Pub rock in Glasgow in the late 1970s wasn’t any big deal. Due to restrictive licensing laws which the Church seemed to have a big say in, boozers didn’t have the option to charge admission for gigs and when acts were booked for places like the Dial Inn they were usually of the human jukebox variety.
Okay, the Burn’s Howff might be considered an exception but that was a rockers joint, full of hairy arsed hippies and bikers wanting to hear Lynyrd Skynyrd or Nazareth soundalikes – actually Nazareth themselves played there back in the day. Maggie Bell’s Stone the Crows also took to the Howff stage and Alex Harvey first met up with the future members of SAHB there. Later, the Mars Bar became another exception, famously boasting the early career of Simple Minds by giving them a Sunday night residency in 1978.
Simple Minds were neither a human jukebox nor longhaired rockers and in comparison to these types of acts they looked as if they came from another planet (Mars or otherwise). Pub bands just didn’t wear make-up or have a well thought out visual identity; they didn’t have any (albeit minimal) light show, introductory Eno-esque tape, dancers and they seldom took themselves so absolutely seriously or if they did they certainly wouldn’t show it.
NME’s Ian Cranna watched them that October and enthused about the ‘magic fusion’ of their arty old wave favourites with ‘the fertile firepower of the New Wave’, concluding, ‘they create not just startlingly good rock music but a whole show, an event.’ He couldn’t recall the last time he’d witnessed such an exciting yet thoughtful talent, likewise his NME colleague Glenn Gibson soon joined in the rush to heap praise on the hot new band, calling them astonishing after watching them support – and outshine – 999 at Glasgow Uni.
Before the year was out Simple Minds also filled in as support act for The Only Ones at the Astoria in Edinburgh, The Stranglers in Aberdeen, Ultravox and then Squeeze in Grangemouth and Siouxsie and The Banshees at Glasgow’s Apollo.
Not surprisingly, several major labels began sniffing around including Arista. Bruce Findlay, who’d only recently signed a licensing deal with that label, allowing them to distribute his Zoom releases, had an brainwave: Jim Kerr had told him that he wished they ‘could get the money and clout that a major label could give us but with the independence and kudos that being with a small independent label brings,’ so Findlay asked Arista if they would give him the money to fund Simple Minds. They agreed and so he lured them on to Zoom, then home to The Zones, Nightshift and The Questions.
Once signed, the boys wasted little time beginning work on what would become their debut L.P, originally intended to be called Children of the Game, before being re-titled Life in a Day.
Here is the title track:
And just in case you were wondering who else was featured on the Old Grey Whistle Test that night then here’s your answer and I’m guessing a few Springsteen fans might have been slightly pissed off by whoever compiled that day’s Evening Times TV listings:
Simple Minds also played the Third Eye Centre back in 1978, a venue that after much renovation evolved into the CCA, which still hosts live music including last summer an evening featuring The Secret Goldfish, whose new album, Petal Split, is just out on Creeping Bent.
The Secret Goldfish arrived like a breath of fresh air during the peak of Britpop with a breezy indie pop sound that brought them quickly to the attention of John Peel, who invited them to record a couple of sessions for his show and perform at the Meltdown Festival he curated in 1998.
Before the end of the 1990s they’d released a number of singles, split singles, EPs and a couple of albums.
Then they went all J.D. Salinger.
So, it’s been eighteen years since their last album but within moments of opener O. Pioneers kicking off Petal Split, listeners will be reassured that the band haven’t misplaced their knack of making great music.
That bright pop pulse rarely gives way all the way through to the closer, their version of the Edwyn Collins penned Ain’t That Always The Way which recalls Nouvelle Vague fronted by a Scottish Sarah Cracknell – some bloggers out there will likely disagree with this opinion but I do prefer Katy McCullar’s cute coo here to Paul Quinn’s cowboy croon on the 1985 original.
In between these tracks there’s plenty of zippy guitars, flouncy melodies and uplifting choruses that display the band’s love of everything from 60’s girl groups to C86 – oh and their version of Vic Godard’s Outrageous Things is pretty much irresistible and a real highlight although my favourite track (at least at the moment) might just be Winter Tears #2, a melancholy nugget that ends before even reaching the two minute mark.
This is the lead single from the album, Amelia Star, a track I liked on first hearing and which I’ve liked even more on each subsequent hearing: