A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (14)

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON TUESDAY 6 MAY 2008

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If he gets round to reading this, I can hear Jacques the Kipper scream at his PC screen (sorry, make that Mac screen – he’s posh), WWWWHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAATT? Given what I’ve chosen at #14, I don’t think his will be an isolated scream.

Your humble scribe and his long-term musical buddy have very diverse opinions on Simple Minds. Our solution is just to agree to disagree. Maybe it’s something to do with where I was born and bred.

Nowadays, there are all sorts of great venues dotted around the city centre of Glasgow and beyond for bands to pitch up and play. But 30 years ago, it was either the Apollo or a mere handful of pubs – all of whom had a strict door policy. The local evening paper would carry adverts every week for 5 or 6 venues (The Dial Inn and The Burns Howff are two that I seem to recall), but every week it would be the same 5 or 6 acts that appeared – and all of them had long hair and wore either cheese-cloth shirts and flares or tight-fitting t-shirts and leather strides. In short, it was a scene dominated by really awful pub-rock and acts who wanted to be the new Led Zeppelin.

In the pre-Postcard era, it was Simple Minds who stood out from that crowd, for they didn’t rely on loud guitars, screaming vocals and pounding drums – they had a keyboard player!! Someone at school said that they weren’t a new band at all, but instead just the latest line-up of a Glasgow punk act called Johnny And The Self Abusers (astonishing as it may seem, this turned out to be true!!)

The band started to get some local media attention and songs were being played on the local commercial radio station. Then they were signed by a major record label and you could buy their single and LPs in all the local shops. Many of us rushed out and bought these records, and many of us found ourselves bemused.

The first three albums by the band saw a mixture of a few easily accessible pop tunes, but they were buried among a lot of stuff that seemed to verge on the dreaded and awful prog-rock. Nowadays, its easy to look back and see the influences were in fact more European-orientated acts like Kraftwerk and Can, but here in Glasgow very little was known about such bands. The band had a few early stand out tracks – in particular the singles Life In A Day and Chelsea Girl, as well as one particularly infectious track in I Travel that made you want to get on the dance floor and shake your hips. Were discos the real future for Simple Minds??

In 1981, the band moved to Virgin Records who had something of a decent track record making a success of slightly off-kilter new wave bands such as Magazine, XTC, PiL and The Skids. The first release was an LP called Sons and Fascination, the initial copies of which came with a bonus LP called Sister Feelings’ Call (the latter would eventually be released as a stand-alone record).

It was still very much a mix of the pop and the prog, but the pop was pretty sensational. And the prog was somehow different (we would later come to recognise much of it as trance….). The pop meanwhile was aimed very much at the dance floor, but not with a disco beat. It was very similar to records that were coming out of Sheffield by a band called The Human League, and looking back we can see it was the start of a new era and new style of synth-pop that brought us bands such as New Order and Depeche Mode.

The first time I heard the single that I’ve picked at #14 was at a Glasgow city centre disco where ‘alternative’ nights of sorts were held on Sunday evenings. Something came on with a long and attention-grabbing pulsating intro. Then came a vocal that sounded awfully familiar….that can’t be Jim Kerr…surely not….

It was only after it had finished, when I went over to the DJ’s booth to ask, did I find out that it was the forthcoming record by Simple Minds. The DJ had been given an advance copy to try out at the ‘alt’ evening. I’m sure it was played on at least two more occasions that night and filled the (admittedly small) floor each time.

Love Song turned out to be the biggest success for the band up to that point. Before long, the band were aiming for pop success at the expense of everything else, and by the mid 80s they had succeeded, thanks to a world-wide hit with Don’t You Forget About Me. They were now, without any shadow of a doubt, stadium rockers of the corporate kind – hugely popular with the masses. They had even started writing songs such as Waterfront which became the unofficial sing-a-long anthem for Glasgow for a short while. All this might have made the boys rich and popular, but it also made them mundane, mediocre and meaningless.

It was now embarrassing to actually admit you were once a fan. And in some folks eyes, that is still the case.

But I’ll always stand by the majesty of the turn of the decadeand early 80s Simple Minds……

mp3 : Simple Minds – Love Song (extended)
mp3 : Simple Minds – This Earth That You Walk Upon

Bonus song from the punk era:-

mp3 : Johnny And The Self Abusers – Saints and Sinners*

* also the name of a legendary Glasgow venue. It would later change ownership and name and become King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut.

13 thoughts on “A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (14)

  1. You sum up my own conundrum perfectly, JC. Simple Minds have made some of my favourite, damn it, say what you mean, some of the best records in my collection. But Simple Minds are shite, right? And at that point you have to either go into a lengthy, rambling monologue about how they were once a cool European, Krautrock influenced band making ambient music for the dance floor driven by one of the best bass players ever, overlaid by great synthesisers and sparing, effective stabs of razor guitars. Love Song is a perfect example. You can either do that or, you can shut the fuck up.

    Mostly I shut the fuck up because SM also made some of the worst shite you have ever heard and everyone knows that so you are fighting a losing battle

  2. Before the big drums , shitting dog dance , berets and white smocks , they were a fantastic band . New gold dream is still one hell of a record where the got the balance just right

  3. I suspect Alex would (vehemntly?) disagree but I still think Sparkle In The Rain is a very good record. I did lose interest after that, but Sparkle In The Rain is an album that will still play today and enjoy. More so than their earlier albums.

  4. Great track, really good album, though Empires And Dance is the one for me, with I Travel being my all-time top SM track. I think Love Song might well have been the very first SM track I ever heard as well, as a 10-year-old pop fan. It was on some compilation LP of hits from 1981 if I recall.

  5. Lol George. Actually all my indisputable vehemence is reserved for the next one, Once Upon s Time which I gave away to a record exchange the afternoon of the morning I bought it. That record proper broke my heart and not in a good way. No in my er…. humble opinion Sparkle is a good album with some great things on it and deserves a place in my own personal SM canon which starts a Real to Real and reaches a zenith at New Gold Dream with Sparkle being a fairly good follow up. The real Jim Kerr then got abducted by aliens, someone evil told Charlie Burchill this could be his band, Burchill’s eyes gleamed, he let out an evil cackle and the rest is history,,,,

  6. I’m one of those who thought they were great up until Sparkle in the Rain – the latter was a good album but not so great as New Gold Dream, and after Sparkle they went downhill. But their early stuff is absolutely fantastic and NGD one of my favourite albums ever.

  7. Up on the Catwalk is absolutely seminal Simple Minds. Derek Forbes was still in situ for Sparkle also. New Golfd Dream has probably given more musical actual enjoyment than any other album ever. I still love it, listened to it driving up from England the other week with the sun splitting the skies. Great summer record that also works well at nights.

  8. I will have to agree with Alex. Up On The Catwalk is an amazing synthesis of their earlier, pan-European feel with the controlled, but explosive, bombast of Sparkle In The Rain. It’s just beautiful. But the period of Simple Minds I always go back to is from Empires and Dance Through New Gold Dream. My favorite SM album is Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call. There is nothing to skip over, nothing that doesn’t take you in on those albums. Yes, Simple Minds probably have just as many fails as they have had triumphs, but they got the magic back around 2005’s Black + White 050505.

  9. Thank you, Alex, for recognizing Derek Forbes as ‘one of the best bass players ever’. At the time, people were loving the bass sound of Duran Duran pretty boy John Taylor (and arty folks were going for Japan’s more talented and fretless Mick Karn) but, to my ears, Forbes gave Simple Minds a signature dancy groove that distinguished them from their post-punk peers. And, whether anyone continued to like them all the way up to ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ (which the band didn’t write), it’s clear that they were absolute crap when Forbes left the band shortly after that release.

  10. **Continuing the Scottish – NYC overlap: There was also a King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut on the corner of 7th St. and Ave. A in the East Village. I remember seeing a pre-teen hardcore band there called ‘The Young & The Useless’ featuring Adam Horovitz on bass, who would later go on to join the Beastie Boys as Ad-Rock.

  11. Favourite track from my favourite SM album. I saw them in Toronto in 84 or 85 and hated the experience but Love Song still gets me jumping today.

  12. Simply one of my favorite singles by one of my favorite bands ever. I agree with basically everything that everyone has written here. It’s that sort of band! The Good, The Bad and The Ugly! If they hadn’t lost so many members, they would have had a much better career, methinks, but the truth is that Mick MacNeil still wrote for “Once Upon A Time.” An album that hit me in the breadbasket like no other… until Ultravox dropped “UVOX” the subsequent year! It made OUAT seem benign in comparison!

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