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.

On The Cover Art – The Men Are Marching

There is a path that leads me here to this post. A path that was an unexpected but wonderful stroll. The stroll continues, still. I’m not sure how much of this I can explain. Best to keep it a bit cryptic and vague. We love ambiguity – ain’t that right, Jim?

Suffice it to say one thing led to another.

There is a Sons And Fascination link here. Or should that be “Sons And Fascist Nations”? An explanation of that in due course.

A couple of my most prized possessions in my Simple Minds collection are copies of albums produced for the overseas market. One album released for the U.S. market via Stiff Records was titled Themes For Great Cities and was a compilation of tracks from Real To Real Cacophony (Premonition) to several tracks from Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call. The other is a version of the Sons And Fascination album released by Virgin Records for the Central American market.


There are patterns on the cover. The artwork by the one and only Mr Malcolm Garrett, with photography by Peter Anderson. You can see shapes and a figure. I could see a figure on these covers.

Then there is the reissue of I Travel by Virgin Records in 1983 which bares a photo of Jim, taken by graphic designer Garry Mouat, on stage in motion as if marching. “In central Europe men are marching” always springs to mind seeing that cover. What I never really took in is what appears in the overlay of the photo of Jim and I didn’t see it properly until Malcolm was kind enough to show me this…


I did see that something was overlaid on the photo of Jim but what I didn’t know was that it was a variation on the figure seen on the Stiff Records “Themes” release and Mexican version of SAF.

I also missed the very obvious figure on the Sweat In Bullet sleeve art. Mostly due to the fact the figure has the head of a photo of Elizabeth Taylor.

And so…why did I alter the title of the album to “Sons And Fascist Nations” earlier, I hear you ask? Well, here’s the thing. In talking to Malcolm about the album cover photoshoot with Sheila Rock and asking him about the cars, we got to talking about other art relevant to the Sons And Fascination period. He told me about certain things that inspired some of the cover art. This included him telling me about the image above and that it was inspired by similar figures like it that had appeared in a book he had seen. The book in question is called “Mostra Della Rivoluzione Fascista”. Issued in 1932 to be a compendium to an exhibition on Fascist propaganda – a “celebration” of the 10th anniversary of Mussolini’s march on Rome. Seemingly exhibited in a building erected specifically for this solitary purpose – also known as the “Mostra Della Rivoluzione Fascista”. The exhibition proved so popular that it extended beyond its initial intended six month run and ran for two years. It was seen by almost 4 million visitors by its close towards the end of 1934.

You can view selected pages of the book by clicking HERE


I will state here Malcolm’s initial reluctance to have me write and publish this post and he had approval of this before posting. And I do understand the reluctance. You wouldn’t want to be seen condoning Fascism! But it’s about art and the aesthetic and not the political. Well, that is how I see it. This post nor we as individuals are condoning Fascism! But when it came to the use of the “Marching Men” (as they have come to be called during our conversations) and the line in I Travel “in central Europe men are marching” (long since changed by Jim since he now always sings “all over men are marching”). It conjured up the exact imagery used on the Virgin released I Travel cover.

I missed the image of the Marching Man on the Sweat In Bullet cover, yes, and I don’t see the link quite as obviously as with I Travel but listening over some of the lyrics then… it could be “ambition in motion” or to “grow in size” or to “grow more / take more” that makes it fit?

An excuse to share my prized possession of my Sweat In Bullet double single signed by Brian McGee

Either way, all four covers featuring the Marching Men are striking and impressive. And they certainly make a statement.

Another short point – as I was researching to do other posts that were SAF/SFC themed, I shared an article from New Sounds New Styles printed in 1981. Ian Cranna interviewed Jim for the piece. Check out the magazine layout! Guess who was behind the layout of New Sounds New Styles? Yes! You got it!

By this point, the band had only appeared on the back cover of their albums. On Life In A Day they were on the back cover and also on the back of Empires And Dance. Inner sleeves too. But only the inner sleeve of Real To Real Cacophony. Not up to this point on the FRONT COVER of an album. Not until Sons And Fascination. They were reluctant and the images of them are somewhat obscured but the images reflect the movement and motion of the music contained within. The “travelogue” musical sensibility of the album. It was a masterstroke. Perfectly encapsulating the audiovisual.

I find the whole aspect of the cover art for the Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call albums and singles…erm…fascinating. And if I do then I thought others would too.

Below are a couple of YouTube clips showing footage of the Mostra Della Rivoluzione Fascista, including a modern day (in Italian) look back at the exhibition as well as footage from the time of a visit to the exhibition from Mussolini himself!

A massive thank you to Malcolm Garrett for allowing me to tell the story of the Marching Men images and what inspired them into being.

Win A Copy Of “Heart Of The Crowd“ SM Book!

Simple Minds are giving away a copy of the special edition copy of Heart Of The Crowd. To be in with a chance, check out the details on how to enter in this tweet, or see their FB page for details.

But be quick! Entries close next Friday, Feb 19th!

Pete’s Piece (In The Book.

Just had to share this bit. The last few sentences…

More times than you could ever think it, Pete – and in as vivid detail as my imagination will allow. Usually culminating in the most GLORIOUS of “EUREKA!” moments, as Jim leaps from seated spot in the bath tub…

***SPOILER ALERT*** It’s About “The Damn Book”

I don’t discuss any individual fans contributions at all, but I do discuss certain elements in the book – so if you want a full surprise of what’s inside for your Christmas Day, or own reading enjoyment… DON’T WATCH THE VIDEO!

And below will be my own entry in the book, so…

Well, I shared my email, so you know what I contributed, but this will be the printed, truncated version as it appears on the page in the book – page 203.


Kick It In, Lassie!

Oh, geez. I really stirred things up on SMOG last night.

I really didn’t think it would be commented on in such volume. I thought maybe a few of us would still be waiting for the book to arrive. Not as many people as that would still be waiting for it. But lo…

Then Ronnie Gurr and THEN Richard Houghton add comments and my toes were starting to curl with the fuss I had made.

I honestly didn’t mean to drag them into it!

I genuinely just wanted to get a handle on who was still waiting. Whether I could get an idea on if the book was just trickling through to fans or whether there were quite a number receiving it and us still waiting were just stragglers not having much luck with the postal service.

And so goes yet ANOTHER time I wish I’d kept my big mouth shut! I mean…it did help to alleviate my concerns about the book’s slow arrival, but conversely I felt like the girl that kicked the hornet’s nest.

Always acting with the best of intentions. Always ending up inadvertently stirring up trouble.

Anyway….too late now. The genie can’t be put back in the bottle.

Another day is upon us…and still I wait. With a bit more quiet reserve this morning.

The “watched kettle” is yet to boil…

What’s In The Book?

I’m yet to receive my copy of the book – so I actually don’t know a lot of what’s inside. (Despite some fans being hellbent on showing us all the contents of the book by sharing all their bits on the group pages – as excited as I am for all the fans that are in it…maybe just share your bit only, yeah? Think of others. Can you do that?!) But what I would like to share is this…my email I sent to have my little submission included.

Obviously I appreciated that if anything I had submitted was to be included, it would be truncated. But here is the complete, uncut email (not all of it would have been printed anyway!), with the photo I submitted for inclusion.

(I had no idea who would view the email. Richard Houghton’s name wasn’t mentioned at this point.)


Hello to whomever is reading this,

I don’t even know how to express myself here, so I apologise if I end up rambling or making no sense.

I only recently became a big SM fan. I was fairly fair-weather prior to the summer of 2014. I don’t really want to go over it. Kind of defeats the point of my email, I guess. I dunno. I could write pages, really. I have done. On my blog. To other fans. To Jim.

I kind of just don’t feel I can contribute anything of any real significance. I’ve not been a “longterm” fan. I haven’t been following the band since 1979 (or earlier…or even just a few years later). I’ve not gone to any big stadium gigs – Roundhay or MK Bowl or any such.

And, well…it may all be too late. But if I can submit ANYTHING, I would like it to be the image attached to the email. It means the world to me. It might not even be allowed to be printed? I don’t know. It’s a superimposed blend of images I had mashed together. A lovely painting of a Kyoto snow scene just randomly found via a Google search that I thought evoked the image the lyrics to Hunter And The Hunted produce, and Jim on the cover of Melody Maker magazine in 1982 – an image of him side profile in front of a Canadian flag (for want of it being a Japanese maple leaf, I thought a Canadian maple leaf would work). The photo was taken by Tom Sheehan. Some work on my part and “voila”, as they say – I was stunned at what I had created with this blending of these two images.

Never really been proud of anything I do. Never had any reason to be. But with this…I dunno. It just seemed so special. I posted it to the SM Facebook visitor wall. It wasn’t really commented on the first time. A friend and fellow fan said to me “post it again! It’s really awesome! Jim needs to see it.” Well, the second time, Jim seemed to take notice and did a lovely post about it. My heart pounded in my chest for hours! I had never been so happy or so astounded. I really can’t put into words how much that meant.

Then a another friend suggested I ask if he would sign a copy of it for me. And so I did via Messenger on FB. “Someone will be in touch,” came the reply. “Oh, that’s nice,” I thought. “Well at least I wasn’t ignored”, but believed it was just a fob off. I don’t know who actually replied. Perhaps it really was Jim?

Anyway, I sent a copy of it to be signed and this is what you see. It has been on my bedroom wall ever since (well, actually, I was in Australia when it all happened so it took a few months for it to end up on the wall, but…it’s been there quite a while).

If I am too late then, hey, that’s my fault. If it is unacceptable for whatever reason, I get that too. I took so long because I genuinely felt there was nothing for me to contribute. But if there can be anything, I would like it to be this photo. Just this. It is the thing I hold most dear. Beyond the gigs I have been racking up, all the other memorabilia I have, beyond meeting Jim and other members of the band. This was a thing that made me believe in myself for just a brief moment in time.

Sometimes I can gaze upon it and it just brings me to tears.

Thanks for listening, Larelle Read

“Johnny-come-lately” since 2014.