A souvenir (the rag doll) from exploring the country today. More about that tomorrow…
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.
As I said yesterday in my Sunday Waffle Vlog post, I went looking through the Art & Talk YouTube channel for something else to listen to, having been enjoying his more recent offerings.
I gazed upon the one below and thought “well, it’s only a few weeks prior to one of my most favoured gigs – one that helped to cement my uber SM fandom – Rockpalast in Cologne” so to me it had the strong potential of being a goodun’.
I was NOT disappointed! Right from the get go! Changeling – Jim just spits venom and vitriol. God I bloody LOVE IT when he performs like this. I find it absolutely as sexy as fuck! It’s just so…visceral and guttural and just….I just want to lick him from head to toe!
Then Thirty Frames and the switching of the lines – Jack comes back earlier than normal. Lol. But then, almost in a way angry at himself mabbies for fluffing up and putting the lines in the wrong place, he follows it with a “fuck you, Jack!” Lol
Premonition next and a fab version. Sweat In Bullet also. Then early outings for Promised You A Miracle – already been out as a single and FINALLY, Simple Minds score strong chart positions with a single. King Is White And In The Crowd follows, and Jim continues to spit venom with the “Wire them up! Fire them up!” lines.
The wonderful pairing (still being paired together to this day) of I Travel and Celebrate. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a crap version of Celebrate. JIM – I WANT TO BE YOUR RAG DOLL!!! Jesus fucking christ this man is so fucking sexy! Ermaaaaageeeerd! Had I actually been around for these gigs in 1982 – I think I’d have melted in a puddle most nights.
Then what is always my favourite at gigs – The American. Then finally, a fabulous version of Room – a shame it fades out towards the end….but we probably got 80-85% of the song.
Let’s move away from me concentrating on Jim’s performance and my…stirrings and talk about the quality of the recording and the rest of the band performance. The band – all tight AF. A really good turn from Mike O on the drums. The more I get exposed to Mike’s performances, the more I am coming round to appreciate him. Derek and Charlie both solid as ever. Mick was probably great too – but some of the keyboards got lost in the mix. Other than that, the sound quality is pretty ace. I mean, I proper recording as I guess it was recorded for a radio station as this version of the gig was recorded off Dutch radio by a fan. Jim sounds very strong and clear – hence all the visceral sounding stuff coming to the fore soundwise.
I really loved this gig. I found adrenaline pumping – if for no other reason than Jim’s vocal performance and his absolute SEX GOD appeal! Be still my beating ovaries! GODDAMN!!
Enjoy! Happy MMM…
I posted this onto SMOG earlier this afternoon – but I get the feeling it is going to be somewhat overshadowed by a wonderful post about Jim, which I am sure he will love (who can blame him?). Anyway, I thought I’d also post it here as well. (I haven’t altered the words I posted.)
Back a few years ago, I posted something on the Simple Minds visitor wall. I think it was a review of a gig. It came from an independent fanzine. Jim replied to my post, saying he had fond memories of some of the guys who set up these kind of publications, recalling the names of Johnny Waller and Lindsay Hutton, particularly, on this occasion. Hutton had started a fanzine called “Next Big Thing”.
Well I stumbled on to a copy of Next Big Thing today, and there within the pages was an advert for Empires And Dance, as well as a glowing review of the album by Lindsay himself. (Albeit if he is somewhat disparaging to Roxy Music and Gary Numan in the process. Oops!)
It took me on my own little nostalgia trip. Of a time that I particularly loved being a Simple Minds fan. Thanks for those wee chit-chats, Jim. They’ll always be super special to me. I loved putting on my “researcher’s hat” for that one as when you replied to me you had said “I wonder what happened to Johnny and Lindsay?”, which had me off and searching for you. A time you made me feel both happy and purposeful.
If it doesn’t come out too clear for reading, then here is a transcript of what is written below.
“The danceable solution to teenage revolution? If Roxy were still any cop they’d be making albums like this. I don’t altogether go along with the belief that synthesisers always ruin things. There’s ample proof of the reverse here, but the fact that idiots like gerbil face Numan seem to represent the genre, mean that there is no media indication that there is life after electronics. ‘Empires’ is the 3rd Minds elpee and places them well up the league. Especially tasty are the opener ‘I Travel’ and the Jeepster style backbeat of ‘Celebrate’. If you’ve been put off by the moderne talk of Morley then think again kiddo, because this sound can co-exist with rock ‘n’ roll because it’s performed from the heart. Can you afford not to own a record by a band whose singer drew Noddy on the Berlin Wall in lime green chalk? Good wee group this.”
Regular visitors to the blog will be able tell how much graphics and the visual arts feature here and in my life in general. I’m a bit of an amateur artist and love creating my own visual interpretations and I also like to draw and paint (even if I am not very good at it). One aspect of art that has featured heavily as a focal point for me personally is album artwork.
In my latest interview in the “Priptona Talks” series, I spoke to Stuart Crouch of eponymously named Stuart Crouch Creative about his career as a graphic designer and of his work with Simple Minds as their current graphic art designer.
What made you interested in graphic design? At school I wasn’t really sure what graphic design was but I liked painting and drawing, creating stuff. I was very into music and would make my own mix tapes and draw the covers – copying the logos and graphics from Smash Hits.
How did you start out? We didn’t have a 6th year at my school but my art teacher let a bunch of us take our O Levels a year early so we could then take our A levels in the 5th. My plan was to then go to art college but for a number of reasons I ended up skipping that and joined the art department at Barclays Bank as an apprentice. From there I went to an company in Covent Garden who specialised in movie video covers and then onto an agency called Peacock. This would have been the early 90s and that was my introduction to album cover design.
Is there anyone else’s work that was a particular influence in pursuing a career in graphic design? I would buy albums just for their artwork, my idol was Malcolm Garrett although he was then known by his company name – Assorted Images. His work was everywhere in the 80s – I would walk into a record shop, pick out the sleeves I liked and then check the credits and it was always Malcolm. That’s who I wanted to be and that’s what I wanted to do.
Who are your influences or other artists you admire (not necessarily in the graphic design field)? Kate Bush has been a big influence on me. She puts as much creativity into the visual side of her work as her music, not only her videos but her artwork, stage sets, everything. It’s that attitude to work and attention to detail that I admire.
Do you work or create in other mediums, or in other areas of the creative arts? I used to be in a band, I think that’s true of a lot of people in the music industry – lots of frustrated musicians around. If you’d heard my lyrics you’d see why I ended up as a graphic designer!
How did you start out with doing graphics for Simple Minds? They had a new management team, who I’d worked with previously on Simply Red, and they needed a poster for the 5×5 Tour. That led to designing the album of that tour and they’ve stuck with me ever since.
What is your favourite work you have produced for SM? Tricky one, I think the Celebrate album cover. Their Claddagh (heart / hands symbol) had been perhaps a little overused by that point and I wanted to try something different. I had a photo of Jim Morrison’s bust from his grave, at Père Lachaise – Paris, and it was covered in graffiti (photo below) – I thought it made a cool image – a mix of classic and punk. I sent it to their management team and suggested we use the stone bust from Empires and Dance with their song titles scribbled on but treated like an art piece in a gallery. We created a 3D model of the head (photo above) based on that one photo and commissioned a lettering artist (Ruth Rowland) to hand write all the song titles. I don’t think the band were convinced by the concept at first but had enough faith in me to see it through and they loved the finished image. When their 40th anniversary came along I thought – shit, what do I do now! That Celebrate image would have been ideal – but it was already done. So then I hit on the idea of the badges in a heart shape and I think that does the same job but in a different way, nostalgic but new.
The concepts for designs – esp. with the Simple Minds albums – are you given free licence to do whatever you feel suits? Or are you given a basic conceptual idea? Do the band themselves have much input? Each album or project is different, sometimes the artist has a clear idea what they want, sometimes it’s a blank slate but it usually ends up somewhere in the middle. One of us will start with the germ of an idea and we’ll play with it until it sticks. Jim is an absolute dream to work with – he won’t dictate how you do it but he’ll suggest moods and themes to help get you there. You want the design to feel like a natural extension of the music so the writer’s input is invaluable.
As the visual designer for the Doctor Who audio/visual output (Blu-ray/DVDs/Books/Audiobooks) – I have to ask – WHO is your favourite Doctor? That’s easy – it’s always Tom Baker for me. He was The Doctor when I was growing up, which maybe gives him an unfair advantage, but no story was ever boring or under-par when Tom was in it.
What would be your best piece of advice for someone wanting to work or gain employment in the graphic design field? It’s a very different industry now, you no longer have to work for a big agency to be taken seriously and social media means it’s easier to get your work out there and be seen. The downside is that there’s so much more competition because of that. If you want to get into music graphics my advice would be to approach up-and-coming bands or artists and ask to work with them. I get the appeal of aiming straight for the big guns but that’s trickier, you’ll have a lot more freedom with someone new, a chance to create looks and identities that young kids will be drawing on their pencil cases. Musicians are a pretty loyal bunch so there’s every chance they’ll take you with them on their journey. It will probably mean working for free at first but it gives you a chance to develop your skills and create a portfolio.
Are there artists, be they in the entertainment field (bands, musicians, actors, writers, etc) or other visual artists, that you’d like to work with or collaborate with? Duran Duran – if you’re listening, I’m waiting for your call!
Lastly – do you have a favourite colour? Not really, but if you put a knife to my throat I’d go for dark blue.
My thanks to Stuart for his time for the interview.
Photos used were provided to me by Stuart.
I’d already be losing my shit, being in raptures being at a 5×5 gig – but at the 3 minute 30 second mark…if he was that close to me, his sweat falling on me…I swear I’d orgasm! He is just pure sex! God, I adore you, Jim Kerr! 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥
I will never stop dreaming of being your rag doll, you Adonis! ❤️❤️
Friday night ponderings….
And for good measure….to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of Empires And Dance tomorrow….
Today feels like it is going to be a toughy – so…I shall try and count my blessings and not get tired.
I will never stop wishing to be that rag doll.
Let’s “Celebrate” …with the sexiest video EVER made! (Jim Kerr…you are just sex on legs!)
A song makes you happy.
This video though. I want this played on my deathbed in an endless loop…
Those snake hips…