Living Proof – Review – Glasgow Film Theatre – 23/9/2021

I ventured out on Thursday evening to see the second “World Premiere” (Edinburgh actually pipped us to the post the night before) of the documentary Living Proof.

It dealt with looking at Scotland’s growth under Capitalism over the past 150 years, but concentrated on the rate of growth from post-WWII. Also the way Scotland has dealt with its climate, in good and bad, for the past 150 years and the ramifications of tapping into its apparently abundant natural resources – but at what ultimate cost?

The presentation of the film started with a short introduction from the film’s director, Emily Monro, about what the film’s main objective was. 

The film starts with a broad outline and visual run-through of what the film will be exploring in closer detail. A rush through the past 100+ years of Scotland’s environmental history – with a musical backdrop from the wonderful Louise Connell. Louise was there herself to watch the film. She had also been there to see it the previous night in Edinburgh. 

We start with a look at post-war Scotland and the richness of treasures that industrial juggernauts see in it. All for the good on the surface, with the talk of capitalising on those natural resources with hydroelectricity implemented in the Highlands. 

We continue on from there, looking at things from the farming of peat from bogs to coal mining, to North Sea oil drilling and gas harvesting. 

It quickly feels like we are just plundering something that we should have realised much earlier on is only finite! We as humans have somewhat blighted Scotland’s landscape by being swept up into the kind of “corporate greed” model of “improving” our lives. Some things done with the initial view of being better for everyone, for example, the hydroelectric schemes in the Highlands, have actually had negative repercussions. And we can’t escape the fact that the mining industry and the drilling of North Sea oil has had a massive impact environmentally. 

The film also looks into the decline of the shipbuilding industry. The shipbuilding docks try to move themselves forward by becoming the construction areas for the North Sea oil rigs. That was the most eye-opening and jaw-dropping aspect of the film for me. As one of the oil rigs had completed its first part of construction – its base, the foundation platform that will be plunged into the sea bed, just what a feat of engineering that it is. It’s hard to reconcile being marvalled by all that. To see this human constructed metal monolith making its way out of the Clyde firth in outrageously stormy seas to be slowly upended from its side to start being (weather permitting!) slowly, painstakingly, millimetre by millimetre hammered into the sea bed. It was both astonishing and gut-wrenching in equal measure. 

Conoco was the company in question building the massive offshore oil rigs, taking advantage of the docks left empty from the Clyde shipbuilding that went asunder. Watching that footage with a genuine mix of awe and lament. 

The film also takes a look into selling Scotland as an “attractive” prospect for investment and having some American firms come over and set up bases here – like the big Digital Equipment factory in Ayr. I remember as we made our way down the west coast towards Girvan a few months back being struck by how many huge factories there were along that part of the Ayrshire coast between Ayr and Girvan – particularly from Turnburry to Girvan. But then, why should I be surprised? Turnberry just for starters has a Trump stamp all over it!

Towards the end of the film we look at the take up of wind turbines and wind farms. Earlier in the film there is a bit about how ubiquitous and reliant upon metal we are for things. Like, it is in our lives EVERYWHERE. And you can’t help but in the end see the irony of the wind turbines being these monstrous metal contraptions and it all just cycles round. And that was the crux of the film’s point (well it was for me personally, anyway) – how do we get out of this loop? How do we get out of the capitalist “hamster wheel” (for want of better terminology)? Can we actually even do it? Are we too far down the line with things? Are we far too reliant on it all to not see any other way out? How do we really make REAL CHANGE?

The film finished with a Q and A with a panel of guests including the film’s director Emily Monro. One question asked of Emily was how she thought the film would be received by non-Scots? Emily found it not an easy question to respond to, but if I had responded to it (as I will do now) – I think it’s a universal problem and dilemma. Although the things within the film are entirely Scotland based, all the world’s countries are going through these same problems and going through the same questions. For some countries in the world, the crisis is a lot more profound than what Scotland is going through. So I think it can resonate and speak to people whether they live here or not. It really isn’t a thing that affects Scotland exclusively, the broader aspects of the climate crisis. 

It was pieced together so well by Emily and the final beach scene and dialogue ends on a really harrowing, pondering note. And the soundtrack used within it featured music wonderfully chosen. I will link to the tracks used through the film below. 

It was sobering viewing and I’m not sure I have any answers for it myself. Let us see what COP26 brings to us in November. Let’s just see how Glasgow copes with hosting such a summit, for one.

The Hottest One Describes The Flames – A Sons/Sister 40th Anniversary Footnote

I loved the way Jim defined his role within the creative tour de force that was Simple Minds in 1981. He posted two pieces on the official Facebook page regarding Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call – both quite succinct in their acknowledgements – but I guess he has spent more time than anyone over the past 40 years dissecting and talking about it, he probably had very little left to say. And of course, as the lyricist and vocalist on the albums – well, he can let the music, his words and his voice do all that needs to be said and done.

“I’m not saying anything, I’ve said too much.”

But of the things he did say, that description on the second post of the band being “on fire” and that it was his job to describe the flames. It perfectly describes it! And that is why he did such an incredible job of it! 

And…whenever you want, Jim, you can come and fan my flames! Just saying… (what are those lines from 70 Cities As Love Brings The Fall again… *pondering expression on face*)

I didn’t post a Minds Music Monday post yesterday as I still was feeling a sense of “mourning”. A bit of a loose end right now. Minds Music Monday really had a purpose behind it these past months. Before that, it had been nothing more than “here’s the Simple Minds song that’s stuck in my head this week” kinda thing. I put a lot of work into really trying to turn the weekly theme into something solid and something to look forward to.

It did get on top of me a few times. It quickly became something I wanted to deliver on week after week and there were times during the summer when family matters and personal crisis got in the way of being able to dedicate the time I needed to make each post as thought-provoking and insightful as I wanted them to be but I am already missing that challenge. Equally it is nice not to feel so much pressure to fulfill a task, to be working to a self-imposed deadline.

Minds Music Monday is definitely going to continue but perhaps at a more controlled pace. And I have time until the next major celebration. With New Gold Dream’s 40th Anniversary next year, and there only being nine tracks on the album, I can slow the pace down somewhat. My thinking is that I will start a monthly post from January onwards with related pieces in between. But I may change my mind about that come January. Part of me doesn’t want to kick off the celebrations too early, yet the other part of me thinks IT’S NEW GOLD DREAM! We’ll see.

In the meantime, just to go back to Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call – I’d like to share this. This is what I had written out as my blurbs to intro each of my choices for Ronnie McGhie’s radio show last week. Once the show got under way, we were so pressed for time, I felt I couldn’t say all the things I wanted to, so I tried to get across the important points and tried to limit what I was saying. It is why I ended up stumbling over my words towards the end, just trying to get a more succinct point across made me trip up over Seeing Out The Angel and This Earth That You Walk Upon. 

So here are my broader points that I wanted to say printed below. I also included the brief introduction of myself that I had written as well. My part was originally going to be a pre-record and I had recorded my audio and sent it to Ronnie but he said doing the show live was an option if I was up to it. I really didn’t feel very confident about it to begin with but the more I thought about it and considered it, the more exciting the proposition was. And so we went for it and I am ssoo happy we did. It was a great experience.


“My name is Larelle Read. I have been an ardent and fanatical Simple Minds fan since the summer of 2014. When realising there was so much more to discover about the band than what you hear from their array of hits, I meticulously went through their back catalogue. I did so in chronological order and when I got to the albums of Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call, it cemented my love for this band completely. From the beginning of In Trance As Mission right through to Seeing Out The Angel on the “Sons” album, all the tracks are perfectly placed. It’s Europe of the early 1980s. And it’s 5 men all below the age of 25 sharing life’s experiences. It’s musically and lyrically perfect. And it SHOULD be lauded as highly as New Gold Dream is, as far as I am concerned. 

BOYS FROM BRAZIL

It’s all about that drum beat for me. It’s meaty! Added to it a relentless bassline and single note synth, then Burchill’s jangly guitar riff. Kerr’s lyrics at this point are already political, citing Neo-Nazis and the National Front in his lyrics. It has a sophistication and a message, delivered with a subtlety that many miss. It’s not a song to dance to so much but it packs a big punch and it gets my fist pumping and my heart pounding. And visually, I see the style of the Minds members reflected in their clothing choices. Tailored trousers and collared shirts. Very 1940s smart attire. 

WONDERFUL IN YOUNG LIFE

The first time I ever heard Wonderful In Young Life as a new “mega” (perhaps zealously rekindled) Simple Minds fan, I cried. I found it the most beautiful song I had ever heard. I am reluctant to go into too much detail but my teenage years weren’t years I look too fondly on. This song expresses everything that is special about being in your late teens and early 20s for a lot of people. A whole life ahead of you. Setting out in the world where the sky’s the limit. That you’re making your way in the world and you have great friends around you sharing in those experiences. Exactly as the title says – Wonderful In Young Life. It is something that I felt had passed me by, and it’s why I felt so much emotion from it. For the years I felt I lost. Another driving beat and fantastic bassline and so much amazing wailing guitar. And those lyrics! And Jim’s voice. And a rare time he’d sing in a falsetto. And it was those falsetto lines of “I’m singing memories” that would tip me over the edge. I have “I’m singing memories” tattooed on my right forearm. That is how much this song means to me. 

SONS AND FASCINATION

Sons And Fascination reminds me of being back in Australia with my mum. I was there in the summer of 2015/16 and it was the last time I had with my mum before she passed away at the end of 2019. I think each song I choose has some kind of quirk to the rhythm that catches me. This has some kind of hand clap effect or a Linn drum snap or whatever it is. Mick MacNeil’s synth work and again with Derek Forbes bass sell this one for me. Sophistication in Kerr’s lyrics once again. He was such a keen observer and it’s all reflected in those lyrics. I think everyone should listen intently to Jim Kerr’s lyrics. And I need to get to the bottom of why he chose to use the words “semi-monde”. It is an incredible title track and absolutely encapsulates everything the album is. The whole rhythm, tone and message of the album. It’s magnificent. 

THE AMERICAN (Extended Version)

The American is a favourite in the live set. It is always the indicator for me that a Simple Minds gig is well under way when The American is being performed and it is guaranteed to get me singing and dancing. (If I am not already doing so by then, which I usually am!) It is the extended version I enjoy much more than the version that is on the album. The album version I find too short. And I love the way the extended version fades out after that almost trippy and hypnotic repetition of the chorus. Live versions are always favourites, esp. one from the Good News From The Next World tour of 1995 in which Jim included the backing vocal lines of “in collective fame/ Nassau club days / across a curved earth / the eventful work-outs”. And Charlie Burchill’s guitar work on this is fabulous.

SEEING OUT THE ANGEL

Seeing Out The Angel is just the most beautiful, serine, haunting song. The synth melody that opens the song and the bass that counters it. The haunting backing vocal. And then the guitar that sounds like church bells – something that music journalist Adam Sweeting said of Charlie’s guitar on this song, and he is absolutely correct. And the story behind the lyrics as well. Of Jim saying he had this “vision” of an angel or a visitation FROM an angel as a young boy I find fascinating. And it contains one of the most beautiful lines I think Jim has ever written, “in colourful, breathless, emotional sea”. I’m not one for choosing a funeral song. I don’t care what’s played at mine. You could play Russ Abbott’s “Atmosphere” as far as I am concerned. It’s not as if I am going to be there to enjoy it! But I can certainly appreciate why Seeing Out The Angel appeals to fans for that particular reason and purpose. And as the final track on the Sons And Fascination album, it is just perfect. 

THIS EARTH THAT YOU WALK UPON

This Earth That You Walk Upon contains my favourite Charlie Burchill guitar solo. But there is also more shimmering synth work from Michael MacNeil. It’s really big on atmosphere, this track. It makes the world feel huge. We have our place within the universe, but we as human beings are just a speck in space and time. We are the blink of an eye in time’s history. Going to the Walk Between Worlds short set of showcase gigs in February, 2018 and being promised some rare tracks from the back catalogue, I didn’t really know what to expect. I was hoping for Boys From Brazil or Wonderful In Young Life, even though I knew in my heart of hearts the chances of either of them being performed was as likely as me winning the lottery! But when I heard the opening synth chords to This Earth, I felt like I had been taken to heaven. I was in EXACTLY the right place at the right time. Glasgow, Barrowland, and this song being performed live in front of me was all I could ever wish for. It’s a very special and magical memory.”

A Voice For Radio? (If Not A Face For It!)

It was ssooo much fun last night being on Ronnie McGhie’s radio show, celebrating all that is Simple Minds and the 40th Anniversary of Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call. Even if I did have a massive corpsing fluff towards the end of it.

Seems like we’ll do it all again for next year and New Gold Dream’s anniversary!

If you missed it last night, you can listen again by clicking HERE – the show is broken up into two separate one hour parts. And it’ll be up on the Pulse 98.4 website for the next 4 weeks.

Last night Ronnie also caught up with Empires That Dance’s Andy Inniss to talk about their new release – a fabulous reinterpretation of Love Song and you’ll get the hear the track as well – all in the second hour of the show.

Happy Anniversary – New Gold Dream!

In the Simple Minds world, album release anniversaries are like buses – they all seem to come along at once! Lol

Take yesterday, for example. Not only was it the anniversary of the release of Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call, but it was also the anniversary for the release of Empires And Dance and Black And White 050505 (rather confusingly).

And today is the anniversary of THIS behemoth! The highly revered and lauded, New Gold Dream 81-82-83-84. But seeing as it is only 39 years old today, I am reserving making too much of a fuss of it until next year’s 40th milestone. This year all the fuss deserved to go to Sons/Sister.

Next year, New Gold Dream, it’ll be your turn!

Minds Music Sunday – Sweat In Bullet – SAF/SFC 40th Anniversary Celebration – ANNIVERSARY DAY!

The allure of repetition manifests itself most strongly within all of the Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call’s tracks in Sweat In Bullet. Three solid blocks of repetitive text from Jim Kerr, with a vocal performance to match. 

This is the most Burroughs-esque of all of Jim’s writing from the period. If you are not familiar with William Burroughs’ writing, let me explain. In much of his writing, Burroughs used the “cut-up technique” in which lines of existing, linear text are cut up and rearranged to create new lines of (linear?) text. It’s also a style of writing that David Bowie experimented with in his songwriting quite often during the early to mid 1970s. 

I hear a lot of that influence falling heavily upon Jim’s songwriting in the early years. In fact it couldn’t fail but do so, given the way Jim would gather his ideas – jotting down lines of text…words and phrases that caught his attention or piqued his interest at any given moment. That writing style couldn’t help but mould into a more Burroughs-esque form of songwriting. 

By all accounts, even from his own accounts, Jim’s notebook was never far away from him, and he was always writing things down.

The first words in the song aren’t even actual proper words – just Jim playing around with the sound of words as you would expect him to do.

Jim Kerr interviewed by Lynn Hanna for NME, published December 4th, 1982

Among the quote above, the one thing that stands out for me is him saying he “feels” the words rather than “thinks” them. Well, not even the words are “felt”. But obviously his lyrics (at that point) come to him very organically and via the visceral rather than the intellectual.

I think we as fans – well, certainly me personally – give his lyrics much more thought and significance than he ever sounds like he did (or does). Perhaps because (for him) you need a level of detachment when you create? By the same token, his writing is obviously also very personal because of the process of it being “felt rather than thought”. So the detachment has to come once he’s written the song. Like watching fledglings leave the nest, or children leaving home to start off on their life’s adventure. 

Then we are free to interpret them and give them as much or as little significance as we like. And perhaps after some time of reflection, perhaps even Jim himself sees things and interprets things in his words that even HE didn’t see at the time of writing? Am I the only person to find this absolutely fascinating?

Jim Kerr interviewed by Lynn Hanna for NME, published December 4th, 1982

Upon reflection, having him talk about aspects of his writing style, I don’t think there is much of a Burroughs style to his writing. Jim’s is more organic than that.

I’d like to ask Jim his views on the Burroughs “Cut-up” technique – but the time for questions seems to have long gone by. Stuck in history’s “halcyon days”. 

Anyway, what does one do to a song to remix it and give it a new flavour? ADD MORE COWBELL! Lol. So…what exactly happened at the mixing desk there with Pete Walsh at the helm for the Sweat In Bullet extended mix? Something akin to this, perhaps? Click HERE TO VIEW

And with the official video, the cowbell features prominently as Kenny gives it a good bash (and the cowbell! Boom boom!) by the shrubs. 

The Sweat In Bullet video is a bit more of a stock music video of the time. It doesn’t have the storyboard that its “sister” video, Love Song has, that’s for sure! But I think that makes it more sophisticated. The guys all look amazing in it – although I guess it could be argued that Jim lets the side down with his dodgy eye. And…how frigging skinny is he?! Oh my word!

Back to the song itself. It was one of the first of the songs written in 1981 in Edinburgh and was demoed at CaVa Studios on Valentine’s Day. Originally titled Twenty One – which I find odd as there is nothing within the lyrics of the song to denote why it would be called that. Subsequently though, it helped me to decipher a line Jim sings in Life In Oils, as I am almost certain now Jim sings the words “twenty one” before he gets to the “chorus” in Life In Oils. Which then makes me think Life In Oils should have been called Twenty One (ah, to be able to go back in time and quiz Jim on such things). Click HERE for demo version.

Shortly after its demo recording, it became a main feature in the setlist, long before the album and its single release. Its debut performance was at Tiffany’s in Glasgow on March 1st, 1981 (click HERE to listen) and it moved on into the New Gold Dream tour as well. And there its time on the setlist ended for 20 years until it reappeared on the Alive and Kicking tour of 2003. Latterly it appeared on the 5×5 Live tour 0f 2012 – so come the recommencing of Simple Minds touring in 2022, it will have been another 10 years since the song has been seen on the setlist.

So, what exactly *is* Sweat In Bullet about? Given that the song starts as a seemingly random set of words, is there any story behind the song? Well, it’s obviously a song about ambition – a topic that features heavily in Jim’s lyrics at the time. But there’s more going on than that. It seems to be ambition from the female perspective. 

A chance encounter – “you’ll never meet again”.

Suspicion from both sides, perhaps as rivalry – “eyes small”.

The matriarchy rules – “society can gain”

Like ships in the night  – “then say goodbye”

Mission. Motion.

It seems to get a bit heated at one point “rolling and tumbling, ambition in motion” – it always sounds like a sexual dalliance has taken place – “rolling and tumbling, she’s sweating bullets”. 

A sexual dalliance and a power struggle? “Grow in size. Grow in fame. Grow more. Take more. Uncontrollable. Unworkable.”

It almost sounds like espionage. Two spies meeting. Female and male. Secret encounters and sexual espionage. But…who wins? Who outmanoeuvred who?

The two prevailing subject themes of the time in Jim’s songwriting join forces here and meet in the chorus – “ambition in motion”. Movement. Travel. Aims. Goals. The fear of the still and the stagnant and the bland. But conversely, he needs that stillness and monotony to create.

Matched with those lyrics is just…the funk of it! Derek Forbes’s bass is NASTY (as is GOOD), add Mick’s keyboard hook and Charlie’s guitar licks and that cowbell and – what a track!

This is a favourite live version of mine.

And so here we are – 40 years after its release on September 12th, 1981 – having gone through every track on the albums, one by one…I am left completely in awe of what Brian, Mick, Derek, Charlie and Jim achieved with these albums. Both albums are a sonic masterpiece in my eyes (and ears). I hope the posts I have generated about all the tracks on the albums have  truly reflected that feeling. 

I have drawn in content for my Sons/Sister posts from many sources over the six months, from the music magazines that the quotes from Jim have been sourced from – Melody Maker, Sounds, New Musical Express, Record Mirror, New Sounds New Styles, Smash Hits, The Face and Roadrunner magazines – YouTube for interviews, the use of photos by Virginia Turbett, as well as Malcolm Garrett – who not only allowed me to share certain artwork images but also provided amazing insight into some of the artwork used for the releases (the cover of Sweat In Bullet a case in point – you can read about that artwork HERE), thanks also to Jaine and David Henderson for help with what ended up being the biggest and wordiest post of them all for Love Song, but biggest debt of gratitude HAS to go to Simon Cornwell and his AMAZING Dream Giver Redux website at: simpleminds.org

Without Simon’s website, none of this would ever have come to fruition or be the celebration of the albums it has been. I put a lot of work into my blog but it pales into insignificance compared to what Simon has put into Dream Giver Redux. It literally IS the Simple Minds “Bible”.

I also want to thank Gordon Machray whose support and unflinching loyalty to the band is something to be revered. If I dare bring up the whole “real fan” business again and give it the creedence Jim was trying to give it – well, there’s your real fan right there! I’m not sure I actually know anyone else who is as impassioned as G Man (as he has been affectionately called by me for some years now). Gordon’s support of me is greatly appreciated. 

Lastly, to all of you who have taken the time to read these posts over the past six months, thank you!

Glasgow 1978-1979 – Virginia Turbett – Cafe Royal Books

I had this arrive in the post this morning. It’s a piece of sobering beauty of the city’s recent past.

Virginia’s association with Glasgow goes far beyond her work of capturing Simple Minds in the early 80s. Her brother was a social worker in the city and so she would visit often. And her work wasn’t solely confined to rock photography, for she also did a lot of editorial work as well.

In visits to the city during 1978 and 1979, Virginia pictorially documented life in Glasgow. Selected photos now showcased in a photobook published by Cafe Royal Books.

These photobooks are available to purchase through the Cafe Royal Books website (link below) for £6.50 each (plus postage).

Cafe Royal Books

Waxing Lyrical On The Airwaves

This is probably going to be the biggest aspect of the whole Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call celebration, from my own personal viewpoint, than anything else I could have imagined. (Bar the band announcing some last minute gig going on in Glasgow for it. Settle down! I’ve heard NOTHING – I’m just dreaming!)

What are you guys doing next Wednesday night, September 15th? I ask because, well, (and now this feels really real typing this out and I am really starting to shit bricks!) I’m going to be on the radio! 😱😱😱

My friend, Ronnie McGhie – radio presenter extraordinaire – wanted to do something special for his radio show to celebrate the 40th anniversary of SAF/SFC and so he asked ME if I wanted to be involved!

I think I just about bit his hand off with enthusiasm to be honest. Lol. Being asked to talk about SAF/SFC? What a doddle, eh? Except it’s going out live on air and I am kind of bricking it but I am dead, dead excited! And I am sure Ronnie will keep me in check – he’s the pro!

And it really is going to be a big celebration of the albums. I’ll be choosing SIX TRACKS to play from the Sons/Sister albums – and there’ll be something else going on on the show as well, but I best keep schtum about that for now.

So…next Wednesday evening – September 15th at 8pm BST, tune in to Pulse 98.4. You can tune in from anywhere around the world by going to their website pulseonair.co.uk – but of course, if you’re local around Glasgow, you can tune in the old fashioned way too and set the dial to 98.4 FM.

A friend said when I told her that I was crapping myself about being live on radio “take a Valium” – said in jest. I’m not sure it’ll help…but I might cave in and take some kind of Dutch courage. Haha! We’ll see.