So Long Simple Kid

Ain’t nothin’ average about me man

Every now and then in the flotsam and jetsam of the internet you happen across a defunct webpage. It could belong to a vanished football club or, as in one case I know, it could be the MySpace page of someone who has passed away. Frozen, like a digital Pompeii, is the last moment someone logged on, whether they were preparing for a league match or a night out. Tethered to a server some God knows where these moments are out there waiting in the ether to offer a welcome to their rare visitors, waiting in vain for a continuation of existence.

So it will be for anyone who now visits simplekid.com. They will be greeted by “Simple Kid RIP” and informed

AS MANY OF YOU WILL HAVE GUESSED BY NOW, THERE WILL BE NO FURTHER MUSIC, TOURS, RELEASES ETC BY SIMPLE KID… DONE N DUSTED.

THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO JOINED IN OVER THE YEARS AND THANKS TO ALL THOSE WHO SENT EMAILS OF ENCOURAGEMENT ETC.

IT’S BEEN FUN…

NOW I’M OFF TO DO SOMETHING ELSE

THANKS

That may still be up there 100 years from now. My great grandchildren may come across it one day, one page among trillions, and wonder who this Simple Kid was.

Simple Kid was a musician. I came across him in early 2006 when I went to see Erasure at Shepherd’s Bush. I don’t usually pay much attention to support acts but I was in my seat early when a thin guy shambled out on stage in a cap with tousled hair poking out from under. He had a guitar slung over his shoulder and a harmonica clamped in a rack round his neck which he fiddled with incessantly. A cheap Bob Dylan, I thought.

Then he started playing. His first song was Truck On, a lovely, wistful number, driven by a gorgeous harmonica figure into a swelling chorus. I was hooked. He played alone, his musical accompaniment coming from a digital box. For himself he switched to banjo and a kids toy keyboard, each of his songs distinct and memorable. I saw him in the bar in the interval and drunkenly approached him to offer my appreciation which he took quite graciously.

Until then I’d thought music ended with OK Computer but here was something new. I got googling and found out he was an Irishman named Ciaran McFeely. He had released an album, SK1, back in 2003 which I quickly got hold of and fell in love with.

The lyrical portraits of The Average Man and the faded Camden trendies of Supertramps and Superstars had the sharpness of Ray Davies. For all the folksiness Simp wasn’t afraid of a beat, the opening track, Hello, drove along. Love’s an Enigma had some of the dreaminess of Screamadelica and Drugs borrowed the grand urban horn line of the soundtrack to a Dirty Harry movie. He was a musical magpie who everyone, unavoidably perhaps, compared to Beck.

And everyone who had heard SK1 appeared to have loved it. The Guardian gave it four stars out five. The Independent wondered if Simp was “this year’s (2003) Badly Drawn Boy”. Yet no one had heard of him. I felt like my dad must have, being one of 500 Brits to buy one of the first pressing of Bob Dylan’s debut album.

The next chance I had to see him was at the Royal Festival Hall in June 2006. He was supporting Joseph Arthur, a tedious American singer songwriter who was dating Juliette Lewis who sat not far from me. Described as the ‘indie Rolf Harris’, Arthur’s show culminated in 20 minutes of him playing white noise on an old tape recorder while he painted something which would have embarrassed a paint stained 4 year old.

I was there for Simp. He played more stuff from his forthcoming second album opening the set with Lil’ King Kong which neatly combined swagger and self-deprecation. The sublime Old Domestic Cat, played on that kid’s keyboard, was a hymn of love to the simple things in life; staying home reading, watching The Bill and pottering about with his feline friend for company. The show ended with possibly his finest song, the awesome Serotonin, which had acoustic guitar and lush strings working over a deep shuffle beat culminating in a wail of synthesizers which was on a loop in my head for about two weeks afterwards. Once again I saw him in the bar, once again I approached him drunkenly to offer my appreciation, and once again he took it graciously.

In October 2006 his second album, SK2, finally came out and I was invited to the album launch gig upstairs at the Sheepwalk pub in Leytonstone, home to the excellent ‘What’s Cookin’’ nights. I was disappointed that the album version of Old Domestic Cat was played on guitar not that endearing keyboard. That was compensated by the other songs including the punky Mommy n Daddy which mixed a bit of We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place with Found That Soul all recorded, as ever, on an old 8 track cassette recorder.

Again the album was liked by everyone who heard it. He got four out of five from The Guardian again which gushed “This is a wonderful album: musically, it’s ingenious, a bustling congregation of styles – glam, folk, crackling electronica – that continually take the listener by surprise. And lyrically, for all its downbeat malaise, it has a sincerity and candour that can’t fail to charm”. But again, it didn’t sell.

The last time I saw Simp was at the Hoxton Bar & Kitchen shortly after. The big room at the back was packed with other Simp fans, maybe all of them, singing along, empathizing more than they wanted to with the lyrics of The TwentySomething. He finished with a song from SK1, The Average Man, set to Paranoid by Black Sabbath.

And then he went quiet. I checked the site regularly but nothing. As time went on my visits became less frequent and more forlorn until, two weeks ago, I saw it was all over.

So, future generations, that’s the story behind simplekid.com, like all those dead webpages, echoing like a beacon in space. But it echoes with the sound of some wonderful music.

This article originally appeared at Middlebrow Magazine