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).
I know I wax lyrical about Virginia Turbett’s photos – but this is why. Apart from every single photo she has ever taken of Mr James Kerr, esq. There are so many other photos of hers I love. And perhaps even above all the ones she has taken of Jim and Simple Minds – this is my very favourite. XTC’s Colin Moulding in a look of both concentration AND consternation.
Whenever Jim wants to do one of his “you think songwriting is easy?” posts? He should just show this photo of Colin Moulding for everyone to see. It’s stunning!
I received my own copy of it today and I am so very happy. One Kerr may just have to go! (For a temporary period of time anyway.)
Another piece of memorabilia recently gained from eBay trawls was this. I’ve seen several photos from … I’m guessing the same photoshoot – before, but never this particular photo. And it’s a genuine vintage promotional photographic print. In stellar condition it was too!
I’m very happy with this. Yes I am!
The photographer is Paul Canty – hence the watermark.
I love it when Charlie tries to look all “mean ass” in promo photos. Lol
Jim’s trying out his prowling cat moves.
They are bunched up so close, you can see Charlie’s foot wedged under Jim’s thigh.
“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
There is a path that leads me here to this post. A path that was an unexpected but wonderful stroll. The stroll continues, still. I’m not sure how much of this I can explain. Best to keep it a bit cryptic and vague. We love ambiguity – ain’t that right, Jim?
Suffice it to say one thing led to another.
There is a Sons And Fascination link here. Or should that be “Sons And Fascist Nations”? An explanation of that in due course.
A couple of my most prized possessions in my Simple Minds collection are copies of albums produced for the overseas market. One album released for the U.S. market via Stiff Records was titled Themes For Great Cities and was a compilation of tracks from Real To Real Cacophony (Premonition) to several tracks from Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call. The other is a version of the Sons And Fascination album released by Virgin Records for the Central American market.
There are patterns on the cover. The artwork by the one and only Mr Malcolm Garrett, with photography by Peter Anderson. You can see shapes and a figure. I could see a figure on these covers.
Then there is the reissue of I Travel by Virgin Records in 1983 which bares a photo of Jim, taken by graphic designer Garry Mouat, on stage in motion as if marching. “In central Europe men are marching” always springs to mind seeing that cover. What I never really took in is what appears in the overlay of the photo of Jim and I didn’t see it properly until Malcolm was kind enough to show me this…
I did see that something was overlaid on the photo of Jim but what I didn’t know was that it was a variation on the figure seen on the Stiff Records “Themes” release and Mexican version of SAF.
I also missed the very obvious figure on the Sweat In Bullet sleeve art. Mostly due to the fact the figure has the head of a photo of Elizabeth Taylor.
And so…why did I alter the title of the album to “Sons And Fascist Nations” earlier, I hear you ask? Well, here’s the thing. In talking to Malcolm about the album cover photoshoot with Sheila Rock and asking him about the cars, we got to talking about other art relevant to the Sons And Fascination period. He told me about certain things that inspired some of the cover art. This included him telling me about the image above and that it was inspired by similar figures like it that had appeared in a book he had seen. The book in question is called “Mostra Della Rivoluzione Fascista”. Issued in 1932 to be a compendium to an exhibition on Fascist propaganda – a “celebration” of the 10th anniversary of Mussolini’s march on Rome. Seemingly exhibited in a building erected specifically for this solitary purpose – also known as the “Mostra Della Rivoluzione Fascista”. The exhibition proved so popular that it extended beyond its initial intended six month run and ran for two years. It was seen by almost 4 million visitors by its close towards the end of 1934.
You can view selected pages of the book by clicking HERE
I will state here Malcolm’s initial reluctance to have me write and publish this post and he had approval of this before posting. And I do understand the reluctance. You wouldn’t want to be seen condoning Fascism! But it’s about art and the aesthetic and not the political. Well, that is how I see it. This post nor we as individuals are condoning Fascism! But when it came to the use of the “Marching Men” (as they have come to be called during our conversations) and the line in I Travel “in central Europe men are marching” (long since changed by Jim since he now always sings “all over men are marching”). It conjured up the exact imagery used on the Virgin released I Travel cover.
I missed the image of the Marching Man on the Sweat In Bullet cover, yes, and I don’t see the link quite as obviously as with I Travel but listening over some of the lyrics then… it could be “ambition in motion” or to “grow in size” or to “grow more / take more” that makes it fit?
Either way, all four covers featuring the Marching Men are striking and impressive. And they certainly make a statement.
Another short point – as I was researching to do other posts that were SAF/SFC themed, I shared an article from New Sounds New Styles printed in 1981. Ian Cranna interviewed Jim for the piece. Check out the magazine layout! Guess who was behind the layout of New Sounds New Styles? Yes! You got it!
By this point, the band had only appeared on the back cover of their albums. On Life In A Day they were on the back cover and also on the back of Empires And Dance. Inner sleeves too. But only the inner sleeve of Real To Real Cacophony. Not up to this point on the FRONT COVER of an album. Not until Sons And Fascination. They were reluctant and the images of them are somewhat obscured but the images reflect the movement and motion of the music contained within. The “travelogue” musical sensibility of the album. It was a masterstroke. Perfectly encapsulating the audiovisual.
I find the whole aspect of the cover art for the Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call albums and singles…erm…fascinating. And if I do then I thought others would too.
Below are a couple of YouTube clips showing footage of the Mostra Della Rivoluzione Fascista, including a modern day (in Italian) look back at the exhibition as well as footage from the time of a visit to the exhibition from Mussolini himself!
A massive thank you to Malcolm Garrett for allowing me to tell the story of the Marching Men images and what inspired them into being.
As promised in a previous post about Boys From Brazil, here is information about the Kensington Roof Gardens. The tenancy was held by Virgin Limited Edition since (despite some erroneous information saying it was 1982) 1981.
I think Simple Minds must have been one of the first bands on the label to make use of the space, having promotional photos for Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call done there with Jill Furmanovsky. As well as shooting the video for Sweat In Bullet in the Spanish part of the gardens.
Along with that, Love Song was shot inside the Babylon nightclub. I have always wondered where the Love Song video was filmed and only as I was researching for the post on Boys From Brazil did I see information on the wonderful Dream Giver Redux about the Kensington Roof Gardens. As I said previously I was aware of a Branson/Virgin connection with the location of the SAF/SFC promo photos and the Sweat In Bullet video but thought it was Branson’s private garden or gardens at the Manor House. And I had no idea that the Love Song video was done at the same site as the promo photoshoot and the video for Sweat In Bullet. I had always just assumed it was some nightclub in Glasgow or Edinburgh.
You can read about the Babylon nightclub by clicking the photo above.
Back to the gardens themselves. The gardens were designed in the 1930s so now it is entirely understandable to me why it feels to have this certain…air of sophistication around it. And the way the Minds boys are clothed and photographed for the promo photos ties right in with that aesthetic. They look so bloody glamorous! I love those photos, and Jim looks as hot AF. I mean, they look like they’ve swanned in off the set of The Great Gatsby or something. They look amazing!
I’ve added a couple of videos about the gardens sourced from a really insightful article about the gardens that you can look at by clicking on the photo of the Spanish part of the garden below. There are a couple of older Pathé News clips you can watch of the gardens in 1938 and 1949, just check along the right hand side when you click on the article. All their resource information is down that side in columns.
And for good measure, I added the videos for Love Song and Sweat In Bullet here in the post for you guys to enjoy and maybe see things in a slightly different perspective now.
It’s a shame it’s currently closed. But there seems to be plans afoot to have it open back up again. I think a new tenant has been found. Stay tuned!
I am very proud to know this lady and call her my friend and to do the tiny bits of work I do for her. It’s a privilege. And I don’t know how she puts up with my endless sycophantic, forlorn “I love Jim” crap but she does and it means the world.
So here I am, on this blog, waxing lyrical about the lady whose photos of Simple Minds and of Jim have always been and always will be my favourites. But not just those, so many others of hers too. And not just of pop stars and punk bands, either.
You can read Virginia’s interview with Artefact magazine by clicking the photo below…
You can always check out Virginia’s social media pages on Facebook and Instagram – just search for “Virginia Turbett Photography” on FB and IG to find her. Prints are always available to buy via her website at www.virginiaturbett.com
Today we commemorate the achievement of Simple Minds being at No. 1 in the US chart in 1985 with the ubiquitous Don’t You (Forget About Me) with some archival camera trickery. Or is it? Did she take a tumble? Did Jim trip her up? Or…as I suggested to her…did she finally fall under his spell? Lol. No! This is the lady who told Iggy Pop she was too busy working in her dark room (she was working when he called to be fair) to go and “hang out” with him!!! (I know!!!) I doubt Jim had much of a chance.