Wednesday, December 17, 2014

life in a day

Simple Minds walked a crooked mile and looked deep inside to create this pleasantly disturbed post punk prelude.  As the first wave of punk hit Glasgow, childhood friends Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill got hooked up with local scenemaker Alan Cairnduff and his friend John Milarky, who were forming a  band called Johnny & The Self-Abusers.  Kerr and Burchill brought their schoolmates Brian McGee and Tony Donald and Milarky recruited his buddy Alan McNeil and they all adopted punk pseudonyms:  Milarky as "Johnnie Plague", Kerr as "Pripton Weird", McNeil as "Sid Syphilis" and Burchill as "Charlie Argue".  The band got signed to indie label Chiswick and released one single "Saints and Sinners" / "Dead Vandals" before breaking up (on the day it was released) over tensions between the different factions in the group.  Milarky and McNeil left to start The Cuban Heels, while the remaining quartet changed their name to Simple Minds, taking the name from a line in Bowie's "Gene Genie".  

 Duncan Barnwell and  Mick MacNeil joined the group and their new manager Bruce Findlay used his connections and their new demo tape to get them signed to Arista Records.  Donald quit and was replaced by Barnwell's friend Derek Forbes took his place before Barnwell himself was ousted.  The band became a local favorite.  Kerr remembers:    “There'd been a couple of riots at punk gigs in Glasgow, by The Stranglers and so the city fathers banned visiting punk bands. Well, we weren't visiting. So we were OK to play. And for two months, which then seemed like an eternity, there was a starvation of punk in Glasgow. So when we played, they were queuing round the block! There were Aberdeen punks, Dundee punks fighting Stirling punks – and it was horrendous, people jumping up and down, and me and Charlie looked at each other and said, “Wouldn't it be great to do this for real?...By this point, too, sequencers became cheap. Punk bands could get hold of them. Up until then they took up half a room. Later, Charlie discovered this guy who played in a crap wedding band with a synthesizer, a sequencer. He was an accordion player, originally, would you believe, did weddings, got interested in the sequencer, only listened to top 30 stuff. This was Michael McNeil. We brought him in, gave him all this Krautrock stuff... That was a very fortunate move.”

The working title was Children Of The Game.  Their first two choices of John Cale and John Anthony for producer were rejected by Arista, who agreed to their third choice John Leckie.  'Life in a Day' was "recorded at a very low temperature" on the grounds of Farmyard Studios in Amersham, in the Rolling Stones Mobile unit.  Final mixing was done at Townhouse and Abbey Road studios.  The album features Jim Kerr on vocals;   Charles Burchill on guitar, violin, and vocals;   Derek Forbes on bass and vocals;   Brian McGee on drums, percussion, and vocals;   and Michael MacNeil on keyboards and vocals.     

'Life in a Day'   charted at number thirty in the UK; but the band was not pleased with the polished sound.  Kerr reveals:   “That was sheer terror!  I have bittersweet emotions about that first album. Incredibly exciting, obviously. We were just starting to get a wee bit clever. We got a new keyboard in and he brought lots of frills and hooks. We got the deal, very exciting, John Leckie, the producer we wanted to work with even though we didn't know what a producer did, he'd worked with all these bands like XTC, Magazine... I remember at the time, the result sounded professional, sounded impressive, but I privately felt there was something not quite right with it which I couldn't articulate. No one else was saying anything, but... we went to press it, got the acetates, and as we were about to drive up to Scotland, someone gave me a cassette of Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division... and I thought, we've completely blown it. Our live stuff, our demos were a bit darker, more hints of the Velvets, etc, and no hint at all of The Boomtown Rats! I wanted to scrap it, make it again, but... I think we'd played the songs to death by the time we brought them to the studio, played around with them, got a bit clever with them and didn't reproduced them in their raw state.”

"Life in a Day"

"Chelsea Girl"

'Life in a Day'   
full album:

All lyrics written by Jim Kerr, all music composed by Charles Burchill and Jim Kerr.

Side A
1. "Someone"   3:42
2. "Life in a Day"   4:05
3. "Sad Affair"   2:45
4. "All for You"   2:51
5. "Pleasantly Disturbed"   7:59
Side B
6. "No Cure"   3:34
7. "Chelsea Girl"   4:34
8. "Wasteland"   3:45
9. "Destiny"   3:38
10. "Murder Story"   6:17

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