“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…
I’ve written about this song so much – when I actually COULD write about it! When I could somehow manage to express all that it means to me.
The first time I heard it I was probably only about four weeks into my fandom. It brought me to tears the very first time. I had not heard a Simple Minds song this beautiful ever before.
It’s not a slow song. It’s very up tempo with a driving beat and bassline and also with a soaring, wailing guitar all over it – but despite that beat and pulse and incredible guitar – despite the pace of it, it is also soft and tender. It has a HUGE heart. It’s sweet. And it encapsulates everything I had wished that life was going to be like for me, except it wasn’t. Not much of it anyway. I had glimpses of it, perhaps, not in the way THIS was. Not in the way Jim had written about it, sings of it and expresses it.
So, I was just sitting here at my PC, looking at a blank page on the screen and wondering what more there is to write about this most beautiful and poignant of songs. And here I am, already off and away trying to express again all that it means to me and why I am so enamoured with it.
The bible (Dream Giver Redux) has next to no information about it, other than what I had read on the dedicated (but sparse) page about it…which is either more recent info that has come to light, or this info had passed me by previously. The info being that in its early days, Wonderful In Young Life went by the title of “What Goes?” Strange that I don’t remember having read that before. And also a rather strange title for the song. Thankfully only a working title.
And…so this is the extent of information we have on it.
The only thing else I have to talk about is the exchange I had with Jim about it a few years back. The band were on the North American leg of their Walk Between Worlds Tour of 2018. They were in Toronto, and Jim had posted about the early days of Simple Minds touring Canada. I’ll post the excerpt below.
I tried to be a little flippant and funny on the tail of that reply. I had said “Is that a “no” to you didn’t know to my praying for the day it gets an airing…or… 😔” and then I got into a bit of a slanging match with someone who felt it rude that Jim had given me a monosyllabic response.
Oh, I had forgotten about him posting my artwork on Charlie the following day! It brought me to tears seeing that. God, I am such a soppy old fool! I was so proud of that photo. I took it in Colchester at the last Grandslam concert I attended, so it was a full, 100% Priptona work and I was so happy. And then even more over the moon that Jim used it for the follow up post about the Toronto gig. Happy days. Happy memories.
Looking back on it, I like to think it was perhaps his way of softening the blow to that reply about Wonderful In Young Life he gave me in the day’s previous post. But I like to read all kinds of daft stuff into everything. You can view that post HERE
Getting back to the song itself.
There are little things in my head that make me think of it. Snippets of things from my memories of recent years. Standing at the local bus stop in Oz when I was back home with my mum in 2015/16 and seeing the local swallows flying about in the sky. Also in Aix-Les-Bains for the Musilac festival in 2018. The football World Cup was on at the time and as I took an evening wander into the town centre to find a place to eat, “a crowded swallow skies” appeared in front of me. Just as I walked down a side street. It was a very warm night and I walked by a house that had all its windows open. I could hear that the occupants were watching the football and as I crossed the road, suddenly around 20 swifts (rather than actual swallows) came screeching by. Swifts are always a sign of summer for me. I would always see them in the skies around Luton in the summer months – dazzling me with their aerobatics and making their shrill “banshee” call as their flew around, circling ever higher, then plummeting and dive-bombing some prey (such small birds, their main fayre is various insects). Those swifts at Aix-Les-Bains that night felt a marker to me that maybe I had made the right decision to travel all the way to the French Alps to see the band I love perform at probably the most incredible music festival I have ever been to.
Oh, and I was meant to be getting back to the song!
It is everything I would have loved my young life to be. It’s beautiful, bright and sunny. I see … a picnic going on. A group of friends, a mix of girls and guys, all looking so happy and relaxed. Drinking (not necessarily alcohol, but probably wine and beer, I guess), eating snacks and sandwiches. Joking and laughing. Just so joyful and happy. And Jim is there amongst them. And I would just want to plant myself in a spot right next to him. Just to be sitting there by his side, watching him interact with the others around him. Watching him smile, laugh and joke – to be eating and drinking as well. Life looks beautiful. He looks beautiful.
It is such a different image to how it sounds to the images he was viewing when he was composing it on those cold, bleak, desolate Canadian roads. Perhaps to get himself out of that gloom of those moments he painted those beautiful pictures for himself?
As for that “live airing” I asked him about? Well, back in the mists of time, Wonderful In Young Life appears to have been performed live. Just once. The gig was at Rock City in Nottingham. The date – September 17th, 1981. That first short UK leg of the Sons And Fascination Tour was barely a month long and the band then went off to Canada and Australia to perform to rapturous crowds. Perhaps it wasn’t even performed live? It’s on the setlist, but perhaps it was merely “outro” music as the gig came to an end?
I do wonder, as Theme For Great Cities is listed as being performed on the same tour – but it’s just intro music that the band walk out on stage to. You can hear that at the recorded gig of theirs at the Musicians Club in Sydney. (Link to the gig HERE)
So there is the strong possibility the song has actually NEVER been played live at all. Again, had it been being used as “outro” music – you would have expected to be mentioned elsewhere on setlists for the is tour? Who knows?
I am happy to report that in recent times I can enjoy it for the beautiful, driving, pulsing, gorgeous, tender, uplifting, joyous song it is.
Forever I will be “singing memories”.
A final thought on Wonderful In Young Life is from a friend, who says of it: The song’s poignancy lies in its breathy final words: Here she comes, wonderful. In young life.
You can’t escape it. The thing that hits you when your first hear this song is Charlie’s pedal affected riff that makes it sound for all the world like a cow has entered the recording studio to add a repetitive “mooooo” to the music. It’s a bit of an “in joke” in amongst the Simple Minds fanbase, but we love it all the same! Oh, and…the backbeat. The “holy backbeat”. The drumming is awesome!
There isn’t a lot of information on the song on Dream Giver, which means it remains one of Simple Minds’ most elusive songs. I mean…what the heck is it about actually? The lyrics are Jim at his most ambiguous.
“He wants the world screams everything” – men are petulant and demanding? “She’s a country feel for life” – women are mysterious and a frontier to be explored and possibly tamed? “Follows in love, love brings the fall” – it’ll only end in tears? Love makes fools of us all?
I guess this is a prime example of what I was talking about in last week’s MMM about songs not really having to be about anything at all.
I have long talked about two lines in the song being the most either enigmatic, or the most poignant.
The first of the two is the line, “first tear forms in the right eye / this is the eye that’s crying first” – it is SUCH an ambiguous, perplexing line. It’s always induced a head scratch and a pondering in me. I have never been conscious of my tears falling at different points from different eyes. I find it such a strange and curious notion.
When I was reading the Alasdair Gray novel, Lanark, last year, I happened upon a passage of the book which read as follows…
“I must be a very cold selfish kind of person. If Mum died I honestly don’t think I’d feel much about it. I can’t think of anyone, Dad, Ruth, Robert Coulter, whose death would much upset or change me. Yet when reading a poem by Poe last week, Thou wast that all to me, love, for which my soul did pine, etc., I felt a very poignant strong sense of loss and wept six tears, four with the left eye, two with the right. Mum isn’t going to die of course but this coldness of mine is a bit alarming.”
Gray would have probably written those words in the late nineteen seventies, if not earlier. He had been writing the novel since he was 20 years old. Lanark was first published in February, 1981. Had Jim actually read a copy upon release? I know he likes to devour his books and seemingly during that early period, Charlie was an even more voracious reader than Jim. Did those words in the book spark something within Jim and result in that line in the song?
If you remember from last week and the excerpts from interviews I shared when posting about In Trance As Mission, Jim said that inspiration came from all kinds of places.
“More and more ‘image’ is important for bands now,” Kerr enthuses, “as opposed to the sound of jumping up and down. You can be inspired by various actors, playwrights, books, documentaries and magazines – the whole thing. It’s just opened up and inspiration now is coming from everywhere, as opposed to what was rock standards.” (Jim talking with Ian Cranna for New Sounds New Styles magazine printed in the December 1981 issue.)
The other line is one I find quite downcast and melancholy from Jim, on the surface, but it ends up shining and giving hope like many of the lines he has written does. “When the other side of midnight calls / remind me I’m glad to be here.”
I can interpret it either one of two ways, dependent upon my mood. The melancholic way – “another day is gone and I need a reminder that I am here and life is meant to be enjoyed”. Or the uplifting way “after midnight, it’s a new day. Give me that kick that it’s great to be alive”. There’s an element of doubt in it, “REMIND me I’m glad to be here”. If you are to derive true positivity from it, you shouldn’t need a REMINDER of being “glad to be here”, should you? But then I guess it begs the question, what is “here”? Here in this moment? Here on earth? Here, existing? Here, with you?
Yes, I do over-analyse as you can see. But it’s about learning. Getting to the heart and meaning of the song – if there is indeed meant to be one.
There is also a bone of contention I have with some of the words printed for the lyrics. I am sure that during the second verse that he doesn’t merely repeat the same line over again but splits it up accordingly “breath is in, breath is out / I’m not saying anything, I’ve said too much – breath is in, breath is out / I’m not seeing anything, I’ve seen too much.” That’s certainly how I hear it on the studio version anyway.
Now let’s talk about sparsity. I love the space that Jim’s obfuscatory lyrics give to the music of the songs. But also, especially for this song, the words almost act as another instrument. His voice and his words. He has said numerous times that he’s not a musician – because he doesn’t play an instrument. But you use your voice, Jim! THAT is your instrument and back in the early days of Simple Minds more so, and particularly during this period, coinciding with your words, you really DID use it that way. The nuances, the way you used your voice to manipulate the delivery of words. Your accent coming through some, the protracted delivery of others. All of that is using your voice as an instrument. Okay, it’s not opera. You’re no Pavarotti. But for me, 70 Cities is a prime example of your voice needing to be there. I love the song so much but I don’t listen to the instrumental version of Sound In 70 Cities because….it feels like nothing without your voice and words in it. Something is lost on Sound In 70 Cities without Jim there. I don’t think it was ever meant to be heard just as an instrumental anyway. It’s a “filler” for the Sister Feelings Call album. Rather crazy that at the end of so much creativity during those sessions that the release of two albums means the second ends up with not enough time filled on it!
Speaking of sparsity… It has hardly appeared on the setlist through the years. It was there for a time on the final leg of the Sons And Fascination tour as well as the early leg of the New Gold Dream tour of 1982, but after that, not a zip. Not until 30 years elapses and they’re on the 5×5 Live tour. It’s a mainstay for the sets on that tour, with just the odd omission here and there when the setlist is reduced for festival slots and suchlike. But then nothing again since 2012.
It is an absolute marathon of a song to perform live vocally though. You have the ability to overdub and merge vocal parts in the studio so the way the vocal parts are layered in the studio is incredibly hard for Jim to replicate live. Live versions required vocal backing harmonies from other band members (namely Forbes and MacNeil in the early runs, then Grimes and Gillespie latterly, I am guessing) to not make it such a vocal slog for Jim. Even with that help, it’s a rather tricky affair.
Getting into the bootlegs as I have done recently I was in raptures hearing live versions of 70 Cities from the 1982 gigs. Firstly from Tiffany’s in Glasgow on July 14th (performed TWICE in one night – the second being even more lively than the first, which you wouldn’t expect at a gig – as a result the second is favoured by me over the first), then at the Hacienda in Manchester a few days later. There is also one from when they played Coasters in Edinburgh in September ‘82 available to hear on YT, and finally one from Toronto in November of ‘82 – which is probably my favourite along with the second of the two performances at Tiffany’s.
Of the modern versions, there’s a cracking one from Cologne in 2012. And I can’t talk of the modern day ones without mentioning the version on the 5×5 Live album – Jim audibly expressing his love for his home away from home, Sicily, rolling off a bunch of town names in his most poetic of “Glasgow Italiano” accents. It’s hard not to smile listening to it, swept up in the sheer joy in his voice. As much as I enjoy that version, Cologne wins out because there is great video footage that accompanies it and Jim is AS HOT AS FUCKING FUCK on that tour. Jesus! I’ll regret not being this kind of SM fan at that point every day of my life. The memories other fans have. And the stories they have of meeting him and him just…going for a drink with them or just…hanging around for a bit. Not just rushing off. It sounded amazing. IN MY DREAMS!
Of course I am amazed and happy with all that I have experienced – but I’ll always dream of more. I’ll always want more! I can’t help it.
You’ll find links to all the versions mentioned below – with my two favourites viewable within the post.
Yesterday morning when I opened up Facebook to catch up with what had been posted, etc, during the night while I had been sleeping, I looked at my notifications to see I’d been tagged in a post on one of the SM groups.
The tag linked to what is below. A new upload from Art & Talk of a Simple Minds gig. I immediately recognised the ident for the video. I then looked at the details of the gig. The date: November 7th, 1982 – the New Gold Dream tour. The city, Toronto. It made perfect sense why A&T chose it. Jim was standing side profile in front of a Canadian flag in the image I chose as the silhouette for my piece.
Then I looked at the rest of the detail, and Art & Talk, bless him, had a little blurb about me and my blog. Totally unexpected and incredibly humbling.
I may have had visits to my blog yesterday as a result. If you’re reading this right now as a new visitor due to Art & Talk’s kind words, thank you for visiting and checking it out. My blog can frequently have a personal ring to it, esp. over the past 10 months of this pandemic. It’s been harder to keep the site fresh and relevant in the past 12 months, but I am working on it. And hopefully new material being released by the band will help with that.
In the meantime, things like A&T’s uploads of gigs, be they audience bootlegs, audio from the soundboard, or radio recordings, the work is appreciated. Esp. by us Johnny-come-lately types who weren’t there to experience the gigs the first time around.
I hope those of you who are new here find something you like with the blog and that you may visit again, or even subscribe to the feed.
And of the gig itself? Well, it feels a bit special in that it’s Mike Ogletree’s last gig on the drums. I do understand why the guys ended up going with Mel in the end, but Mike brought a different deftness with him. All the drummers Simple Minds have worked with have their left their own stamp and indelible marks to the sound of Simple Minds. I was guilty of underestimating and undervaluing Mike for some time, but actually, he has been behind the kit at some of my favourite ever gigs and I have grown to appreciate his contribution so much.
Last night I was extremely tired and only lasted until about halfway through Hunter And The Hunted (there’s some irony! Lol) before Mr Sandman finally took hold of me. I came around some time later to silence. The gig had ended and I had heard none of the rest of it.
The difference in performance of 70 Cities was very noticeable. From how it was in March of that year compared to this one in November was marked. It was a fab version at this gig. Jim’s vocal especially. It really isn’t an easy one to do. There is so much overlapping of vocals on the album version. It’s not easy to reproduce that live, but he nailed it here. Fabulous!
Despite falling asleep so quickly last night, I know I’ll enjoy this gig immensely. I hope you guys do too.
I’d have loved to have seen them in Canada in 2018 but things just weren’t meant to be. And it’s not as if I hadn’t had plenty of opportunity to see them here in the UK and elsewhere in Europe during 2018.
Thanks Art & Talk for the big plug and for all the Simple Minds content on your YT channel. The hard work has never gone unappreciated.
UPDATE (written Thursday):
I listened to the rest of it on Wednesday night. The sound quality of the recording does waver a bit. You can hear the crowd and so e raised voices here and there but it isn’t too disruptive. Canadian audiences seem very respectful, unlike UK crowds who always seem to be waffling over the top.
I really enjoyed the rest of the show. The standout for me was King Is White which was almost as vitriolic as the performance in Sydney but Jim managed to keep some control in.
I don’t whether there was some kind of disturbance going on in the crowd when the song begins begins because Jim seems to say “What’s your problem? There is no problem.” I don’t know whether he is actually addressing someone in the crowd or WTH? If there was something going on in the crowd, it didn’t seem to turn into anything.
I also loved the versions of Sweat In Bullet and Room. The crowd reaction to Sweat In Bullet is awesome. And I am still loving that version of 70 Cities.
Surprisingly on the opening leg of the tour, New Gold Dream wasn’t in the set which seems a really glaring omission in retrospect.
Overall though, a fabulous gig from the opening leg of the NGD tour. One to treasure as Mike O’s final one.
I was hoping to highlight a different photo in the set – a beautiful one of Jim – and had contacted Angel for permission to use the photo to link to the set. He had granted permission for use but wanted to watermark the image in question first and asked me to send on a link to which photo I wanted to highlight.
From there I had no response. I’ve waited a few days, and was reluctant to badger the man, so will highlight his wonderful images via this route instead. And you’ll see the pic of Jim I was hoping to highlight in amongst the set anyway. You can view the full set by CLICKING HERE