This is where the band just about hit rock bottom.
The LP Seven been released and had sold well enough to reach #2 in the charts despite the lashing it took at the hands of the music critics and many long-term fans. Tim Booth however, was nonplussed suggesting that no matter what the band had did post-Goldmother and Sit Down there was bound to be a backlash.
There was a feeling that time away from the UK might help and so the first ever tour of North America was organised (11 major cities) followed by three weeks in Europe. The record label however wanted to keep up a profile at home and so decided that a third single from the LP would be released.
Ring The Bells was no different at all from the LP version. It entered the charts at #38 and then sunk without trace. It wasn’t helped by the band not being around to promote it and that the accompanying video was deadly dull being a live performance from a fan only gig a few months earlier.
It was released on 7″, 12″ cassette and CD. An anti-war song, Fight, was given the dance treatment and put on all formats. The CD single had another two (!!!) remixes of Come Home. Which was bad enough except that one of them – the Skunk Weed Skank Mix – had already been released as the Weatherall Mix on one of the 12″ re-releases of Come Home a couple of year earlier!
Oh and to rub salt into the wound for the completists, they had to shell out for the 12″ to get one previously unavailable song in Once A Friend which turned out to be a dud as it was a rejected track from the LP and was over and done with in a little over two minutes. All in all, it was a very unsatisfactory state of affairs:-
mp3 : James – Ring The Bells
mp3 : James – Fight
mp3 : James – Come Home (Skunk Weed Skank Mix)
mp3 : James – Come Home (Hugo Live Dub Challenge)
mp3 : James – Once A Friend
There was a prophetic review in Melody Maker:-
I don’t begrudge James their success. There have probably been two occasions (If Things Were Perfect and Come Home) in their career (and doesn’t that seem like the right word?) when I found them more than mildly loveable. I don’t particularly mind that their last two singles really did sound like Simple Minds as everyone kept saying. What does bother me is that musically Ring The Bells sounds so small, so village fete. The only function the instruments have at all seems analogous to a dinner-suited announcer at a high-class ball – “Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting Mr Timothy Booth! (cue fanfare)” – before the entrance of the man with an ego the size of East Anglia. They can do better. And maybe, when they’ve sold enough shirts and filled enough stadia, they will.
But there was one more low point to come before that prophesy came true.