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!”

Stewart Copeland – Royal Festival Hall, London – March 30th, 2019

After Thursday’s affair at The Stranglers gig, I was thankful to know that I’d be seated at the Stewart Copeland gig.

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From my memory of how the side seats looked when I was there for the Manic Street Preachers/The Anchoress Meltdown gig last June, the seats appeared like they’d give you a pretty good view. I suppose the rail could make it a little restricted with the view, especially if you’re a short person and sit low in your seat but for less than half the price of the stall seats, it made it an affordable last minute choice to go.

And I chose my seat well. There were seats either side of the auditorium. Both seats I was viewing when buying my ticket would have given me very similar views of the stage. It was just down to me whether I’d feel more comfortable facing the stage via facing it to the right or left. For some reason I couldn’t quite understand, I was favouring sitting on the left side. It ended up a great choice as from how you see in the few sneaky snaps I took, Stewart’s kit was facing – what was for him from the stage side perspective, the right side of the auditorium. I had a prime view.

He arrived on stage promptly at 7.30pm, wishing the crowd a good evening. Cracked some jokes about half of his children were probably in the audience…or the actual audience! Lol. He started with film scores.

Tunes from Rumble Fish, Wall Street, his work on the Ben Hur live experience, the Spyro videogame soundtrack….as well as the odd Police number (in which he gave praise to Sting – I nearly fell off my chair! “Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner – the greatest songwriter ever to exist on the planet” – quote/unquote!), playing Don’t Stand So Close To Me, Darkness and Miss Gradenko. And no Stewart Copeland set would be complete without The Equalizer, which he strangely did not perform but handed it over to the orchestra conductor who just happened to be a rather accomplished drummer himself. Stewart by way of a role swap, conducted the orchestra on the piece, as you can only imagine Stewart Copeland would…with quite a few giggles from the crowd as he made over exaggerated hand gestures and at one point did the Twist whilst still conducting away.

I think he also played something from The Rhythmatist and also played some Balinese Gamelan music.

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He talked in between every piece, telling a brief story behind each. How they came to take place, etc. Namedropping directors like Oliver Stone and Francis Ford Coppola along the way. Always bringing out chuckles in the audience.

With a 20 minute interval about 45 minutes into the set, the gig came in at just on two hours. All done and dusted by 9.30pm. I had never been out of a gig so early! I was back at Victoria by 9.50 and on the coach back to Luton just after 10pm. And back in the door at home by 11.30pm. Incredible!

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Any worries I may suffer a repeat of Thursday were long gone. I had a draining journey back from Weston-super-Mare during the day, but was soon revived with a meal and a short meander around the Southbank of London.

Stewart put on a great show. Great musicianship by the orchestra. Stewart was in good form both musically and as a general showman and class goofball.

It was a great night. I was so happy to have seen him. At times during the set I had been sitting their inwardly pinching myself, thinking “I am actually HERE watching Stewart Copeland play! This is fucking amazing!” And it was.

The Stranglers – O2 Academy, Bristol – 28th March, 2019

It was quite a hike from Luton to Bristol. First a trip to London, then on from there to Bristol. I arrived at 3.45pm and met up with a friend shortly after.

We had a bite to eat at the Boston Tea Party at the top of Park Street. A nice place. Looks deceptively small on the outside, but has plenty of seating upstairs. I needed to fuel up before the gig, so had a chai latte, a veggie burger and chips.

We queue outside that venue around 6pm. We were met with a few other fans after…and the queue got progressively longer. Another friend us in the queue around 6.40 and we were let in a few minutes before 7pm.

Support act was Dr Feelgood. A curious support in that there is not a single original member of the band within the group. But they were great all the same. Great musicianship. The singer was quite a showman but at least he was animated and not standing about looking like he’d prefer to be elsewhere.

The only two Dr Feelgood songs I know are Milk And Alcohol and Roxette and they performed those. The only thing I’d say as a negative was, although the overall sound level was great, the singer was lost in the mix. He was too low. Couldn’t much hear him either singing or playing the harmonica. Other than that, the set was great and I really enjoyed them.

All good. Everything going well.

Just a short break and then out come the boys. We were in a prime position, right in front of JJ. I filmed a bit here and there and have one complete song of them performing set opener Tank.

All was going good. The following day was Dave Greenfield’s 70th birthday, and my friend, Ruth, had made a special celebratory banner for him. After a few songs, Ruth produced the banner from her pocket and we held it up against the barrier. JJ noticed it and nodded approval, then he went over and got Dave’s attention and pointed it out to him. A short while later, Baz noticed it too and asked Ruth to throw it up on the stage to him. Baz then clipped it to the front of Dave’s keyboard stand and it stayed there for the rest of the gig.

About half way through the set I was starting to feel unwell. Light headed and just…not sure of myself. A little overheated, but it was so cramped in there, I wasn’t sure how I was going to get my jumper off.

I sat down and would have probably revived myself had I been allowed to stay there a few mins, but security guard came over and told Ruth I needed to stand back up, that it was too dangerous for me to sit at the barrier. I stood back up and I was not too bad initially. JJ checked with me that I was okay and I had mouthed to him I was fine and gave him a thumbs up. I was just trying to keep calm and ride the feeling out…but it didn’t work and after a few minutes I was out for the count. I shared the footage on the blog of what ensued.

I could feel myself being pulled over the barrier and feel being carted off. I was conscious again and saying “Guys! I’m okay!” Lol. Obviously NOT okay, but at least conscious again. They took me out a side exit and sat me on the ground for a few mins. They then got me a chair and I sat there for a few more mins. I was allowed to go back in but had missed a few songs. It was so crowded, I was right at the back and I wasn’t going to risk trying to get to the front and get reunited with my friends.

I didn’t stay in the venue again for too long. There was a bar out the front and some seating, so I just sat and waited until the gig was done.

The Stranglers are ALWAYS top class. They are never anything else. Set was great, I mean the actual stage set…the set list of songs were too. Some songs as a fan but not “uber” fan I was unfamiliar with. And there were a couple of new tracks played and I caught a bit of one of them.

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They’re a stellar act. The venue is small, intimate, and on a personal level, could do with a bit of ventilation. Great otherwise though.

I’ve seen them at least once every year now since 2016 and this year I may end up seeing them twice, all things boding well!

You’ll NEVER be disappointed at a Stranglers gig…even if you do find yourself fainting in the middle of it.

I Need Some Rejuvenation!

Well, the packaging looks amazing. I will invest ASAP.

As for last night’s Stranglers gig? I suffered yet ANOTHER fainting spell. I felt unwell about 30 mins into their set. I sat down for a few mins, but was told to get back up for fear I’d be crushed. Bless his cotton socks! JJ saw me resurface and asked me if I was okay.

I mouthed back at him “yeah, I’m okay.” But I wasn’t. I fresh wave hit me a few minutes later and I was out for the count and hurled over the barrier and taken outside to recover.

More on this in my rather hampered review of the gig on Sunday.

In the meantime, I managed to capture photographic evidence that JJ does indeed smile sometimes!

Review: The Lemon Twigs – Roundhouse, London – February 27th, 2019

The Roundhouse is probably the handiest venue for me currently. A short journey on the Thameslink rail line from Luton to Kentish Town station and then a 20 minute walk from there to the venue. Easy!

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I arrived early enough, around 7.20pm. Support act Matt Maltese wasn’t due on until 8pm.

I found myself stood at almost the exact same spot I was in at the Franz Ferdinand gig last September…and I was getting a little apprehensive about it. I had fainted at the gig. The first time anything like that had happened to me. It was starting to play on my mind. But I just kept talking to myself, reassuring myself. Shortly after, I got chatting to a man next to me and it took my mind off it and distracted me enough for me not to worry and dwell on it. I also made sure that this time I had ample food and drink in me (and had water to hand should I feel the need to keep myself hydrated).

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Matt Maltese was quite good. I liked what I heard. He’s got a fairly “lo-fi” quality to him. Quite laid back. He performed several songs, of which Hello Black Dog was the standout for me. You’ll find a little snippet of it below. I’ll give his album a listen in the next few days. I really do think it’ll be something I’ll enjoy.

There wasn’t too much of a wait before The Twigs appeared. As soon as it hit 9pm, the crowd were getting restless…clapping and cheering for the guys to appear. On the Roundhouse FB page it stated they’d be on at 9.05 and there they were, almost on the dot and straight into Go To School opener Never In My Arms, Always In My Heart.

Michael had some of the girls in the crowd screaming from the off. Using all he gained from his years as a child actor, giving the most Jagger-esque of “rock star stud” performances.

Once done, Michael starts to talk about his meeting with legendary U.S. songwriter, Paul Williams, and how some mutual appreciation went on. To the point in which he says, “so I thought ‘fuck it, you know…and I sucked him off’.” Erm, okay Michael! Thanks for sharing! Lol. I got the distinct impression it was all bravado and very much tongue-in-cheek (or perhaps cock-in-cheek in this instance) and on they went into Foolin’ Around (which obviously he had been doing with his felating Paul Williams story).

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There is quite a distinction between the D’Addario boys. Michael is definitely the showman. All front, bravado, then pretend nonchalance. But, of course, the musicianship is there. Brian, conversely, brings the musicianship more to the fore with sublime vocals and maestro guitar playing (as well as some time behind the keyboard too). But he can let his hair down as well, but it’s always more controlled and more restrained to Michael’s bold theatrics.

It’s then Brian’s turn to shine, leading a wonderful version of Small Victories. Also on the amazing “influences worn unapologetically on sleeves” I Wanna Prove To You.

Other songs in the set included (sandwiched between the two songs just mentioned) This Is My Street, The Lesson, Hi & Lo, Light & Love, the beautiful These Words, Queen Of My School, Baby Baby, Tailor Made, Home Of A Heart, then a full showman display for The Fire – excerpt below – and finally As Long As We’re Together.

Instruments down. Guitars left playing feedback…the crowd were left wanting more. Only a few minutes were we left waiting for a solitary song encore of If You Give Enough.

Had this gig been on at the Roundhouse 50 years ago, it would not seem at all out of place. The D’Addario brothers really are not shy in melding all their influences together and spewing them forth. Everything is there. And that interplay between the studious Brian and the miscreant Michael is one that makes a Lemon Twigs gig really work. It’s showy, rocky, theatrical, brash yet sublimely rich musically. I left the gig wanting more. And I left so downhearted I had to miss seeing them play Saint Luke’s in Glasgow last week. But I also left knowing I’ll want to see them again and again!

Review: Blancmange – Roadmender, Northampton – 24/11/2018

We arrived in Northampton around 6.45pm, conveniently finding a car park directly opposite the venue. We joined the small queue into the venue a few minutes before “open doors” – which were opened promptly at 7pm.

A good mix of songs was playing over the sound system just to keep us well entertained before support act Jez Bernholz was due on stage.

I wasn’t sure if there was even going to be a support act, as I had not really looked to see if there would be, but assumed it would be the case. Bernholz was new to me. A very atmospheric sound. Very ambient. I liked what I heard. It’s not easy to keep hold of a crowd with that kind of sound, esp. when you are a support act. I give ALL support acts a good chance. I give them my time and want to listen to them thoroughly. But many can be arrogant asshats, spoiling the experience for others. I will NEVER understand ANYONE turning up early to a venue and then being thoroughly disrespectful to a support act by talking while they are performing. It is just beyond rude! This happened last night at the Roadmender with a lady to my right. She was obviously a big Blancmange fan (as it later transpired) and had probably seen Bernholz as a result a number of times already. But that is NO EXCUSE to talk loudly and within earshot to the audience around her. Have some damn respect! If you want to talk, go out to the f***ing bar and get out of earshot, FFS, you rude cow!

Thankfully she didn’t talk ALL THE WAY through his set, but she did for a good few minutes through the middle of it. I wanted so much to say something, but held my tongue. I certainly threw a few daggers in her direction though…not that she’d have noticed, probably, being deep in conversation and all.

Anyway, I did really enjoy Bernholz and will explore his music as a result. He and Neil have collaborated together as well, and Neil joined him at the end of his set to provide vocals on his final song. Here’s a little sample of Bernholz’s work from last night.

A short wait and Blancmange were on, starting with new album Wanderlust’s two opening tracks, Distant Storm and In Your Room. Both gems. In Your Room, in particular, an instant fave for me.

Neil Arthur seemed a little pent up to start with. There was a palpable “performance anxiety” evidently being felt by him. But for me personally, that did not in any way detract from enjoying the performance. He soon settled and became quite chatty between songs. Showing a lot of appreciation for a crowd very much enjoying the set and seeing Neil and co on the stage.

He worked his way through a solid set of great tunes both old and new. Other tracks from Wanderlust included I Smashed Your Phone, Not A Priority and the album title track.

Some from previous album, Unfurnished Rooms were also performed – What’s The Time? and Anna Dine.

The deadpan and glorious Last Night (I Dreamt I Had A Job) from 2016 release Commuter 23 was also given an airing.

Old favourites came in the form of What’s Your Problem from 1985’s Believe You Me album and several others from 1982 debut album Happy Families, including I Can’t Explain, I’ve Seen The Word, Living on The Ceiling – which saw a wonderful crowd sing-a-long which Neil recorded a bit of us singing by grabbing a guy’s phone from the crowd and recording us with it – and a wonderful encore of Waves.

They also performed a track of Neil Arthur’s collaboration with uber producer Benge (under the moniker Fader) called I Prefer Solitude (see clip below).

I really enjoyed this gig. His band played well, he sounded great vocally (despite him saying he was suffering a sore throat…it wasn’t much detectable to me).

I even managed to score myself a souvenir of the night by way of a gig promo poster, which Neil was very kind enough to sign.

I will be doing much more exploration of Blancmange’s musical history as a result of this gig, sinking my teeth (metaphorically, of course) into the back catalogue. And I plan to see them again in the not-too-distant future.

Thank you Jez, Neil and band for a great night. It was my first time seeing you, but it definitely won’t be the last!

Berlin Blondes

Whilst flicking through the latest edition of Electronic Sound magazine, I was intrigued to see this short review of an anthology issue by a band called Berlin Blondes. It was the cover artwork that initially caught my eye. Then I see the word “Glasgow” and my interest gets FULLY piqued!

It was a brief life for this band. Just the one full album.

On looking them up on the web, the Wikipedia entry for them seemed to suggest they had supported Simple Minds somewhere along their brief existence. I went and looked at the tour info on the Dream Giver Redux site, but I saw little evidence to back this notion up. I would ask Jim if he had any recollection of this, but I feel I am probably not ingratiating myself too kindly right now…for some reason, so I best not. Perhaps I will give Simon Cornwell (webmaster extraordinaire at simpleminds.org) a quick email, to see if he can shed any light on whether they did indeed support SM at any time.

Anyway, I shall give the album a listen tonight and see what I think. From what I’ve read they sound like they were quite…parodying the sounds of their influences a little too much. But, well, I shall see (hear) for myself.