Themes For Great Cities – Other Reviews

There have been some other great reviews coming in for Graeme Thomson’s Themes For Great Cities book.

Firstly, Classic Pop magazine gave a glowing review. And recently, both Uncut and Electronic Sound magazines have reviewed it. The Electronic Sound review is succinct yet wonderfully positive. The Uncut review gives the book an 8/10 and its opinion of Graeme Thomson as a writer is wholly positive, but the rest of the review is rather backhanded and quite dismissive and scathing of the band. Almost as if the reviewer wondered why Thomson had bothered to waste his talent and energy in telling the Simple Minds story? Well, that’s how the review read to me anyway.

See what you think…

I still think my own review is the best of the lot of them so far. And I don’t usually plug myself with this much bravado! You can read my review HERE – and don’t forget that I am running a competition to win one of two copies of the book. Check the review post for details! The comp closes on Sunday, January 23rd.

Graeme himself was pretty awed by my review, as you can see below… I admit to being quite stunned by his reaction to it. And very humbled. A few tears were shed.

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!

As Dorothy Said To Aunty Em…

“There’s no place like home.” A much used quote lifted from The Wizard Of Oz. But it rings true. And it certainly seemed to have rung true on the nights of November 18th and 19th, 1982.

Simple Minds had just returned to Glasgow after another whirlwind stint of touring to the far reaches of the globe (yes, GLOBE – no “flat earth” conspiracy theorists here! Have ANY of these flat-earthers NEVER been on a plane? How do they explain the curvature of the earth and the horizon? I digress!) – heading back to Australia, New Zealand and Canada directly after the release of New Gold Dream.

I was looking into fanzines on eBay last night, after having seen an enquiring post on my FB feed about a certain Scottish produced fanzine. I thought I’d have a hunt around the interwebs and see what I could find. I decided on eBay first and got caught up looking at fanzines on there. One in particular caught my eye. One called Deadbeat. I looked at the listing of every issue and viewed the images, trying to scan and find more info on the fanzine production itself more than anything.

No one was then more surprised than me to find within the shared images of one listing of the magazine – THIS! A review of Simple Minds playing Tiffany’s in November, 1982. It’s unclear as to whether the reviewer is at the first gig or the second, but regardless of that it’s a glowing review.

The only error in the review is that they say Mike Ogletree is on drums. And it wasn’t until I was listening over the bootleg last night did I think to myself “Naw, pal. That ain’t Mike, that’s Mel.” Mike’s last gig was in Toronto about 10 nights prior to this gig. So in actual fact, it was Mel’s first or second night at the kit – depending on which night the reviewer was there.

They wax lyrical about Jim. Such praise! Excited at my discovery of this review last night I did a very rare thing (these days) and posted it to SMOG first with a link to Art & Talk’s upload of the November 18th gig to YouTube. In my post on SMOG, in reference to the lashings of praise heaped on Jim, I said “anyone would think I wrote the review! Lol.”

It is true though – anyone WOULD think I had time travelled and gone and reviewed it for the fanzine. It is wonderful to see such praise given to His Kerrness though. And it’s certainly nothing I wouldn’t have done myself.

A companion piece for me are the photos I have from Virginia of them playing the second night at Tiffany’s. My favourite photo of the set? One of Jim on the stage – looking pretty fucking sensational, I have to say in signature white collared shirt, shiny tailored trousers and black wee “ballet” shoes. And in the bottom left corner of the frame you can see his brother, Mark, looking as though he would rather be anywhere else than watching his big bro up on stage. Lol. Poor Mark! It’s not in the ones I have posted above, but you can view the particular photo I am referring to on Virginia’s site HERE

Lastly, here is the link to the first of the two Tiffany’s gigs that A&T uploaded. Oh, for a night at Tiffany’s! This is the next best thing…

P.S. Artwork used for the YT ident, eh? *wink* Thanks A&T!

Rave Reviews For The Anchoress

It’s hard to escape all the amazing reviews coming in for The Art Of Losing, the follow up album from 2016 debut Confessions Of A Romance Novelist by The Anchoress.

Below are the latest reviews printed in Mojo, Classic Pop and Record Collector, as well as a short Q and A interview also from Record Collector.

With just under two weeks until release on March 12th, it is certainly going to be if not THE album of the year, then definitely one of the biggest albums of 2021. Do I smell a Mercury nomination….?

The latest single release is the title track itself. Take a listen by finding the YouTube link further below.

Pre-order copies are selling out fast. You can order by going to the store: https://TheAnchoress.lnk.to/TheArtOfLosing

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.”

Street Fighting Years Box Set Reissue Reviews

A couple of reviews of the SFY box set have been printed in both Mojo and Uncut magazines this week. The Mojo one is particularly scathing but the “fortune cookie wisdom” in regards to Jim’s lyrics in the Uncut review isn’t exactly complimentary, either! Although overall, it is a kinder review.

The reissue lands in two weeks time.

Mojo magazine review.
Uncut magazine review.

Warm Digits (Poliça) – St Luke’s and Winged Ox, Glasgow – 10/02/2020

It was a miserable old day in Glasgow yesterday. Everything and the kitchen sink, weatherwise, came our way. There was a bit of sun to be had but not much. Mostly it was strong winds, rain, sleet, and even at one stage a crack of thunder and lightning.

I was quite cosy at home, thank you very much! I wasn’t looking forward to venturing out. Conversely, I did not want to miss the opportunity of seeing one of my most favourite bands – Warm Digits – playing here in Glasgow.

It had been nearly two years since I last saw the boys perform. A wonderful day I had at The Cluny in Newcastle seeing them at the end of June in 2018. Far too long not to have seen them. And I knew they were planning on performing new material from their forthcoming album – Flight Of Ideas. I could NOT miss this gig!

I decided a taxi was the best way to go. Wait until nearer to gig time and just grab a cab to drop me right outside. The beauty of where we live in Glasgow, it is pretty cheap to get a private hire taxi into the city for around £6.50.

I had posted on Facebook how much I was looking forward to the gig in spite of the weather, and cheekily asked would there be any chance of me observing the soundcheck. A reply back to me said it was up to the venue but I was welcome to try. Soundcheck was happening at 6pm.

I booked a cab at 5.25pm. My driver arrived at 5.40pm. I was inside St Luke’s 15 minutes later.

I was unsure where to go. No sign of Andy or Steve in the Winged Ox so assumed they must already be setting up for soundcheck. I walked through a set of doors and down a short corridor. There were two sets of doors. I could see Steve and Andy on the stage. Could I just…push the door open and let myself in? Yes! A young lady was there setting up things in the bar at the rear end of the room, just by the door. “I’ve just come in to see Steve and Andy, is that okay?” “Yeah, sure”, she said, with a mild shrug. They both seemed genuinely happy to see me, which was a very lovely thing. You know…I can’t help but feel a little bit pushy and a bit of a pest…but it’s just the enthusiasm. And they are such lovely guys … and yeah. It was such a wonderful experience last time at The Cluny. I had never been to a soundcheck or had an opportunity to “hang out” with a band like that ever in my life before. I felt very privileged.

And that feeling was the same last night. Chatting to them while they were setting up. Asking them how the tour had been going so far, and just…catching up on general “life” stuff too. Experiencing again what goes on in the soundcheck. And being a bit privy to how they were going to be sounding as they actually performed “for real” is a great thing. I feel anyway. And the way they were sounding during soundcheck, I knew they were going to be fab when the real show started.

Soundcheck done and they were both heading next door back to the Winged Ox for a bite to eat. I was invited along. Before I left with Steve one of the security guys handed Steve his AAA pass. The security guy says to me “do you want one?” I look to Steve, then back to the security guy “Erm…if I’m allowed to have one, yeah!” He had run out of passes but went off and got me one. Never had one of them in my life. Not one GIVEN to me for my use at a gig.

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Food consumed. A catch up with friends that came to see the show and it was show time! They performed six songs in the set. Four new tracks from the album – the lead single, The View From Nowhere…then, Feel The Panic, Replication and False Positive (I think that’s correct). Then two previous tracks, End Times – from the Wireless World album and Weapons Destruction from debut album Keep Warm. Weapons Destruction is usually the set ender – or the encore, depending on whether they are headlining the gig or not. And IT ROCKS!

They were sounding as fab as ever last night. And the new tracks are great. Both the instrumental tracks, Replication and (I believe it to be) False Positive, were the ones I enjoyed most last night. But the whole set was great. The only problem with the set was it wasn’t long enough! They were on for just 30 minutes. But I was so happy I went in that yucky weather because it was the best 30 mins!

I stayed on to watch some of Poliça who are quite atmospheric. Kind of…ambient electronica. I was enjoying them. The only criticism I would give is they could end up sounding a bit…”samey”. To me there wasn’t too much diversity in the tracks I was hearing them perform, but I only watched the first 25 mins of their set. But I enjoyed the look of them. Their singer had small coloured laser lights projected on her, swirling around her body and on the walls around St Luke’s. They sounded really good in live performance. I had been listening to them on and off for a couple of weeks so I’d be a little familiar with the tracks they’d perform. Personally, I think the feeling of their music would be more suited to a seated venue. That sentiment definitely DOES NOT apply to Warm Digits though. You need to up and dancing, foot-stomping, head-banging with those boys!


A huge thank you to Steve and Andy for once again giving me a fantastic night out. Great music. Great atmosphere. A great catch-up and chat. YOU GUYS ARE THE BEST!

They just have the two gigs left supporting Poliça – tonight in London and tomorrow night in Brighton. But they will very soon be on the road again with a headline tour for the Flight Of Ideas album. And they are set to play in Edinburgh and Newcastle. No official dates just yet, but I will definitely be booking tickets to see them in these two cities. And I will give details on the blog once info comes to hand.

They will also be doing an album launch at Rough Trade East in London on April 4th. I am gutted I cannot go because I’ll be in Paris seeing Simple Minds! But if you can get to London to see them at Rough Trade, do so! Tickets are available here. But be quick! Tickets for these Rough Trade events go FAST!