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barrowland star

Written by: Kerr / Burchill

BMG Rights Management (UK) Ltd

Barrowland Star was a reworking of an old B-side from the Good News From The Next World sesions called Celtic Strings.

I feel fortunate to have one of the rare, original, decorative stars that previously hung from the ceiling of the world famous Barrowland ballroom in Glasgow. Now framed, it hangs on the wall of my study at home.

Straight out of the 1950s, it is made out of bakelite in my opinion, and coloured a greenish, yellow, space-age hue. Both Charlie Burchill and I have one each, generously gifted to us by a family friend, however we are not the only ones to have treasured them. Or "trousered them"... as the case may be?

For legend has it that "During David Bowie's visit on July 22nd 1997 when, as he walked across the stage, a small star – custom made and something of a Ballroom signature – fell from the ceiling and landed at his feet. Bowie is believed to have picked it up and slipped it into a trouser pocket, although debate rages as to whether the star fell or was simply taken – a common practice among performing artists. Regardless, legend has it that he took the acquired star back to France – where it took pride of place in his then Paris home."

I like that legend. However there are countless legends about Barrowlands, some of which may have made me want to pay tribute to that temple of live music, where for more than half a century people have gone to dance and sing, forget the world and leave their troubles behind etc. And that I have done with the lyrics Barrowland Star - track 6 on the forthcoming Simple Minds album Walk Between Worlds.

It is said that more than 2,000 headline acts have taken to the stage at Barrowlands, and no doubt each will have contributed to the history of one of the world's genuine "rock n roll temples. "But perhaps more than any other, the Barrowland is possibly synonymous - or most closely associated - with Simple Minds. After all, it was ourselves and our amazing local fans, given the chance to bring it back from the dead. As The Times reported recently: "The venue and the building that houses it may well have continued a terminal decline that originally began in the 1970s were it not for Scottish band Simple Minds and their decision to shoot their music video for 1983 single Waterfront in the main hall. Filmed as a straightforward concert performance with hundreds of fans brought in to replicate the energy of a live show, it would mark a change in fortunes for the Ballroom after several years of decline brought about by the rise of disco and consequent lack of demand for live music. Its unique atmosphere encouraged the band to play a full set after wrapping the video and would prompt them to organise further shows at the venue – a move that breathed new life into the main hall and lead to its reinvention as a premiere destination for touring artists."

Jim Kerr
14th December 2017

PP: "One of the songs on the new album, Barrowland Star, you have something I haven't heard before – a sort of David Bowie feel."
JK: "Yes, I'll go into that. One of the first things you mentioned when I was speaking to you was memorabilia. Barrowland is this legendary music venue that goes back to the 1950s – it's like a Roseland Ballroom. I don't think the Roseland Ballroom's going anymore but it goes back to our parents, or maybe our grandparents, danced there to big band jazz and when rock and roll came along everyone went there. But it's had a rich past. It was closed for years, because of violence and then it became dilapidated, and then Simple Minds, at the height of our popularity, got the chance to open up the ballroom again. It's gone on to become almost worldwide... If you were to ask The Foo Fighters their five favourite venues then I'm sure they would say Barrowland. David Bowie played there really late into his career – I guess it would be one of his last gigs – and the Barrowland has this Art Deco ceiling of all these stars, it's almost like a galaxy and the stars occasionally fall off. No-one has been injured yet but when Bowie was sound-checking one fell off, he picked it up and he took it back to his flat (in Paris or New York or wherever it is)."
JK: "I also have one of the stars. It was given to me as a piece of memorabilia. I have it up in my writing room. And it was just calling out to me: "Write about this place. Write about what it meant to be there." It was almost like a hallowed ground. And, at the same time I couldn't detract the Bowie story from it. And it's been two years and we're all affected by Bowie's death – we're still carrying it around with us – those people who have been influenced by him. And it's all in that story Barrowland Star".

Goldmine Interview
January 2018

JK: There's about three different strands going through [it]. I said earlier about if I'd had my way, I'd have made it a lot longer. But Barrowland – you will know it Steve and people listening to this record station would've heard of Barrowland, the famous venue in Glasgow – it's now become world wide famous now. If you talk to the Foo Fighters, talk to Iggy Pop, talk to John Lydon, Barrowland would be in their top five gigs. And it runs through the history of us. Because, before we were even born, our parents, and aunts and uncles, all went there to dance in the 1950s – it was built in the 1950s and it's seen big bands, swing, jazz, rock and roll. And when we were growing up it was closed because that part of town became very edgy, there were a few... Charlie was talking about it earlier...
CB: [Laughs] The Taggart thing? "There were a few murders there."
JK: It sounds like Taggart when Charlie says that one.[Laughs] "There were a few murders in the ballroom." It's a great title for a song.
JK: They closed the venue for years. Barrowland – who would go there? And then Simple Minds – we did this video for a song called Waterfront – and the director said "Maybe we could open up Barrowland?" And you imagined blood on the walls and all that. Anyway, we opened it and it went great. And the place as thrived ever since. So that's the first part.
JK: The second part – it's got this amazing roof. Kind of chessy – the ceiling's full of stars –and occasionally a star – which are made of Bakelite – they fall off. Charlie and I have got one each – they were gifted us and I have one in my little writing room. But low and behold – and this is well documented in a book – David Bowie was playing – and of course it would – during a soundcheck a star fell from the ceiling. And he took it back with him. He took it as a piece of memorabilia.
JK: So when we were working on the song, it was just at the time of Bowie's passing. So the track tries to channel all of that. And you can hear the Bowie influence. Certainly the voice. It's a homage – I hope it's not a parody. Charlie's Mick Ronson glam guitar goes through it. It's just one of these tracks – and we're really looking forward to playing that there – in about three week's time.

Jim Kerr, Charlie Burchill and Steve Lamacq
Steve Lamacq Show
BBC Radio 6
24th January 2018

AW: "Barrowland Star is probably my personal favourite on the record, it’s such a progressive song. Although it’s a new song, some elements of the track go right the way back to a demo that Charlie wrote in 1998 (sic). At that time, Charlie stored his compositions on a now outdated cartridge back up system which I also used, but all of the technical specs have changed so much that we just couldn’t get anything from it. But we were so into the basic track we were hearing, and Jim had written this great lyric over it. I loved the feeling of it being about a band, dreaming of playing at the Barrowland. For me, in my early days, we dreamed of playing the Marquee and the Hammersmith Odeon, but if you were in Glasgow, you dreamed about playing the Barrowland – and it’d be the biggest thing you could ever hope to achieve. Bear in mind that they went on to play Live Aid and at stadiums all over the world and it gives it an extra poignancy – but I really bought into the dream of the song, which includes Charlie’s sensational guitar solo. We did some work putting together a new version and then, against all the odds, Charlie managed to access the data – so we had all of the original parts available to incorporate into the final version."

AW: But we knew we weren’t finished – for one thing, we wanted to really bring out Charlie’s original Kurzweil string parts. I had been working with iconic Scottish composer Peter Vetesse, and suggested he develop an orchestra part for the track. Peter knows the band from working with them on a previous album, and the idea of him doing it just seemed to fit with the spirit of the piece. We all loved the arrangement Peter put together and felt we had to record it at Abbey Road, Studio 2 – the touchstone for anything like that. We ended up bringing in a twenty-four piece string orchestra, and the result, I think, is phenomenal."

AW: At Abbey Road we also recorded the orchestra for Walk Between Worlds – with another great string arrangement, this time by Sam Swallow, and it ended up being the title track of the album."

Andy Wright and Gavin Goldberg
Producers Interview
March 2018

JK: The famous thing about the Barrowlands is that - it has many famous attributes - but this is like a sprung dance floor, so whenever the crowd jumps up and down, it's exaggerated and I have to say at this point as you can see above us the original ceiling with its stars canopy. I've got one of the original stars in my house, in my work room at home; thankfully it was presented to me...
JL: I was going to say you didn't nick it?
JK: No. But Bowie's got one. Dylan got one. Bowie really wanted one; he was a star. And so much so, a couple of years ago, this star – the vibes from this thing - it would be great to write a song somehow, but nothing was clicking. And two years ago, I'm ashamed to say I forget the name of the band, I was walking through Glasgow, and Glasgow's just like this, a guy came up to me and said "I saw you three weeks ago. It was great" and all that. "Can you believe my son's playing at the Barrowlands tonight." And I said "Really. Who's your son?" And he told me the name of the band – they were opening for someone - and he said "The Barrowlands! Can you believe that? They're playing the Barrowlands!" That's how much it meant, and that's how much it still means to artists. And I went home later that day, and I wrote about being a Barrowland star – I was writing... I wasn't writing about us, I was writing about his son that I'd never met and don't know, but the excitement of walking on stage and proving yourself in the Barrowlands was, and is, such a big deal to any rock and roll band it's worth its salt really.

Jim Kerr and Janice Long
The Long Walk
BBC Radio 2
12th July 2018

"I wouldn't want to have to decide my favourite Charlie Burchill guitar solo. But if forced, I think his work on Barrowland Star represents some kind of peak. He never wanted to be a typical guitar hero, and nothing he plays is ever what you would call 'typical.' Currently however, whenever we set about working on new songs, he often pick up the guitar as a last resort. Moving from his keyboards to do so. It's always worth the wait however, as an already good idea begins to soar to another level in quality - and magic fills the room." - Jim, 9th January 2020

Did we think those days would last forever?
And there, across the bridge, under the bold neon stars
We’d sacrifice ourselves for something better

Let’s think about, let’s think about it, you and me
No mistakes, no, no other way

I could feel the fever hour coming nearer
Put our jackets on the bad days were gone
The night was coming on to be Barrowland Stars
Trauma in our heads was let go instead
And all we ever wanted was there to touch
All around us said ‘You’ll be Barrowland Stars’

Did we think those days would last forever?
Those broken circles once more time come together

Let’s think about it, let’s think about it, let’s think about it
You and me, you and me

Feel the fever Barrowland Stars
Creeping nearer Barrowland Stars
Blood was rushing we were Barrowland Stars
Was no mistake, was no, no other way

I could feel the fever hour coming nearer
Put our jackets on the bad days were gone
The night was coming on to be Barrowland Stars
Trauma in our heads was let go instead
And all we ever wanted was there to touch
All around us said ‘We’d be Barrowland Stars’
I could feel the fever hour coming nearer
Put our jackets on the bad days were gone
The night was coming on to be Barrowland Stars
Trauma in our heads was let go instead
And all we ever wanted was there to touch
All around us said ‘We’d be Barrowland Stars’

Barrowland Star

Album Version (6:25)
Produced by Andy Wright, Gavin Goldberg and Simple Minds
Mixed by Gavin Goldberg
Assisted by Lewis Chapman

Walk Between Worlds Promo CD Walk Between Worlds LP Walk Between Worlds Limited Edition Deluxe LP (Blue) Walk Between Worlds Limited Edition Deluxe LP (Pink) Walk Between Worlds Limited Edition Picture LP Walk Between Worlds CD Walk Between Worlds Limited Edition Deluxe CD
Live Version (24th October 2018) (6:26)
Recorded: Orpheum Theatre, Los Angeles, California, USA
Recorded by: Olivier Gerard
Produced by: Andy Wright
Mixed by: Gavin Goldberg
Assisted by: Lewis Chapman

Live In The City Of Angels 4xCD Promo Live In The City Of Angels 4xCD Limited Edition

live history
Walk Between Worlds: 2018
Walk Between Worlds Summer Tour: 2018