The Alasdair Gray Archive – Off Topic

Lately the blog has been really focussed on Simple Minds and in particular the 40th Anniversary of Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call, Rightly so. I do run this blog primarily as a Simple Minds (ie: Jim Kerr ogling) blog, with broader music topics – general album reviews, gigs reviews and interviews, etc.

Anyone who has spent time here in the past – even in the fairly recent past, knows I love art as well – photography, painting, drawing. And I love books too, though I don’t read much these days (more due to suffering narcolepsy when I read and also being a very slow reader. It makes for an awful combination!).

One of the last books I managed to read in its entirety was Lanark by Alasdair Gray. I even went on and bought a Kindle copy of 1982 Janine and still haven’t read it!

I initially caught the Gray bug due to His Kerrness referring to Lanark in an interview he had with Muriel Gray (no relation, as far as I am aware) in 1984. An interview that I only saw for the first time in early 2020. I looked into Alasdair Gray and sought out a copy of Lanark to read. I decided to go “old school” and bought a copy from a seller on eBay. The book made its way to me from the Isle of Lewis – but the way I held it to read it, the adhesive wore away from the spine and the book fell apart. In the end I borrowed a digital copy from the library to finish reading it. I had to keep borrowing it week and week after week.

Needless to say, not only did I fall in love with Lanark, I fell in love with Alasdair too. And not just his writing. Lanark is still the only thing of his I’ve read so far – apart from an open letter he sent to The Scotsman newspaper about how perhaps we are too hasty to tear down, demolish and rebuild, but perhaps there should be more consideration given to restoration. He talked about Sighthill in particular. I can’t help but wonder what he would make of all the redevelopment work that has gone on and continues to go on around Sighthill right now. And even what he’d make of the housing estate that has been given approval to be built upon the old Ruchill Hospital grounds. Right now, when I look out my bedroom and living room windows, I see a living Alasdair Gray painting. That view is going to change in its appearance in years to come.

And so, yes, I love his paintings, murals and illustrations as much as his writing. I particularly love getting out at Hillhead subway station to view the spectacular mural that spans the wall of the subway’s entrance. If you search my blog you’ll find photos and video of the mural at Hillhead. I’ve still yet to go to the Ubiquitous Chip and the last time I was at Oran Mor, I was not even aware of Alasdair, or his amazing work there.

Sadly, Alasdair passed away at the end of 2019, but he has left such an amazing legacy.

Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting the Alasdair Gray Archive, located at The Whisky Bond, just off Possil Road, overlooking the Forth and Clyde canal between Speirs Wharf and Applecross. It really was a wonderful hour I had spent there. I had the space to myself with the curator of the archive, Sorcha, as my personal guide. It is only a small space – not much larger than our living room (if any larger at all) and was arranged to show Alasdair’s office/writing space at one end, his art space at the opposite end of the wall, as well as a display of his bookshelf and illustrations, artworks and prints on the wall opposite.

I was allowed to view certain things and could view the massive “work-in-progress” folio in the top drawer of his artist’s bureau, which was incredible. One hour just was not enough.

I hope to return sometime in the near future to get lost again. I look forward to future “Gray Days”.

You can learn more about the Alasdair Gray Archive by visiting: thealasdairgrayarchive.org

I’m thinking this is a dungeon where all the naughty boys of Glasgow get put.
Below is the layout of archive, showing how Alasdair’s workspaces were laid out in his Hillhead home. Click on the photos to get enlarged viewing options.

Bryn The Beautiful Blackbird

A watercolour painting of a blackbird in song that I had commissioned by my amazingly talented friend, Deb.

Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I like to give birds alliterative names.

All my own crappy creations ended up with alliterative names and so upon deciding on a name for Bryn I thought about the Welsh connection with Deb. Bryn means “hill” so it just seemed so apt for him. And being a glorious songbird as well, and with the Welsh known for their beautiful singing voices it all made total sense.

I shall get a beautiful frame for him and hang him on the wall in my bedroom, along side that other wonderful singer that festoons every wall of my room. And there’s a lovely rhyme with the names Jim and Bryn – total accident but there you go! It was meant to be.

Deb does AMAZING watercolour paintings of UK wildlife. If you’d like to see more of her work and perhaps buy some of her beautiful art, you can view and make enquiries through her FB art page HERE

Minds Music Monday – Superman V Supersoul

Today is the official calendar start of spring – but I much prefer to think of it in seasonal terms and don’t really feel any real sense of spring until the equinox on March 20th.

That in mind, I wanted to choose something that conjured up warmth and light and joy and optimism, and maybe a bit of Utopia and in the case of this song, enlightenment. Something to symbolise that, indeed, spring is on the way.

I knew it was a spiritual song. You can hear it and sense it without being told, as it delivers that sense, that feeling of a warm spring day. A warming of the soul.

But I actually hadn’t read the info on Dream Giver about it – or if I had, it was so long ago, none of it ever really sank in.

Having read it last night, I was moved by Jim’s words. Moved by how moved HE was by the song.

I can’t help but feel it was semi-autobiographical what he had written in the email? That perhaps it was he who had the dream of the wedding procession and of the Prince (aka Krishna) and the beautiful coquettish brides. That he was the man left standing in the loft apartment staring at the painting on the kitchen wall.

He has talked about the Bhagavad Gita several times in the past. It has had quite an influence on him over the years.

I enjoyed it too, having read it from him mentioning it again in recent years.

I’ll share the piece Jim had written about Superman v Supersoul below. There are so many days in which I miss him and I miss just…feeling with him, connected to him, part of him. More than just through music and through a “singer and fan” dynamic.

I know I have to stop going on about it! And I know I have to find some kind of closure as it has so obviously come to an end – whatever “this” was. Whatever connection I felt there was. Whatever skewed imagining of “togetherness” I had deludedly conjured up for myself and dreamed for myself. It has obviously faded.

For want of painting myself a dream and walking into it to experience it and live it in my subconscious, I better “get real”.

I miss the romance of the togetherness. Of feeling kindred. Of feeling sometimes I could allow to kid myself that, on the odd occasion, there was a “like mind”. That we were connected beyond the music. And that it wasn’t just me that felt it.

(The end of the first paragraph of Jim’s words … God is a DJ? “This is my church. This is where I heal my hurts.”)

UPDATE: (later the same morning) I mixed up my books! I tried to read Bhagavad Gita but got lost in the rambling preface of the copy I bought – an English translation of the book from German – and didn’t continue to read it. So in actual fact, I was mixing up my Siddhartas (which I have read) with my Bhagavad Gitas (not actually read yet) – and I’m wondering if Jim didn’t do the same in this email? I may just have to have another attempt at reading Bhagavad Gita.

One made a very long time ago – in March, 2016, in fact.

People are finding God in different places. Some stare at the sky. Others walk the desert. A friend of mine recently put forward the notion that God has taken to stalking the floors of discotheques!

The scenario in the song: An individual, closing his eyes after staring long and hard at a beautiful painting of a scene from the “Bhagavad Gita” finds that he is transported body and soul into the painted image – which in fact becomes reality all around him. There suspended in time for what feels like a whole night he finds himself drowning in the sights and sounds of a wedding procession which is taking place in the most heavenly blue moonlit garden.

All around him the most sensuous music drifts and he listens while watching the screams and laughter of the beautiful young brides who cannot contain themselves as they receive the flirting and teasing attention of an obvious boy prince, who must be no other than Lord Krishna… the sense of joy is palpable as peacocks mesmerize, and it’s there and then our character decides that this can only be the one true paradise…

Suddenly it’s gone, where to!, where from? The man is left staring out the window of his loft apartment at the shimmering lights of the cityscape; and the sprawling chaos of the streets below. He vows on the spot to completely change his way of life; and tears well as he shifts his eyes back to the small calendar painting, given to him free last year, on the street by a “devotee” and now hanging on his kitchen wall.

Paradise.” – Jim, e-mail, 11th March 1998

Also: Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant Hapus

What I Miss In Lockdown – Tracey Emin / Edvard Munch: The Loneliness of the Soul

Viewing art with my own eyes. Exhibitions. Galleries.

Being able to see this.

I think I’d have flown down south to get to London to see this exhibition.

A virtual tour is not the same. But it will have to do. Even as a virtual tour, I find this deeply moving. I can only imagine how I’d have felt in the exhibition space. I know how I was at the last Tracey Emin exhibition I went to.

I never thought that visual art would affect me like that.

Click the image below to see the virtual tour…

Ideas To Overcome A Creative “Impasse”

Maybe setting limitations would work to do it? Having a set amount of time in the day? Some of these things I have tried before. Let’s doit again and see. But we’ll implement some different things this time. Anyway, ideas are worth sharing too…hence this post.

Click the image to see a video from BBC Ideas (in collaboration with the Open University).

The Very Definition!

I wish more than anything I could paint him. I honestly, absolutely get lost in his beauty. To me, esp. when I am working on art and he is at the centre of it all and I am deep into my spell, mouthing the words under my breath in short intervals “he’s beautiful. He’s just so beautiful” – that’s when I wish most that I had a canvas to hand, could pick up my brushes and just…paint him – and do him justice. For lack of that, I try and do the next best thing. The thing I may just be able to fudge. Turn a little hazy, fuzzy little freeze frame of video into – a work of art.

HE is a work of art, to me. Jim Kerr – you are art and beauty personified. And I’m so sick of caring what you think of me. Whether you like me or not. It just doesn’t matter any more. I love you. I adore you. And it is how it will always be…until the end of days.

You are my sun, moon and stars. My beginning, middle and end. You are…he.

Scorpio is ruled by Pluto – the Roman god of the Underworld. So perhaps I feel some affinity to Persephone – the Greek goddess of the Underworld. I certainly understand Persephone’s fixation with Adonis. How could she not be? And, well…look what it says – to quell the feud between Aphrodite and Persephone over him, Zeus divides up Adonis’s time in thirds. One third of the year he spends with Persephone, one third with Aphrodite, and one third with whomever he chooses.

Who does he choose? Aphrodite! Poor Persephone. Well…she at least gets to be with him one third of the year.

I should be so lucky!

Only in my dreams.

Locked in my emotional prison.

Spot the correction below…

These are the things that need written words. These are the things I could not admit to or discuss by speaking them.

Let’s Rock!

A wonderful friend of mine in Oz – Wendy – has done these amazing rock paintings for me.

When she showed me the progress of the New Gold Dream themed one a few days back, I cried my eyes out. I knew she was working on a silhouette of Jim but I wasn’t expecting that amazing NGD cover background on the rock. I was overwhelmed.

Today she shared photos of both completed rocks with me and I absolutely adore them both.

They will take several weeks to get to me all the way from sunny Queensland, but they will find the most loving home here when they arrive in not-quite-so-sunny Glasgow.

An Independent Socialist – A World In Gray

Please do not be fooled by the blurb you see attached to the video! There really isn’t too much talk about the then imminent Scottish Independence referendum. It really is all about the remarkable Alasdair Gray. A man I wish I had been aware of, learned about and began to have some kind of – albeit without any actual personal interaction with – affinity for while he was still living.

There is a sadness I feel that, having moved to this amazing city just a few short weeks before, that Alasdair left us at the end of December in 2019.

Yes, you have to pay to watch the film – documentary – but if you love art, love the murals around Glasgow, have ever read Lanark or 1982 Janine and loved them – see that mural at Hillhead subway station each day (I can’t tell you how many times I have passed it by already and never realised it was there – with great shame) …

Just watch it.

Even as I am still finding my way through Lanark, I take in all the places I recognise. A number of them are local or not very far away. I even found myself reading a letter to a local paper he had submitted about wondering what was to become of Sighthill (the general area, not the cemetery – that wasn’t the topic of Gray’s letter) It is literally just up the road. Just go down to the end of the adjacent street, past the bowling green, round the corner, past the speedway track – up Finlas Street turning into Carlisle Street, until it meets Keppochill Road – and there you are. Sighthill Cemetery. Three weeks ago I didn’t even know it existed! There is NOTHING to mark it out on Google Maps. A few times coming down the A803 from the city centre by car or on public transport I could see there were some graves but I had assumed it was attached to a churchyard – not an actual full cemetery. A cemetery so vast that – as far as I am aware, only the Necropolis is larger (although trying to confirm this with research would indicate Sighthill is larger in acreage so I am a bit confused). Needless to say it is a large expanse and perplexing not to be revealed on a map!

Gray within the pages of Lanark seems to mention a street nearby, Ashfield Street. There is only one Ashfield Street in all of Glasgow. A few Ashfield Roads but no “street”. Only this one. It must be it! And there is talk of Riddrie where he grew up and the area that is now know as Robroyston but was once Garngad – all not terribly far away, further over to the east and north of us on the other side of Bishopbriggs.

But I shall stop waffling and let you watch it! I found it enthralling.

Virtual Art Exhibition Tours During Lockdown

The Royal Academy of Arts had a post on their social media about some virtual exhibitions you can enjoy during lockdown.

The one following is not a full virtual exhibition as such, but a taster into a Hopper exhibition that was running in a gallery in Basel until the lockdown in Switzerland closed its museums and galleries.

I do miss exhibitions. I miss the Kelvingrove! I’d love to see more of Edward Hopper’s work up close. I have a Taschen book of his work that I bought in a charity shop a few years back – with the idea of displaying some of them on the walls. The Taschen books are printed in such wonderful quality! It was a bargain for the few pounds I paid for it.

Anyway, enjoy the little teaser video and let’s hope that sometime in the future we can once again get “up close and personal” with art.

The Blog That Nobody Follows

700A9001-6F04-4223-895D-6E40ADD4B412

It was never the reason I started this blog. Not to gain followers. It was never about that. If nobody read it, I would STILL be posting here. If it never had “an audience” it would still be going.

It has always been about self-expression and showing my passion and love for this band.

It didn’t even start seriously! It started on Tumblr – which is a very image and gif rich social media platform hybrid. It’s much more a visual based thing. Just a big excuse to share lots of gorgeous images and gifs of Jim (and the rest of the band). A big excuse to ogle. (Oh, how I like an ogle.) For a time I even had a secondary Tumblr page solely dedicated to Jim’s left ear! Lol. This is how frivolous and silly it all started out as!

If I had wanted followers, I’d have stayed on Tumblr. In my short time on there I gained about 300 followers and it would have kept growing exponentially as that’s what most social media platforms are about. Equally, if I wanted my blog to have followers, I’d be sharing posts and going on about it here, there and everywhere. Endlessly sharing links and posting stuff to Simple Minds groups on Facebook and retweeting links to Twitter users, etc, etc. Basically spammed people to death with my blog.

Blogs are different to other aspects of social media. Yes, they can have that element to them as well but the overriding reason someone creates a blog isn’t really about gaining a fanbase or followers, as such.

Tumblr did have its limitations. It’s very much its own community there. And it wasn’t really the place for more serious contemplation or expression. I felt anyway. I felt as if I was outgrowing Tumblr. I wanted something more. I didn’t want to completely come away from the fun stuff. The ogling of Jim and the silly things that went on at Tumblr, but the move away from Tumblr was a great reason to start to bring in a more serious slant to stuff.

It took time. Time for the love of the band to really develop into something that I felt I could try to articulate and express more.

Over time I have introduced several “themes” to the blog. Not completely leaving the fun side behind at Tumblr, I coined “Kerrsday Thursday” for the blog. A weekly ogling session of all things Jim. I had written pieces titled “Why I Love…” in which I would try and go in depth and explain why I loved a particular Simple Minds song and therefore why it was in its place in my Top 50 Simple Minds songs. Nearly five years down the road, and I STILL haven’t finished all 50.

The weekend whiriiGIG was coined in which I would share a live performance from YouTube that I enjoyed. Mainly bootleg gigs. Before it was the “weekend whirliGIG” it had been on the blog as a TARDIS dream gig wish. A gig that I would wish I had been able to go to but…due to age, distance, non fandom, it didn’t take place for me.

And it eventually came a space to share band news and things and a place for me to feel free to comment and talk about those things.

A place for my art too. The digital fan art being a huge aspect of that…but also painting and drawing that I would do – not necessarily of the band, either.

The joy of gigs and seeing them live. And then just….expanding on that and started to give reviews of other gigs I started to go to. In the past three years in particular, I have been to see more live music and more gigs than I had ever done in the previous near 30 years (as of then) of my adult life.

And this year – my 50th year – was going to be the most gig rich year yet! Until Covid-19 had other plans. My calendar of events had just started. I had been to a Poliça gig to see my guys, Warm Digits, as their support. A gig wish was fulfilled by seeing Bryan Ferry at the SEC Armadillo the week prior to flying over to Copenhagen to see what was meant to be the first of THIRTEEN Simple Minds shows for this year. And there were so many other gigs lined up besides! More Warm Digits gigs, as they have just released a new album. Then there was meant to be King Creosote on the day we were due back from Copenhagen. And beyond that…John Grant, Jimmy Webb, Crowded House, The Stranglers. One of the Warm Digits bills had them at the Stag and Dagger in Edinburgh and I was looking forward to getting to see other bands on the bill there. Perth band Parliamo, in particular.

I had started to conduct the odd interview as well. I had interviews with Simple Minds original lighting technician, Jaine Henderson, former band manager, Bruce Findlay and just recently an interview with Warm Digits’ Steve Jefferis.

I have been trying to make something of it. Not just have it be a Jim Kerr ogle-fest or a sycophantic endless declaration of love and admiration for him. It always runs the risk of falling back to that.

But, hey! I am human after all. I have feelings, thoughts, concerns, worries, hang ups. And at the end of the day MY blog is MY outlet for things. I really try not to drag it down with too much personal stuff. But if it happens…I shouldn’t really feel the need to apologise for that. At the end of it – it IS a personal blog. It isn’t in any way monetised. It doesn’t exist to make money! It doesn’t exist to gain followers.

But, you know what? It DOES have followers. A small number of them. But the fact it has any at all astounds me. And at times, it embarrasses the fuck out of me! A lot of the time, in fact.

And I have regular readers too. And then new comments coming in too. And I have had wonderful acknowledgements from people I admire and hold in esteem and these things feel very unworthy.

So, to all of you who visit and/or leave a comment, to Scott, (and to the other Scott as well that I know visits too) and to recent visitors leaving comments, Catrine and Gavin. To Stuart as well. And to the new followers who’ve subscribed, thank you.

To Gordon Machray of Simple Minds International on Facebook, to Simon Cornwell – who runs the sublime Dream Giver Redux – the absolute Simple Minds online bible, to Paolo Viani – who runs Simple Minds Historical on Facebook, and to Ronnie Gurr of Hanging Around Books. For all your nods of acknowledgement, I am humbled and thankful and feel it very undeserved.

Vive la Simple Minds!