Say Who You Are!

The album that did it for me. The one that, during my exploration of the Simple Minds back catalogue, “sealed the deal”. Empires And Dance put me into a state of…I dunno…suspended animation. I quite literally could not believe what I was hearing…that the band responsible for Don’t You (Forget About Me ) – subsequently I learned how much involvement there was in that, obv. – Alive And Kicking, Sanctify Yourself, etc, had also made stuff LIKE THIS?! It just blew my tiny frigging mind. I’m not holding up the songs mentioned to belittle them or say they’re inferior in ANY WAY….it is just a fact that Simple Minds within a 5 year period became a very different band musically and that I had NO KNOWLEDGE of how they sounded in 1980.

So, again for me personally, in 2014 listening to Empires And Dance for the first time was like discovering an entirely new band. And with the anniversary of its release this week, I just wanted to talk about it a bit, share some of my art inspired from the tracks and just give it and its content some praise.

I wouldn’t be the mega diehard (but has she earned her stripes yet?) SM fan I am now without this album existing, I don’t think.

Today I share what is at this point possibly my very favourite live version of Thirty Frames A Second. Jim stalking around that stage like a freshly uncaged animal. Leaping about like a jack rabbit…never faulting vocally…but being raw and emotive and just….GGRRRRRRRR!!! I love it!

Today I Saw A Fill-em

My mum never knew her father’s parents – her grandparents – actually, she never even got to know her father for he died shortly after her birth – complications he’d long carried with him from WWI. Errol Forde Clancy was his name. First generation Australian, a son of Irish immigrants. Speaking of films…my Nan (mum’s mum) would often recount the story to mum (and mum, as a consequence to us kids) of Granddad refusing to stand up in the cinema when the national anthem played (back then of course still God Save The King – as it would have been at that time, during the reign of George V – and film being in its infancy). “He wouldn’t stand up for me!”, he’d say to my Nan, “so why should I do it for him?”
I’m sure he’d have felt differently had Advance Australia Fair been the anthem.
Somehow just one word…one quirk from mum’s Irish ancestry filtered through audibly…and it was her way of saying the word “fill-em”. I never knew anyone else who’d say it like that…unless they were actually Irish.
It’s audible in Jim singing it in Thirty Frames A Second…he actually says it that way too – with his talking voice.
I love the word. Sometimes the sound of a word, its intonation when spoken, can give it as much significance as its actual definition. Such is the case with “film”.

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Why I Love…Thirty Frames A Second

It’s that bass, to start. Derek’s bassline on this song is fab! Mick’s synths too. And Brian’s drums. And Charlie’s guitar. And Jim’s lyrics…the song really works as a whole unit! But it’s that musical heart of a song…bass and drums. I know I keep saying it, but Brian McGee really doesn’t get enough credit for being the fantastic drummer he is. He was even looking irreplaceable for a while there (a drummer? Irreplaceable? What kind of crazy notion is this?! Oh, believe me…anyone who doesn’t think the drummer is the integral part – and heart – of the band, doesn’t know f***ing SHIT! Lol). Kenny Hyslop and Mike Ogletree coming in and leaving before Mel Gaynor got the nod as Simple Minds’ new drummer.

But I digress.

There is a demo version of Thirty Frames on the Silver Box set. I do love being able to compare and contrast those demos to what goes on the album recording. I think Jim was quite peed off when Silver Box came out. I think he was uncomfortable with those demos being “out there”. He seems to be of the opinion that material like that remains unreleased for a reason – it’s crap. But I love hearing that progression. Hearing the work-in-progress. Seeing the idea develop and evolve. A band honing their craft. It’s wonderful!

Musically, the two versions (demo, opposed to album version) are pretty identical. Derek’s bass is spot on. Mick’s synth play at a slightly higher pitch. Jim’s voice is also at a higher register (akin to how it is on the video clip). It makes the words less potent. Jim sounds more innocent…on the demo, that is. For even though his voice on the video clip is of a similar pitch to that of the demo, there is more venom. But you have the visuals with it. And he is always going to be knockout performing live.

There are also extra lyrics to the demo. A few lines were either altered or dropped altogether.

Extra lines dropped –
“Today I looked at my suit. This suit was getting new and didn’t fit me no more.”
“I spoke to my wife, she didn’t speak to me. Didn’t recognise, not after so many years…”
“I once had children, now no more. How can I have children when I’m going back…”

The car/town lyric was altered too.

Album version –

“I crash my car,
Collapse in town,
Young immigrants,
And legionaires,
Fighting back, back, backwards,
Thirty frames a second,
Say who you are.”

Demo –

I park my car,
Go in to town,
The town is going backwards,
So many people never recognised me no more,
I’m going backwards thirty frames a second.
Say who you are.

The line – “Looked at face, it was getting younger…” – was kept in, but slightly altered. It was part of the dropped “suit” lines. And, interestingly, the altering of the “food” lines involved father instead of mother.

Another altered line was – “some people I thought were dead are coming back, what are doing coming back Jack?”, and was rather less potent. Instead it becomes “some friends of mine I thought were dead are coming back, what are you doing coming back, JACK!?” With Jim shouting the name Jack out with full, spitting venom.

Watching the video clip makes me mourn slightly for Jim’s earlier performing style. It’s almost otherworldly. You just can’t take your eyes off him! (Well, I can’t take my eyes off him, anyway) Lots of people (I have done so myself) draw comparisons to Jim for Samuel T Herring’s (Future Islands) performing style. But in hindsight, Sam’s is a parody…a mimic, a mockery. Compared to that raw, agile, sometimes robotic, sometimes fluid style of Jim’s. Sam is a pale imitation of the real thing 🙂

But, I digress once more…

It has a great groove. Jim’s lyrics were trimmed and honed, making them eerie, dark and succinct. It has great imagery. It kind of speaks of someone wanting their time over again…but it’s a morality tale in a way. Be careful what you wish for! A lot of us, if we could go back in time would freak out or lose our shit. And it’s what happens to our protagonist. He loses his shit.

I know Jim isn’t a fan of science-fiction, and he’ll probably snark at this idea…but Thirty Frames A Second is science-fiction writing. There, I’ve said it! It’s out there! Jim Kerr does science- fiction! Eat me, big boy! 😉 (I would never DARE say that to his face! … Well, not unless under very dreamlike circumstances. Lol)

Which reminds me, WHERE IS MY BLOODY TARDIS?! Lol

And that is why I love Thirty Frames A Second.