Thursday 14 January 2021

SIMPLE MINDS: Glittering Prize 81/92


(#46424 October 1992, 3 weeks)

Track listing:  Waterfront/Don’t You (Forget About Me)/Alive and Kicking/Sanctify Yourself/Love Song/Someone, Somewhere In Summertime/See The Lights/Belfast Child/The American/All The Things She Said/Promised You A Miracle/Ghostdancing/Speed Your Love To Me/Glittering Prize/Let There Be Love/Mandela Day


(Author's Husband's Note: Although this piece is written by Lena Friesen, it proved easier, for technical reasons, for me to post it under my name. Other than undertaking some routine blog admin and putting in links as indicated on her draft, I have left Lena's words exactly as she wrote them. - M.C.)


“No one noticed the flying woman.”  Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart, pg. 17  (February 2020)


“Tell me why you use the balcony.”

“I’m looking for daylight.”  Lanark, Alasdair Gray, pg. 3 (February 1981)



“PROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMIISSSED land, great times, in commotion...”


Is there even a way into this


“I‘ve come so far ALREADY” (#295 , #323,  #347, #386)


Do I remember early 1981, the deliberate theatrics, how everything in that year of years stood for itself, father deciding to go back to Canada, and mom and me and the cats following in July*?  None of us wanted to go, but we had to...

But by then, it had already happened, a group I’d never heard of were in the US when it happened, and took that back home with them, to reflect and make into a work of art itself...the hostages freed, the 1980s really beginning in earnest....

The songs unfurling, doppling, urgent:  “out of voice, out of breath”.....


And then that cold brilliant crisp day when I finally got Sons and Fascination and listened to it ...and somehow it responded to me too... “Looking at you/you looking at me” the cold brilliance of the weather fusing with the music

Was I the American they were describing, ignorant, “what do you know about this world anyway?”....playing with the word, rolling it around...and then that line, “here comes the flag” be an American outside of America, knowing that bright blinding sunshine is be something, but set aside, as if no, that is not where you belong, you are headed somewhere else...towards the music....the world somehow becoming much bigger...

And the next song, “20th Century Promised Land” – was that my home?  I had to say that it was, but how much?  Circumstances had pushed me out yet again, I had to adjust, I had to look outwards, I had to accept that I could never live there...but I could never be anything else.  No one said being an American was easy...”ringing out footsteps, calling out steel heels....great times in commotion.”  And I see my country in trouble** and here’s Jim Kerr:  “be damned a lot but not disheartened!”....Michael McNeil keyboards soar as Jim proclaims “PPPPRRRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMIIIIIIISSSSSEED  LAAAAND” and Brian McGee pounds his drums like a man possessed, desperately signalling for help. 

In the swirling mess I can’t even tell you what song comes from where, as the Canadian versions of this and Sister Feelings Call were different from the UK ones.  But ultimately that doesn’t matter.  Oh to have that pacific grace of Derek Forbes’ bass on “In Trance As Mission”....

Just what is going on?  Oh, are they talking about me, the one who is outside and unable to see, but “walk on in LIIIIIIIIIIIGGGGGGGGHT...I WWAAAAAAANNNNNNT TO WAAAAAAALLLLLK” Where is this light?  Is he looking for the brilliant light, is it with us Americans only?  Where are they from, anyway?

I pushed this aside at the time.  They’re from Scotland?  At the time this meant not too much, other than as the fact itself.  Scotland, not England.


Did I even *know* how prophetic all this was going to be

But all this energy had to come from somewhere, a force this strong is not just a reaction, now is it

The vast machine of “70 Cities As Love Brings The Fall” and the horns and sirens and action, and could I be part of this?  Could our moving back be the start of something much bigger?  On a cold bright day in late January all seems possible....”something’s going somewhere”

That song! A switch is turned on and the whole band appears

Charlie Burchill’s guitar nooks and crannies, comments, like a jazz player, a second voice


America’s a boyfriend?  Could I love another place like it was a boyfriend?  Nonsense.  I didn’t even have an actual boyfriend, but what boy could love this album as much as me?  Tugging me, making me see, reflecting on me in a not unkind way.  “In glory days that come and go...”

To meet someone like this was unthinkable.  “All alone...”

In the meantime, have I been...delivered from something?  No more sense of having to blindly pledge; though I still belong to ‘the republic for which it stands.’  Those words I learned before we ever left the first time, ones I whispered to my father, as if it was a secret....Sons andFascination (itself a whisper away from ‘fascism’)....the terrible beauty and beautiful terror of my home country will always stick with me, and people will always ask me why I all begins here.....

September 1981:  Sons and Fascination is released, and I have an awful first term at high school, sitting it seems permanently at the lunch table almost no one sits at.  To reel myself back to that time and see that something good was happening, that these harsh sighs and busy, restless music were...meant for me?  Or I corresponded with them.  An idea was planted, a modest one – go towards this music.  Get to it.


A year later, and the brilliant days hinted at...a way out?  Could I, never known to cast glamour, claim this as my own?


It is as if the group who sang abstractedly to me personally could I take this?...encouraging me that something miraculous was going to happen, though how could I know this even at the time?  I had to run to this music, throw myself into it, knowing it would catch me, but knowing nothing else...”love waits for faith, then chance, then chance will see”


I can only see these things looking back but how often did this occur to me before now?

“Someone Up There Likes You” – A title like a promise, a long summer evening warmth, a thumbnail moon hanging and silently rising, like the dream of a sleek airport, knowing there is someone there on the other side who....likes me?

Is this me being pulled by the music?  Or am I gripping on to it like a rope, climbing towards the light?







Is this a sign, a wonder?  “And the city takes....”  Is it really going to be this good?  HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE? “Dreaming the dream of me” yes THIS HAPPENED WHAT WHAT

Charlie Burchill just casually playing jazz as if this is TOTALLY NORMAL

Oh yeah, I mean I may as well parse this out as best I can.  1984 does count.  My whole French class got to go to Paris during March break except, yes, me.  My parents could not afford it.***  Years later I get to go to London as a late gift, Christmas 1987, the last Christmas my father was at all alive.  I went in the summer of 1988.  “And the world goes hot, and the city takes, and the beat goes crashing all along the way....” And him there at the same time, though I could not know it....

Listen to the 12” and the overpowering emotions shimmer and pulse...81..82...83...84..they/I are jumping into the FUTURE....

That lightning striking the power pole, sending out pink sparks/ the deep red electricity hazing across the night sky

I know all this seems like hyperbole, and I had a few pretty catastrophic semi-relationships way before this century, but Simple Minds said it would happen, and I kept faith, naively, not ever knowing I would meet someone from their OWN HOME CITY OF GLASGOW

I mean, WHAT



But I could only take all this personally because of Sons and Fascination, an album of solid funk and high alarm, not a romantic album in the least – I could not help but buy it that cold day, no usual dithering on my part, I was pulled

Then the white soul music of New Gold Dream 81-82-83-84 as if that was the guarantee, after so much loss and disappointment and loneliness, that someone would be there in the summertime

This is what David Toop doesn’t mean by the ocean of sound, my ocean actually exists as if held up by the music itself (or is that what he means) or maybe I just leaned into the music so much it became part of me, forming me as much as any food or drink or even air, that second time crossing the Atlantic was not going to fail me, because he was from Glasgow

Of all the terrible but beautiful of cities in the early 80s, ‘no mean city’ (wasn’t that phrase used for Toronto as well though?)....but I met him in London, him looking at me as if I was that promise, the new-found-land, 03-04-05-06 as it was, a little late but I could imagine Jim and Charlie high-fiving and saying ABOUT TIME

Just as I was about the last person in what, all of Canada (I exaggerate, but it felt that way) to get Sons and Fascination, I was the last of my social circle (as it stood in late ’92) to find the right person.  Me standing on the balcony on New Year’s Day/Hogmanay 2005, yelling out that I knew it was him that he was the one, that the promised awesomeness WAS going to happen, that I was ready to have that golden sunlight glinting off the tower downtown mean something for me....(that tower is how New Gold Dream feels come to think of it....)

They may as well have called these the Prophecies and Predictions albums****, I spent so much of this time looking for such things

Now gracefully I would like to point out that I nearly had the chance to write about their 1991 album Real Life, if only a Scottish compatriot (Annie Lennox via Eurythmics) hadn’t got to number one first.  No matter – “See The Lights” might come across as a bit random, an admission of sorrow and hope, the punctum being the bell (signifying light, the light Lanark is always striving to find – the bell Lanark rings when his son is born) and Jim singing about how he’s too proud to cry (he at least asks forgiveness for this) and I’m but but you sang “Don’t cry tears you’re only wasting water/some say God only LOVES THE PROUUUUUUUUUUUUD” on “20th Century Promised Land.” That spinning top of a song, but the spinning is slowed here, the lights now present and manifest, at last.  “Let There Be Love” is a shuffling cry, a longing, more than an expectation or indeed a promise. 

That this compilation ends with “Mandela Day” is of course fitting, but what does it hark back to?  “Seeing Out The Angel” of course, a song where a slow patient wonder happens, “colourful breathless emotional sea....” Days of being young, crying, being alone, but also with that wonder which keeps you going, despite so much going against was there in 1981, 1989 and it is here still, if needed

I now want to open this up a bit to recognize all those who were there, all the others, and yes I do get emotional about them too, in ways:  Altered Images, Associates, Aztec Camera, Big Country, The Blue Nile, Cocteau Twins, Endgames, The Fire Engines, Josef K, Thomas Leer, Leisure Process, Orange Juice, PhD, Scars...the shocks and longeurs and good humor and beauty of Scottish music is something I was always taken aback by, and still am....

And let me extend my hand across metaphorical time to those to come who bear the mark of Simple Minds, whether they know it or not:  #568 (and onwards), #627 (OH YES and onwards), #758 (play “Changeling” and the influence is abundantly clear), even up to #874 (as strenuously as he might deny it, I’d expect)....and more to come, more and more...but what would Simple Minds say if I told them all this?

“Stop!  Don’t tell me.  My fictions often anticipate the experiences they’re based upon, but no author should rely on that sort of thing.” (Lanark, pg. 483)


For Alasdair Gray but especially Beverley Jean Gray, my mother, for letting me fly twice



*The same week as Jim Kerr’s birthday, actually.  Need I add that my last American address was on McGee Avenue in Berkeley?

**And I see my country in trouble and I listen obsessively to Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings Call.

***I had a fresh bad dream about this, it really did hurt. 

****I used to read Prophecies and Predictions by Moira Timms out of the high school/public library and wondered if there was anything in it for me...looking in the wrong place, as usual....