Minds Music Monday – This Earth That You Walk Upon – SAF/SFC 40th Anniversary Celebration

When you consider the tracks on the album that have just gone by – the thumping drum and bass monster of Boys From Brazil and the pre-techno genre Euro dance beat of Love Song – there is a calming and stillness to This Earth. A soft rim shot (that’s what that particular percussive sound is called in the pro world) and slow haunting reverb guitar start the track off before Mick comes in with simple but gorgeous synth melody. It feels as if a magic carpet has arrived to take you on a meditative ride.

Soft little hushed tones from Jim accompany the music before he comes in with a pondering set of questions – “What’s your name? What’s your nation?” There is now – after the rush of the previous two album tracks – a definite “sense of order / sense of speed” – at least a reduction of speed to the more tranquil and more….meditative.

More fragmented lyrics still “shakes his hand / turns away / turns his back and walks away”. Jim seems to have recurring themes in his lyrics. Quite a bit of hand shaking and walking into, out of, or generally around spaces. There’s a lot of walking. I guess it is reflective of how much of a walker (yes, that’s “waLker” lol) he is. Some elements of songwriting, no matter how much you feel are not a reflection of you personally can’t help but be a mirror.

Reading up about it, it was initially an instrumental and was released as an instrumental only version on the B-side of Love Song. Jim added the vocal at the latter stages of the album recording. Probably having walked around Glasgow for days on end listening to the track god knows how many times on his(?) or Brian’s(?) Walkman. Each time I hear it I think of the reply I had from him about listening to music while walking (or jogging as the post he had written had alluded to) around Glasgow. I’ll include it below as it is a piece of “conversation” I cherish. I cherish all the interactions I’ve ever had with Jim and I despair the thought of it being past tense now. “All things must pass”, I guess. I feel as if I have been in mourning twice in recent years. Losing my mum at the end of 2019 and then…well…

I have probably highlighted this bit of conversation several times over already, but here goes…

I used to think that was a ridiculous kind of bravado to claim that. To say “no birdsong could compete”. But he is right. No birdsong can. But the birds aren’t trying to compete with Mick MacNeil’s or Charlie Burchill’s genius. They’re just the males in the species competing with each other for “top bird”. To get the best females. I pretty much think Mick had that part covered as well – without trying. Cheekbones you could cut yourself on.

For me, this song has Charlie Burchill’s best guitar solo. By far. It almost sounds off key. But that makes it stand out. And it’s haunting. Like his guitar is weeping. It is so beautiful. And then to match it to Jim’s lyrics after the solo ends – “screaming edge of light / shines so, shines so hard”. Those lines exactly encapsulate what Charlie has just produced with his guitar.

I had my “heavenly moment” with this song. The Walk Between Worlds tour of 2018 and it starting at the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow. We were just a few songs into the show. The songs that you’d expect to get things under way. The ones the early diehards love – I Travel, Celebrate, Love Song… and then…THEN came the B-side to Love Song in lyrical form. As soon as the jangling guitar, the soft percussive beat and synth melody began, I almost fell to my knees in raptures! There was talk of surprises being on the setlist leading up to the tour. Unexpected things that would keep the diehards happy. And of course by this time I was one of those diehards.

I had never expected much from the promise of surprises. I know sometimes that Jim says one thing and means another. I was cynical enough to keep my expectations in check for fear of disappointment. This one floored me. I was ssooo happy! I just wanted to shut myself off from everything else that was happening around me. I closed my eyes and just let the whole thing wash over me. To just let it soak into my skin and try to keep myself in the moment.

I don’t actually recall much of how the song actually sounded on the night. I remember Jim and Catherine sharing vocal duties on it. I remember feeling blissful hearing the music and anticipating Charlie’s solo which was just about note perfect from my vague memory of it. The memory is vague because I suffer from a kind of sensory and emotional “overload”. When things are very special or mean a lot to me, it overwhelms me and plays havoc with my memory recall. I have the worst memory as is – but when it is a special thing, a moment that I REALLY WANT TO REMEMBER – then that is guaranteed to be the thing I remember least – or worse still can’t recall at all. A lot of things I wipe from memory completely. Thankfully in these modern times with Smartphones being rather ubiquitous, there is not much need for me to have to rely on my memory recall – thank god! But it would still be lovely to be able to recall it first-hand from my own memory bank. To feel all the things I felt that night as the song was playing rather than the vagueness of knowing it meant the world to me to hear it being performed and wanting to savour the moment.

I know this is not the most information rich post about this song. There’s never really been much said of it. Never much talk about it. It’s quiet and sparse and glorious. Understated. Simple and beautiful. Mick MacNeil at his very best. Charlie Burchill at his very best also. And Jim Kerr at his most lyrically enigmatic. Quiet and sparse – but also expansive. Cinematic. “Worldwide on the widest screen” – latter lyrics that also sum up the atmosphere of This Earth That You Walk Upon. This whole planet is home to us. This big blue planet that we really should be taking much better care of but never will. Humans by nature are just far too greedy and selfish. Even those who otherwise appear altruistic still have these awful human foibles. We all do. Sadly it is also what makes us human. We don’t seem to be able to learn and change what makes us the worst example of humanity.

But alas, I digress some. For I am sure This Earth That You Walk Upon is just meant to be enjoyed as a reflection of all that is good and joyous about this world. The vastness of it. The nature of it. A soundtrack to the world, of our place in it and of nature.

I’ll offer two versions here. The album version with the lyrics and a version of it from the Walk Between Worlds Tour in 2018.

Priptona Talks – To Stuart Crouch

Regular visitors to the blog will be able tell how much graphics and the visual arts feature here and in my life in general. I’m a bit of an amateur artist and love creating my own visual interpretations and I also like to draw and paint (even if I am not very good at it). One aspect of art that has featured heavily as a focal point for me personally is album artwork.

In my latest interview in the “Priptona Talks” series, I spoke to Stuart Crouch of eponymously named Stuart Crouch Creative about his career as a graphic designer and of his work with Simple Minds as their current graphic art designer.

The Empires and Dance album cover that helped inspire Stuart’s first cover art he produced for Simple Minds.

What made you interested in graphic design? At school I wasn’t really sure what graphic design was but I liked painting and drawing, creating stuff. I was very into music and would make my own mix tapes and draw the covers – copying the logos and graphics from Smash Hits.

How did you start out? We didn’t have a 6th year at my school but my art teacher let a bunch of us take our O Levels a year early so we could then take our A levels in the 5th. My plan was to then go to art college but for a number of reasons I ended up skipping that and joined the art department at Barclays Bank as an apprentice. From there I went to an company in Covent Garden who specialised in movie video covers and then onto an agency called Peacock. This would have been the early 90s and that was my introduction to album cover design.

Is there anyone else’s work that was a particular influence in pursuing a career in graphic design? I would buy albums just for their artwork, my idol was Malcolm Garrett although he was then known by his company name – Assorted Images. His work was everywhere in the 80s – I would walk into a record shop, pick out the sleeves I liked and then check the credits and it was always Malcolm. That’s who I wanted to be and that’s what I wanted to do.

Who are your influences or other artists you admire (not necessarily in the graphic design field)? Kate Bush has been a big influence on me. She puts as much creativity into the visual side of her work as her music, not only her videos but her artwork, stage sets, everything. It’s that attitude to work and attention to detail that I admire.

Do you work or create in other mediums, or in other areas of the creative arts? I used to be in a band, I think that’s true of a lot of people in the music industry – lots of frustrated musicians around. If you’d heard my lyrics you’d see why I ended up as a graphic designer!

3D model of Celebrate album artwork.

How did you start out with doing graphics for Simple Minds? They had a new management team, who I’d worked with previously on Simply Red, and they needed a poster for the 5×5 Tour. That led to designing the album of that tour and they’ve stuck with me ever since.

What is your favourite work you have produced for SM? Tricky one, I think the Celebrate album cover. Their Claddagh (heart / hands symbol) had been perhaps a little overused by that point and I wanted to try something different. I had a photo of Jim Morrison’s bust from his grave, at Père Lachaise – Paris, and it was covered in graffiti (photo below) – I thought it made a cool image – a mix of classic and punk. I sent it to their management team and suggested we use the stone bust from Empires and Dance with their song titles scribbled on but treated like an art piece in a gallery. We created a 3D model of the head (photo above) based on that one photo and commissioned a lettering artist (Ruth Rowland) to hand write all the song titles. I don’t think the band were convinced by the concept at first but had enough faith in me to see it through and they loved the finished image. When their 40th anniversary came along I thought – shit, what do I do now! That Celebrate image would have been ideal – but it was already done. So then I hit on the idea of the badges in a heart shape and I think that does the same job but in a different way, nostalgic but new.

Jim Morrison’s gravestone in Paris.

The concepts for designs – esp. with the Simple Minds albums – are you given free licence to do whatever you feel suits? Or are you given a basic conceptual idea? Do the band themselves have much input? Each album or project is different, sometimes the artist has a clear idea what they want, sometimes it’s a blank slate but it usually ends up somewhere in the middle. One of us will start with the germ of an idea and we’ll play with it until it sticks. Jim is an absolute dream to work with – he won’t dictate how you do it but he’ll suggest moods and themes to help get you there. You want the design to feel like a natural extension of the music so the writer’s input is invaluable.

As the visual designer for the Doctor Who audio/visual output (Blu-ray/DVDs/Books/Audiobooks) – I have to ask – WHO is your favourite Doctor? That’s easy – it’s always Tom Baker for me. He was The Doctor when I was growing up, which maybe gives him an unfair advantage, but no story was ever boring or under-par when Tom was in it.

What would be your best piece of advice for someone wanting to work or gain employment in the graphic design field? It’s a very different industry now, you no longer have to work for a big agency to be taken seriously and social media means it’s easier to get your work out there and be seen. The downside is that there’s so much more competition because of that. If you want to get into music graphics my advice would be to approach up-and-coming bands or artists and ask to work with them. I get the appeal of aiming straight for the big guns but that’s trickier, you’ll have a lot more freedom with someone new, a chance to create looks and identities that young kids will be drawing on their pencil cases. Musicians are a pretty loyal bunch so there’s every chance they’ll take you with them on their journey. It will probably mean working for free at first but it gives you a chance to develop your skills and create a portfolio.

Portfolio of Stuart’s album cover art produced for Simple Minds.

Are there artists, be they in the entertainment field (bands, musicians, actors, writers, etc) or other visual artists, that you’d like to work with or collaborate with? Duran Duran – if you’re listening, I’m waiting for your call!

Lastly – do you have a favourite colour? Not really, but if you put a knife to my throat I’d go for dark blue.

My thanks to Stuart for his time for the interview.

Photos used were provided to me by Stuart.

Minds Music Monday – Past Present – Magic

Thinking about choosing a track for this week’s MMM, it’s really easy to trawl through their extensive back catalogue to the long past. But as the proposed songs to highlight fluttered through my mind…invariably harking back to the long past, I tutted at myself. “Hey, what about the recent past? What about Walk Between Worlds?”

And with a new album ready to appear on the horizon, I was thinking about the crazy, exciting anticipation I was filled with when we first heard little snippets of WBW and were told of its release date. We are just coming to three years since that flush of info.

On September 29th, 2017, Jim posted about being “busy in rehearsals” and there was news of things to come that he was excited about sharing with us. I usually take those kinds of things with a pinch of salt because…well, promises can be broken, or things…circumstances can change so…

I allowed myself a small flutter of excitement, but that was that.

As November started, he started writing posts about certain songs from the Simple Minds back catalogue and how they came to be. It was all slowly ramping up. And then mid November, the major clues of a release of the new album being imminent started to come through. And then, a week before Charlie’s birthday – BAM! Details of Walk Between Worlds was revealed. But even more exciting was the way the tour was revealed. It was a real tease and got the fans in an absolute FRENZY. It was a masterstroke how it was done.

I remember hearing Magic for the first time and I loved it from the get go. It was so uplifting and such a wonderful piece on how the amazing concoction of self-belief, ambition, determination…and with a little dash of luck – amazing things can happen. That it can, indeed, produce MAGIC.

It was panned by many a fan. Some very noticeably. I will say nothing more than that – because that is all the air certain “oxygen suckers” will get from me! But the lyrics are lovely! They DO tell a story. Okay, nobody loves the old Jim Kerr writing style more than me. The “fragments and ambiguities” that he said he liked to deal in, in an interview for Belgian TV in 1983. But I love Jim the storyteller too. And there is a wonderful story to Magic. That young, disillusioned man, kicking about the big city, wondering what his life was going to amount to. And then, with all those ingredients mentioned earlier all coming into play and alignment…adding some hard work as the final ingredient and…there’s your Simple Minds story right there!

I love Magic. I have done from the first listen and I still do. I see that poor disillusioned young man walking down the street on his tod, looking downcast… “As I walk through the city with my wounded pride and everybody is too busy and you’re wondering why, there’s a hole inside. I need a pill not an alibi.” But it all comes good in the end, young Jim! Keep the faith, beautiful man.

The song just has an indelible spirit and heart. And it lifts me every time I hear it. I will never understand why it has its detractors. But, hey. To each their own. If they don’t hear and feel the magic in it then…

Perhaps it *is* the weakest song on WBW? Well, if it is, then it is testament to what a wonderful album Walk Between Worlds is!

I also thought the video was braw.

Old Gold Dream?

I felt rather disheartened by yesterday’s 6 Music “Album Club”. The remit for BBC Radio 6 Music when it started was to be “indie” and “alternative”. It seems to have edged away from that over the years. I mean…it was fabulous that they gave exposure to Walk Between Worlds in 2018. No one was more surprised than me. I really thought it would be Radio 2 that would give it the exposure.

The fact that Simple Minds can straddle getting airplay from both stations is testament to the lasting legacy and style of the music they have produced. GOOD ON THE MINDS!

But the disappointing things about yesterday were – the repetition of the interview. At least 6 Music alluded (or even ELUDED) to it being a repeat…but with a modicum of uncertainty I tuned in anyways but once it got under way, the interview was sounding pretty familiar.

The other was the fact that they – 6 Music – ONCE AGAIN chose to concentrate on New Gold Dream.

Now….DON’T GET ME WRONG! New Gold Dream is EVERYTHING that the lasting reverence and esteem it is held in by all and sundry is worthy of. It is as near to perfection as Simple Minds ever got, aurally. And you all know well enough how I feel about Jim in 1982. The album and him…both near perfection in 1982. He is as aesthetically beautiful as the album work itself. The album is art and Jim right at that point is Michelangelo’s David for me.

Back to that 6 Music remit. “Indie and alternative”. It makes me wonder then WHY…why not highlight EMPIRES AND DANCE? It was its 40th anniversary, FFS! Or…Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call – which is absolutely CRYING OUT for a box set reissue, but looks as if it will never get it – to my (and quite a number of others fans) eternal consternation.

It just had me perplexed. New Gold Dream is constantly lauded. Constantly gets the praise. It’s almost as if, sometimes in the eyes of many, that Simple Minds made only one great album and it’s that one thing. For me, it almost falls into the danger zone of Don’t You (Forget About Me). Except it is far more superior to that (sorry for the Don’t You lovers – I once was a lover of it too, many moons ago…and then I became a Simple Minds fan). Simple Minds only known for ONE SONG and ONE ALBUM. It just sucks arse!

And I am ssooo disappointed that there wasn’t more to celebrate and applaud Empires And Dance. On this milestone anniversary year, it REALLY deserved it. I hate how both EAD and Sons/Sister are just deemed creative precursors to NGD. Never really seen as the amazing sonic innovations they both were.

At times I can be left with a kind of desensitised feeling after having listened to NGD – like it just washes over me because it’s kind of “too good”. I can’t explain it right. But…I NEVER have that feeling with Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call. It ALWAYS leave me floored, in awe, astounded and like I have been on the most amazing sonic journey. And Empires And Dance just floors me thinking about their age and ambition and how they pulled off such a sound. Drawing on so many influences, but finding their own musical identity.

Anyway, that’s just how I felt about yesterday’s Album Club. Once I heard that the interview was indeed a repeat, I switched the radio off.

Yesterday I wasn’t much in the mood to hear more praise heaped upon NGD.

The Dutch Stuff

I remember this article from around the Walk Between Worlds tour. The photographer – as far as I was concerned – took some really unflattering photos of Jim, but in amongst the more questionable ones was this one. The best of the bunch. I had several goes of tidying it up but I probably didn’t really improve things much. Scanning from newspapers always results in a lot of “artefact”.

Memorable Tours?

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An interesting post on SMOG from a long-time fan, reminiscing about the Floating World tour of 2002.

It gives a little pang of envy. I know this person has been relatively close to the band in the past. They have stories to tell. Lovely memories. You know…it sounds like more than just “band and fan”. A thing that I had always dreamed of. A thing that I sometimes kidded myself I had, you know. Not overtly so! It’s just that yearning of reciprocation. You love the band, so you hope the band loves you too. “She is your friend, until the bitter end.” But it can only go so far. And I just want more than I can have. It’s that simple. But even that little bit I *did* feel I had is all but gone.

I’ll shut up about it!

Anyway, said fan asked what our favourite tour was. He had talked about this tour like the “gig hop” tours I’ve been on. Following the band around, seeing them all over the place. But again, his experiences were back in “halcyon days”. Soundchecks you didn’t have to pay for to experience. Time just hanging out with the band after shows and stuff. Like, not just a quick signing and a photo op, but a chat at a bar or restaurant. Talk that went into the wee hours. A number of fans have these stories.

Anyway, I think his gigging goes back to 1986? Or maybe ‘89. A long way back anyway. But the Floating World tour was his favourite, he said. Others chimed in with 5×5 Live…just to make me spit even MORE chips!

I gave it a second’s thought. Of my EXTENSIVE range of tours, Big Music (technically one gig, though I saw them twice in 2015, the second was a festival slot, so not strictly a Big Music tour gig, I guess), Acoustic and Walk Between Worlds…I dunno. I have to discount Big Music, it was just two gigs – but that first ever Simple Minds gig at Cambridge will always hold a special place. And of the other two, Acoustic and Walk Between Worlds – both were amazing for differing reasons. But I guess Acoustic just pips it because…just…meeting Jim and hearing him say my name at Bristol and…yeah. All that silly “falling in love” business. Lol. But for WBW there was the album signing, Barras and the meet and greet at Colchester.

But who knows what this year will hold? I am on a MASSIVE 12 show hop-a-long, seeing them in six different countries (seven, if you separate England and Scotland). Let’s see where the wind takes us…

Minds Music Monday – Silent Kiss

Yesterday saw the second anniversary of the release of Walk Between Worlds.

Of course it was the day that Jim and Charlie appeared at the HMV in Argyle Street for an album signing. I was so, sooo nervous! Lol. Silly, really, as I had met them both before already, but the more it goes on – my involvement in the fanbase, how much more in love with the band (Jim!) and the music I become, the less and less confident I am.

It all means too much, and I feel my eyes already beginning to sting with tears just thinking about what it all means to me.

But, hey. Never mind. All good things must come to an end.

I cringe at the memory of placing that bag of sherbet straws in front of Jim. Just me and my silliness. Just trying to deflect what was really going on inside my head which was me standing there gawping at this beautiful man and being struck dumb.

Anyway…as yesterday was the second anniversary of the album’s release, for MMM, I am sharing my favourite track on the deluxe version of the album. I still think it is a crime this song was not included on the standard version of the album.

It is beautiful…

SM News And Gig Review

Last night I was in Oxford seeing Kelly Jones on the final night of his “Don’t Let The Devil Take Another Day” solo tour of the UK. I will review the gig in a dedicated post shortly.

But while I was at the gig last night, news of this broke out within the fandom…

Now I had known something was coming out in November as Virginia had told me she had one of her photos being used for a release coming up. I didn’t quiz her any further on it as I knew it would all be announced by the band in due course.

There’s an extra buzz within the fanbase as this new compilation seems to include a completely new song called For One Night Only. I first read about this track a very short time ago on the Dream Giver Redux site. It was sited as a Walk Between Worlds track that didn’t make the final cut and lyrics were listed for the song.

The link to the info on Dream Giver Redux can be viewed by CLICKING HERE

So now it would appear that FONO will get an airing…albeit as a carrot on the stick of yet ANOTHER compilation album. And a rather strange and curious tracklisting this new “best of” has too. Before it disappeared off Amazon it said the album’s tracklisting had been put together in conjunction with “the band” (aka Jim and Charlie, I’m guessing). It’s a bit non-linear to say the least. And this same treatment that the Bowie “best of” Nothing Has Changed got has been deployed with “edits” of songs all over the place. I don’t get it. WHY have an edit of a song on one disc to have the full version on the next? I mean…what the fuck IS that about? I do not understand what goes on in the minds of record company execs any more. I’m not even sure THEY know how to sell product any more.

So, curious, perplexing and something to push onto us leading up to Christmas with the tasty little morsel of ONE SOLITARY NEW SONG. Okay…keep them keen, I guess.

More on this to come in the ensuing weeks, methinks.

In Here The Sun Shines So Bright – From The “Burning Gold” Memories.

Looking in from the outer, I see some tentative improvement on “The Group”. At least a few more memories are filtering through and the admins at SMOG (well, more accurately, the admins at SMO via SMOG…same admins? Dunno) at least asked for some participation and contributions from fans yesterday.

It may have legs yet. I still need convincing.

In the meantime, the memories shared by the North American fans and by those who travelled to the USA and Canada to see a gig or gigs have been great to see. Some wonderful phots and videos shared.

In amongst the ones I saw yesterday was this amazing snap of Jim by Cody Fulfer. Wonderful stuff.