THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF (EARLY) SIMPLE MINDS (Part 3)

History is littered with bands who, by the time they have been able to release the debut album, have disowned many of the songs in favour of those that they have been prepping, either on the road or in the studio, for the follow-up record.

Simple Minds proved to be such a band, although their desire to get away from the songs on their debut was somewhat predicated by the fact it hadn’t brought any meaningful success. In September 1979, just two months after Chelsea Girl had let everyone down, they were back in the studio, again with John Leckie in the producer’s chair, determined to get it right the second time around.

The recording of what became Real to Real Cacophony was, seemingly, a pleasant experience with sessions being completed quickly, so much so that the record label had it delivered in time to make a decision to release it before the end of the calendar year. The only thing was that they delivered a record that the label was not anticipating, lacking any potential hit singles and packed with strange, often experimental-sounding numbers the likes of which were uncommon in 1979.

Some 40 years after the fact, it’s now seen as an album very much of the type that marked the beginning of huge changes in post-punk/new wave music, with moody and atmospheric keyboards taking a greater role at the expense of jarring guitars. Some critics, such as Paul Morley, immediately ‘got it’, suggesting that Simple Minds deserved to be lauded every bit as much as the likes of Joy Division, Gang Of Four, Wire and Public Image Ltd, all of whom could do no wrong in the eyes of the opinion-formers.

Arista Records, however, were spooked and their reaction was to put the album out with little fanfare, content that it would sell to the band’s fan base and with little or no accompanying promotion, the losses could be minimised (and no doubt written off against any previous advances).

The hopes of manager Bruce Findlay for the band to be at the forefront of his own Zoom Records become internationally famous were dashed when Arista insisted it be released as part of its wider stable of artists.

There was, eventually, one single lifted from Real to Real Cacophony, and even then it was all a bit shambolic. Changeling wasn’t issued to help further promote the album, but instead to raise the profile of the band as they undertook a tour. It was also decided to use an edited version of the song, cutting out some 45 seconds from the album version, and to have a live track on the b-side, with a song lifted from a New York gig in October 1979. Even then, mistakes were made as the mix of the live track, done back in Glasgow, had a miscue from the master tape and the recording put down on vinyl starts with the end of the previous song!!

mp3 : Simple Minds – Changeling (edit)

mp3 : Simple Minds – Premonition (live)

The single, unsurprisingly, was a monumental flop. Things looked bleak.

JC

3 thoughts on “THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF (EARLY) SIMPLE MINDS (Part 3)

  1. I hadn’t realised the record company were so lukewarm about the album and single and didn’t promote it for financial damage limitation purposes. How short sighted. They clearly didn’t know what they had. It’s a remarakable listen, the breadth of vision is immediately extraordinary, musically it is so muscular and confident, scintillating, melodic yet jarring, a mile above the rather lumpy, awkward debut from just a few months earlier.

    Yet it’s not their best, but sometimes listening to it I get into thinking it is.

    In real time I hadn’t caught up with Simple Minds yet. This takes me back to Saturday morning trips to the Virgin Megastore on Union Street (Glasgow) and gazing longingly on a wall laid out with Simple Minds rich history of 12 inch singles, which I would over time collect.

    Changeling is the obvious single, it could have easily been a hit, not sure why the record company thought otherwise.

  2. Have to agree with Alex, Changeling had the Post Punk swagger that would have meant it would be a hit if Arista has given a damn. Real to Real Cacophony has 3 of my all time favorite SM tracks on it – Factory, Premonition and Changeling. It means as much to me as do other Class of 79 albums – Unknown Pleasures, Metal Box, Secondhand Daylight and Lodger. Film Theme is a staggering instrumental and the album’s penultimate track, Calling Your Name is a statement of intent which the band would ride over the next 3 albums.
    Can you tell I was looking forward to this post?…

  3. Arista UK could not sell a hot record to save their lives! They were out of their league with this band, but al least those first three albums existed long enough for Virgin to buy them up and sell them right. I bought this single in the 90s when I was making my first Simple Minds boxed set of god®. I went to the best record store in town, asked for a copy [20 years after it was released, mind you] and the owner brought out a small box filled with this pristine single.

    The live B-side of the almighty “Premonition” was incredible value for money as their first epic song from their New Era is one I call their first classic [I give it the edge over the excellent, yet more modest A-side] and among their top 5 songs to this day. The bass line is one you could build a skyscraper on. It’s as solid and powerful as they come.

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