Minds Music Monday – Chelsea Girl OGWT

Early days of 2022. Early days of Simple Minds. One of the very first Kerr/Burchill compositions. The bane of my amateur drumming life. My hi hat playing sucks ass. I have no rhythm. I found Glittering Prize easier to play along to than this. I doff my cap to you, Mr McGee.

I’m now under the impression that Jim’s haircut at this point was a stroke of genius – even if it did end up in later years having him likened to Edmund Blackadder in the first series of the show. Lol. The proof of its genius is that we are here some 43 years later still discussing it. Kudos, Kerrmeister. Kudos!

Got to admire that gorgeous lullaby keywork from Mick on this as well. And Charlie with full-on rock two chord riff.

I always forget to praise Derek. Sorry, Dan. Lol. I think possibly because you are actually the most ubiquitous of all.

Happy New Year, Minds Music Monday-ers.

Review: Themes For Great Cities – A New History of Simple Minds by Graeme Thomson

“This is a fast story”, author Graeme Thomson says at the beginning of the book and keeps reminding us a few more times further in. 

It’s a story of the formative years of two pals from Toryglen, their school chum down the road, the keyboard player from the Chinese restaurant and the bass player that was meant to be a guitarist. 

The focus is as one would hope – primarily on the music and the band itself. The meeting of five incredibly creative and gifted men and how those quite different young men come together to produce the alchemy that results in the early music of Simple Minds. We learn most about their creative and working lives. There is little about their individual backgrounds, only vaugaries that are relevant to the telling of the overall story. 

Although the story is heavily focused on Jim Kerr, Charlie Burchill, Mick MacNeil, Derek Forbes and Brian McGee, we also hear from others deeply involved in the story (if not necessarily within the band itself or the creation of the music). Jaine and David Henderson, Bruce Findlay, John Leckie, Simon Draper, Steve Hillage and Pete Walsh get mentioned and/or spoken to at length. 

Graeme Thomson has been meticulous without dragging out the pace of the story. As he continues to reiterate through the book it is a fast story. Like the five men that feature most strongly within the story, there is not an ounce of fat on it. Nothing lags. Nothing is protracted. Succinct, yet never lacking in detail. If I had got around to writing a book about the band I love, then this is EXACTLY the book I hope I’d have written. 

Along with content from interviews conducted with the primary band members, there is also input in the form of small “bridge” chapters from Bobby Gillespie, James Dean Bradfield and Ian Cook. There is also a dedicated “Q and A” interview chapter with art designer Malcolm Garrett. 

Some never-before-seen (even by me!!) photos are contained within the two sections of photographic content within the book. A number of wonderful photos by Virginia Turbett are within. Rare gems from John Leckie and Carole Moss can also be found within. 

There are things that I have questioned or pondered within my time as a Simple Minds fan that are discussed in the book. For instance, was the Life In A Day album already too “old” by the time it was released? Was Jim Kerr’s pudding bowl haircut a work of genius? Is Real To Real Cacophony one of the best albums they ever made? Is there anything that you cannot like about Empires And Dance? Why didn’t Grace Jones ever record a Simple Minds song? (Love Song gets singled out as the prime pondering here.) Can I ever stop my mind from wandering off to the object of my sexual desire when discussing Jim Kerr’s “Archimedes moment”? I may be the only person who grapples with that notion to be honest, but I am happy to keep on pondering it. “Eureka!”

If you want the WHOLE story of Simple Minds then this isn’t the book you want. But actually it IS the book you want. It is exactly the book you want! Because without this beginning, then there would be no “whole story”. This book is about the building blocks. That sandpit on the Toryglen building site where Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill met as eight year old boys is such a fantastic serendipitous metaphor for the whole story of Simple Minds. Getting a gang of workers together. Gathering the materials required. Assembling the parts. Laying the foundations and by album number six, having a cathedral to wow yourself (and others) with. 

For the ardent Simple Minds fan, the book actually contains few new revelations. I don’t want that to be a disappointment to the ardent fan because Thomson tells the story so well you will find it utterly enthralling all the same. The retelling is compelling. 

For anyone who is newer to the Simple Minds fold, or came to Simple Minds from the point of Once Upon A Time and hasn’t really explored their back catalogue extensively, I implore you to read this book. 

For the diehards – YOU NEED THIS BOOK! It is a fast and exhilarating ride. The book jumps off around the time of the recording of Once Upon A Time. That’s a different tale to tell then. 

I honestly have not enjoyed a book like this since I read The Complete David Bowie by Nicholas Pegg. With Pegg’s book it was the telling of the Hunky Dory/Ziggy Stardust/Aladdin Sane years of the Bowie story that struck a chord most. The telling of Bowie’s meeting with Tony Defries and the MainMan years in particular. It made me “want in”. I wanted to be part of it. It fed the hunger of the dream to be in “the thick of it”. To be right in the cogs of that working machine. 

I am feeling the same with how Graeme Thomson tells the Simple Minds story here. He takes you right in. I can feel myself in the recording studio. At Rockfield, walking about those barns and inside the studio, at the mixing desk. Watching John Leckie orchestrate these young guys as they get to grips with how to write songs and produce music that confounds and mesmerises, enthrals and bewilders. 

To experience the “coming of age” of these young men, from the evolution of Jim Kerr as songwriter and stage performer, to Mick MacNeil finding his feet as a musical architect and composer, working alongside Charlie Burchill, it makes you appreciate more than ever what actual musical juggernauts both Burchill and MacNeil are. Also just what a bedrock the rhythm section of McGee and Forbes were together. 

A tale told with utter distinction. I genuinely have not wanted to put this book down for a single moment since it arrived. Hide yourself away. Devour it at will. Gorge upon it! You won’t be disappointed. It is a feast. Then play those first six albums again with new ears and a newfound appreciation of the astonishing band Simple Minds are. 

I have two copies of the book to give away. If you would like to win yourself a copy of “Themes For Great Cities: A New History of Simple Minds” by Graeme Thomson, simply answer the following question: In the book Jim Kerr tells of his “Archimedes moment” when writing the lyrics for which song? (Hint – search this website to find the answer.) Leave your answer in the comments section of this blog post. You’ll find the comments section at the bottom of the post titled “leave a comment” (you may have to scroll past the existing comments to leave your own unique comment. Fresh comments will provide me with details to contact the winners). If you have trouble with the comments section, you can also enter via the “contact me” form found HERE. All successful entries will go into the draw to win one of two copies of the book. The competition closes on Sunday, January 23rd, 2022 at 23.59 GMT. Winners will be notified shortly after. The competition is open worldwide. Good luck!

Minds Music Monday – The ‘Cure All’?

Differing tastes. Songs that you don’t initially warm to and songs you love from the get go. This is the theme for MMM this week. 

I was pondering what I was going to write about this week – thinking that I more often than not choose earlier tracks. It’s my bias coming to the fore there really. If you gave me two albums to listen to – depending on the albums, I would most likely choose the earlier album. 

Let’s say those two albums laid down in front of me are Life In A Day or Big Music. Between the two of them, and the way I am feeling today (in particular) – I’d choose Big Music.

But the thing that really started the thought of this post was what song on Big Music do people tend to overlook or seem to express a disliking for? That seems to be Kill Or Cure. I love Kill Or Cure! I think it’s really sexy. I mean those lines in the chorus – especially the “you can spread yourself all over me” line – bloody hell! Don’t I wish! I honestly don’t get why it’s dismissed so much. How can you not hear how bloody SEXY it is?! I genuinely think it is one of the best tracks on Big Music. And that album – especially the deluxe version, with the addition of Liaison and Bittersweet makes Big Music quite the sensual experience.

But the reception of Kill Or Cure had me thinking about Simple Minds songs that I don’t warm to much. And in popped a link in my head. The word “cure”. One of the songs in the SM canon I didn’t warm to initially was No Cure. No Cure being a track on Life In A Day. 

The Life In A Day album I can listen to sure enough. But as has been discussed over the years, the things I enjoy more about the early Simple Minds era – especially the very early period between 1978-79 is listening to them live. The Thing I tend to wish for most is being able to see them with Magazine. Being able to see some gigs on that Secondhand Daylight tour – just as SM released Life In A Day. And frankly, I wouldn’t be bugging Jim for them to play Chelsea Girl. I get his frustration. It’s a shame he doesn’t get that same kind of frustration these days for feeling compelled to perform Don’t You (Forget About Me). 

Ah, the joys of seeing the 5×5 Live tour of 2012. All you lucky sods that bloody went!

No Cure was a bugbear for ages. And this is why I still use shuffle mode and have an absolute “kit and kaboodle” playlist of every single Simple Minds song…because on the odd occasion, the love grows. And that’s what happened with No Cure. Initially I couldn’t stand the song and would skip it. Then after a few times in a dwam of semi-sleep and it playing while listening to the “everything” playlist during the night – the song really grew on me. 

So, the link is the “Cure” – and the expanse of time in between – from early Minds to modern Minds and the songs that divide and unite. 

Perhaps without No Cure there’d be no Cocteau Twins? And for Simple Minds, without Cocteau Twins, there might not have been No Cure. I think compared to the demo that was done for Cocteau Twins you can hear on the “Early Years” CD, No Cure is more mature and more polished. I used to think No Cure sounded a bit too Boomtown Rats for me – but having just listened to Cocteau Twins again….that doesn’t really sound any less so. 

At the end of the day, I’ve grown to love No Cure and I loved Kill Or Cure from the start. 

And well…we need a “cure” this week, don’t we? A cure from the hangovers of Halloween. A cure from the fireworks of Bonfire night. And, most importantly – we need a cure for the world climate crisis. Another week of COP26 here in Glasgow. Let’s hope the leaders of the world can make the big and hard changes it is going to take to save this planet – if we think it’s worth bloody saving. 

I have no children of my own. But just because I am not a parent, it doesn’t mean I don’t give two shits about the future of the world and how future generations will live. In fact, the growing decline of the world and its growing population were strong factors in why I chose not to become a parent. It was the worry of what kind of world that I would bring lives into that made me reconsider the very fleeting notion I had of becoming a parent. Biggest factor of all was I’ve never felt very capable of looking after myself let alone be responsible for another or other human beings. 

Take humanity out of the equation completely – and I care enough for the animals we share this planet with not to be hellbent on destroying it. If we destroy this planet then that is sinister. It’s a monstrous act! We’ll never know. I almost wish the planet will be left to the animals. That humanity just fucks itself up and doesn’t take any other innocent party along with it.

Perhaps “the meek” – aka, all the rest of the animal kingdom – SHALL indeed inherit the earth. They deserve it much more than we do, in my humble opinion. 

The ultimate abolition of the human race – perhaps that is just the cure this world needs? 

(Shit. That went a bit dark and heavy, eh? Sorry about that!)

Anyway…either it be a Kill Or Cure, or No Cure at all. These songs are bloody braw!

Gigs, Glam and Boy Bands

A couple of things to highlight from recent days. One is an interview (well, part one of an interview said Neil Saint in reply to a comment left on the FB post) with Kenny Hyslop about his days in Slik. You can listen to the interview by clicking HERE

UPDATE: There is a part two of Kenny’s interview with Neil Saint in which he talks about his time with SM. You can listen to that HERE

Kenny with Jim – the grapple is real, my friends! Oooh la la!

I’m still yet to listen to it myself, but will do imminently. And I will link to part two when it airs.

The other is this (linked below)! A rare 1979 bootleg of the Minds playing a gig at Orebro University in Sweden. It was on November 1st, 1979. I have just turned nine years old the day before and Real To Real Cacophony is about to be released.

I don’t think this is a full set on this bootleg, but it’s more extensive than what I’ve been exposed to from this gig previously. There’s a good blend of tracks from Life In A Day and Real To Real. Premonition is a bit of a cut up job and Jim fluffs on lyrics several times throughout. Nerves getting the better of him, I guess. Fluffing only in the sense that lyrics end up out of order – and I am far too much of a pedant not to notice. In amongst the album tracks there’s also Here Comes The Fool and their cover of White Light/White Heat getting an airing.

I started listening to it last night and had to stop before hearing WL/WH and Chelsea Girl.

Obviously it isn’t the best bootleg going as far as sound quality is concerned. It has its moments though, and I am always appreciative of there being bootlegs from so early on to listen to. Jim even has a go at engaging with the crowd! Which I find amazing for that period, because he rarely utters a word at this point in time. And when he does talk, he sounds as nervous as hell!

Simple Minds – The First Three

Interesting retrospective review from these guys. Very brief and quite broad. Not even any praise for Pleasantly Disturbed on Life In A Day – which is a HUUUUGE oversight in my eyes. They don’t really get much into the nitty gritty of the albums…but if you have a spare 15 mins…

I Wanna Go To Mars (Bar) – Caught (Out) In A Dream

I have tentatively started to work on revising my Top 50 list of SM songs. Probably a good thing to do before finishing my “Why I love…” posts that I started over 5 years ago. Where the fork has that time gone? Us humans have the most bizarre relationship with time, don’t you think? On one hand, a certain passage of time feels so much longer than it has been – on the other, it can disappear within the blink of an eye.
I can’t believe it has been 5 years since I was last spending time with mum.

Back to last night. There was a song I had in my memory. A song that I had asked Jim about and he (it already becoming a rarer thing by that point) replied to me about it. And I wanted to find that bit of “conversation” with him. Me in that eternal need to feel like…I could talk to him…that it meant something – not just to me, but to him too. Albeit just as the singer and songwriter of the band I fervently follow most passionately to all others. It just being that and nothing more to him.

But I couldn’t for the life of me remember what the song was called! And I knew I had written about it on my blog. Well, I would assumed I had – because I’d have been over the moon that he replied to me. I would have made something of it! But without remembering the song’s name, how the heck was I going to find it?

I had other songs in me head – Take Me To The Angels and Sweet Things. I listened to Take Me To The Angels – not entirely convinced it was that. It lead nowhere on a search of my blog. Had it been that, it would have unearthed my “tete-a-tete” with Jim about it. Nada. The song is great though.

Sweet Things I was even less convinced about as I know before listening to it, it became the track Destiny on the Life In A Day album. And I knew the conversation I had with Jim was about a song that never made it on Life In A Day – it was my premise for asking him about it – why hadn’t this song made the cut? What happened to it?

Although I was doubtful, I listened to Sweet Things too. Again, great. Although Jim’s lyrics are hard to decipher on a rather worn out old bootleg, obviously the song’s melody and tune is there – its musical structure in tact (albeit with a MUCH longer intro than what Destiny ended up with on the album). I guess Jim just wore his heart on his sleeve a bit more then? That he was fine with completely rewriting songs . The songs he’s rewritten? They obviously all work…but I canne help feel something gets lost along the way. Even if just the matter-of-fact notion that the previous words are discarded.

I am still no closer at this point. My search took me to Flickr as well, and my old catalogue of things. Art that I saved. Endless screengrabs of snippets of things that happened on SMO (what was THEN Simple Minds Official – no need for officialdom now, it seems). Bits of interactions with Jim. I quickly combed through it but I really couldn’t see anything that was relevant. Perhaps I hadn’t saved it? Hmmm. That would be odd!

So…how the heck was a going to find this thing?!

A theme became apparent to me from the other tracks I had just listened to. Both Sweet Things and Take Me To The Angels came from live recordings. I was working a bit blind last night (in bed, glasses off) so in my mind they had both come from the same gig at the Mars Bar. It is only looking again this morning that I see that Sweet Things came from a recording at Grangemouth at the end of 1978.

But I had a tentative thread in my mind – Simple Minds at the Mars Bar in 1978. That search on YouTube finally came up trumps!

Caught (Out) In A Dream! That’s the one! I listened to it again last night. It meanders a bit. It’s a bit drawn out. But…it’s band history. It still has its own bit of importance. If nobody else wants to champion discarded songs – esp. Jim (I have only just in these past few minutes read over his reply to me), then I will! Even if just for band history sake.

I’m sure there are a few songs that never even got recorded that are truly lost for good. That makes me feel sad. It’s kind of tragic. Jim may not see it this way…but everything Simple Minds has made and produced…it all has its special kind of magic. And, well, it might not all be magical to me…but I appreciate that certain things that don’t mean much to me can mean a heck of a lot to others. I’m sure he’d scoff at the notion but just…what if Caught (Out) In A Dream (I always add the “out” in brackets because I am sure he sings “caught out in a dream” which would then make more sense it was titled that way rather than dropping the word “out” in the song’s title?) was the song that cemented a person’s early fandom? Who knows? Yes, perhaps the band didn’t miss it but…you guys knew all the songs! Duh!

Anyway…I awoke this morning dreaming of a TARDIS and of the Mars Bar – a just turned 19 year old Jim in that David Bowie shirt he is wearing when Laurie Evans takes photos of the band outside – what I believe *is* the Mars Bar in 1978. Oh, he just looks glorious even then. And I hear the words from John Grant’s song…

“I wanna go to Marz (Mars Bar)
Where green rivers flow
And your sweet sixteen
Is waiting for you after the show
I wanna go to Marz
You’ll meet the gold dust twins tonight
You’ll get your heart’s desire
I will meet you under the lights”

I can never help but think of Jim with those lines. And me wishing I could time travel, and be that “sweet sixteen” waiting for him after the show. That he would meet me “under the lights”.

Dreaming of a life never lived….

P.S. It was so much further back in time than I had anticipated. Nearly three years ago was his reply to me! And I hold on to them so tightly…it felt to me like it was maybe a year ago, two years at most. Oh…I hold on to every little morsel SSSOOO tightly. I miss this SSSOOOOOO much!