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 HERE – the show is broken up into two separate one hour parts. And it’ll be up on the Pulse 98.4 website for the next 4 weeks.
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.
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.
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?
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”
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!
The first thing I love about this song is…the two keyboard notes that intro it – sitting on top of another single note. Then the subtle building of the tempo with the kick drum beats. Then the snare comes in with the bass guitar quickly following. Then there’s Charlie Burchill…wailing guitar maestro.
Then…the pièce de résistance … Jim Kerr and that incredibly nuanced vocal performance of his. The way he just … elongates the lyrics and adds another layer of depth to them as a result. I find it almost chilling but sonically delicious.
It was one of the earlier songs written for the Sons/Sister albums right at the beginning of 1981. It was recorded as a demo (listen above) and had the working title of “Check Out”.
After the demo recording in February, it quickly got put on the setlist for a live performance that was captured at Tiffany’s in Glasgow on March 1st, 1981 (listen HERE). The one and only time that the song was ever performed live. Why it never made any kind of return to the setlist for 2012’s 5×5 Live tour remains completely perplexing to me. I guess it was simply the case that with a tracklisting as extensive as there is from the Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call albums – something had to miss the cut. I think it would have been a perfect fit for Jim’s voice now and I’d have loved to have heard him do those long, protracted vocalisations of the words. To quote the song, “It’s a shame.”
At the demo stage the lyrics weren’t much more than the repetition of the words “careful”, “career” and “take care”, with some strange sounding whoops and hollers and unearthly drawn out calls of “walk”. Still wonderfully atmospheric and definitely worth a listen, if for nothing else than to appreciate just what the song progressed into.
I’m including an interview with Jim in this post. One he did for Radio One with Richard Skinner (not Kid Jensen as the wording at the end of the clip suggests) – almost 40 years to the day, in fact. Jim mentions that they’ll be playing the Futurama gig the following night so that dates the interview as September 5th, 1981.
In it, Jim talks about the “trance” musical theme that the Sons/Sister albums seem to end up developing over their recording. No stronger example of this than a track like Careful In Career.
I think the thing that astounds me is when Skinner says to Jim “I’m surprised at your longevity.” The band had been going less than four years by this point. FOUR YEARS! And Richard Skinner is talking about being SURPRISED at the band’s longevity?! Well, here we are, 40 years to the day still talking about what a phenomenal body of work the Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call albums are. Not only that but also that there is new music from Simple Minds in the bag and set to be released some time in the near future! Now THERE’S longevity for you, Richard Skinner!
Richard Skinner sounds like all he takes from the albums is darkness and gloom and a Joy Division-esque “dystopia”. But there is rarely a track like that on Sons/Sister for me. I think it really is only the end tracks on Sister Feelings Call – League Of Nations and Careful In Career that give off that kind of dark atmosphere.
But even within something like Careful In Career you have lines like “performance or ecstasy” and “I’ve come so far already” – positive affirmations rather than anything negative that lines like “It’s a shame to go away/It’s a shame to die already” bring with them. I find such beauty in how dark it is, actually. I guess it’s that point Jim was making in that interview extract I added to my Seeing Out The Angel post, when he spoke of the inspiration for the song, the reading of the short story that sparked the lyrics and of the “beauty in fear”.
And so here we are in the present day with just one week to go before the anniversary date of September 12th (coincidentally it will be my eldest brother’s 63rd birthday), with just one song left to post about – Sweat In Bullet, released as the final single from the album in…well, it says on Dream Giver that the single was released in November, 1981, but I recently read a Virgin press release from the time seeming to state that the single was released in October 23rd, 1981. Either way, there is no need for me to wait until these dates and so I’ll be wrapping up my track-by-track celebration of Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call with a Minds Music Monday finale that will be “rolling and tumbling” in celebration!
On a final personal note, the art piece I did for Careful In Career (pictured above) remains one of my favourite pieces. I love the photo of Jim (I still have no idea who the photographer is – or whether it is even an actual photograph or a still image from a video) and I love how I set out the topography of the lyrics. The colour blending too. I rarely actually give myself any esteem for my work but for a change I am going to here. I’ll make an exception of usually shitting all over my own work by saying that my Careful In Career piece is the kitties whiskers!
It has been a short MMM this week again – but believe me, we’ll be going out with a bang! And I have some pretty exciting news to come in the next week with further Sons/Sister celebration news. Stay tuned, peeps!
It’s very curious to read that League Of Nations was worked on in the early recording sessions of the Sons/Sister albums because it really does sound so incomplete! And especially given that as soon as they go on tour for the album – the first leg of the tour within the UK – they are performing it live and Jim has added extra lyrics to it.
Lines like, (If I am hearing them correctly) “When the link comes, you’re gonna know when the link comes”, “Tangled lodge had a thousand lodgers, here comes the judge singing law and order” and then I am not sure whether he says the word “caliphate” or “counterfeit” – but there’s a line “caliphate/counterfeit judge, caliphate/counterfeit lawyer – here comes the judge singing law and order”. I mean, it would make the most sense to be “caliphate” – as a Caliph (or various spellings thereof – Calif, Kalif, Khalif) is a Muslim ruler and a caliphate their area of jurisdiction, office and/or region, which then makes sense of the line “here comes the judge singing law and order” – a call to prayer at a mosque? Or perhaps he wasn’t meaning it like that.
Yeah, tell me again when Jim Kerr started to get political with his lyrics? 1989? 1988? 1985? PISH! This is 1981, people! And take a listen to Citizen (Dance of Youth) from 1979’s Real To Real Cacophony (as just one example) for further proof of how long Jim had been weaving the political into his lyrics.
I also think that despite the lyrics being printed as “relief” – he definitely sings “repeat”. It just doesn’t have the intonation of “relief” in how he vocalises it. It’s not how it sounds to me anyway.
Musically, I like the sparsity of it. It’s heavy in atmosphere. I really like Charlie’s guitar work on it when performing it live and I like Kenny’s drumming on it during the live performances too. And others wax lyrical about “Big Dan’s” bass work better than I seem to.
It certainly works much better as a live track than it does as a studio recording album track. It was a great decision to put the live version recorded from the Hammersmith Odeon gig on September 25th, 1981, as a track on the Sweat In Bullet 7” double gatefold and 12” extended remix singles.
Other than that – there’s not much else to discuss with this track.
So, other than the original album version and the official live version that features on the Sweat In Bullet single – there are only two other live versions I’ve heard. One from the Futurama gig at Bingley Hall in Stafford on September 6th (listen HERE), and the other from the gig at the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool on September 22nd (listen HERE). By the time the tour moves on to Canada and Australia, the song has been booted off the setlist, never to reappear.
This one really is a short and sweet post. I wish I had more to talk about with League Of Nations, but this is pretty much it.
But I would like to hear what any of you reading this think of it. Do you like the track? Do you think it is a weak link in an otherwise exemplary body of work from a phenomenal young group of musicians who, at the time, should have already been strong in the consciousness of every music lover on the planet? Do you prefer the live version to the album version? Or vice versa? Would you like to see it back on the setlist, even? Post in the comments.
I’ve written about this song so much – when I actually COULD write about it! When I could somehow manage to express all that it means to me.
The first time I heard it I was probably only about four weeks into my fandom. It brought me to tears the very first time. I had not heard a Simple Minds song this beautiful ever before.
It’s not a slow song. It’s very up tempo with a driving beat and bassline and also with a soaring, wailing guitar all over it – but despite that beat and pulse and incredible guitar – despite the pace of it, it is also soft and tender. It has a HUGE heart. It’s sweet. And it encapsulates everything I had wished that life was going to be like for me, except it wasn’t. Not much of it anyway. I had glimpses of it, perhaps, not in the way THIS was. Not in the way Jim had written about it, sings of it and expresses it.
So, I was just sitting here at my PC, looking at a blank page on the screen and wondering what more there is to write about this most beautiful and poignant of songs. And here I am, already off and away trying to express again all that it means to me and why I am so enamoured with it.
The bible (Dream Giver Redux) has next to no information about it, other than what I had read on the dedicated (but sparse) page about it…which is either more recent info that has come to light, or this info had passed me by previously. The info being that in its early days, Wonderful In Young Life went by the title of “What Goes?” Strange that I don’t remember having read that before. And also a rather strange title for the song. Thankfully only a working title.
And…so this is the extent of information we have on it.
The only thing else I have to talk about is the exchange I had with Jim about it a few years back. The band were on the North American leg of their Walk Between Worlds Tour of 2018. They were in Toronto, and Jim had posted about the early days of Simple Minds touring Canada. I’ll post the excerpt below.
I tried to be a little flippant and funny on the tail of that reply. I had said “Is that a “no” to you didn’t know to my praying for the day it gets an airing…or… 😔” and then I got into a bit of a slanging match with someone who felt it rude that Jim had given me a monosyllabic response.
Oh, I had forgotten about him posting my artwork on Charlie the following day! It brought me to tears seeing that. God, I am such a soppy old fool! I was so proud of that photo. I took it in Colchester at the last Grandslam concert I attended, so it was a full, 100% Priptona work and I was so happy. And then even more over the moon that Jim used it for the follow up post about the Toronto gig. Happy days. Happy memories.
Looking back on it, I like to think it was perhaps his way of softening the blow to that reply about Wonderful In Young Life he gave me in the day’s previous post. But I like to read all kinds of daft stuff into everything. You can view that post HERE
Getting back to the song itself.
There are little things in my head that make me think of it. Snippets of things from my memories of recent years. Standing at the local bus stop in Oz when I was back home with my mum in 2015/16 and seeing the local swallows flying about in the sky. Also in Aix-Les-Bains for the Musilac festival in 2018. The football World Cup was on at the time and as I took an evening wander into the town centre to find a place to eat, “a crowded swallow skies” appeared in front of me. Just as I walked down a side street. It was a very warm night and I walked by a house that had all its windows open. I could hear that the occupants were watching the football and as I crossed the road, suddenly around 20 swifts (rather than actual swallows) came screeching by. Swifts are always a sign of summer for me. I would always see them in the skies around Luton in the summer months – dazzling me with their aerobatics and making their shrill “banshee” call as their flew around, circling ever higher, then plummeting and dive-bombing some prey (such small birds, their main fayre is various insects). Those swifts at Aix-Les-Bains that night felt a marker to me that maybe I had made the right decision to travel all the way to the French Alps to see the band I love perform at probably the most incredible music festival I have ever been to.
Oh, and I was meant to be getting back to the song!
It is everything I would have loved my young life to be. It’s beautiful, bright and sunny. I see … a picnic going on. A group of friends, a mix of girls and guys, all looking so happy and relaxed. Drinking (not necessarily alcohol, but probably wine and beer, I guess), eating snacks and sandwiches. Joking and laughing. Just so joyful and happy. And Jim is there amongst them. And I would just want to plant myself in a spot right next to him. Just to be sitting there by his side, watching him interact with the others around him. Watching him smile, laugh and joke – to be eating and drinking as well. Life looks beautiful. He looks beautiful.
It is such a different image to how it sounds to the images he was viewing when he was composing it on those cold, bleak, desolate Canadian roads. Perhaps to get himself out of that gloom of those moments he painted those beautiful pictures for himself?
As for that “live airing” I asked him about? Well, back in the mists of time, Wonderful In Young Life appears to have been performed live. Just once. The gig was at Rock City in Nottingham. The date – September 17th, 1981. That first short UK leg of the Sons And Fascination Tour was barely a month long and the band then went off to Canada and Australia to perform to rapturous crowds. Perhaps it wasn’t even performed live? It’s on the setlist, but perhaps it was merely “outro” music as the gig came to an end?
I do wonder, as Theme For Great Cities is listed as being performed on the same tour – but it’s just intro music that the band walk out on stage to. You can hear that at the recorded gig of theirs at the Musicians Club in Sydney. (Link to the gig HERE)
So there is the strong possibility the song has actually NEVER been played live at all. Again, had it been being used as “outro” music – you would have expected to be mentioned elsewhere on setlists for the is tour? Who knows?
I am happy to report that in recent times I can enjoy it for the beautiful, driving, pulsing, gorgeous, tender, uplifting, joyous song it is.
Forever I will be “singing memories”.
A final thought on Wonderful In Young Life is from a friend, who says of it: The song’s poignancy lies in its breathy final words: Here she comes, wonderful. In young life.
As “the speed of light is moving on“ and we are now less than three weeks away from the anniversary of the release date of Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call, I still have “something to prove and much to present” (to paraphrase the song being highlighted today). So, today I present a special midweek edition of Minds Music Monday!
It’s a mystery, this track. A track from the Sister Feelings Call album that has never been played live, has hardly ever been talked about by Jim or any of the other band members, but is a firm favourite amongst the “diehard” set.
There are lines within the lyrics that Jim didn’t write himself. Lines that are from a play by Bertholt Brecht called the Life of Galileo – Andrea: Unhappy the land that has no heroes. Galileo: No. Unhappy the land that needs heroes.
Reading the synopsis of the Life of Galileo – those words are at a pivotal end point of the play. Andrea is one of Galileo’s former pupils and he sees Galileo’s actions on the replication of the telescope, and of his celestial discoveries, as well as his defiance to the Roman Catholic church as acts of heroism. “Unhappy the land that has no heroes.” – ie: Italy is an unhappy land for not seeing Galieo’s actions as heroic. Galileo counters this notion with “No. Unhappy the land that needs heroes.” – ie: Galileo does not see himself as a hero and Italy’s happiness (nor any other country for that matter) as a nation should not hinge upon having heroes.
One wonders how Jim got exposed to the Life of Galileo? Another question I would love to ask him, but there is little opportunity for such things these days. I lament.
Perhaps he obtained a copy of this from somewhere? A book of a selection of Brecht’s work was re-published in 1980, the play having first been published in 1955. The book is called “Brecht – Selected Plays Five – Life of Galileo, Mother Courage and her Children”.
It is obviously something that he ruminated on, for he’d used the lines previously in the demo of Life In Oils – a Simple Minds song that never advanced beyond its demo recording in early 1981, much to John Leckie’s consternation (mine also, it has to be said). The lines certainly must have resonated strongly enough to transfer their use onto 20th Century Promised Land.
So…what is the song about? It’s rather ambiguous in tone. And I have spent time dissecting it with a few other fans in the past. Is it about war? Or the consequences of war? The general tumult we find ourselves in during the late 20th century? Europe was still in quite a bit of upheaval during the early 1980s. Conflict in Afghanistan with the U.S.S.R. Berlin is still divided by the wall. Communism is the oppressor of many in Eastern Europe. Nicolae Ceaușescu is firmly in control in Romania.
Jim may have used some Brecht lines, yes, but all the other words in the song – all he has written have deep potency to them as well. Just read the lyrics! Take them in. It may not be immediately apparent what his lyrics are conveying – and of course they are open to interpretation and people will interpret different meanings – but there is no denying their power to make you think and ponder.
THIS IS WHY I LOVE JIM KERR AS A LYRICIST! He’d be somewhat flippant and dismissive of the words he’s written in this song “They’re just words. I don’t really know where they come from…” etc, etc. Almost as if he is embarrassed to admit his own intelligence. Probably due to fear of looking “pretentious” or up his own arse. Well, fuck that!
Anyway…the lyrics. Read them!
Stories came like the wind,
Joining every bridge in the world.
Ringing out footsteps,
Calling out steel-heels.
I give voice,
I give breath,
Count out evenings and stars.
How fast can these things move on,
Taking roots back to yourself,
And the reason for fear was moving on,
Fire for the times,
Ringing out footsteps,
Calling out steel-heels.
Great times in commotion.
Here comes every day,
It only lasts an hour,
Unhappy the land that has no heroes,
No! Unhappy the land that needs heroes.
And the reason for fear was moving on,
The speed of light was moving on.
Tears are only wasted water.
Some say God only loves the proud,
Be damned on luck,
But not disheartened,
Nothing to prove,
And nothing to present.
I give voice,
I give breath,
Catching wind in my hand,
Catching wind in my hand.
Fire for the times,
Ringing out footsteps,
Calling out steel-heels.
Great times in commotion,
Here comes every day,
It only lasts an hour,
Unhappy the land that has no heroes,
No! Unhappy the land that needs heroes.
I’ll call you out,
I’ll scream you out,
And I don’t care if you’re afraid,
When city sounds invade the air.
Catch the wind in their hands,
Catch the wind in their hands,
Great times in commotion.
Those words are just so wonderful! Both clear and yet opaque, both relevant and yet timeless. And that quintessential element of the truly great when it comes to Simple Minds songs – the “dark light”. That kind of dour centre, the deep aspect that ultimately lifts and becomes bright. Hope. Present within lines like “don’t cry – tears are only wasted water” and “be damned on luck but not disheartened” and “the reason for fear was moving on”. And there is also something ultimately uplifting in the lines “catching wind in my hand/catch the wind in their hands”, and “great times in commotion”. A statement that says “be in the moment, be present, and enjoy what life gives you…if you can.”
He’s as sharp as a tack, that boy. A sharp intellect. A great mind.
As for the musicality of the song? Well, it seems reading up about it on Dream Giver that not even the band members quite know how they arrived at it, with Charlie Burchill quoted as saying, “We stumbled across those chords. It wasn’t just the chords that made the whole thing, it was a combination of the chords, what the bass was doing, what I was doing. As soon as we hit it everybody went ‘Right, that’s it,’ and we had to work in reverse and figure out what we’d done – we didn’t have a clue what had happened.”
Rhythm is always integral to Simple Minds songs, and this is no exception. Such a short, sweet melody from Mick, but underpinned by a subtler Forbes bassline than usual. The time signature of it too. It’s in 4/4, which is a standard time signature for the majority of popular songs. But it doesn’t sound like a regular 4/4 time signature to me? Perhaps Brian plays it on the back beat? Whatever it is, I love it. Actually – I just counted it and what he does is play the snare on beat one of the first four bars and beat three of the next four bars. From my limited exposure to drumming – that would fuck me up! Charlie’s guitar riffs are wonderful too.
And there is Jim and that vocal performance. He just sells everything perfectly on Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call. Just…everything. The nuances to his voice, the way he articulates and enunciates words. Perfection.
The song has never been performed live, which is a shame, but I guess it is inevitable with a catalogue as rich as Simple Minds’ that not every song in their catalogue could or would get a live airing. Surprising it never got a look in even during the 5×5 Live Tour? Perhaps then it might have been considered briefly? Who knows? There is just such a wealth of riches to mine from the Sons/Sister albums.
So all I have to offer in terms of listening experience is the track as it appears on the album. (Which album that is is dependent upon whether you have the Canadian version or not.)
It appeared on the B-Side of the Sweat In Bullet single, appearing on all formats – the lone 7” single – the double pack gatefold 7”, as well as the 12” single.
This song is special and sounds very unambiguous to the uninitiated, but try to explain to someone what it’s about and the realisation of its ambiguity dawns. Any lyricist that can deliver that is just perfect in my eyes. If you’d like to share your theories on the song’s meaning, or your interpretation of it, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
It is by far the most revered Simple Minds instrumental in their canon. The band have never been one to shy away from putting an instrumental track (or three) on an album. From 1979’s Real To Real Cacophony having instrumentals ‘Cacophony’, ‘Film Theme’ and (the wonderfully off-the-wall and magic mushroom influenced) ‘Veldt’ on it, right up to 2002’s Cry with instrumental ‘The Floating World’, there have been some fabulous SM non-vocal tracks. My personal favourites include: Kant Kino, Somebody Up There Likes You, Shake Off The Ghosts, A Brass Band In African Chimes and Year Of The Dragon (I also have a soft spot for The Floating World – a rarity as Cry, along with Live In The City of Light are the Simple Minds albums I play the least – no reason needed to elaborate further).
I think we can all agree that Jim absolutely made the right choice not to force upon ‘Theme’ some lyrics and a vocal. It is perfect as it is. And the title he gave the track is all the input from him it ever needed. He sells it perfectly.
A further quote from Jim, appearing on the Dream Giver site, quotes him as saying, “One of the best moves I ever made was not to sing on Theme For Great Cities. I remember walking around with that in Glasgow on my new Sony Walkman thinking this is fucking perfect!” Amen to that, Jim!
Initially it was used for “intro” music on the Sons And Fascination tour and never was performed live until more recent years. Starting on – as coincidence would have it – The Floating World tour of 2002. And it’s been a fairly regular sight on the setlist since then. It was the opening number of the second half of the set on the 40 Years Of Hits Tour of 2020 (giving Jim an extra five minutes to down his lemon zinger) – until the Coronavirus pandemic stopped the tour in its tracks in Copenhagen.
There have also been several remixes recorded as well. A Moby Mix from 2012 which is…meh. The ‘91 Mix I’m not exactly enamoured with either – if you’re not familiar with it, listen HERE. And there is a couple of other mixes from the late 1990s – the Fila Brazilia Mix (also an alternate mix of it and an edited version too) and probably the only mix I actually like of all of them – the Fluke’s Atlantis Mix – there is also a Nissn Remix from 2009 – but that is my LEAST favourite of them all, tied with the gutless Moby Mix.
But who needs remixes of something that is absolutely PERFECT just as it is? Theme For Great Cities doesn’t need messing with! Jim knew that. Others should take heed! Stop it with your remixes! Leave it the fuck alone! Don’t mess with perfection, brother! Enjoy for what it is – one of the best instrumentals ever recorded. The YouTube link is further below. Take the extra five minutes and fifty seconds when you have read this post to play it and enjoy it. Play it loud! Use headphones/earphones if you need to and just…get transported to scenes from Blade Runner…see time-lapse footage of dark night cityscapes dazzle before your eyes. View the cover of the Sons And Fascination album (even though the track is on Sister Feelings Call – it’s not “dead wood”! Nothing on Sister Feelings Call is … with maybe one exception – but we’ll discuss that in a future post) and just…enjoy the ride.
I’ll leave the rest of it to Jim…
EDIT: There is a typo at the end of the text above. I am usually meticulous with making sure there are no typos with the these things, but this one slipped by. The last sentence SHOULD read “It might well have played a part in that.” “It” rather than “I”. Apologies if it led to any confusion.
Thanks to this bloody pandemic and frigging Covid-19, White Hot Day, the Simple Minds fan convention, set to take place in the band’s ‘hame toon’ of Glasgow (Glesga) has been rescheduled.
The convention will now take place on Saturday, October 15th, 2022, at a new venue, Classic Grand on Jamaica Street, Just a short (less than 5 minutes) walk from Central station (for those making their way into Glasgow for the event).
Tickets available through Tickets Scotland – all previously purchased tickets remain valid for the new date/venue.
The song was written at the beginning of 1981 in Edinburgh after a conversation between Jim and John Leckie in which Leckie thought Jim should try his hand at writing a more “traditional” love song. Kerr’s is anything but traditional. In fact, I am firmly of the belief that it is anything BUT a love song. More on that to come.
It started life out as a rough demo. In fact it started life not destined to be a Simple Minds song at all. For Jim was going to gift the song to Jaine Henderson to record. Jaine’s brother, David, former sound engineer of the band (and behind-the-scenes extra member) was running the Hellfire Club, a social rehearsal space and recording studio, located down a small lane just off Derby Street right by where the old CaVa Studio was (with access also via Bentick Street).
Jim and Charlie arrived at the Hellfire Club one night in the winter of 1981. Charlie recorded the basic musical parts, using a drum machine, bass and guitar and Jim recorded a guide vocal for Jaine to record along to. EDIT: For clarity – the original recording that Jaine was involved in took place at the original Hellfire Club location on Carnarvon St. They relocated to the Derby Street site some months later.
With some reluctance, and nervous to try a recording of the vocal in front of Kerr and Burchill, they left the club, leaving Jaine to record her vocal with David at the mixing desk. Not convinced by the outcome (though sounding musically very good – sparse and electronic), and with no ambition to be a singer, for Jaine the idea fell flat. Jim then asked Jaine if Simple Minds could go ahead and record the song themselves. Of course! Jaine had no qualms with that at all.
When discussing it with Jaine back in 2019 when I interviewed her, she said the version she was working on was quite minimalist and stripped back, compared to how it ended up sounding on the single and album. The idea was for it to have a Grace Jones vibe to the sound and vocal. Now THAT is something I’d love to hear! Grace Jones doing a Simple Minds song! Imagine that?! That would be amazing!
There is a demo tape listed on record on the Dream Giver site (see image above). Five songs were recorded at CaVa in February – Valentine’s Day, in fact! The American, Life In Oils, “Twenty One” (working title for Sweat In Bullet), “Checkout” (working title for Careful In Career), and Love Song. These demos eventually get released officially on the Virgin Records produced Silver Box in 2004. CLICK TO HEAR ‘LOVE SONG’ DEMO
Just two weeks later, Love Song is performed for the first time at their gig at Tiffany’s in Glasgow, on March 1st, 1981. CLICK TO LISTEN
And so, more than anything, Love Song is a song about ambition, and a desire for “greatness” – as Jim puts it. Very much not a traditional love song in the “boy meets girl, boy gets girl” sense of it – or even of the unrequited sort “boy meets girl, but boy will never get girl”. It’s neither of those. It’s Jim’s love of success and winners – and of that desire for greatness. The love of ambition. “Ambition in motion!”
Some of the music journalists at the time couldn’t seem to help but give rather disparaging or back-handed praise to SAF/SFC – accusing the promotions department at Virgin Records of “over-hyping” the marketing of Simple Minds. Ouch! (See excerpt of article from The Face further below)
And this idea that the clubs played them to death but they got the cold shoulder from radio – well, perhaps commercial radio and “prime time” radio snubbed them for a time, but the right radio DJs gave them exposure. The likes of John Peel and David Jensen really championed them here in the UK. And I am sure other radio stations around the world would have been playing them! Certainly stations in Canada and Australia did. The right DJ’s who realised there is much depth to “rhythm” as there is to “melody”. One should not be exclusive to or cancel out the other. Why can’t rhythm BE melodic? And vice versa? Is it me that still has no grasp on what exactly melody is? Do I grapple with the basic concept of it?
Speaking of the record company and their hand in things…can we discuss the video made for Love Song?
It is ssooo deliciously bad – it’s good. It’s great! And it has such a hedonistic air to it. The Minds boys act like a right bunch of neds (Scottish term – look it up!) in the video. Well, perhaps Jim is the only one that actually “behaves” himself in the video, though he’s a bit of a shit to the woman in the lift, like “Here, WENCH! Take ma claes and look after ‘em. I’ll be back for ‘em later.” Lol
Let’s pretend we’re storyboarding it here:
You guys rock up to the nightclub (not before you arrive later by yourself, Jim. Always running late, Kerr, fuck sake!)
Jim, you get on the decks and do some DJing.
Kenny, you hit the dancefloor with a couple of dolls
Charlie, you try muscling in on a game of backgammon(!) and get into a punch-up
Derek, you try and chat up some guy’s burd
Mick, you sit at this businessman’s table and as his dinner is served, slap him across the face with his fish supper
Now, Jim, you come and take a seat (on your haunches!) and sing the song to camera for a bit
Mick – punch the businessman’s lights out
Derek, spike the guy’s drink and get into a punch-up with his friend – another bloke piles in and, Kenny, you come help out Derek
You guys have been acting like right jerks so now people are wanting to leave the nightclub to get away from you – but…hello!
What’s going on at the entrance to the nightclub? Is there some kind of forcefield in place at the door?
Derek, Kenny – have a sit down, guys. Just wait for Jim to finish singing
Mick, “Aye, ‘mon Jim, we want outta here”
Where the fuck has Charlie gone?!
Nightclub patrons “Aw, man! We’re gonna be trapped here forever! Who are these dudes? What have they done to us?!”
Jim – “Time to go, boys! Follow me. Play it COOL AS FUCK! Straight through, lads. Straight through. Watch the burds!”
The two burds at the back “Aye, those guys were well fit. Why didnae not take us wit ‘em? We want ‘em.”
Me too, ladies. Me too. Well…the guy at the front, anyway. As far as I am concerned he’s the coolest of the cool. But…I get why you dolls were dancing with Kenny. I’d have probably not said no myself! Good old “Consolation Kenny” – sorry, Mr Hyslop. You get bonus points for being a drummer.
Sometimes I think it was lucky I was only 11 years old at the time! And living on the other side of the world! Or perhaps it was THEY who were lucky? Lol
It’s a preposterous concept for a video and yet, it is probably my favourite of all the Simple Minds videos due to its absurdity.
As discussed in a previous post – the video was recorded in a nightclub that was located at the Kensington Roof Garden that was then being leased by Virgin Records.
The talk of the musical approach to Love Song being a subtler one – opposed to how the sound is with I Travel and Empires And Dance is a curious one. I honestly don’t hear any kind of “softening” myself – not with the direct comparison to Love Song To I Travel. And yes, there are softer, calmer pieces like This Earth That You Walk Upon and Seeing Out The Angel – but then there is the ball-breaker that is Boys From Brazil – and how is that “subtler” to anything that is on Empires And Dance?
Listen to that jarring synth coda at the beginning of the song. It almost sits outside of the rest of the song’s structure and plays off kilter to the rest of the song’s rhythm. But there is so much more propulsion to it and funk to it compared to how it sounded as a demo. And Jim has refined and played around with the lyrics a bit. The whole thing became much more streamline. And its placement on the album’s tracklisting is perfect. I am referring to the UK release when I say this, as it is the track that opens Side Two, or the B-Side to the album. Curiously, the albums’ tracklistings are completely reset for the Canadian releases of the albums and Love Song is the opening track for Sons And Fascination’s Canadian print.
As much as it was making a buzz, especially in the nightclubs of the UK and Europe, its sales were (of the time)… mediocre at best in most places around the world. Just sitting outside the UK Top 40 at number 47 – it was, however, their best chart placing of all their singles so far. In Sweden, it broke into the Top 20, reaching number 16. But the best result came from some 12,000 miles away in Australia in which the single broke into the ARIA chart at an impressive number 9 – giving them their first gold record and Top 10 hit! THANK YOU, COUNTRY OF MY BIRTH for having exquisite taste!
Below is a review of Love Song from November, 1981, printed in Australian music magazine Roadrunner – published by an expat Scot, Donald Robertson. It may even be Donald himself that gave the review. No one is credited as giving the review, though when it comes to the album reviews written in the magazine a couple of pages later, credits to the reviewers are given. It may just be the interviewer of the corresponding piece that appeared with Jim – Ruthvven Martinus – as he is the reviewer of the album that appears in those couple of pages behind the Love Song review.
The boys certainly did promote the single quite heavily. Really gave it a push, appearing on music programs over Europe to “perform” the song (quotation marks as sadly most television appearances would be a lip-synching mime to the single or album track. Nothing I’m sure that ever sat well with the band. They would have always wanted to perform it live, I am sure).
There are three different appearances you can watch on YouTube – one is of them on German music program Szene. They are on such a tiny platform. All crammed on it, jostling for some space. Jim plays it wonderfully nonchalant as the album version gets the full musical intro treatment. But once the song gets going, there’s little room for him to perform his wonderful “prowling panther” style lunging moves – and he and Derek almost bump into each other at one point, which results in a bit of a sideways glance and a bit of chuckle between them. VIEW THE VIDEO HERE
The second clip I love to watch is still from a mystery source. No one can really agree where this clip comes from. What TV program aired it. Or even perhaps if the band recorded it in a nightclub somewhere. It’s certainly from 1981 – the clothes and the style of the band sit right within that look – and the fact that Kenny Hyslop is with them on drum duties (they he was still with them early in 1982) would very much keep inline with being 1981. They look as though they’ve had a rough few days. Jim looks the worst for wear – but still by far the hottest and sexist guy around right at that point. Just look at him! The clothes, the moves…he’s just the whole goddamn package right there! And well, the rest of the guys are doing their best to look pretty cool beside him. VIEW MYSTERY NO.2 CLIP HERE
Finally … we return to Oz and to Countdown. Countdown is, of course, Australia’s answer to Top Of The Pops. Anyone who was anyone, even Oz and Kiwi bands – or the international groups and artists that actually decided to tough out the grueling travel times to get half-way around the world, appeared on Countdown. And so with a band like Simple Minds in the country, and Love Song already making such a buzz and sailing up the charts, they HAD to appear! Look at them all! Charlie’s fucking WRECKED! Kenny’s got a tan that any modern day West End Glasgow hipster would be proud of! Derek’s almost in salute to Sir Les Paterson with what looks like a bloody STRING VEST on. Mick also seems to have a bit of a tan – but is his usual understated self. AND THEN THERE IS JIM FUCKING KERR! Head to toe in black (before Charlie took over with that look and made it “standard issue” Burchill) – complete with sunglasses – indoors (I’m sure in an exercise to conceal just how fucking shattered and/or off his tits he is), with this bloody bright, yellow satchell bag that I read on this lady’s blog from loooong ago, that he picked up in a shop in Sydney for the princely sum of $A8.00. I’m not sure what that would equate to in today’s money, or what it equated to him splashing out on it in pounds (given what I imagine the rate of exchange was then – perhaps about £3.00-4.00) but I’m assuming it would be about £20 today. Who knows what delights were in this bag? He told me “sherbet straws” once. I always took it to be code – hence the glasses, eh, Jim?
The most recent uploading of the video to YT sees Greedy Smith of Mental As Anything introducing Simple Minds. Greedy sounds well into them, giving them due praise for being a fantastic live band.
And here we are some 40 years later with the reputation of theirs of being a stellar live band firmly in tact. My tally of seeing them 23 times, to date, in my seven years of Simple Minds fandom (with many more booked to come!) I hope pays some testament to the calibre of performance they achieve to this day.
The song has been a fairly constant site on the setlist over the years. With only the short lull of it not appearing on the setlist during the Street Fighting Years tour of 1989/1990. So, there are many, many live versions that are available to hear. But for finality, it seems apt to share the final time (to date) that it performed live by the band. My recording of them performing in Copenhagen at the Store Vega in March 10th, 2020.
There have also been several remixes made over the years. Beginning with an extended 12” version that was released simultaneously with the release of the 7” version in 1981. There was a remix that was produced in 1992 to appear on the Glittering Prize ‘81/‘92 best of compilation as well as the Themes Volume 5 release. This version was mixed by Charlie and Gregg Jackman. It doesn’t bear too marked a difference from the original album version but I love the subtle remix treatment it has been given. I play this version often.
I shall leave the final words to Jim – featured below. They were written out by Paul Morley and appeared as part of an article that was in the New Musical Express on October 3rd, 1981. Morley wrote the piece out as through a “stream of consciousness” internal dialogue from Jim’s mind. You can read the full article HERE
The amazing and brilliant Dream Giver Redux – it really is the Simple Minds bible and an endless source of information.
Wikipedia – for certain other information on tracklistings and release dates as well as chart positioning information.
Lost Glasgow – more detailed information on the exact location of the Hellfire Club.
Lol-Z on YouTube – for the clip of David Henderson and Jacquie Bradley (and the other ladies from Sophisticated Boom Boom, as well as Clare Grogan) at the Hellfire Club.
Lastly but most importantly – big thanks to Jaine and David Henderson – you can find out more information on the Hellfire Club by visiting the dedicated Facebook page – HERE
One final little extra note is about the image just above. It’s to do with a post that Jim posted on the triggers he uses to remind him of where in the setlist he is during a show. A “visualisation” technique – something he talked about again only recently when posted about watching the drama series Queen’s Gambit. Anyhow – these short bits of notation will spark visual indicators – and you can see the one in the list for Love Song is – the Hellfire Club. All these years down the line and it still sparks the memory.
Thank you for reading this mammoth labour of love.
Another piece of memorabilia recently gained from eBay trawls was this. I’ve seen several photos from … I’m guessing the same photoshoot – before, but never this particular photo. And it’s a genuine vintage promotional photographic print. In stellar condition it was too!
I’m very happy with this. Yes I am!
The photographer is Paul Canty – hence the watermark.
I love it when Charlie tries to look all “mean ass” in promo photos. Lol
Jim’s trying out his prowling cat moves.
They are bunched up so close, you can see Charlie’s foot wedged under Jim’s thigh.