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IN WHICH A 12 INCHER IS WAY BETTER THAN THE 7 INCH EFFORT

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A short time ago I put together, and subsequently posted, an 80s compilation as a birthday present for my young brother. There were a number of very positive comments about a number of the songs and so I’ll probably turn my attention over the coming weeks to those not previously featured on the blog before.

I was particularly taken by Echorich’s usual astute and sharp observation which on this occasion was to say that ‘Speed Your Love To Me is one of those songs that works SO well opening a set.”

I’ve defended and indeed championed Simple Minds on these page in the past. Love Song was in my 45 45s at 45 rundown and I’ll argue that their body of work from the outset through to New Gold Dream is of the highest quality and among the most innovative of any group of that particular era. My young brother came to the band round the time of New Gold Dream and he has long been a fan of Sparkle In The Rain, released in February 1984 around the time of his 18th birthday, which is why I went to that particular LP on this occasion.

It had been years – at least 10 and probably nearer 15 – since I had listened to any of the songs from that record, one which gave the band their first ever #1 album in the UK. It’s much more a rock record than anything they had done up to that point with much probably down as much to the choice of Steve Lillywhite as producer who had just completed working with U2 and Big Country. There’s a number of tracks on it that I still can’t bring myself to enjoy, not least lead-off single and stadium-rock anthem Waterfront which was a real shock to the system when I first heard it but it was clearly one for the masses as it was very quickly on heavy rotation on our local non-BBC radio station.

Waterfront actually pre-dated the LP by around three months and indeed a second single was released about a month before the LP hit the shops. My first exposure to Speed Your Love To Me was when a  flat mate came in one afternoon with a 12” copy tucked under his arm; he had heard it being played in a city centre record shop while he had been mooching around searching for bargains in the January sales and had been quite taken by it; he had bought it as the shop was selling the 12” version for the same price as the 7” and insisted on the rest of us listening to it.

First impression was that it was nothing like Waterfront; so far so good. Second immediate impression was that Kirsty MacColl had been brought into add her vocal talents to the track; so far even better; Third immediate impression was that the seven minutes plus of the 12” version seemed to enable a fine balancing act of sounding epic in that new rock way the band were pursuing but providing enough breathing space for the keyboards and the more subtle guitar style of Charlie Burchill to be on display. It got a unanimous thumbs up from the four of us.

The single, as was the norm in those days, was flipped over and the b-sides played. The first track was the edited version of the single, a version which sadly didn’t enable any of the subtleties of the 12” version to shine. First impression was that I didn’t like it all that much; it really did feel as if this was one of those instances where a piece of music really did benefit from clever production techniques and being extended beyond that you’d hear on the radio.

I would have loved for the band and the label to have put the 12” mix on the LP but they didn’t, albeit the album version was about 30 seconds longer than the single edit but that’s more down to a longer fade-out than anything else.

I listened again to the album version when thinking about tracks to use on my brother’s mixtape but found myself still disappointed by it 33 years on. However, the extended version still makes me smile at the memory of that first listen and the subsequent dances to it at the student union over the following few weeks:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – Speed Your Love To Me (extended mix)

Here’s the b-sides:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – Speed Your Love To Me (single edit)
mp3 : Simple Minds – Bass Line

What we didn’t know at the time was that the latter of the b-sides (which was and remains rather underwhelming in comparison to earlier instrumental tunes) was in fact an word-less version of a track that would appear on the parent album:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – White Hot Day

Enjoy

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #72 – SIMPLE MINDS

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Resurrecting the piece for the 45 45s re-run just two days ago provided the inspiration. Suffice to say that this ICA is restricted to the selections from the following albums:-

Life In A Day – released March 1979
Real To Real Cacophony – released November 1979
Empires and Dance – released September 1980
Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings Call – September 1981
New Gold Dream (81/82/83/84) – September 1982

I won’t include Love Song in the listing as it was featured just 48 hours ago. So without further delay…..but I will warn you that there’s a few singles featured today. They weren’t really for keeping their best material preserved for b-sides or just album tracks.

SIDE A

1. Theme For Great Cities (from Sister Feelings Call)

A curve-ball to start with, opening the ICA with an instrumental. I still recall hearing this for the first time and thinking it was as far removed as possible from the music anyone would ever associate with Glasgow. It’s an astonishing rich, textured, brilliantly structured piece of music which set me on the path to a better understanding and appreciation of electronic music.

2. Changeling (from Real to Real Cacophony)

Fans of PiL, Gang of Four, Wire and Magazine will surely appreciate this album version of a flop single from late 79. Jagged and edgy, it’s a fine fusion of the new wave guitars and the synth stuff that was beginning to take a grip of many an imagination and would lead to some of the best UK pop of the following decade.

3. Someone Somewhere In Summertime (from New Gold Dream)

This was the album that really broke the band. Its ten tracks contain three hit singles (two of which had charted before the LP hit the shops) and thus turned the band into a hot ticket almost overnight. This was the third of the 45s and the opening track of the album. Unlike the previous two tracks on the ICA, this one is very much of its time – it sounds like 1982 and has nothing to link it back to the band’s punk/new wave roots. It’s dreamy build up to the anthemic chorus was the first sign that the small and medium-sized halls would no longer be where you’d find the band ply its trade in future years.

4. Chelsea Girl (single version – originally from Life In A Day)

The band had, from the earliest of days, displayed a real ability to churn out a catchy pop tune, as evidenced by what was their second ever single. Every bit as anthemic as the later hits, it was let down by a bit of a stale and unimaginative production. But then again, everyone at the time was wondering how best to capture these new fangled sounds.

5. This Fear Of Gods (from Empires and Dance)

It was the band’s misfortune to be on Arista Records for this album as the label was unable to promote properly an album that was described on its release by Paul Morley as ‘authentic new torch music….an LP of terror-songs, vigilance and vanity‘. It was as dark and deep and wonderful as anything Joy Division were producing, but with a disco-beat….

SIDE B

1. I Travel (from Empires and Dance)

Also as wonderful as anything Joy Division were producing, but with Simple Minds around you had to take off your overcoat and get yourself on to that dance floor. It’s a song that has been re-produced and remixed on countless occasions, sometimes to great effect and often to its detriment. This is the original single version that really should have been a huge hit.

2. The American (from Sister Feelings Call)

As much as I love this song, I can’t help but wonder how it might have sounded if someone other than prog legend Steve Hillage had been in the producer’s chair. Someone with more new wave tendencies would have had altered the guitar and bass sounds to something more akin to John McGeough and Barry Adamson‘s work with Magazine and it would have come belting out of the speakers with a sense of menace rather than being perhaps a bit too polished.

3. Big Sleep (from New Gold Dream)

As mentioned earlier, this was the album that really broke the band. They had always been a cracking live act, but the commercial success seemed to bring out the best in them – I saw them three times in 1982 and Big Sleep was the track that got the hairs on the neck standing up, thanks to the combination of wonderfully understated guitar playing from Charlie Burchill, bass slapping with style from Derek Forbes and the catchy, repetitive keyboard contribution from Mick McNeill…..and to be fair to the much derided singing style of Jim Kerr, his delivery in this instance is first-rate.

4. Sweat In Bullet (12″ version – originally from Sons and Fascination)

Time to get yourself back on that dance floor again. Like every other act from the 80s, the singles were subjected to different mixes and extended versions for use on 12″ vinyl. This was one of the most effective but still failed to provide the breakthrough and crossover hit.

5. Premonition (Peel Session – original version on Real to Real Cacophony)

Designed to make you want to turn this imaginary piece of vinyl back over to Side A. Recorded in December 1979 and broadcast twice in January 1980. It was unimaginable back then that within five years they would be arena rock gods…..

mp3 : Simple Minds – Theme For Great Cities
mp3 : Simple Minds – Changeling
mp3 : Simple Minds – Someone Somewhere In Summertime
mp3 : Simple Minds – Chelsea Girl
mp3 : Simple Minds – This Fear Of Gods

mp3 : Simple Minds – I Travel
mp3 : Simple Minds – The American
mp3 : Simple Minds – Big Sleep
mp3 : Simple Minds – Sweat In Bullet
mp3 : Simple Minds – Premonition

Enjoy.

A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (14)

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON TUESDAY 6 MAY 2008

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If he gets round to reading this, I can hear Jacques the Kipper scream at his PC screen (sorry, make that Mac screen – he’s posh), WWWWHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAATT? Given what I’ve chosen at #14, I don’t think his will be an isolated scream.

Your humble scribe and his long-term musical buddy have very diverse opinions on Simple Minds. Our solution is just to agree to disagree. Maybe it’s something to do with where I was born and bred.

Nowadays, there are all sorts of great venues dotted around the city centre of Glasgow and beyond for bands to pitch up and play. But 30 years ago, it was either the Apollo or a mere handful of pubs – all of whom had a strict door policy. The local evening paper would carry adverts every week for 5 or 6 venues (The Dial Inn and The Burns Howff are two that I seem to recall), but every week it would be the same 5 or 6 acts that appeared – and all of them had long hair and wore either cheese-cloth shirts and flares or tight-fitting t-shirts and leather strides. In short, it was a scene dominated by really awful pub-rock and acts who wanted to be the new Led Zeppelin.

In the pre-Postcard era, it was Simple Minds who stood out from that crowd, for they didn’t rely on loud guitars, screaming vocals and pounding drums – they had a keyboard player!! Someone at school said that they weren’t a new band at all, but instead just the latest line-up of a Glasgow punk act called Johnny And The Self Abusers (astonishing as it may seem, this turned out to be true!!)

The band started to get some local media attention and songs were being played on the local commercial radio station. Then they were signed by a major record label and you could buy their single and LPs in all the local shops. Many of us rushed out and bought these records, and many of us found ourselves bemused.

The first three albums by the band saw a mixture of a few easily accessible pop tunes, but they were buried among a lot of stuff that seemed to verge on the dreaded and awful prog-rock. Nowadays, its easy to look back and see the influences were in fact more European-orientated acts like Kraftwerk and Can, but here in Glasgow very little was known about such bands. The band had a few early stand out tracks – in particular the singles Life In A Day and Chelsea Girl, as well as one particularly infectious track in I Travel that made you want to get on the dance floor and shake your hips. Were discos the real future for Simple Minds??

In 1981, the band moved to Virgin Records who had something of a decent track record making a success of slightly off-kilter new wave bands such as Magazine, XTC, PiL and The Skids. The first release was an LP called Sons and Fascination, the initial copies of which came with a bonus LP called Sister Feelings’ Call (the latter would eventually be released as a stand-alone record).

It was still very much a mix of the pop and the prog, but the pop was pretty sensational. And the prog was somehow different (we would later come to recognise much of it as trance….). The pop meanwhile was aimed very much at the dance floor, but not with a disco beat. It was very similar to records that were coming out of Sheffield by a band called The Human League, and looking back we can see it was the start of a new era and new style of synth-pop that brought us bands such as New Order and Depeche Mode.

The first time I heard the single that I’ve picked at #14 was at a Glasgow city centre disco where ‘alternative’ nights of sorts were held on Sunday evenings. Something came on with a long and attention-grabbing pulsating intro. Then came a vocal that sounded awfully familiar….that can’t be Jim Kerr…surely not….

It was only after it had finished, when I went over to the DJ’s booth to ask, did I find out that it was the forthcoming record by Simple Minds. The DJ had been given an advance copy to try out at the ‘alt’ evening. I’m sure it was played on at least two more occasions that night and filled the (admittedly small) floor each time.

Love Song turned out to be the biggest success for the band up to that point. Before long, the band were aiming for pop success at the expense of everything else, and by the mid 80s they had succeeded, thanks to a world-wide hit with Don’t You Forget About Me. They were now, without any shadow of a doubt, stadium rockers of the corporate kind – hugely popular with the masses. They had even started writing songs such as Waterfront which became the unofficial sing-a-long anthem for Glasgow for a short while. All this might have made the boys rich and popular, but it also made them mundane, mediocre and meaningless.

It was now embarrassing to actually admit you were once a fan. And in some folks eyes, that is still the case.

But I’ll always stand by the majesty of the turn of the decadeand early 80s Simple Minds……

mp3 : Simple Minds – Love Song (extended)
mp3 : Simple Minds – This Earth That You Walk Upon

Bonus song from the punk era:-

mp3 : Johnny And The Self Abusers – Saints and Sinners*

* also the name of a legendary Glasgow venue. It would later change ownership and name and become King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 101)

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You might scoff at what Simple Minds evolved into come the mid 80s, but this 7″ single from January 1980 is very worthy of your attention:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – Changeling
mp3 : Simple Minds – Premonition (live, Hurrah Club in New York, Oct 79)

This noise was coming out of Glasgow at the fag-end of the 70s and was well ahead of its time. If the band had broken up there and then or maybe 2/3 years later on, then I’ve no doubt they would be getting hailed today as one of the most distinctive and influential bands ever to set foot in a recording studio. Instead, their defining legacy to most is that they, together with U2, were at the forefront of the drift back into stadium rock in the wake of Live Aid.

Oh and that b-side is how it is on vinyl…a dreadful edit with the final notes of the previous song followed by applause and then the intro to Premonition…all very sloppy.

Enjoy.

COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT

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Dear VV

1. My last post was on the letter G

2. Using a photo of my backside in a thong.

3. Er thats it.

Jules

From Julian’s Electrical Gramophone

Who would have reckoned that S-WC‘s contribution from earlier this week would have caused such outrage….

Jules‘  tongue is of course very firmly in his cheek. But it does turn out that his most recent posting over at Music From Magazines was solely related to the letter G.  Don’t be afraid to pay him a visit….there’s no picture of his hairy arse in a thong.  Click here

It did get me thinking about the first time that the old blog got a copyright infringement notice.  It was actually quite polite and it came from the good folk who look after Brett Anderson.  I’d just bought a copy of his new single Love Is Dead and how shoved it up for folk to have a listen but with a link to where they could purchase it.  An e-mail arrived a day or so later which said thanks for buying the record but would I please remove the download links as I was breaching copyright.  Naturally, I obliged….after all, I had a disclaimer on the blog saying that if a copyright owner got in touch I would remove any links immediately.

That was back in 2007 and the early days of the blog and at the time that I was quite flattered to have come up on the radar of his record label and/or management – as far as I knew there were not that many folk dropping in on TVV on a regular basis.

Moving forward a couple of years and TVV had achieved a little bit more exposure.  I always knew, from the bitter experiences of many other great bloggers around at the time that the nasty dmca folk would one day come knocking on my door.  When they did, what hurt most of all was the google/blogger policy at the time which was to remove not just the links to the mp3s but also the words which accompanied them.  Later on, the policy was amended so that an ‘offending’ post was re-set to draft allowing the author, having removed the links, to re-post the words. But of course google/blogger would only allow this to happen so often and after repeated offences then close down the blog altogether as they did with TVV in July 2013.  Looking back, the mistake I made was inviting all sorts of guest posts without considering that many of them were featuring singers or bands or labels who were fond of doing the dmca thing.

I haven’t had nearly as many problems since switching to wordpress, but then again the number of daily hits is probably around half of what it was at the peak of TVV, so to some extent I’m back under the radar. And what I’ve also noticed is that rather than bring any offences to the attention of wordpress , the dmca notices are served on my file host which is box.net whose policy is to remove the offending file and inform me by e-mail.  The result of all that means if someone clicks on the link they will find it’s not there….but the words will be.  And if by chance there’s a handful of songs related to the posting but only one of the songs has caused offence then it’s likely the non-offensive numbers will still be there for a reader’s enjoyment.

Much to my surprise, the band that seems to give me more problems than any these days is Belle & Sebastian.  I’ve mentioned this in passing before and it would seem it is probably, in the main, the actions of their US label and operations rather than the folk over here.  Tempting as it is to stick two fingers up to the man, I’m in a good mood as it is the start of a holiday weekend and I’m not at work today or next Monday.  So instead, I will post the 7″ single  which got me the first nasty dmca notice:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – Chelsea Girl
mp3 : Simple Minds – Garden of Hate

chelseagirl

Dating all the way back to 1979 and released on Zoom Records, a subsidiary of Arista. For those of you who only know and dislike Simple Minds from their stadium-rock era and chart hits from the mid 80s onwards should give it a listen. You’ll be very surprised at how good they were back in the days…..but that’s a story for a future detailed posting.

I really like the cover of this particular single. It’s by an artist called Thomas Roland Rathmell.

Enjoy

I THINK ONE OF MY READERS MIGHT BE ONTO SOMETHING…

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Last week this comment was left behind by Ian Balentine:-

“Theme For Great Cities was totally ripped off for the Radiohead song “Where I End And You Begin” from Hail To The Thief. Not saying that’s a bad song, I just wish they’d give SImple MInds a songwriting credit. Listen side by side and you’ll cringe.”

It’s been a long long while since I listened to Hail To The Thief in its entirety so I fished out the copy from the CD shelves.  Lo and behold……

mp3 : Radiohead – Where I End And You Belong (The Sky Is Falling In)

mp3 : Simple Minds – Theme For Great Cities

I have to add that all these years later I heard lots of cracking things on Hail To The Thief that passed me on its release in 2003. It’s still a bit hit’nmiss in places but there’s a lot more to enjoy about it than I previously recalled. And its opening track is an absolute belter.  Here it is with the other tracks that were on the two CD singles:-

mp3 : Radiohead – 2+2 =5

mp3 : Radiohead – Remyxomatosis (Christian Vogel RMX)

mp3 : Radiohead – There There (first demo)

mp3 : Radiohead – Skttrbrain (Four Tet remix)

mp3 : Radiohead – I Will (Los Angeles version)

Be warned…..there’s loads of electronic noodling on these mixes of tracks that all made the final cut of the LP.  Havingsaid that, the 7 minute plus version of There There is fascinating just to compare it to the later version and mix that was released as a single.

Enjoy

CONTINUING WITH THE ‘S’ THEME OF THE PAST FEW DAYS

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They chose a career path of anthemic tunes that brought them fame and fortune across most of the planet but left quite a few folk who had loved the earlier material scratching their heads in disbelief.

Simple Minds made a lot of great music at the beginning of their career.  If they had broken up before the chart hits then I’m sure they would be held in the very highest of regards and quoted by many of today’s young musicians as being a huge influence. They would be seen as part of the art-rock movement and not pioneers of arena cum stadium rock.

Listen without prejudice.

mp3 : Simple Minds – Premonition (John Peel Session)

mp3 : Simple Minds – Changeling

mp3 : Simple Minds – Theme For Great Cities

mp3 : Simple Minds – Sweat In Bullet

Theme For Great Cities comes highly recommended to all fans of Magazine and the keyboard skills of Dave Formula.

Enjoy.