The top-end pro electro kit – offering the best of both worlds with the snare and toms as shell pads providing an acoustic feel. Enjoy Cherisse’s promo videos for Yamaha below.
The top-end pro electro kit – offering the best of both worlds with the snare and toms as shell pads providing an acoustic feel. Enjoy Cherisse’s promo videos for Yamaha below.
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!
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.
See you there!
The song was written at the beginning of 1981 in Edinburgh after a conversation between Jim and John Leckie in which Leckie thought Jim should try his hand at writing a more “traditional” love song. Kerr’s is anything but traditional. In fact, I am firmly of the belief that it is anything BUT a love song. More on that to come.
It started life out as a rough demo. In fact it started life not destined to be a Simple Minds song at all. For Jim was going to gift the song to Jaine Henderson to record. Jaine’s brother, David, former sound engineer of the band (and behind-the-scenes extra member) was running the Hellfire Club, a social rehearsal space and recording studio, located down a small lane just off Derby Street right by where the old CaVa Studio was (with access also via Bentick Street).
Jim and Charlie arrived at the Hellfire Club one night in the winter of 1981. Charlie recorded the basic musical parts, using a drum machine, bass and guitar and Jim recorded a guide vocal for Jaine to record along to. EDIT: For clarity – the original recording that Jaine was involved in took place at the original Hellfire Club location on Carnarvon St. They relocated to the Derby Street site some months later.
With some reluctance, and nervous to try a recording of the vocal in front of Kerr and Burchill, they left the club, leaving Jaine to record her vocal with David at the mixing desk. Not convinced by the outcome (though sounding musically very good – sparse and electronic), and with no ambition to be a singer, for Jaine the idea fell flat. Jim then asked Jaine if Simple Minds could go ahead and record the song themselves. Of course! Jaine had no qualms with that at all.
When discussing it with Jaine back in 2019 when I interviewed her, she said the version she was working on was quite minimalist and stripped back, compared to how it ended up sounding on the single and album. The idea was for it to have a Grace Jones vibe to the sound and vocal. Now THAT is something I’d love to hear! Grace Jones doing a Simple Minds song! Imagine that?! That would be amazing!
There is a demo tape listed on record on the Dream Giver site (see image above). Five songs were recorded at CaVa in February – Valentine’s Day, in fact! The American, Life In Oils, “Twenty One” (working title for Sweat In Bullet), “Checkout” (working title for Careful In Career), and Love Song. These demos eventually get released officially on the Virgin Records produced Silver Box in 2004. CLICK TO HEAR ‘LOVE SONG’ DEMO
Just two weeks later, Love Song is performed for the first time at their gig at Tiffany’s in Glasgow, on March 1st, 1981. CLICK TO LISTEN
And so, more than anything, Love Song is a song about ambition, and a desire for “greatness” – as Jim puts it. Very much not a traditional love song in the “boy meets girl, boy gets girl” sense of it – or even of the unrequited sort “boy meets girl, but boy will never get girl”. It’s neither of those. It’s Jim’s love of success and winners – and of that desire for greatness. The love of ambition. “Ambition in motion!”
Some of the music journalists at the time couldn’t seem to help but give rather disparaging or back-handed praise to SAF/SFC – accusing the promotions department at Virgin Records of “over-hyping” the marketing of Simple Minds. Ouch! (See excerpt of article from The Face further below)
And this idea that the clubs played them to death but they got the cold shoulder from radio – well, perhaps commercial radio and “prime time” radio snubbed them for a time, but the right radio DJs gave them exposure. The likes of John Peel and David Jensen really championed them here in the UK. And I am sure other radio stations around the world would have been playing them! Certainly stations in Canada and Australia did. The right DJ’s who realised there is much depth to “rhythm” as there is to “melody”. One should not be exclusive to or cancel out the other. Why can’t rhythm BE melodic? And vice versa? Is it me that still has no grasp on what exactly melody is? Do I grapple with the basic concept of it?
Speaking of the record company and their hand in things…can we discuss the video made for Love Song?
It is ssooo deliciously bad – it’s good. It’s great! And it has such a hedonistic air to it. The Minds boys act like a right bunch of neds (Scottish term – look it up!) in the video. Well, perhaps Jim is the only one that actually “behaves” himself in the video, though he’s a bit of a shit to the woman in the lift, like “Here, WENCH! Take ma claes and look after ‘em. I’ll be back for ‘em later.” Lol
Let’s pretend we’re storyboarding it here:
Me too, ladies. Me too. Well…the guy at the front, anyway. As far as I am concerned he’s the coolest of the cool. But…I get why you dolls were dancing with Kenny. I’d have probably not said no myself! Good old “Consolation Kenny” – sorry, Mr Hyslop. You get bonus points for being a drummer.
Sometimes I think it was lucky I was only 11 years old at the time! And living on the other side of the world! Or perhaps it was THEY who were lucky? Lol
It’s a preposterous concept for a video and yet, it is probably my favourite of all the Simple Minds videos due to its absurdity.
As discussed in a previous post – the video was recorded in a nightclub that was located at the Kensington Roof Garden that was then being leased by Virgin Records.
The talk of the musical approach to Love Song being a subtler one – opposed to how the sound is with I Travel and Empires And Dance is a curious one. I honestly don’t hear any kind of “softening” myself – not with the direct comparison to Love Song To I Travel. And yes, there are softer, calmer pieces like This Earth That You Walk Upon and Seeing Out The Angel – but then there is the ball-breaker that is Boys From Brazil – and how is that “subtler” to anything that is on Empires And Dance?
Listen to that jarring synth coda at the beginning of the song. It almost sits outside of the rest of the song’s structure and plays off kilter to the rest of the song’s rhythm. But there is so much more propulsion to it and funk to it compared to how it sounded as a demo. And Jim has refined and played around with the lyrics a bit. The whole thing became much more streamline. And its placement on the album’s tracklisting is perfect. I am referring to the UK release when I say this, as it is the track that opens Side Two, or the B-Side to the album. Curiously, the albums’ tracklistings are completely reset for the Canadian releases of the albums and Love Song is the opening track for Sons And Fascination’s Canadian print.
As much as it was making a buzz, especially in the nightclubs of the UK and Europe, its sales were (of the time)… mediocre at best in most places around the world. Just sitting outside the UK Top 40 at number 47 – it was, however, their best chart placing of all their singles so far. In Sweden, it broke into the Top 20, reaching number 16. But the best result came from some 12,000 miles away in Australia in which the single broke into the ARIA chart at an impressive number 9 – giving them their first gold record and Top 10 hit! THANK YOU, COUNTRY OF MY BIRTH for having exquisite taste!
Below is a review of Love Song from November, 1981, printed in Australian music magazine Roadrunner – published by an expat Scot, Donald Robertson. It may even be Donald himself that gave the review. No one is credited as giving the review, though when it comes to the album reviews written in the magazine a couple of pages later, credits to the reviewers are given. It may just be the interviewer of the corresponding piece that appeared with Jim – Ruthvven Martinus – as he is the reviewer of the album that appears in those couple of pages behind the Love Song review.
The boys certainly did promote the single quite heavily. Really gave it a push, appearing on music programs over Europe to “perform” the song (quotation marks as sadly most television appearances would be a lip-synching mime to the single or album track. Nothing I’m sure that ever sat well with the band. They would have always wanted to perform it live, I am sure).
There are three different appearances you can watch on YouTube – one is of them on German music program Szene. They are on such a tiny platform. All crammed on it, jostling for some space. Jim plays it wonderfully nonchalant as the album version gets the full musical intro treatment. But once the song gets going, there’s little room for him to perform his wonderful “prowling panther” style lunging moves – and he and Derek almost bump into each other at one point, which results in a bit of a sideways glance and a bit of chuckle between them. VIEW THE VIDEO HERE
The second clip I love to watch is still from a mystery source. No one can really agree where this clip comes from. What TV program aired it. Or even perhaps if the band recorded it in a nightclub somewhere. It’s certainly from 1981 – the clothes and the style of the band sit right within that look – and the fact that Kenny Hyslop is with them on drum duties (they he was still with them early in 1982) would very much keep inline with being 1981. They look as though they’ve had a rough few days. Jim looks the worst for wear – but still by far the hottest and sexist guy around right at that point. Just look at him! The clothes, the moves…he’s just the whole goddamn package right there! And well, the rest of the guys are doing their best to look pretty cool beside him. VIEW MYSTERY NO.2 CLIP HERE
Finally … we return to Oz and to Countdown. Countdown is, of course, Australia’s answer to Top Of The Pops. Anyone who was anyone, even Oz and Kiwi bands – or the international groups and artists that actually decided to tough out the grueling travel times to get half-way around the world, appeared on Countdown. And so with a band like Simple Minds in the country, and Love Song already making such a buzz and sailing up the charts, they HAD to appear! Look at them all! Charlie’s fucking WRECKED! Kenny’s got a tan that any modern day West End Glasgow hipster would be proud of! Derek’s almost in salute to Sir Les Paterson with what looks like a bloody STRING VEST on. Mick also seems to have a bit of a tan – but is his usual understated self. AND THEN THERE IS JIM FUCKING KERR! Head to toe in black (before Charlie took over with that look and made it “standard issue” Burchill) – complete with sunglasses – indoors (I’m sure in an exercise to conceal just how fucking shattered and/or off his tits he is), with this bloody bright, yellow satchell bag that I read on this lady’s blog from loooong ago, that he picked up in a shop in Sydney for the princely sum of $A8.00. I’m not sure what that would equate to in today’s money, or what it equated to him splashing out on it in pounds (given what I imagine the rate of exchange was then – perhaps about £3.00-4.00) but I’m assuming it would be about £20 today. Who knows what delights were in this bag? He told me “sherbet straws” once. I always took it to be code – hence the glasses, eh, Jim?
The most recent uploading of the video to YT sees Greedy Smith of Mental As Anything introducing Simple Minds. Greedy sounds well into them, giving them due praise for being a fantastic live band.
And here we are some 40 years later with the reputation of theirs of being a stellar live band firmly in tact. My tally of seeing them 23 times, to date, in my seven years of Simple Minds fandom (with many more booked to come!) I hope pays some testament to the calibre of performance they achieve to this day.
The song has been a fairly constant site on the setlist over the years. With only the short lull of it not appearing on the setlist during the Street Fighting Years tour of 1989/1990. So, there are many, many live versions that are available to hear. But for finality, it seems apt to share the final time (to date) that it performed live by the band. My recording of them performing in Copenhagen at the Store Vega in March 10th, 2020.
There have also been several remixes made over the years. Beginning with an extended 12” version that was released simultaneously with the release of the 7” version in 1981. There was a remix that was produced in 1992 to appear on the Glittering Prize ‘81/‘92 best of compilation as well as the Themes Volume 5 release. This version was mixed by Charlie and Gregg Jackman. It doesn’t bear too marked a difference from the original album version but I love the subtle remix treatment it has been given. I play this version often.
I shall leave the final words to Jim – featured below. They were written out by Paul Morley and appeared as part of an article that was in the New Musical Express on October 3rd, 1981. Morley wrote the piece out as through a “stream of consciousness” internal dialogue from Jim’s mind. You can read the full article HERE
The amazing and brilliant Dream Giver Redux – it really is the Simple Minds bible and an endless source of information.
Wikipedia – for certain other information on tracklistings and release dates as well as chart positioning information.
Lost Glasgow – more detailed information on the exact location of the Hellfire Club.
Lol-Z on YouTube – for the clip of David Henderson and Jacquie Bradley (and the other ladies from Sophisticated Boom Boom, as well as Clare Grogan) at the Hellfire Club.
Lastly but most importantly – big thanks to Jaine and David Henderson – you can find out more information on the Hellfire Club by visiting the dedicated Facebook page – HERE
One final little extra note is about the image just above. It’s to do with a post that Jim posted on the triggers he uses to remind him of where in the setlist he is during a show. A “visualisation” technique – something he talked about again only recently when posted about watching the drama series Queen’s Gambit. Anyhow – these short bits of notation will spark visual indicators – and you can see the one in the list for Love Song is – the Hellfire Club. All these years down the line and it still sparks the memory.
Thank you for reading this mammoth labour of love.
OMG! THIS IS SSOOO AWESOME TO SEE THE WHOLE EPISODE OF THE TUBE – OF THEM ON IT IN 1982. Oh, how I can dream to be sitting in front of the telly that night just…in awe of Jim. Needing a bucket in front of me to collect the drool! Dear God! What a gem!
Thank you to whoever uploaded this to YouTube. Happy, happy, Prip!
Lots of Glasgow based things about the music scene on it too. And Billy Sloan is on it as well!
Wow! Just wow! I picked this clipping up for £2 off eBay over the weekend. Holy shit! Jim Kerr…you are just fucking divine…inspiration!
You have such power in your words – WITH your words.
A wordsmith. A weaver. A dreamer. A prophet. A masterpiece. A new kind of glory. Divinity!
(Click the images for full visibility to read the pages.)
Long overdue to have got myself a copy to scan and share this article. Damn pissed that the long coveted photo of them on the sinking Titanic is – one: cropped and two: crap quality.
I love that other photo of them taken when they had one of their TOTP appearances. Jim with a tambourine in hand is always a winner.
Might have a go at some tidying up work on it later – a la “Mr Tambourine Man” banner artwork you may catch on here if you hang about for long enough.
Again – click on images to get increased image viewing options on the bottom right of each page.
“So when I thought Charlie’s guitar in ‘Angel’ sounded like church bells…” – writes Adam Sweeting, having just been given an explanation by Jim of the ideas behind the song. You can read a full extract of that below.
I’d be intrigued to know what the book of short stories was. I thought for a few minutes about asking Derek Forbes if he’d remember it. Even went to Twitter in further contemplation of conjuring up the gumption to ask him…but I can’t. Best to let sleeping dogs lie. And I guess if Jim had remembered it, he’d have mentioned its name or the author back then during the interview. Maybe someone could find out or shed some light on it?
Anyway, let us ‘push on’.
UPDATE: A regular visitor and reader of this blog – Scott, contacted me about who he thinks the author of the short stories might be and which short story it is! And I think he just may be right. He read on Dream Giver about Jim mentioning Philip K Dick. Well of course I remember that too because of Jim’s reply to me (when I quizzed him about having read sci-fi) about “growing out of things…like drugs, alcohol, hair dye and jodhpurs”. But I didn’t make the connection when compiling this post. A book of short stories of Dick’s is titled “A Handful Of Darkness”. Released originally in 1955, it contains a short story called “Upon The Dull Earth” (that even sounds like a line Jim would use in a song!) – a link to the plot of the story HERE – I think Scott came up trumps with this! Where would I be without him?
The original working title for the song was “Petrocello” – a word entirely made up it would seem. A portmanteau of the words “petronella” and “Limoncello”, perhaps? Or maybe of “petronella” and “uccello”? A portmanteau of those two words could translate as “dancing birds”. For “petronella” is a style of Scottish folk dance while “uccello” is the Italian word for bird. That would be lovely if it was a combination of those two. I’m always trying to put romantic connotations to everything.
Again it was one of the songs that Mick gave to Jim to listen to on cassette and obviously he could hear such potential in all the pieces. I guess had Mick not heard the potential in the music himself first, he’d have not passed it on to Jim to pass his lugholes over it.
I can’t claim to know about music or its structure and complexities (or otherwise) and what it is to describe something as “melody” as opposed to labelling it an “arpeggio” – but what I do know is those chords, those notes from Mick MacNeil’s synths are some of the most beautiful pieces of musical notation you will ever hear. And that Adam Sweeting is right, that Charlie’s guitar chords do sound like church bells.
As it started life as one of Mick’s workings, it may have initially been going to remain an instrumental. Who knows at what point during recording proceedings Jim was ready to provide lyrics? He seemed quite the procrastinator back then – leaving lyrical input until pressed to provide it. Then again ‘Angel’ was seemingly one of the earlier tunes to be formed so maybe it was a rare time in which Jim was ready with lyrics fairly early on but he just delayed putting them across in the studio? All supposition by me.
The song had a brief run of being in the live set during the opening part of the Sons And Fascination tour in Aug/Sept of 1981, performed just a handful of times before leaving the set altogether. Never to reappear again until 2006 on the Black and White tour. And not on a set list again since.
The only live recording of it that exists from those handful of 1981 shows is from the Royal Court in Liverpool on September 22nd. It’s performed in Edinburgh on the opening night of the tour on August 28th – it doesn’t seem to go too well.
The next two shows, it’s off the set list – the reason for the Bingley Hall absence I guess would be to how ill Jim was on the night. The next gig in Nottingham, was the one and only time that Wonderful In Young Life was performed. Ironed out, perhaps? It was then back in the set until the final gig of this first short leg of the tour at the Hammersmith Odeon in London on September 25th. A total (potentially – as some set list information is unavailable) of seven shows that it was performed at. Amazing then that there is even one recording to exist of it. I’m sure that given that the gig was recorded for the specific purpose of putting out some live content, that a recording of it being performed at Hammersmith must exist somewhere in a vault.
It was a fairly prominent feature in 2006, particularly during the first part pf the year as the band tour around Europe. It makes its last appearance during the opening gig of the Australian leg of the tour in May. There are several live versions to be heard. The pedant in me couldn’t really stick with any of them. I am terrible for that. I love lyrics as they are. As they’ve been written and intended to be heard in the first place and when that doesn’t happen I find it annoying. Yes! I know. There is the excuse that the band hadn’t actually performed the song 25 years by that point – I could give them a break! But my counter argument would be one – they would have given themselves time to rehearse before going on tour. Also, the element about it that leaves me disappointed has nothing to do with the music. It’s being played very well from the examples of performances I had heard. My gripe is with Jim and the lyrics. The version I can listen to that plays furthest along in the tour is in Rome on March 19th. Some six weeks into the tour. It’s the 34th performance of the song.
I will say no more of it because I know where he’d tell me to stick it – esp. after given a critique of something some 15 years after the fact, but I can’t help being a pedantic c*** about these things.
All I know is that as a track to end an album with? Very few match it for statement and feeling, to summerise and sum up all that has passed in the album that has just been experienced. The melody. The “church bells”. The amazing bassline. The underplayed drum beat. The beautiful backing vocal. It’s exquisite. As delicate and as haunting as the angels it is depicting. That daydream, vision, visitation – whatever it was that Jim experienced as a child certainly left its mark on him. And all these years later it still lives on and will live on eternally in the mindset of Simple Minds fans. Those angels are with all of us. For many of us they feel like guardians. Guardians of the thoughts and feelings we hold so very precious. If what Jim experienced was indeed “a vision”, then it was definitely meant to be. They wanted to be seen, and they wanted Jim to see them.
What an absolutely sublime piece of work to finish an album on.
Photograph of Jim by Virginia Turbett
Angel wings vector graphics: Bastian Schwind
Additional source information: simpleminds.org
Bass. That Forbes bass. It’s the linchpin to the Simple Minds sound at that time. Those basslines are one of the things that distinguished them from others and made them stand out. And what a bassline that starts the title track to Sons And Fascination.
I don’t really know what the sound is that accompanies that bass – something percussive? A hard synth tone? Some kind of sound like a “thwack” to try and explain it in an onomatopoeic way.
Jim talks about them having repetitive loops and riffs during this time and not so much melody. The melody comes later, by his reckoning. But for me, the melody is already there. To me, loops and riffs CAN have melody too. And Mick’s synth work on this track is melodious. A shining synth melody, twinned with an understated guitar riff. A short and bright riff.
Those opening lines! “Summer rains are here / savaged beauty life / falling here from grace” – knockout punch! Sorry, Jim Kerr, but that is abstract poetry right there! Almost a haiku – but at 5/5/5 syllables. All his lines in rhythm. 5/5/5 – 5/5/6 – 5/5/5 -2/2/2 – 2/2/2 – 5/5/5 – 5/5/6 – 5/5/6 – 2/2/2 – 2/2/2 – 5/5/5 – 5/6/6 – 5/5/6 – 2/2/2 – 2/2/2 (numbers representing the syllables per line of the song)
Let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about what is fast becoming my final wish. To ask Jim about certain lines in this song. I don’t really know why it has been such a point of focus for me but that almost choral set of lines? The “ma son / warm land / semi monde” lines have fascinated me all these years. Especially the last of the set of three.
I read an interview. I’ve read so many early interviews. I never remember where I get what quote from where. But I remember Jim talking about his Da. About how, for a working class man, for a guy that was a builder’s labourer, he was “cultured”. But it was something he didn’t shout about or boast about. A man’s man! But he liked to be knowledgable and he liked reading and he liked the theatre. And he liked music, of course. Jim has memories of his dad taking him to Govanhill library as a wee boy to join the library and get his library card.
I think Jim became quite the “chip off the old block” insomuch as he loved his pals and his football and being a guy – your typical Glasgow boy. But something more was always calling. The desire for knowledge and a thirst for learning, for travel and of being “cultured” ensured he wasn’t going to be just another Glasgow boy. That a different path was laid out for him.
In this interview he had talked about seeing shows at the Citizens Theatre. He just vaguely brushed upon it, so I have no real clear reference of what he saw there and when. As far as I am aware, the Citizens was a serious playhouse. Not a place where you’d go and watch a pantomime or see a comedy performer.
Researching up on it – yes – it’s PROPER theatre! Where you’d see the likes of Shakespeare and Beckett. Ibsen and Brecht. And …. Noel Coward.
And so, it was in 1977, right in the middle of the UK punk explosion – where a group of Southside boys got together and made a racket under the rather lewd name of Johnny And The Self Abusers – a play Noel Coward had written in the 1920s, made its theatrical debut at the Citizens Theatre in the Gorbals.
Did the boy in the punk band go to “the Citz” to watch a play about 1920s “high society” nobs? Well, only he knows. Lord knows I have tried to ask him! Perhaps for some reason I can’t quite fathom he’s ashamed to confirm it? Or, conversely, he doesn’t want to admit to a denial? Either he’ll appear terribly “un-punk” for having been to such a play in 1977 or he’ll feel a let down for not appearing quite as “cultured” as he has alluded to in the past.
In the grand scheme of things, it matters very little. I have just always had an intrigue about the use of the term in the song and wondered if that (the play) was some vague spark that caused its usage.
It’s strange how some things can connect in ways you never expect. The Citizens has had its share of theatrical acting alumni come through its doors. One such talent was Pierce Brosnan, who had a stint plying his craft at the theatre around the time. He had a role in Semi Monde. And he (Brosnan) was my very first crush. There’s just something about those dark-haired, blue-eyed, Catholic, celtic boys, eh? They give me the “sucker punch”.
So, let’s just pretend that the inspiration for the use of the term was down to that – him actually seeing the play – rather than he just banged some French girl and she perhaps shouted it out in the throes of passion and he liked the sound of it and used it.
Can I be that French girl?!
Jim has recurring themes. A recurrence happens in the song Book Of Brilliant Things – “thank you for the voice, the eyes, and the memories shine”. But very similar lines are used (and as for as I am concerned, used superiorly) in Sons And Fascination – “thank you for the voice / thank you for the eyes / thank you for the good times”. They are used more emphatically in SAF.
He paints such a collage of things in the song. Of nature. Of a metropolis. Of motorcades: “golden guns and cars / styles and motorcades” and celebrations: “parades are leaving town”. I see 8mm film – images in my head of the things he sings about. Almost like a Pathé News reel.
It’s the cohesion of the album. It’s European travelogue. It’s a reflection of life in this point in time. It’s cinematic without being pompous. It’s a window. And it is still a reflection of what is influencing them musically but now also so very much their own! Their own voice! Their own image. Their stamp. Their mark! And, it’s indelible. For as much as it paints the picture of the now in 1981 – the Europe of 1981 – it has become timeless.
The song had the original working title of Sulphate. And it was one of those tracks Mick had worked on. One of the ones he had given to Jim on cassette. One of the ones that Jim fell in love with in his walks around Glasgow.
I absolutely adore Sons And Fascination. I’m so glad they worked with everything. That all the songs felt too precious to ditch anything and throw anything away. And I know it was done from the perspective of “wiping the slate clean”. But what a way to wipe the slate clean. What a way to blank a canvas!
Had they not done what they had done with Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call we may never have ended up with the album we got with New Gold Dream. And this is why I will forever hold Sons And Fascination in such esteem.
Inked on my skin.
I have a number of live versions as favourites. One is one that was recorded in San Francisco in November, 1981, specially for Billy Sloan’s show in Radio Clyde and aired in July, 1982, the night before a gig they had at Tiffany’s.
Another live favourite is a more up tempo version recorded from an FM broadcast, a Tiffany’s gig from December, 1981.
And we can’t leave it without a link to the album version. Masterful.
One final extra, if you’re interested in learning any more about it – links follow to a program on STV that aired a few years back about The Citizens.
There are a few interviews I have neglected to highlight here – because my blog is slack and too Kerr obsessive to think of much else. Lol
Bruce has been interviewed and the result is a three part podcast of discussion. You can find the link to the SHOUT podcast HERE
Also, Mr Francis Xavier Gallagher (aka Soundman Confidential) has gotten round to interviewing old Chuckie B – and you can take a listen to that one HERE
Also there was a second part to Kenny Hyslop’s interview with Neil Saint for the Retropopic Radio station. You can find the links HERE
Priptona, out! 👋🏻