Interesting thoughts from this guy. Thought it was worth posting here. See what you think…
I know I shouldn’t…but HOLY SHIT…Jim Kerr in 1981 is the most beautiful, most extraordinary thing I have ever seen in my life. (I still love you, Jim! I would NEVER say ‘no’ – not in a bajillion years! … this is why he hates me – I’m ssooo fucking superficial!)
THIS FOOTAGE IS JUST GOLD!
Look. At. Him!!!
Divine. Just divine…
I have no other words…
This week I will be somewhat cheating, as I did a lengthy post about this song for MMM barely six months ago. I wanted to post about it last week, as the song was my earworm over the previous weekend and I was just feeling a lot of love for it. But Empires That Dance had just brought out their version of Someone Somewhere In Summertime and what with it being Valentine’s Day and all….
So here I am this week, still thinking about and loving Careful In Career.
One thing I will say is that during my choosing of the six tracks that I chose for the Son/Sister anniversary celebration on Pulse 98.4 with Ronnie McGhie, Careful In Career only just missed the cut.
Also, the piece of “fan art” I did for the song is still one of my most favourite pieces.
Sorry it’s so short and sweet this week. Uni study and the excitement of the tour recommencing and the imminent trip to Paris are all dominating my thoughts at the moment. I hope to do a more substantial post next week – no promises though!
“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!
I loved the way Jim defined his role within the creative tour de force that was Simple Minds in 1981. He posted two pieces on the official Facebook page regarding Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call – both quite succinct in their acknowledgements – but I guess he has spent more time than anyone over the past 40 years dissecting and talking about it, he probably had very little left to say. And of course, as the lyricist and vocalist on the albums – well, he can let the music, his words and his voice do all that needs to be said and done.
“I’m not saying anything, I’ve said too much.”
But of the things he did say, that description on the second post of the band being “on fire” and that it was his job to describe the flames. It perfectly describes it! And that is why he did such an incredible job of it!
And…whenever you want, Jim, you can come and fan my flames! Just saying… (what are those lines from 70 Cities As Love Brings The Fall again… *pondering expression on face*)
I didn’t post a Minds Music Monday post yesterday as I still was feeling a sense of “mourning”. A bit of a loose end right now. Minds Music Monday really had a purpose behind it these past months. Before that, it had been nothing more than “here’s the Simple Minds song that’s stuck in my head this week” kinda thing. I put a lot of work into really trying to turn the weekly theme into something solid and something to look forward to.
It did get on top of me a few times. It quickly became something I wanted to deliver on week after week and there were times during the summer when family matters and personal crisis got in the way of being able to dedicate the time I needed to make each post as thought-provoking and insightful as I wanted them to be but I am already missing that challenge. Equally it is nice not to feel so much pressure to fulfill a task, to be working to a self-imposed deadline.
Minds Music Monday is definitely going to continue but perhaps at a more controlled pace. And I have time until the next major celebration. With New Gold Dream’s 40th Anniversary next year, and there only being nine tracks on the album, I can slow the pace down somewhat. My thinking is that I will start a monthly post from January onwards with related pieces in between. But I may change my mind about that come January. Part of me doesn’t want to kick off the celebrations too early, yet the other part of me thinks IT’S NEW GOLD DREAM! We’ll see.
In the meantime, just to go back to Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call – I’d like to share this. This is what I had written out as my blurbs to intro each of my choices for Ronnie McGhie’s radio show last week. Once the show got under way, we were so pressed for time, I felt I couldn’t say all the things I wanted to, so I tried to get across the important points and tried to limit what I was saying. It is why I ended up stumbling over my words towards the end, just trying to get a more succinct point across made me trip up over Seeing Out The Angel and This Earth That You Walk Upon.
So here are my broader points that I wanted to say printed below. I also included the brief introduction of myself that I had written as well. My part was originally going to be a pre-record and I had recorded my audio and sent it to Ronnie but he said doing the show live was an option if I was up to it. I really didn’t feel very confident about it to begin with but the more I thought about it and considered it, the more exciting the proposition was. And so we went for it and I am ssoo happy we did. It was a great experience.
“My name is Larelle Read. I have been an ardent and fanatical Simple Minds fan since the summer of 2014. When realising there was so much more to discover about the band than what you hear from their array of hits, I meticulously went through their back catalogue. I did so in chronological order and when I got to the albums of Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call, it cemented my love for this band completely. From the beginning of In Trance As Mission right through to Seeing Out The Angel on the “Sons” album, all the tracks are perfectly placed. It’s Europe of the early 1980s. And it’s 5 men all below the age of 25 sharing life’s experiences. It’s musically and lyrically perfect. And it SHOULD be lauded as highly as New Gold Dream is, as far as I am concerned.
BOYS FROM BRAZIL
It’s all about that drum beat for me. It’s meaty! Added to it a relentless bassline and single note synth, then Burchill’s jangly guitar riff. Kerr’s lyrics at this point are already political, citing Neo-Nazis and the National Front in his lyrics. It has a sophistication and a message, delivered with a subtlety that many miss. It’s not a song to dance to so much but it packs a big punch and it gets my fist pumping and my heart pounding. And visually, I see the style of the Minds members reflected in their clothing choices. Tailored trousers and collared shirts. Very 1940s smart attire.
WONDERFUL IN YOUNG LIFE
The first time I ever heard Wonderful In Young Life as a new “mega” (perhaps zealously rekindled) Simple Minds fan, I cried. I found it the most beautiful song I had ever heard. I am reluctant to go into too much detail but my teenage years weren’t years I look too fondly on. This song expresses everything that is special about being in your late teens and early 20s for a lot of people. A whole life ahead of you. Setting out in the world where the sky’s the limit. That you’re making your way in the world and you have great friends around you sharing in those experiences. Exactly as the title says – Wonderful In Young Life. It is something that I felt had passed me by, and it’s why I felt so much emotion from it. For the years I felt I lost. Another driving beat and fantastic bassline and so much amazing wailing guitar. And those lyrics! And Jim’s voice. And a rare time he’d sing in a falsetto. And it was those falsetto lines of “I’m singing memories” that would tip me over the edge. I have “I’m singing memories” tattooed on my right forearm. That is how much this song means to me.
SONS AND FASCINATION
Sons And Fascination reminds me of being back in Australia with my mum. I was there in the summer of 2015/16 and it was the last time I had with my mum before she passed away at the end of 2019. I think each song I choose has some kind of quirk to the rhythm that catches me. This has some kind of hand clap effect or a Linn drum snap or whatever it is. Mick MacNeil’s synth work and again with Derek Forbes bass sell this one for me. Sophistication in Kerr’s lyrics once again. He was such a keen observer and it’s all reflected in those lyrics. I think everyone should listen intently to Jim Kerr’s lyrics. And I need to get to the bottom of why he chose to use the words “semi-monde”. It is an incredible title track and absolutely encapsulates everything the album is. The whole rhythm, tone and message of the album. It’s magnificent.
THE AMERICAN (Extended Version)
The American is a favourite in the live set. It is always the indicator for me that a Simple Minds gig is well under way when The American is being performed and it is guaranteed to get me singing and dancing. (If I am not already doing so by then, which I usually am!) It is the extended version I enjoy much more than the version that is on the album. The album version I find too short. And I love the way the extended version fades out after that almost trippy and hypnotic repetition of the chorus. Live versions are always favourites, esp. one from the Good News From The Next World tour of 1995 in which Jim included the backing vocal lines of “in collective fame/ Nassau club days / across a curved earth / the eventful work-outs”. And Charlie Burchill’s guitar work on this is fabulous.
SEEING OUT THE ANGEL
Seeing Out The Angel is just the most beautiful, serine, haunting song. The synth melody that opens the song and the bass that counters it. The haunting backing vocal. And then the guitar that sounds like church bells – something that music journalist Adam Sweeting said of Charlie’s guitar on this song, and he is absolutely correct. And the story behind the lyrics as well. Of Jim saying he had this “vision” of an angel or a visitation FROM an angel as a young boy I find fascinating. And it contains one of the most beautiful lines I think Jim has ever written, “in colourful, breathless, emotional sea”. I’m not one for choosing a funeral song. I don’t care what’s played at mine. You could play Russ Abbott’s “Atmosphere” as far as I am concerned. It’s not as if I am going to be there to enjoy it! But I can certainly appreciate why Seeing Out The Angel appeals to fans for that particular reason and purpose. And as the final track on the Sons And Fascination album, it is just perfect.
THIS EARTH THAT YOU WALK UPON
This Earth That You Walk Upon contains my favourite Charlie Burchill guitar solo. But there is also more shimmering synth work from Michael MacNeil. It’s really big on atmosphere, this track. It makes the world feel huge. We have our place within the universe, but we as human beings are just a speck in space and time. We are the blink of an eye in time’s history. Going to the Walk Between Worlds short set of showcase gigs in February, 2018 and being promised some rare tracks from the back catalogue, I didn’t really know what to expect. I was hoping for Boys From Brazil or Wonderful In Young Life, even though I knew in my heart of hearts the chances of either of them being performed was as likely as me winning the lottery! But when I heard the opening synth chords to This Earth, I felt like I had been taken to heaven. I was in EXACTLY the right place at the right time. Glasgow, Barrowland, and this song being performed live in front of me was all I could ever wish for. It’s a very special and magical memory.”
UPDATE: Direct links now as the “listen again” option has expired on the Pulse 98.4 website. I thought I’d just stick this post to the top of the blog for the next few days, as this will definitely be a highlight of 2021 for me – having Ronnie ask me to do this and be on the show. It was a fabulous experience.
It was ssooo much fun last night being on Ronnie McGhie’s radio show, celebrating all that is Simple Minds and the 40th Anniversary of Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call. Even if I did have a massive corpsing fluff towards the end of it.
Seems like we’ll do it all again for next year and New Gold Dream’s anniversary!
If you missed it last night, you can listen again by clicking on the audio clips below – the show is broken up into two separate one hour parts.
Last night Ronnie also caught up with Empires That Dance’s Andy Inniss to talk about their new release – a fabulous reinterpretation of Love Song and you’ll get the hear the track as well – all in the second hour of the show.
The allure of repetition manifests itself most strongly within all of the Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call’s tracks in Sweat In Bullet. Three solid blocks of repetitive text from Jim Kerr, with a vocal performance to match.
This is the most Burroughs-esque of all of Jim’s writing from the period. If you are not familiar with William Burroughs’ writing, let me explain. In much of his writing, Burroughs used the “cut-up technique” in which lines of existing, linear text are cut up and rearranged to create new lines of (linear?) text. It’s also a style of writing that David Bowie experimented with in his songwriting quite often during the early to mid 1970s.
I hear a lot of that influence falling heavily upon Jim’s songwriting in the early years. In fact it couldn’t fail but do so, given the way Jim would gather his ideas – jotting down lines of text…words and phrases that caught his attention or piqued his interest at any given moment. That writing style couldn’t help but mould into a more Burroughs-esque form of songwriting.
By all accounts, even from his own accounts, Jim’s notebook was never far away from him, and he was always writing things down.
The first words in the song aren’t even actual proper words – just Jim playing around with the sound of words as you would expect him to do.
Among the quote above, the one thing that stands out for me is him saying he “feels” the words rather than “thinks” them. Well, not even the words are “felt”. But obviously his lyrics (at that point) come to him very organically and via the visceral rather than the intellectual.
I think we as fans – well, certainly me personally – give his lyrics much more thought and significance than he ever sounds like he did (or does). Perhaps because (for him) you need a level of detachment when you create? By the same token, his writing is obviously also very personal because of the process of it being “felt rather than thought”. So the detachment has to come once he’s written the song. Like watching fledglings leave the nest, or children leaving home to start off on their life’s adventure.
Then we are free to interpret them and give them as much or as little significance as we like. And perhaps after some time of reflection, perhaps even Jim himself sees things and interprets things in his words that even HE didn’t see at the time of writing? Am I the only person to find this absolutely fascinating?
Upon reflection, having him talk about aspects of his writing style, I don’t think there is much of a Burroughs style to his writing. Jim’s is more organic than that.
I’d like to ask Jim his views on the Burroughs “Cut-up” technique – but the time for questions seems to have long gone by. Stuck in history’s “halcyon days”.
Anyway, what does one do to a song to remix it and give it a new flavour? ADD MORE COWBELL! Lol. So…what exactly happened at the mixing desk there with Pete Walsh at the helm for the Sweat In Bullet extended mix? Something akin to this, perhaps? Click HERE TO VIEW
And with the official video, the cowbell features prominently as Kenny gives it a good bash (and the cowbell! Boom boom!) by the shrubs.
The Sweat In Bullet video is a bit more of a stock music video of the time. It doesn’t have the storyboard that its “sister” video, Love Song has, that’s for sure! But I think that makes it more sophisticated. The guys all look amazing in it – although I guess it could be argued that Jim lets the side down with his dodgy eye. And…how frigging skinny is he?! Oh my word!
Back to the song itself. It was one of the first of the songs written in 1981 in Edinburgh and was demoed at CaVa Studios on Valentine’s Day. Originally titled Twenty One – which I find odd as there is nothing within the lyrics of the song to denote why it would be called that. Subsequently though, it helped me to decipher a line Jim sings in Life In Oils, as I am almost certain now Jim sings the words “twenty one” before he gets to the “chorus” in Life In Oils. Which then makes me think Life In Oils should have been called Twenty One (ah, to be able to go back in time and quiz Jim on such things). Click HERE for demo version.
Shortly after its demo recording, it became a main feature in the setlist, long before the album and its single release. Its debut performance was at Tiffany’s in Glasgow on March 1st, 1981 (click HERE to listen) and it moved on into the New Gold Dream tour as well. And there its time on the setlist ended for 20 years until it reappeared on the Alive and Kicking tour of 2003. Latterly it appeared on the 5×5 Live tour 0f 2012 – so come the recommencing of Simple Minds touring in 2022, it will have been another 10 years since the song has been seen on the setlist.
So, what exactly *is* Sweat In Bullet about? Given that the song starts as a seemingly random set of words, is there any story behind the song? Well, it’s obviously a song about ambition – a topic that features heavily in Jim’s lyrics at the time. But there’s more going on than that. It seems to be ambition from the female perspective.
A chance encounter – “you’ll never meet again”.
Suspicion from both sides, perhaps as rivalry – “eyes small”.
The matriarchy rules – “society can gain”
Like ships in the night – “then say goodbye”
It seems to get a bit heated at one point “rolling and tumbling, ambition in motion” – it always sounds like a sexual dalliance has taken place – “rolling and tumbling, she’s sweating bullets”.
A sexual dalliance and a power struggle? “Grow in size. Grow in fame. Grow more. Take more. Uncontrollable. Unworkable.”
It almost sounds like espionage. Two spies meeting. Female and male. Secret encounters and sexual espionage. But…who wins? Who outmanoeuvred who?
The two prevailing subject themes of the time in Jim’s songwriting join forces here and meet in the chorus – “ambition in motion”. Movement. Travel. Aims. Goals. The fear of the still and the stagnant and the bland. But conversely, he needs that stillness and monotony to create.
Matched with those lyrics is just…the funk of it! Derek Forbes’s bass is NASTY (as is GOOD), add Mick’s keyboard hook and Charlie’s guitar licks and that cowbell and – what a track!
This is a favourite live version of mine.
And so here we are – 40 years after its release on September 12th, 1981 – having gone through every track on the albums, one by one…I am left completely in awe of what Brian, Mick, Derek, Charlie and Jim achieved with these albums. Both albums are a sonic masterpiece in my eyes (and ears). I hope the posts I have generated about all the tracks on the albums have truly reflected that feeling.
I have drawn in content for my Sons/Sister posts from many sources over the six months, from the music magazines that the quotes from Jim have been sourced from – Melody Maker, Sounds, New Musical Express, Record Mirror, New Sounds New Styles, Smash Hits, The Face and Roadrunner magazines – YouTube for interviews, the use of photos by Virginia Turbett, as well as Malcolm Garrett – who not only allowed me to share certain artwork images but also provided amazing insight into some of the artwork used for the releases (the cover of Sweat In Bullet a case in point – you can read about that artwork HERE), thanks also to Jaine and David Henderson for help with what ended up being the biggest and wordiest post of them all for Love Song, but biggest debt of gratitude HAS to go to Simon Cornwell and his AMAZING Dream Giver Redux website at: simpleminds.org
Without Simon’s website, none of this would ever have come to fruition or be the celebration of the albums it has been. I put a lot of work into my blog but it pales into insignificance compared to what Simon has put into Dream Giver Redux. It literally IS the Simple Minds “Bible”.
I also want to thank Gordon Machray whose support and unflinching loyalty to the band is something to be revered. If I dare bring up the whole “real fan” business again and give it the creedence Jim was trying to give it – well, there’s your real fan right there! I’m not sure I actually know anyone else who is as impassioned as G Man (as he has been affectionately called by me for some years now). Gordon’s support of me is greatly appreciated.
Lastly, to all of you who have taken the time to read these posts over the past six months, thank you!
Ronnie talking about me appearing on his show next week.
It’s really real now! Gah!!!