THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF (EARLY) SIMPLE MINDS (Parts 16-20)

I said last week that the first nine months of 1984 were a complete whirlwind for Simple Minds.  It was nothing compared to 1985, although the roots of events dated back initially to June 1984 and then later again in November 1984.  I’ll rely on words lifted from a website associated with the band:-

Whilst writing the score for John Hughes’ latest (and in retrospect best) brat-pack film The Breakfast Club, Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff penned Don’t You (Forget About Me), intended for the film’s opening credits. Recording a rough demo, Forsey wanted it recorded by an established band and started to hawk both the tape, and himself, around the record companies of bands he admired and felt could suitably record it and add gravitas to the soundtrack.

Which is why Simple Minds found him in their dressing room after one of the Tour De Monde gigs in America, clutching a collection of Simple Minds bootlegs, and enthusing about this great song he’d written. (After hearing the song A&M invited him backstage but neglected to tell Simple Minds anything about it.) Bemused, and no doubt amused by the episode, they declined.

Bryan Ferry also declined. As did Billy Idol, who Forsey was successfully producing at the time.

Forsey was not one to give up and flew to the UK to persuade Simple Minds again to record the track. He found them in London, working on the demos for Once Upon A Time. With Forsey on their backs, and A&M on their backs, the band relented, thinking the song was just another incidental track to a forgettable brat-pack movie. They booked a studio in Wembley, and nailed the song in three hours. One of the caveats was they could play with the arrangement, and Jim added the “la la las” on the day.

The band carried on with Once Upon A Time and completely forgot about the song.

The band played three frantic sell-out gigs at Glasgow Barrowlands from 3-5 January. The set-lists provide an indication that these were very much about pleasing the local crowd:-

I Travel / Glittering Prize / Book Of Brilliant Things / Up On The Catwalk / Promised You A Miracle / Speed Your Love To Me / Celebrate / Someone Somewhere (In Summertime) / The American / Waterfront / New Gold Dream (81,82,83,84)/ Take Me To The River – Light My Fire

The next gig that Simple Minds would play was six months later at Live Aid, and as part of the Philadephia bill. Three songs made up the setlist:-

Ghostdancing / Don’t You (Forget About Me) / Promised You A Miracle

The second tune aired at Live Aid was the one that a few months earlier, in March 1985, been released in America where it went to #1. A month later, it was released in the UK, where it reached #7:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – Don’t You (Forget About Me)

The fact that the b-side, A Brass Band In Africa, was the same as had been included on previous UK single (Up On The Catwalk) provides a fair indication that there was never any intention to do anything with the song, a situation that only changed with the American success.

The other thing about the Live Aid gig, and as can be seen from the photo at the top of this page which was taken on the day, was that Derek Forbes was no longer part of the band, having been sacked during the sessions for the new album. His replacement was John Giblin, in whose studio they had been writing and recording, and whose previous credits including working with John Lennon, Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel.

John Giblin played bass on the new album, Once Upon A Time, that was released in October 1985. It contained four singles:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – Alive and Kicking – #7 in October 1985
mp3 : Simple Minds – Sanctify Yourself – #10 in February 1986
mp3 : Simple Minds – All The Things She Said – #9 in April 1986
mp3 : Simple Minds – Ghostdancing – #13 in November 1986

Yup, the fact that a song, more than a year after its first appearance on an album, could sell enough copies to go Top 20 in the UK, tells a lot about just how popular Simple Minds had become.  And listening to it, just how far removed it was from I Travel, from which part of the lyric was lifted…..

I don’t actually own a copy of Once Upon A Time, but almost 1,000,000 folk in the UK have bought it, so my holding back £10 or so wasn’t that big a deal to the band. I also never bought any singles after those on Sparkle In The Rain, so all the mp3s today have been sourced from elsewhere.

The band wouldn’t release its next studio single until 1989 (albeit there was a live album and 45 released in 1987). In fact, the single was an EP entitled Ballad of The Streets which went to #1. But to me, that’s later Simple Minds and well outside of the confines of this series. Indeed, I was in two minds about staying on as far as these five singles but chose to so so after a chat with one of my fellow Simply Thrilled DJs who, being a fair bit younger than me, advised that this was the era of his introduction to the band and he adores the album.

As ever, I really have appreciated that so many have come in and offered their own views, thoughts, observations and comments these past few weeks. I really must single out Alex, Echorich, Friend of Rachel Worth, JTFL and postpunkmonk for what have been an outstanding series of contributions throughout the entire series, many of them proving to be substantial, stand-alone review pieces bordering on genius.

I’ve said it before, but it does bear repeating, that the quality of responses and critiques left at this little corner of t’internet constantly blows me away. So again, thank you!

And remember, guest postings are very welcome at all times…..so if there’s something you would like to share with a few hundred like-minded folk, then drop me a line anytime.  The address is over to the side of the blog, failing which scroll down and it will be underneath.

Tune in next Sunday to find out who is next for the Sunday spotlight.

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF (EARLY) SIMPLE MINDS (Parts 14 & 15)

The first nine months of 1984 were a complete whirlwind for Simple Minds.

It began in January with the release of their new single, which went Top 20:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – Speed Your Love To Me

Again, there was a harder, rockier edge to the song than previous material, with a backing vocal courtesy of Kirsty MacColl, particularly on the 12″ version which came in at more than seven minutes upon which producer Steve Lillywhite used his entire box of techniques and studio sounds.

The b-side was an instrumental:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – Bass Line

It would later transpire that the instrumental had later been fully devoped, with lyrics, and would appear, as White Hot Day, on the new album Sparkle In The Rain which, upon release in February 1984 entered the UK charts at #1, eventually spending more than a year in the Top 75.

Despite the sales and success of the new album, many fans of old, attracted to the band through the post-punk synth-led music, were bitterly disappointed by the new material. I loved the fact the local boys were now doing good finacially and were now plastered all over the media, but the songs left me cold. The four-night residency in February/March at the Barrowlands could have sold out three or four times over, but the band were on a tour that had already visited Australia, New Zealand and Ireland and was due to take in another three weeks of dates across the UK (although the end dates were cancelled from Jim Kerr being flu-ridden and exhausted)

Having said all that, the choice of next single was my favourite song on the album as, aside from the ridiculous 1-2-3-4 count-in (and the 80s pounding drums), it goes back a bit to the older songs with keyboards to the fore and a far from straight-forward lyric.

mp3 : Simple Minds – Up On The Catwalk

It stalled at #27, perhaps down to the fact that most folk would have the song through its inclusion on the album, but then again, it’s not the most straightforward of numbers nor as anthemic as more recent singles.

The b-side was another instrumental which was a fine reminder of the more experimental side of the band:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – A Brass Band In Africa

In April, an extensive European tour was undertaken, before returning to the UK to fulfill the re-arranged gigs postponed earlier – this culminated in a eight-night residency at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, proof if any were needed of the band’s popularity with the public.

The band would admit later to finding it a tedious experience and it was then that thoughts turned to making the transition to arenas and stadiums.

May and June saw them zigzag their way across North America, playing venues way bigger than previous visits, and after a brief interlude to play some European festivals, they went back to the States for an arena tour in August and September as support to The Pretenders – oh and somewhere along the line, Jim Kerr married Chrissie Hynde.

They were clearly a hard-working band, putting on tight and crowd-friendly shows night after night.  All that was needed now, was some sort of real crossover hit single, one that would cement their place in 80s folklore on both sides of the Atlantic….but in all likelihood, alienate the fanse who were becoming disinchanted with the direction the music was taking.

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF (EARLY) SIMPLE MINDS (Part 13)

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……

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF (EARLY) SIMPLE MINDS (Parts 11 & 12)

Some six weeks after Promised You A Miracle took its leave of the charts, the follow-up single was released:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – Glittering Prize (edit)

Where I’d been a bit iffy about Promised You A Miracle, I pounced on Glittering Prize, telling anyone who cared to listen, that it was a magnificent piece of music whose shimmering majesty, particularly via its Associates-like guitar, bass and keyboard sounds, was the perfect soundtrack to the final few days of what had been the first long summer of my university years….I was happy and this song made me even happier.  I was certain it would be a massive hit, but it was very much a slow-burner, taking what seemed like ages to make its way into the Top 20 and only doing so at the same time as the LP New Gold Dream (81,82,83,84) hit the shops.

Looking back, the lack of b-sides for Glittering Prize didn’t help, with just instrumental versions of different lengths appearing on the 7” and 12” releases, with no new tracks or old live recordings to flesh things out:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – Glittering Prize (theme)

The new album went straight into the Top 10 on its release and a week later was Top 3 (the new Dire Straits album, Brothers In Arms, Love Over Gold, went straight in at #1 when New Gold Dream hit its peak).

Virgin Records were desperate to issue a third single from the album but had to hold off until Glittering Prize stopped selling and dropped out of the charts which it did in early November. Just two weeks later, the new single came in at #36,

but to the shock and surprise of all concerned, that’s as high as it got:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – Someone Somewhere (In Summerime)

By general consensus, this was the highlight of the album and of the live shows the band were now playing to packed audiences. The 12” version even included a new extended introduction, one which Charlie Burchill had worked up during the live renditions and in doing so turned the song into a six-minute epic (and, although nobody knew it yet, gave an indication of what was about to come round the corner…..hiya U2!!)

mp3 : Simple Minds – Someone Somewhere (In Summertime) (extended)

Fans, however, seemed content with the fact they had bought the album, and perhaps it also suffered from the fact that many were also investing in what was by now an extensive back catalogue.

The band didn’t have much in the way of any new music for the b-side and so, for the 7” it was decided to offer up an early version of another track from New Gold Dream:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – King Is White and In The Crowd (session version)

This had been recorded back in February 1982 and broadcast on the Radio 1 evening show, hosted by David ‘Kid’ Jensen. It’s quite demo like, certainly in comparison to what was issued six months later on the album, providing evidence of the role that producer Pete Walsh had played in the studio.

The 12” did have a previously unreleased track:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – Soundtrack For Every Heaven

It later transpired that the music had been worked on for what had hoped would be the tenth track on New Gold Dream but had been abandoned as the band hadn’t been able to do quite get what they were looking for. In effect, what you have, is an unfinished demo……………..

New Gold Dream was placed high in just about every list typed up by the critics in their consideration of the best records of 1982. Simple Minds were now, at long last, a household name, and had even solved their drummer conundrum by keeping session player Mel Gaynor for the live shows and offering him a permanent position for going back into the studio for the follow-up.

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF (EARLY) SIMPLE MINDS (Part 10)

10 April 1982 and a new single by Simple Minds is released.

1 May 1982 and Simple Minds finally have the euphoria that comes with a single hitting the Top 20 in the UK.

mp3 : Simple Minds – Promised You A Miracle

It was the fourth successive week the single had climbed the charts, something it would do for a further two weeks, peaking at #13. It would hang around the lower parts of the charts for a while longer, finally taking its leave in mid-June.

It was really strange seeing the band achieve such high-profile success after five studio albums, one compilation LP and two record labels. It’s a single that didn’t quite gel with me at the outset. It seemed really light and sparse sounding, very much lacking the bite and energy of many of the previous singles but it was one that I came to appreciate after hearing it in the live setting and how it was actually all part of yet a further shift in sound with more reliance on the keyboard skills of Mick MacNeil and the thumping bass lines from Derek Forbes. It was more pop-orientated than ever and of appeal to fans of bands such as ABC, Associates and Yazoo, all of whom would enjoy stellar years in 1982 – it was also similar to the latest Roxy Music album, Avalon, which itself was a million miles removed from the art-house and experimental stuff from the 70s that had been such an influence on early Simple Minds.

A new producer, Pete Walsh, was also at the helm, the job his reward for the impressive remix work he had done on Sweat in Bullet. What very few knew at the time was that Walsh was a total rookie, just 21 years of age, but considered by the band, and indeed the label bosses, to be something of a genius in terms of eking out all sorts of new and fresh sounds from the advances in production technology.

As had happened the previous year with The American, the band rush-released Promised You A Miracle, it being the among the first of the completed songs from the studio sessions in London. There wasn’t really any new material well-developed enough to appear as a b-side and so the decision was taken to use an instrumental track from Sister Feelings Call.

mp3 : Simple Minds – Theme For Great Cities

It’s one of the bands finest bits of music in their entire career, capturing the moment when they stood on the very threshold of fame and fortune. I’m guessing that many of those who weren’t familiar with the band until this 45 would have had their minds blown by the b-side and gone exploring the back catalogue, much of which was available at reasonably cheap prices.

The big question, however, was whether time would show Simple Minds to be just a one-hit wonder. We didn’t have too long to wait to find out.

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF (EARLY) SIMPLE MINDS (Part 9)

Something of a brief interlude this week.

As mentioned before, Arista Records still held the rights to the back catalogue of Simple Minds and having looked with some envy at the sales generated by Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings Call, the decision was taken to have the ultimate of cash-in with the release, in February 1982, of the compilation album Celebration, ten tracks lifted, for the most part, from the first three studio albums.

The album even came with a very cheeky peel-off sticker on the front of its sleeve stating it was The Very Best of Simple Minds – includes I Travel, Chelsea Girl, Life In A Day’

I Travel was re-issued as a single to promote the album, with previously unreleased live tracks on the b-side of the 7” and 12”. The source of these live recordings was never revealed by Arista, but it is likely they came from the Hammersmith Odeon gig of 25 September 1981; if so, it shows that Virgin Records, who held the license for the recordings from that gig, were equally as guilty of any accusations of trying to cash-in.

mp3 : Simple Minds – Thirty Frames A Second (live)
mp3 : Simple Minds – I Travel (live)

The single, again, didn’t trouble the charts (which probably came as a relief to the band as they more or less disowned this particular 45 from the word go).

JC

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