11 Jan, 2014 Be Careful How The Small Things Grow!
At the age of 13, Charlie Burchill’s mother gifted him an acoustic guitar. His elder brother showed him how to play a few chords and couple of tunes, almost instantly the world of music opened up to him. Or at least that is how Charlie told me he started out as a guitar player.
A little later my own parents bought for me, though hire purchase, the cheapest electric keyboard available from a music store situated in Glasgow’s city centre.The day it arrived was arguably the most exciting day in my life.
Seemingly it caused a lot of excitement throughout our building also, with so many friends and neighbours knocking on our door, plainly keen to see what all the fuss was about. Unfortunately some of them were back knocking a few days later, informing me that they would like me to “Turn the f**king horrible noise down!”
Charlie, who lived across the street from me and had become a friend by then, had already worked out how to play a few piano chords in addition to what he already knew about the guitar. He demonstrated them to me and while doing so he taught me how to play a couple of tunes. Soon after though, I realised that I would never “cut it” as a keyboard player, and that I should maybe think about something else. Which of course is what I did.
(Actually I am still not quite sure I can cut it as a lead singer, but I am determined not to give up trying…. yet.)
Simultaneously, some of our then class mates, including Joe Donnelly and Tony Donald, also successfully harrangued their hard working parents into advancing them pocket money enough to purchase second hand musical instruments. And well, lo and behold, we potentially had within our midst both a rhythm guitarist and a bassist, respectfully.
In terms of development beyond that? Brian Mc Gee had announced in Latin class, that he was about to take hold of his very own drums. ( Latin? They were attempting teaching Latin in a Glasgow comprehensive school full of tower block kids! No, I am not joking!)
In any case that was truly a big deal, as seemingly no one at our school had any sort of drum kit. Equally exciting however was the news that – should we want to get together – and play? Then Brian’s parents would have no problem with us getting together to mess around in the basement of their house. A basement that was almost bigger than the house that I then lived in. What luck?
It would be about 4 years later from then, and a lot of events in-between. However, 4 of us who “messed about” in the Mc Gee’s family basement, eventually went on to feature in the first ever Simple Minds gig. Being so, it is right to say that the genesis of our band began in the basement of that house in Pollokshields, Glasgow. It is also right to acknowledge the generosity of all of our parents.
In truth that was how many bands of our generation got started. Nothing special then, nothing unique in terms of how groups formed. On the other hand, not many from our neck of the woods were bothering themselves with the kind of absurd dreams we had. No one we knew had plans to form a band and take it all around the world.
Whenever asked to look back on those early events from the position that our lives has taken us until now, it is difficult not to dwell with some amazement on the notion of how from the smallest of things, including actions and gestures, that much bigger things really can grow. And no doubt about it, we really started out with not very much at all. Beyond that is, our own unending desire to not only play music, but to also write and eventually record our own songs.
But how was it then that we were to gradually begin to create things out of not so much at all? None of us had any music teaching or any kind of mentoring whatsoever.Likewise there was no one around that we could ask for guidance, and certainly no manual or guide book to which we could refer.
The reality is that we started to invent ourselves and our sound – out of necessity. Music was what we wanted to involve our lives with. We were serious in that, deadly so. And once committed, the rest was “in the doing.”As it is with everything.
A big natural bonus was our character trait(s). With a ton of grit, and a cute but “bolshie” attitude in equal proportion. We soon learned to overlook adversities and disappointments that all fledgling outfits face. As a natural reflex we also conveniently found a way to smile at any kind of critics that pointlessly tried to get in our way. “Not worth bothering about!” we’d say. As indeed we do to this day. (Not that we are beyond criticism. But it is sometimes difficult to pay that much attention to critics that have never written a song, made a record, or stood on a stage. And therefore know little of what is truly involved?)
And why do I feel the need to write about all this today? The answer is that I don’t. My mind is on the future, especially concerning this year and the new songs we are working on for release. Cannot tell you how excited I am about those.
Nevertheless, I spent a good deal of yesterday doing interviews with media in Germany and Scandinavia, all in support of the upcoming dates. It seemed like almost everyone I spoke to wanted me to cast my mind back to the very beginning of Simple Minds. Leaving me to conclude that someone must be interested in how it all began.