The Billy Breakdown 20/11/2021

I don’t know how long this new idea will last, but this is the start of a new concept for a weekly post here. It’s going to be called the “Billy Breakdown” and will basically be a short (or long-ish, depending upon how much I feel needs to be discussed) discussion about the previous evening’s edition of the Billy Sloan Show on BBC Radio Scotland.

There was no interviewee this week so the show was fairly crammed full of music this week, which was great. 

There were some really great tunes played this week. Standouts for me were the Wet Leg single, Chaise Lounge, which has now been a constant earworm for me over the past few days. I find the song absolutely SEXY AF. That part of the second verse “hey you, over there / on the chaise lounge in your underwear / what are you doing sitting down / you should be horizontal now” – I mean…come on! It doesn’t leave much to the imagination, does it!? But then there is also “hey you, in the front row / are you coming backstage after the show / because I’ve got a chaise lounge in my dressing room / and a pack of warm beer that we can consume.” Goddamnit, I wish! And no surprises as to who with, either. Bejaysus! 

Anyway, enough of Chaise Lounge and my sexual fantasies. 

Other things about the show this week that I loved:

Inwardly dancing like a loon to Magazine’s Because You’re Frightened. What a tune! And to hear Billy describe John McGeoch as “a beautiful man” – that was lovely. I wish I had got to know of John further back in time than I have done. Malcolm Garrett spoke very kindly of him to me also. He told me they shared a flat together for a time. He is greatly missed by a lot of people.

Hearing the new Johnny Marr single, Tenement Time again – that’s a catchy fucker too! He’s making some cracking music right now. Wish he could share some of that Halloween Scorp magic with me so I could become some super stellar, amazeballs person. 

The Associates – The Rhythm Divine. Another person greatly missed by many is Billy McKenzie. What an incredible voice – and I sat listening, captivated. Stunning. 

Loved the Wings songs played during the “Live and Dangerous” part of the show. It has made me want to hunt down and listen to Wings Over America. 

Then the Skids’ TV Stars. Never heard that before. That’s fab. 

Highlight and surprise of the night? – Highlight was the Lola In Slacks track Strawberry Locks. Wow – what a hypnotic kind of thing that was! It was bloody braw! Surprise of the night was The Scars’ Your Attention Please – and Billy giving me an education, name-dropping an Australian poet I had never heard of in my life! A man by the name of Peter Porter, who had written the poem The Scars track is based upon. Wow, it had some clout, that!

The topic for this week was to choose a song that has a list within the lyrics, be it placenames, items of food, clothing, people… whatever. As long as it listed things. The songs I enjoyed hearing on the topic were producer Gregor’s choice of Adam And The Ants’ Christian Dior, and the other was Ian Dury And The Blockheads’ Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3. I’ve heard the song a few times over the years, but never really took any heed of the lyrics until last night. He was always great with words. My fave line? Unsurprisingly enough is the line “being in my nuddy” – not that I go about naked – just …. Certain imagery that I conjure up thinking of other persons (hint hint). I don’t need to elaborate any further on that, either, I don’t think! 

My choice for this week’s topic came to me quite late. I saw Billy ask the question as I was putting myself to bed on Tuesday night. And I went and had a look at the choices people had left on Facebook on Wednesday morning and saw that someone had chosen Up On The Catwalk. Nothing immediately sprang to my mind on Wednesday morning so I left even trying to think about coming up with a song. Then last night when he asked the question again shortly before going to air – like a shot John Grant’s Marz came to my brain. Marz is basically a list of ice cream flavours that he turns into verses of the song. Marz is meant to be about a place he’d go to as a kid. An ice cream parlour and they had all these fantastical ice cream flavours. It was one of his favourite places to go. For a song about ice cream flavours, it’s really quite beautiful. And I have that silly memory of being in Oz, and Jim writing a post about St Patrick’s Day, choosing a John Grant song and then him posting a link to Marz for me in the comments. Me forever associating the line “you’ll get your heart’s desire, I will meet you under the lights” as a wish to meet him at the stage doors after a gig as a wish that may by fulfilled sooner than I think, if I have the gumption to stand about and wait. Oh, Bridlington…

My choice wasn’t read out this week. Probably got lost in the deluge. 

Along with Up On The Catwalk, I Travel was also chosen by a listener. 

Billy played another track from Peter Capaldi’s St Christopher album and he said they had one of the most amazing responses ever to his interview the previous week with Peter. He said “I’ve interviewed some big names over these past years on Radio Scotland”, and Jim got mentioned amongst those “big names”. That’s Billy making sure he stays on Jim’s Christmas card list! Lol

As for next week he said “I am hoping to get a guest for next week, but nothing has been finalised yet.” Hmmm, a mystery! I wonder who it could be? I kind of wondered with the couple of name-drops that Jim got and that next week’s show will be on November 27th as to whether it might be Charlie on the show? That could be quite fab! 

We shall see!

Link to the show on BBC Sounds HERE

Sunshine And Darkness

The only thing that seems to make me happy right now is to endlessly listen to Jonathan Richman. It’s these kind of things that make me wonder whether I am on the spectrum because of my silly, confused traits.

I need an outlet. I need to vent. This is what this place is for, for me personally, beyond it being a tenuous Simple Minds blog, and more broadly a general music blog, and even broader still, a review, interview and generalised art and creative space – it’s a personal space too.

A space for me. When wanting to be insular is too unhealthy. I can bottle things up and let things fester.

Anyway…where am I going with this? I don’t know.

I guess I was just…I was travelling along okay, you know? Not on the highest of highs…but at a fairly decent equilibrium. The odd dip through the day. One’s mood can change from minute to minute, can’t it? But on the whole, as of Saturday, October 23rd, I was … “stable”.

Then I got a message which arrived during one of those little “dips”…and that was it. 

I can’t go into detail about it. But I probably should. I have not spoken to the sender of the message since then. So upset and angry by it as to just dismiss it and them. So, how do I explain it without going into detail? How do I explain my mood and slide downwards if I can’t elaborate? I don’t know. 

I feel unable to confront the persons/people concerned. 

To be honest, the person I am most angry with is myself. I should have been more upfront about my feelings and fears. And here lies the paradox! 

But…I was quiet, because I felt as though my feelings and my fears would not be considered or would be dismissed. People were putting faith in me to do something that I didn’t feel equipped to handle and didn’t really know much about to be honest. I was happy to do the groundwork and try and do something with it – but it put the fear of god into me! If it went shit, if it fucked up, it would be MY head on the chopping block – not theirs! And if I did fuck up…who would be hardest on me for my fuck up? ME!

Jim’s post about “Absolute Beginners” was timely…but a little too late. 

I don’t feel as though I learn anything. I just constantly make mistakes I never learn from. I see all my faults and all my foibles and I never know how to make them right! 

Okay…let’s start over.

People put their faith in me. Some people who do that I get genuine good feelings from and never question why they do it. They are just good, virtuous people who see the inherent good in everyone. I used to think I was like that too. Believed the inherent good in people.

But others I find myself questioning why they put their faith in me, why they would want to have dealings with me, or associate with me because I feel I have nothing to offer them in return. So then I believe they must have motives. WHY are they being nice to me? For what purpose? Perhaps they are just…a different type of person? So, I use my “inherent good” glasses and dismiss any doubts or niggles I may have. Anything that is otherwise screaming “PROCEED WITH CAUTION!” at me. 

It was around mid July. We had been going through the saga with the cats and both of us (myself and my OH) were going through ill mental health. My OH has been going through mental health issues for…nearly the whole time we’ve been together. Prior to that. A long time. I didn’t start to recognise my own mental health issues until we had been together almost 10 years. 

To cut it to the quick – both of us had suffered with varying degrees of mental ill health for quite some time now. 

In mid July, we were both at breaking point. Several factors compounded the issue.

Right at this point in proceedings, I was “bestowed” (for want of a better term) a task. This task seemed absolutely MONUMENTAL to me! Did I confess this to the bestower? No! Heaven forbid I should seem weak and incapable – the things I believe this person thinks of me. So I put on my guise. Made a joke of it “hey, I can’t even organise a piss-up in a brewery, but if you want me to give it a go, I’ll give it a go.”

I’m in tears writing this just reliving how on earth I was going to execute this thing!

No other input. Nothing else came my way…just a “here’s this. See what you can do. There’s a good girl. Cheerio!” And because it came to me when it did, it just sent me spiralling down further. So I sat on it. I sat on it, petrified to speak out and say “I can’t do this!” – fear of being weak. Fear of compounding everything I think these people think of me. 

Some weeks back, some clarity came my way. A deadline. I felt I had a bit of breathing space. The past couple of weeks I started to feel able to at least try and tackle it. Make tentative steps as to what I needed to do to get this thing under way.

And then, I get this message. The message that tells me “thanks, but we’re doing something else with this now. All the best.” Was I relieved? Not really. What I was was devastated. And what I have been for the past 4 days is…gutted and angry. 

Had I wish I’d been upfront? Had I wish I’d been brave enough to say “Woah! Thanks, but I can’t do this.” Maybe. But…we’re told to push ourselves, to take ourselves out of our comfort zone to achieve things, right? Well, here I was, trying to push myself out of my comfort zone. And just when I was getting prepared to make inroads into it – BAM!! Rug pulled from under me. 

The past 4 days I have been sick. Sick, upset and angry. And I know those involved around it will be dismissive, because that is how it has always felt. I’m “oversensitive”. Or I’m “overthinking”. No! You know what I am? A HUMAN FUCKING BEING, WITH FEELINGS – WHO IS SICK OF HAVING THEIR FEELINGS DISMISSED!

I did this to myself – because I was too scared to stand up to what I would think was another dismissive waving of the hand. Either made to feel weak for admitting that at the point it came to me it was too much for me to handle, or a shirking of responsibility or a dismissal of concerns with a “ah, come on, you can do this in your sleep” denial.

And I know I need to let go of it. I now need to just…be Zen and let it go. Let it drift off away and not think about it any more. 

There is so much more I want to say and wish I could say…but I am best to keep the rest within. It would only be dismissed – so I might as well be the one to dismiss it. 

I still don’t know where I am going with this post. 

The title? Because I wanted to talk about the only thing filling my days with light right now is Jonathan. Dear, sweet Jonathan. 

Jim is there too, of course. Some things never change. So, there has been Halloween themed fan “art”…with Mr Kerr in varying dark roles, usually the devil – I think DraKERRla may be to come (my erogenous zone has always been my neck – I find vampire films highly erotic).

Last night’s music was a mix of sunshine and darkness. Sunshine from Jonathan and the Modern Lovers. “Monologue About Bermuda” from the album “Having A Party With Jonathan Richman” is just about my most favourite thing in the world right now. I can’t stop smiling every time I hear it – even through the tears.

Before that I played Roadrunner (Twice) and then Roadrunner (Once). I think I prefer once to twice. There’s a rawness to “Once” that I prefer.

After having my mood lifted for that little bit of time – I shifted to Magazine and listened to Secondhand Daylight. I bloody LOOOOOVE this album. All of it, but particularly the end block of Permafrost, Give Me Everything and I Love You You Big Dummy. That I can listen to something so dark and wallow yet be equally uplifted I find magical. And I am laying in bed, listening away and thinking at certain intervals “Man, how great is John McGeoch?!” And then it’s “Man, how great is Barry Adamson?!” and then for Howard, and for Dave Formula.

And I eventually fell asleep hours later, still wishing I could have seen Magazine and Simple Minds touring together. 

“To sleep, perchance to dream.”

From Cowboys International To Big Music Post-Lostboy! : Minds Music Monday – Dance House

In my vlog post yesterday in discussing my visit to the record fair on Saturday – I mentioned that I had picked up a copy of Ken Lockie’s album The Impossible. I had very little knowledge of what I was buying. Only the vague idea that somehow Jim was involved in it. That he provided backing vocals on it was what I believe it to be. On that hunch I bought the album when I saw it there in the rack.

Even the guy whose stall it was was flummoxed when I presented him with the record asking him how much he wanted for it. Flipping it over and perusing it he says “where did you get this?” (ie: from where within the boxes on his stall had I retrieved it.) I showed him where. “Is he Scottish?”, he enquires further. “Erm…maybe? I’m not sure.” It was like the blind leading the blind. (In actual fact he’s a Geordie.)

When I got home, I looked over the sleeve notes. I see Jim’s name on the back, still at this stage none the wiser as to what his exact role is. I also see to my surprise the name Steve Hillage on the production side.

And here we are! Yes! This MMM has yet ANOTHER loose Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call link. I’m not sure of the timing of the release of the album – most things about it just show a release date of 1981. Jim’s appearance on the album on the credit notes shows he appears “courtesy of Simple Minds”, so I am guessing it was released as Simple Minds were still negotiating their deal with Virgin?

It’s a bit of a “who’s who” list of guest appearances on the album. I mean, geez, Nash The Slash is on the track with Jim! John McGeoch and John Doyle (both former bandmates in Magazine and later in The Armoury Show) both guest on the album as well. And former bandmates in Cowboys International appear too.

So I guess this is where Jim got his first exposure to “Old Cabbage Head” as a producer? I really would love to ask him about it. If he had any recollection of it at all. I mean, was he even in the studio with Ken to lay down his BV? Or was it just done elsewhere? Another studio in another part of the country? Did he meet Hillage then? Or was the meeting up with Hillage not until they actually started working with him on SAF/SFC? I guess these questions are like peeing in the wind and will have to remain as ambiguous as his lyrics. Guesswork.

Anyway…

The sum of Jim’s contribution is on this track linked below. The lead single off the album – Dance House. Lockie of course returns the favour by being a backing vocalist on SAF/SFC.

I’ve got to say, this track has become quite the earworm – hence the artwork it inspired last night. Enjoy!

I Love You, You Big Dummy – Magazine Mania

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These things take hold with me at strange, perplexing and kind of random times. I am a rather habitual beast. When I get gripped by something…if it really takes hold, it becomes quite an obsession for a time. And then they remain habits.

I’ve been trying to branch out my musical taste. It really is quite limiting, I guess, and I have never been that good at absorbing new discoveries. I tend not to give things enough of a chance to wow me. If it isn’t immediate – and therein lies the hypocrisy because very rarely has any musical love I have gained of a group or artist been THAT instantaneous – I tend to give up rather quickly.

These days, I tend to try in small doses until such time as my interest gets super piqued and the thing starts to bite and then I start to OD.

The newest bite is Magazine.

I KNOW! But honestly, the “new” music that is around these days rarely takes hold with me. A few acts filter through, but very few of them sound genuinely new.

So…Magazine. There had been bugger all of their stuff on Spotify for AGES. So much the case that when I wanted to take a listen of Real Life again last week, I went straight to YouTube. It was only a couple of days later did I go and take another look at Spotify. Blow me down with a feather! Quite a bit of the Magazine catalogue is now up there – Real Life, Secondhand Daylight and The Correct Use Of Soap up there for a start…and quite a bit besides.

I suppose the thing that got me diving in again was this. Seeing Howard Devoto’s words on Pete Shelley and hearing that snippet of their most recent musical collaboration it got me wanting to explore Magazine again.

I’ve listened to the first three albums several times over this past week. I think that for me…despite some of the more well-known tracks being on Real Life (Shot By Both Sides, Definite Gaze, The Light Pours Out Of Me) and The Correct Use Of Soap (A Song From Under The Floorboards, Sweetheart Contract, Thank You (Fallentinme Be Mice Elf Again) – Sly And The Family Stone cover), my fave album of the three so far is Secondhand Daylight. And the fact that was the album they were touring with when SM were their support touring with Life In A Day – God I wish to fuck I had a TARDIS!

To start, apart from their own material, they do STELLAR covers! I titled this post “I Love You, You Big Dummy” because I just fell in love with it on the first listen. Revealing my musical ignorance, I had NO IDEA it was a cover of a Captain Beefheart song. I was at least familiar with Thank You (Fallentinme Be Mice Elf Again) and its origins, thanks to a certain Mr Kerr. I’d love to ask him what he thinks of Magazine’s version, but I am trying not to harass the man currently. Best not to badger. Leave the insipid enthusiasm for the blog, eh?

I think back to my interview with Bruce and him saying he tried to get Simple Minds out of their contract with Arista earlier than they did. That he approached Simon Draper some 18 months before they signed to Virgin. At that point, Draper was unconvinced, “Why would we want Simple Minds on our books when we already have a “Simple Minds” – Magazine?” Perhaps I am nuts…biased…wear rose-tinted glasses – but I really don’t hear that much of a musical similarity. Certainly not to the point Simon Draper was making – that they were TOO SIMILAR to be record label stable mates. WTF? Well, as it transpires, it would seem that Simple Minds’ signing to Virgin seemed to signal some kind of death knell for Magazine. They released one album shortly after the SM signing – Magic, Murder And The Weather. Then there is nothing new until the band reforms in 2009 (a rather short-lived reformation).

I am yet to listen to Magic, Murder And The Weather…I really am quite absorbed with the other three for now.

My favourite track? I heard it for the first time proper last night, and then immediately played it again…and then again…and again. I just found it jaw-dropping. Not really sure why. I just loved what I felt was an edginess and rawness to it. Actually I do know why…fuck me…that bassline from Barry Adamson!!! FUCK OFF!

Yes…I can feel a new love affair blossoming. It’s very rarely “love at first sight” for me musically. Most things are a slow burn.

Magazine are the latest slow burn to suddenly become a fireball. Will they remain a powerful flame? Will they fizzle out and simmer away in the background like many of my recent other new loves? Roxy Music, Talking Heads…

All I know is the appreciation is finally there.

Priptona Talks – To Jaine Henderson: Part One

I had the privilege to conduct my first ever professional interview for this blog with Simple Minds’ (and indeed Johnny And The Self Abusers) original lighting technician, Jaine Henderson. Upon gathering my notes to compile the transcript from the interview, what became clear to me was, despite my wanting to talk to Jaine about her work with SM and being involved in the early embryonic days of the band (and those discussions happened), was the fascinating life Jaine has had beyond her brief time as SM’s lighting tech. The interview became less about Simple Minds and her involvement in the early days, and just as much about Jaine herself and her life before and after her involvement with SM.

Brother David got himself a full-time job at the local record store, Graffiti, on Queen Street. Jaine would go in and hang around and help out on a Saturday. Members of the band (as of then, Johnny And The Self Abusers) would come in and be wanting to listen to things and would get chatting to David and from there David started to work as the sound tech and general “ideas man” for the band. He’d travel down to London with Jim Kerr and Graffiti store manager (and indeed JATSA band manager), Scott McArthur, knocking on record company doors, offering up demo tapes.

Jaine went along to some of the gigs and would help out here and there. One time the guy who was meant to do the lighting was a no show, so Jaine stepped in. That was the start for Jaine as lighting tech.

The first official Simple Minds gig was at Satellite City on January 17th, 1978. It was nerve-wracking for all involved. Jim, in a Facebook post on Simple Minds Official in January, 2017 (just a couple of days before the gig’s 39th anniversary) expressed how nervous he was, and what a “big deal” the gig was for the band. Jaine and David had done some rehearsing leading up to the gig. The odd little slot here and there, helping out where they could.

Whilst starting out being the lighting tech, Jaine also helped with the band’s promotional material, creating tour posters for early local gigs. Offered a six month placement at a graphic design company, Jaine enjoyed learning to work in mixed media. One of the early iconic Simple Minds gig posters was her concept, incorporating a photo by Peter McArthur. “I saw the photo and thought it looked really good. There was a screen printer at work but you could only work with one colour at a time. Jim liked the whole ‘Village Of The Damned’ thing, so I had the idea of making his eyes red.” The posters would have a blank space of white at the bottom so information on each new gig could be added.

Such a successful concept it turned out to be that it lead to some official merchandise being made. You’ll see in the video below a badge that worked lenticular, so Jim’s eyes would flash on and off, depending on how the light caught the badge. Retro style badges of both Jim and Charlie with the “red eye effect” can be bought from the official band store to this day.

The lighting kit comprised four lights on a repurposed bread board that David had put together. Lights of various strength of wattage were used, including a 1000 watt floodlight that if used in unison with the other lights could lead to the lights overheating and short-circuiting. Other lights were added over time having been “rehoused” as part of the Simple Minds lighting kit.

The lighting rig got more complex as time moved on and as the band developed and endeavoured to put on more elaborate shows. Equipment got heavier too, and Jaine would struggle sometimes to set it all up herself. It was tough work, lots of heavy lifting and physically labour intensive. More than a solitary person working alone should have to deal with. But Jaine was reluctant to ask for help. “If I asked for help it would be seen as weakness, because I’m a girl, that I couldn’t take it. But it was because things got more complex. It was a job that required more than one person, especially for the physical setting up of the lighting rig.”

Jaine explained there was an element of freedom, and in some respects more control over a simpler lighting set up than what is around today. Most lighting rigs now are controlled totally with automated switches. Fairly much all pre-programmed with the light show being almost “curated” before tours begin to a setlist by the music act sticking to a fairly uniform presentation each night of a tour.

Back in the day when Simple Minds were starting out, new songs were penned on an almost weekly basis. Set lists could change quite regularly. For Jaine that meant that no two nights were ever really the same. “With the lighting set up I had early on I had greater ability, I think, to change with the mood and atmosphere of each gig. I had more control to change the sequence of the lights, and the shadows and darkness between the lights played as much of a factor in how the music came across to a crowd as much as the lighting did itself.”

In Simple Minds’ tour with Magazine, there was one particular occasion when things seemed to go awry, at a gig in London at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Simple Minds were support for Magazine on the tour, and as a support act, they were receiving a good reception from the crowds every night. By some accounts, this seemed to be hacking off Magazine’s manager (contentious as to whether it was the band’s overall manager or their tour manager). At this particular gig, halfway through the Simple Minds set, the power was cut. Off for several minutes without any sense that things were trying to be sorted out, the band embarrassingly trundled off stage. Most in the SM camp smelled a rat. Jim seemed to be of the belief it was the band’s tour manager that cut the power, but the real culprit will never truly be known.

As far as Jaine remembers things on the Magazine tour (and for what was the Life In A Day tour for Simple Minds, the album having just been released as they set off on tour), it was a small blip on an otherwise successful tour. A tour that she remembers enjoying by and large.

Jaine shared with me the story of the pink lamé jacket. She and Jim had seen this wonderful looking, sparkly pink jacket in a shop window and thought it looked great. Neither of them could afford to buy it outright, so they decided to go halves in it. It was an expensive jacket. Some £60! Considering the average weekly wage at that time was around £30, it was quite a sum! “We were going to take turns wearing it, but I ended up wearing it more often than Jim.” Then on the night of the gig at the Apollo in Manchester (a hometown gig for the headline act, of course), the Magazine road crew having seen Jaine wearing the pink lamé jacket had an idea. “Each night on the tour, John McGeoch would have his saxophone brought out on stage and handed to him by a member of the road crew”, Jaine explains, “but this night in Manchester, the crew thought it would be a great idea that I go on instead wearing the jacket, as if in a magician’s assistant guise with a ‘Ta daaaah! Big reveal’ moment that would surprise John. So on I go in the jacket with John’s saxophone and hand it to him. John wasn’t expecting me, so he was quite shocked. The crew and the other band members are giggling away enjoying John’s reaction, and I am mortified being on stage, standing in front 2,500 people, handing John his sax!”

Part two of the interview can be read HERE