Sadly inevitable. Too much uncertainty around. And, for me, this tour was off last year – even though it had initially been rescheduled for the end of this year. I wasn’t going to be travelling there. And I had resigned myself to the fate of money squandered. I didn’t like my chances of selling my tickets on. So on a personal note, I am thankful for the tour cancellation because I know I will get refunds on my tickets now. I am grateful not to be resigned to swallowing up another loss of funds. Small mercies.
I feel for my friends there. Australia is a loooong way and not everyone can just get on a plane and travel to the other side of the world to see the band they love. A few Aussie fans have been fortunate to do that, but there are some who would never have those funds or opportunities. My heart really does go out to those guys.
I hope Simple Minds will make it back out there again sooner rather than later. In the meantime – don’t be disappointed with the band, or their management, or the promoters. They have done all they can to try and get these things to go ahead. They are losing their livelihoods and the live music scene around the world is on its knees! I know Jim and Charlie and the rest of the band will be as disappointed and disheartened as the fans.
It’s this bloody pandemic. It’s Coronavirus, Covid-19…whatever you want to call this absolute cockwomble of a thing! And government ineptitude by and large. You know, the whole world. EVERY COUNTRY could have done with the leadership of New Zealand. Every country could have done with a Jacinda Ardern as their leader. Had every country stayed locked like NZ did, then maybe just MAYBE we’d not be in the state we’re in right now the world over. But we’ll never really know.
Bass. That Forbes bass. It’s the linchpin to the Simple Minds sound at that time. Those basslines are one of the things that distinguished them from others and made them stand out. And what a bassline that starts the title track to Sons And Fascination.
I don’t really know what the sound is that accompanies that bass – something percussive? A hard synth tone? Some kind of sound like a “thwack” to try and explain it in an onomatopoeic way.
Jim talks about them having repetitive loops and riffs during this time and not so much melody. The melody comes later, by his reckoning. But for me, the melody is already there. To me, loops and riffs CAN have melody too. And Mick’s synth work on this track is melodious. A shining synth melody, twinned with an understated guitar riff. A short and bright riff.
Those opening lines! “Summer rains are here / savaged beauty life / falling here from grace” – knockout punch! Sorry, Jim Kerr, but that is abstract poetry right there! Almost a haiku – but at 5/5/5 syllables. All his lines in rhythm. 5/5/5 – 5/5/6 – 5/5/5 -2/2/2 – 2/2/2 – 5/5/5 – 5/5/6 – 5/5/6 – 2/2/2 – 2/2/2 – 5/5/5 – 5/6/6 – 5/5/6 – 2/2/2 – 2/2/2 (numbers representing the syllables per line of the song)
Let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about what is fast becoming my final wish. To ask Jim about certain lines in this song. I don’t really know why it has been such a point of focus for me but that almost choral set of lines? The “ma son / warm land / semi monde” lines have fascinated me all these years. Especially the last of the set of three.
I read an interview. I’ve read so many early interviews. I never remember where I get what quote from where. But I remember Jim talking about his Da. About how, for a working class man, for a guy that was a builder’s labourer, he was “cultured”. But it was something he didn’t shout about or boast about. A man’s man! But he liked to be knowledgable and he liked reading and he liked the theatre. And he liked music, of course. Jim has memories of his dad taking him to Govanhill library as a wee boy to join the library and get his library card.
I think Jim became quite the “chip off the old block” insomuch as he loved his pals and his football and being a guy – your typical Glasgow boy. But something more was always calling. The desire for knowledge and a thirst for learning, for travel and of being “cultured” ensured he wasn’t going to be just another Glasgow boy. That a different path was laid out for him.
In this interview he had talked about seeing shows at the Citizens Theatre. He just vaguely brushed upon it, so I have no real clear reference of what he saw there and when. As far as I am aware, the Citizens was a serious playhouse. Not a place where you’d go and watch a pantomime or see a comedy performer.
Researching up on it – yes – it’s PROPER theatre! Where you’d see the likes of Shakespeare and Beckett. Ibsen and Brecht. And …. Noel Coward.
And so, it was in 1977, right in the middle of the UK punk explosion – where a group of Southside boys got together and made a racket under the rather lewd name of Johnny And The Self Abusers – a play Noel Coward had written in the 1920s, made its theatrical debut at the Citizens Theatre in the Gorbals.
Did the boy in the punk band go to “the Citz” to watch a play about 1920s “high society” nobs? Well, only he knows. Lord knows I have tried to ask him! Perhaps for some reason I can’t quite fathom he’s ashamed to confirm it? Or, conversely, he doesn’t want to admit to a denial? Either he’ll appear terribly “un-punk” for having been to such a play in 1977 or he’ll feel a let down for not appearing quite as “cultured” as he has alluded to in the past.
In the grand scheme of things, it matters very little. I have just always had an intrigue about the use of the term in the song and wondered if that (the play) was some vague spark that caused its usage.
It’s strange how some things can connect in ways you never expect. The Citizens has had its share of theatrical acting alumni come through its doors. One such talent was Pierce Brosnan, who had a stint plying his craft at the theatre around the time. He had a role in Semi Monde. And he (Brosnan) was my very first crush. There’s just something about those dark-haired, blue-eyed, Catholic, celtic boys, eh? They give me the “sucker punch”.
So, let’s just pretend that the inspiration for the use of the term was down to that – him actually seeing the play – rather than he just banged some French girl and she perhaps shouted it out in the throes of passion and he liked the sound of it and used it.
Can I be that French girl?!
Jim has recurring themes. A recurrence happens in the song Book Of Brilliant Things – “thank you for the voice, the eyes, and the memories shine”. But very similar lines are used (and as for as I am concerned, used superiorly) in Sons And Fascination – “thank you for the voice / thank you for the eyes / thank you for the good times”. They are used more emphatically in SAF.
He paints such a collage of things in the song. Of nature. Of a metropolis. Of motorcades: “golden guns and cars / styles and motorcades” and celebrations: “parades are leaving town”. I see 8mm film – images in my head of the things he sings about. Almost like a Pathé News reel.
It’s the cohesion of the album. It’s European travelogue. It’s a reflection of life in this point in time. It’s cinematic without being pompous. It’s a window. And it is still a reflection of what is influencing them musically but now also so very much their own! Their own voice! Their own image. Their stamp. Their mark! And, it’s indelible. For as much as it paints the picture of the now in 1981 – the Europe of 1981 – it has become timeless.
The song had the original working title of Sulphate. And it was one of those tracks Mick had worked on. One of the ones he had given to Jim on cassette. One of the ones that Jim fell in love with in his walks around Glasgow.
I absolutely adore Sons And Fascination. I’m so glad they worked with everything. That all the songs felt too precious to ditch anything and throw anything away. And I know it was done from the perspective of “wiping the slate clean”. But what a way to wipe the slate clean. What a way to blank a canvas!
Had they not done what they had done with Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call we may never have ended up with the album we got with New Gold Dream. And this is why I will forever hold Sons And Fascination in such esteem.
Inked on my skin.
I have a number of live versions as favourites. One is one that was recorded in San Francisco in November, 1981, specially for Billy Sloan’s show in Radio Clyde and aired in July, 1982, the night before a gig they had at Tiffany’s.
Another live favourite is a more up tempo version recorded from an FM broadcast, a Tiffany’s gig from December, 1981.
And we can’t leave it without a link to the album version. Masterful.
One final extra, if you’re interested in learning any more about it – links follow to a program on STV that aired a few years back about The Citizens.
I think it has been coming for some time. I think I might be spent. Done. I don’t think I have any more to give.
It is a heavy heart that I say this with. My personal fandom for Simple Minds has altered. I love them. I absolutely love them! I can still wax lyrical about them. Lord knows I can wax lyrical about Jim! He is just…all things to me. And I say this knowing how absolutely darn pathetic it is – but I honestly can’t remember what a day feels like without thinking of him. I am, quite literally, Kerrsed. (Have to throw in a pun there somewhere!)
But I feel like I…
I will try to articulate it well.
The Simple Minds catalogue as it stands is finite. It will expand at some point in the future – yes. But there is only so much of “List your Top 5 songs” and all that kind of stuff I feel able to engage in.
It feels like it is becoming a hamster wheel. Around and around and around. Favourite album. Favourite song.
Speculation also drives me insane too. It’ll come when it comes, FFS! The new album. The recommencing of the tour. Jim’s “tome” of fiction. And currently…there is not much “doing” at SMHQ and Jim is obviously just not wanting to engage with the fans in social media any more – which is his absolute right, of course.
But that was the thing that drew me into the fanbase! That’s what drew me in to Facebook! His presence and interaction with the fanbase. I can’t emphasise enough what that meant! And how different that set Simple Minds apart from any band or artist that I had ever liked before. The human touch. Making the intangible feel tangible. That is what made you feel most special to me, Jim. The voice is one thing, the songwriting another. The stage presence another. But it was all wrapped in a bow with your…approachability.
I was always someone who just stayed out on the fringes. I was never one to really put myself “out there”. Years of self-doubt, social ineptitude and of mental ill health.
In recent times I have wondered if many of the things I see that made me feel different as a child and made things difficult for me were signs of ASD that were never picked up? That I masked too well and it went undetected? It happens to a lot of women with ASD. And as the wording goes – Autism SPECTRUM Disorder, there’s a spectrum there with some elements of ASD being stronger and more obvious in some than others, etc, etc.
I grew up with strong “stimming” traits. I rocked back and forth almost constantly as a child. The only time I would stop is when I was out somewhere, at school, or if we had house guests that didn’t know us well I would find alternatives. I would swing my legs back and forth or find other “stims” to do. I especially did the rocking when listening to music. It was the ultimate excuse to do it. I was listening to music! No one felt it was very strange then. But they did if I did it while watching TV or just…sitting and being. I also bite my nails. And not just my nails but the skin around my nails also. I eventually stopped the rocking in early adulthood but I still bite my nails and skin badly.
So…I have always felt somewhat alone. School was never something I enjoyed in a peer group sense. I loved learning and craved learning but I always felt incredibly uncomfortable around my peers and then when the bullying started, it escalated those feelings ten fold. I started staying away from school a lot as a result.
It took so much for me to step into the Simple Minds fanbase. I had NEVER socialised on this scale before, and I mean NEVER.
I can still remember how absolutely petrified I was going to my first SM gig and the idea that the people I had been talking to online would meet me just scared the crap out of me. I had tentatively agreed to meet someone from the fanbase at the gig, but I chickened out. I was just too overwhelmed. Meeting one new person is nerve-wracking for me but put that in a gig scenario where the person you have agreed to meet is there with maybe five or six other people around them and I am being introduced to them all…
It eventually happened. Bolstered largely by encouragement from Jim. The interactions I started to have with him gave me a confidence I had never possessed. It led me to do things I could only had previously dreamt of. I went on national TV to partake in a quiz, FFS! Something I had dreamed of for nearly 20 years, probably longer than that. And I did it, twice!
And those trips brought me to Glasgow and I fell in love with the city. And as a result of that, the city is now my home. And I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else! It feels as much “home” as Sydney ever did.
My hang ups are my hang ups, you know. They are mine to work through.
These days I just feel – estranged from the fanbase. It’s not a place I am feeling very welcome or comfortable being in. It is why I have, for the most part, stepped away from SM fan groups. There has been some petty differences and rather more disconcerting spats. I have never been great with conflict.
I certainly do not have the patience, zeal and diplomacy of Gordon Machray, for a start. His endless enthusiasm for the band and the music really is something to be admired. It is down to him that the Simple Minds Official Fan Group (SMOG, as I have often referred to it) is what it is now. All inclusive and all encompassing. I hope there are others more capable than me who will be willing to step up to the plate and help him in his time of need – as I guess it has become obvious that that really isn’t me.
This blog will continue. In what capacity, I am unsure. I am determined to see through the Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call 40th Anniversary celebration. Beyond that…who knows? It’ll probably just revert back to what is ultimately some crappy, Jim Kerr obsessive fangirl site – in hardly any way linked to Simple Minds at all – just the tenuous point of a link being Jim’s “raspberry ripples”.
I guess I never really was much of a fan then, eh? And perhaps I never did “earn my stripes”.
The times had been great…for the most part. Apart from the whole “real fans” affair. I really could have done without that. But hey ho. There we go. We are fallible and all make mistakes in life.
I still don’t know what the future holds. None of us do. But I feel that whatever my future as a Simple Minds fan is, it will probably be confined to here on this blog and my own personal social media profiles.
When you consider the tracks on the album that have just gone by – the thumping drum and bass monster of Boys From Brazil and the pre-techno genre Euro dance beat of Love Song – there is a calming and stillness to This Earth. A soft rim shot (that’s what that particular percussive sound is called in the pro world) and slow haunting reverb guitar start the track off before Mick comes in with simple but gorgeous synth melody. It feels as if a magic carpet has arrived to take you on a meditative ride.
Soft little hushed tones from Jim accompany the music before he comes in with a pondering set of questions – “What’s your name? What’s your nation?” There is now – after the rush of the previous two album tracks – a definite “sense of order / sense of speed” – at least a reduction of speed to the more tranquil and more….meditative.
More fragmented lyrics still “shakes his hand / turns away / turns his back and walks away”. Jim seems to have recurring themes in his lyrics. Quite a bit of hand shaking and walking into, out of, or generally around spaces. There’s a lot of walking. I guess it is reflective of how much of a walker (yes, that’s “waLker” lol) he is. Some elements of songwriting, no matter how much you feel are not a reflection of you personally can’t help but be a mirror.
Reading up about it, it was initially an instrumental and was released as an instrumental only version on the B-side of Love Song. Jim added the vocal at the latter stages of the album recording. Probably having walked around Glasgow for days on end listening to the track god knows how many times on his(?) or Brian’s(?) Walkman. Each time I hear it I think of the reply I had from him about listening to music while walking (or jogging as the post he had written had alluded to) around Glasgow. I’ll include it below as it is a piece of “conversation” I cherish. I cherish all the interactions I’ve ever had with Jim and I despair the thought of it being past tense now. “All things must pass”, I guess. I feel as if I have been in mourning twice in recent years. Losing my mum at the end of 2019 and then…well…
I have probably highlighted this bit of conversation several times over already, but here goes…
I used to think that was a ridiculous kind of bravado to claim that. To say “no birdsong could compete”. But he is right. No birdsong can. But the birds aren’t trying to compete with Mick MacNeil’s or Charlie Burchill’s genius. They’re just the males in the species competing with each other for “top bird”. To get the best females. I pretty much think Mick had that part covered as well – without trying. Cheekbones you could cut yourself on.
For me, this song has Charlie Burchill’s best guitar solo. By far. It almost sounds off key. But that makes it stand out. And it’s haunting. Like his guitar is weeping. It is so beautiful. And then to match it to Jim’s lyrics after the solo ends – “screaming edge of light / shines so, shines so hard”. Those lines exactly encapsulate what Charlie has just produced with his guitar.
I had my “heavenly moment” with this song. The Walk Between Worlds tour of 2018 and it starting at the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow. We were just a few songs into the show. The songs that you’d expect to get things under way. The ones the early diehards love – I Travel, Celebrate, Love Song… and then…THEN came the B-side to Love Song in lyrical form. As soon as the jangling guitar, the soft percussive beat and synth melody began, I almost fell to my knees in raptures! There was talk of surprises being on the setlist leading up to the tour. Unexpected things that would keep the diehards happy. And of course by this time I was one of those diehards.
I had never expected much from the promise of surprises. I know sometimes that Jim says one thing and means another. I was cynical enough to keep my expectations in check for fear of disappointment. This one floored me. I was ssooo happy! I just wanted to shut myself off from everything else that was happening around me. I closed my eyes and just let the whole thing wash over me. To just let it soak into my skin and try to keep myself in the moment.
I don’t actually recall much of how the song actually sounded on the night. I remember Jim and Catherine sharing vocal duties on it. I remember feeling blissful hearing the music and anticipating Charlie’s solo which was just about note perfect from my vague memory of it. The memory is vague because I suffer from a kind of sensory and emotional “overload”. When things are very special or mean a lot to me, it overwhelms me and plays havoc with my memory recall. I have the worst memory as is – but when it is a special thing, a moment that I REALLY WANT TO REMEMBER – then that is guaranteed to be the thing I remember least – or worse still can’t recall at all. A lot of things I wipe from memory completely. Thankfully in these modern times with Smartphones being rather ubiquitous, there is not much need for me to have to rely on my memory recall – thank god! But it would still be lovely to be able to recall it first-hand from my own memory bank. To feel all the things I felt that night as the song was playing rather than the vagueness of knowing it meant the world to me to hear it being performed and wanting to savour the moment.
I know this is not the most information rich post about this song. There’s never really been much said of it. Never much talk about it. It’s quiet and sparse and glorious. Understated. Simple and beautiful. Mick MacNeil at his very best. Charlie Burchill at his very best also. And Jim Kerr at his most lyrically enigmatic. Quiet and sparse – but also expansive. Cinematic. “Worldwide on the widest screen” – latter lyrics that also sum up the atmosphere of This Earth That You Walk Upon. This whole planet is home to us. This big blue planet that we really should be taking much better care of but never will. Humans by nature are just far too greedy and selfish. Even those who otherwise appear altruistic still have these awful human foibles. We all do. Sadly it is also what makes us human. We don’t seem to be able to learn and change what makes us the worst example of humanity.
But alas, I digress some. For I am sure This Earth That You Walk Upon is just meant to be enjoyed as a reflection of all that is good and joyous about this world. The vastness of it. The nature of it. A soundtrack to the world, of our place in it and of nature.
I’ll offer two versions here. The album version with the lyrics and a version of it from the Walk Between Worlds Tour in 2018.
There are still things I see on the odd occasion in which I think “Oh Jim would like that/find it funny/interesting.” And in the past that would mean my posting it to the SM FB visitor wall. But I don’t think he’d even see it now. So… maybe I would post it to SMOG? Except I know there’ll be asshats that’ll make comment/pass judgement and I just can’t be dealing with that BS.
Again… would he even see it anyway?
So I’ll completely piss in the wind as he would NEVER visit here and post it right here.
On the off chance he ever does visit here – I thought you might find it funny, fine Sir.
Mirth at will!
You’re welcome. (I’d like to think your dad would have loved it.)
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!