I know they’re Scottish, but the song that kept playing in my head in Ireland was Simple Minds’ “Belfast Child.”
There’s this place in the city called the Oh Yeah Music Centre. Kinda like that song by Roxy Music? I don’t think so, but you should check that one out, it’s the best song on 1980’s “Flesh And Blood,” after the band decided to reunite, if you were never infected by Bryan Ferry’s voice, you’ll get it after listening to this.
How can we drive to a movie show
When the music is here in my car
There’s a band playing on the radio
With a rhythm of rhyming guitars
That’s what it used to be like, sitting, parked, you and your honey, listening to the radio, revealing your truth as a prelude to physical interaction.
And, be sure to listen to the end, for Phil Manzanera’s subtle guitar solo. “Oh Yeah” is understated, yet majestic, from back when music was supposed to touch your soul as opposed to assault you.
Anyway, the Oh Yeah in Belfast was started by a bunch of locals, including Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol, at the end of the last decade, as a place for acts to get started, and there’s rehearsal space and offices and a mastering studio and a club and in the antechamber, painted on the walls, is a timeline of all the Belfast hits, some known and some unknown, at least to me, but if there was a denizen of Belfast involved the track is up there.
And I’d forgotten that Henry McCullough was from Belfast, but what stunned me was the endless number of hits by native son Gary Moore.
Most Americans know him from his work in Thin Lizzy.
And “Still Got The Blues” from his 1990 Virgin album of the same name. Do you know it? Phil Quartararo made it a hit when he took over the newly resuscitated Charisma in the U.S. Amazing what one person on a mission can do.
And then Mr. Moore was promptly forgotten over here, but when he succumbed to a heart attack induced by a night of drinking six years ago it was “Still Got The Blues” that played in my head, remember when guitarists were all infected by the Delta roots and returned there, back when guitars still mattered?
And U2 wasn’t from Belfast, and neither were the Simple Minds, but it was their songs that were playing in my brain so…
I pulled them up on Spotify.
And that’s when I found Simple Minds’ “Acoustic” album.
Actually, to be honest, which writers rarely are, because oftentimes the truth is messy and it doesn’t square with the story, I discovered the album a couple of months back but I did not give it as good a listen as I did last night in my hotel room in Belfast when it suddenly resonated, took me away, I couldn’t turn it off, I was afraid of breaking the mood.
And to tell you the truth, “Belfast Child” is not on it. The song I played first was “Sanctify Yourself.”
Is this the age of thunder and rage
MOST DEFINITELY! Even though the original was cut back in ’86, but like it says you’ve got to open your eyes (and your ears!) and if I didn’t tell you this was an acoustic recording you wouldn’t know, it’s nearly electrified, and it’s not slowed-down and sotto voce searching for meaning, it’s got just about the same energy as the original.
And I knew it way back then, but I got hooked when Virgin put out a double CD package “The Best of Simple Minds,” in 2001, I played it again and again for days, one of the cuts that resonated so much was “Sanctify Yourself.”
And “Waterfront.” Which is on “Acoustic” too. But it starts out more mellow, although it does build, but the original incarnation is a TEAR! It starts out with a bass bleating which sounds more like a Kraftwerk record than something organic but then the whole thing explodes, like fireworks at Disneyland, or an SSRI in your brain not long after you’ve taken it, and that bass continues to beat and Jim Kerr rides the track like a jockey, imploring the band to victory, it sounds nothing quite like anything else, it enraptures you, COME IN, COME OUT OF THE RAIN!!
Something they had to do yesterday in Southern California.
But my favorite track from that two CD compilation is “Let There Be Love.”
I missed it the first time around, even though I bought “New Gold Dream” back in ’82, on gold vinyl no less, I didn’t buy another LP thereafter, this was back when I was paying for music, before I started getting it for free, but someone sent me this Iva Davies CD and his cover of “Let There Be Love” resonates and it’s not on Spotify and you can hear it on YouTube here:
and I love it, but as magnificent as it is, it’s still shy of the original. Which is not quite as good as the less in-your-face positively stellar extended mix where you can luxuriate in the sound, bask in the orchestral greatness filling up not only your head but the entire damn space.
Now where was I?
No, that’s a joke, I know exactly where I am, making a parallel to Gary Moore, you see Simple Minds keep making music but without a champion in the States no one’s aware of it. It’s like “Acoustic” never came out, and if you’re a fan you want to hear it, I found “Glittering Prize” fascinating, the same song yet different from the original.
And at this point Jim Kerr is famous for marrying Chrissie Hynde and recording “Don’t You Forget About Me,” the hit from the “Breakfast Club” which made the band a household name, however briefly, and pissed Jim and the rest off, that’s right, let’s not forget Charlie Burchill, who architected the sound, funny how these guys spearhead one band and never cross-pollinate, you’d think so many people would want to work with him and get some of that magic and…
I became a dyed-in-the-wool Simple Minds addict with 1995’s “Good News From The Next World,” an aural assault from back in ’95 it was the last release in America for so long, the last one to make a dent, but it starts off on a tear and stays there, but the track you’ve positively got to hear, that encapsulates the genius of this LP, has all the magic, is “7 Deadly Sins,” not that I expect you to check it out, either you’re young and listening to hip-hop or old and need no more new music, but back then, when music was still scarce, we’d go to somebody’s house and they’d play a track for us that we couldn’t get out of our head and then we’d have to end up owning it ourselves. “7 Deadly Sins” jerks you by the wrist and pulls you away, it squeezes out everyday life and when you crank it up you think music is the greatest thing in the world and with it riding shotgun you can win, even if the game is rigged, because you know it’s simply about how you feel and listening to it you feel GREAT!
But this all started with “Belfast Child.”
It went to number one in the U.K. back in ’89, it’s meaningless over here, but one listen will tell you otherwise.
It’s based upon the old Irish folk song “She Moved Through The Fair,” but it’s got Kerr’s lyrics and that Simple Minds melding of majesty and melody, this is music that’s subtle yet can change the world, “Oh Yeah” is intimate, playing to you and me, “Belfast Child” is playing to everybody!
And the song starts off a cappella, all quiet. And then the strings add support and gravitas but the sound that grabs you is the penny whistle, like on a Paul Brady record.
And if you think this is a wimpy number that belongs to the sands of time just wait until the drum starts to pound and the guitar starts to wail and the song starts to march through the streets and you cannot help but fall in behind.
Come back Billy, won’t you come on home
Come back Mary, you’ve been away so long
There was a brain drain, the Troubles sent the youth away, there was no opportunity, but with the ceasefire the emigrant sons and daughters began to return.
The streets are no longer empty, and life goes on.
And I won’t say that you can attribute this to music, but we all need strength to put one foot in front of another, get up every day and keep on keepin’ on, and there’s no fuel like music.
One day we’ll return here
When the Belfast Child sings again
He’s singing, I heard him, I can’t wait to return.