We Talk A Lot – Mostly To Ourselves: Pondering “Today I Died Again”.

“He don’t say much. He’s bored with the fans.“ – it’s how it feels anyway. And if I hear one more “he’s a busy man” excuse, I’ll scream! Because…HE IS ALWAYS BUSY! He is Jim fucking Kerr – apart from me using “fucking” just now – “busy” is his middle name – for want of him actually having one (a middle name, that is).

Even at his most busiest, back in time…back to those halcyon days I REALLY need to move on from that have well and truly died and aren’t coming back any time soon, it seems – he would reply to people. Not just me!

The slow death of the visitor wall just kills me. He actually used to seem to take a vested interest in what people were posting to the visitor wall. Like certain things and even respond to people there. If someone had a question about the music or lyrics and he felt keen enough to, he’d respond to people there.

I mean, heck…without his interest there, the whole “art” thing of mine would have NEVER happened. I almost feel like I want to bang his head against a wall just…so he can see how important this aspect of the fandom is to some fans. It goes beyond the music! You inspire so many of us, Jim! When you respond to people it…here’s a favourite word of yours – it TRANSCENDS mere “music and listener”, mere “songwriter and fan”, mere “singer and swooning ninny”. Lol

And I miss it. Not just for me, but for other fans too!

A case in point: last night on SMOG, a fan asked about Today I Died Again – whether it was about domestic violence – quite how they reached that theory I do not know entirely (I guess just from the interaction that happens between the lead couple within the song lyric?) but I shared what I felt was my interpretation of it, and linked to my post on “Why I love…” about it.

Another fan later replied with a quote from Dream Giver Redux with this excerpt: “This song’s reincarnation theme was inspired from Jim’s reading of the Bhagavad Gita.”

Really? Okay, well the only thing that actually alludes to reincarnation within the song IS the title itself and the singing of it – and maybe the line of “back to a year, back to a youth” – even then, that’s tenuous. Also, I am not sure about whether Jim would have read Bhagavad Gita at that point. I am sure he said he first read the book in 1982 in a recent post (recent being…within the past couple of years). I know it subsequently became a much favoured book of his. As a consequence I tried reading the book. I didn’t get very far with it to be honest. I basically read this whole preamble about the book’s translation which was quite a few pages long (about 40, if memory serves). It just felt too taxing in the end. The only thing that stuck was the gained knowledge of learning it was a source of inspiration for Gandhi, which I find beyond perplexing that one of the world’s great pacifists was inspired by a book about war. Well…at least had a scene of battle as its main focal point.

Today I Died Again is penned in 1980, obviously, so I would think that predates Jim reading Bhagavad Gita? Perhaps I have my info wrong and he did indeed read it back then? I still see little evidence of the influence of the book on the song. But perhaps that’s just my interpretation of it?

Anyway, (sorry, I went off researching, and now I feel as if I have worked on this post for much longer than I intended to)…back to the fan enquiry and pondering of the song.

There would be a time, not that long in the past, in which I would have said “you could ask Jim – he might give you a reply. Who better to ask?” And that’s where I return to the special! Being able to ask the man who wrote those amazing lyrics. Okay, he may not have always replied even when I came into the fandom, even to me, but there was a heck of a lot better chance of a response six years ago than there is now! And it really, REALLY saddens me.

I was about to go off on another angry rant but…I guess I just need to give up. “No one likes a quitter”. Well, great then. No one will ever like me. Stellar. I can live with it. When you feel you’ve done all you can and you’re getting nowhere, you have to “embrace the suck” and just…walk away, I guess? Am I right, Jim?

Perhaps it is better we all ponder it amongst ourselves? There was a time, pre-Internet, where we’d had little choice to do so. The fans wouldn’t be interacting with each other as we do now. There’s no way we could pose a question to you like that unless there was luck and/or special circumstances. We wrote to you (old fashioned “snail mail” style) and you took the time to reply. Or we’d have thought to ask you backstage, had we been lucky to see you after a gig. Back then I’d guess you’d have been very reluctant to share or offer up such tokens of openness anyway. “Interpret them as you see fit.”

Admittedly, that is the beauty of your songwriting – particularly back then. Just how much they could be open to interpretation. Your very own Burroughs technique. “I’ve always liked ambiguities and fragments and things with a bit more of a mystery to them”, you said in an interview for Dutch TV in 1983.

“Out of the mouth of babes“ – and what a babe! Lol. (Yep. I’ll never stop adoring you, you gorgeous man. Fuck, I’m a hopeless case!)

So…what exactly IS Today I Died Again about? You can search for my “Why I love” piece on it and see what you think. I may just read over it again myself and see of my idea about it has changed.

“She can’t remember before the heat” – bloody hot flushes, hey hen?! Lol

Why I Love … Today I Died Again

It’s that … cold war Europe sensibility and style it has. Actually, it’s more post-war (The Great War), 1930’s, really. It’s Christopher Isherwood Berlin. Not flappers and sharp-suited men…later…early 1930s….now more the time of “austerity” (and how relevant does it make this song now?!), mass unemployment – post Wall Street Crash and the Hoover Dam project and, In America, Roosevelt’s New Deal.

There’s an “austerity” to the song. The musicality of it. It starts slow and sparse. A very slow dum beat – echoey, long bending bass notes. And a very dreary, dour synth. There’s a bleakness to it. Lyrically, Jim sets up the scene, “the human drum beats a rhythm of life / the clothes he wears date back to the war”. Which war? In my mind, the Great War (WWI) – but most likely he means WWII – they are some mighty old clothes to be had for 1980, either way!

Moving on from those opening lines…the lyrics printed in the album’s sleeve have the next line as being “he talks a lot / often to himself” but it isn’t what Jim sings on the album. The line alters slightly…and brings you in more as a listener “you talk a lot / often to yourself”. Talking to oneself always deemed a sign of mental illness. “What’s the first sign of madness? You talk to yourself. What’s the second sign? You answer back!” So…who’s mad? The protagonist in the song? Or you, the listener?

With the imagery I get from early Simple Minds songs, in particular, it’s very prescient that Jim should use the line “paint me a picture” because it is exactly what his lyrics do for me. They paint me a picture. They create a whole scene, in fact. A whole little play. It varies from still images as a slideshow, an actual painting on its own, or a short movie.

He goes on “America can fall”. The love of Capitalism its fall? The Wall Street Crash? Was he prophesying the second crash that is to come in 1987?

The title itself…and the lines expressing it are the most curious. There’s really a strong expression of nihilism and even oppression in it…with little recourse of showing a way out – as the most optimistic of Simple Minds songs will convey. And as much as I draw strength from the upbeat and optimistic SM tracks…I can draw, if not out and out positivity from the more “dour” of SM tracks, I can gain a strength and a resolve from them all the same.

There’s a nostalgic look back to “better days” within the lyrics too. “Back to a year / back to a youth. Of men in church and drug cabarets” hence my feeling of the setting of the song, time wise, as being the 1930s. Namecheck for the album “is this the age of empires and dance? Oh, what a world…”

There is so much of this album that is “film noir”. I don’t think I will ever fall out of love with it.

The last 90 seconds of the song is just the culmination of all of its components. Jim’s title of the song hauntingly just bending and weaving and echoing. The instruments building on a crescendo…and that final 30 seconds in which Brian increases the pace of the beat with added lovely cymbal splashes. Just … mwah! Perfection.

And then we fade away and on into Celebrate (which I have previously tried to put into words as to why I love without using just the single word “PHWOAR!” to suffice. Lol)

If Today I Died Again was represented by a painting, it would be this (for me)…
It is titled “Self-Portrait with Model” (1916) painted by Erich Heckel. The very same artist whose work inspired cover art for the albums “Heroes” by David Bowie and The Idiot by Iggy Pop.

And that is why I love Today I Died Again.

Shuffle Mode Unshuffles

Shuffle Mode went from Today I Died Again to Celebrate 😉 I know I’m on shuffle mode but as soon as Today I Died Again finished, I could hear Celebrate in my head – so when it started playing I was like GOOD JOB SHUFFLE MODE!! *clapped hands* Lol :-))