.

Is there anyone else’s work that was a particular influence in pursuing a career in graphic design? I would buy albums just for their artwork, my idol was Malcolm Garrett although he was then known by his company name – Assorted Images. His work was everywhere in the 80s – I would walk into a record shop, pick out the sleeves I liked and then check the credits and it was always Malcolm. That’s who I wanted to be and that’s what I wanted to do.

Who are your influences or other artists you admire (not necessarily in the graphic design field)? Kate Bush has been a big influence on me. She puts as much creativity into the visual side of her work as her music, not only her videos but her artwork, stage sets, everything. It’s that attitude to work and attention to detail that I admire.

Do you work or create in other mediums, or in other areas of the creative arts? I used to be in a band, I think that’s true of a lot of people in the music industry – lots of frustrated musicians around. If you’d heard my lyrics you’d see why I ended up as a graphic designer!

3D model of Celebrate album artwork.

How did you start out with doing graphics for Simple Minds? They had a new management team, who I’d worked with previously on Simply Red, and they needed a poster for the 5×5 Tour. That led to designing the album of that tour and they’ve stuck with me ever since.

What is your favourite work you have produced for SM? Tricky one, I think the Celebrate album cover. Their Claddagh (heart / hands symbol) had been perhaps a little overused by that point and I wanted to try something different. I had a photo of Jim Morrison’s bust from his grave, at Père Lachaise – Paris, and it was covered in graffiti (photo below) – I thought it made a cool image – a mix of classic and punk. I sent it to their management team and suggested we use the stone bust from Empires and Dance with their song titles scribbled on but treated like an art piece in a gallery. We created a 3D model of the head (photo above) based on that one photo and commissioned a lettering artist (Ruth Rowland) to hand write all the song titles. I don’t think the band were convinced by the concept at first but had enough faith in me to see it through and they loved the finished image. When their 40th anniversary came along I thought – shit, what do I do now! That Celebrate image would have been ideal – but it was already done. So then I hit on the idea of the badges in a heart shape and I think that does the same job but in a different way, nostalgic but new.

Jim Morrison’s gravestone in Paris.

The concepts for designs – esp. with the Simple Minds albums – are you given free licence to do whatever you feel suits? Or are you given a basic conceptual idea? Do the band themselves have much input? Each album or project is different, sometimes the artist has a clear idea what they want, sometimes it’s a blank slate but it usually ends up somewhere in the middle. One of us will start with the germ of an idea and we’ll play with it until it sticks. Jim is an absolute dream to work with – he won’t dictate how you do it but he’ll suggest moods and themes to help get you there. You want the design to feel like a natural extension of the music so the writer’s input is invaluable.

As the visual designer for the Doctor Who audio/visual output (Blu-ray/DVDs/Books/Audiobooks) – I have to ask – WHO is your favourite Doctor? That’s easy – it’s always Tom Baker for me. He was The Doctor when I was growing up, which maybe gives him an unfair advantage, but no story was ever boring or under-par when Tom was in it.

What would be your best piece of advice for someone wanting to work or gain employment in the graphic design field? It’s a very different industry now, you no longer have to work for a big agency to be taken seriously and social media means it’s easier to get your work out there and be seen. The downside is that there’s so much more competition because of that. If you want to get into music graphics my advice would be to approach up-and-coming bands or artists and ask to work with them. I get the appeal of aiming straight for the big guns but that’s trickier, you’ll have a lot more freedom with someone new, a chance to create looks and identities that young kids will be drawing on their pencil cases. Musicians are a pretty loyal bunch so there’s every chance they’ll take you with them on their journey. It will probably mean working for free at first but it gives you a chance to develop your skills and create a portfolio.

Portfolio of Stuart’s album cover art produced for Simple Minds.

Are there artists, be they in the entertainment field (bands, musicians, actors, writers, etc) or other visual artists, that you’d like to work with or collaborate with? Duran Duran – if you’re listening, I’m waiting for your call!

Lastly – do you have a favourite colour? Not really, but if you put a knife to my throat I’d go for dark blue.

My thanks to Stuart for his time for the interview.

Photos used were provided to me by Stuart.

Minds Music Monday – Underneath The Ice

In the canon of Simple Minds work, some songs get forgotten about…lost…overshadowed or under-appreciated.

In making a choice for this week’s MMM, I wanted to choose a track that was topical. I was thinking about the weather and the time of year and with it being “Blue Monday” today, I thought this neglected gem needed a bit of a highlight.

Enjoy.

A Bedroom Fit For A 14 Year Old (In 1984)

Several months back, I acquired some posters. I recently got a couple up on the walls, which meant removing other SM memorabilia off my walls to make them fit. Today those things were placed back up on the walls with some of the other posters making their debut on my bedroom walls.

Also my amazing prize that I won from the Echo Lab from buying raffle tickets to win a drumhead signed by Cherisse (with a signed photo also) arrived today. I’m yet to put that on the wall though, as I will need to get a suitable frame so I can display it.

Studio Time – And Other News

Great news from Sarah Brown’s social media pages yesterday. Some more good news would be most welcome.

There is such conflicting stuff I’m seeing at the moment when it comes to live music. Who knows where we’ll be by the summer?

I’m not feeling very hopeful. The 1975 have cancelled all their 2021 dates, meanwhile Field Music have just announced a new tour for October – even in January, that seems ambitious.

We booked for Scritti Politti Cupid And Psyche ‘85 tour in September but…yeah, it’s already starting to look doubtful.

Simple Minds still have dates in March for France and Germany – yet to be rescheduled again. I guess they’re just abandoning them outright? Confirmation of a cancellation would be good right now.

My flights with EasyJet to France and Italy have been cancelled – with no dates for rescheduling so….

It doesn’t bear thinking about. Anyway.

Some good news, at least.