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song for the tribes

Written by: Kerr / Burchill

© EMI Music Publishing: (1998 - 2007)
© JKMC-Bucks Music Group Ltd / Hornall Music: (2008 - 2014)
© BMG Rights Management (UK) Ltd: (2015 - 2019)
© Universal Music Publishing Group (2019 - 2023)
© BMG Rights Management (UK) Ltd: (2023 -)

"Some kind of postmodern folksong strikes me."

"Written at the peak of media euphoria surrounding the last British general election. Feeling that by the day society is actively fragmenting (packs, tribes, cults quite literally - who wants, after all, to conform to some homogenized set of values with inherent lifestyle and deemed to be "SUBJECTS" by monarchial rule etc!)"

"And no one political party is capable of delivering more than empty though nostalgic visions."

"A hymn then to the mobile outsiders, actively searching and not content to let some dummy in Westminster carry their can."

11th March 1998

It looks like Song For The Tribes was late to the party. Due to sparseness of the remaining session tapes, the song appeared relatively late in the sessions, turning up during the mixing sessions at Metropolis in September 1997, neatly scribed in red on a tape box as Power (Acoustic).

Yet it'd been around for almost ten years. The melody was based on an old Street Fighting Years outtake called Power In The Darkness. This survived although the Neapolis arrangement is more acoustic - and some of the lines from the original demo were also kept, most notably Feel real power in the darkness. It even kept its original title during the Neapolis sessions and was recorded under the title of Power (Acoustic).

Most of the lyrics were written in May 1997 on the eve of Tony Blair's triumphant election result for Labour in the UK. This euphoria came crashing down a few months later in August with the country reeling from the death of Diana Princess of Wales. This atmosphere was still in the air the following month, when Simple Minds were at Metropolis, and it diffused into the final lyrics: "Where the Queen will go tomorrow."

""Tony Blair and Gordon Brown made their careers from opposing Margaret Thatcher but as soon as they got in power they ruled as Thatcherites and celebrated it's author. They professed to a concern for the poor but enriched the wealthy. They joined George Bush and his administration in imposing their will on foreign states by force of arms. In a nutshell, politics is way too often the profession of not practicing what it preaches." So says journalist Simon Jenkins."


"One of the most pleasurable experiences for me while walking through Glasgow city centre is coming across the groups of Goth teenagers that congregate daily in Royal Exchange Square."

"Envious of their youth, I thrill at seeing them in their style. And all power to them as well, as within my experience of having visited the nearby coffee shops and book stores for as long as I remember, I have yet to witness any troublesome behaviour whatsoever from this gathering tribe of outsider kids - uniformally dressed in black."

"Neither have I for the record sensed any hostility of any sort coming from them, and as much as they could possibly startle the odd four year old, they are let's face it hardly a threat to anybody."

"In fact, if the experience I have had with my own visiting offspring is anything to go by, these teens are inadvertently somewhat of a tourist attraction. Just as in similar cases all over the world, from Tokyo to London, and even Mexico City, anywhere really where the Goths, Punks, Emo's and Rockabilly types gather usually becomes quite the tourist spot!"

"This being the case I was interested in some Glasgow news recently stating that the presence of this Gothic congregation was a threat in someways, with the upshot being that measures had been taken to discourage and even displace the Goths from their longtime established city centre haunt."

"I howled with laughter to find that in order to dissuade the teens from gathering, that some bright spark has decided to play non stop classical music from some hung loudspeakers in proximity."

"An act that was futile as the Goths absolutely unmoved by Vivaldi etc, hung about regardless. (Surely everybody knows that you don't clear spaces by merely playing classical music and that Lou Reed's masterly "Metal Machine Music" was probably devised just for that!) Did they also not realise the irony in that many of those very classical composers were the outsiders of their days. The Goths and Punks of their times most probably!"

"In all seriousness though there has been some dispute and without knowing all the facts it would be wrong for me to judge right from wrong. However speaking as someone who for more than three decades has used the odd eye liner pencil on occasion and intends to do so for some time yet, then of course the chances are that if I had to choose in most any debate, then most certainly I would come down on the side of the Goths."

"And why so? Well firstly, I am very fond of them with their usually distinctive passive non-aggressive vibe. More so I admire so much about their exaggerated style and above all their musical culture. (Especially the originals e.g. Siouxsie, Bauhaus, Robert Smith, Southern Death Cult, as well as the then latter saints such as Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails.)"

"As such I was inspired to write a song about them and all others who felt like I did when I was eighteen, self obsessed, felt victimised, and hung about the very same Royal Exchange Square, dressed entirely in death mass black, and feeling that I belonged to a 'lost generation' that was entirely misunderstood by all who came before."

"The song is called 'Song For The Tribes' and was written ironically on the eve of Tony Blair's first election win when I felt wholeheartedly sure that a new, more open, and honest kind of politics was emerging in the UK for the first time in my life."

"And how do I feel about that notion now? I think I will leave that to the likes of Mr. Jenkins, who in one or two sentences says it all!"

9th June 2008

Another influence feeding into the tribal concept was the whole Cool Britannia ideal which flowed through on the result of Blair's landslide and the whole Britpop phenomenon which saw Pulp, Oasis and Blur grouped together as some musical movement. When quizzed by VOX as part of the album's promotion, Jim expanded on the idea of the song: "It's an abstract idea; the first song we've ever written about Britain in a way. There was an image of Britain at specific times last year, whether it was the euphoria of the election or the whole Princess Diana thing. Stock images of Britain were trotted out when, in fact, Britain is so fragmented. Different people want to live in different ways. Some wanna live up trees, some wanna live in castles. Not only do I not but into this thing of Britain and Brits and all this Brit-talk, but I actually think it's a way of holding people back."

Opening the album with this soft acoustic number was an interesting choice and one which the band later abandoned perfering edgier, more abstract openings e.g. Stay Visible, Moscow Underground and Blindfolded. It offered a gentle introduction to the complex rhythms and styles of Neapolis.

Given the shorter length of the shows during the Neapolis Tour, and the need to showcase the key tracks from the album, Song For The Tribes fell throught the cracks, and was not featured. After the reboot of Simple Minds in the 2000s, Neapolis itself was largely forgotten, and the song has never been played live.

"I wrote this song 12 years ago excited the at the prospect of the new prime minister Tony Blair and the promise of his government. Boy! Was I ever let down! Simple as this. I could never vote for any government that has waged an illegal war that to date has reportedly been responsible for over one million deaths. Both Labour and Conservative agreed to this war. To hell with the lot of them."

7th May 2010

see also:
Power In The Darkness (Demo)

And from the other side,
A sheer white knuckle ride,
So young yet feel so stung by the game.
I know what's left in a name,
With all those national strains.
The lion hits the stage,
Purple hearts revolving round with purple rage.
And we all want to know where the weather goes,
And what's in store tomorrow.

No we don't need a replacement.
The more I see the more I learn.
All that time in the basement.
I can't wait nor hang around.

Language that shocks of the new,
With the promise there's nothing to hide.
When vultures rise out of the blue,
And the circle of fireflies tonight.
And all that heavenly light,
I can't understand.
The coup d'etat that walks inside every man,
They all wanna know 'bout the fasion show,
Where the Queen will go tomorrow.

Where the Queen will go tomorrow.
Where the Queen will go tomorrow.

No we don't need a replacement,
The more I see the more I learn.
All that time in the basement,
I can't wait nor hang around.

Feel real power in the darkness,
The more I see the more I learn.
Feel it more than I confess,
I can't wait nor hang around.

I'll be outside.
I'll be outside.
Song for the tribes.
Song for the tribes.
The more I see the more I learn,
No, we don't need a replacement.
The more I see the more I learn.
Song for the tribes.
Song for the tribes.

Album Version (5:37)
Produced by: Charlie Burchill and Pete Walsh
Engineeed by: Pete Walsh

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