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.