Empires And Dance Appreciation – KANT KINO

It is my favourite Simple Minds instrumental.

My favourite David Bowie track of them all is A New Career In A New Town – that “town” being Berlin. I heard an instant parallel between ANCIANT and Kant Kino. Both have an incredible emotional pull on me – both brought me to tears the first time I heard them.

Although most of my SM art is about Jim’s lyrics, I have done the odd piece on an instrumental track. I made one for Kant Kino. (Dave Kelly then egged me on to do one for Somebody Up There Likes You, which Jim subsequently seemed to like so much, he actually requested a copy from me. Something that amazes me still to this day. It always will.)

We have our own “bucket list” things that we want and wish for. Mine for a VERY long time now has been to visit Berlin. I will finally get to tick it off the list in December. On the list of things to see is – to take a stroll down the Potsdamer Platz, to visit Checkpoint Charlie and Hansa Studios. One or two other things too, hopefully. A David Bowie (and Iggy Pop) pilgrimage.

The other thing on the list will be to stand outside of Kant Kino…well…I might just go in and see a film…who knows? It’s still open as a cinema complex.

My Favourite Live Album – Bring On The Night – Sting

I love The Police. Stewart Copeland is my absolute number one drumming hero. To be blessed with even a snippet of this deftness and finesse at the skins is the stuff of my dreams.

The Police were well and truly disbanded by the time I was really getting into them. But I continued to love Sting’s solo work and bought the Dream Of The Blue Turtles as soon as it was released.

I have no recollection of what brought me to the decision to buy Bring On The Night. I may have heard a track aired on radio. Or perhaps it was on special offer at the time. Or perhaps the local library had a copy and I borrowed it and fell in love? My mind is sketchy as to the circumstances now.

But I remember playing it often on breezy balmy nights.

A favourite track from it? It’s hard to pick just one.

At the time “I Burn For You” was. I found it just…emotionally beautiful. Full of yearning and longing. I may have been a tender 15 soon to be 16 when it was released…but as a teenage girl, I already felt I had those yearnings and longings. The song would bring me to tears.

We Work The Black Seam…it had such atmosphere to it compared to the studio version (which I love too).

Down So Long – it’s just so much fun. And I actually used to sing along even to the band namechecks. And I took particular notice of “on the drums Omar Hakim!” In the days before the Internet, I wanted to know more about him. What other bands had he played for? Was he a session drummer? Or was he with a band? How long had he been playing? Etc, etc. Sting has worked with the best drummers in the world. Honestly. He knows how to pick them. Then again, a bass player is always going to want to have the best drummers to play with.

But the favourite now (as it was also then)? Tea In The Sahara – I loved this version so much more than what was on Synchronicity. It was always so beautifully melancholic and so full of emotion.

So, there we are. Probably as about as obscure as you can go for a live album favourite.

By and large, live albums have never done much for me other than to turn me off the idea of going to gigs. NOTHING and I mean NOTHING beats being there. And few live albums ever gave me the sense of wanting to go to a gig from listening to it. In actual fact most manage to put me off the idea of live music and the gig experience.

This album is one that actually made me want to go to a gig.

 

As for an overall favourite live track? My favourite live track of all is this…”Angel or devil, I don’t care, for in front of that door there is….. ‘ME! ME! ME! ME!'”

Can You Hear Me, Major Tom? Fifty Years On.

Today is the 50th anniversary of the release of Space Oddity.

I’m trying to have some recollection of when I first heard it. Obviously not when it was released, is it came out some 15 months before I was born. I don’t have any clear recollection when I did finally hear it but I know I’d have been very young and it would have been on the radio.

I have a clearer memory of hearing Sorrow on the radio quite a bit. And probably at the time of its release as it would have been 1973 and I know I was very young when I first recall hearing it. I remember it being a Bowie song (well, actually a cover) that I really liked.

As for Space Oddity…how can you not be drawn in by the song’s theme and its opening? The countdown sequence. It’s a magical thing. And pretty far removed from anything else on the eponymous 1969 album – alternatively titled “Man Of Words/Man Of Music” when released in the USA.

It was a very timely…and I am sure in fact, deliberately canny, release with Apollo 11 heading off for the Moon less than a week later. It made it to number 5 in the UK charts due largely on the strength that the BBC used it during coverage of the return journey by the Apollo 11 astronauts to Earth.

Happy Anniversary Space Oddity. Fifty years young, and a timeless classic.

Why I Love…Changeling

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The dancefloor. Frigging hell! Did Simple Minds know how to fill it back in the day. I guess they still do to be fair.

But let us rewind back to 1979. Rockfield Studios in the Welsh countryside. Five young men from Glasgow are in the studio making the followup to their debut album. An album that really couldn’t be more different to the first. They are still just babies, with the average age of them being just 20. They are still very much learning their craft. Recording in the studio next door are none other than Iggy Pop and David Bowie. Could life get any sweeter?

Yes it could. These five young men band together and make one of the best dance tracks of the late 1970’s as you are ever likely to hear.

OKAY! I’ll be the first to admit that…given all the changes in lyrics that Jim Kerr has made in SM songs over the years…esp. early on (he would rewrite songs entirely from demo to album recording), it’s quite a thing that there wasn’t a change made to the opening line to Changeling. I suppose that was the curse of there being no demos for Real To Real Cacophony. They went straight into recording.

The sticking point, lyrically, is that horrible propensity for snidey shits to take the mickey out of the opening line and continue to sing along to Wombling Free, which I’ve got to say…I don’t know what it does to Jim…but to me, it fucking pisses me off no end!

Perhaps we should concentrate on the musical structure of the song for now? Synths and bass opening with an instant dance hook. Drum grooves quickly follow and then a simplistic yet fab guitar riff. Industrial dance grooves. Fuck these boys were good at them! There’s nothing quite like this on Life In A Day. They hadn’t made a sound quite like this, yet…but boy does it signal the start of a very identifiable early “Simple Minds” signature sound. An aural “watermark”, if you will.

I really don’t know anyone who could listen to this track and not tap their feet or their hands and just get hooked in by the groove.

In spite of what the Arista execs hear at the UK HQ with Real To Real Cacophony in which they appear utterly dumbfounded, they do seem to make the right choice in having Changeling as the lead (but unfortunately subsequently ONLY) single off the album. How they didn’t then follow it up with Factory and Premonition is anyone’s guess. One can only assume they were already becoming concerned that SM was going to leak money hand over fist.

Changeling has no chart success, so one assumes that is why there are no other singles released from the Real To Real Cacophony album.

The failure of the single to chart can’t be down to it being deemed “not good enough” by the music consumer of the time? Just listen to it! Was it just overlooked from a then pretty flooded market? Singles at this point sold in their THOUSANDS every week. Albums had their importance then too, but the single was still king at this point. To the point where single picture sleeves were at their height. A single was packaged with as much of a visual selling point as an album was at this point in time. Every Simple Minds single released so far had been in a picture sleeve…Changeling being no exception. Did the picture sleeve “sell” the single? Hmmm…I’m unsure it did much. Life In A Day was certainly simplistic in its design, but it made an impact nonetheless. As for Chelsea Girl? She was on the mark. Jim was on the mark for wanting that Jean Shrimpton painting as the cover.

But for Changeling…I don’t know what a greyscale image of some hosepipe really tells you about the song. There’s a kind of industrial look to the cover, yes…but where I think the texture and simplicity of the Real To Real Cacophony album cover works to sell it (luring you in wondering what the hell this album is about as the cover actually gives NOTHING away by design) – that same simplistic approach falls flat for the Changeling single.

Back to the song itself. Let’s get back to those lyrics. Young Mr Kerr, what you on about, boy? Lol. For me, I gotta say that Changeling is a very rare beast in that it is all about the tune, the groove and not much about The Boy’s songwriting…for a change. I still love the words…but they mean fuck all. Lol. But hey….some of my absolute favourite Bowie songs are pure gobbledegook. The Burroughs technique has a lot to answer for, sometimes. I couldn’t write a song that means SOMETHING…let alone one that doesn’t really mean anything at all but sounds like it does anyway. And to me…that’s master craftsmanship.

In summary? In the simplest terms, it’s a dancefloor filler. Possibly Simple Minds’ first. At least one of the first, blazing a trail for more killers that follow…I Travel, Celebrate, This Fear Of Gods, Love Song, The American…the list goes on (and on and on 😜).

And that is why I love Changeling.

(PS: Jim can’t mime to save his life….but I bloody love him anyway!)

The Master Of The Art

I’m always flicking through the pages of the music mags. Not much really has me stopping for too long. (Perhaps to my detriment? A slow reader’s curse that to be drawn in to read something, you REALLY have to grab their attention – going by my own experience anyway.)

I suppose I am finding myself studying Lou Reed quite a bit of late. Not in an involving and methodical way like I have done with others who end up deeply piquing my musical interest. Bowie very much became a study piece as much as a musical exploration. If I’d have taken an OU degree in English Lit. say, Bowie in some way or other could have ended up the subject of my thesis.

I can feel it possibly going that way now with Lou Reed. Exploring his work deeper. I am certainly starting to feel that sense of the story itself being as important as the music. But I think that is what usually pulls me in to those musical artists I admire and covet most. They are great storytellers, either by encapsulating the narrative verbally, or creating a visual palette of what is being told with an inner visual artist flair. (John Foxx’s description of Jim Kerr being the “the best internal movie director” always springs to mind. It is my favourite description of Jim as a songwriter and it is just so…”on point”, as the whippersnappers say these days).

I really am starting to get that there is much more to Lou than meets the eye.

The Doughnut Dinner 4 Four

I was listening in to Gary Crowley on BBC Radio London and he brought up the topic of musical dinner guests. You could invite four guests, dead or alive, to dine with. You could also share what you’d make or serve them to eat.

Gary’s own choice for guests were Nina Simone, John Lennon, Sly Stone and Siouxsie Sioux and he said he’d serve Italian and Japanese food.

He was asking listeners to submit their choices. I thought I’d fire off a quick email and send it in, never thinking he’d actually read it out!

Here he is reading out my choice of dinner guests and what I’d serve them. It is audio only, of course, hence the black screen but just click it to hear the audio.

Tantrum Doughnuts ALL THE WAY, BABY! Lol.

 

Lodger At 40

Today is the 40th anniversary of the release of the Lodger album by David Bowie. A rather jumbled up travelogue of an album. The travel theme running heavily through side A of the album with: Fantastic Voyage, African Night Flight, Move On, Yassassin (Turkish for Long Live) and Red Sails.

Side B’s theme alters and shifts back to menial points of life, work, home, family…death, mental illness, domestic violence – the only slight thorn in the side is Boys Keep Swinging as it seems more tongue-in-cheek with its theme. Well, DJ is to a degree too. But there are darker themes explored in Look Back In Anger (mental illness/death) and Repetition (domestic violence).

It sadly ends with a rather inferior version of Iggy Pop’s sublime Sister Midnight in Red Money. Compared to Sister Midnight, Red Money feels derivative. I never used to mind it much. I wasn’t aware and got into Iggy until after I heavily got into David. As the years have passed, I am always far more appreciative of Iggy’s side of the Bowie/Pop collaborations, it somewhat pains me to say.

Although seen as being part of the “Berlin trilogy”, it was actually recorded in Montreux, Switzerland and mixed in New York. I always found it curious it was put in a trio with Low and Heroes. I have always felt the trio SHOULD be, at least more musically, Station To Station-Low-Heroes.

Here’s to Lodger! “The hinterland. The hinterland. We’re gonna sail to the hinterland!”