Archive for May, 2004

THE GREAT JIM PRIME

13 May 2004

I took this particular job because my wife was expecting our first baby — it offered everything — easy work, standard hours, long term and local. Just as well it has been such a dawdle; the baby came really early and things were pretty worrying for a while.

Things have settled down — wife and baby are home, and work moved out to site (still local though) and the money improved. We are staffing up.  I had been begging for a document controller for quite some time — so one of the girls in the head office got her wee student brother a summer job with us on site.  And that’s how I met Adrian.

Adrian was actually a “Commercial Music” student at The University of Paisley, and was also interested in web sites — so we got on great.  He was really likeable, and I was amazed that one of his lecturers was Jim Prime! Boy — there was a name I hadn’t heard for a zillion years!

Now, one person I have always admired — simply for their innate musicianship — is Jim Prime. But I also liked Jim for his great cartoons, and his sense of weird fun.

I met Jim at Langside College, where we had an absolute ball — we basically hung around an awful lot for a semester and more. I have no idea why Jim — who went to Glasgow Academy — wound up at Langside with me and the fabulous Alexis McLean, Saul Galpern, Visa, Tiki Smith, Val Gogan, Barbara Dunbar and the rest. Jeez, I am missing those guys and those days!

What a creative and artistic bunch we all were too – for example, Val starred in TV and movies — with Glen Close and Michele Pfeiffer and now does voice-overs on M&S TV commercials, and Saul created Nude Records in London, signed the likes of Suede and Simply Red and then went to Sony.

Now, how I ended up doing my highers in college is down to a weird series of events.

I was at Eastwood —  a senior secondary school in Renfrewshire. I started as an outsider (not having come from the usual “feeder” schools of Williamwood and Woodfarm), so I had to drift between different groups — on the one hand, I was a boring  engineering student — and in the geeky chess club and Air Training Corps with the likes of Alan Brewster.  However, I also played Rugby and did cross-country. This is how I got my school “colours” and various certificates.

On the other hand, I hung around with some of the stranger arty types who showed me air-brushing, magic mushrooms and Michael Moorcock. Outside of school, I did some Hospital Radio (Paisley),  wrote poems for greeting cards, articles for IPC magazines, and played the guitar.

The totally brilliant Tim Niblock introduced me to everything from Dux Deluxe to The Clash before becoming Scat Rabies and writing for NME. A chap called Floyd introduced me to  Elvis Costello, and I formed a punk band with Moray Robertson and some other reprobates.

I quickly formed a band with David Lambie and Russell Dyer, and we started writing what-we-hoped-would-become hits! because my pal Fergus Harper, along with Colin Woore and Geoff Dugmore hit the Big Time as “Scotch” — they won a competition, got a recording deal with a performance on The Basil Brush Show (wearing fair isle tanktops of all things), and — like so many of my pals back then — they moved to London.  I think it was Willesden Green. Same as Tim and Gary.

I remember that Ferg was always puking up before a gig, and at one of their gigs at the Bungalow Bar in Paisley, I told him I thought he might have a stomach ulcer like me. How they managed to do such fantastic gigs was beyond me — they were so great live those three! Funnily enough I met Geoff just a few years later — his dad had an office supplier shop in Muirend that we used — and he knew my girlfriend too, so he had to say “Hi” even though he was wearing outrageous black and white striped tight trousers that emphasised his bowl legs. I asked after Ferg, and he told me everyone was fine, but his drum kit had been stolen from his van in London! The band had changed name a couple of times, from The Pictures or something, and finally The Europeans and they were hiring out PAs! I think he said Alan Dalgleish (Rhona’s twin) was involved somehow. But I digress…

Anyway, back at school,  disaster struck — as a result of Rugby injuries I had both my legs in plaster casts and I missed a lot of school work. I got a guitar-playing physics tutor — and that’s a weird story in itself, but I’ll not go into it here.

This was how I ended up having to go to Langside College where I met Jim Prime.

I think we recognised that we were “outsiders” per se, and we immediately clicked as a result. Man, what a laugh we had — we did a fanzine, we fought over women, and we played some music.

When an old school pal — Alan Thomson — heard us, he was blown away.  He “interviewed” us for his band — “The Arthur Trout Band”, but I am no singer (plus, I am too “compositionally opinionated”!), and Dave Roy and Alan were better suited as guitarists than me.

Jim left us to play with them for a while — and I was glad to have introduced them to each other; both were superb musicians and it was pretty obvious they were going to make a living from playing music.

Jim did some serious musical stuff after that — I think he was director of music or something like that at Cumbernauld Community Centre!

Anyway, I was in a shop buying a TV and Jim came in — this would be in the mid 1980s.  A chap came in, grabbed a VCR and ran off!  Jim and I laughed and we went to The Doune Castle for a pint. What a remarkable day!

Jim had something on his mind.

He said that he had started seeing one of my ex’s (Cat) and had actually married her!  I was blown away! “Really?” (I didn’t know if he knew about Cat and me — even though it wasn’t really a Big Deal).  Nevertheless I  was a bit scared, wondering where this conversation was going.

Jim said that he had been down in London doing some session piano for John Martyn through Alan Thomson — Alan had called him up and they met up at his place.  They had a few beers and jammed.  Alan ran some tape.

“So?” I asked as I supped my pint.

“Well, then I got an invoice from Alan”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“No. Seriously — he even counted the beers”

He went on to say that Alan explained that this was how it all worked with the record labels — everything had to be invoiced and books kept! He said he felt so naive!

As a result, he was scunnered with the “Music Business” — as was his wife.  He’d taken a job working in an office — something to do with computers! He had a flat near mine (but it had a damp problem).  I can tell you, it was sounding bleak for Jim.  I got in another round.

Then he told me his “News” — not even his wife knew (and he was convinced that she’d kill him should she find out).

He’d been asked to join a band called “Deacon Blue”.

“Named after the Steely Dan track by any chance?”

“Yes — but they are really good — young guys, fresh stuff, lots of energy — what do you think?  Should I give it a go?”

Jim had a really good feeling about this band.

“Dave, do you think I should stay in the office job? I don’t know if I can risk everything for this band?”

Well — what a question!  But the answer was not really mine; Jim had already made his mind up, all I did was see that and agree really.

“Jim — go with it, man; you’ve been scunnered and yet this is tempting — it’s not just that you like these guys, you also have to do something in music — she HAS to realise THAT one way or another, Jim, come on man – it’s who you are, what you do — if it’s not this band it’ll be something else. Seriously. I mean it — you want me to talk to her?”

“No, mate; that’s brilliant. I can handle it (I think)” He grimaced with a twinkle in his eye.

Sadly, I have never seen Jim Prime since. He’s been too busy being in a successful pop band on tour and then becoming a lecturer. I would like to claim credit for Deacon Blue and their success, but I canny really.  Jim did what so many people don’t or can’t — he made THE BIG DECISION and made it work too.

I like it when people say they like Deacon Blue.  I wish I liked Deacon Blue more, but hey.  I like that it worked out for Jim. I especially like that he’s a lecturer now, that is really brilliant!

He is one genuinely nice guy — but more than that, he is more talented than he knows.  What a musical mind he has! When I saw “Amadeus” (the movie about Mozart), I was reminded of Jim Prime — same laugh, and same attitude to his talent.

Rock on Jim Prime!

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