The Battersea Poltergeist – And Other Podcasts

Want something SPOOKY to get your teeth into for Halloween? Then may I suggest the Battersea Poltergeist?

I have spent the past week freaking myself out listening to this podcast at night…in bed…in the dark. Literally shitting myself! Lol. It is really creepy – well I found it creepy. The story centres around a house on number 63 Wycliffe Road, Clapham, home of the Hitchings family. It’s the winter of 1956. Strange things are happening and they seem to centre on 15 year old Shirley, daughter of Wally and Kitty Hitchings. Are the family being haunted by a poltergeist? You can listen HERE

Another podcast I listened to before that was the sad and harrowing story of missing 6 year old Mary Boyle. She disappeared when walking back to her grandparents house in Donegal in 1977. She has never been found. Over the past 44 years suspicion and accusations abound, leading to family relationship breakdowns. The podcast is called No Body Recovered. And you can listen to it by clicking the link HERE

The latest one I have started just last night is called Limelight: The House That Vanished. It’s the story of Neville Presho and his family. After starting a new life in New Zealand, Neville and his wife Fiona decide to return to Ireland with their young family to the remote island of Tory, located nine miles of the north coast of Ireland, off the coast of Donegal. When he moved to New Zealand, Neville left a house on the island, but when he returns to the island to live there with his family, his house is gone! Where did it go? How does a whole house just disappear without anyone on the island seemingly noticing or caring? The link to this podcast is HERE

Minds Music Monday – Ritchie’s Club – New Orleans – 27/04/1983

Ghost Dancer (aka Stuart Greaves) has shared another gem of a bootleg, this time of SM some seven months into the New Gold Dream tour of ‘82/‘83 – midway through the North American leg of the tour in April/May of 1983.

Playing the Ritchie’s Club in New Orleans, Louisiana. Recorded by a member of the crowd – hearing audible bits like the guy telling the girl next to him to stop talking to him as he’s recording the show. Lol (You tell her, pal!) The recording is a good one coming from the crowd as it does. Some people obviously managed to sneak in some great recording equipment to these gigs. Mates who were working as road crew on the night or some such? No idea how they did it, but kudos for doing so.

As for the band themselves and the gig? Well, as you’d expect by now, we hear all of the New Gold Dream album (Somebody Up There Likes You as their walk-on intro music), plus stonking versions of I travel, Celebrate, The American and Love Song. There’s a little of the set lost (changing the tape over in the recorder, I’m guessing?) where the ending of Hunter And The Hunted cuts off and we return about a third of the way through Promised You A Miracle.

It feels as though Jim is going through the motions a little bit at times. He wavers a little, especially towards to tail end of the set. There’s a bit of banter that happens. I’m guessing fans are asking for certain songs to be played. At one point Jim says “Naw. It’s too old.” But usually it is just “Thank you.” And an intro of the next song. I guess I am odd to miss that Jim, right? The one who never seemed overly engaging with the crowd? I guess I miss …. the intensity. Can one miss what they never truly experienced? I do love the ease of engaging “older statesman” Jim now though. He knows how to get the fans in a frenzy still, just with less “whirling dervish” manoeuvres and brooding frontman intensity and more “banter” and acknowledgement of the crowd.

Having said all that…if that was young Jim on an “off night”…imagine him when he was fully up for it?! ERMAGERRRRRD! I’d say he was 70/30 that night. 70 on, 30 off. Or there abouts.

Anyway, it is definitely a gig I’d listen to again.

Enjoy!

She Rag Doll And Beautiful James

I was catching up with Billy Sloan’s radio show last night. I haven’t listened in for….a few months now. I think I got a bit overwhelmed by him referring to me as one of his “most loyal” listeners. And to be honest, I wasn’t at that point, though I would listen most weeks. But that statement from him – I guess it kind of put the mockers on it. I didn’t feel worthy of such a thing and then weirdly it kind of then … I dunno. Weird, eh?

Anyway, the previous week he had been asking for favourite songs that mentioned mens names in the lyrics or title. Earlier in the week when he first asked the question the song I chose hadn’t entered my head, even though it had been an earworm for days on end already. By Saturday evening, it was there swirling around as Billy posed the question again just before show time. Of course I put in my choice of “Oh, Jim”. I didn’t end up listening to the show that night. I was chatting away to a friend and ended up “otherwise engaged” but I was intrigued to see if my choice got mentioned. It did. And it seemed Billy had missed me! Bless him! I didn’t expect that at all. Well, I’ve missed him too. He puts on a great show week after week and there’s always something that particularly piques the interest – more on that shortly. 

Anyway, that’s a looong preamble to say…I am back listening to Billy Sloan’s show. I didn’t hear it go out live but caught up with it via BBC Sounds last night. The topic was … what do you think is the greatest song of all time? One choice! Mine is “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted?” by Jimmy Ruffin. It’s both sadly melancholic but ultimately uplifting. 

Around midway through the show, Billy played “River Deep, Mountain High” and it had me thinking about Jim’s post a few days back about “songs of home” and him talking about Nutbush City Limits – another Ike and Tina Turner song. As River Deep, Mountain High was playing, I am taking in the words as I usually do with the songs I listen to. I always try to pay attention to the lyrics. Not always easy as singers’ diction when they sing can vary wildly so it isn’t always easy to decipher lyrics. Hence the long litany of misheard lyrics. Lol. Nothing wrong with Tina’s diction though. I was taking in the lines “when you were a young boy did you have a puppy?” and then my brain backtracked and was thinking about the first lines of “when I was a little girl I had a rag doll” and “I love you just the way I loved that rag doll” and started thinking… “Hang about? Is THIS the genesis for ‘she rag doll’ in Celebrate?”

I have been in recent times debating this line (one could deem it a “mass debate”, perhaps? Though no…not between just two people it ain’t. Lol) with a friend of mine about the true meaning of that “she rag doll” line. Rather unusually for me, I interpreted rather “innocently” – my version of innocent anyway. More a kind of “canoodling” way….a bit kind of “post-coital spooning” kind of way. My friend informed me that a “rag doll” can be seen much more sexualised than that even. I never considered it to have such potency. I found it potent enough with my interpretation of it to be honest. And if one ponders the lyrics further then “she rag doll, keeps him warm / but this negative shows no form” – then I guess a “rag doll” in its most sexualised sense would NOT show any true form on a negative. My word! 

Either way, it’s damn sexy! And it is why I love Celebrate so much. Celebrate, when you get down to the heart of it, is a kind of love song. Well, maybe not a LOVE song – but a song of desire. The desire for lust and life. “A lust for life.” And it’s certainly uplifting. That “dark light” of theirs. Of Jim’s lyrics. Give it a dark heart but make it ultimately “feel good”. God, he’s good at it!

Anyway, River Deep Mountain High seems like the most innocent thing in the world now compared to Celebrate! Lol

Also on Billy’s show, he played this – the new Placebo single. It immediately piqued my interest before it even played as Billy said the title of it is “Beautiful James”. And what a chorus! “Beautiful James / I don’t wanna wake you” – how goddamn beautiful is that?! That’s me right there picturing Jim sleeping and just enjoying the sheer beauty of it. Gorgeous. Just so we end on a rather more innocent note than we could have done on the dirty ditty of Celebrate.

The Seven Year Itch?

It’s been seven years. Seven years since I became that rabid “obsessive”. Seven years since the world of Simple Minds truly opened up to me. 

I was reminded of the fact of how…embedded in this new-found “obsession” I was by a post that appeared in my FB “memories” a couple of days back.

The memory in question was going to see Nana Mouskouri at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The memory was a reminder of how wonderful that new-found obsession felt. How much I loved discovering those treasures and being floored by them and truly just not being able to get enough of them. Devouring the music greedily and just playing stuff again and again and again and wondering if I would EVER tire of listening to them. 

I worry that, over time, the love for Jim has vastly overtaken the love for the band, and for the music. It was already strikingly obvious that was probably happening in 2018 over the whole “real fans” affair and my blocking from the band FB page.

Years passed and it never seemed to get old. If anything I would get incrementally more and more obsessed. When I was out in Oz with mum in 2015/16, the music was my comfort and solace at night. I was petrified of being at my mum’s house at night. It felt like the most unsafe place to be. The only way I found I could settle myself down and try and get to sleep was to play Simple Minds on Spotify. Play them on shuffle mode. Just…the sound of the music, the sound of Jim’s voice. Sometimes I would play some interviews as well. The interview Jim had with Billy Sloan – that was a recent discovery then, and I played it often when I was out in Oz. It soothed me – and it would make me happy and also would make me cry too, because he’s being “just Jim”. Just this normal guy talking to his pal. And the thing I’d play the most – the bit of it I’d play most is this bit (it should autoplay from the correct point – if not 3min 16sec mark) – his laugh. It is just the most beautiful sound in the world to me.

The memory of that Nana Mouskouri gig reminded me how absorbed in the band and the music I was. Thinking about that coach journey home from London and listening to that Spotify shuffle mix and Boys From Brazil coming on and being in love with it! The song. The music! The lyrics. Astounded by what I was hearing. Even though I celebrate my fan anniversary on Jim’s birthday – it was closer to the end of July in 2014 when I started listening to their back catalogue intently. So by the Mouskouri gig I am maybe 8 weeks into my fandom, at most!

I haven’t felt compelled to write a post out like that and share it on SMOG for…I don’t know how long! Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call posts aside (which were just links to blog posts) – it’s been several months since I had posted like that on SMOG – probably not since sharing my mocked up mural of Jim on there. 

I think because…I’m missing it. I’m missing that joy of being a fan that is starting to erode away. The Sons/Sister 40th Anniversary pulled some of that into focus, on a personal level. But on the flip side, I am feeling quite cut off and set adrift.

Apart from SAF/SFC and bootlegs from around 1981/1982, I haven’t really been listening to too much Simple Minds at all lately. As the years of my fandom went on, I used to wonder if I would ever tire of listening to them as intently as I have done all these years. Worried what it would mean for me if that time ever came. I was never sure it ever would. A couple of times it did happen for brief periods…but it was mostly a kind of “forced circumstance” thing. Like with the “real fans” episode. When that was happening, I found it hard to listen to anything. After a time I could listen to early stuff but I couldn’t listen to later stuff. To Walk Between Worlds. It was all too attached to Jim. 

I’m worried I’ve grown tired of listening to the music. Even things I really love! Albums I really love like Empires And Dance. I’ve been looking through Spotify over the past week or so and I am finding myself thinking “Do I *want* to listen to Simple Minds? Aw naw, you’re good”, kind of thing. Then I think “well maybe I’ve just grown a bit weary of the studio stuff…what about a bootleg?” and I’ll look at my list of bootlegs and think equally “Aw, naw. You’re good.” It’s kind of terrifying me because I have never actually felt like this!

I’m worried I am too deeply entrenched into attaching my feelings for the music with other things. The vibe from the fanbase. The vibe from Jim. I mean…I’ll love Jim for as long as a summer’s day. Never seem to tire of him (though I really should – for sanity’s sake). Lord knows he probably wishes I’ll fuck off and leave him alone. I can’t erase that feeling as it is no doubt true. Either that, or he really doesn’t give a shit either way. I don’t know which feeling is the worst to grapple with – dislike or indifference?

And I wish there was some news or just SOMETHING coming along! It’s a long wait until March! Not from this point in time – but from the time the wait has started. And I know Simple Minds have taken breaks like this in the past – but they haven’t been forced upon them, or us as fans. With gigs and the music industry starting to get back on its feet now, the lack of anything from SMHQ feels like a gaping chasm! 

Was it just me that found it highly ironic in Jim’s post about (potentially) having tea with Colin Hay last week that he mentioned watching Hay’s online gigs? I mean, really? Talk about rub it in, right?! To be fair – I have watched only one of these kind of gigs – a Field Music one, and it suffered technical problems, so it isn’t something that overly appeals to me. And I am guessing, and had guessed from very early on that the idea of this kind of thing didn’t appeal to Jim much and that SM fans had a snowball’s chance in hell of seeing anything like it from them. Fair enough. I wasn’t going to push the argument. But where was the imagination? Where was something that said, “well, we could do THIS!”, etc?! So, we got a little performance for Christmas – for charity, so that was great, and some Spotify playlists from Jim until he escaped his Glasgow lockdown prison? And I KNOW they’ve been working, so…why not throw us something from those sessions? Why not? In the meantime we get reschedule after reschedule and the Oz/NZ fans get a full tour cancellation. 

Jim…can you not appreciate how disheartening it has been for us?! Is loyalty NOT a two-way street? It is great to have you at least corresponding with more regularity. But this is why I felt so disheartened at seeing your reply to Colin Hay last week. It shows you’re looking at the band FB page and if you are looking – why not engage with us more?! 

We love you and we’re missing you. We’re missing seeing you live. And it seemed like you were going to start engaging with us again. A post back in early August titled “White Hot Days” seemed to show a little bit of interactivity with a couple of fans and I thought, “Oh, he’s back! He’s really back!” And, as I say it’s been great that you’ve been posting more of late, but…

Anyway…I’m pissing in the wind. As if you visit here and will see any of this anyway. 

I’m scared that my passion is waning. That my love for this band is dying out. I mean, surely this is the death knell, right? When you no longer feel that compelled to listen to the music any more? 

Do I still ogle Jim? By heck I do! Do I listen to him talk? Listen to interviews and watch videos? The interviews, yes! The music videos…sometimes. 

This is genuinely the first time I have felt this…waning in the passion of listening to the music. For the past week listening to anything else but Simple Minds. 

I had been through a similar thing with David Bowie. Before Simple Minds, Bowie was my “go to” for everything. And I listened to him A LOT…and it waned when they came along. I listened to Bowie less because I had SM. But now I barely listen to either of them.

That memory of Boys From Brazil on the coach ride home is such a wonderful, special memory. I don’t want creating new memories like that to come to an end.

A Voice For Radio? (If Not A Face For It!)

UPDATE: Direct links now as the “listen again” option has expired on the Pulse 98.4 website. I thought I’d just stick this post to the top of the blog for the next few days, as this will definitely be a highlight of 2021 for me – having Ronnie ask me to do this and be on the show. It was a fabulous experience.

It was ssooo much fun last night being on Ronnie McGhie’s radio show, celebrating all that is Simple Minds and the 40th Anniversary of Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call. Even if I did have a massive corpsing fluff towards the end of it.

Seems like we’ll do it all again for next year and New Gold Dream’s anniversary!

If you missed it last night, you can listen again by clicking on the audio clips below – the show is broken up into two separate one hour parts.

Last night Ronnie also caught up with Empires That Dance’s Andy Inniss to talk about their new release – a fabulous reinterpretation of Love Song and you’ll get the hear the track as well – all in the second hour of the show.

Minds Music Sunday – Sweat In Bullet – SAF/SFC 40th Anniversary Celebration – ANNIVERSARY DAY!

The allure of repetition manifests itself most strongly within all of the Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call’s tracks in Sweat In Bullet. Three solid blocks of repetitive text from Jim Kerr, with a vocal performance to match. 

This is the most Burroughs-esque of all of Jim’s writing from the period. If you are not familiar with William Burroughs’ writing, let me explain. In much of his writing, Burroughs used the “cut-up technique” in which lines of existing, linear text are cut up and rearranged to create new lines of (linear?) text. It’s also a style of writing that David Bowie experimented with in his songwriting quite often during the early to mid 1970s. 

I hear a lot of that influence falling heavily upon Jim’s songwriting in the early years. In fact it couldn’t fail but do so, given the way Jim would gather his ideas – jotting down lines of text…words and phrases that caught his attention or piqued his interest at any given moment. That writing style couldn’t help but mould into a more Burroughs-esque form of songwriting. 

By all accounts, even from his own accounts, Jim’s notebook was never far away from him, and he was always writing things down.

The first words in the song aren’t even actual proper words – just Jim playing around with the sound of words as you would expect him to do.

Jim Kerr interviewed by Lynn Hanna for NME, published December 4th, 1982

Among the quote above, the one thing that stands out for me is him saying he “feels” the words rather than “thinks” them. Well, not even the words are “felt”. But obviously his lyrics (at that point) come to him very organically and via the visceral rather than the intellectual.

I think we as fans – well, certainly me personally – give his lyrics much more thought and significance than he ever sounds like he did (or does). Perhaps because (for him) you need a level of detachment when you create? By the same token, his writing is obviously also very personal because of the process of it being “felt rather than thought”. So the detachment has to come once he’s written the song. Like watching fledglings leave the nest, or children leaving home to start off on their life’s adventure. 

Then we are free to interpret them and give them as much or as little significance as we like. And perhaps after some time of reflection, perhaps even Jim himself sees things and interprets things in his words that even HE didn’t see at the time of writing? Am I the only person to find this absolutely fascinating?

Jim Kerr interviewed by Lynn Hanna for NME, published December 4th, 1982

Upon reflection, having him talk about aspects of his writing style, I don’t think there is much of a Burroughs style to his writing. Jim’s is more organic than that.

I’d like to ask Jim his views on the Burroughs “Cut-up” technique – but the time for questions seems to have long gone by. Stuck in history’s “halcyon days”. 

Anyway, what does one do to a song to remix it and give it a new flavour? ADD MORE COWBELL! Lol. So…what exactly happened at the mixing desk there with Pete Walsh at the helm for the Sweat In Bullet extended mix? Something akin to this, perhaps? Click HERE TO VIEW

And with the official video, the cowbell features prominently as Kenny gives it a good bash (and the cowbell! Boom boom!) by the shrubs. 

The Sweat In Bullet video is a bit more of a stock music video of the time. It doesn’t have the storyboard that its “sister” video, Love Song has, that’s for sure! But I think that makes it more sophisticated. The guys all look amazing in it – although I guess it could be argued that Jim lets the side down with his dodgy eye. And…how frigging skinny is he?! Oh my word!

Back to the song itself. It was one of the first of the songs written in 1981 in Edinburgh and was demoed at CaVa Studios on Valentine’s Day. Originally titled Twenty One – which I find odd as there is nothing within the lyrics of the song to denote why it would be called that. Subsequently though, it helped me to decipher a line Jim sings in Life In Oils, as I am almost certain now Jim sings the words “twenty one” before he gets to the “chorus” in Life In Oils. Which then makes me think Life In Oils should have been called Twenty One (ah, to be able to go back in time and quiz Jim on such things). Click HERE for demo version.

Shortly after its demo recording, it became a main feature in the setlist, long before the album and its single release. Its debut performance was at Tiffany’s in Glasgow on March 1st, 1981 (click HERE to listen) and it moved on into the New Gold Dream tour as well. And there its time on the setlist ended for 20 years until it reappeared on the Alive and Kicking tour of 2003. Latterly it appeared on the 5×5 Live tour 0f 2012 – so come the recommencing of Simple Minds touring in 2022, it will have been another 10 years since the song has been seen on the setlist.

So, what exactly *is* Sweat In Bullet about? Given that the song starts as a seemingly random set of words, is there any story behind the song? Well, it’s obviously a song about ambition – a topic that features heavily in Jim’s lyrics at the time. But there’s more going on than that. It seems to be ambition from the female perspective. 

A chance encounter – “you’ll never meet again”.

Suspicion from both sides, perhaps as rivalry – “eyes small”.

The matriarchy rules – “society can gain”

Like ships in the night  – “then say goodbye”

Mission. Motion.

It seems to get a bit heated at one point “rolling and tumbling, ambition in motion” – it always sounds like a sexual dalliance has taken place – “rolling and tumbling, she’s sweating bullets”. 

A sexual dalliance and a power struggle? “Grow in size. Grow in fame. Grow more. Take more. Uncontrollable. Unworkable.”

It almost sounds like espionage. Two spies meeting. Female and male. Secret encounters and sexual espionage. But…who wins? Who outmanoeuvred who?

The two prevailing subject themes of the time in Jim’s songwriting join forces here and meet in the chorus – “ambition in motion”. Movement. Travel. Aims. Goals. The fear of the still and the stagnant and the bland. But conversely, he needs that stillness and monotony to create.

Matched with those lyrics is just…the funk of it! Derek Forbes’s bass is NASTY (as is GOOD), add Mick’s keyboard hook and Charlie’s guitar licks and that cowbell and – what a track!

This is a favourite live version of mine.

And so here we are – 40 years after its release on September 12th, 1981 – having gone through every track on the albums, one by one…I am left completely in awe of what Brian, Mick, Derek, Charlie and Jim achieved with these albums. Both albums are a sonic masterpiece in my eyes (and ears). I hope the posts I have generated about all the tracks on the albums have  truly reflected that feeling. 

I have drawn in content for my Sons/Sister posts from many sources over the six months, from the music magazines that the quotes from Jim have been sourced from – Melody Maker, Sounds, New Musical Express, Record Mirror, New Sounds New Styles, Smash Hits, The Face and Roadrunner magazines – YouTube for interviews, the use of photos by Virginia Turbett, as well as Malcolm Garrett – who not only allowed me to share certain artwork images but also provided amazing insight into some of the artwork used for the releases (the cover of Sweat In Bullet a case in point – you can read about that artwork HERE), thanks also to Jaine and David Henderson for help with what ended up being the biggest and wordiest post of them all for Love Song, but biggest debt of gratitude HAS to go to Simon Cornwell and his AMAZING Dream Giver Redux website at: simpleminds.org

Without Simon’s website, none of this would ever have come to fruition or be the celebration of the albums it has been. I put a lot of work into my blog but it pales into insignificance compared to what Simon has put into Dream Giver Redux. It literally IS the Simple Minds “Bible”.

I also want to thank Gordon Machray whose support and unflinching loyalty to the band is something to be revered. If I dare bring up the whole “real fan” business again and give it the creedence Jim was trying to give it – well, there’s your real fan right there! I’m not sure I actually know anyone else who is as impassioned as G Man (as he has been affectionately called by me for some years now). Gordon’s support of me is greatly appreciated. 

Lastly, to all of you who have taken the time to read these posts over the past six months, thank you!

New Gold Dream – 5.1 Guitar and Vocal Isolation

Well…it’s all about Jim and Charlie these days, ain’t it? So…why not share this.

In lieu of there being a full Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call 40th Anniversary post for Minds Music Monday today – let’s just have this one to compensate.

The isolated guitar is haunting. And Jim’s voice… just… OMG. I literally melt like a block of Dairy Milk.

Swoon…

Vlog Waffles Are Moving

In an exercise in tidying up this godforsaken blog, I will be shifting all the “Waffle” video blog posts (aka Vlogs) to a centralised page link. You should now see a page header called “Vlog Posts” in the menu. That’s where any new posts can be viewed. I may notify of a new post, if any go there.

The vlogs are something I want to come away from doing. And I certainly don’t want the main area of the blog full of vlog postings, hence I will be shifting them over there.

So…there you go.

Here’s hoping for some kind of return to “normal”. Whatever “normal” means when it comes to me and this absolute embarrassment of a blog.

If you ever had any interest in the video waffles, or more amazing still, if you ever took the time to WATCH any of them, I thank you.