The documentary on the famous Monmouthshire recording studio is set to air simultaneously on BBC Two Wales and BBC Four on Saturday, July 18th at 9pm BST.
Below is a trailer on the documentary – with a tiny snippet of Jim discussing Simple Minds’ meeting with David Bowie and Iggy Pop while the band were there recording second album Real To Real Cacophony in 1979.
I have been hoping this would be getting a UK airing at some point. Really looking forward to this one.
The dancefloor. Frigging hell! Did Simple Minds know how to fill it back in the day. I guess they still do to be fair.
But let us rewind back to 1979. Rockfield Studios in the Welsh countryside. Five young men from Glasgow are in the studio making the followup to their debut album. An album that really couldn’t be more different to the first. They are still just babies, with the average age of them being just 20. They are still very much learning their craft. Recording in the studio next door are none other than Iggy Pop and David Bowie. Could life get any sweeter?
Yes it could. These five young men band together and make one of the best dance tracks of the late 1970’s as you are ever likely to hear.
OKAY! I’ll be the first to admit that…given all the changes in lyrics that Jim Kerr has made in SM songs over the years…esp. early on (he would rewrite songs entirely from demo to album recording), it’s quite a thing that there wasn’t a change made to the opening line to Changeling. I suppose that was the curse of there being no demos for Real To Real Cacophony. They went straight into recording.
The sticking point, lyrically, is that horrible propensity for snidey shits to take the mickey out of the opening line and continue to sing along to Wombling Free, which I’ve got to say…I don’t know what it does to Jim…but to me, it fucking pisses me off no end!
Perhaps we should concentrate on the musical structure of the song for now? Synths and bass opening with an instant dance hook. Drum grooves quickly follow and then a simplistic yet fab guitar riff. Industrial dance grooves. Fuck these boys were good at them! There’s nothing quite like this on Life In A Day. They hadn’t made a sound quite like this, yet…but boy does it signal the start of a very identifiable early “Simple Minds” signature sound. An aural “watermark”, if you will.
I really don’t know anyone who could listen to this track and not tap their feet or their hands and just get hooked in by the groove.
In spite of what the Arista execs hear at the UK HQ with Real To Real Cacophony in which they appear utterly dumbfounded, they do seem to make the right choice in having Changeling as the lead (but unfortunately subsequently ONLY) single off the album. How they didn’t then follow it up with Factory and Premonition is anyone’s guess. One can only assume they were already becoming concerned that SM was going to leak money hand over fist.
Changeling has no chart success, so one assumes that is why there are no other singles released from the Real To Real Cacophony album.
The failure of the single to chart can’t be down to it being deemed “not good enough” by the music consumer of the time? Just listen to it! Was it just overlooked from a then pretty flooded market? Singles at this point sold in their THOUSANDS every week. Albums had their importance then too, but the single was still king at this point. To the point where single picture sleeves were at their height. A single was packaged with as much of a visual selling point as an album was at this point in time. Every Simple Minds single released so far had been in a picture sleeve…Changeling being no exception. Did the picture sleeve “sell” the single? Hmmm…I’m unsure it did much. Life In A Day was certainly simplistic in its design, but it made an impact nonetheless. As for Chelsea Girl? She was on the mark. Jim was on the mark for wanting that Jean Shrimpton painting as the cover.
But for Changeling…I don’t know what a greyscale image of some hosepipe really tells you about the song. There’s a kind of industrial look to the cover, yes…but where I think the texture and simplicity of the Real To Real Cacophony album cover works to sell it (luring you in wondering what the hell this album is about as the cover actually gives NOTHING away by design) – that same simplistic approach falls flat for the Changeling single.
Back to the song itself. Let’s get back to those lyrics. Young Mr Kerr, what you on about, boy? Lol. For me, I gotta say that Changeling is a very rare beast in that it is all about the tune, the groove and not much about The Boy’s songwriting…for a change. I still love the words…but they mean fuck all. Lol. But hey….some of my absolute favourite Bowie songs are pure gobbledegook. The Burroughs technique has a lot to answer for, sometimes. I couldn’t write a song that means SOMETHING…let alone one that doesn’t really mean anything at all but sounds like it does anyway. And to me…that’s master craftsmanship.
In summary? In the simplest terms, it’s a dancefloor filler. Possibly Simple Minds’ first. At least one of the first, blazing a trail for more killers that follow…I Travel, Celebrate, This Fear Of Gods, Love Song, The American…the list goes on (and on and on 😜).
And that is why I love Changeling.
(PS: Jim can’t mime to save his life….but I bloody love him anyway!)
Opened in 1965, Rockfield Studios is the world’s first residential studio facility and is now rated among the world’s finest and most characterful recording environments. We visit the iconic facility to find out more about its history and its part in the recording of so many classic albums.
A great article from MusicTech about the foundation of Rockfield Studios by brothers Kingsley and Charles Ward.
Click on the image of inside the main Coach House studio to read the full article.
This was the experience of a lifetime. Genuinely! I had been very hopeful that my entry for the competition to the Green Man festival would be successful. I noticed a mistake in the crossword as I was solving it, so I was hopeful that I would be savvy enough in providing what was the correct answer and that would increase my chances.
I thought if I won, I’d be notified in July sometime. Time enough to get things organised well. As it was, I found out the day before the Maidstone Grandslam gig on August 3rd. Less than two weeks to organise getting a tent and other provisions needed.
But, wow! What a prize! Two adult weekend camping tickets worth £180 each. It would have been crazy to look such a gifthorse in the mouth. BUT…my partner HATES driving, with an absolute f***ing passion (hence I was back at the driving lessons earlier in the summer – subsequently put on hold again due to…well…just a million different bloody things). I almost didn’t want to tell her I’d won because just the mere idea of telling her she’d be driving to Wales in a couple of weeks filled me with dread.
But…rather amazingly, she seemed up for it (until after Maidstone….one of the reasons I didn’t want to go to the Maidstone gig…having to rely on her to drive me there and back. Yikes!) and so we grabbed a tent with camping mats and sleeping bags from eBay…packed a few clothes and other bits and bobs…a load of cheap junk food and we hit the road at 7am on Thursday morning.
We got to Abergavenny around 11.30am but needed to find the exact locale of the festival car park. About another 45 minutes of driving and we found a spot to park.
The campsite was MILES from the car. We must have pitched up about 2 miles from the car. And we did three trips there and back. By about 3pm we were fully pitched up with all our provisions with us.
We went for a wander to get the lay of the land. We had pitched very handy to portaloos and showers and not far beyond that was the main Mountain stage of the festival. There was plenty of food and drink stalls all over the site. Pretty much anything you fancied was catered for.
Near to where we pitched up was a stall called Strumpets with Crumpets. We had not a SINGLE crumpet from them. Lol. But they did the best tea and coffee! Builder’s tea for her, latte for me. The BEST latte I have ever had ANYWHERE…EVER! We frequented the Strumpets quite a bit over the days. Lol
We didn’t take much in music wise on day one. We were just so drained from getting there and pitching up…the walks to and back from the car, etc. There weren’t many acts on the Mountain stage on day one anyways.
We just looked around the place and took things easy.
Night one was FREEZING! The temperature really dropped away. We had clear skies on night one and we only had one sleeping bag each (we had decided to leave the other two in the car in case it rained overnight. It would at least mean we’d have dry ones for the next night) and they weren’t thick sleeping bags. We had air beds too…but both deflated through the night. We were frozen to the bone by the early hours. I probably had about 2 hours sleep and I doubt the OH had any more.
I went and showered…that was an experience! The showers themselves were great…but the cubicles were TINY and, well…you couldn’t afford to be too modest or self-conscious, so I tried my best to dress myself outside of the cubicle without giving all the other ladies an eyeful of my appalling bod. Lol. This is the points in life when I get severe male envy! Blokes dunno how fucking easy they have it, I swear. I mean, seriously…wash ya todger, ya sack, ya crack, ya pits and ya good to go. I love men. BUT I HATE MEN! FUCK YOU, DUDES!
We had another meander around. Checked out some other areas that we hadn’t explored and then went back to “base camp” and had a couple of hours rest.
Then, we hit Strumpets with Crumpets again and checked out the Mountain stage. When we were at Strumpets getting our bevvies, I could hear music from the stage that was piquing my interest. We went to check them out. They sounded great. Really quite retro. Sort of American 70s rock. Really liked the sound of them. Soon learned it was The Lemon Twigs and I have to say that, as a performer, Michael D’Addario is mesmerisingly hilarious! His moves, mannerisms and facial expressions are something to behold! I couldn’t take my eyes off him! (You’ll see from the footage I shared) Younger brother Brian is a little more laid back and a tad more eloquent. They have amazing harmonies and great voices. Their sound is such a meld of several other musical influences. They were the genuine “find” of the festival. I loved them!
Off for a bite to eat, checking out other parts of the site. Other stages, etc. Tried out another band and they weren’t much to our liking. We then hit the cinemadrome big top to watch This Is Spinal Tap.
I wanted to wait around for King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. They were on late and started their set as the film was finishing up. They were much to my liking, really, so we went back to base camp and settled down for the night.
Skies were overcast on Friday night and there was a bit of drizzle in the air. We had decided to retrieve the other two sleeping bags from the car earlier in the day to make sure we warm enough on the second night. We had also made the decision that, after seeing John Grant’s set the next night, we’d just leave and head home and not worry about staying the remaining two nights.
We both slept well on Friday night. Both sleeping bags made things much warmer and we were layered up with clothes too. But also, the temp didn’t fall away so much on Friday night. We both slept solidly for several hours.
Back to Strumpets for “breakfast” and then back to base camp to dismantle the tent, pack everything up and take it to the car, ready to just go back to it and set off for home once John Grant’s set was over.
The day was John Grant filled. Once we had the stuff all packed in the car, we went to find the Babbling Tongues tent. Mojo magazine (the same magazine I won the tickets with) were conducting an interview with John. We made it there in the nick of time. The audio of it is available on Mixcloud. Mojo were filming it and said it would be available to view the next day, but I can’t work out where. It certainly isn’t on their website.
CLICK HERE to hear the Mixcloud audio of the interview.
Shortly after the interview was over, he was going to appear at a Rough Trade stall set up just down the way a bit from the Babbling Tongues tent. He hightailed it down there and there was already a 40 deep queue. I checked whether as a condition of being in the queue whether you needed to buy anything from the stall. The man at the counter I asked said it was preferable, but not necessary. Well…I didn’t really have anything of worth to sign anyway, so I decided to grab one of his CDs that I didn’t have a copy of and get that signed.
The OH filmed the meeting…as brief as it was. Oh, he is just so, so lovely! I’m not sure if it is too audible but I said to him “I first saw you last year at Union Chapel, and it was beautiful, just beautiful!” He asked me my name, and bless him he tried to spell it, but I spelled it for him. As he was signing the CD I said, “I’ll be seeing you in Bath on my birthday.” “Oh, fantastic,” he replied “I’ll try to remember to say something. Your name may stick.” He then wished me all the best as I moved on and then said “and early happy birthday.”
I was just so, so happy I got to meet him, albeit for barely one minute. But it was time enough to tell him after over a year (and wanting to so much on the night) how stunning that Union Chapel gig was, and to have him sign something. And…to just shake his hand. If I’d had time, I would have told him about Jim and my sleepless night in Adelaide listening to Queen of Denmark for the first and how bowled over by it I was. I do think he spied my Walk Between Worlds shirt. During the Mojo interview, he talked about the music that made an impact on him. His love of 80s music, and ABBA, and that his favourite album of all is a Nina Hagen record. And WOW…how crazy that was for me hearing him say that because one of my enduring musical memories of my childhood is sneaking into my brother’s bedroom when he was out and listening to his records on his uber Technics system. And one of the records that always sticks in the memory of me listening to it and it being SSSOOOO OUT THERE was African Reggae.
Perhaps if there is a chance post-gig at Brighton or Bath, I may ask him what he thinks of Simple Minds. It would be so lovely if John loves them just as much as I do! It would just be all kinds of wow.
After those wonderful things we went back to the family area and the food stalls and actually had quite slap up meals compared to what we’d had the previous two days. Then we made our way back to the Mountain stage to see the evening’s entertainment.
First on was Baxter Dury. He’s a quite a chip off the old block really. Music quite reminiscent of his dad…just not as many horns and more synth and piano. Quite naive lyrics. But good tunes. He seemed quite on edge and nervous but he was enjoyable. I liked his set.
Next on was Cate Le Bon – I swear for ALL THE WORLD when she spoke between songs she sounded French…but she’s bloody Welsh! Lol. I did enjoy her set as well. And there was a surprise duet! She invited John Grant onto the stage with her to duet on a song…so there was even MORE John than I had bargained for!
Then, finally, there was John. He started with You Don’t Have To and I was just carried away instantly. I loved every song in the set. Marz, GMF, a CRACKING version of Pale Green Ghosts, new single Love Is Magic, Grey Tickles-Black Pressure, Glacier – and then to end the night, and have me in floods of tears, Caramel and TC & Honeybear.
I was REALLY hoping for Where Dreams Go To Die or Vietnam, but he played neither of them. But he did perform Vietnam on subsequent nights at gigs in Bangor and Edinburgh. Damn, damn and double damn!
Still…how could I complain having experienced such a thing as a FREE music festival?
Despite getting quite cold in the tent on the first night…and the hours of travel in the car…the Green Man site itself…nestled right in those beautiful hilly tops of the Brecon Beacons…just WOW! What a location! And there was not a bit of trouble I saw. All the campers were great. Plenty of families there with kids. All well laid out. So much to see and do.
There was almost TOO MUCH to do/see. There was a comedy tent on site…we didn’t even find it! We managed to check out a few of the other stages, but none of the acts held our attention for long. But we were more than happy to experience what we experienced and actually had a very good time. The Lemon Twigs and John Grant being the absolute highlights for me.
It took us HOURS to get home, driving through the night to get back. We took wrong turns and went back on ourselves a few times and probably added 50 miles onto our journey home…but we made it, eventually.
Would we do it again? If it was free…if I was lucky enough to win something like that again? HELL YES! But we would be MUCH better prepared next time. It had been a VERY long since either of us had been camping…well over 30 years for either of us. But we survived! And actually did enjoy ourselves for the most part.
The next gig is now Sunday – my final Grandslam gig, and quite possibly final Simple Minds gig of 2018. It SHOULD have been Monday, and Enfield – but for “transport and security reasons” (yeah, Jim found out I was on the meet and greet list! Lol “security reasons”…indeed! Lol), Enfield was cancelled. ON THURSDAY! WHEN I WAS IN WALES WITH DODGY INTERNET CONNECTIVITY AND ME FREAKING MY SHIT ABOUT EVERYTHING!
I have since switched to Colchester – BUT, because I was in such a panic about getting the replacement gig sorted, I fucked up! Enfield ticket holders were offered a 2 for 1 on a replacement gig…and I thought “why not, the OH can come along at least, be my hired videographer/photographer for the day…SHE can get into trouble from Chrissie, not me! Lol” But….in my panic I missed a step in the ordering process and paid for TWO FULL PRICE gold tickets…yay!
I REALLY cannot afford that, somI’m gonna have to sort it out somehow. I’ve contacted the relevant avenues but have had no response as yet…and I am panicking more and more…
To be continued…
NB: I’ll add a few more vids seperately as I haven’t had the chance to upload them on YouTube as yet.
Off to the Brecon Beacons…near Abergavenny…for four days – for the Green Man Festival. Won the tickets after all…might as well try and go to the thing.
It’s an experience!
Anyway…I think my time away will have me cut off from the Internet – for the most part – so things will be quiet here for a few days. But, hopefully by early next week, a big old review of the whole festival will be here. We’ll see how things go.
In other news – YES! I won a pair of weekend camping tickets to the Green Man Festival in the Brecon Beacons on Aug 16th-19th. I entered the comp because John Grant is on the bill and I am desperate to see him again. I didn’t know at the time I entered that he would announce a tour and I’d be getting to see him for my birthday.
This festival is absolutely FILLED to bursting with amazing music acts all weekend! And there is comedy and film and all sorts. Below is just a small taste of the music line up. The weekend camping tickets are worth £180 EACH!
WHAT A PRIZE! I am OVER THE MOON with this! I really did think I had done my festival going (apart from the Grandslam gigs…if you can classify them as festivals…) for this year.