Minds Music Monday – Boys From Brazil – SAF/SFC 40th Anniversary Celebration

In the early 1980s (as in 1980, 1981 and early into 1982) Simple Minds were accused of being “too Euro-centric” and of not putting enough of their focus into closer to home – what was happening in the UK, or even just in Glasgow itself.

Why should there be criticism of such a thing? Why should a band that originates from one place feel compelled to focus their music within one region or one area of geography? And besides, the United Kingdom is in Europe, is it not? Glasgow, beyond being within Scotland and the UK is also in Europe, no?

Jim was very pragmatic with his response to such things. And of course he was right to point out that the band are constantly touring Europe and are experiencing and witnessing things happening there so why would they not write about those things?

With that said, some songs DID focus on “home”. A case in point is Boys From Brazil. Despite its title seemingly alluding to Brazilian youths, it is actually a title lifted from the novel by Ira Levin (which actually does have young Brazilian characters in it). The book centres around a plan for a new rise of Nazi’s with a “new Hitler” at the top. Fascism and Neo-Naziism was on the rise in the UK, with the likes of the National Front gaining an undercurrent of support. (Oh how things cycle round and round.) Simple Minds’ version of Boys From Brazil was an ambiguous look at the alarming growth of movements like the National Front.

I’d like to share a memory of when the song most impacted on me. It wasn’t upon first listen, although of course that must have made a large enough impact. You can’t not be bowled over by those drums! It was the first thing that hit me. It would be the first thing to hit anyone listening to the song for the first time. The beat is relentless! More on that in a moment.

So this memory of mine is of coming back from a gig. A gig that I still can’t quite believe I attended AND enjoyed! At this point in time, I am in my very earliest days of Simple Minds fandom. Barely three months in, in fact. It was September 25th, 2014. The gig? Nana Mouskouri at the Royal Albert Hall. I know! How “rock n roll”, eh? Well, let me explain the circumstance.

At that time I was kind of being a “pro comper” – I was entering competitions on a full time basis. Searching for and entering as many competitions as I could find to enter each and every day. There are LOADS of competitions you can enter out there, with varying degrees of prize worth. I did this for about 12 months or so and had some success with things that I won. Ultimately though, it didn’t seem worth the time and effort I was putting into it to carry on with it full time. The best prizes I have won have been entering competitions outside of my stint at pro-comping.

Anyway, one of the prizes I won during this “pro-comping” time was for a pair of tickets to see Nana Mouskouri at the Royal Albert Hall. I had entered thinking that it would be cheap enough to get into London on the coach and that I’d at least get to experience a concert at the Albert Hall for free.

It was really great. The seats were good. Not waaaaaay up in the gods, but not really close…just middling, with a decent enough view. A few weeks after the gig, Nana was turning 80, and although she wasn’t exactly prancing about the stage like Beyoncé, she did put on a really good show. I enjoyed the spectacle and the fans loved her.

On the coach ride home back to Luton, I listened to some SM. I was devouring the music voraciously at that point. Visiting Dream Giver daily, searching the web for photos and just wanting to know everything there was to know and already just sssoooo solidly gone on Jim. Lol. Despite the style of the gig and the genre of music on offer, I still had a post-gig buzz. I was fatigued but my head was buzzing. I had taken my iPod Touch with me in case I “got bored” while travelling and I could have the music as my companion. (I’d like to point out at this stage also that I was actually with my OH that night, but we sometimes do our own thing to keep occupied during such travelling journeys.) I put on a shuffle mix of SM songs. About 4 or 5 songs in and just as we get onto the M1 motorway stretch of the journey out of London, Boys From Brazil kicks in. It was really dark in the coach and there was one of those screens which shows footage of a front facing camera that is pointed at the road.

So this is my lasting image of hearing Boys From Brazil. Sometimes when it plays I am taken straight back to that coach coming home from the Mouskouri gig. That dark motorway and my ears just awash with this amazing music and my mind wandering with the views inside and outside the coach as well as being mixed with the imagery the song itself conjures up for me…dapper young men looking all “fantoosh”, drinking champagne from fine flute glasses, cigarettes held gently between forefingers and middle fingers, languishing by a pool, basking in sunshine. The very air of sophistication. Think Minds at the Kensington Roof Top garden circa 1981 – the Sweat In Bullet video, the promo photos for the release of Sons And Fascination. It is all that it conjures up in me. I’m sorry, Jim, but what were you saying about not being sophisticated? …

To come back to a excerpt of Jim’s talk with Ian Cranna placed at the top of the post (and also within his words with John Gill), though it certainly wasn’t his intent or objective, I do find the imagery I see in my mind’s eye that Boys From Brazil gives off has an air of romanticism. And having never been exposed to the book or film and not being familiar with the plot, the lyrics are definitely too ambiguous to give any kind of clue that the song is meant to be a passing comment on fascist movements in Britain. I would say probably Heaven 17 were more direct with their (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang. On the odd occasion perhaps ambiguity doesn’t pay? As wonderful as it is for “artistic licence”. But the Jim Kerr of that time built lyrics solidly on “ambiguities and fragments”. It made Simple Minds songs all the more mysterious for it. And combined with that sound it was a hypnotic meld.

Let’s discuss musicality of the track. Wow! Those drums! Honestly. I like to view that drumming work on Boys From Brazil as Brian McGee’s lasting legacy for his time with Simple Minds. I’ve seen comments in recent times describing Brian’s drumming as “dependable” and “adequate” but I think he was much more than that – and I think Jim would agree.

Posted to Simple Minds Facebook page – Feb 15th, 2016.

I really couldn’t talk about Boys From Brazil without discussing the incredible contribution that Brian McGee gave to Simple Minds. The thing that astonishes me to this day is…beyond the hours of driving the band around in crazy backwaters and all that was perilous in that…was that, as a drummer, he was self-taught. Self-taught at a time when there’s no Internet and no way to just … go onto YouTube and watch drum tutorials and be able to pick up how to play that way. And no video recording either – well certainly very little for home use anyway – so I am guessing all he had to go on to try and learn was by somehow being exposed to watching other drummers play. And for all that, if Brian is deemed only worthy of being referred to as “dependable” and “adequate” – WELL GIVE ME F***ING DEPENDABLE AND ADEQUATE, because I think he’s frigging fantastic!

Those drums drive the whole musical expression of the song. It might be ambiguous in storytelling, but it isn’t in any way ambiguous in musical intent. It veritably pins you to the wall and makes you pay attention for the whole of its five and a half minute duration.

A lot of fans talk about the “classic line-up”, referring to it being the team of Kerr, Burchill, MacNeil, Forbes and Gaynor. But just listen to the rhythm backbone dynamic of Forbes and McGee (who then went on to team up in Propaganda as well), and if you are going to put a label of “classic line-up” to Simple Minds, then that’s the one! Kerr, Burchill, MacNeil, Forbes and McGee.

Me (in raptures) and McGee

Those drums, that monotone single key synth note, then a flash of colour, then bass lines to die for…and then that rich, almost baritone depth of voice that Jim has at that time just all blend and grab you by the throat and just…assault you with musical perfection. Everything I love about this song. EVERYTHING! How relentless the rhythm is, that endless mono-tonal synth note, the understated guitar riffs from Charlie, and the richness of Jim’s voice and the nuances to his singing style. It is just utterly, utterly perfect.

It has never been performed live to a crowd. From what I have heard, it HAS been performed in soundcheck, so it has very nearly made it to a live airing.

In video interviews in recent years, Charlie seems keen to want to do it but for some reason, Jim seems more reluctant. It is weird that the reluctance seems to come from Jim. Perhaps he thinks it is too perfect? Hmmm, I doubt that would be his reasoning. I do feel somewhat forlorn that the two songs I love the most in the whole Simple Minds catalogue, Boys From Brazil and Wonderful In Young Life, are destined never to be performed live. But…perhaps it is a blessing in disguise? Again, I’m not sure about that. Wishful thinking on my part. It is somewhat perplexing that a band that prides itself in their live performance would resist certain songs and never perform them.

As a result of this, all I have to share is the studio version of the song. Not even a demo version exists as far as I am aware. But would I want to hear a demo version of “perfection”? I think I would. I am always interested to learn how a song has developed and how it progressed.

I do dream for a Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call box set.

Additional source material for this post provided by the “Simple Minds Bible” – Dream Giver Redux – www.simpleminds.org

Never enough gratitude can go to Simon and his amazing website. Thank you ❤️

Fiddy

Was sent the loveliest present by my friend, Ruth.

It’s been a quiet day.

Glasgow has put on some FANTABULOUS weather today.

BUT! I’m “Alive And Kicking”. I have my faculties. I’m warm and safe indoors. I have my furbabies to snuggle up to. It’s all good.

Yes, 2020 has been a pretty shit year – and absolutely devastating to many. And I haven’t been going through the best mental state the past few weeks but I appreciate things could be sssooo much worse!

It would be lovely if Jim wished me a happy birthday. Just this time. Just…for my 50th. It’s a milestone after all. And just maybe I would stop feeling like he bloody hates my guts and can’t stand me any more…but hey ho. I just have to count my blessings.

I’ll always love and adore him anyways. He’s beautiful. ❤️

My favourite thing to watch – because I get to look at his tits for AGES! Best. Video. EVER! Kerr – you have got the sexiest chest! I WANT TO LICK YOUR NIPPLES! Lol #SorryNotsorry

Fiddling With The Kit

I’m starting to get to grips with the new kit. Need to do some height and space adjustments to get it right in the sweet spots I want it in.

Some audio below of me fiddling about. You can hear some of the plethora of sounds you can get from the module settings. The are 10 styles of kit to choose from and then many variations from there.

For those wanting to know exactly what the kit is, it’s a Yamaha DTX452K

 

 

200703-174602.mp3

 

Drum Lesson And Practice – June 29th, 2019

Yesterday was the first tuition I’ve had in two months. Gareth was great. Started me back right from scratch, really. We went right back to basics. We worked on stick grip, rudiments, grooves and fills.

I can’t really talk a lot about it…not really going into much detail. And it felt a lot to take in yesterday because I was so apprehensive about it, but really excited too. There was a lot to take in. Well, it felt a lot yesterday and because I’m so anxious about it all, not everything sinks in immediately.

I checked with Gareth that he wouldn’t mind me recording the lesson. He was fine with that. I won’t be sharing any of that, but I will still share a bit of my own practice here and there.

I’m really thankful that he’s okay with me recording because as it was with Cherisse, upon playback, things register better. My brain absorbs the information better and I always have it to reference it.

I’m about halfway through listening to yesterday’s lesson…and I just lost it. Gareth had me playing along to (rather ironically) No Woman No Cry…and I just started blubbing like a fool. I could just feel it and I could see him in the room with me, helping me keep to the beat, dancing around the room to it and it was just lovely thinking about it…and I just lost it, I feel like an idiot! (I’m crying all over again typing this out! I’m such an oversensitive idiot.)

I’ve just wanted this for so, so long. It was like the 8 year old me was in that room yesterday, learning.

As you get older…once you get to adulthood, you just think all this stuff is just too late. That it’s too late and you’ve missed your chance and it’s all gone. “Don’t bother now. It’s too late. You’re too old. You can’t afford it. And you’ll never learn. You’ll never pick it up. Your mind is young enough. You won’t be as much of a sponge.”

I still feel like that. The adult me says…”You’re 48! Why bother now? Where’s the money gonna come from? How will anything sink in?”

And then I was listening to the lesson and how it was all sinking in and just listening to the playing. Hearing myself play to Bob Marley…and it’s joyous and liberating and wonderful and that 8 year old is there inside saying “Wow. This is cool. I’m getting this. And my teacher is cool. And we’re having fun. And I’m learning and playing…”

And now my face is an absolute mess!

Such a silly cow.

So yesterday was wonderful. And I still want this. More than ever.

But how I continue to do? Who knows…

We’ll see.

Drum Practice – June 23rd, 2019

Woke up mega tired. Didn’t sleep that well. Had silly trivial things (in the context of things) on my mind. Set out early today and got to Mill Hill in plenty o’ time.

I walk past the entrance to a park on my way to the rehearsal rooms each week. So with a bit of time to spare this week, I thought I’d take a quick detour. It’s an ordinary looking park. A decent size for play, etc. A few dog walkers were about. A lady passed me with her cute little Pomeranian in tow. I sat on a park bench for a few mins, setting the world to rights. Lol

I try and hit the studio each week without any overriding feelings of anything. Nothing too positive or negative. Just trying to stay balanced. It obviously doesn’t always work!

I’m getting used to the little routine I have when I enter the room to set up. Get the little recording device out and get that going. Grab the iPod Touch, over-ear headphones and ear protectors, to alternate between them as and when. Adjust the kit. It still drives me nuts (adjusting the kit), but it just has to be done. The day I have my own kit, and it is just ready for me every day….I’ll be kissing my drum kit with a greeting! Lol

I had two goes with my mix of songs. I tentatively tried to play along with fills and things. Really not as easy as it seems it will be doing the stick practice at home.

I also tried playing the backbeats to Glittering Prize. OMG! If Mel Gaynor was no longer with us, he’d have been rolling in his grave today! Lol. If he ever hears my attempt, he WILL die! Lol. 😂😂😂😂

But instead of just getting frustrated and angry, or despondent and disillusioned…I just tried to make it fun today. Just resign myself to it – in a positive way. Just accept there’s a way to go…but just relax. Just try to enjoy the time more. It’ll make the learning easier in the end. I spoke over the top of what I was “playing” and just took the piss out of myself.

One drumming session at a time. Tiny smatterings of progress MAY just happen that I don’t detect. I dunno. I’ve just got to get into the habit of embracing the frustrations and accepting them happening and see them as fun too. What I am doing is fun! I get to make a racket and hit and bash things for two hours.

This week I just tried to play along as confidently as my lack of actual musicality and expertise will allow. Just to loosen up and just have fun. I’ll even share a bit of my stuff on here, just because I think they’ll be funny. Just me waffling and playing and giving “critiques” to myself on the fly.

Next week, I am very, VERY excited about. AT LAST! I get tuition again! Not with Cherisse, as she is still on the road with Kelly Jones at the mo…and I think will have a few other things after the tour ends. So next week, Gareth will be my tutor. I really am overdue some tuition time. There is stuff I want to get moving onto and implementing. I need some routine with this. If I am serious.

I just feel like…I started the commitment, so I need to give it a good old stab for a while, you know?

Anyway. Appalling but funny snippets to come…and YAY to next week!

Drum Practice Samples – June 16th

I dunno whether there is any real point in sharing these…other than to have handy snippets for myself to log POTENTIAL progress. We’ll see…

The sample snippets are: me playing along to The Traveling Wilburys’ Handle With Care, some general practice incorporating hi hat pedal play and drum fills, and playing along to Make It Wit Chu by Queens Of The Stone Age – my crash plays are not inline with where the song’s crashes are. I was just trying to give myself ample practice. My cymbal playing and timing is diabolical…but there you go. I’m four months in…what do I expect?

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Drum Practice – June 16th, 2019

Back to a full two hour session this week.

Weather wise, it was pissing it down when I left the house this morning. Then it stopped for a bit. Pissed down again. Then eventually stopped for good. Mercifully didn’t get too wet. Who’d believe it’s the middle of June, eh? Blow me!

Another small mercy. No train complications or anything. My 11.21 train was running and on time.

This week I took my over-ear cheap pair of Sennheisers with me. YES! Cheaper Sennheiser headphones do exist and they work just as well as the ones you’d pay hundreds for – I would think – I’ve never DARED invest more than £50 on a pair of ‘phones. I didn’t pay this much for these Sennheisers. Only about £20 and I’ve had them several years.

So, took the over-ear cans so I didn’t have to use the amp to play my mix of tracks that I practice playing along to at home. I had been missing the opportunity to play with them on the actual kit. Just hadn’t been very successful with setting up the play along at the rehearsal room right. ANYWAY, this week – fab! I needed the over-ears to get the ratio of hearing the tracks playing but also hearing myself playing in time (or at least TRYING to play in time) right. Got the sound levels right right off the bat and started playing along once I had the kit set as near as possible to my liking without wasting too much time on that. Must have been a kid in before me, as the snare was nearly on the bloody floor it was down so low. Lol. Snare was waaaay down, but the hi hat was higher than normal. Go figure *shrugs*

I just…got on with things this week. Just got on with business, like. When I am playing along to songs, I don’t do fills or crashes, because usually the fills and crushes and things are on the backbeat or on a separate time signature to the rest of the song. That I am now finding a bit frustrating. I want to start getting coaching on how I start to do that. I feel I really, REALLY need a lesson right now. Now, I THINK the Kelly Jones tour takes a small break for about 10 days or so after tonight’s London gig and Cherisse said to me she might be able to squeeze a lesson in…but it might not happen. So…I may be another month off having another lesson, which will just…kill me. Lol.

I think if she doesn’t do any tutoring until mid July, I might have to book a 90 intensive session just to feel like I am getting back on track properly.

In the mean time, next week is booked and ready to go, but looking ahead…July could be a bit iffy for practice. My Race For Life 10km event is on July 7th. I’ll be far too knackered after that to think about a practice session. I may think about altering it to the Saturday that week and maybe shortening it to just an hour. We’ll see. The other weekend in July that will affect things is the weekend of the Trevor Horn gig. I’ll be leaving for Glasgow at about 5am on the Saturday (July 27th) morning and won’t be back in London until 6.30am on Monday – so that knocks out any chance of anything for that weekend. UNLESS! I find a place in Glasgow I can practice in! Oooh…there’s a thought! We shall think on with that one!

I’m halfway through playing back practice. It doesn’t sound too bad. But I am just craving for some incremental advancements in tuition right now. But I felt fairly good this week. That’s the crux of it.

P.S. I meant to say. I walked 11km today. I was absolutely KNACKERED when I got home. When I was listening to my recording of my practice…I fell asleep! Lol. Maybe I am getting some musicality to my playing? Lol. I wish!

Here’s my drum practice mix I play to…

Giving Yourself A Break While Fighting The Black Dog

This evening I played the recording of Saturday’s practice back. And, okay, yep. I do think I am probably being incredibly hard on myself.

But… I need to be don’t I? Otherwise how the fuck am I ever going to get any better? Yes?

But… I am so thankful I took the advice of Emily Dolan Davies (click on her name to be taken to her fab website A Drummer’s Guide To) – otherwise I’d believe week after week that I am playing far worse than I am. It ebbs and flows, obviously. On Saturday I was SUPER down on myself. Just felt completely fucked up.

But I really wasn’t as bad as I thought.
YES! I still had my moments. I really did struggle with my hi hat timing and rhythm this week…but…I need to learn to give myself a break.

What makes it harder is when, at the point you are having your kit practice, not only are you questioning why you continue to do it, but you are questioning the much grander thought and perplexity of the existence of the entire human race.

Actually, this week was odd. For once I didn’t actually find myself questioning why I was there practicing. I suppose I felt I had much bigger fish to fry this week. What would be the point of me questioning why I was at drumming practice when I was more preoccupied with pondering why I am even here on the planet at all! Why we’re all here.

I feel the only why to fight the black dog is to suppress his bark. Engage a metaphorical mute button. Put earplugs in to drown him out. When he looks his most vicious…just smile at him. It’s hard. You have to just snap the brain (and this is just my own personal way around it…and thankfully it works most of the time – if it ever fails, I am going to be in BIIIIG trouble!) into that mindset. No matter how delusional it may feel. And it does to me. 100%! I feel I am absolutely deluding myself to put it at the back of my mind and smile and carry on.

The other way that also works is..acceptance. There is no rhyme and reason to us being here. We just…are. So…for whatever way you live your life…however way you live through it…just do it. And just…strive to be the best version of you that you can be.

So…no more about THAT “black dog”…let’s have THIS Black Dog instead!

Boy On Film

I upgraded one of my art apps a few days ago. The previous Prip piece was done incorporating one of the new settings now available to me. Of course I start off a new piece tonight thinking I’d use more of the new things available to me.

Nope! Much like the muse I doggedly work with…I stuck to all the settings and options I had available to me for free.

I’m an old stick-in-the-mud! Lol

I cannot wait to get my own space for painting and drumming. My own little art studio. I’ll probably freeze to death, as I envisage this thing being a glorified shed down the back of a garden somewhere in the southside of Glasgow. Soundproofed, of course – to protect peoples’ ears from the drumming and the wails of frustration as I paint away.

I am definitely from the Howard Hodgkin philosophy of art (ie: art is pain and there’s nothing enjoyable about it). It sets off my depression BIG TIME – painting…but there’s a compulsion too. And I miss it.

And I will continue the digital art. Always. It’ll be a counterbalance. The digital art *IS* joy, and therapy. It is the thing I love. Esp. when I am working on Mr Muse. How can it not be? LOOK AT HIM! Like I need more excuses. Lol

Drumming Practice – May 26th

I don’t know if this will be a weekly thing or what. I’m not sure I’ll be brave enough to share much.

I think I’ve been doing this a month now. Well, I’ve had four sessions now. Two hours each time. With varying levels of “success”. It’s still early days, of course. I’ve only had three lessons with Cherisse, spaced about three weeks apart and it’s been about 5 weeks since my last lesson.

Today felt kinda good. I’m accepting I am shit. It’s just how it is. How can I be anything else? I had my first lesson with Cherisse in March. I mean…not quite three months in with a total of three hours of lessons and eight hours of kit practice.

I’ll give it time. But I really don’t sense any natural ability in myself. I feel like I have atrocious rhythm and my hi hat playing is just awful! But today, I came up with my own little rhythm to practice. Below is a little sample of it.

Oh, I do wish I could turn back the clock…