The Keith Forsey song (Don’t You) Forget About Me finally propelled Simple Minds into the world of stadium rock and overblown studio production which, some would argue, they had always belonged. Yet at one time they were known as Johnny And The Self Abusers: the lead singer had a hairdo like a Trappist monk: at another JP played their early stuff such as The American: and they released a classic New Wave 12 inch in I Travel, which carried the thrust of an irresistible beat along with detailed and pointed electronic backing. It was this period which was documented in knavish and urgent style on their Peel Session of 19 December 1979. It contained three songs from Real To Real Cacophony, in addition to a new song, Room which they had only played live up to that point. This guy states that it was their only session for JP, but Ken lists another one in 1982, which, since it isn’t on the 2004 Silver Box set, I don’t have.
What is beyond dispute is that the 1982 album optimistically labelled New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) took the band from the Kraftwerk-style minimalism of Empires And Dance to the heights of New Romanticism. No less than three songs from the LP made the Festive Fifty that year, and all three made the UK Top 40. Glittering Prize (FF 1982 #45) sounds like it was built for the stage, and indeed became a live staple thereafter. With its touch of female vocal and pointed keyboard swashes, it declares the renaissance that the album was for them, due in great part to Peter Walsh’s exuberant production.
Someone, Somewhere (In Summertime) (FF 1982 #32) is a memorable, naggingly insistent recreation of a half-remembered relationship. Jim Kerr puts so much feeling into the lyric that one feels it is an ongoing fascination that has never burnt out.
The out and out pop of Promised You A Miracle (FF 1982 #30) has a hook that certainly is difficult to shake from the mind. It once again trades on nostalgia for hope that remains unfulfilled, with lyrics like ‘life mirrors a cure’ and ‘everything is possible in the game of life’ evincing a dreamy optimism.
With Steve Lillywhite on board, their next album, Sparkle In The Rain, would find the band remaking themselves once again in a more rock-oriented direction: Peel made the comment at the head of this post after hearing Kid Jensen play Waterfront on his show. Why?
In a way it was that we got bored. Although, in a sense you don’t change. First of all you want to entertain yourself. Because if you are not entertaining yourself you will not entertain anyone else. For the desire to entertain oneself you start to change and play. But also without being arrogant we were talented enough to try out different styles. I mean some bands can only play rock music. We had a broad imagination and off course, as I already mentioned, worked with good people. From the producers we worked with Trevor Horn and Steve Lillywhite. People that would push you into a territory and you maybe wouldn’t think you could go. But once you were there you really liked it. I agree, when people speak to me about Simple Minds. I always ask them: which Simple Minds do you mean? Is it the early punk band, the synthesizer artrock, the New Romantic, the New Wave Pop, the stadium rock or the political rock group? [Jim Kerr]
They would never appear in John’s chart again, but went on to heights of success that belied the tight diamond structures of the early years. They also became more politically oriented (witness Street Fighting Years) and so far removed from their roots that their beginnings seemed, well, like a new gold dream.