Little Treasures…

That cost a bomb. A few little unseen treasures from various publications. Sadly music magazines are notorious for not always giving photo credits, but I will try and credit those who took these gems, if published.

This one is a small little inset. A clipping from what I think might be a Dutch magazine. Taken in 1982 by the look of things. I love Jim in this photo.

This one is fabulous! And I wish I knew who took it. looking like it is probably from around early 1980.

This one is not in the best of condition. It had already been scanned out of the magazine it appeared in. So now it is a scan of a scan. To me it looks like it could be backstage at Kant Kino, so it might have been taken by Holgar Rabe. I know it ain’t the clearest photo but I felt it interesting enough to share, despite its low quality. Again, it would be early 1980 – around March.

I have some magazine and newspaper articles to scan and share. Some will be in Dutch and from the 1980s. Others will be in English and from the late 1990s, middling 2000s and the early 2010s.

I’ll scan and post them in the coming days and weeks.

Review: Themes For Great Cities – A New History of Simple Minds by Graeme Thomson

“This is a fast story”, author Graeme Thomson says at the beginning of the book and keeps reminding us a few more times further in. 

It’s a story of the formative years of two pals from Toryglen, their school chum down the road, the keyboard player from the Chinese restaurant and the bass player that was meant to be a guitarist. 

The focus is as one would hope – primarily on the music and the band itself. The meeting of five incredibly creative and gifted men and how those quite different young men come together to produce the alchemy that results in the early music of Simple Minds. We learn most about their creative and working lives. There is little about their individual backgrounds, only vaugaries that are relevant to the telling of the overall story. 

Although the story is heavily focused on Jim Kerr, Charlie Burchill, Mick MacNeil, Derek Forbes and Brian McGee, we also hear from others deeply involved in the story (if not necessarily within the band itself or the creation of the music). Jaine and David Henderson, Bruce Findlay, John Leckie, Simon Draper, Steve Hillage and Pete Walsh get mentioned and/or spoken to at length. 

Graeme Thomson has been meticulous without dragging out the pace of the story. As he continues to reiterate through the book it is a fast story. Like the five men that feature most strongly within the story, there is not an ounce of fat on it. Nothing lags. Nothing is protracted. Succinct, yet never lacking in detail. If I had got around to writing a book about the band I love, then this is EXACTLY the book I hope I’d have written. 

Along with content from interviews conducted with the primary band members, there is also input in the form of small “bridge” chapters from Bobby Gillespie, James Dean Bradfield and Ian Cook. There is also a dedicated “Q and A” interview chapter with art designer Malcolm Garrett. 

Some never-before-seen (even by me!!) photos are contained within the two sections of photographic content within the book. A number of wonderful photos by Virginia Turbett are within. Rare gems from John Leckie and Carole Moss can also be found within. 

There are things that I have questioned or pondered within my time as a Simple Minds fan that are discussed in the book. For instance, was the Life In A Day album already too “old” by the time it was released? Was Jim Kerr’s pudding bowl haircut a work of genius? Is Real To Real Cacophony one of the best albums they ever made? Is there anything that you cannot like about Empires And Dance? Why didn’t Grace Jones ever record a Simple Minds song? (Love Song gets singled out as the prime pondering here.) Can I ever stop my mind from wandering off to the object of my sexual desire when discussing Jim Kerr’s “Archimedes moment”? I may be the only person who grapples with that notion to be honest, but I am happy to keep on pondering it. “Eureka!”

If you want the WHOLE story of Simple Minds then this isn’t the book you want. But actually it IS the book you want. It is exactly the book you want! Because without this beginning, then there would be no “whole story”. This book is about the building blocks. That sandpit on the Toryglen building site where Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill met as eight year old boys is such a fantastic serendipitous metaphor for the whole story of Simple Minds. Getting a gang of workers together. Gathering the materials required. Assembling the parts. Laying the foundations and by album number six, having a cathedral to wow yourself (and others) with. 

For the ardent Simple Minds fan, the book actually contains few new revelations. I don’t want that to be a disappointment to the ardent fan because Thomson tells the story so well you will find it utterly enthralling all the same. The retelling is compelling. 

For anyone who is newer to the Simple Minds fold, or came to Simple Minds from the point of Once Upon A Time and hasn’t really explored their back catalogue extensively, I implore you to read this book. 

For the diehards – YOU NEED THIS BOOK! It is a fast and exhilarating ride. The book jumps off around the time of the recording of Once Upon A Time. That’s a different tale to tell then. 

I honestly have not enjoyed a book like this since I read The Complete David Bowie by Nicholas Pegg. With Pegg’s book it was the telling of the Hunky Dory/Ziggy Stardust/Aladdin Sane years of the Bowie story that struck a chord most. The telling of Bowie’s meeting with Tony Defries and the MainMan years in particular. It made me “want in”. I wanted to be part of it. It fed the hunger of the dream to be in “the thick of it”. To be right in the cogs of that working machine. 

I am feeling the same with how Graeme Thomson tells the Simple Minds story here. He takes you right in. I can feel myself in the recording studio. At Rockfield, walking about those barns and inside the studio, at the mixing desk. Watching John Leckie orchestrate these young guys as they get to grips with how to write songs and produce music that confounds and mesmerises, enthrals and bewilders. 

To experience the “coming of age” of these young men, from the evolution of Jim Kerr as songwriter and stage performer, to Mick MacNeil finding his feet as a musical architect and composer, working alongside Charlie Burchill, it makes you appreciate more than ever what actual musical juggernauts both Burchill and MacNeil are. Also just what a bedrock the rhythm section of McGee and Forbes were together. 

A tale told with utter distinction. I genuinely have not wanted to put this book down for a single moment since it arrived. Hide yourself away. Devour it at will. Gorge upon it! You won’t be disappointed. It is a feast. Then play those first six albums again with new ears and a newfound appreciation of the astonishing band Simple Minds are. 

I have two copies of the book to give away. If you would like to win yourself a copy of “Themes For Great Cities: A New History of Simple Minds” by Graeme Thomson, simply answer the following question: In the book Jim Kerr tells of his “Archimedes moment” when writing the lyrics for which song? (Hint – search this website to find the answer.) Leave your answer in the comments section of this blog post. You’ll find the comments section at the bottom of the post titled “leave a comment” (you may have to scroll past the existing comments to leave your own unique comment. Fresh comments will provide me with details to contact the winners). If you have trouble with the comments section, you can also enter via the “contact me” form found HERE. All successful entries will go into the draw to win one of two copies of the book. The competition closes on Sunday, January 23rd, 2022 at 23.59 GMT. Winners will be notified shortly after. The competition is open worldwide. Good luck!

Gigs, Glam and Boy Bands

A couple of things to highlight from recent days. One is an interview (well, part one of an interview said Neil Saint in reply to a comment left on the FB post) with Kenny Hyslop about his days in Slik. You can listen to the interview by clicking HERE

UPDATE: There is a part two of Kenny’s interview with Neil Saint in which he talks about his time with SM. You can listen to that HERE

Kenny with Jim – the grapple is real, my friends! Oooh la la!

I’m still yet to listen to it myself, but will do imminently. And I will link to part two when it airs.

The other is this (linked below)! A rare 1979 bootleg of the Minds playing a gig at Orebro University in Sweden. It was on November 1st, 1979. I have just turned nine years old the day before and Real To Real Cacophony is about to be released.

I don’t think this is a full set on this bootleg, but it’s more extensive than what I’ve been exposed to from this gig previously. There’s a good blend of tracks from Life In A Day and Real To Real. Premonition is a bit of a cut up job and Jim fluffs on lyrics several times throughout. Nerves getting the better of him, I guess. Fluffing only in the sense that lyrics end up out of order – and I am far too much of a pedant not to notice. In amongst the album tracks there’s also Here Comes The Fool and their cover of White Light/White Heat getting an airing.

I started listening to it last night and had to stop before hearing WL/WH and Chelsea Girl.

Obviously it isn’t the best bootleg going as far as sound quality is concerned. It has its moments though, and I am always appreciative of there being bootlegs from so early on to listen to. Jim even has a go at engaging with the crowd! Which I find amazing for that period, because he rarely utters a word at this point in time. And when he does talk, he sounds as nervous as hell!

Simple Minds – The First Three

Interesting retrospective review from these guys. Very brief and quite broad. Not even any praise for Pleasantly Disturbed on Life In A Day – which is a HUUUUGE oversight in my eyes. They don’t really get much into the nitty gritty of the albums…but if you have a spare 15 mins…

Made Another…

Not sure it’s any good at all. Dunno…

Art imitates life – some days are fab, some are not. Sometimes you have to swim against the tide to get to where you want to go…

And all that shit.

A New Gig…In Retrospect

A new bootleg has been uploaded to YouTube from the ever elusive but ever fabulous Art & Talk. This one hails from the Real To Real Cacophony Tour of 1979/80 and is performed in Hamburg on March 5th, 1980.

And although still seen as the Real To Real Cacophony Tour, there are tracks from Empires And Dance being performed, namely, Capital City and Room.

There’s only part of Capital City that’s been recorded. A shame, really, as I love it. I really do. But…not too much of it is missing, so it’s okay.

The recording is a true bootleg. Done by a member of the crowd, rather than it coming from the mixing desk. So you get a sense and feeling from the crowd – the vibe that they’re feeling. And the general feeling is that they are well up for it. Esp. one very excited, squealy young(?!) woman. Who can blame her? I reckon that would be me too – seeing them back then. I usually feel like that just listening in on a gig like this some 40 years down the line!

Also great to hear such a rousing display from the crowd for encores. And they are treated to two for their efforts. White Light/White Heat and Room.

The highlight of the set for me? Calling Your Name and Citizen (Dance Of Youth). Also had wished Factory had been complete because it was sounding well braw too.

The band were tight, but here and there I felt I detected that Jim wasn’t quite – “on” that night. But…it’s hard to tell without a back up of visuals, etc. The times he did seem “on” though, well…I don’t have to say any more, really. (Cue “squealy girl”. Lol)

I really enjoyed listening to it though. And will give it another play later on today. Put it this way – if TARDIS’s were real and I was allowed to go to one gig in the past and I was told it could only be THIS one – I’D BE THERE IN A HEARTBEAT! I’d bite your hand off – as Jim would say. Lol

Minds Music Monday – Factory

Yesterday saw the anniversary of the release of Real To Real Cacophony. In celebration, here is my favourite video of them performing Factory on Belgian music show, Folllies (yes! It has three L’s – just like me!).

I love Jim in this performance sssooo much! I mean…yes…he’s obviously had a “helping hand” but hey, whatever. I don’t care. He’s beautiful and mesmerising. I bloody love him!

Belated happy anniversary Real To Real Cacophony. We love you! #teamveldt