Review: Ruts DC – O2 Academy Oxford – February 18th, 2019

My first time for a gig at Oxford – and at this particular venue. The venue is pretty small…would maybe hold 750 tops. I like these size venues though, esp. for GA standing gigs.

The support act was The Professionals, with drummer (and Sex Pistols legend) Paul Cook the only existing original member of the lineup. I didn’t really look up the support act before the gig, so it was somewhat of a surprise when my friend and companion for the gig said that Cookie was playing as part of the support act. I’m getting my quota of drumming legends in these days!

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And as I didn’t know the support act that well, I didn’t know much of the material performed, although of course Silly Thing sounded familiar to me when it started. I think if I have things right they also performed Just Another Dream and Join The Professionals. Pretty sure they also performed I Didn’t See It Coming, and probably did 1-2-3 as well. It was a fast pace set as you would expect from a punk outfit. Short, punchy songs. Lots of energy. I enjoyed their set. Sound level was loud. My ears were stuffed before the Ruts even came on!

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And as for The Ruts? Well, we were given the full theatrical intro for what is a 40th anniversary tour of their debut album, The Crack. With a backdrop of a huge canvas print of the album’s artwork, they played the whole album in tracklist order, starting with their biggest hit, Babylon’s Burning – which I filmed.

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And of course, they just got tighter and tighter through the set. Segs seems like he should have been the frontman all along to me. No disrespect to Malcolm Owen intended at all, just me wanting to give credit to Segs. He’s fab and just takes it in his stride. They found an absolute gem of a guitarist in Leigh and, speaking as I did earlier of drumming legends…hell! For me, Dave Ruffy is right up there as one of the best drummers around. Sublime effortlessness.

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The setlist is pictured above. Nearly 24 hours later, and my ears are STILL ringing. If you’ve never seen them live and you like this genre of music (punk/ska/rock/pub rock), get along to one of their gigs. You won’t be disappointed. Honestly, they really are one of the best live bands going round right now. They never disappoint, and last night was no exception.

Big Gold Dreams – A Story Of Independent Scottish Music: 1977 -1989

Due for release on February 22nd on the Cherry Red Records label is a 5 CD box set of the best of Scottish music released on independent record labels from for first stages of punk in 1977, through to the modern mainstream in 1989.

It’s an impressive and extensive list of acts to come out of such a small country, and a number of them go on to find major commercial success – none more successful than “our” Simple Minds – then not quite fully formed and under the original moniker of Johnny And The Self Abusers. The song that features is Dead Vandals (of the two songs that JATSA commercially produced, this is the one I prefer – even though Saints And Sinners by its pace adheres more to the punk ethos).

Below is a review in the most recent issue of Record Collector magazine. The review is very good. At the end of the post, you find a “taster” playlist on Spotify as to what’s to come on the box set.

You’ll also find a documentary, well, more a multi-interview piece about the music scene in Scotland during this thriving and almost creatively saturated period – with contributions from industury insiders, DJs and presenters and musicians.

Priptona Talks – To Jaine Henderson: Part Two

Here is part two of my interview with Jaine Henderson.

Sometimes things were not without some bizarre set of dangers, like the time Jaine found herself a hair’s breadth away from being jailed for “possession of a concealed weapon”.

Lights would fuse. Wires would fray. Things needed repairing on the spot and the easiest way for Jaine to repair things was to carry a flick knife. It was easy to keep in her pocket and meant she wasn’t having to carry a bunch of screwdrivers and other tools that couldn’t be as easily carried around as a single flick knife. The flick knife could cover nearly all aspects of repair work.

At one gig, the manager of the venue was unsettled by this finding. “He was not happy that I was carrying a flick knife, despite me reassuring him it was purely for repair work purposes. Seemingly feeling unnerved, the manager asked me for the knife and I gave it to him. Later that evening, the manager walked past me and placed the knife in my jacket pocket. The next thing there are two police officers approaching me, preparing to arrest me for ‘possession of a concealed weapon’. I had to plead my innocence. Tell them that the knife was only for work. That I was a lighting technician and used it purely and only for lighting repair work. I was carrying my passport with me so I could show them who I was. Had I not had my passport with me, they’d have charged me on the spot and I would have spent the night in a police cell. As it was, I was instructed to go to the local police station the following morning. I was then formally charged and summoned to court.”

The case was quashed. Jaine had eyewitnesses to say that the manager had returned the knife to her moments before the police arrived. That there were no threats made to use the knife in any other way than for the lighting repair work. The police retracted their statements which suggested that Jaine had made a threat to use the knife on someone. The judge threw the case out and the charge was dropped.

The Real To Real Cacophony tour saw the band travel over the North Sea and tour mainland Europe for the first time. Starting out in Germany at Kant Kino. The first leg of the tour towards the end of 1979 travelled through Germany and into Belgium before the band take a plane across the Atlantic for what is now a visual landmark bit of history, when Simple Minds perform at the Hurrah’s Club in New York and are recorded for a feature on The Old Grey Whistle Test.

The tour continues in Europe with dates in Sweden and Denmark before the band return to the UK for dates across the country.

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Jaine and David Henderson at Jaine’s lighting desk, circa 1979. Photo by Carole Moss.

Midway through the Real To Real Cacophony tour, David left being the sound engineer with Simple Minds and shortly after sets up the Hellfire Club with Jacqueline Bradley. It was an important venue for aspiring new local bands providing much needed rehearsal and recording space in Glasgow’s West End. It was many a fledgling band’s first exposure to recording and production in studio space.

Jaine left the lighting tech role with Simple Minds on the eve of the Empires And Dance tour that set off to continental Europe at the end of August, 1980. It was the band’s most extensive European tour to that date, scoring the coup of being the support for Peter Gabriel.

A natural creative flow in which an emotional connection for a band and its musical style caused a change an artistic direction for Jaine. A short lighting tech gig after her departure with Simple Minds was the turning point. “Bruce [Findlay] had got me a lighting job for a band that I didn’t really know. It was a short tour down the south of the country. I was travelling in a van with a band I didn’t really know with material I wasn’t familiar with and it felt really odd. That was when I decided that I didn’t really want to continue with the lighting tech jobs. I certainly felt uncomfortable at the prospect of working freelance.”

Jaine then started helping David and Jacquie out at the Hellfire Club. One of the bands to rehearse and record demos at the venue was The Dreamboys, a post-punk band consisting of members that included Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi, and “TV’s” Craig Ferguson – mercurial comedian and host of late night U.S. talk show The Late Late Show before James Corden took over the role in 2015. Jaine became The Dreamboys manager but the band were short lived, splitting up as Capaldi got more acting work. The final death knell for the band being Capaldi landing a role in the film Local Hero.

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Pictured L-R: Laura Mazzolini (Sophisticated Boom Boom), Jim McKinven (Altered Images) Jacqueline Bradley, Scott McArthur (Graffiti record store and JATSA band manager), Peter Capaldi, David Henderson, Temple Clark, Craig Ferguson (Capaldi, Clark and Ferguson all members of The Dreamboys). Photo by Roddy Murray.

Jaine then worked for a time at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow in the promotions department. Hearing this had me asking her the question I had posed to Jim several times but never got a response for. Semi Monde, the Noel Coward play, made its theatrical debut at the Citizens in 1977. I had to ask whether she knew if Jim had seen it and if it was the inspiration for the line in Sons And Fascination (this has always intrigued me). She couldn’t say whether Jim had seen the play, but she had been lucky enough to see it herself. “I saw quite a few shows there. My parents would take me to see shows there when I was younger, so when the opportunity arose to work there, I was really excited at the prospect. I really enjoyed my time there. It was hard work, but it was great.”

Working at the Citizens lead on to working for Raindog, the theatre company started by actors Robert Carlyle and Alexander Morton. The name of the company struck initial interest for Jaine. “I am a huge Tom Waits fan, so I asked Bobby (Carlyle) about the name, wondering if he was also a Tom Waits fan.”

Early on during our conversation, Jaine interviewed me as much as I interviewed her. It was a great ice-breaker. These things can be nerve-wracking for both parties. Me, under the pressure of keeping an air of professionalism, but hoping for a smooth and relaxed flow of conversation; Jaine, perhaps apprehensive about sharing certain things and feeling trepidation over questions I may ask, being understandably guarded, living a life in relative obscurity.

We talked about our school experiences. Me relaying my leaving school at a very young age due to bullying. Younger than Jaine herself was at sixteen. By that time she was wary of academia. Her mother, a teacher, was Jaine’s own teacher during her final two years of school. Something one can only imagine is wrought with its own unique set of problems. We shared a common leveller, so to speak, with a common kind of circumstance, but with a different view of pursuit.

I left school early because of the bullying, but felt cheated that I was taken away from the education I craved. I wanted to continue study and I had academic pursuits in mind. My mind, I felt back then, was not the mind of a creative or artistic person. I loved science, mathematics and history. That’s where I wanted my future to be. Jaine didn’t feel the need to pursue higher education. She was good at English and could have followed artistic pursuits at a higher education level, but preferred to leave school and get on with getting out there and living it.

And she made a life for herself getting out there and doing it. One that saw her involved in the arts in one form or another throughout her life.

Asking Jaine of her memories of the tours I asked if she had any favourite gigs from her time as lighting tech. “Les Bains Douche in Paris. I love Paris, and this particular venue was really trendy and arty. It had sunken baths in it or something like that.” (In fact it seems to have been a multi-functioning venue – concert hall, discotheque, restaurant and bar with an in-ground swimming pool as its main focal point). “It was an amazing place to play in. Also Kant Kino in Berlin was very cool.”

My final question to Jaine was “what are your favourite Simple Minds songs of the period?”
“Someone Somewhere In Summertime is one. I really like that. Of the earlier stuff? There’s one called [In Your] Room that’s really good. These two are my particular favourites.”

My thanks to Jaine for affording me the time for the interview. Her time was greatly appreciated.

The final words I shall leave to Jim. What follows is an extract of a post from Simple Minds Official Facebook page in which Jim talks of Jaine on what had been a recent visit to Sicily, highlighting the intrinsic role Jaine (along with others) played for the early Simple Minds.

“They say that ‘No man is an island.’ I would add to that ‘No band is an island’. And what I mean is that for Simple Minds to happen, it took more than just a bunch of musicians (no matter how talented) getting in a room together. That in my view is often the end product.

The real beginning for any artist is the scene that you grow out of. The people you hung out with. Those who influenced, unknowingly of course, turning you on to all manner of new stuff. Could be music, films, theatre, fashion, books. You name it? In doing so they all help create the landscape that gives birth to your own imagination. And at the end of the day creativity is largely all about imagination, and how much of it that you really have?

All I can tell you now is that Simple Minds owe a ton of our success to all the other Glasgow kids that we hung out with back in the day. They all helped set our imagination on fire. That fire still burns and their influence is very much still a part of us.”

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 will be posted tomorrow.

Review: John Grant – Cambridge Corn Exchange – Feb 7th, 2019

Again, support was from E.B. The Younger, performing tracks from his upcoming release, To Each His Own. Songs performed included lead single from the album, Used To Be. Also performed were Out Of The Woods, On An Island, and Don’t Forget Me.

The harmonies that Pulido and Creamer have together are rather wonderful. Pulido says on his website that Harry Nilsson is a major musical influence, and it is certainly evident in Pulido’s own sound.

I will give the album a few listens on release, and will probably invest in a copy. I have enjoyed watching both of his performances. Below is a clip of him and Dan performing When The Time Comes. Also captured is Pulido’s banter and engagement with the crowd. He likes a natter, and that’s a cool thing in my eyes.

Once again, the crew went quickly into action to have John out on stage promptly at 8.45pm.

The first thing I have to say about the venue, Cambridge Corn Exchange, is it has great acoustics! And whoever is doing JGs sound gets it absolutely spot on, no matter what venue he’s at. Outdoors at festivals, indoors in mid-sized capacity theatres, or in more intimate places like Union Chapel in London – I am always impressed by the sound quality and volume.

The lighting on this tour has also been superb.

The show started with (possibly my favourite track on Love Is Magic – I grapple with either this or Metamorphosis being my fave track on the album) Tempest. Again, we were treated to all bar the complete Love Is Magic album (the only track off the album not performed was The Common Snipe), interspersed with tracks from his previous three albums. Tracks included Grey Tickles, Black Pressure – Pale Green Ghosts – Sensitive New Age Guy – Global Warming – Glacier – Sigourney Weaver – Fireflies – Outer Space – JC Hates Faggots – Queen Of Denmark – Black Belt – GMF – and the most beautiful version of TC And Honeybear…I was in a flood of tears. I find it just the most heart-wrenching beautiful song.

It’s an extensive set and was much appreciated by the crowd in Cambridge. And John was feeling the love too. I thought Glasgow was amazing last week, but everything was just somehow taken up a notch again at Cambridge.

I could watch John perform every single night for the rest of my life and be in raptures. He’s both funny and humble, can take the piss out of himself, throw shapes about the stage and look like a dancefloor mega god, and then sit at his keyboard and deliver songs with such elegance and poignancy. The man is absolutely amazing.

Review: The Bard’s Tale IV – Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow – January 31st, 2019

I wasn’t sure when the gig was meant to start, despite a 7.30pm time on the FB page. There was a support act which I sadly missed.

I also missed the opportunity to get a good photo, at least to show where I was sitting – but it’s all about the music, right?

And, well…what music! Ged walked out on stage looking rather dapper in a nice tartan suit and gave us a little intro and background to how The Bard’s Tale IV soundtrack came about and how he got to be involved in it.

A few minutes later the gig was under way. There was a large screen projecting video montages of the game and its landscape. Some eight Gaelic singers were involved, including the angelic voiced Eilidh Cormack and Kim Carnie, Fiona Hunter and Kathleen MacInnes – male voices too, Gregor Philp and it was fabulous to see young Donald Barker providing male Gaelic vocals and featuring as the main vocalist on one song. Wonderful harmonies from all the singers when group vocals took place.

Beautiful musically. Wonderful melodies and traditional instruments used. Harp, bodhran, harmonium, low whistle, pipes as well on some tunes.

In between tunes were spoken passages delivered by “The Bard” himself, the actor who provides the protagonists voice in the game, John Buick. At one point he was to deliver a drunken rant about how, although there had been a battle won, there was one deserter in the pack…and that role for Mr Buick (as a focal point) fell to me. I suppose that is what one gets when they sit in the front row! It made for an interesting bit of theatre, esp. for yours truly! It was both thrilling and a little unnerving, but fun.

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The tunes have depth of emotion as you would imagine from such a beautiful language – so harmonious. Poignancy, joy – not all the tunes are ballads, and not every song is in Gaelic. Gregor Philp performed songs in English – Snow In Summer and Across The Seven Realms – as did Fiona Hunter – A Hardworking Hand. But to hear the sounds of traditional folk music and Gaelic language vocals was a very moving experience. And you don’t need to understand the language to be moved by it and be swept up in…to sense its emotion and get an understanding of its heart and joy.

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The show as a whole flowed really well. Sometimes the bits of video footage from the game could be a distraction, but the screen was not used constantly. The main point of the concert was to deliver the music and have that come across…the importance of the Gaelic language and how intrinsic it should be in Scottish culture. Something that needs to be retained for fear of it becoming lost for good.

The musicianship on display on Thursday night was incredible. And such amazing talent from all involved. Ged should be full to bursting with pride of the show he put on on Thursday night. It was a wonderful experience, as I’d had every belief it would be from the moment I bought my ticket.

Photo one by Lily Warring.

Other photos by Gordon Machray.