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.