I’m guessing by the description Adam Sweeting gives of the weather “a summery day” and the talk of Live In The City Of Light having just been released (LitCoL released in May), it must be around June of 1987.
I thought seeing as I’ve been to South Queensferry a few times over the past 12 months, I might as well get the damn article and share it here.
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.
I don’t think I have devoured a book this enthusiastically in…well, a few years!
It really does have me gripped! It also has me doing something I rarely do…because my levels of concentration are so…paltry. 1) I can read it with noise around! (Mercifully, there hasn’t been much noise to distract me) and 2) I dived in whilst still in the midst of reading another book (Yes, I am STILL committed to reading The Master And Margarita – though I have not read any of it since before I left Oz! Bad Loz!). That is something I NEVER do! Or very rarely. It can be OK when the subjects are wildly different (usually I can cope with fiction vs non-fiction at the same time…two different works of fiction would prove difficult for me. And I read sssoooo slow (usually!), two books at once would take me an AGE to finish!
Despite the tales of STDs and loutish behaviour on a few pages…it really is about the music, and the band as a group of musicians, and the boys as individual musicians and songwriters and it is fascinating. I am loving it. It STILL makes me want ‘in’…because, despite all my Jim drooling and silliness, it is that music…especially during this early period that has me SSOO gripped. By God it is exciting reading about the formulation, the progression of them.
The more I read, the more I just fall in love with the band. I really do. But it also just makes me crave wanting to be there. To be involved, somehow. Again, like the Bowie book did when reading about the early years and the Mainman era. I mean, Tony Defries was an absolute cockwomble, but that whole “to be a rock star, you’ve got to spend like one” was, although just ridiculously ill-contrived, was just spellbinding to read about. The exploits and times of that period. Just…hell fire! And though the early period of the Minds doesn’t compare in that respect…it’s that getting going, musically. Learning the craft, touring, the differences in recording…that melting pot of sounds they have in those early years.
I love this band so damn much! And the book, so far, is just compounding all the reasons why I do.
Holy hell this Adam Sweeting book is GOOD! I am LOVING this. We agree on most things, so far, in reference to his reviews of the albums and songs…
But just hang on a cotton-picking minute! How the fuck does Constantinople Line sound like Numan?! Piss off, Sweeting! Lol. I was liking you! Ok, my reaction may be somewhat…overzealous…but NO! I like Numan’s music at that time…and it was obvious by your words on them touring with him, you weren’t a fan. Pretty much calling him a two-bit Bowie wannabe! So don’t then be comparing Constantinople Line to a Numan sound! FUCK YOU, BUDDY! Lol
Here’s what *I* think of Constantinople Line…just for clarity.
Naughty boys!! Oh my damn god, I would give my left arm to have been there!
Like when I read this Bowie book years ago…all that stuff with the Mainman years…it just sounded so f***ing AWESOME!!
I would SSOO want to be in that “boys club”! Can I swap with Jane, please?!! Or just be one of the groupies?! Be Jim’s slag. Lol. Hell, I got it baaaaaad!
That’s the difference though with the Bowie days. I read that and just want to soak up the atmosphere of it. Be immersed in the chaos. Never had a thing for David like that…as much as I adore him as a performer and musician. But with Jim?! Yep! Use me. Abuse me. Spit me out! Lol. I’d take it all. Or just be sitting there…or standing about…just waiting and waiting.
I WANT A TARDIS!!
It’s going to be a great read, even if some or most is fiction. Who knows?
And the picture. The second picture! Just…kill…me…now!