THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF (EARLY) SIMPLE MINDS (Parts 7 & 8)

22 August 1981.

Simple Minds finally get a single into the Top 50 of the charts. A few more sales and a Top of the Pops appearance beckons. It’s an era of great electronica pop music with Human League, Soft Cell, Depeche Mode, Visage and Ultravox all in the Top 40 while Kraftwerk had just that week dropped out. Sadly, for the band and the folk at the label, one of THE great singles of the era didn’t find enough favour with the record buying public and #47 was as good as it got:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – Love Song

I included this at #14 in my 45 45s at 45 rundown back in 2008 and it still remains one of my all-time favourite pieces of plastic. The subsequent album(s) released the following month would reveal the band had all sorts of strange and weird titles attached to a number of tracks, but here was something with a title as straightforward as it comes. It’s a pulsating, vibrant and highly energetic piece of electronica with crashing guitars, slightly less frantic than the earlier I Travel, but with a pace that fitted in perfectly with the uber-cool style crowd whose club nights, particularly in London, were centred around music that sounded futuristic. Incredible to look back and think, just four years after new-wave had bulldozed its way forward, that the death of guitar music was now being predicted.

The b-side, as with previous single The American, was another very interesting and enjoyable instrumental, highlighting that Mick MacNeil was now increasingly important to the still evolving sound of the band:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – This Earth That You Walk Upon

The hope had been that Love Song would be riding high in the charts when the new album, the band’s fourth in less than two years, was released.  Did I say fourth album?  As things turned out, the band’s fifth album ended up being issued on the same day as the fourth……

Sons and Fascination was released in September 1981. It consisted of eight tracks, including the 12” version of Love Song and to everyone’s surprise, a vocal version of This Earth That You Walk Upon. The initial copies of the album came with a free bonus LP entitled Sister Feelings Call, consisting of seven tracks and including the 7” version of The American. It was also revealed that Brian McGhee had quit the band at the conclusion of recording and that a temporary drummer would be brought in for the live shows to promote the new material. The packaging of the two albums for the price of one was a great selling point and helped it enter the Top 20 on release, where it stayed for three weeks, which was a fine achievement for a band without any hit singles to their name.

This time around, the tour included a show at the Glasgow Apollo and ended with a gig at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, a show that was recorded by Virgin records with an eye on a possible live album for future release.

In November 1981, while the band was coming to the end of an extensive tour of North America and about to head for the first time to Australia, a third single from the new albums was released:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – Sweat In Bullet

It was an excellent remix of one of the tracks on Sons and Fascination and its b-side was lifted, but not remixed, from Sister Feelings Call:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – 20th Century Promised Land

A quick PS to this post is that 1981 closed triumphantly for the band. I hadn’t got to the show at the Apollo, having just started university and taking stock of few things, but along with some old friends from school (all of whom were now working) and a couple of new student mates, we trooped along to Tiffany’s in Glasgow, at the very end of December, and were privileged enough to witness what we felt would be the band’s best ever show….little did we know what the following year would bring.

JC

10 thoughts on “THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF (EARLY) SIMPLE MINDS (Parts 7 & 8)

  1. Love Song is one of Simple Minds best tracks, from an album(s) full of amazing Post Punk music. Having a propulsion that is both martial and explosive, makes it perfect for the dancefloor. It is an electronic marvel, giving a lead role to the synths, giving the staccato guitar the role of accent and counterpoint rather than melody, while all that sit on top of an unwavering bass and drum rhythm bed. Kerr’s lyrics veer no where near the subject of love for another person, rather, Kerr’s obsession with Pan European “urbanism” is once again the subject of the day.
    This Earth That You Walk Upon is masterful, blending electronica and African rhythms in a song that seems to inhabit as space above the listener. I am always drawn to the motorik beauty of Derek Forbes bass which drives the track.

    Sweat In Bullet has always sounded like it has its origins in the sessions for Real To Real Cacophony or Empires And Dance. But with the new found confidence of the band and the direction of Steve HIllage and Hugh Jones, it rises to a new level.

    One of the things that has always impressed me about Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call is that the entire work feels like a grand soundtrack to modern life. Each track has painted pictures in my mind that remain to this day. It was an album that I listened to constantly, along with Heaven Up Here by The Bunnymen and Sleep No More by Comsat Angels, on my Walkman during my daily trek to and from university, work and home. But of these three albums, SAF/SFC made the best soundtrack to walking the streets of Manhattan and riding the ever crowded subways.

  2. I recall hearing Love Song for the first time via Billy Sloane in the wee hours of a Wednesday morning. Listening to it now the vocal in places reminds me of Blancmange’s Living on the Ceiling, which was released later, but it’s a song I’m more familiar with. Love Song is funkier than I recall and has stood the test of time remarkably well. Would it fill the dance floor of a certain Glasgow disco? I’m not sure but it should.

  3. I prefer The American and Love song to Sweat in bullet, but I only got tobuy the last-named on a visit to London. I got the 2×7″ limited edition with two live tracks (Premonition and League of nations) recorded on 25/9/81 at Hammersmith Odeon on the bonus disc. The 12″ kept League of nations but substituted Premonition for In trance as mission, one of my favourite tracks on Sons and fascination. To me, it always sounded like Simple Minds at their most Joy Division-esque, and I always wondered whether the song title nodded or not to Transmission.

  4. Thanks, this is making me listen to Simple Minds as the singles band I liked in the first place. It is a long while since I played much by the band, but listening to the early singles and b-sides in the correct order reminds me of the learning process unwinding all those years ago.

  5. Continuing Simple Minds run of brilliant singles, Love Song was along with I Travel, the track most often heard around the nightclubs of Glasgow. This is the way I like to think of the band, at the very height of their powers, gripping, insistent, driving, riveting, music the production sound crisp, full and kaleidoscopic.

    Sweat In Bullet is just as good in the final single release of the original line up.

    Sons and Fascination continued the travelogue themes from Empires and Dance but in terms of lyrical concerns largely switching continent from Europe to the Americas (Boys from Brazil, Seeing Out the Angel). The sound is not American, though, this is still very much a European band, but the sounds are seemingly influenced by what they were witnessing on the other side of the Atlantic, brighter, wider in scope, the soundscapes reflecting the vistas they were travelling through.

    The artwork by Assorted Images reached it’s peak here too, the covers very complimentary to the music contained within. They never got it quite as right again.

    The band themselves were about to undergo a metamorphosis.

  6. Hello,
    I prefer The American and Love song to Sweat in bullet, but I only got to buy the last-named on a visit to London. I got the 2×7″ limited edition with two live tracks (Premonition and League of nations) recorded on 25/9/81 at Hammersmith Odeon on the bonus disc. The 12″ kept League of nations but substituted Premonition for In trance as mission, one of my favourite tracks on Sons and fascination. To me, it always sounded like Simple Minds at their most Joy Division-esque, and I always wondered whether the song title nodded or not to Transmission.

  7. Single #8 was where I got on the SM bus and rode it hard! After a year of hearing their name in the UK music press, and references here and there, I grabbed the UK 2×7″ of “Sweat In Bullet” to see what all of the fuss was about. Four songs for $3.00 was a risk worth taking. Thank goodness! I bought everything going forward and worked by way backward, even going “mail order” to get the early Arista and Johnny + The Self Abuser’s single by ’85-’86.

    “Sweat In Bullet” was Forbes going nuts on fretless but sounding nothing like Jaco/Mick karn. He was managing to make the normally laid-back fretless bass sound menacing and aggressive here. An overweening force that threatened to crush the listener. Brian McGee’s drums were steadfast and blunt. His normally motorik beats were tabled here for something brutal and direct. And Kerr’s cut up/fractalized lyrics were the apex of his early style. Fragmentary and suggestive rather than lumpen and literal, they leapt without looking and dared you to follow along. Between the cowbell and Forbes’ bass, this was the band as funky as they ever got.

    I worked my way backward to “Love Song.” The thrilling intro with MacNeil’s synth pumping out a random waveform was something every analog synth did back in the day, but few bands dared to try. And it was the focus of the intro as it sounded like the tape started rolling while it was already underway. Dropping the listener into a new and exciting sonic environment already happening without them. McGee’s drums crashing down around the listener like fireworks dropping from the sky. The mighty riffs that were the foundation to this song were authentically anthemic. Brutalist music as played on guitar, bass, and drums. Bruchill’s inhuman solo owed nothing to the blues. The cold ending was as heart-pumpingly exciting a climax as I’ve ever heard on any song [though The Minds would top it on “The Kick Inside Of Me”]

    This has been a top five Simple Minds song of mine ever since, and at least the Australian audience was smart enough [a tip of the hat to Ross Stapleton there] to have given the band their first hit single [#17!] in OZ months in advance of their UK breakthrough.

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