Lately the blog has been really focussed on Simple Minds and in particular the 40th Anniversary of Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call, Rightly so. I do run this blog primarily as a Simple Minds (ie: Jim Kerr ogling) blog, with broader music topics – general album reviews, gigs reviews and interviews, etc.
Anyone who has spent time here in the past – even in the fairly recent past, knows I love art as well – photography, painting, drawing. And I love books too, though I don’t read much these days (more due to suffering narcolepsy when I read and also being a very slow reader. It makes for an awful combination!).
One of the last books I managed to read in its entirety was Lanark by Alasdair Gray. I even went on and bought a Kindle copy of 1982 Janine and still haven’t read it!
I initially caught the Gray bug due to His Kerrness referring to Lanark in an interview he had with Muriel Gray (no relation, as far as I am aware) in 1984. An interview that I only saw for the first time in early 2020. I looked into Alasdair Gray and sought out a copy of Lanark to read. I decided to go “old school” and bought a copy from a seller on eBay. The book made its way to me from the Isle of Lewis – but the way I held it to read it, the adhesive wore away from the spine and the book fell apart. In the end I borrowed a digital copy from the library to finish reading it. I had to keep borrowing it week and week after week.
Needless to say, not only did I fall in love with Lanark, I fell in love with Alasdair too. And not just his writing. Lanark is still the only thing of his I’ve read so far – apart from an open letter he sent to The Scotsman newspaper about how perhaps we are too hasty to tear down, demolish and rebuild, but perhaps there should be more consideration given to restoration. He talked about Sighthill in particular. I can’t help but wonder what he would make of all the redevelopment work that has gone on and continues to go on around Sighthill right now. And even what he’d make of the housing estate that has been given approval to be built upon the old Ruchill Hospital grounds. Right now, when I look out my bedroom and living room windows, I see a living Alasdair Gray painting. That view is going to change in its appearance in years to come.
And so, yes, I love his paintings, murals and illustrations as much as his writing. I particularly love getting out at Hillhead subway station to view the spectacular mural that spans the wall of the subway’s entrance. If you search my blog you’ll find photos and video of the mural at Hillhead. I’ve still yet to go to the Ubiquitous Chip and the last time I was at Oran Mor, I was not even aware of Alasdair, or his amazing work there.
Sadly, Alasdair passed away at the end of 2019, but he has left such an amazing legacy.
Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting the Alasdair Gray Archive, located at The Whisky Bond, just off Possil Road, overlooking the Forth and Clyde canal between Speirs Wharf and Applecross. It really was a wonderful hour I had spent there. I had the space to myself with the curator of the archive, Sorcha, as my personal guide. It is only a small space – not much larger than our living room (if any larger at all) and was arranged to show Alasdair’s office/writing space at one end, his art space at the opposite end of the wall, as well as a display of his bookshelf and illustrations, artworks and prints on the wall opposite.
I was allowed to view certain things and could view the massive “work-in-progress” folio in the top drawer of his artist’s bureau, which was incredible. One hour just was not enough.
I hope to return sometime in the near future to get lost again. I look forward to future “Gray Days”.
It was ssooo much fun last night being on Ronnie McGhie’s radio show, celebrating all that is Simple Minds and the 40th Anniversary of Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call. Even if I did have a massive corpsing fluff towards the end of it.
Seems like we’ll do it all again for next year and New Gold Dream’s anniversary!
If you missed it last night, you can listen again by clicking HERE – the show is broken up into two separate one hour parts. And it’ll be up on the Pulse 98.4 website for the next 4 weeks.
Last night Ronnie also caught up with Empires That Dance’s Andy Inniss to talk about their new release – a fabulous reinterpretation of Love Song and you’ll get the hear the track as well – all in the second hour of the show.
The allure of repetition manifests itself most strongly within all of the Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call’s tracks in Sweat In Bullet. Three solid blocks of repetitive text from Jim Kerr, with a vocal performance to match.
This is the most Burroughs-esque of all of Jim’s writing from the period. If you are not familiar with William Burroughs’ writing, let me explain. In much of his writing, Burroughs used the “cut-up technique” in which lines of existing, linear text are cut up and rearranged to create new lines of (linear?) text. It’s also a style of writing that David Bowie experimented with in his songwriting quite often during the early to mid 1970s.
I hear a lot of that influence falling heavily upon Jim’s songwriting in the early years. In fact it couldn’t fail but do so, given the way Jim would gather his ideas – jotting down lines of text…words and phrases that caught his attention or piqued his interest at any given moment. That writing style couldn’t help but mould into a more Burroughs-esque form of songwriting.
By all accounts, even from his own accounts, Jim’s notebook was never far away from him, and he was always writing things down.
The first words in the song aren’t even actual proper words – just Jim playing around with the sound of words as you would expect him to do.
Among the quote above, the one thing that stands out for me is him saying he “feels” the words rather than “thinks” them. Well, not even the words are “felt”. But obviously his lyrics (at that point) come to him very organically and via the visceral rather than the intellectual.
I think we as fans – well, certainly me personally – give his lyrics much more thought and significance than he ever sounds like he did (or does). Perhaps because (for him) you need a level of detachment when you create? By the same token, his writing is obviously also very personal because of the process of it being “felt rather than thought”. So the detachment has to come once he’s written the song. Like watching fledglings leave the nest, or children leaving home to start off on their life’s adventure.
Then we are free to interpret them and give them as much or as little significance as we like. And perhaps after some time of reflection, perhaps even Jim himself sees things and interprets things in his words that even HE didn’t see at the time of writing? Am I the only person to find this absolutely fascinating?
Upon reflection, having him talk about aspects of his writing style, I don’t think there is much of a Burroughs style to his writing. Jim’s is more organic than that.
I’d like to ask Jim his views on the Burroughs “Cut-up” technique – but the time for questions seems to have long gone by. Stuck in history’s “halcyon days”.
Anyway, what does one do to a song to remix it and give it a new flavour? ADD MORE COWBELL! Lol. So…what exactly happened at the mixing desk there with Pete Walsh at the helm for the Sweat In Bullet extended mix? Something akin to this, perhaps? Click HERE TO VIEW
And with the official video, the cowbell features prominently as Kenny gives it a good bash (and the cowbell! Boom boom!) by the shrubs.
The Sweat In Bullet video is a bit more of a stock music video of the time. It doesn’t have the storyboard that its “sister” video, Love Song has, that’s for sure! But I think that makes it more sophisticated. The guys all look amazing in it – although I guess it could be argued that Jim lets the side down with his dodgy eye. And…how frigging skinny is he?! Oh my word!
Back to the song itself. It was one of the first of the songs written in 1981 in Edinburgh and was demoed at CaVa Studios on Valentine’s Day. Originally titled Twenty One – which I find odd as there is nothing within the lyrics of the song to denote why it would be called that. Subsequently though, it helped me to decipher a line Jim sings in Life In Oils, as I am almost certain now Jim sings the words “twenty one” before he gets to the “chorus” in Life In Oils. Which then makes me think Life In Oils should have been called Twenty One (ah, to be able to go back in time and quiz Jim on such things). Click HERE for demo version.
Shortly after its demo recording, it became a main feature in the setlist, long before the album and its single release. Its debut performance was at Tiffany’s in Glasgow on March 1st, 1981 (click HERE to listen) and it moved on into the New Gold Dream tour as well. And there its time on the setlist ended for 20 years until it reappeared on the Alive and Kicking tour of 2003. Latterly it appeared on the 5×5 Live tour 0f 2012 – so come the recommencing of Simple Minds touring in 2022, it will have been another 10 years since the song has been seen on the setlist.
So, what exactly *is* Sweat In Bullet about? Given that the song starts as a seemingly random set of words, is there any story behind the song? Well, it’s obviously a song about ambition – a topic that features heavily in Jim’s lyrics at the time. But there’s more going on than that. It seems to be ambition from the female perspective.
A chance encounter – “you’ll never meet again”.
Suspicion from both sides, perhaps as rivalry – “eyes small”.
The matriarchy rules – “society can gain”
Like ships in the night – “then say goodbye”
It seems to get a bit heated at one point “rolling and tumbling, ambition in motion” – it always sounds like a sexual dalliance has taken place – “rolling and tumbling, she’s sweating bullets”.
A sexual dalliance and a power struggle? “Grow in size. Grow in fame. Grow more. Take more. Uncontrollable. Unworkable.”
It almost sounds like espionage. Two spies meeting. Female and male. Secret encounters and sexual espionage. But…who wins? Who outmanoeuvred who?
The two prevailing subject themes of the time in Jim’s songwriting join forces here and meet in the chorus – “ambition in motion”. Movement. Travel. Aims. Goals. The fear of the still and the stagnant and the bland. But conversely, he needs that stillness and monotony to create.
Matched with those lyrics is just…the funk of it! Derek Forbes’s bass is NASTY (as is GOOD), add Mick’s keyboard hook and Charlie’s guitar licks and that cowbell and – what a track!
This is a favourite live version of mine.
And so here we are – 40 years after its release on September 12th, 1981 – having gone through every track on the albums, one by one…I am left completely in awe of what Brian, Mick, Derek, Charlie and Jim achieved with these albums. Both albums are a sonic masterpiece in my eyes (and ears). I hope the posts I have generated about all the tracks on the albums have truly reflected that feeling.
I have drawn in content for my Sons/Sister posts from many sources over the six months, from the music magazines that the quotes from Jim have been sourced from – Melody Maker, Sounds, New Musical Express, Record Mirror, New Sounds New Styles, Smash Hits, The Face and Roadrunner magazines – YouTube for interviews, the use of photos by Virginia Turbett, as well as Malcolm Garrett – who not only allowed me to share certain artwork images but also provided amazing insight into some of the artwork used for the releases (the cover of Sweat In Bullet a case in point – you can read about that artwork HERE), thanks also to Jaine and David Henderson for help with what ended up being the biggest and wordiest post of them all for Love Song, but biggest debt of gratitude HAS to go to Simon Cornwell and his AMAZING Dream Giver Redux website at: simpleminds.org
Without Simon’s website, none of this would ever have come to fruition or be the celebration of the albums it has been. I put a lot of work into my blog but it pales into insignificance compared to what Simon has put into Dream Giver Redux. It literally IS the Simple Minds “Bible”.
I also want to thank Gordon Machray whose support and unflinching loyalty to the band is something to be revered. If I dare bring up the whole “real fan” business again and give it the creedence Jim was trying to give it – well, there’s your real fan right there! I’m not sure I actually know anyone else who is as impassioned as G Man (as he has been affectionately called by me for some years now). Gordon’s support of me is greatly appreciated.
Lastly, to all of you who have taken the time to read these posts over the past six months, thank you!
I had this arrive in the post this morning. It’s a piece of sobering beauty of the city’s recent past.
Virginia’s association with Glasgow goes far beyond her work of capturing Simple Minds in the early 80s. Her brother was a social worker in the city and so she would visit often. And her work wasn’t solely confined to rock photography, for she also did a lot of editorial work as well.
In visits to the city during 1978 and 1979, Virginia pictorially documented life in Glasgow. Selected photos now showcased in a photobook published by Cafe Royal Books.
These photobooks are available to purchase through the Cafe Royal Books website (link below) for £6.50 each (plus postage).
This is probably going to be the biggest aspect of the whole Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call celebration, from my own personal viewpoint, than anything else I could have imagined. (Bar the band announcing some last minute gig going on in Glasgow for it. Settle down! I’ve heard NOTHING – I’m just dreaming!)
What are you guys doing next Wednesday night, September 15th? I ask because, well, (and now this feels really real typing this out and I am really starting to shit bricks!) I’m going to be on the radio! 😱😱😱
My friend, Ronnie McGhie – radio presenter extraordinaire – wanted to do something special for his radio show to celebrate the 40th anniversary of SAF/SFC and so he asked ME if I wanted to be involved!
I think I just about bit his hand off with enthusiasm to be honest. Lol. Being asked to talk about SAF/SFC? What a doddle, eh? Except it’s going out live on air and I am kind of bricking it but I am dead, dead excited! And I am sure Ronnie will keep me in check – he’s the pro!
And it really is going to be a big celebration of the albums. I’ll be choosing SIX TRACKS to play from the Sons/Sister albums – and there’ll be something else going on on the show as well, but I best keep schtum about that for now.
So…next Wednesday evening – September 15th at 8pm BST, tune in to Pulse 98.4. You can tune in from anywhere around the world by going to their website pulseonair.co.uk – but of course, if you’re local around Glasgow, you can tune in the old fashioned way too and set the dial to 98.4 FM.
A friend said when I told her that I was crapping myself about being live on radio “take a Valium” – said in jest. I’m not sure it’ll help…but I might cave in and take some kind of Dutch courage. Haha! We’ll see.
The first thing I love about this song is…the two keyboard notes that intro it – sitting on top of another single note. Then the subtle building of the tempo with the kick drum beats. Then the snare comes in with the bass guitar quickly following. Then there’s Charlie Burchill…wailing guitar maestro.
Then…the pièce de résistance … Jim Kerr and that incredibly nuanced vocal performance of his. The way he just … elongates the lyrics and adds another layer of depth to them as a result. I find it almost chilling but sonically delicious.
It was one of the earlier songs written for the Sons/Sister albums right at the beginning of 1981. It was recorded as a demo (listen above) and had the working title of “Check Out”.
After the demo recording in February, it quickly got put on the setlist for a live performance that was captured at Tiffany’s in Glasgow on March 1st, 1981 (listen HERE). The one and only time that the song was ever performed live. Why it never made any kind of return to the setlist for 2012’s 5×5 Live tour remains completely perplexing to me. I guess it was simply the case that with a tracklisting as extensive as there is from the Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call albums – something had to miss the cut. I think it would have been a perfect fit for Jim’s voice now and I’d have loved to have heard him do those long, protracted vocalisations of the words. To quote the song, “It’s a shame.”
At the demo stage the lyrics weren’t much more than the repetition of the words “careful”, “career” and “take care”, with some strange sounding whoops and hollers and unearthly drawn out calls of “walk”. Still wonderfully atmospheric and definitely worth a listen, if for nothing else than to appreciate just what the song progressed into.
I’m including an interview with Jim in this post. One he did for Radio One with Richard Skinner (not Kid Jensen as the wording at the end of the clip suggests) – almost 40 years to the day, in fact. Jim mentions that they’ll be playing the Futurama gig the following night so that dates the interview as September 5th, 1981.
In it, Jim talks about the “trance” musical theme that the Sons/Sister albums seem to end up developing over their recording. No stronger example of this than a track like Careful In Career.
I think the thing that astounds me is when Skinner says to Jim “I’m surprised at your longevity.” The band had been going less than four years by this point. FOUR YEARS! And Richard Skinner is talking about being SURPRISED at the band’s longevity?! Well, here we are, 40 years to the day still talking about what a phenomenal body of work the Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call albums are. Not only that but also that there is new music from Simple Minds in the bag and set to be released some time in the near future! Now THERE’S longevity for you, Richard Skinner!
Richard Skinner sounds like all he takes from the albums is darkness and gloom and a Joy Division-esque “dystopia”. But there is rarely a track like that on Sons/Sister for me. I think it really is only the end tracks on Sister Feelings Call – League Of Nations and Careful In Career that give off that kind of dark atmosphere.
But even within something like Careful In Career you have lines like “performance or ecstasy” and “I’ve come so far already” – positive affirmations rather than anything negative that lines like “It’s a shame to go away/It’s a shame to die already” bring with them. I find such beauty in how dark it is, actually. I guess it’s that point Jim was making in that interview extract I added to my Seeing Out The Angel post, when he spoke of the inspiration for the song, the reading of the short story that sparked the lyrics and of the “beauty in fear”.
And so here we are in the present day with just one week to go before the anniversary date of September 12th (coincidentally it will be my eldest brother’s 63rd birthday), with just one song left to post about – Sweat In Bullet, released as the final single from the album in…well, it says on Dream Giver that the single was released in November, 1981, but I recently read a Virgin press release from the time seeming to state that the single was released in October 23rd, 1981. Either way, there is no need for me to wait until these dates and so I’ll be wrapping up my track-by-track celebration of Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call with a Minds Music Monday finale that will be “rolling and tumbling” in celebration!
On a final personal note, the art piece I did for Careful In Career (pictured above) remains one of my favourite pieces. I love the photo of Jim (I still have no idea who the photographer is – or whether it is even an actual photograph or a still image from a video) and I love how I set out the topography of the lyrics. The colour blending too. I rarely actually give myself any esteem for my work but for a change I am going to here. I’ll make an exception of usually shitting all over my own work by saying that my Careful In Career piece is the kitties whiskers!
It has been a short MMM this week again – but believe me, we’ll be going out with a bang! And I have some pretty exciting news to come in the next week with further Sons/Sister celebration news. Stay tuned, peeps!
It is by far the most revered Simple Minds instrumental in their canon. The band have never been one to shy away from putting an instrumental track (or three) on an album. From 1979’s Real To Real Cacophony having instrumentals ‘Cacophony’, ‘Film Theme’ and (the wonderfully off-the-wall and magic mushroom influenced) ‘Veldt’ on it, right up to 2002’s Cry with instrumental ‘The Floating World’, there have been some fabulous SM non-vocal tracks. My personal favourites include: Kant Kino, Somebody Up There Likes You, Shake Off The Ghosts, A Brass Band In African Chimes and Year Of The Dragon (I also have a soft spot for The Floating World – a rarity as Cry, along with Live In The City of Light are the Simple Minds albums I play the least – no reason needed to elaborate further).
I think we can all agree that Jim absolutely made the right choice not to force upon ‘Theme’ some lyrics and a vocal. It is perfect as it is. And the title he gave the track is all the input from him it ever needed. He sells it perfectly.
A further quote from Jim, appearing on the Dream Giver site, quotes him as saying, “One of the best moves I ever made was not to sing on Theme For Great Cities. I remember walking around with that in Glasgow on my new Sony Walkman thinking this is fucking perfect!” Amen to that, Jim!
Initially it was used for “intro” music on the Sons And Fascination tour and never was performed live until more recent years. Starting on – as coincidence would have it – The Floating World tour of 2002. And it’s been a fairly regular sight on the setlist since then. It was the opening number of the second half of the set on the 40 Years Of Hits Tour of 2020 (giving Jim an extra five minutes to down his lemon zinger) – until the Coronavirus pandemic stopped the tour in its tracks in Copenhagen.
There have also been several remixes recorded as well. A Moby Mix from 2012 which is…meh. The ‘91 Mix I’m not exactly enamoured with either – if you’re not familiar with it, listen HERE. And there is a couple of other mixes from the late 1990s – the Fila Brazilia Mix (also an alternate mix of it and an edited version too) and probably the only mix I actually like of all of them – the Fluke’s Atlantis Mix – there is also a Nissn Remix from 2009 – but that is my LEAST favourite of them all, tied with the gutless Moby Mix.
But who needs remixes of something that is absolutely PERFECT just as it is? Theme For Great Cities doesn’t need messing with! Jim knew that. Others should take heed! Stop it with your remixes! Leave it the fuck alone! Don’t mess with perfection, brother! Enjoy for what it is – one of the best instrumentals ever recorded. The YouTube link is further below. Take the extra five minutes and fifty seconds when you have read this post to play it and enjoy it. Play it loud! Use headphones/earphones if you need to and just…get transported to scenes from Blade Runner…see time-lapse footage of dark night cityscapes dazzle before your eyes. View the cover of the Sons And Fascination album (even though the track is on Sister Feelings Call – it’s not “dead wood”! Nothing on Sister Feelings Call is … with maybe one exception – but we’ll discuss that in a future post) and just…enjoy the ride.
I’ll leave the rest of it to Jim…
EDIT: There is a typo at the end of the text above. I am usually meticulous with making sure there are no typos with the these things, but this one slipped by. The last sentence SHOULD read “It might well have played a part in that.” “It” rather than “I”. Apologies if it led to any confusion.
Thanks to this bloody pandemic and frigging Covid-19, White Hot Day, the Simple Minds fan convention, set to take place in the band’s ‘hame toon’ of Glasgow (Glesga) has been rescheduled.
The convention will now take place on Saturday, October 15th, 2022, at a new venue, Classic Grand on Jamaica Street, Just a short (less than 5 minutes) walk from Central station (for those making their way into Glasgow for the event).
Tickets available through Tickets Scotland – all previously purchased tickets remain valid for the new date/venue.