Happy 40th Anniversary – Life In A Day!

Someone:
It’s quite manic the way it starts then sounds traditional rock. Almost pub rock. Post punk. But “poppy”. I love that little “doo wop” bit too. The magic of a song that sounds catchy and upbeat, but if you take note of the lyrics…there’s a slightly different story going on. But we’re looking for life beyond those potentially boring “teen angst” years. Adulthood has dawned. “You’re running home before the morning light. There is a new age that has just begun.” Leave the angst behind, Ruby.

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Life In A Day:
Synth washed opening but still steeped in post punk. It does wear its influences boldly this song. Already those more industrial sounds are there. It’s in the atmosphere conjured up by Jim’s lyrics. I always say that Factory is like a lyrical LS Lowry painting – Life In A Day is its predecessor. Some days I really enjoy listening to Life In A Day…other times it leaves me feeling a little despondent, and I am unsure as to why that is.

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Sad Affair:
This has always been the weakest track on the album, for me. I’ve never really taken to it. This to me is the track that sounds most “Boomtown Rats”. The one I think of first when I am reminded of Jim’s feelings when he first heard the album being played back once they got their hands on the final cut. That feeling of “Oh, we’ve fucked up with this. This isn’t us! This is the Boomtown Rats!”

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All For You:
In 2014, when I started my exploration of the Simple Minds back catalogue, this song really made me sit up and take notice. The first one on the album that I truly went “ooh, now…THIS is interesting!” over. I know Jim has a soft spot for Someone, but I do for All For You. Had this track not piqued my interest when exploring the SM back catalogue a second time over, then…well, I would probably NOT be doing this post, or even running this blog!

Pleasantly Disturbed:
The title could not be more aptly applied to a song. I mean, that title sells it perfectly. Starting with a quiet yet low rumbling slow drum beat and cracked jagged guitar riff…it’s wonderfully atmospheric and moody. It conjures up a similar feeling in mood to one gets from Riders On The Storm. A dark, oppressive and gloomy rain-washed street. The genius of adding violin to it…I mean, who came up with that? Charlie? Well, if he did, he cursed it subsequently through the years from having to continue to play it when performing the song, while never feeling he had the true virtuosity for it. From the moment it starts, it just feels on a different level to any of the other songs on the album. And unlike most other tracks on the album in which they didn’t quite capture their live sound right, or John Leckie didn’t quite capture their essence – it worked for Pleasantly Disturbed. If anyone you meet ever dismisses early Simple Minds as a serious musical force of nature, play them Pleasantly Disturbed. And if they’re still not convinced, then they are beyond salvation. Pity them.

No Cure:
I suffered such a love/hate thing with this song. I used to abhor it! For a long time I would skip it entirely. Then when out in Oz and getting into the habit of listening to SM on shuffle mode each night, it played a few times and I was roused to semi-consciousness to listen to it. Too tired to grab the iPod and find the skip button, but awake enough for the song to filter through, a change of heart started to happen. Things actually ended up turning on its head and I went from utter intolerance of the track to absolutely falling head over heels for it! I couldn’t get enough of it! It became a constant earworm. It was stuck in my head for WEEKS. And I played it over and over! Lol. The title of it, once again, became so apt. Jim is a master at this stuff, he really is. For of course, the song had been previously known by the title Cocteau Twins, until Jim decided to tweak the lyrics and retitle it. Having read up about Cocteau Twins and its beginnings…Les Enfant Terribles… oh how it makes some weird sense of why I had this love/hate grapple. Knowing its history, I find the song strangely alluring and ever so sexy. It may have been “tidied up” but the words pertaining to “the game” are still there.

Chelsea Girl:
What a riff. So simple but so full of intent. Speaking of songs that are sexy. I do find this sexy too. Seriously, if I had been of their age, I’d have fancied Jim from day one. I’m still not quite sure exactly what I am meant to make of the “Chelsea Girl”. Is she a prick tease? Or a floozy? Answers on a postcard…

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Wasteland:
I find Wasteland a wonderfully obscure Kerr lyric. A song I am not really sure I know much of what it’s actually about. Looking at the lyrics I have no real clue. God I love you, Jim Kerr. You are a puzzle! The songs may feel like puzzles to solve to you…sometimes I think you pass them directly on to us! “Solve that one, peeps! Try and work out what I’m telling you here.”

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Destiny:
Also a curious one. Seems as if it was a much meatier thing when it was called Sweet Things. I am going to assume by how the lyrics read, it is a look at the life one has laid out for them and a defiant rejection of it. “Can you hear me, can you see. I don’t want this destiny.”

Murder Story:
After All For You and Pleasantly Disturbed, this is a song I really fell in love with quite quickly. I love the drama of it and despite the title and the tone of this song, there’s an element of fun to it. And I just love the way it ends. All the layers of Jim’s vocals clashing and sounding cacophonous and him singing alternates of “it wasn’t me/it was me”…then with that final trio of shouts of “IT WAS ME” and then it just comes to a halt.

 

 

A LITTLE NOD TO THE B SIDES

Over all as an album, it’s a good debut. It’s solid. And yes, I somewhat played Devil’s advocate asking Bruce Findlay if he felt that some songs were “too old”. It doesn’t quite hit the mark in some elements. And they probably weren’t captured quite at their full potential the first time round with John Leckie, but they and he quickly made up for it. And Real To Real Cacophony is by no means faultless either, but it improves upon a good stepping stone.

The album certainly has a maturity to it. I mean, heck, the average age of the band at this point is 20. TWENTY! They’re babies! Jim and Charlie are actually still only 19 upon its release. If I do that “compare them to U2” baloney and compare Life In A Day to Boy – the maturity of Jim’s songwriting over Bono’s is just chalk and cheese for me. While on Boy (even just the album titles reveal all you need to know!), Bono is writing about The Electric Co and Stories For Boys, Jim’s writing about the daily grind of city life, murder, drug use, mind games between young adults, conquests (or lack thereof). It’s young men, not boys.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m not dissing Boy. I love Boy. You can’t knock I Will Follow, and I love An Cat Dubh and Into The Heart, A Day Without Me and Shadows And Tall Trees contains my favourite line in the entire album “Mrs Brown’s washing is always the same”. Boy will always have a soft spot in my heart, because I grew up with it. My brother had a copy from 1980, so it has been with me since I was 10 years old.

Life In A Day never bowled me over completely, but there are gems contained within it. It probably didn’t feel that way at the time, and thank god Simple Minds came into being at a time that they did and with Bruce as their mentor and ultimately manager because he was never going to abandon them. They were given the time to evolve artistically and become truly great. They held such promise and it was there for all to see. Life In A Day, though not perfect, showcases, with a bit of “hit and miss” what Simple Minds were capable of. Their tender and tenuous beginnings. It’s an album strong enough to enjoy from start to finish. The only track I used to skip was No Cure, and I ended up falling in love with it.

Give it a listen today. Have a bit of a nostalgia trip and say “Happy Anniversary Life In A Day!”

Priptona Talks – To Bruce Findlay: Part One

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It’s the summer of 1978. Simple Minds have been alive and kicking for several months. Jim Kerr and David Henderson (sometimes with Graffiti record store manager Scott MacArthur in tow), during days between Simple Minds’ weekly residency at the Mars Bar, go knocking on doors trying to drum up record company interest, handing over a demo tape.

Simple Minds have just secured their first gig outside of Glasgow, in Edinburgh. Upon word-of-mouth recommendations and due partly to his reputation as a knowledgable man of music through his chain of records stores, Bruce Findlay is visited by Kerr and Henderson during their visit to Edinburgh.

I begin my conversation with Bruce by asking how signing Simple Minds to Zoom Records came about.

Did Brian Hogg recommend you sign Simple Minds after having seen them play, or did you make the decision yourself once you’d seen them live?

BF: No, what happened with that was Jim and David Henderson came to see me in Edinburgh and had a demo they wanted me to listen to. They were playing in Edinburgh that night (the gig in question was at The Astoria, Abbeymount on August 10th, 1978), but I couldn’t go so Brian went instead. He just raved about the gig the next morning, saying how amazing they were. ‘You should see them, Bruce’! “The best thing since sliced bread.” He went on to describe how the gig was in detail. How they performed. That Pleasantly Disturbed was like a little symphony in one song. So it just sounded so exciting.

Fortunately they had a residency at the Mars Bar in Glasgow at the time that they had established over the previous couple of months. They’d already made a reputation for themselves. So I went to see them on the Sunday (Aug 13th) in Glasgow. They’d put me on the guest list as their gigs were now selling out every week. I was blown away by the gig. I hung out with them back stage afterwards and spoke to them.

Essentially I would have loved to have signed them right away, except I thought they were too good. Zoom at this point was just a singles label. I had released a few singles independently. I had only just signed a deal with Arista to get more financial backing, but it was still very much for me a singles label. That Zoom was a singles label and bands that I would work with would see it as a stepping stone to getting initial material released and as a consequence drum up further interest from bigger, well-established record labels. I didn’t see Zoom at that point as being a label that would release albums. That was not my ambition for Zoom.

So when I saw Simple Minds, I didn’t think they were ‘too good’ for me, per se, but that they were beyond the point of releasing a single and needing that stepping stone. And equally they didn’t come to me wanting to be signed or looking for a deal. They weren’t even looking for me to be their manager. They came to me because they were told I was a good guy to talk to.

So after that first initial Mar Bars gig I saw, I went to just about every other one. I also got other gigs for them outside of Glasgow, with the help of George Duffin. I got them more gigs in Edinburgh and got them introduced to [promoters] Regular Music and got them some good support slots. In the meantime, I hung out with them. I used to crash out and stay the night at Jim’s parents flat. Jim and I would sit up til all hours of the morning discussing…’the revolution’. Discussing what the band wanted and what their ambitions were, the state of the music business. We talked about all sorts of things. What we liked. What we didn’t like. [I must admit to getting just a tad envious at this point. Lol.] And we got to know each other. Me and the whole band, you know, but particularly with Jim. I occasionally stayed at Brian McGee’s house as well. His parents had a bigger house.

So that is how it all came about. Brian Hogg, yes, he went to see them before me on the night they had come to see me in Edinburgh and raved about them to me, so that was a big influence.

So Brian went to see them on the basis that Jim and David had been to visit you that afternoon, rather than having seen them by chance?

BF: I think he might have been going to see them anyway. It was a very exciting time with new music and because I had the Zoom label going and Brian was working with me at Zoom, we were interested in new music, and we were excited by it. It was quite a revolutionary kind of time. Quite an exciting time for new bands and new music and it was the birth of what became “the indie scene”. We were there at the beginning. I launched Zoom in 1977. So by the time Simple Minds came to see me in the summer of 1978, I had already released six or seven singles on the Zoom label. We were up and running. And I had a fanzine going called Cripes that was distributed through the record shops that Brian [Hogg] and I edited. So we were enthusiasts, as well as writing about stuff in the fanzine that we were involved with, either through selling the records in our shops or signing bands to the label or wanting to sign them. We’d also plug other labels. We were a broad church and we just liked the whole scene.

I saw a revolution, if you like. I thought the whole country; every little town, every big city, every serious independent record shop should start a record label. I saw the future as being hundreds of little labels, as opposed to five major ones, and the smaller independents would have an alliance with the majors. I started selling my releases to the distributor Rough Trade who then in turn started a record label. I was selling records in Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham. All over the place. Zoom releases. I was very keen and enthusiastic in encouraging others to start a label. I mean I encouraged Lenny [Love] with Sensible Records. I encouraged Bob Last when he started Fast Records and I promoted his records through Bruce’s record shops. I wasn’t wanting to take over the world. I was wanting to share the world with everyone else. That was the whole philosophy behind the thing.

But what happened with Simple Minds was they created a real buzz and the big guns in London were sniffing around and they were very keen for Simple Minds to go to London to play. So what we did to combat this London-centric idea, this notion that to “make it big” you must go to London, we made the big wigs there come up to us. In fact, initially we didn’t play in England at all. We thought if record companies were really THAT keen, they’d come and see us.

Again, at the point I was just an adviser. Unpaid, non-committal (but fully behind them wishing for them to succeed), and they had no obligation to me but because I began to talk on their behalf to these record companies, when push came to shove, whenever they [the labels] showed any serious interest they were told “speak to Bruce” and I’d speak to them. Finally Arista said to me “why don’t we give you the money so you can sign them to Zoom?” I wanted them to have an album deal. They deserved proper funding to go full-time, pay wages, and go for it. I thought “they’re ready”. Thoroughly professional in their mentality and attitude. Very together. Jim had a terrific vision for the band. He was a very bright kid. Nineteen years of age but he really knew what he wanted. Ruthless as well. He was really strong in his opinions and what he wanted and how he saw the band developing.

I then asked Bruce about the recording of Life In A Day.
The next part of the interview is in audio:

Continuing on from the audio…

BF: And all the songs were kind of there. If anything, in hindsight…I mean the band…within weeks of releasing it kind of went off it and couldn’t wait to start on the next album. They thought it was a bit derivative. All the critics had a go at them. “Oh, they sound a bit like Roxy Music and a little of Lou Reed” … and a little of this and a little bit of that and all of that of course was true. The band wore their influences on their sleeves. Personally speaking, I think it was a brilliant album. I think it was a brilliant debut album and I think it deserves a lot more praise than it got and it should have been a hit album. Life In A Day is a great track. Chelsea Girl was a classic. Some of the album tracks, Someone and Pleasantly Disturbed are fabulous. Yeah, it was maybe a wee bit…”John Leckie production” if you like but he had to put his stamp on it. John’s a lovely guy, but the band’s own confidence wasn’t there at that point, in the studio, but it came very quickly. The next album was dynamic. Completely different and much more experimental. But I was proud of the first album. I didn’t agree with Jim when he dismissed it.

I then asked the next question rather badly, and not very succinctly.
And audio extract follows:

What was the decision behind choosing the Rolling Stones mobile studio to record Life In A Day? Why not choose to record at, say, CaVa Studios in Glasgow instead?

BF: The Rolling Stone mobile was used – and we recorded some of it at Abbey Road Studio as well. I mean, come on, can you imagine the thrill? Derek Forbes in particular, who is a massive Beatles fan, going into the studio where The Beatles recorded all their stuff? So we needed to move away from CaVa and these places. Again, with hindsight, there’s nothing wrong with having…in many ways we could have done it at CaVa as it happens.

I mean nowadays you can record albums at home with Pro Tools and suchlike but in those days the thing was to get into the big and to use bigger studios and to use what the big bands had done. And there was an excitement and a thrill to it. Remember these were young kids. They’re a bunch of teenagers making their first record and although they were bright and they were smart, you know, the thrill of going into the bigger studio, the thrill of working with a serious producer – not that Brian Young wasn’t a serious guy at CaVa. He was a friend. And the demos were all good. In fact, I would still argue that Chelsea Girl, the demo, is ten times better than Chelsea Girl the album recording. But John Leckie got them to change the arrangement a bit. John needed to stamp his thing on it too. John was a terrific producer and the next two albums he produced are classics. Real To Real Cacophony and Empires And Dance, for me, are sensational albums and should have been smash hits. And it was one of the reasons we didn’t stay in the licence deal with Arista…but that’s another story.

Part two of the interview can be read HERE