Interviews Abound – Bruce, Billy and Graeme with Grant Stott – Jim with Chris Hawkins (sitting in for Craig Charles)

Two interviews took place almost simultaneously yesterday. One pre-recorded, the other live.

The live chat happened on BBC Radio Scotland. Grant Stott was hosting The Afternoon show and during the middle of the program, he spoke to Bruce Findlay, Billy Sloan and Graeme Thomson about the book and Simple Minds. You can listen to that interview and chat directly below.

The second interview was on BBC Radio 6 Music. Chris Hawkins was sitting in for Craig Charles and he spoke to Jim about the release of Act Of Love and the anniversary of the Simple Minds debut gig at Satellite City in 1978. Jim was at his loquacious best – although the interview was brief, it was highly entertaining. You can listen to that interview below.

I hope you enjoy them both. I know I did.

Review: Themes For Great Cities – A New History of Simple Minds by Graeme Thomson

“This is a fast story”, author Graeme Thomson says at the beginning of the book and keeps reminding us a few more times further in. 

It’s a story of the formative years of two pals from Toryglen, their school chum down the road, the keyboard player from the Chinese restaurant and the bass player that was meant to be a guitarist. 

The focus is as one would hope – primarily on the music and the band itself. The meeting of five incredibly creative and gifted men and how those quite different young men come together to produce the alchemy that results in the early music of Simple Minds. We learn most about their creative and working lives. There is little about their individual backgrounds, only vaugaries that are relevant to the telling of the overall story. 

Although the story is heavily focused on Jim Kerr, Charlie Burchill, Mick MacNeil, Derek Forbes and Brian McGee, we also hear from others deeply involved in the story (if not necessarily within the band itself or the creation of the music). Jaine and David Henderson, Bruce Findlay, John Leckie, Simon Draper, Steve Hillage and Pete Walsh get mentioned and/or spoken to at length. 

Graeme Thomson has been meticulous without dragging out the pace of the story. As he continues to reiterate through the book it is a fast story. Like the five men that feature most strongly within the story, there is not an ounce of fat on it. Nothing lags. Nothing is protracted. Succinct, yet never lacking in detail. If I had got around to writing a book about the band I love, then this is EXACTLY the book I hope I’d have written. 

Along with content from interviews conducted with the primary band members, there is also input in the form of small “bridge” chapters from Bobby Gillespie, James Dean Bradfield and Ian Cook. There is also a dedicated “Q and A” interview chapter with art designer Malcolm Garrett. 

Some never-before-seen (even by me!!) photos are contained within the two sections of photographic content within the book. A number of wonderful photos by Virginia Turbett are within. Rare gems from John Leckie and Carole Moss can also be found within. 

There are things that I have questioned or pondered within my time as a Simple Minds fan that are discussed in the book. For instance, was the Life In A Day album already too “old” by the time it was released? Was Jim Kerr’s pudding bowl haircut a work of genius? Is Real To Real Cacophony one of the best albums they ever made? Is there anything that you cannot like about Empires And Dance? Why didn’t Grace Jones ever record a Simple Minds song? (Love Song gets singled out as the prime pondering here.) Can I ever stop my mind from wandering off to the object of my sexual desire when discussing Jim Kerr’s “Archimedes moment”? I may be the only person who grapples with that notion to be honest, but I am happy to keep on pondering it. “Eureka!”

If you want the WHOLE story of Simple Minds then this isn’t the book you want. But actually it IS the book you want. It is exactly the book you want! Because without this beginning, then there would be no “whole story”. This book is about the building blocks. That sandpit on the Toryglen building site where Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill met as eight year old boys is such a fantastic serendipitous metaphor for the whole story of Simple Minds. Getting a gang of workers together. Gathering the materials required. Assembling the parts. Laying the foundations and by album number six, having a cathedral to wow yourself (and others) with. 

For the ardent Simple Minds fan, the book actually contains few new revelations. I don’t want that to be a disappointment to the ardent fan because Thomson tells the story so well you will find it utterly enthralling all the same. The retelling is compelling. 

For anyone who is newer to the Simple Minds fold, or came to Simple Minds from the point of Once Upon A Time and hasn’t really explored their back catalogue extensively, I implore you to read this book. 

For the diehards – YOU NEED THIS BOOK! It is a fast and exhilarating ride. The book jumps off around the time of the recording of Once Upon A Time. That’s a different tale to tell then. 

I honestly have not enjoyed a book like this since I read The Complete David Bowie by Nicholas Pegg. With Pegg’s book it was the telling of the Hunky Dory/Ziggy Stardust/Aladdin Sane years of the Bowie story that struck a chord most. The telling of Bowie’s meeting with Tony Defries and the MainMan years in particular. It made me “want in”. I wanted to be part of it. It fed the hunger of the dream to be in “the thick of it”. To be right in the cogs of that working machine. 

I am feeling the same with how Graeme Thomson tells the Simple Minds story here. He takes you right in. I can feel myself in the recording studio. At Rockfield, walking about those barns and inside the studio, at the mixing desk. Watching John Leckie orchestrate these young guys as they get to grips with how to write songs and produce music that confounds and mesmerises, enthrals and bewilders. 

To experience the “coming of age” of these young men, from the evolution of Jim Kerr as songwriter and stage performer, to Mick MacNeil finding his feet as a musical architect and composer, working alongside Charlie Burchill, it makes you appreciate more than ever what actual musical juggernauts both Burchill and MacNeil are. Also just what a bedrock the rhythm section of McGee and Forbes were together. 

A tale told with utter distinction. I genuinely have not wanted to put this book down for a single moment since it arrived. Hide yourself away. Devour it at will. Gorge upon it! You won’t be disappointed. It is a feast. Then play those first six albums again with new ears and a newfound appreciation of the astonishing band Simple Minds are. 

I have two copies of the book to give away. If you would like to win yourself a copy of “Themes For Great Cities: A New History of Simple Minds” by Graeme Thomson, simply answer the following question: In the book Jim Kerr tells of his “Archimedes moment” when writing the lyrics for which song? (Hint – search this website to find the answer.) Leave your answer in the comments section of this blog post. You’ll find the comments section at the bottom of the post titled “leave a comment” (you may have to scroll past the existing comments to leave your own unique comment. Fresh comments will provide me with details to contact the winners). If you have trouble with the comments section, you can also enter via the “contact me” form found HERE. All successful entries will go into the draw to win one of two copies of the book. The competition closes on Sunday, January 23rd, 2022 at 23.59 GMT. Winners will be notified shortly after. The competition is open worldwide. Good luck!

Merry Christmas From Little Brown Books!

This arrived in the post this morning. I am literally like a kid at Christmas!!! So very excited to be reviewing the book for the blog. The review will be up on the blog VERY soon. As will be details of a giveaway of copies of the book!

Exciting times. Keep an eye out for the review and more details on the giveaway shortly.

Merry Christmas!

White Hot Day – Simple Minds Fan Convention – RESCHEDULED (New Date, New Venue)

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.

See you there!

Interviewland – The Boss and The Piraña.

There are a few interviews I have neglected to highlight here – because my blog is slack and too Kerr obsessive to think of much else. Lol

ANYWAY!

Bruce has been interviewed and the result is a three part podcast of discussion. You can find the link to the SHOUT podcast HERE

Also, Mr Francis Xavier Gallagher (aka Soundman Confidential) has gotten round to interviewing old Chuckie B – and you can take a listen to that one HERE

Also there was a second part to Kenny Hyslop’s interview with Neil Saint for the Retropopic Radio station. You can find the links HERE

Priptona, out! 👋🏻

Happy Birthday, Bruce!

The wonderful and loquacious Mr Bruce Findlay is 77 today. Here he is pictured with someone masquerading as a “social butterfly” back in the summer of 2018, after a talk he had (with Ian Rankin and Vic Galloway) at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh as part of the Rip It Up exhibition.

Rewind To Oz – New Gold Discs, 1982

This photo was shared by Bruce Findlay on Twitter a few days back. It’s of Simple Minds (and Bruce) receiving gold discs for New Gold Dream in Australia in 1982.

Pictured are Jim Kerr, Derek Forbes (behind Jim), Mike Ogletree, Mick MacNeil and Bruce.

The photo was sent to Bruce by former Roadrunner magazine founder and publisher, Donald Robertson. You can read more about him and the magazine at roadrunnertwice.com.au

Of course, it was Roadrunner magazine that has one of my favourite magazine covers of all time – and one I tried in vain to get a copy of early on in my fandom – the one of Jim with Iva Davies on the cover. There is a section of Mr Robertson’s blog in which you can view a digital copy of every issue of the magazine that was produced.

I love seeing photos like these. They allow you in to a little bit of history that you missed.

I think I should think about renaming my blog “The Vicarious Mind”. Lol

Save Carlton Studios Fundraiser – Auction Of Virginia Turbett Prints – Scottish Music Scene

FURTHER UPDATE – MARCH 4th: The crowdfunder campaign has been extended for two weeks – which I think also extends the time of the prize draw. The announcement of the winners won’t happen until April, so one can assume the prize draw is still active right now. If you’d like to make a donation and be in the prize draw, check with Carlton for certainty.

UPDATE – MARCH 2nd: Prize draw donations will be closing in a couple of days from now, so if you want to be in with a chance, be sure to make a donation ASAP!

Carlton Studios in Glasgow is a rehearsal space and professional recording hub for local bands within the city. As far as I am aware, Kenny Hyslop was involved in the set up of the studio.

Due to the lockdown restrictions that have gone on over this past year, the studio is in real danger of permanent closure. It needs funds to stay afloat. It needs our help.

Virginia Turbett has donated eight A3 sized prints to Carlton Studios to help raise funds. The prints are being auctioned off. The prints centre around the Scottish music scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s and include images of Simple Minds, Bruce’s Records, The Skids, Alex Harvey and The Rezillos.

Please take a look at Dennis Ramone’s video in the Facebook link below….

You can donate by clicking HERE – please consider donating anything you can to this. Rehearsal and recording space such as these are vital for cities like Glasgow, where music is one of the major driving forces of the community.

Minds Music Monday – 20th Century (2020) Promised Land

As we approach the end of this rather strange and turbulent year, there is still so much relevance I hear in a song like 20th Century Promised Land – so much so, I thought it could actually be renamed “2020 Promised Land”.

“Great times in commotion. Here comes every day, it only lasts an hour.” Oh, how we’d have wished for every day of 2020 from about April onwards to have only lasted an hour! “Count out evenings and stars, how fast can these things move on?” Not fast enough, Mr Kerr, you adorable wordsmith, you!

So let’s hope the “reason for fear *is* moving on” and the “speed of life *is* moving on” to take us into better times for 2021.

Because 2020 certainly has been “Some time.” The most “troubled time.”

“Unhappy the land that has no heroes. No, unhappy the land that needs heroes.” – AMERICA, ANYONE? America in 2020, more so! (Of course, these lines aren’t actually Jim’s.)

Anyway, I shall stop quoting lines from the song and let you go read them, and listen to that amazing voice be just…incredibly expressive and convey the story. I absolutely ADORE the way Jim sings on Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call. He says in latter years he’s most happy with his voice but … there is a way in which he sings back then – I think it’s all in the enunciations of words and the (largely) fragmented and ambiguous style of his writing. I can feel it when he talks in the past about trying to use his voice as another “instrument”. I know it sounds as pretentious AF, but I honestly don’t think he meant it to sound like that. Because he talked about using some words just based on how they sounded. Like..that he just liked the sound of them and how they would sound and blend in with the music. Yeah…it does sound pretentious AF! Lol

I spoke to Bruce Findlay recently and he made me giggle talking about how he’d read the band reviews and get all downcast about anything negative written. “More so than Jim would”, he said to me. “I remember reading one review and the guy had said Jim’s lyrics were pretentious. I told Jim what had been written and he said ‘Of course my lyrics are fucking pretentious! I’m a pop star, for fuck’s sake!’” 😂😂😂😂

Anyway, just….enjoy the wonderful splendour of 20th Century Promised Land.