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 Sparks Brothers – Review – Glasgow Film Theatre – August 5th, 2021

As usual, I’ll give a preamble to what happened with watching the film. 

That spark of spontaneous conversation that only ever seems to happen in Glasgow. It happened AGAIN today. We arrived (myself and my OH) outside the Glasgow Film Theatre, located on Rose Street, around 1.20pm. Me doing my usual “I MUST NOT REFER TO GOOGLE MAPS!” mantra and then STILL having to admit defeat and look at Google Maps to make sure I was actually going in the right direction. (This pandemic has fucked about with so much stuff, I tell ya!)

So. I kept in walking down Renfrew Street knowing I was at least heading in the right direction. Once I passed the intersection with Hope St, I was getting a little worried that maybe I had fucked up – but it was fine. Still a little ways to go. A little lost once we get to Rose Street as to where the cinema was, as it was hiding itself under the much larger banner of “Cafe Cosmo”.

The film wasn’t starting until 2pm but it was all good as we ended up chatting to a lady who had turned up to buy herself a ticket to see Now, Voyager. I KNOW! And I had seen this on the cinema’s website yesterday that they were screening Now, Voyager over the weekend and into next week! I am sssoooooo excited by that! (And booked a ticket to see it on Tuesday – sssooo happy!)

Turned out she had been living in the south for YEARS. Lived around Watford and St Albans. Bloody small world! Asked us where we were from and said Luton (originally Sydney for me) and that’s how we got to chatting about the towns and cities around Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire. She found it a wonderfully humorous story to tell us her daughter was born in England and was as English as they come but came up to study English Literature at the University of Glasgow. Lol. 

We both admitted to missing aspects of London – the galleries. The art side of things. And it turned out she was an art librarian. The people you meet and the conversations you have! I just love it! It is the thing I love about this city more than anything else! And we both agreed that that is what makes Glasgow so special. 

Twenty minutes of time sailed on by. We collected our tickets for the Sparks Brothers from the box office. The lady bought her Now, Voyager ticket. I queued and bought MY Now, Voyager ticket and off we went into the cinema to see the film.

I had little expectations about this documentary. I heard it was really good – but I was worried you might have to be REALLY into Sparks to appreciate it. 

I like them – don’t get me wrong! I like what I know…but I don’t know much and I would say my partner is much more the fan of them than I am – or was prior to the film. But some two hours later – oh, wow! Just. Yeah!

If you think you’re only a fairweather fan of Sparks. Like, you appreciate what they’re about musically….the avant garde, irreverent, subversive, humorous….kind of “can’t be pigeonholed” behemoth they are, but you’re not THAT into it – or you think you’re not – like, JUST GO AND SEE THE FILM! It was sssoooo well done!

Not a band documentary as you would think it would be. Really cleverly done it that it was more a spanning retrospective of their career. Just…the body of work!

I don’t want to give out spoilers, and it’s hard to review things without spoilers. It was just so well done. It wasn’t bogged down in interviews. You think from seeing the trailers that it’s going to be filmed with people just talking about them – but it isn’t like that. 

From the very beginnings of Ron and Russell’s lives and just linear, from Halfnelson on to the formation of Sparks, and it just went on…bang, bang, bang. And just so informative and so focused on the music and the up and downs. The degrees of success (or otherwise) with each album. Their time based in the UK, and then going back to California. Getting into the charts and on Top of the Pops, getting so much exposure and then it dying away, only to return again when they work with Giorgio Moroder, and hitting the high of the early 80’s electronic wave. 

At this point, my jaw dropped. All this time I have lived here in the UK, I thought I had never known a single Sparks song until I moved to the UK. I was not really aware of them at all – or so I thought. The only thing I had an inkling about was in Paul McCartney’s Coming Up video in which he does a parody of Ron Mael – but I didn’t really know who Ron Mael was. I think I had seen bits of Sparks so I know Macca was taking off that guy in the band – but that was the extent I know.

And THEN – they played When I’m With You – and my jaw dropped. I don’t think I had heard it since the time but it was an instant (excuse the pun) spark! I knew it instantly because I fucking LOVED IT! I was obsessed with that song at the time! And I couldn’t believe how long it had been since I had heard it – AND THAT IT WAS ONE OF THEIR SONGS! 

I don’t know whose song I thought it was. Just the video, even…as soon as I saw it, it’s so obviously Ron and Russell and yet – I … it’s like my memory of the song was wiped. Until today and they started playing the clip in the film. What a revelation that was! 

Having the exposure since moving to the UK of things like, This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us, and Get In The Swing, Beat The Clock and The Number One Song In Heaven, I’d have thought that just because of what an impact When I’m with You made upon me as a not-quite 10 year old that I’d put two and two together – but nope!

I came out DETERMINED to work my way through their back catalogue – but I know already that the Moroder produced albums will be the favourites. In recent years, The Number One Song In Heaven has been a firm favourite of mine – having COMPLETELY forgot about When I’m With You – as it’s NEVER played here in the UK, but it made the Top 20 in Australia in 1980. 

They brought it right up to the present day too, with talk of A Steady Drip Drip Drip and the lead track, Lawnmower.

A really comprehensively done documentary. I loved absolutely every second of it. Every second. There is no “dead wood” in this documentary. It has been lovingly put together.

If you’re a Sparks fan, you’ll love it. If you’re not a Sparks fan, you’ll end up a Sparks fan AND you’ll love it!

Go see it! It’s a fabulous way to spend two hours!

Always Destined To Be The … Next Big Thing

I posted this onto SMOG earlier this afternoon – but I get the feeling it is going to be somewhat overshadowed by a wonderful post about Jim, which I am sure he will love (who can blame him?). Anyway, I thought I’d also post it here as well. (I haven’t altered the words I posted.)


Back a few years ago, I posted something on the Simple Minds visitor wall. I think it was a review of a gig. It came from an independent fanzine. Jim replied to my post, saying he had fond memories of some of the guys who set up these kind of publications, recalling the names of Johnny Waller and Lindsay Hutton, particularly, on this occasion. Hutton had started a fanzine called “Next Big Thing”.

Well I stumbled on to a copy of Next Big Thing today, and there within the pages was an advert for Empires And Dance, as well as a glowing review of the album by Lindsay himself. (Albeit if he is somewhat disparaging to Roxy Music and Gary Numan in the process. Oops!)

It took me on my own little nostalgia trip. Of a time that I particularly loved being a Simple Minds fan. Thanks for those wee chit-chats, Jim. They’ll always be super special to me. I loved putting on my “researcher’s hat” for that one as when you replied to me you had said “I wonder what happened to Johnny and Lindsay?”, which had me off and searching for you. A time you made me feel both happy and purposeful.

If it doesn’t come out too clear for reading, then here is a transcript of what is written below.

“The danceable solution to teenage revolution? If Roxy were still any cop they’d be making albums like this. I don’t altogether go along with the belief that synthesisers always ruin things. There’s ample proof of the reverse here, but the fact that idiots like gerbil face Numan seem to represent the genre, mean that there is no media indication that there is life after electronics. ‘Empires’ is the 3rd Minds elpee and places them well up the league. Especially tasty are the opener ‘I Travel’ and the Jeepster style backbeat of ‘Celebrate’. If you’ve been put off by the moderne talk of Morley then think again kiddo, because this sound can co-exist with rock ‘n’ roll because it’s performed from the heart. Can you afford not to own a record by a band whose singer drew Noddy on the Berlin Wall in lime green chalk? Good wee group this.”

The Best of 2020?

Of course, the “Best Photographer” award for 2020 COULD go to someone for their work that had to wait 40 years to be seen – Mr Ronald Gurr…and the offering below….

But I jest…at least on offering up the award – but the photo is still just absolutely fabulous!

In response to his post today (his “Best of 2020”), here is…part my response to his choices, and part a broader explanation of mine.

And here is my response to him of my choices that I left in the comments of his post. (With replies to him kept in.)

Best Album : In Memory Of My Feelings – Catherine Anne Davies and Bernard Butler
Best Single : Fools Tomorrow – Warm Digits (with a VERY close runner up being Bitter Tang by Michael Rother)
Best Cover Version : Absolute Beginners – Steve Harley
Most listened to song : New Gold Dream 12” German Mix (HONESTLY! Played usually 3 times over most mornings for the past several months)

Best Book : I haven’t read any new books other than…the obvious – but I really, REALLY want to read Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
Best Photographer : Chris Leslie/Disappearing Glasgow – DITTO!
Best Podcast : The MainMan podcast (Mr Francis Gallagher’s a very close second!)

Best Film : Haven’t seen a film all year – apart from one documentary (see Best Docu)
Best Series : Not watched a series, either (how does a man who doesn’t like telly watch a TV series? *confused face*)
Best Documentary : Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm
Best Gig : Oh, Jim! Don’t do this to me!!! Let me pre-empt it by saying Copenhagen was BRAW! And…you know…I’m a very lucky girl for seeing both shows, I know! But I saw Bryan Ferry the week before! And…well, that was amazing too! But…for, venue, setting…uniqueness of the experience, band performance – it has to be Field Music at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (sorry, Jim! It was REALLY close though)

Best Journey: COPENHAGEN!
Best Decision : To go to Copenhagen – ALMOST decided against it.
Best Meal : Cafe Andaluz, Edinburgh
Best Drink : IRN BRU (I’ve got the taste for it now)

Worst Moment : How long you got?
Biggest Disappointment : The halting of the 40 Years+ Tour WITHOUT A DOUBT!
Person I’d Most Like To Have A Drink With : My brother, David. (He’d drink me under the table and I’d love every second of it!)
Person I’d Least Like To Have a Drink With : The EX president.

Biggest Thrill: Seeing Loch Lomond with my own eyes.

That’s it…on the spot, without much time to think. 

Happy New Year, Sir 😘😘

Review: In Memory Of My Feelings – Catherine Anne Davies and Bernard Butler

It has been a little over 10 years since Catherine Anne Davies and Bernard Butler first decided to team up with each other and work on producing music together. They quickly felt they had the makings of an album together. Little by little things came together, building on their work together when time allowed. A few years down the track with Catherine working on her on solo career as The Anchoress, and then being part of the touring band with Simple Minds and in between those things juggling with continuing work with Butler on what would become In Memory Of My Feelings. Talk about multi-tasking!

The album was all but completed for a number of years. Davies and Butler suffered knock backs. Record companies would show an interest and then inexplicably go cold on the idea. But both Catherine and Bernard knew they had a diamond here! They just needed someone else to see, feel and hear it! Enter Pete Paphides and his newly established record label, Needle Mythology. He knew the gem that was before him. And so, with one last little hiccup along the way (the test pressing of the album causing a problem which meant a one month delay from the initial release date of September 18th), Friday – at last – saw the release of In Memory Of My Feelings, on vinyl, CD and in digital format and through streaming services.

Was it worth the wait? My opinion – a resounding YES!

The Breakdown: It’s beautiful melancholia. Catherine has a knack for that. Its sparse chords and mirrored vocal harmonies exude fear and regret but…there is light. The best melancholic songs always bring a hope with them. There is hope. It ends in hope. There is love. Strength. And the offering of courage.

Ten Good Reasons: It has been my earwarm all day! There is sass and sensuality and sultriness. Relationships when they hit the rocks and flatline. Do we push on? Is there any sense in doing so? That’s what I hear in this song. Again, impeccable harmonies and fabulous guitar work from Butler. The final 30 seconds of the song is just…perfection. That repetition of “what a mess we’re in” and then the ending piano chords. Geez…I know that is something. Or is a nod to something familiar but I can’t put my finger on it! (Catherine might tell me if she sees this?)

Sabotage (Looks So Easy): Rocking. Just – pow – straight in! Intelligent lyrics. Just punchy and ballsy. Again full of sass and attitude. We’re not gonna take deceit lying down.

In Memory Of My Feelings: It’s like three songs in one! What a break up song! Just, the musical weaving and blending, ducking and diving. The harmonies! My god, the harmonies on this album are flawless! Delivery on the lyrics “because you can’t take it back / you’ve done it now / and that is that” during the bridge breaks (right term?) are just beautiful. This could be my favourite track on the album. It just has such layers to it. And the dark and light of it. It interplays with mood and colour. Light and shade. It’s fabulous!

I Know: Or is THIS my favourite track? THE HARMONIES! I want to die! And with Butler’s guitar riding it all underneath…geez! It really is a beauty this one. Tenderness. Such tenderness to it! A love that is blossoming yet already faltering? Everything is all tentative. It’s beautiful, this. Just really beautiful.

Judas: LET’S ROCK! Just to dry up those tears shed from the beauty of the previous track. It’s a rollercoaster, this album! A rollercoaster of gems! Just absorb the sensuality and sultriness of this one. And just eat up that jangling guitar. Sell it to me, brother! (I don’t know what I’m saying anymore. Lol)

No More Tears To Cry: It’s almost a gospel tune. What fabulous lines “here in my mouth / here in my heart / is the place where the hunger starts”. And fabulous guitar work for BB. Esp. on this track. His guitar work is strongest on this. Great middle solo. Oh, it’s SSOOO good!

The Waiting Game: I don’t usually hear much of Manic Street Preachers influence on Catherine, but I hear it really strongly on this track. Abandonment? It’s the worst! It’s the daisy petal game, this song. “He loves me. He loves me not.” We’ve all done it, even if just metaphorically most times…picking them petals off the daisy. Life is a waiting game…for buses, trains, planes, people to tell you they love you and want to be with you. This song is catchy AF.

The Patron Saint Of The Last Cause: When you don’t feel you are worthy of anyone’s attention or interest or kindness. Melancholic again, but delivered to sound lighthearted. “Hey, I’m a fuck up. Don’t be bothering yourself with me” to an upbeat tune.

F.O.H.: Again, those bloody harmonies. Hell! And then…
To be honest…this is the only track I am kinda grappling with. I don’t know what to make of it still. I am not saying I don’t like it. I just don’t find it so easy to express how I feel about it/what I’m getting from it. The jury’s out a little…but that’s okay. If we say this is one only song I am really not gelling with that well with then, that gives this album a massive 9/10!

The Bonus tracks:
Live To Tell is a stellar version of the Madonna original. Much more emotional to me. Catherine’s vocal performance utterly perfect. Lovely space left on the track too. Excellently executed. Better than the original.
The Patron Saint Of The Lost Cause (Harmonium Version) the air of lightheartedness on the album version is diminished somewhat by the barebones harmonium sound. It isn’t a bad thing. I really like both versions.

Why this album was such a long push to get to be released is truly perplexing having listened to it several times now. The rejecting record company’s loss and Needle Mythology’s gain. Congratulations to Catherine and Bernard. And well done to the both of you for having the courage of your convictions to know that what you had produced here deserved to have an audience because you were both SSOO right!

In Memory Of My Feelings is a very strong album. Great lyrics, fabulous harmonies, musically “on point”. Everything just fits.

I can’t recommend this album enough!
It’s near faultless.
It has to be a 9/10!

Jim’s Thoughts On Mac & Co – CAD & BB Album Review

A couple of little snippets from the latest Mojo magazine – Jim’s fave offering from the Bunnymen and In Memory Of My Feelings gets reviewed.

P.S. I wish I could be as unaffected as Jim is at the thought of someone not thinking of me with the fondest of thoughts – as the idea of him feeling that way with me (ie: he cannae stand me!) makes me want to cry my eyes out.