Once Upon A Time …. I Liked It

It was 36 years since the release of Once Upon A Time yesterday. I find it an anniversary that usually passes me by without any fanfare. Unlike April for Life In A Day. Or November for Real To Real Cacophony. Or even my birthday for Big Music (seemingly deemed to be early November these days as its release but I received my pre-ordered copy on my birthday in 2014).

But especially in September when we get the run of anniversaries just a day apart – Empires And Dance, Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call and New Gold Dream.

This is starting to sound like I am big on anniversaries and know them all….but I don’t. Once Upon A Time is a case in point. It slips my mind every year. Probably because of the time of year it happens. Ten days before my birthday. I’m usually preoccupied with that.

In 1985 I got the album for my birthday…I think. It might have been for Christmas….I have an appalling memory! I know I wanted it though and I did receive a copy of it for either of these occasions. It was the first Simple Minds piece of music I had ever owned. It SHOULD mean more to me! I SHOULD remember the date. There SHOULD be some significance to it, but alas….

Why? Why is that? Honestly? I think I have just grown weary of it. Which is sad. I feel sad that I feel like this. I didn’t feel this way about OUAT in 2014. But the whole Simple Minds back catalogue was so new to me then. I felt a nostalgia and a reverence for the album then. 

Move forward to 2021 and I can’t even play the album these days. Or more, I have little interest in playing it. Unlike with Real To Real, EAD, SAF/SFC and NGD – all of whose songs I never tire of. I just can’t bring myself to listen to Once Upon A Time.

It kind of scares me how tired of Alive And Kicking, Sanctify Yourself, All The Things She Said, and even the title track Once Upon A Time I have become. To a lesser degree it affects Ghostdancing and Oh Jungleland. I Wish You Were Here has been played minimally enough not to be too affected. And when I played the album back in the day I would always skip Come A Long Way anyway, so that’s pretty unaffected too. And I have grown to appreciate the song in recent years.

I rarely talk in the negative like this about Simple Minds. Well…I try very hard not to talk in negatives, anyway. (We are the “meek and unambitious” and we shall not have our voices heard!) But…I do feel mournful that I have grown so weary of OUAT – for without it, I may never have become a Simple Minds fan at all! Either the fairweather fan I had been since the day of its release up until the summer of 2014 – or from that point on until the present day in fervent fandom.

I hope my love returns. I hope with enough of a break, and the passage of time, I will feel able to listen to it once more. It might depend on certain changes to the live setlist though – or my not going to any more Simple Minds gigs. Or fewer of them. I don’t know. 

As soon as I had posted my piece about the “Seven Year Itch” and not really listening to them at all much, it turned it around and I was listening to them again. Maybe just posting and the airing of this will have me listening to OUAT again?

Stranger things have happened…

Minds Music Monday – In Trance As Mission – In Celebration Of Imminent Anniversary of Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call

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.

Minds Music Monday – Act Of Love

I always consider it an “act of love” that these, let’s face it – barely adult boys (yes, screaming oxymoron there!) – would form a band and rehearse and play and that most gorgeous of those boys (bias!) would be the glue that acts as the cohesion to get it all to gel with his words and his voice and his drive and passion and just…yeah.

It’s an “act of love” for music, for life, travel, wanting to experience a world outside of Glasgow.

How can we, as fans, not be thankful for that?

Jim posted about the anniversary of the first “official” Simple Minds gig yesterday, a whole week before the date. Still showing that enthusiasm almost 43 years down the line.

He talked of the band of boys – Tony Donald (god bless his soul), Charlie, Joe Donnelly and of Brian. And their varying likes of music and where their influences in learning to play sprung from.

Jim himself? He seemed the one that just wanted to see it all come to fruition – whether he was actually part of the band or not. He just seems like that kind of man. An “influencer” if you will – long before the word became sullied by people on Instagram seeking fame for fame’s sake and living the Andy Warhol dream of being “famous for 15 minutes”.

Because that’s what Jim seems to do with people. He seems to, not only have his own astounding level of enthusiasm and drive and self-belief – he tries to pass it on to others or to deepen their own level of passion and drive. And he’s amazing with it. It’s almost a skewed act of altruism.

It’s early days, and early Minds. And there are others there that night too, not mentioned yesterday. Duncan Barnwell. David and Jaine Henderson (doing sound and lights, respectively).

I sought Jaine’s permission when posting this photo before, I hope she won’t mind me using it again. It seemed apt, given the subject and context.

Perhaps he meant to share this photo when talking of those early days when the guys were still learning to play before that first gig. (What happened to the guitar, Jim?) I first saw it when Jaine shared it and tagged Brian. I’m guessing Charlie’s the one that took the photo? He’s conspicuous by his absence.

Anyway….all journeys set out from a start point, or perhaps several smaller points that converge for one joint starting point – here’s one of Simple Minds’.

Happy Anniversary Sweat In Bullet!

It’s been the inspiration for a few art pieces, and the video is a fave. Jim is sssoooo frigging skinny in this video. He’s got his gammy eye and he is that heady mix of fledgling Laird Dash Fandango in his collared shirt and tailored trousers but with that bit of “gangster rough” with it.

Oh, and him doing all those whipping actions with the mic cord….OMG! It used to have me saying stuff like, “WHIP ME, JIM! PLEASE! WHIP ME!” Lol. Oh…the fantasies!

Anyways! It’s a Happy Anniversary to Sweat In Bullet being released as a single a mere 39 years ago today. Enjoy…art and video… (the first is still a fave, even though I did it yonks ago)

Visuals from Glittering Prize for the last one but words from Sweat In Bullet.

Sunshine On A Rainy Day

As it was in Colchester two years ago. Considering six weeks before this photo was taken, I was persona non grata and blocked from the SM FB page – I never imaged a photo like this EVER happening! Or that Jim would ever be that warm with me ever again.

Either he’s a fabulous actor and missed his true calling, or … he had genuinely forgiven me and it WAS all water under the bridge.

Now I am not so sure where things stand at all. But I know I miss the gigs and the fun and the travel and all the nerves and jitteriness and … the joy of being right at the front watching the most wonderful band in the world and the most beautiful man in the world. I miss him. I miss properly being in awe of him for the thing he does best…being the frontman that has an audience eating out of the palm of his hand.

I love this band so much. They are, literally, sunshine on a rainy day. My little universe.

The Birth Of “Priptona”

Ah, if only it was the “Birth of Venus”. Lol. As if I could hold a candle to Botticelli OR Venus.

That aside…yesterday was an anniversary. Five years ago I bought the photo editing app for my iPad Mini that…well, not to put too fine a point on it…kind of changed my life. Well it felt like it did. Even if just for a short while.

Below, I cringingly share my first “work”. Lol. Of course, Jim is at the centre of it! Lol. Nothing ever changes (lol – except a lot of the time it does…especially if you allow it to or perpetuate the change)!

I will never stop being thankful for the things this app gave to me. The way it allowed me to express myself and what the music of Simple Minds has meant to me. How much I adore the song-writing of Jim Kerr – and well, just…how much I adore Jim Kerr. How therapeutic it was (and still at times is) to work on “art” pieces and feel creative and purposeful, and perhaps kid myself I am…CAN be…talented.

That I can create things full of joy and love and hope.

Because these five years…that is what it has been most of. That’s what I have felt most making this art and being a Simple Minds fan. Full of joy, love and hope.

Sometimes it feels like that is slipping through my fingers and I can’t help but lament at that. But I try to push on and see a way through.

I want to let love win. I need it to!

Happy Anniversary, Priptona: the artist – you are no doubt the better part of me.