In a small village called Little Chalfont, in the Buckinghamshire countryside near the town of Amersham…. five band members and a producer that they (the band) admit to having slight reservations about (they wanted Todd Rundgren but he only worked out of Sigma Sound in New York and Virgin deemed the idea too expensive to hire him, then it was proposed they use Martin Rushent but he was unavailable, or Steve Lillywhite but he was deemed too expensive also at that point in time) enter a recording studio and started to record what would be, for me, quite possibly their most remarkable album(s). There may have been trepidation to start with. And it may have continued to be fraught with indecision, but what sprang forth from it, in hindsight, is…wondrous!
Steve Hillage sounded the least authoritarian producer you could wish for, which one could argue wasn’t what a still fledgeling Simple Minds needed at that point – their three album recording history with John Leckie meant that it was an entirely unknown dynamic for the boys when they entered Farmyard Studios with “old Cabbage Head” to record their 4th and 5th albums. They sounded as if they needed the discipline that Hillage lacked giving them – at the time – but it also released something profound too. Perhaps a modicum of freedom that they needed? Yes, it meant they were indecisive about which songs to work on, but wow! I mean, talk about spoilt for choice when you feel your hands are tied and say “we’ll take them all in!”
Perhaps this is why we’ll never see a Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call boxset? Do we have it all already? Well…I can’t imagine that is true! Just last night on the Dream Giver site I read about demos that were recorded at CaVa Studios in Glasgow. And when I interviewed Jaine Henderson a couple of years back she had told me that initially Love Song was offered to her by Jim to perform and record. Imagine it! What would be their biggest hit of the time – until Promised You A Miracle is released 12 months later – might not have even been a Simple Minds hit! Jaine wasn’t persuaded. She wasn’t a singer or performer.
I’m guessing those CaVa demos are what ended up on the Silver Box set that Virgin brought out in 2004? There are demo versions of Love Song, The American, Careful In Career and Sweat In Bullet on there – as well as (dare I mention it?) the forgotten Life In Oils – which fell somewhere between the tracks of Empires And Dance and Sons/Sister. Already too much new stuff they were working on as the Sons/Sister sessions started, it got ditched, much to mine and John Leckie’s consternation.
They nearly called him (Leckie) back into the studio, they ended up so directionless with Hillage – but would we have ended up with what now feels like such a rich tapestry? The album needed to formulate and end up shaped in the way it was. A bulging overspill of creative energy. A band oozing with an abundance that sees them on the cusp of something grand. You can feel it. You can almost taste it! With long hindsight, and even with its (SUBTLE) imperfections both Jim and Charlie value it for the creative tour de force it was.
For your listening pleasure – a fantastic recording of them made in San Fransisco while they were on tour. Recorded by Frank Gallagher, no less, and aired exclusively on Billy Sloan’s radio show for Clyde Radio back in July, 1982. I’m assuming the recording was made the previous November as they played San Fransisco on November 7th, 1981. They didn’t tour the U.S. again until 1983 and SAF was no longer on the the setlist by then.