Minds Music Monday – Seeing Out The Angel – SAF/SFC 40th Anniversary Celebration

“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

Minds Music Monday – Sons And Fascination (Song) – SAF/SFC 40th Anniversary Celebration

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”.

Pierce Brosnan on stage at The Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. Click the photo for more images of thespians treading the boards at the Citz.

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.

Minds Music Monday – This Earth That You Walk Upon – SAF/SFC 40th Anniversary Celebration

When you consider the tracks on the album that have just gone by – the thumping drum and bass monster of Boys From Brazil and the pre-techno genre Euro dance beat of Love Song – there is a calming and stillness to This Earth. A soft rim shot (that’s what that particular percussive sound is called in the pro world) and slow haunting reverb guitar start the track off before Mick comes in with simple but gorgeous synth melody. It feels as if a magic carpet has arrived to take you on a meditative ride.

Soft little hushed tones from Jim accompany the music before he comes in with a pondering set of questions – “What’s your name? What’s your nation?” There is now – after the rush of the previous two album tracks – a definite “sense of order / sense of speed” – at least a reduction of speed to the more tranquil and more….meditative.

More fragmented lyrics still “shakes his hand / turns away / turns his back and walks away”. Jim seems to have recurring themes in his lyrics. Quite a bit of hand shaking and walking into, out of, or generally around spaces. There’s a lot of walking. I guess it is reflective of how much of a walker (yes, that’s “waLker” lol) he is. Some elements of songwriting, no matter how much you feel are not a reflection of you personally can’t help but be a mirror.

Reading up about it, it was initially an instrumental and was released as an instrumental only version on the B-side of Love Song. Jim added the vocal at the latter stages of the album recording. Probably having walked around Glasgow for days on end listening to the track god knows how many times on his(?) or Brian’s(?) Walkman. Each time I hear it I think of the reply I had from him about listening to music while walking (or jogging as the post he had written had alluded to) around Glasgow. I’ll include it below as it is a piece of “conversation” I cherish. I cherish all the interactions I’ve ever had with Jim and I despair the thought of it being past tense now. “All things must pass”, I guess. I feel as if I have been in mourning twice in recent years. Losing my mum at the end of 2019 and then…well…

I have probably highlighted this bit of conversation several times over already, but here goes…

I used to think that was a ridiculous kind of bravado to claim that. To say “no birdsong could compete”. But he is right. No birdsong can. But the birds aren’t trying to compete with Mick MacNeil’s or Charlie Burchill’s genius. They’re just the males in the species competing with each other for “top bird”. To get the best females. I pretty much think Mick had that part covered as well – without trying. Cheekbones you could cut yourself on.

For me, this song has Charlie Burchill’s best guitar solo. By far. It almost sounds off key. But that makes it stand out. And it’s haunting. Like his guitar is weeping. It is so beautiful. And then to match it to Jim’s lyrics after the solo ends – “screaming edge of light / shines so, shines so hard”. Those lines exactly encapsulate what Charlie has just produced with his guitar.

I had my “heavenly moment” with this song. The Walk Between Worlds tour of 2018 and it starting at the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow. We were just a few songs into the show. The songs that you’d expect to get things under way. The ones the early diehards love – I Travel, Celebrate, Love Song… and then…THEN came the B-side to Love Song in lyrical form. As soon as the jangling guitar, the soft percussive beat and synth melody began, I almost fell to my knees in raptures! There was talk of surprises being on the setlist leading up to the tour. Unexpected things that would keep the diehards happy. And of course by this time I was one of those diehards.

I had never expected much from the promise of surprises. I know sometimes that Jim says one thing and means another. I was cynical enough to keep my expectations in check for fear of disappointment. This one floored me. I was ssooo happy! I just wanted to shut myself off from everything else that was happening around me. I closed my eyes and just let the whole thing wash over me. To just let it soak into my skin and try to keep myself in the moment.

I don’t actually recall much of how the song actually sounded on the night. I remember Jim and Catherine sharing vocal duties on it. I remember feeling blissful hearing the music and anticipating Charlie’s solo which was just about note perfect from my vague memory of it. The memory is vague because I suffer from a kind of sensory and emotional “overload”. When things are very special or mean a lot to me, it overwhelms me and plays havoc with my memory recall. I have the worst memory as is – but when it is a special thing, a moment that I REALLY WANT TO REMEMBER – then that is guaranteed to be the thing I remember least – or worse still can’t recall at all. A lot of things I wipe from memory completely. Thankfully in these modern times with Smartphones being rather ubiquitous, there is not much need for me to have to rely on my memory recall – thank god! But it would still be lovely to be able to recall it first-hand from my own memory bank. To feel all the things I felt that night as the song was playing rather than the vagueness of knowing it meant the world to me to hear it being performed and wanting to savour the moment.

I know this is not the most information rich post about this song. There’s never really been much said of it. Never much talk about it. It’s quiet and sparse and glorious. Understated. Simple and beautiful. Mick MacNeil at his very best. Charlie Burchill at his very best also. And Jim Kerr at his most lyrically enigmatic. Quiet and sparse – but also expansive. Cinematic. “Worldwide on the widest screen” – latter lyrics that also sum up the atmosphere of This Earth That You Walk Upon. This whole planet is home to us. This big blue planet that we really should be taking much better care of but never will. Humans by nature are just far too greedy and selfish. Even those who otherwise appear altruistic still have these awful human foibles. We all do. Sadly it is also what makes us human. We don’t seem to be able to learn and change what makes us the worst example of humanity.

But alas, I digress some. For I am sure This Earth That You Walk Upon is just meant to be enjoyed as a reflection of all that is good and joyous about this world. The vastness of it. The nature of it. A soundtrack to the world, of our place in it and of nature.

I’ll offer two versions here. The album version with the lyrics and a version of it from the Walk Between Worlds Tour in 2018.

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!

Minds Music Monday – Fitba Toons

In light of His Nibs’s post about the bloody fitba on Saturday, I decided this MMM should highlight tracks representing the nations.

And seeing that in said post he declared his love for the English team, then we have both Jerusalem and When Spirits Rise to represent both England and Scotland.

In fact, Scotland play at Hampden Park this afternoon. And that, my friends, is the extent of my knowledge of the (reputed) “beautiful game”.

I had compiled a completely different post and wanted it to be my MMM post, but it is awaiting approval, so it may just be a bonus post later on today, or will be posted some time during the week (fingers crossed). But I promise that the normal Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call track-by-track celebration Minds Music Mondays WILL RETURN next week!

Until then…Yes, Sir – you *can* indeed boogie! (I miss your dad dancing!)

Minds Music Monday – Something Different – Until Next Week – Kant Kino Tantrum Remix

Normal service for MMM will resume next week, but until then I’d like to share a special gift from my mate Baggers. Kant Kino is one of my favourite, if not my MOST FAVOURITE, Simple Minds instrumental. Only problem is, it’s so short!

“No probs. I’ll sort it!”, said Baggers to me and lo! He sent this (audio link below) to me not long after. A few days before my birthday in 2017 as a gift. He called it the “Tantrum Remix”. Lol

So, in lieu of being prepared for another Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call themed post for this week, I am sharing this lovely extended version of Kant Kino.

I missed the chance to check the building out in 2019. I had it all planned out; going to Germany with Ruth, seeing The Stranglers and making my way to selected spots around Berlin. A pilgrimage that never got to take place.

Alas. Maybe one day…

Minds Music Monday – I Travel (Not!) – Utah Saints Mix

Taking a break in the usual proceedings with Minds Music Monday this week. The focus has been (and will continue to be for the weeks to come) tracks from Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call as we approach the 40th anniversary of its release in September.

Four tracks have been covered so far – The first single to be released – The American, then In Trance As Mission, 70 Cities As Love Brings The Fall, and just last week, Boys From Brazil – as well as an initial look at the band going into the recording studio for the production process – https://priptonaweird.co.uk/2021/04/12/minds-music-monday-sons-and-fascination-sister-feelings-call-recording-begins/

If you’re already tired of getting out to the pub, going and meeting up with friends and once again socialising and enjoying the sun – then you can read up on the previous weeks MMM’s by clicking on the song titles and the link.

This week’s MMM is a bit of a sick joke of a choice for us Glasgow residents (I have to stop myself from saying “us Glaswegians” because obviously I am not Glaswegian, just a mere resident of this amazing city) – as we are still in the strictest lockdown in the whole of the UK and that my friends means NAE TRAVEL for us.

So! Enjoy your freedoms, other UKers and if you find yourself at a loose end, then do check out my previous SAF/SFC themed posts.

Au revoir! (I ain’t going nowhere.)

P.S. I hope to have more to come to do with I Travel and Sons And Fascination during the week – something that involves a kind of collaborative thing with one Malcolm Garrett – finger’s crossed. Stay tuned! 🤞🏻🤞🏻

Minds Music Monday – Boys From Brazil – SAF/SFC 40th Anniversary Celebration

In the early 1980s (as in 1980, 1981 and early into 1982) Simple Minds were accused of being “too Euro-centric” and of not putting enough of their focus into closer to home – what was happening in the UK, or even just in Glasgow itself.

Why should there be criticism of such a thing? Why should a band that originates from one place feel compelled to focus their music within one region or one area of geography? And besides, the United Kingdom is in Europe, is it not? Glasgow, beyond being within Scotland and the UK is also in Europe, no?

Jim was very pragmatic with his response to such things. And of course he was right to point out that the band are constantly touring Europe and are experiencing and witnessing things happening there so why would they not write about those things?

With that said, some songs DID focus on “home”. A case in point is Boys From Brazil. Despite its title seemingly alluding to Brazilian youths, it is actually a title lifted from the novel by Ira Levin (which actually does have young Brazilian characters in it). The book centres around a plan for a new rise of Nazi’s with a “new Hitler” at the top. Fascism and Neo-Naziism was on the rise in the UK, with the likes of the National Front gaining an undercurrent of support. (Oh how things cycle round and round.) Simple Minds’ version of Boys From Brazil was an ambiguous look at the alarming growth of movements like the National Front.

I’d like to share a memory of when the song most impacted on me. It wasn’t upon first listen, although of course that must have made a large enough impact. You can’t not be bowled over by those drums! It was the first thing that hit me. It would be the first thing to hit anyone listening to the song for the first time. The beat is relentless! More on that in a moment.

So this memory of mine is of coming back from a gig. A gig that I still can’t quite believe I attended AND enjoyed! At this point in time, I am in my very earliest days of Simple Minds fandom. Barely three months in, in fact. It was September 25th, 2014. The gig? Nana Mouskouri at the Royal Albert Hall. I know! How “rock n roll”, eh? Well, let me explain the circumstance.

At that time I was kind of being a “pro comper” – I was entering competitions on a full time basis. Searching for and entering as many competitions as I could find to enter each and every day. There are LOADS of competitions you can enter out there, with varying degrees of prize worth. I did this for about 12 months or so and had some success with things that I won. Ultimately though, it didn’t seem worth the time and effort I was putting into it to carry on with it full time. The best prizes I have won have been entering competitions outside of my stint at pro-comping.

Anyway, one of the prizes I won during this “pro-comping” time was for a pair of tickets to see Nana Mouskouri at the Royal Albert Hall. I had entered thinking that it would be cheap enough to get into London on the coach and that I’d at least get to experience a concert at the Albert Hall for free.

It was really great. The seats were good. Not waaaaaay up in the gods, but not really close…just middling, with a decent enough view. A few weeks after the gig, Nana was turning 80, and although she wasn’t exactly prancing about the stage like Beyoncé, she did put on a really good show. I enjoyed the spectacle and the fans loved her.

On the coach ride home back to Luton, I listened to some SM. I was devouring the music voraciously at that point. Visiting Dream Giver daily, searching the web for photos and just wanting to know everything there was to know and already just sssoooo solidly gone on Jim. Lol. Despite the style of the gig and the genre of music on offer, I still had a post-gig buzz. I was fatigued but my head was buzzing. I had taken my iPod Touch with me in case I “got bored” while travelling and I could have the music as my companion. (I’d like to point out at this stage also that I was actually with my OH that night, but we sometimes do our own thing to keep occupied during such travelling journeys.) I put on a shuffle mix of SM songs. About 4 or 5 songs in and just as we get onto the M1 motorway stretch of the journey out of London, Boys From Brazil kicks in. It was really dark in the coach and there was one of those screens which shows footage of a front facing camera that is pointed at the road.

So this is my lasting image of hearing Boys From Brazil. Sometimes when it plays I am taken straight back to that coach coming home from the Mouskouri gig. That dark motorway and my ears just awash with this amazing music and my mind wandering with the views inside and outside the coach as well as being mixed with the imagery the song itself conjures up for me…dapper young men looking all “fantoosh”, drinking champagne from fine flute glasses, cigarettes held gently between forefingers and middle fingers, languishing by a pool, basking in sunshine. The very air of sophistication. Think Minds at the Kensington Roof Top garden circa 1981 – the Sweat In Bullet video, the promo photos for the release of Sons And Fascination. It is all that it conjures up in me. I’m sorry, Jim, but what were you saying about not being sophisticated? …

To come back to a excerpt of Jim’s talk with Ian Cranna placed at the top of the post (and also within his words with John Gill), though it certainly wasn’t his intent or objective, I do find the imagery I see in my mind’s eye that Boys From Brazil gives off has an air of romanticism. And having never been exposed to the book or film and not being familiar with the plot, the lyrics are definitely too ambiguous to give any kind of clue that the song is meant to be a passing comment on fascist movements in Britain. I would say probably Heaven 17 were more direct with their (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang. On the odd occasion perhaps ambiguity doesn’t pay? As wonderful as it is for “artistic licence”. But the Jim Kerr of that time built lyrics solidly on “ambiguities and fragments”. It made Simple Minds songs all the more mysterious for it. And combined with that sound it was a hypnotic meld.

Let’s discuss musicality of the track. Wow! Those drums! Honestly. I like to view that drumming work on Boys From Brazil as Brian McGee’s lasting legacy for his time with Simple Minds. I’ve seen comments in recent times describing Brian’s drumming as “dependable” and “adequate” but I think he was much more than that – and I think Jim would agree.

Posted to Simple Minds Facebook page – Feb 15th, 2016.

I really couldn’t talk about Boys From Brazil without discussing the incredible contribution that Brian McGee gave to Simple Minds. The thing that astonishes me to this day is…beyond the hours of driving the band around in crazy backwaters and all that was perilous in that…was that, as a drummer, he was self-taught. Self-taught at a time when there’s no Internet and no way to just … go onto YouTube and watch drum tutorials and be able to pick up how to play that way. And no video recording either – well certainly very little for home use anyway – so I am guessing all he had to go on to try and learn was by somehow being exposed to watching other drummers play. And for all that, if Brian is deemed only worthy of being referred to as “dependable” and “adequate” – WELL GIVE ME F***ING DEPENDABLE AND ADEQUATE, because I think he’s frigging fantastic!

Those drums drive the whole musical expression of the song. It might be ambiguous in storytelling, but it isn’t in any way ambiguous in musical intent. It veritably pins you to the wall and makes you pay attention for the whole of its five and a half minute duration.

A lot of fans talk about the “classic line-up”, referring to it being the team of Kerr, Burchill, MacNeil, Forbes and Gaynor. But just listen to the rhythm backbone dynamic of Forbes and McGee (who then went on to team up in Propaganda as well), and if you are going to put a label of “classic line-up” to Simple Minds, then that’s the one! Kerr, Burchill, MacNeil, Forbes and McGee.

Me (in raptures) and McGee

Those drums, that monotone single key synth note, then a flash of colour, then bass lines to die for…and then that rich, almost baritone depth of voice that Jim has at that time just all blend and grab you by the throat and just…assault you with musical perfection. Everything I love about this song. EVERYTHING! How relentless the rhythm is, that endless mono-tonal synth note, the understated guitar riffs from Charlie, and the richness of Jim’s voice and the nuances to his singing style. It is just utterly, utterly perfect.

It has never been performed live to a crowd. From what I have heard, it HAS been performed in soundcheck, so it has very nearly made it to a live airing.

In video interviews in recent years, Charlie seems keen to want to do it but for some reason, Jim seems more reluctant. It is weird that the reluctance seems to come from Jim. Perhaps he thinks it is too perfect? Hmmm, I doubt that would be his reasoning. I do feel somewhat forlorn that the two songs I love the most in the whole Simple Minds catalogue, Boys From Brazil and Wonderful In Young Life, are destined never to be performed live. But…perhaps it is a blessing in disguise? Again, I’m not sure about that. Wishful thinking on my part. It is somewhat perplexing that a band that prides itself in their live performance would resist certain songs and never perform them.

As a result of this, all I have to share is the studio version of the song. Not even a demo version exists as far as I am aware. But would I want to hear a demo version of “perfection”? I think I would. I am always interested to learn how a song has developed and how it progressed.

I do dream for a Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call box set.

Additional source material for this post provided by the “Simple Minds Bible” – Dream Giver Redux – www.simpleminds.org

Never enough gratitude can go to Simon and his amazing website. Thank you ❤️

Minds Music Monday – 70 Cities As Love Brings The Fall – SAF/SFC 40th Anniversary Celebration

You can’t escape it. The thing that hits you when your first hear this song is Charlie’s pedal affected riff that makes it sound for all the world like a cow has entered the recording studio to add a repetitive “mooooo” to the music. It’s a bit of an “in joke” in amongst the Simple Minds fanbase, but we love it all the same!
Oh, and…the backbeat. The “holy backbeat”. The drumming is awesome!

There isn’t a lot of information on the song on Dream Giver, which means it remains one of Simple Minds’ most elusive songs. I mean…what the heck is it about actually? The lyrics are Jim at his most ambiguous.

“He wants the world screams everything” – men are petulant and demanding?
“She’s a country feel for life” – women are mysterious and a frontier to be explored and possibly tamed?
“Follows in love, love brings the fall” – it’ll only end in tears? Love makes fools of us all?

I guess this is a prime example of what I was talking about in last week’s MMM about songs not really having to be about anything at all.

I have long talked about two lines in the song being the most either enigmatic, or the most poignant.

The first of the two is the line, “first tear forms in the right eye / this is the eye that’s crying first” – it is SUCH an ambiguous, perplexing line. It’s always induced a head scratch and a pondering in me. I have never been conscious of my tears falling at different points from different eyes. I find it such a strange and curious notion.

When I was reading the Alasdair Gray novel, Lanark, last year, I happened upon a passage of the book which read as follows…

“I must be a very cold selfish kind of person. If Mum died I honestly don’t think I’d feel much about it. I can’t think of anyone, Dad, Ruth, Robert Coulter, whose death would much upset or change me. Yet when reading a poem by Poe last week, Thou wast that all to me, love, for which my soul did pine, etc., I felt a very poignant strong sense of loss and wept six tears, four with the left eye, two with the right. Mum isn’t going to die of course but this coldness of mine is a bit alarming.”

Gray would have probably written those words in the late nineteen seventies, if not earlier. He had been writing the novel since he was 20 years old. Lanark was first published in February, 1981. Had Jim actually read a copy upon release? I know he likes to devour his books and seemingly during that early period, Charlie was an even more voracious reader than Jim. Did those words in the book spark something within Jim and result in that line in the song?

If you remember from last week and the excerpts from interviews I shared when posting about In Trance As Mission, Jim said that inspiration came from all kinds of places.

“More and more ‘image’ is important for bands now,” Kerr enthuses, “as opposed to the sound of jumping up and down. You can be inspired by various actors, playwrights, books, documentaries and magazines – the whole thing. It’s just opened up and inspiration now is coming from everywhere, as opposed to what was rock standards.” (Jim talking with Ian Cranna for New Sounds New Styles magazine printed in the December 1981 issue.)

The other line is one I find quite downcast and melancholy from Jim, on the surface, but it ends up shining and giving hope like many of the lines he has written does.
“When the other side of midnight calls / remind me I’m glad to be here.”

I can interpret it either one of two ways, dependent upon my mood. The melancholic way – “another day is gone and I need a reminder that I am here and life is meant to be enjoyed”. Or the uplifting way “after midnight, it’s a new day. Give me that kick that it’s great to be alive”. There’s an element of doubt in it, “REMIND me I’m glad to be here”. If you are to derive true positivity from it, you shouldn’t need a REMINDER of being “glad to be here”, should you? But then I guess it begs the question, what is “here”? Here in this moment? Here on earth? Here, existing? Here, with you?

Yes, I do over-analyse as you can see. But it’s about learning. Getting to the heart and meaning of the song – if there is indeed meant to be one.

There is also a bone of contention I have with some of the words printed for the lyrics. I am sure that during the second verse that he doesn’t merely repeat the same line over again but splits it up accordingly “breath is in, breath is out / I’m not saying anything, I’ve said too much – breath is in, breath is out / I’m not seeing anything, I’ve seen too much.” That’s certainly how I hear it on the studio version anyway.

Now let’s talk about sparsity. I love the space that Jim’s obfuscatory lyrics give to the music of the songs. But also, especially for this song, the words almost act as another instrument. His voice and his words. He has said numerous times that he’s not a musician – because he doesn’t play an instrument. But you use your voice, Jim! THAT is your instrument and back in the early days of Simple Minds more so, and particularly during this period, coinciding with your words, you really DID use it that way. The nuances, the way you used your voice to manipulate the delivery of words. Your accent coming through some, the protracted delivery of others. All of that is using your voice as an instrument. Okay, it’s not opera. You’re no Pavarotti. But for me, 70 Cities is a prime example of your voice needing to be there. I love the song so much but I don’t listen to the instrumental version of Sound In 70 Cities because….it feels like nothing without your voice and words in it. Something is lost on Sound In 70 Cities without Jim there. I don’t think it was ever meant to be heard just as an instrumental anyway. It’s a “filler” for the Sister Feelings Call album. Rather crazy that at the end of so much creativity during those sessions that the release of two albums means the second ends up with not enough time filled on it!

Speaking of sparsity…
It has hardly appeared on the setlist through the years. It was there for a time on the final leg of the Sons And Fascination tour as well as the early leg of the New Gold Dream tour of 1982, but after that, not a zip. Not until 30 years elapses and they’re on the 5×5 Live tour. It’s a mainstay for the sets on that tour, with just the odd omission here and there when the setlist is reduced for festival slots and suchlike. But then nothing again since 2012.

It is an absolute marathon of a song to perform live vocally though. You have the ability to overdub and merge vocal parts in the studio so the way the vocal parts are layered in the studio is incredibly hard for Jim to replicate live. Live versions required vocal backing harmonies from other band members (namely Forbes and MacNeil in the early runs, then Grimes and Gillespie latterly, I am guessing) to not make it such a vocal slog for Jim. Even with that help, it’s a rather tricky affair.

Getting into the bootlegs as I have done recently I was in raptures hearing live versions of 70 Cities from the 1982 gigs. Firstly from Tiffany’s in Glasgow on July 14th (performed TWICE in one night – the second being even more lively than the first, which you wouldn’t expect at a gig – as a result the second is favoured by me over the first), then at the Hacienda in Manchester a few days later. There is also one from when they played Coasters in Edinburgh in September ‘82 available to hear on YT, and finally one from Toronto in November of ‘82 – which is probably my favourite along with the second of the two performances at Tiffany’s.

Of the modern versions, there’s a cracking one from Cologne in 2012. And I can’t talk of the modern day ones without mentioning the version on the 5×5 Live album – Jim audibly expressing his love for his home away from home, Sicily, rolling off a bunch of town names in his most poetic of “Glasgow Italiano” accents. It’s hard not to smile listening to it, swept up in the sheer joy in his voice. As much as I enjoy that version, Cologne wins out because there is great video footage that accompanies it and Jim is AS HOT AS FUCKING FUCK on that tour. Jesus! I’ll regret not being this kind of SM fan at that point every day of my life. The memories other fans have. And the stories they have of meeting him and him just…going for a drink with them or just…hanging around for a bit. Not just rushing off. It sounded amazing. IN MY DREAMS!

Of course I am amazed and happy with all that I have experienced – but I’ll always dream of more. I’ll always want more! I can’t help it.

You’ll find links to all the versions mentioned below – with my two favourites viewable within the post.

Gallus in Glasgow, July 1982 (Vers. One at 53sec, Vers. Two at 1:25:10) – https://youtu.be/i0Brp4ucqik
Heady Hacienda (not the best sound), July 1982 – https://youtu.be/7E74uyEbfzY
Elegant in Edinburgh, Sept 1982 (Marked start point in description box) – https://youtu.be/CaZxk4Uf0sY
Sentimentally Sunny in Sicily 2012 – https://youtu.be/hGVwhMcR4m0