The success of New Gold Dream led to Simple Minds being put on the bill of a number of outdoor festivals in mainland Europe in June/July 1983 after which the band returned to the studio to begin work on a new album. They did come out of hibernation on 14 August to appear as special guests of U2 at a massive event in Phoenix Park, Dublin at which they opened with a new song, one that signified yet another shift in sound.

They returned to the studio and, in typical style, quickly finished off work on the new album under the watchful eye and helping hand of producer Steve Lillywhite.

Virgin Records took the decision to delay the release of the new album, partly on the basis of New Gold Dream still selling in reasonable numbers and also the fact that they now wanted Simple Minds to be a band that had a worldwide release for new material rather than it being issued firstly in the UK.

But, as had been the case with the earlier LPs recorded for Virgin, there was an advanced release of a 45 (see the previous features on The American and Promised You A Miracle).

mp3 : Simple Minds – Waterfront

This was Simple Minds as never heard before. Big, bombastic, anthemic and tailor-made for radio, thanks in part to the one-note bassline that dominates in so many places.

I can honestly say that Glasgow went nuts for this song. The band had always been proud to say it was their home city, arguing in interviews that it suffered from an ill-deserved reputation in terms of grime, poverty and violence. They were proud of its and their own working-class roots and firmly believed the city was about to undergo something of a renaissance. The video for the new single was made in Glasgow, with many evocative outdoor scenes intermingling with live footage that had been shot at the Barrowlands Ballroom, a rundown and derelict venue in the east end of the city in front of an audience that had applied for tickets via a local radio station.

It really is no exaggeration to say that Simple Minds single-handedly saved the live music scene in Glasgow. The only realistic venue for touring bands, The Apollo, had closed down and was scheduled for demolition. The alterative would be the soon-to-be-completed Exhibition Centre with its cavernous shed holding 10,000, but that wouldn’t have been suitable for most bands who were looking for a capacity of 2-3,000. The Barrowlands had been a dance hall of reputation in the 60s and early 70s but had long been neglected as folk flocked to the new discotheques. There had been talk of it perhaps becoming a replacement for the Apollo but nothing was happening until Simple Minds, on 27 November 1983, got its doors re-opened for a gig (with limited capacity) that would be filmed as part of promotional videos for upcoming singles.

One month later, with more work done in terms of health and safety, Simple Minds returned to the Barrowlands for three pre-Xmas gigs, all of which could have sold out ten times over. By this time Waterfront had been a #13 hit in the UK charts, it would have sat at #1 in Scotland for months if there had been a separate chart. Worth noting too that all three of these gigs opened with Waterfront and that the song was also used to round off the final encore.

I’ve never been a lover of Waterfront but, at the same time, I am full of admiration and gratitude for what it did in terms of making Glasgow such an important location in terms of live music, one that has been built on to great effect over the past 35 years.

The b-side was a live version of a song on New Gold Dream, taken from a show at Newcastle City Hall back in November 1982:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – Hunter And The Hunted (live)

There was a palpable contrast in songs that were just a year apart in terms of them being recorded and it was going to be interesting to see what direction the new record would take. Given that Steve Lillywhite’s reputation had been forged with guitar-based music, it was a good bet that Simple Minds would be moving away from the sounds of the Arista years……



  1. Without a doubt , Waterfront was my favorite song .
    I went to 2 out of the 3 pre Xmas gigs . They were phenomenal .
    Keep up the good work


  2. Excellent piece, JC, very informative ie a lot of stuff I hadn’t realised, that the album was ready but delayed to allow a synchronised international release.

    What I remember is some Simple Minds interviews post New Gold Dream where he was complaining that that album had been dismissed in some quarters as “a coffee table album” and the very prophetic line that I still remember to this day from Record Mirror : “When people come to talk about Simple Minds, they will be talking about 2 different bands, Simple Minds pre New Gold Dream and after….”

    Jim Kerr was also on the Janice Long show where he played a piece of music that the band had recorded that was shaping up to sound “like New Gold Dream Part 2” until they decided to change producer.

    While Simple Minds were touring the world to promote New Gold Dream, the British musical landscape had changed. New Pop was gone, can’t remember who or why, but I do strongly suspect that Wham! Probably had something to do with it. Pop was a bit of a dirty word now, invoking not ABC, Yazoo and Associates, but more dross like the Thompson Twins.

    The Minds were looking for a harder sound than their own previous effort and, as JC mentioned, they would be exposed to U2 and
    their messianic frontman Bono in many a shared bill. U2 were also gaining a lot of exposure. Following a film of the band at Red Rocks shown on the Tube, it seemed that every boy in the school common room was clutching a copy of the album of that concert Under A Blood Red Sky.

    I was at the time oblivious to the creeping U2 influence ( mainly because I didn’t know that band at all beyond their New Years Day song that I though was OK and the follow up Two Hearts which I dismissed as turgid, and didn’t know that new Minds producer Steve Lilywhite had by now produced 3 U2 albums ) and I thought Simple Minds searching for a harder edge in their sound was a natural progression that I welcomed.

    When Waterfront was released I was still very much on board with Simple Minds, although I suspect secretly a little underwhelmed by it. An honest assessment at the time would have noted it was a little light in the “song” department, albeit it was certainly not without it’s charms, very much of the visceral variety, with the chugging baseline, crashing drums and great shards of guitar making this an instant radio hit.

    I also remember it quickly becoming a Glasgow anthem ( and the model for many a band from these parts to jump on that particular bandwagon) and there is no denying the rousing and unifying nature of the track. Indeed I remember me and my mates on our first ever holiday without parents, exuberantly running along under the Morecambe promenade singing this to the unsuspecting pedestrians above at the top of lungs, a great laugh at the time and great memory now. For that reason if for no other, it will always have a place in my heart.

    Overall, not a bad return and I couldn’t wait for the album. As a harbinger of things to come, things you notice now but didn’t notice at the time : Jim Kerr’s voice higher in the mix than before. Can’t remember who it was on here who correctly pointed out about Kerr’s previous lack of ego as a vocalist, but this, along with the first stirrings of a “mock heroic” delivery is a change.

    Also, Kerr is seen in the video, not as before as the frail looking, almost undernourished skinny guy in eye make up, peering out from behind a dyed jet black floppy fringe, bobbing and weaving to the rhythms. Rather he is cuts a much more healthy and confident looking figure, engaging, even touching hands with the front row if the audience….

  3. Were you at the Waterfront video gig, JC? Remember listening to Billy Sloan when he announced free tickets. Actually applied twice because I forgot to put in an SAE with the first!

    Always got on fine with Waterfront itself but the album was definitely a turn in the wrong direction for me. Sparkle In The Rain was the last Minds album I bought.

  4. Nope…..didn’t even apply. To be honest, I just didn’t fancy the idea of being part of an audience for a promo!

  5. Upon first hearing Waterfront, I was astonished by the change in their sound, but if I am being honest, I wasn’t mad about it. As far as I am concerned, SM had, to that point never really repeated itself. Every album move owed something to the past but didn’t mirror it. Waterfront is like a clarion call. It was ambitious in how much it pushed the band’s sound. I have never thought that Lillywhite ever tried to force a particular template on the band. This would be evidenced by the number of very nuanced tracks on the upcoming Sparkle In The Rain – tracks which don’t get the amount of attention they should.
    The sound on Waterfront isn’t really just aggressive. It is POWERFUL. Kerr is confident and commanding. His lyrics are proud and determined. He isn’t attempting to convince the listener, he is leading them.
    The cold ending of Waterfront is a moment of absolute triumph.

  6. First song on the first mixtape I ever made. Waterfront reverberated, even in sunny California. I’m not sure I ever found a better opening song.

  7. I’ll never forget the first time I heard this single. A friend and I were in Murmur Records and I was looking for the 12″ on import. There had been a single copy in the store, but it had been pulled for someone else who was coming in to purchase it. Of course that didn’t stop the proprietor, Don Gilliland, from playing it for us to hear. The dramatic shift in tone was not quite what I had expected having listened thus far to only the previous Simple Minds album. I remarked to Don that “this sort of sounds like U2,” to which he remarked “…yeah.”

    With Lillywhite providing his patented sound of the minute [as heard on U2’s “War” and Big Country’s “The Crossing”] it’s no wonder that I was not decisively moved by the extended 12” mix the first time that I had heard it. While I didn’t like U2 for personal reasons, I didn’t care for Big Country for musical ones. I couldn’t get past the strained vocals of Stuart Adamson so any exploration of Big Country was doomed to fail. Now Simple Minds were moving in these circles, and I didn’t know what to think.

    Having only had “Sweat In Bullet” 2×7″ and the previous album in the Record Cell, any decisive thoughts would have to wait until I heard the album in my home. To cut a long story short, “Sparkle In The Rain” was my favorite album of 1984. It was very heavily played and almost every song from it became a favorite for a time, with the last one, “The Kick Inside Of Me” holding onto that honor for decades now.

    The video for “Waterfront” was a favorite, though. On the scant plays that MTV deigned to give it in The States, I loved how the filming captured the entire environment of the venue. It looked enclosed and finite, rather than expansive. I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen a ceiling in a live performance shot before. When the lights flared along with the beat it looked like the most exciting place on earth at the time of filming.

  8. Simple Minds and Steve Lillywhite – it should have been so good. I loved U2s ‘Boy’, the first two Psychedelic Furs albums (particularly Talk Talk Talk), Peter Gabriel 3 (the one with ‘Biko’ and ‘Games without frontiers’) and the Chameleons single ‘In Shreds’ and the Members (who his brother was part of) ‘The Sound of the Suburbs’. They all sound great. It must have been the new recording equipment available that gave crystal clear sound and Mel Gaynor – ‘the best young drummer in the World’ as Jim Kerr called him, but even with Derek Forbes’s bass being right up there in the mix, something was off with Waterfront compared to their previous work. ‘Sparkle in the rain’ had a duff cover version, a duff sleeve and it was just a bit duff. Whereas you felt everyone should love ‘New Gold Dream’ I was embarrassed that everyone and their dog were into ‘Sparkle’. Waterfront was the harbinger and the bridge to all the came next. Great article.

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