Themes For Great Cities – Other Reviews

There have been some other great reviews coming in for Graeme Thomson’s Themes For Great Cities book.

Firstly, Classic Pop magazine gave a glowing review. And recently, both Uncut and Electronic Sound magazines have reviewed it. The Electronic Sound review is succinct yet wonderfully positive. The Uncut review gives the book an 8/10 and its opinion of Graeme Thomson as a writer is wholly positive, but the rest of the review is rather backhanded and quite dismissive and scathing of the band. Almost as if the reviewer wondered why Thomson had bothered to waste his talent and energy in telling the Simple Minds story? Well, that’s how the review read to me anyway.

See what you think…

I still think my own review is the best of the lot of them so far. And I don’t usually plug myself with this much bravado! You can read my review HERE – and don’t forget that I am running a competition to win one of two copies of the book. Check the review post for details! The comp closes on Sunday, January 23rd.

Graeme himself was pretty awed by my review, as you can see below… I admit to being quite stunned by his reaction to it. And very humbled. A few tears were shed.

Minds Music Monday – Chelsea Girl OGWT

Early days of 2022. Early days of Simple Minds. One of the very first Kerr/Burchill compositions. The bane of my amateur drumming life. My hi hat playing sucks ass. I have no rhythm. I found Glittering Prize easier to play along to than this. I doff my cap to you, Mr McGee.

I’m now under the impression that Jim’s haircut at this point was a stroke of genius – even if it did end up in later years having him likened to Edmund Blackadder in the first series of the show. Lol. The proof of its genius is that we are here some 43 years later still discussing it. Kudos, Kerrmeister. Kudos!

Got to admire that gorgeous lullaby keywork from Mick on this as well. And Charlie with full-on rock two chord riff.

I always forget to praise Derek. Sorry, Dan. Lol. I think possibly because you are actually the most ubiquitous of all.

Happy New Year, Minds Music Monday-ers.

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!

As Dorothy Said To Aunty Em…

“There’s no place like home.” A much used quote lifted from The Wizard Of Oz. But it rings true. And it certainly seemed to have rung true on the nights of November 18th and 19th, 1982.

Simple Minds had just returned to Glasgow after another whirlwind stint of touring to the far reaches of the globe (yes, GLOBE – no “flat earth” conspiracy theorists here! Have ANY of these flat-earthers NEVER been on a plane? How do they explain the curvature of the earth and the horizon? I digress!) – heading back to Australia, New Zealand and Canada directly after the release of New Gold Dream.

I was looking into fanzines on eBay last night, after having seen an enquiring post on my FB feed about a certain Scottish produced fanzine. I thought I’d have a hunt around the interwebs and see what I could find. I decided on eBay first and got caught up looking at fanzines on there. One in particular caught my eye. One called Deadbeat. I looked at the listing of every issue and viewed the images, trying to scan and find more info on the fanzine production itself more than anything.

No one was then more surprised than me to find within the shared images of one listing of the magazine – THIS! A review of Simple Minds playing Tiffany’s in November, 1982. It’s unclear as to whether the reviewer is at the first gig or the second, but regardless of that it’s a glowing review.

The only error in the review is that they say Mike Ogletree is on drums. And it wasn’t until I was listening over the bootleg last night did I think to myself “Naw, pal. That ain’t Mike, that’s Mel.” Mike’s last gig was in Toronto about 10 nights prior to this gig. So in actual fact, it was Mel’s first or second night at the kit – depending on which night the reviewer was there.

They wax lyrical about Jim. Such praise! Excited at my discovery of this review last night I did a very rare thing (these days) and posted it to SMOG first with a link to Art & Talk’s upload of the November 18th gig to YouTube. In my post on SMOG, in reference to the lashings of praise heaped on Jim, I said “anyone would think I wrote the review! Lol.”

It is true though – anyone WOULD think I had time travelled and gone and reviewed it for the fanzine. It is wonderful to see such praise given to His Kerrness though. And it’s certainly nothing I wouldn’t have done myself.

A companion piece for me are the photos I have from Virginia of them playing the second night at Tiffany’s. My favourite photo of the set? One of Jim on the stage – looking pretty fucking sensational, I have to say in signature white collared shirt, shiny tailored trousers and black wee “ballet” shoes. And in the bottom left corner of the frame you can see his brother, Mark, looking as though he would rather be anywhere else than watching his big bro up on stage. Lol. Poor Mark! It’s not in the ones I have posted above, but you can view the particular photo I am referring to on Virginia’s site HERE

Lastly, here is the link to the first of the two Tiffany’s gigs that A&T uploaded. Oh, for a night at Tiffany’s! This is the next best thing…

P.S. Artwork used for the YT ident, eh? *wink* Thanks A&T!

Minds Music Monday – The ‘Cure All’?

Differing tastes. Songs that you don’t initially warm to and songs you love from the get go. This is the theme for MMM this week. 

I was pondering what I was going to write about this week – thinking that I more often than not choose earlier tracks. It’s my bias coming to the fore there really. If you gave me two albums to listen to – depending on the albums, I would most likely choose the earlier album. 

Let’s say those two albums laid down in front of me are Life In A Day or Big Music. Between the two of them, and the way I am feeling today (in particular) – I’d choose Big Music.

But the thing that really started the thought of this post was what song on Big Music do people tend to overlook or seem to express a disliking for? That seems to be Kill Or Cure. I love Kill Or Cure! I think it’s really sexy. I mean those lines in the chorus – especially the “you can spread yourself all over me” line – bloody hell! Don’t I wish! I honestly don’t get why it’s dismissed so much. How can you not hear how bloody SEXY it is?! I genuinely think it is one of the best tracks on Big Music. And that album – especially the deluxe version, with the addition of Liaison and Bittersweet makes Big Music quite the sensual experience.

But the reception of Kill Or Cure had me thinking about Simple Minds songs that I don’t warm to much. And in popped a link in my head. The word “cure”. One of the songs in the SM canon I didn’t warm to initially was No Cure. No Cure being a track on Life In A Day. 

The Life In A Day album I can listen to sure enough. But as has been discussed over the years, the things I enjoy more about the early Simple Minds era – especially the very early period between 1978-79 is listening to them live. The Thing I tend to wish for most is being able to see them with Magazine. Being able to see some gigs on that Secondhand Daylight tour – just as SM released Life In A Day. And frankly, I wouldn’t be bugging Jim for them to play Chelsea Girl. I get his frustration. It’s a shame he doesn’t get that same kind of frustration these days for feeling compelled to perform Don’t You (Forget About Me). 

Ah, the joys of seeing the 5×5 Live tour of 2012. All you lucky sods that bloody went!

No Cure was a bugbear for ages. And this is why I still use shuffle mode and have an absolute “kit and kaboodle” playlist of every single Simple Minds song…because on the odd occasion, the love grows. And that’s what happened with No Cure. Initially I couldn’t stand the song and would skip it. Then after a few times in a dwam of semi-sleep and it playing while listening to the “everything” playlist during the night – the song really grew on me. 

So, the link is the “Cure” – and the expanse of time in between – from early Minds to modern Minds and the songs that divide and unite. 

Perhaps without No Cure there’d be no Cocteau Twins? And for Simple Minds, without Cocteau Twins, there might not have been No Cure. I think compared to the demo that was done for Cocteau Twins you can hear on the “Early Years” CD, No Cure is more mature and more polished. I used to think No Cure sounded a bit too Boomtown Rats for me – but having just listened to Cocteau Twins again….that doesn’t really sound any less so. 

At the end of the day, I’ve grown to love No Cure and I loved Kill Or Cure from the start. 

And well…we need a “cure” this week, don’t we? A cure from the hangovers of Halloween. A cure from the fireworks of Bonfire night. And, most importantly – we need a cure for the world climate crisis. Another week of COP26 here in Glasgow. Let’s hope the leaders of the world can make the big and hard changes it is going to take to save this planet – if we think it’s worth bloody saving. 

I have no children of my own. But just because I am not a parent, it doesn’t mean I don’t give two shits about the future of the world and how future generations will live. In fact, the growing decline of the world and its growing population were strong factors in why I chose not to become a parent. It was the worry of what kind of world that I would bring lives into that made me reconsider the very fleeting notion I had of becoming a parent. Biggest factor of all was I’ve never felt very capable of looking after myself let alone be responsible for another or other human beings. 

Take humanity out of the equation completely – and I care enough for the animals we share this planet with not to be hellbent on destroying it. If we destroy this planet then that is sinister. It’s a monstrous act! We’ll never know. I almost wish the planet will be left to the animals. That humanity just fucks itself up and doesn’t take any other innocent party along with it.

Perhaps “the meek” – aka, all the rest of the animal kingdom – SHALL indeed inherit the earth. They deserve it much more than we do, in my humble opinion. 

The ultimate abolition of the human race – perhaps that is just the cure this world needs? 

(Shit. That went a bit dark and heavy, eh? Sorry about that!)

Anyway…either it be a Kill Or Cure, or No Cure at all. These songs are bloody braw!

Minds Music Monday – Ritchie’s Club – New Orleans – 27/04/1983

Ghost Dancer (aka Stuart Greaves) has shared another gem of a bootleg, this time of SM some seven months into the New Gold Dream tour of ‘82/‘83 – midway through the North American leg of the tour in April/May of 1983.

Playing the Ritchie’s Club in New Orleans, Louisiana. Recorded by a member of the crowd – hearing audible bits like the guy telling the girl next to him to stop talking to him as he’s recording the show. Lol (You tell her, pal!) The recording is a good one coming from the crowd as it does. Some people obviously managed to sneak in some great recording equipment to these gigs. Mates who were working as road crew on the night or some such? No idea how they did it, but kudos for doing so.

As for the band themselves and the gig? Well, as you’d expect by now, we hear all of the New Gold Dream album (Somebody Up There Likes You as their walk-on intro music), plus stonking versions of I travel, Celebrate, The American and Love Song. There’s a little of the set lost (changing the tape over in the recorder, I’m guessing?) where the ending of Hunter And The Hunted cuts off and we return about a third of the way through Promised You A Miracle.

It feels as though Jim is going through the motions a little bit at times. He wavers a little, especially towards to tail end of the set. There’s a bit of banter that happens. I’m guessing fans are asking for certain songs to be played. At one point Jim says “Naw. It’s too old.” But usually it is just “Thank you.” And an intro of the next song. I guess I am odd to miss that Jim, right? The one who never seemed overly engaging with the crowd? I guess I miss …. the intensity. Can one miss what they never truly experienced? I do love the ease of engaging “older statesman” Jim now though. He knows how to get the fans in a frenzy still, just with less “whirling dervish” manoeuvres and brooding frontman intensity and more “banter” and acknowledgement of the crowd.

Having said all that…if that was young Jim on an “off night”…imagine him when he was fully up for it?! ERMAGERRRRRD! I’d say he was 70/30 that night. 70 on, 30 off. Or there abouts.

Anyway, it is definitely a gig I’d listen to again.

Enjoy!

Virgins Boys – Virgin Photos – Part Two

After the post about Virginia’s photos of the day Simple Minds signed to Virgin Records in March, 1981…today THESE babies arrived!

Obviously my favourites are going to be the ones of Jim. In one he is poised to sign (or has just signed) the contract. He has those pursed lips there – the excited sign of concentration.

The other I love is him with Ronnie Gurr. He’s looking at Ronnie all smitten, like. Lol

Ronnie left comments on my sharing of these photos on Facebook. It seems Ronnie was still working for Arista at the time, but soon moved over to Virgin also.

“A great day. I was still an Arista boy but took the afternoon off and soon followed my pals by becoming a Virgin a few months later.” is what he had said to me.

And the rest, as they say, is history.