I ended last week’s post by saying things looked bleak for Simple Minds at the end of 1979. It was clear that they had signed to a label that didn’t quite know what to do with them – the music press were still, for the most part, complimentary about the band and the music, but Arista Records remained unable or unwilling to do much in the way of promotion.
Things, rather unbelievably, got even worse in 1980. The summer months had seen the band return to the studio, yet again with John Leckie in the producer’s chair, to record what would be their third studio LP, which they chose to call Empires and Dance. The lead-off single, in September 1980, was an absolute classic, a cross between disco-stomping Giorgio Moroder and early experimental Roxy Music (but played at 100mph!!), coming with an almighty punch in which every member of the band played/sang as if their very future existence depended on it:-
It had ‘HIT’ stamped all over it. It came out in 7″ and 12″ format, with the latter offering an extended and remixed version that was ridiculously danceable. The first 7,500 copies of the 7″ came with a free flexi-disc. But it all amounted to nothing as Arista didn’t provide much of a marketing budget and didn’t do any plugging to radio stations. I Travel failed to chart.
Here’s the b-side and the flexi-disc songs:-
And here, complete with scratches and bumps, are the flexi-disc songs:-
The b-side proved to be a rather excellent non-album track and the flexidisc also had two previously unreleased pieces of music. Kaleidescope had been part of the live sets when Real to Real Cacophany had been toured and many expected it to appear on the new album….but Simple Minds had moved into a different sound (again!!) for Empires and Dance and it didn’t fit in.
The record label had no faith in Empires and Dance, pressing up just 15,000 copies and waiting until these had sold out before going for any re-print, which again was limited in mumber. The album, seemingly, wasn’t easy to find in the shops, although I recall many copies in many Glasgow record shops.
There was no headlining tour, but instead the band found themselves criss-crossing Europe as the special guest of Peter Gabriel as he succesfully promoted Peter Gabriel III, and a hit single in Games Without Frontiers.
Simple Minds also supported The Skids at a few UK dates before eventually, in October/November, they headlined their own shows, including a great home performance at City Halls, Glasgow before an adoring and appreciative audience (including a 17-year old JC!!).
A few months later, Arista decided enough was enough and let the band go….and were probably surprised when Virgin Records immediately pounced to sign them and put them straight into the studio for their fourth album. There was a fresh buzz about the band and rather cynically, Arista decided to release a Simple Minds single, going with one of the most popular tracks on Empires and Dance:-
This came out in April 1981, seven full months after I Travel but just a few weeks before what was going to be the debut single on Virgin. It’s b-sides were a rip-off in that two previous 45s were offered up – I Travel and Changeling – and for the most part it was ignored by fans and thus got nowhere near the charts. Worth mentioning that I Travel would be the subject of yet another Arista cash-in the following year, but I’ll return to that in due course.