Why I Love…Thirty Frames A Second

Why I love…Thirty Frames A Second.

It’s that bass, to start. Derek’s bassline in this song is fab! Mick’s synths too. And Brian’s drums. And Charlie’s guitar. And Jim’s lyrics…the song really works as a whole unit! But it’s that musical heart of a song…bass and drums. I know I keep saying it, but Brian McGee really doesn’t get enough credit for being the fantastic drummer he is. He was even looking irreplaceable for a while there (a drummer? Irreplaceable? What kind of crazy notion is this?! Oh, believe me…anyone who doesn’t think the drummer is the integral part – and heart – of the band, doesn’t know f***ing SHIT! Lol). Kenny Hyslop and Mike Ogletree coming in and leaving before Mel Gaynor got the nod as Simple Minds’ new drummer.

But I digress.

There is a demo version of Thirty Frames on the Silver Box box set. I do love being able to compare and contrast those demos to what goes on the album recording. I think Jim was quite peed off when Silver Box came out. I think he was uncomfortable with those demos being “out there”. He seems to be of the opinion that material like that remains unreleased for a reason – it’s crap. But I love hearing that progression. Hearing the work-in-progress. Seeing the idea develop and evolve. A band honing their craft. It’s wonderful!

Musically, the two versions (demo, opposed to album version) are pretty identical. Derek’s bass is spot on. Mick’s synths play at a slightly higher pitch. Jim’s voice is also at a higher register (akin to how it is on the video clip – by the way, at around the 75 second mark, you’ll see him tip over Charlie’s spare guitar with the foot of his mic stand, such is the wild yet stilted performance he gives). It makes the words less potent. Jim sounds more innocent…on the demo, that is. For even though his voice on the video clip is of a similar pitch to that of the demo, there is more venom. But you have the visuals with it. And he is always going to be a knockout performing live.

There are also extra lyrics to the demo. A few lines were either altered or dropped altogether.

Extra lines dropped –

“Today I looked at my suit. This suit was getting new and didn’t fit me no more.”
“I spoke to my wife, she didn’t speak to me. Didn’t recognise…not after so many years…”
“I once had children, now no more. How can I have children when I’m going back…”

The car/town lyric was altered too.

Album version –
“I crash my car,
Collapse in town,
Young immigrants,
And legionaires,
Fighting back, back, backwards,
Thirty frames a second,
Say who you are.”

Demo –

“I park my car,
Go in to town,
The town is going backwards,
So many people never recognised me no more,
I’m going backwards thirty frames a second.
Say who you are.”

The line – “Looked at face, it was getting younger…” – was kept in, but slightly altered. It was part of the dropped “suit” lines. And, interestingly, the altering of the “food” lines involved mother instead of father.

Another altered line was – “some people I thought were dead are coming back, what are doing coming back Jack?”, and was rather less potent. Instead it becomes “some friends of mine I thought were dead are coming back, what are you doing coming back, JACK!?” With Jim shouting the name Jack out with full, spitting venom.

Watching the video clip makes me mourn slightly for Jim’s earlier performing style. It’s almost otherworldly. You just can’t take your eyes off him! (Well, I can’t take my eyes off him, anyway) Lots of people (I have done so myself) draw comparisons with Jim to Samuel T Herring’s (Future Islands) performing style. But in hindsight, Sam’s is a parody…a mimic, a mockery. Compared to that raw, agile, sometimes robotic, sometimes fluid style of Jim’s. Sam is a pale imitation of the real thing 🙂

But, I digress once more…

It has a great groove. Jim’s lyrics were trimmed and honed, making them eerie, dark and succinct. It has great imagery. It kind of speaks of someone wanting their time over again…but it’s a morality tale in a way. Be careful what you wish for! A lot of us, if we could go back in time would freak out or lose our shit. And it’s what happens to our protagonist. He loses his shit.

I know Jim isn’t a fan of science-fiction, and he’ll probably snark at this idea…but Thirty Frames A Second is science-fiction writing. There, I’ve said it! It’s out there! Jim Kerr does science- fiction! Eat me, big boy! 😉

(I would never DARE say that to his face! … Well, not unless under very dreamlike circumstances. Lol)

Which reminds me, WHERE IS MY BLOODY TARDIS?! Lol

And that is why I love Thirty Frames A Second.

Why I Love…Careful In Career

Why I love…Careful In Career.

Jim’s voice, and his lyrics. They are deep (both voice AND lyrics), as per usual in these early years. His lyrics have a depth beyond his tender years at this point in the Simple Minds story. He so very quickly becomes such a stark, bold lyricist. The imagery he conveys is startling. God, can you tell I’m in love with him(!) as a songwriter? Lol.

Another Simple Minds song in which there is a demo version to compare and contrast. The demo is pretty much fully formed, musically. The drumming is softer…and Charlie’s guitar is WILD. It really screams! Mick’s synths are disturbing and sit up front. And even though at this point in the song’s life, Jim’s lyrics are sparse and still taking shape, his vocal performance is still mesmerising. “How can this be?”, I hear you ask. Just listen to the demo!

When we get to the album recording…we have positively STONKING lyrics. It’s almost like Jim’s version of Rock N Roll Suicide. More than likely still only just 21 when he wrote it. Still younger than Bowie was when he writes Rock N Roll Suicide.

Disturbing lines…

“It’s a shame
To go away
It’s a shame
To die already”

Musically it becomes softer and tighter. I’m not sure that makes sense. Perhaps softer and more succinct is what I mean. Charlie’s guitar becomes softer and sweeter, but still has those soaring highs. Mick’s synth is refined, toned down. The chords aren’t as disjointed and off-key as they were on the demo. And the beginning of the song has much more impact. The way the drum comes in. Serwwweeet!

But it really is all down to The Boy on this one. Those grand, dark, disturbing lyrics. Images of despair, emptiness…like, you’re wondering what it’s all worth and whether you should even bother any more. Wanting to live – “I’ve come so far already”…but wondering whether you should – “It’s a shame”.

And the way he delivers them too. The looooong, drawn out, deliberately protracted pronunciations of words I think are fantastic. One of his best vocal performances on record. (And I’m trying REALLY hard to be unbiased here)

And that is why I love Careful In Career.

Why I Love…Citizen (Dance of Youth)

(The clip will play from the right point on a desktop – but if you are viewing this post via a smartphone or tablet. You may want to skip to 5 min 12 sec)
A wonderfully political snapshot of Eastern Europe of the late 1970s. If you think Simple Minds only became political in the mid to late 80s…listen to this and you’ll know you’re mistaken.

I know I go on about Jim’s songwriting, but I do for a reason, it’s bloody good!! His words are just always so image-laced. With this one, I see European ruins…old city plazas and squares, the bell tower of a gothic cathedral (“I hate the sound of bells”), soldiers, dispossessed youth – wearing drab clothes and looking on edge, for fear of something dangerous and immanent occurring. A casual tourist taking snaps.

Study the words…they’re brilliant! He also delivers one of the most potent lines I think he’s ever written “You’re cutting up our friends / making love to our sisters”.

Musically, it starts with a staccato drumbeat that has a echo/reverb effect with it ….making it kind of gleaming. The vocal and guitar come in almost simultaneously. Jim uttering a single “Citizen” before Charlie joins him. There are subtle backing vocals going on…adding an unnerving backbone. Bass and keyboard/synths are underplayed and subtle. Jim’s vocal is menacing and, at times, venomous. There’s extra potency given to the lines…

“Our food is getting cold,
And you’re getting colder.”

He almost spits them out!

It packs a punch and is a political monster and shows how utterly fabulous Simple Minds were from the get-go and what a fabulous lyricist Jim Kerr is.

And that is why I love Citizen (Dance of Youth).

NB: It has been an earworm LITERALLY for WEEKS now. I adore it!

Why I Love…Boys From Brazil

I’ve talked about my love for Boys From Brazil in passing several times now. On the Simple Minds FB page too, telling Jim how much I would love to meet Brian McGee and thank him…KISS HIM…for those amazing drums. Yes, Jim says Mel Gaynor is the best drummer in world…and he might be right. He certainly is stellar and gifted. But Brian’s role in the Simple Minds story, no matter how brief it was, should NOT be underplayed. He was there for four albums…five, if you count Sons And Fascination and Sister Feelings Call as separate entities. His work on those albums alone deserves endless accolades.

So, yes. Those drums. I find the beat of this song hypnotic. And it is down to these drums. It’s almost like you actually get transported to the Brazilian rainforest itself. Subtle synths slide in from Mick and then Charlie’s gleaming guitar comes in, high and proud in the mix.

Then Jim comes in with that title…just in case you weren’t sure where we were. Of course, the line isn’t meant to be taken literally…but with those drums (the drums, the drums!), how can you NOT feel as though you are in Brazil?

That Scots accent in his singing voice, that emphasis on the word “Brazil” – I never tire of it. “Champagne / Desert shore” – (he’ll hate me for saying this, probably…if he ever reads it…or I have the gall to share it some time) those lines conjure up imagery for me…like an art rock version of Copacabana. Young men, rich, snobby, handsome, yet full of scorn. Languishing poolside, as if not a care in the world.

“Eyes of the world on you”, yeah, we’d better watch out for these young nobs! They’ll be our leaders one day. It’s like the bloody Bullingdon Club!

I now have a very weird association attached to this song. This has happened to me quite a bit with songs in my life. This one now being no exception. Songs can take you back to a place. A few do for me. Some take me back to car journeys taken. ELO’s Hold On Tight transports me back to a car journey home from my siblings grandmother’s house (we have different fathers, me, from the rest of siblings. It was their paternal grandmother.). REM’s Losing My Religion…another car journey with my sister and brother-in-law. Tin Tin Out’s Here’s Where The Story Ends…yet another car journey, to Leicester Nuffield Hospital. And now Boys From Brazil, a coach journey home, having just been to see Nana Mouskouri at the Royal Albert Hall. Yes! My brain is weird!! Lol. But it was the early days of my Simple Minds fandom. The Other Half had fallen asleep (it was a late night!) and so I decided to amuse myself, listening to music. It was the night I really, REALLY fell in love with the song. The dark, lonely stretch of motorway (M1) from London. The coach had a camera onboard, showing the road ahead…those visuals and the boys in my ears…it was magic.

But, I WILDLY digress…

Derek’s bass in quite understated on this. As are Mick’s keyboards. They are just subtly there, just underneath. It’s all drums and guitar. Fans ask each other all the time, their fave guitar pieces from Charlie. Jim has asked us too. I have several. I love Woman, and 70 Cities As Love Brings The Fall…but “Boys” has to be right up there! He and Brian make the musicality of the song.

And Jim’s vocal is outstanding. The emphasis of the words…the lyrics themselves. The sparsity in which he uses them.

And then, the second time he delivers those lines…

“What can you say about anything lost now?
What can you say about stolen things too?
Anything’s stolen, something is lost now,
What can you say and how fast can things move?”

He is sssooo front of the mix…when listening with headphones on, it’s like he’s singing it right in your lugholes.

I love all the words and I love the way he sings them. It is my favourite vocal performance of his on record, I reckon.

And I really don’t know much about production AT ALL…but, blow me…Steve Hillage did a mighty fine job in my eyes (and ears!). No wonder they wanted to work with him again for Big Music!

I think this somewhat makes up for the lack of articulation for Life In Oils! Lol.

This song is Brian’s, Charlie’s and Jim’s.

Not only is this song in my Top 50…but it’s in my Top 5! There are only two songs in the Simple Minds catalogue that I have to repeat (and repeat) after I listen to it. This is one. Spirited Away is the other.

And THAT is why I love Boys From Brazil.

Why I Love…Life In Oils

 

Because it is one of the (if not THE) sexiest songs they’ve ever made.

Jim’s vocals…
Just…OMG…WHAAAAA??! All those sounds and moans and and heavy breathing and god knows what…just…
I don’t know what half the words are. It never got an official release until Silver Box…and it’s obviously a demo. Some lines I do know “Unhappy the land that has no heroes. No, unhappy the land that needs heroes.” (Later used in 20th Century Promised Land).
It’s fairly slow paced, and kind of speeds and slows, and I love that synth *ping*.
I love the odd chorus, though again, I’m not entirely sure what he’s singing (“shadow/hollow/???/take” – I think. Can never decipher that third word.). And the way he emphasises the word “LIFE” towards the end of the song is, again…just…
Musically, there’s a kind of sultriness to it. It sounds like it could be strip music to me. It’s wonderfully sensual. Then combine it with Jim’s sighing, moaning, panting vocals at the beginning and SERIOUSLY – my ovaries want to explode! *KERRPOW!* (that really should be “kepow” – but we are talking the effects of Jim Kerr’s singing on one – so why not play with the onomatopoeia? Lol
This one has been hard to write because, I just have no words for it, really.
I just love it because I find it as sexy as f***, and Jim’s voice on it just DOES THINGS TO ME!
Sorry I could not be more articulate but, there you go. Sometimes there are just no words.
And that (rather badly explained reason) is why I love Life In Oils :-))

Simple Minds and Jim Kerr: Lostboy! Great Times…Early Times.

A short time ago, after going through yet another phase of early 1980s music appreciation (I more often than not find myself tuning in to Internet radio stations for the 80s music that was on the periphery, not necessarily the mainstream), I found myself feeling a stab of guilt that one of the bands I liked at the time, Simple Minds, hadn’t really taken their place higher in my fandom. I wanted to explore why that was.

As a teen I was obsessed with U2 (Bono) and when that obsession began to wane, I took up Bowie fandom, thanks mostly to be eldest brother needing a place to keep his Bowie album collection. I raided those Bowie albums with relish, I tell you!

Between the waning of my U2 fanaticism and the taking up of Bowie, I bought Once Upon A Time. So, yes, for a brief period, I was very strongly a Simple Minds fan.

As the years passed I would dabble in the Minds’ world. Play the hits and enjoy my time with them on the periphery of all the music I had liked in my adolescence. But as one matures and nostalgia takes hold of one ever stronger, one begins to think of what might have been missed.

For me, that happened with Simple Minds. I made a decision to explore the whole back catalogue of their music, hoping to find gems that I was ignorant to and perhaps take on a level of fandom that I thought I lacked and thought they deserved.

The scary thing to me is how closely in time my interest in exploring this world has correlated with the band’s and Jim Kerr’s own exploration of the past, but resulting in my slightly missing the boat. But that is the beauty of producing music for others. Once it’s out there, if people missed it, they can catch up.

And catch up with it all I have been doing so with relish.

A stark admission to begin with, the renewed fandom has developed into a somewhat late crush on Mr. Kerr. My now soon-to-be 44 year old self is agog that my 12 year-old self (and yes, I had SEVERE crushes on much older men at that age already) did not see the beauty in the 22/23 year old Jim Kerr.

That aside, let’s concentrate (with perhaps a small smattering of “OMG, wasn’t he GORGEOUS?! Well, still is.” thrown in now and again, for good measure) on the music.

Several members of the band, including the Minds’ nucleus of Kerr and guitarist, Charlie Burchill, started out in the late seventies in a punk group called Johnny and the Self-Abusers. Kerr under the alias of Pripton Weird (which actually sounds as punk as a Carpenter’s song, IMO, *grins* – but as aliases go, it’s a brilliant name!), and Burchill as Charlie Argue (much more punk!). It was a flash-in-the-pan. The split up the day their one and only single was released. SSooo Punk! Lol. It was fun to explore the very limited number of songs they produced in their brief life. But, let’s face it, EVERYONE was in a punk band for 5 minutes, right?

But, ultimately, it was a catalyst to what transpired into Simple Minds (deriving their name from the lines in David Bowie’s The Jean Genie). Charlie and Jim, bringing along fellow Self-Abusers Brian McGee and Tony Donald. Shortly after Donald leaves, and is replaced with Derek Forbes on bass and while Kerr concentrates on vocals (he was keyboardist for Johnny and the Self-Abusers whilst also being vocalist), keyboardist Mick MacNeil is brought in, making the quintet of the first recorded Minds line-up.

And so, life begins for Simple Minds with the album release in 1979 of Life In A Day.

Life In A Day:

I love being able to listen to things with retrospection and mature ears. Only being 9 years-old at time of the original release, there would have been little chance of me being able to judge the album’s merits, but the passage of time allows it now.

I must admit – I tried this experiment… ooh… what must have been around 8 years ago now. I dismissed the early things quite quickly. I just wasn’t ready to give them time, and again, I missed out because I didn’t give it that time. I dismissed it out-of-hand. And I knew I’d had. Hence, I was here again. Exploring their back catalogue. But this time, with more time to breathe. With a better appreciation that not everything goes to plan at the beginning.

I was initially dismissive ONCE AGAIN of Life In A Day. It sounds immature. The Album, that is. It’s lacking something but I could now hear small pockets of brilliance. The title track began to grow on me and and so had the single from the album, Chelsea Girl. And the first track, Someone, is poppy and sweet (I’m sure the young Jim would have killed me for saying that! Very much not the image he was after then, I’m sure.). It kinda reminds me of a U2 track. It could have been on Boy in all honesty.

What changed in my pursuit of getting into Simple Minds again though has been watching live performances from the time. And those performances can be spell-binding. It is very clear to me that Jim Kerr’s stage presence lends the band an extra depth that doesn’t get captured in the studio. The band is tight, they play exceptionally well live, but the spontaneity and excitement goes missing in the studio. The studio brings a sterility into their sound. Jim says he receives a copy of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures upon eve of release of Life In A Day and says “We’ve fucked it! We sound like The Boomtown Rats!” I can hear what he hears. At times. Especially on my least favourite tracks on the album, Sad Affair and No Cure – they are the tracks I can imagine mostly spurred Jim’s “Boomtown Rats” comparison. I can understand his disappointment because Life In A Day as an album doesn’t sell them for what they were as a live band.

Simple Minds – Chelsea Girl

(Let’s just bypass Jim’s hair at this time, shall we? He ends up with some great hair during the early 80s. Once we get to about 1985 though, we can forget it again…)

Real To Real Cacophony:

Now, this is where things start to get VERY interesting! Here is where the evidence comes in as to how wonderful they are live. There is a performance from New York of them in 1979 with tracks from this album, I find mesmerising. Sadly, Jim’s hair hasn’t quite grown out yet, but if you can overlook it and take on his performance as a whole, it is sublime. Their rendition of Premonition in this New York set is superior (in my eyes) to what goes on the album. There is an improvement in production but something still a little stilted to their work in the studio. Rather than in making it seem you need to be as dismissive of this album as you do with Life In A Day because the live performances overshadow the studio versions, there is less to dismiss. Kerr’s vocals are changing slightly in recording lending more depth, both literally and metaphorically. I love the way he writes during this period. It’s all very abstract. I’m not sure if he even consciously meant it that way or not. The words have matured yet retain a frisson of innocence.

Simple Minds – Premonition

This is, by far, the best live performance of Premonition I’ve ever seen (of the many I’ve seen so far). Jim is ssooo “in the zone” in this performance. Absolutely love it!

Empires and Dance:

Wow! Upon a few listens now, I must admit to beginning to agree with the Manic Street Preachers’ James Dean Bradfield saying “nothing touches” this album. The production is sparse and industrial, Kerr’s vocals are phenomenal and his lyrics ssoooo atmospheric! It’s like a celebration of the dystopia of early 80s Europe, all dark and brooding with sex (perhaps that’s just me projecting my feelings for Jim and his performing style at this time). It’s industrial and dystopian, yet there are little snippets of perhaps flippancy in things like Constantinople Line “these stations are useful/these stations we love them”. And there is still hope in some – Celebrate, for example “we can live/I can live/celebrate”

I find Jim Kerr at this point in time possibly the sexiest man alive. Just a year before he had an Edmund Blackadder haircut and pocked skin. Now his hair was growing out on top, he’d gotten slimmer and his stage presence was growing. He commanded being watched. He was lithe, exuberant, dripping with nervous energy, yet reserved and palpably sensual. (Just me then on that last point? That’s OK. All the more for me!)

Simple Minds – Celebrate

Anyway *towels self down* – back to the album.

What an entity! JDB also says something akin to it being a stand-alone. That the album appears to come from nowhere. Nothing precedes it, nothing follows. Certainly Empires is quite a way removed from Real To Real, but I CANNOT dismiss what is to come. At least not Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings Call.

UPDATE (Oct 4th, 2014): JDB has recently had a change of heart, it appears. He’s now not so dismissive of Sons And Fascination, you can read here.

If you consider yourself a Simple Minds fan but have never listened to the whole Empires and Dance album, I implore you to do so. Keep listening to/watching live stuff from the time as well. It really does enhance the experience. Live, the boys at this time are unstoppable.

I’ve never been a big fan of live music – mostly because most of my live music listening has not been from gigs. I’ve only been to a handful of gigs in my life. Fortunately, I grew up in a country where being a great live band was a pre-requisite to having a music career, rather than a bonus, which gave me the opportunity to see some of the best live bands.

Early (and now recent) Simple Minds can be added to the list that, for me, sees them better live than produced in a studio. There is only one other band (possibly a second) that I have ever felt that way with, and that’s Australian group You Am I. They are the band I have seen play live the most. Now, with the Internet, YouTube, and the ability to time-travel (via footage from the past), I’ve seen just as many Simple Minds concerts. I just wish there was more from the earlier times.

I trawl YouTube daily, looking for as much early footage as I can. There’s quite a bit. A full concert from 1982, a fair whack of another from the same year, and a set on The Tube (Channel 4 music programme). But there is scant stuff before that.

I’m also fascinated in watching the progression of Jim Kerr as a performer. Watching the visibly nervous young man of 20 trying to command the stage (and sometimes succeeding) in 1979, to being a force of nature by 1981 but still so painfully shy off stage. I watched an interview with him on Swedish TV in 1983 in which he says he feels far more confident on stage than in intimate situations. He’d rather be performing in front of 3000 people than buying trousers in a shop. Buying trousers was a far more nerve-wracking experience for him. It’s astonishing!

I watch him in interviews now, and you’d never know. He’s genial, funny, accommodating, comfortable in his own skin…

Sometime by about 1984/5 the ego kicks in. It can’t not, I suppose. The band are at their zenith. That shy boy gets lost. That boy focused on the music…intense, brooding, reserved. That boy I’m in love with. He slowly disappears as Simple Minds gain fame. The music changes. It becomes less cold, fragmented, and more about love and romance. Still political, but a different kind of politics. Mainstream.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Again.

On now to what was initially my VERY favourite early album…

Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call:

The production is gorgeous on this album. And we start to get, what are for me, hits coming to the fore. Due to “greatest hits” albums I’ve dabbled in in the past, I’m familiar with Love Song (has always been one of my very favourite SM tracks) and The American, and they are both stellar. I also add Sweat In Bullet and Boys From Brazil to that mix now. And of course, you can’t dismiss the imagery-rich sounds of Theme For Great Cities.

Simple Minds – Boys From Brazil

Killer drums on this track. Always a sucker for a great drum track.

It’s a step on again. Not quite as cold as EAD, but still a little darker than those that follow. There is more light and shade. The brightest of songs is Wonderful In Young Life. The imagery is beautiful. Jim sells us the youthful dream, in voice with falsetto (something he rarely used til this point). It’s a wonderful dream-scape and a sign of what’s coming when we get to New Gold Dream.

And so, it is at this point I must stop. I am up to this point in my rekindling of my Simple Minds fandom. I am finding it hard to move on, for at the moment, I see New Gold Dream (81, 82, 83, 84) as almost the beginning of the end.

I find it telling that all those years ago the first Simple Minds album I bought was Once Upon A Time and I am now avoiding it like the plague. At the moment I just cannot explore NGD, Sparkle In The Rain, or OUAT without believing I’ll cringe. I have listened to NGD already in my renewed fandom but only once or twice, whereas the previous albums are on constant rotation. As well as lots of live material.

I think I’ll probably jump straight to more recent things. Lostboy! AKA Jim Kerr has me very intrigued! As well as more recent Minds’ works from 2005 onwards. I’ve had tiny dabbles but it’s all still new and I’m excited about what I might find. I’m looking forward to finding that Lostboy!