Looking Back By Moving Forwards – A Precursor To Next Week’s Book Release

I had a hoard of memorabilia come in this week and in amongst it was this article, written by Graeme Thomson, none other! Featuring in The Guardian on February 24th, 2012, just as the 5×5 Live tour is getting under way.

We know how I feel about that. Goddamn! I was out by just over two years. I will forever rue it!

Some of the discussion that takes place between Graeme, Jim and Charlie during the interview for this article features in the Themes For Great Cities book.

I thought I’d scan the article and post it here. Just as a little taster of what’s to come next week.

A footnote (and a chance for me to be a pedantic pr*ck); the inset photo of Jim is from 1980. October, in fact. It’s one from the Tavistock Square session. The same session the photo on the book’s cover comes from.

Review: Themes For Great Cities – A New History of Simple Minds by Graeme Thomson

“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!

Merry Christmas From Little Brown Books!

This arrived in the post this morning. I am literally like a kid at Christmas!!! So very excited to be reviewing the book for the blog. The review will be up on the blog VERY soon. As will be details of a giveaway of copies of the book!

Exciting times. Keep an eye out for the review and more details on the giveaway shortly.

Merry Christmas!

As Dorothy Said To Aunty Em…

“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…

P.S. Artwork used for the YT ident, eh? *wink* Thanks A&T!

Virginia Turbett On Twitter

The boss lady has FINALLY joined the Twittersphere, having been dead against it for the past two and a half years of me helping her out with FB and Instagram.

So, please welcome to the Twitterverse VTurbett_Photos!

Virgins Boys – Virgin Photos – Part Two

After the post about Virginia’s photos of the day Simple Minds signed to Virgin Records in March, 1981…today THESE babies arrived!

Obviously my favourites are going to be the ones of Jim. In one he is poised to sign (or has just signed) the contract. He has those pursed lips there – the excited sign of concentration.

The other I love is him with Ronnie Gurr. He’s looking at Ronnie all smitten, like. Lol

Ronnie left comments on my sharing of these photos on Facebook. It seems Ronnie was still working for Arista at the time, but soon moved over to Virgin also.

“A great day. I was still an Arista boy but took the afternoon off and soon followed my pals by becoming a Virgin a few months later.” is what he had said to me.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Virgin Boys With Warm Fizz

I’m a lucky, lucky girl to work for my Boss Lady (as I affectionately call her) – Virginia Turbett, because I get to enjoy some perks. One being viewing wonderful photos before many others get to see them.

Today I was asked to post these to Instagram with the following caption:

“Due to popular demand – here are a couple of never printed and never scanned images of Simple Minds on the day in March 1981 when they signed to Virgin. See the gorgeous, young laddies from Scotland sup warm champagne out of plastic beakers in the artfully ‘junk shop’ styled office of Virgin MD Simon Draper. Also there that day were Virgin A&R Legends and Minds Super-fans – Ross Stapleton and Ronnie Gurr, both of whom have championed the band from their earliest gigs to this day.”

Gorgeous young laddies alright! Lord knows I have my preference. “WHO could it be?” You’re all wondering….well…. his first name rhymes with a slang term for a certain body part! 😱😉 That’ll keep you lot guessing…and if you’re brave enough – comment your answers and if someone gets it right, I’ll send you a print – of my artwork…not of Virginia’s. Sorry – I have no authority to do that!

Anyway…geez, what a momentous day that Virgin signing was, eh?

Glasgow 1978-1979 – Virginia Turbett – Cafe Royal Books

I had this arrive in the post this morning. It’s a piece of sobering beauty of the city’s recent past.

Virginia’s association with Glasgow goes far beyond her work of capturing Simple Minds in the early 80s. Her brother was a social worker in the city and so she would visit often. And her work wasn’t solely confined to rock photography, for she also did a lot of editorial work as well.

In visits to the city during 1978 and 1979, Virginia pictorially documented life in Glasgow. Selected photos now showcased in a photobook published by Cafe Royal Books.

These photobooks are available to purchase through the Cafe Royal Books website (link below) for £6.50 each (plus postage).

Cafe Royal Books

Caught In A Moment

I know I wax lyrical about Virginia Turbett’s photos – but this is why. Apart from every single photo she has ever taken of Mr James Kerr, esq. There are so many other photos of hers I love. And perhaps even above all the ones she has taken of Jim and Simple Minds – this is my very favourite. XTC’s Colin Moulding in a look of both concentration AND consternation.

Whenever Jim wants to do one of his “you think songwriting is easy?” posts? He should just show this photo of Colin Moulding for everyone to see. It’s stunning!

I received my own copy of it today and I am so very happy. One Kerr may just have to go! (For a temporary period of time anyway.)

Minds Music Monday – Wonderful In Young Life – SAF/SFC 40th Anniversary Celebration

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.