Time to have a new display of Virginia Turbett photos…
The theme? Edinburgh, 1981 – outdoors and Odeon soundcheck.
Time to have a new display of Virginia Turbett photos…
The theme? Edinburgh, 1981 – outdoors and Odeon soundcheck.
Wondering if that also means the Summer Sessions gigs in Princes Street Gardens are off too? That’ll be yet ANOTHER Simple Minds gig nae happening then?
Fuck you 2020! Fuck you Coronavirus!
Why? I mean… of course Edinburgh needed a gig. But couldn’t we have had a Summer Nights gig at the Kelvingrove Bandstand too?
I have enough gigs to be getting on with, I guess.
Anyways… another gig. Edinburgh this time. August 18th. Further details, info to buy tickets, etc, from the usual sources.
UPDATE: Tickets are now on sale. I bought my ticket via Tickets Scotland as they were several pounds cheaper than Ticketmaster. It’s not my place to tell you where to buy tickets from. I thought it useful info, but other people have different ideas. But if you want to save a few quid (around about £8 on a VIP ‘inner bowl’ ticket, then here’s the link you need. (As of time of posting, Inner Bowl tickets have already sold out.)
It’s the summer of 1978. Simple Minds have been alive and kicking for several months. Jim Kerr and David Henderson (sometimes with Graffiti record store manager Scott MacArthur in tow), during days between Simple Minds’ weekly residency at the Mars Bar, go knocking on doors trying to drum up record company interest, handing over a demo tape.
Simple Minds have just secured their first gig outside of Glasgow, in Edinburgh. Upon word-of-mouth recommendations and due partly to his reputation as a knowledgable man of music through his chain of records stores, Bruce Findlay is visited by Kerr and Henderson during their visit to Edinburgh.
I begin my conversation with Bruce by asking how signing Simple Minds to Zoom Records came about.
Did Brian Hogg recommend you sign Simple Minds after having seen them play, or did you make the decision yourself once you’d seen them live?
BF: No, what happened with that was Jim and David Henderson came to see me in Edinburgh and had a demo they wanted me to listen to. They were playing in Edinburgh that night (the gig in question was at The Astoria, Abbeymount on August 10th, 1978), but I couldn’t go so Brian went instead. He just raved about the gig the next morning, saying how amazing they were. ‘You should see them, Bruce’! “The best thing since sliced bread.” He went on to describe how the gig was in detail. How they performed. That Pleasantly Disturbed was like a little symphony in one song. So it just sounded so exciting.
Fortunately they had a residency at the Mars Bar in Glasgow at the time that they had established over the previous couple of months. They’d already made a reputation for themselves. So I went to see them on the Sunday (Aug 13th) in Glasgow. They’d put me on the guest list as their gigs were now selling out every week. I was blown away by the gig. I hung out with them back stage afterwards and spoke to them.
Essentially I would have loved to have signed them right away, except I thought they were too good. Zoom at this point was just a singles label. I had released a few singles independently. I had only just signed a deal with Arista to get more financial backing, but it was still very much for me a singles label. That Zoom was a singles label and bands that I would work with would see it as a stepping stone to getting initial material released and as a consequence drum up further interest from bigger, well-established record labels. I didn’t see Zoom at that point as being a label that would release albums. That was not my ambition for Zoom.
So when I saw Simple Minds, I didn’t think they were ‘too good’ for me, per se, but that they were beyond the point of releasing a single and needing that stepping stone. And equally they didn’t come to me wanting to be signed or looking for a deal. They weren’t even looking for me to be their manager. They came to me because they were told I was a good guy to talk to.
So after that first initial Mar Bars gig I saw, I went to just about every other one. I also got other gigs for them outside of Glasgow, with the help of George Duffin. I got them more gigs in Edinburgh and got them introduced to [promoters] Regular Music and got them some good support slots. In the meantime, I hung out with them. I used to crash out and stay the night at Jim’s parents flat. Jim and I would sit up til all hours of the morning discussing…’the revolution’. Discussing what the band wanted and what their ambitions were, the state of the music business. We talked about all sorts of things. What we liked. What we didn’t like. [I must admit to getting just a tad envious at this point. Lol.] And we got to know each other. Me and the whole band, you know, but particularly with Jim. I occasionally stayed at Brian McGee’s house as well. His parents had a bigger house.
So that is how it all came about. Brian Hogg, yes, he went to see them before me on the night they had come to see me in Edinburgh and raved about them to me, so that was a big influence.
So Brian went to see them on the basis that Jim and David had been to visit you that afternoon, rather than having seen them by chance?
BF: I think he might have been going to see them anyway. It was a very exciting time with new music and because I had the Zoom label going and Brian was working with me at Zoom, we were interested in new music, and we were excited by it. It was quite a revolutionary kind of time. Quite an exciting time for new bands and new music and it was the birth of what became “the indie scene”. We were there at the beginning. I launched Zoom in 1977. So by the time Simple Minds came to see me in the summer of 1978, I had already released six or seven singles on the Zoom label. We were up and running. And I had a fanzine going called Cripes that was distributed through the record shops that Brian [Hogg] and I edited. So we were enthusiasts, as well as writing about stuff in the fanzine that we were involved with, either through selling the records in our shops or signing bands to the label or wanting to sign them. We’d also plug other labels. We were a broad church and we just liked the whole scene.
I saw a revolution, if you like. I thought the whole country; every little town, every big city, every serious independent record shop should start a record label. I saw the future as being hundreds of little labels, as opposed to five major ones, and the smaller independents would have an alliance with the majors. I started selling my releases to the distributor Rough Trade who then in turn started a record label. I was selling records in Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham. All over the place. Zoom releases. I was very keen and enthusiastic in encouraging others to start a label. I mean I encouraged Lenny [Love] with Sensible Records. I encouraged Bob Last when he started Fast Records and I promoted his records through Bruce’s record shops. I wasn’t wanting to take over the world. I was wanting to share the world with everyone else. That was the whole philosophy behind the thing.
But what happened with Simple Minds was they created a real buzz and the big guns in London were sniffing around and they were very keen for Simple Minds to go to London to play. So what we did to combat this London-centric idea, this notion that to “make it big” you must go to London, we made the big wigs there come up to us. In fact, initially we didn’t play in England at all. We thought if record companies were really THAT keen, they’d come and see us.
Again, at the point I was just an adviser. Unpaid, non-committal (but fully behind them wishing for them to succeed), and they had no obligation to me but because I began to talk on their behalf to these record companies, when push came to shove, whenever they [the labels] showed any serious interest they were told “speak to Bruce” and I’d speak to them. Finally Arista said to me “why don’t we give you the money so you can sign them to Zoom?” I wanted them to have an album deal. They deserved proper funding to go full-time, pay wages, and go for it. I thought “they’re ready”. Thoroughly professional in their mentality and attitude. Very together. Jim had a terrific vision for the band. He was a very bright kid. Nineteen years of age but he really knew what he wanted. Ruthless as well. He was really strong in his opinions and what he wanted and how he saw the band developing.
I then asked Bruce about the recording of Life In A Day.
The next part of the interview is in audio:
Continuing on from the audio…
BF: And all the songs were kind of there. If anything, in hindsight…I mean the band…within weeks of releasing it kind of went off it and couldn’t wait to start on the next album. They thought it was a bit derivative. All the critics had a go at them. “Oh, they sound a bit like Roxy Music and a little of Lou Reed” … and a little of this and a little bit of that and all of that of course was true. The band wore their influences on their sleeves. Personally speaking, I think it was a brilliant album. I think it was a brilliant debut album and I think it deserves a lot more praise than it got and it should have been a hit album. Life In A Day is a great track. Chelsea Girl was a classic. Some of the album tracks, Someone and Pleasantly Disturbed are fabulous. Yeah, it was maybe a wee bit…”John Leckie production” if you like but he had to put his stamp on it. John’s a lovely guy, but the band’s own confidence wasn’t there at that point, in the studio, but it came very quickly. The next album was dynamic. Completely different and much more experimental. But I was proud of the first album. I didn’t agree with Jim when he dismissed it.
I then asked the next question rather badly, and not very succinctly.
And audio extract follows:
What was the decision behind choosing the Rolling Stones mobile studio to record Life In A Day? Why not choose to record at, say, CaVa Studios in Glasgow instead?
BF: The Rolling Stone mobile was used – and we recorded some of it at Abbey Road Studio as well. I mean, come on, can you imagine the thrill? Derek Forbes in particular, who is a massive Beatles fan, going into the studio where The Beatles recorded all their stuff? So we needed to move away from CaVa and these places. Again, with hindsight, there’s nothing wrong with having…in many ways we could have done it at CaVa as it happens.
I mean nowadays you can record albums at home with Pro Tools and suchlike but in those days the thing was to get into the big and to use bigger studios and to use what the big bands had done. And there was an excitement and a thrill to it. Remember these were young kids. They’re a bunch of teenagers making their first record and although they were bright and they were smart, you know, the thrill of going into the bigger studio, the thrill of working with a serious producer – not that Brian Young wasn’t a serious guy at CaVa. He was a friend. And the demos were all good. In fact, I would still argue that Chelsea Girl, the demo, is ten times better than Chelsea Girl the album recording. But John Leckie got them to change the arrangement a bit. John needed to stamp his thing on it too. John was a terrific producer and the next two albums he produced are classics. Real To Real Cacophony and Empires And Dance, for me, are sensational albums and should have been smash hits. And it was one of the reasons we didn’t stay in the licence deal with Arista…but that’s another story.
Part two of the interview can be read HERE
A cracking acoustic version of Home…because today I have been trying to see if it’s doable. If I can get out there. It won’t be the longest trip…but it would be a start!
Better get my bloody skates on if I’m going to try and make it for the gig!
It’s an odd piece, this one. Almost like how Jim described the opening line to Barrowland Star to me a couple of weeks back. It’s about everything and nothing…all at once.
And this is the second time I’ve read about him being sick (not quite) on stage. But the first time coming directly from him.
He’s such a damn contradiction at that time. One minute he’s saying he was nervous and threw up…the next he’s saying he never gets nervous on stage…that it’s OFF stage, in intimate settings with strange people, is when he gets nervous.
I find this man endlessly, ENDLESSLY fascinating…beguiling…beautiful…
I had to post this on SMO FB (the pic). Back in June at the Rip It Up exhibition in Edinburgh, I sssooooo wanted to sneak a pic of this neon sign, but I didn’t dare! It just instantly made me think of Jim and my silly fetish…and his interview with Georgey Spanswick in which he talked about getting the Pripton Weird name – Mr Weird Ears. Man alive, I love those ears! Lol
I’ve had two days away as part of a whirlwind cultural/music experience in Edinburgh and Newcastle. More on last night’s Warm Digits gig to come! But first, let’s talk Rip It Up – the exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland, and of the talk given by Bruce Findlay and Ian Rankin, hosted by Vic Galloway on Thursday night.
Taken from the personal slant, as usual.
Ah, planes. They are handy. Luton, as an airport, is handy…but it became quickly obvious as soon as we were making our way there that things were going to be rather chaotic. Traffic was bad. I was dropped off at the roundabout before the short stay drop off car park. Legged it down to the airport from there.
Security at check in was just in disarray! Lots of people running late for their flights…just, yeah.
No information on the departues board for Edinburgh…I was dreading what that was revealing to me. Mercifully, the flight was only delayed by an hour.
I didn’t know you could get trams from the airport into the city! I knew Edinburgh once again had trams, and I had planned to grab a ride. But I didn’t know they departed from the airport! I was in heaven!
I had planned a little mooch around the city before heading to the exhibition, but got a message from my friend Yvonne (aka Birdy) saying she and her other friend were already at the museum. I made my way there but was parched and rather peckish when I arrived. Edinburgh was BAKING on Thursday. Lol. I was melting. A ginger beer and a lovely piece of coconut and pineapple cake revived me.
The exhibition itself was a rich tapestry. Starting in the 50’s and the career of Lonnie Donnigan (born in Glasgow in 1931 to an Irish mother and Scottish father, but raised in London from aged two) and the skiffle scene. One of the pictures that blew me away seeing it was one of Alex Harvey with Tommy Steele – of all people! I’d have never associated those two ever at all. Lol.
Also on display was Alex Harvey’s stage gear from the mid 70s, complete with bamboo cane, amongst other Sensational Alex Harvey Band memorabilia.
It’s quite an interactive exhibition, with audiovisual elements. Interview clips, and screens with headphones with which you can enjoy watching music videos of the various artists on display.
I know it could be deemed biased, but given the magnitude of their impact and success, Simple Minds don’t feature heavily in the exhibition. Perhaps it was the decision of Jim and Charlie to be humbled with being a featured artist in the exhibition, rather than be a prominent and DOMINANT part of it. When I spoke to Bruce later that day (more on that to come, of course), he asked me had I seen the exhibition and what I had thought of it. I replied that I had enjoyed it. He then says to me “there’s not enough Simple Minds”. Lol. And that was from Bruce!
Of the SM display was the revelation that the gig poster featured in it was designed and made by Jaine Henderson! Geez, I’m not sure I can derive much more envy of this woman! Lol. But there we are. Oh, to live the life vicariously…
Anyway! I digress. Another reveal was the photography of Harry Papadopoulos, a name I had not really seen mentioned before. One of his pics of an early Simple Minds gig featured in the display.
The whole exhibition really is visually rich. Lots to see. Stage props…instruments (guitars, keyboards, bass drum covers, etc), clothing, tour posters, photographs, handwritten lyrics and sheet music. Some wonderfully quirky things too, like King Creosote’s “KC RULES OK” painted garden fence, to KT Tunstall’s “time machine”…as well as her outfit she designed and had made to wear for this year’s Tartan Parade in New York City.
There was a really good mix of things, and a lot to see. If you are in Scotland in the next few months, and in Edinburgh in particular, I can thoroughly recommend a visit to the exhibition. I may just think about a return visit myself. If not working something around seeing Caezar in a few weeks, then maybe around my birthday or at least before the exhibition closes on Nov. 25th.
I checked in to where I was staying at literally just down the road in Guthrie Street. It was a place called Euro Hostels. I mean, wow! It was the centre of Edinburgh for £22.50. It was a basic room, but it was clean, it had a window (seriously…some EasyHotels, you don’t even get a WINDOW in your room!) and the bed was comfortable. I’d stay there again if I need to stay overnight in Edinburgh.
A couple hours to recharge the batteries (literally in my phone’s case) and then back to the museum for the talk from Bruce and Ian Rankin.
Bruce was already there, milling around. I thought I’d try and say hello beforehand. He was busy talking to some peeps. I stood back, waiting for my moment when a break in the flow of conversation happened and I could make myself known. His daughter was with him, and she could see I was itching to say hello, and so she grabbed his attention and pointed me out to him. I was so nervous! But so excited. That’s when he asked had I seen the exhibition. I said about hearing his talk with Grant Stott and that I wanted to say about Love Sing making Top 10 in Oz (cos he had mentioned Canada being one of the first places that SM had had a hit). Of course, as I suspected, their breakthrough in Canada preceded Oz by a couple of months.
He asked me where in Oz I was from “Oh, I love Sydney!” I was thinking “yeah, probably not the part of it I’m from, Bruce.” Lol. I should have told him I’m from Busby.
And as he talked about Minds in Oz, he said “we did an interview for the radio station 2JJ. I love that radio station. Best station in the world. And then they recorded us at the Musicians Club. That was a fabulous gig. We had sold 500 copies of albums in Australia prior to arriving. Combined sales! Of all the albums released. Just 500. And after the tour? Thousands! The crowds loved us.”
We parted company after 5 or 10 mins. It was amazing to hear him enthuse. As I said goodbye (for now) we shook hands and he gave me a kiss.
The talk itself was great. A bit of a technical hiccup. Vic Galloway had a laptop in front of him. The concept of the talk was to discuss Bruce and Ian’s musical loves, and we’d hear excerpts of 10 tunes that Bruce and Ian had picked, and they’d discuss the music of the period. Except a technical hitch with the laptop meant Vic couldn’t trigger the musical prompts. Eventually the laptop was taken away and worked on while we continued.
Bruce was asked about his discovery of SM, signing them to his label, becoming their manager, not just being owner of the record label they signed to. Both Bruce and Ian expressed a love for Real To Real Cacophony.
Ian talked about his love of punk music and also of his favourite artist, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, and they played an excerpt of Swampsnake.
It was a great talk. I really enjoyed it.
I had bought things from the exhibition from the gift shop earlier…the book accompanying the exhibition, written by Vic Galloway. Before he disappeared, I was able to ask Ian Rankin to sign the book for me.
Bruce was even more popular still after the talk. And I was itching to get to him again. I had the Virginia Turbett print with me to ask him to sign, and the exhibition book as well…but I also had three of my prints to give to him. But of course I wanted to show them to him, just to see what he thought of them and get a sense of feedback. He seemed impressed enough. He particularly liked the HATH themed one. I think he thought I wanted him to make a decision on which he liked most and then I said “you can have all three. They’re all for you.”
By this time I am conscious of taking up so much of his time, surprising him with Virginia’s print (I think he was quite flabbergasted by it, initially). Virginia had told he has never seen the photo, so it would come as a shock, potentially. Well it did. Lol. His daughter was watching over his shoulder. She saw it and said “what ARE you doing in that?” I said “he’s revealing his breast, obviously.” said with a cheesy grin, and my tongue firmly in my cheek. But, not only the Virginia print, but taking out the art prints and showing him. So when it came to rolling the prints back up again to put back into the tube, I was all flustered and starting to make a pig’s ear of it. But he was patient and lovely and fun…and just wonderful!
Before leaving him alone for good (Lol. Hog that I was), I asked for a photo op. He was obliging, of course, and I asked Birdy if she’d take the pics. After a couple I said “I should sneak in a kiss…should I?” I can’t recall what Bruce said, but I think it might have been in the confirmative. I hope so anyway!
Lastly, I briefly spoke to Vic Galloway and got him to sign the book. I asked for a selfie with him. I look bloody awful. Lol. But it’s a souvenir. As he came over to me (he was behind a desk) to hug it out for the selfie, he saw my Minds badge “Ah, look at your wee Simple Minds badge” and then I stood back a bit and pointed out my shirt, saying “And, yes…Jim Kerr on my shirt.” “Jim’s a great guy. I got to interview him a few times recently. Hung out with him in Perth at Scone Palace and for Radio Scotland. He’s lots of fun. He’s my favourite rock star.” I had to chime in and say “He’s my fave too.” Vic then quantified it as just before me, he signed the book for a lady and they were talking about Shirley Manson. So he says “Male. Male rock star. Shirley’s my fave female.”
It was a fabulous evening. Topped off with an AMAZING calzone and tiramisu from an authentic Italian restaurant just down the road from the museum. Nom!
It seems the wrong word to use in some respects…as the way I interpret the word “mogul”, esp. when it comes to music moguls, I see types like Colonal Tom Parker, Tony Defries, Eric Hall, Don Arden, et al – larger than life types that just blag their way through stuff with brash, bolshy machismo.
Bruce Findlay has always come across as something different. Hard working, meticulous, knowledgable. A thirst and hunger for music. A love of the art. It was never about him, but the music itself…the artists and bands he loves. A passion and enthusiasm contagious in its desire to achieve. Gregarious he certainly is…but he has swathes of humility and knows what humble pie tastes like.
So, when speaking of Bruce, I use the word “mogul” more for poetic effect.
I rarely use or visit Twitter these days…just quickly look in on it twice a day, and I always look to what Bruce has been talking about. Last night he was (among other things) talking about the Rip It Up exhibition that has just started in Edinburgh. I will be there next Thursday to see the exhibition, and to see Bruce and writer Ian Rankin give a talk next Thursday evening.
I tweeted Bruce to say how excited I am to be going to the exhibition, to see him talk, and to hope for the opportunity to say hello to him. Here is his reply…
Oh, it is going to be so wonderful! I’m not sure Bruce realises just how many Simple Minds fans may end up there next Thursday. Apart from myself, I know of at least four others going there. Too modest by half! But I do hope we have time to chat. Words may fail me again, as they tend to with Jim.
I will be taking along something special with me for him to sign. Nothing SM related, strictly speaking, but something I hope he’ll get a kick out of seeing. It will be wonderful I know 🙂
This sounds like it’ll be great…a contribution from Jim as well!
You can find more info about The Story Of Scottish Pop on the BBC Radio Scotland page by CLICKING HERE