I wished those flats at Prospecthill Circus still existed. And that I had the talent to actually paint this on the side of a building rather than have it exist digitally and only imagine how it could look on a wall – painted directly on it.
Imagine approaching Glasgow City Council to get this painted somewhere? It would be amazing!
That reminds me – I need to go and have a look at that Shuggie Bain mural painted on the side of Barrowland on Friday.
UPDATE: I worked on creating this (photo below) this morning and was about to post it on my own Facebook timeline when I though, “Oh, maybe I should post it to SMOG. I few people might appreciate it. It might get the odd like.” HOLY SHIT! I think it’s going to end up being probably the most popular thing I have ever posted on there! Wow!
Even if I do say so myself, my photoshop work is pretty darn convincing.
Released in May, 1981 – while the band are still busily recording the Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call albums, the first of the singles of the album is rushed out.
But as “rush jobs” go, it has been a mainstay in the Simple Minds live set…well, since even BEFORE it was recorded in the studio and released as a single.
Well, so the Dream Giver site says but when I look at setlists from the March tour I see Sweat In Bullet on the setlist and not The American. Also there is a mention on the page about the March ‘81 tour that Careful In Career and Love Song had been written earlier in the year and already getting live airings. Which makes The American an odd choice for a first release single. Why not Sweat In Bullet or Love Song? I guess the desire to give a thirsty public something completely fresh and new won out (though you’d have thought only the small-ish contingent of die hard Minds fans would be the only ones familiar with the new tracks from the March setlist?).
Anyway, I suppose I’m splitting hairs. The point remains that the single is braw (“very good” for the non Scots reading this). And if only Simple Minds would give their still incredibly thirsty fanbase new material like this these days – and this quickly! No such luck. It’s all such a corporatocracy now. Music as “commodity”. No. We release singles as one new song tagged on to a “best of” album. Yet ANOTHER “best of” album. Sorry, but, yeah. I never like to criticise the band much but, one “new” song attached to a “best of” album, and a whole tour based around that?! Well, in retrospect, maybe a pandemic was just what this band needed to get a bomb up its arse and think about just WHAT their fanbase wants or DESERVES.
I’m sure Jim will not be best pleased with what I have written just above. But then again, he probably doesn’t give two shits, which is how things have felt this past year in the Simple Minds fandom, to be honest. YES! He keeps talking about new material and a new album, but then it gets handed over to record company fucking bureaucratic red tape shit. FUCK! JUST GIVE US SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO BEYOND PROMISES! JESUS CHRIST!
Hey ho. I guess the Minds story will come to an end soon enough anyway, so why does it matter?
ANYWAY! The American! Let’s celebrate The American. The rush job of a single that still has the fanbase singing their lungs out to this day. I can’t be begrudging ANOTHER “hits” tour when I have so much love for songs like The American now, can I? It has appeared on many a tour over the years, with short rests during the Street Fighting Years and Real Life tours and just the odd absence from there.
There is a demo version of the song that got a release on the 2004 mega compilation, Silver Box. It’s all pretty much there. The final studio release was refined and honed.
I find the 12” extended version of the song much better than the album version. The album version is great too, just…a bit short. Still, I guess everything that appeared on Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call was pushing for space. So much so that the LEAD single from the sessions doesn’t even get put on the lead album but on its twinned “sister extra”.
The 12” also gets a highlight on the wonderful Themes sets – on Volume 1 of the releases. As well as that, in the late nineties, there is an “Interference Mix” of the song released. It remains a solid favourite of mine of the Simple Minds remixes that have been produced.
The earliest live appearance I can find on a bootleg is at the Futurama 3 gig at Bingley Hall in Stafford on Sept. 6th, 1981. The infamous one where Jim is “as crook as Rookwood”, as we say in Oz (ie: feeling very unwell). It’s audible, to the point where it sounds to me that Jim sings “here comes the meds” during the second run of the “chorus”. There is a lot of dead air where he normally would be singing. And Derek gives the sign off at the end of the song for the end of the gig. I guess Jim is off puking again by this point?
Another favourite involves “early days” footage of the band on French TV performing it live. Jim is partly clothed in my favourite combo, in his riding boots and baggy white troosers. (And in a fairly figure-hugging white t-shirt as well – his chest looks frigging awesome! OMG!) He also does some wrapping of the mic cord around his elbow and he just makes shapes and is just the sexiest thing alive! Beautiful! He’s beautiful.
But I digress!
The most “recent” (some recent to my ears anyway) versions I have really enjoyed have been the live acoustic version (not the studio version on the Acoustic album – that never really sat well with me for some reason) but also the version I heard from the Good News From The Next World tour. It was a return of the song on the setlist after an absence of some eight years. I heard a version of it from the gig at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow on 10th September, 1995. Jim actually sings all the BV lines! The “across a curved earth / Nassau club days / in collective fame / the eventful workouts” lines. I nearly lost my shit hearing it for the first time. It was late at night but inwardly I was shouting, “HE’S DOING THE LINES! HE’S DOING THE LINES!” Lol. I was ssooo happy!
In light of what I said earlier in this post, The American is one song I would be happy to keep on the setlist. It is a firm favourite of mine at gigs and one I am guaranteed to dance and sing along to. But I would be absolutely OVER THE MOON if more tracks from Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call were performed. The only tracks with almost concrete affirmation to stay on the setlist are, The American, Love Song and Theme For Great Cities. The only other track I’ve had the privilege of hearing performed live in front of me from the albums is This Earth That You Walk Upon. I’d love to hear Sweat In Bullet or Sons And Fascination itself, or Seeing Out The Angel or In Trance As Mission. Anything really.
Speaking of “rush jobs” – the cover! Malcolm Garrett was given just 48 hours to come up with something for the cover of the single – his first design for Simple Minds. His time at the cover design helm for the band saw a number of iconic covers produced, the pinnacle of these, for many, being New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84). But the start of the working relationship with Assorted iMaGes the band had was through the first work of The American. The cover holds personal significance for me, given how Malcolm collected the images together and how I make my own art.
Overall, the 12” version as well as many live versions are my favourites of The American, so for this week’s Minds Music Monday, let’s say happy (almost!) 40th anniversary to the AMERI-AMERI-AMERI-AMEREE-AMERICAAAN!
The plus side is, you can win a Priptona print! Just leave a comment on this blog post (you can leave comments at the bottom of the post), or if you’re on Facebook or Instagram, check out my pages there (priptonaweird on IG or look for “Priptona Art” on Facebook) by 4pm GMT, Monday April 5th.
You could win one of these (the choice of print is entirely yours)…
For the past two nights I’ve listened to the latest Art&Talk upload of the soundboard of SM at Glastonbury in 1995.
Hearing a crowd as big as that singing and chanting Minds songs – it’s amazing – and it really does make me wish I was part of some of that history. At the moment it feels like that is all that’s left to grasp on to. Jim is always espousing that the band are always looking forward and never going backwards – there isn’t much choice for the fans right now but to look back.
After listening to the Glastonbury set, and hearing that chanting crowd fade out, and thinking of my past years as a fan, and pondering recent events and forever questioning stuff….I wanted to go back again. I just wanted to hear Jim talk rather than sing. To hear some of … the “real” Jim Kerr.
There are certain things that had me “fall in love” with him – perhaps it’s too strong a term for it – but to get “enamoured” by him, infatuated, mesmerised… to adore him.
Watching very early Simple Minds footage was a starting point. Seeing how very different he was when the band started. He had a real quirk. He certainly wasn’t like your typical “rock star” early on. His awkwardness was quite visible. But for me, that made him all the more mesmerising. I was awestruck by seeing how he was back then. I’ll never forget how truly jaw-dropping it was to see the Hurrah’s footage the first time. That “THIS IS JIM KERR?!” moment. It was the first trigger.
The more I explored, the more I was bowled over by the songwriting – the lyrics. I buried myself in learning them. Reading the lines as he sang. Gravitating to certain songs, and within those – favourite lines. Absolutely falling in love with his writing style and the words and how he’d convey them and sing them…the nuances in his delivery. And those elements are strongest during Empires And Dance, Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings Call, New Gold Dream and to a lesser degree, Real To Real Cacophony. Real To Real still has very strong lyrical content that I love, as does Life In A Day – but vocally he isn’t quite there yet – though I still very much appreciate the nuances.
Out of immersing myself in the lyrics, I could feel the influences of Bowie and Burroughs, and probably to a lesser degree Lou Reed and Bryan Ferry.
The love of the lyrics had me wanting to share favourite lines but I wasn’t sure how I was going to do that. I didn’t want to merely type them out and then talk about them. I wanted to do something more. Something that expressed how much of an impact they were making upon me. That I was kind of living THROUGH them. That they were changing me. Altering my perception of things. That I was learning and falling in love with them. That I WAS in love them – and as a consequence, falling in love with him. Being awestruck by a man so young writing so amazingly and expressing it in a way that was different to the way others did. It took YEARS for any ego in Jim to be evident. I guess it had to come to the fore eventually.
But that aspect is of Jim the showman. A young man learning his craft who comes of age. After a while the stage persona seemed very different from the man off stage. And watching videos of him being interviewed in the early days, it just compounded the things I was feeling. The early performance videos certainly played their part, but I think the interviews played an even BIGGER part. Because there, the vulnerability shows – esp. visually if he is struggling and the stutter and facial ticks are still present. That quirks in him instead of being a turn-off, were much more a turn-on. A mark of “oh, he really is just ‘one of us’, he just happens to be smart and eloquent (despite the stutter) and beautiful with it.”
And so the “art” evolved from wanting to express the way I felt about the lyrics. That I was listening to them and taking them in but also that…this young, beautiful man was writing them – he had to become the centrepiece of the “art”.
And the more early interviews I watched, the more I fell for the man as well as the words.
And then to be sharing them and have him in the present day take notice of them and appreciate them? Acknowledgement from him was the final nail in the coffin.
That your heart is already bursting with love for someone, albeit in a retrograde kind of sense, and then in the present moment, the man who was once that young, idealistic man acknowledges (inadvertently on his part, for sure) your….infatuation of him. I don’t think I was really prepared for that. And I guess I really did lose my marbles. Because IT FELT AMAZING! It felt reciprocated! Like…he got it! He got what I was feeling.
So…the interview from 1984 with Billy Sloan – it was one particular thing that really just…yeah. It allowed for “time travel”. To really feel what Jim was like then. He’s confident and bold and bolshy, but also there is still him trying to keep himself grounded. Just little things too. Something as silly as his laugh. Just, the way he talks about the guy in the crowd in Cork with the glasses and the way he bursts out laughing – it just makes my heart burst! And how he talks of Glasgow and how he sees the future of Glasgow – like a little soothsayer. And he’s a wonderful idealist. He really DOES believe the words of Promised You A Miracle, that “everything is possible”. And you can’t help but be swept up in that! As “glass half empty” as my tendencies are – I ADORE him for his optimism. His gleaming, shining idealistic nature. These are the things that have me in love with him! He has so much faith, so much belief…not just self-belief – but he wants it for EVERYONE.
If you’ve never heard this interview, just listen to it. Listen to him. (I’ve linked to it below.)
I go back to this interview on the odd occasion. I can’t tell you how many times I listened to it in the early days of my fandom. Especially during my time out in Australia with my mum during 2015/16. The latter months of my time there, I would listen it almost nightly. I went through a point where…I dunno…I went through one of those stupid points where I thought I’d pissed him off and that “things were coming to an end” and I just listened to this interview almost every night. It and episodes of Cabin Pressure (the BBC Radio 4 comedy starring Stephanie Cole, Roger Allam, Benedict Cumberbatch, and writer of the series, John Finnemore) were my nightly kind of wind down.
Some nights I’d be in tears having listened to it…just awed by him. Chanting under my breath as I was listening “he’s just so beautiful. I love him.” It’s silly! It’s really silly, I know!
And there was this element with the art that while the Jim of now was appreciating it that I could dream that it would mean the Jim of the past – that young idealist, that he would love them too – because in all honesty, I don’t think I fell in love with 2016 Jim, I fell in love with early 1980s Jim. Because I love the words of that young Jim. That one that felt like he was part OF something. The one that wanted people WITH him. The one who expressed faith and wanted to SHARE the spoils. The one who said “the prize is the race itself”. Not the one who feels APART FROM things. Not the one who, despite trying to stay grounded, inevitably got caught up in the ego and status of it all.
I want to believe there is some of that Jim still present in today’s Jim…but it doesn’t feel very evident right now.
I don’t know why I am still pining to talk to Jim. To converse with him, to feel a kinship, to have what feels like a friendship with him. I used to be convinced that the young Jim wouldn’t look at me twice. And that may be very true in a sexual attraction sense – I am all the things he seems to not show any attraction to at all, short, fat, needy, emotional, unsure of myself, socially inept, weak … pathetic. Not an Amazonian beauty – just some silly, stupid bint. Full of self-loathing and with the constant need to be liked.
He is all things I am not. Of course there is sexual attraction there. I dunno. I really don’t know what I am writing or what I am trying to say here. I think I am just trying to do something with this blog. Trying to get out of this writer’s block I have again.
The band. The music. For me personally, it’s all down to Jim. He very quickly became my focal point. Him and his lyrics and how he expresses himself. I guess there was something a bit “outsider” I saw in him. That thing that Mick MacNeil described as him looking like he should have been in “special school”. Lol.
He has…a presence. He’s charismatic and an enigma in the same breath. Exudes cool and nervousness in equal measure. It makes him human. He feels tangible yet so intangible at same time. He’s a paradox. And it makes him endlessly fascinating! So…I obsess over him because he never stops being enigmatic. I never tire of pondering him…being drawn to him. Awestruck and mesmerised by him. And just….so in love with him.