Released in May, 1981 – while the band are still busily recording the Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call albums, the first of the singles of the album is rushed out.
But as “rush jobs” go, it has been a mainstay in the Simple Minds live set…well, since even BEFORE it was recorded in the studio and released as a single.
Well, so the Dream Giver site says but when I look at setlists from the March tour I see Sweat In Bullet on the setlist and not The American. Also there is a mention on the page about the March ‘81 tour that Careful In Career and Love Song had been written earlier in the year and already getting live airings. Which makes The American an odd choice for a first release single. Why not Sweat In Bullet or Love Song? I guess the desire to give a thirsty public something completely fresh and new won out (though you’d have thought only the small-ish contingent of die hard Minds fans would be the only ones familiar with the new tracks from the March setlist?).
Anyway, I suppose I’m splitting hairs. The point remains that the single is braw (“very good” for the non Scots reading this). And if only Simple Minds would give their still incredibly thirsty fanbase new material like this these days – and this quickly! No such luck. It’s all such a corporatocracy now. Music as “commodity”. No. We release singles as one new song tagged on to a “best of” album. Yet ANOTHER “best of” album. Sorry, but, yeah. I never like to criticise the band much but, one “new” song attached to a “best of” album, and a whole tour based around that?! Well, in retrospect, maybe a pandemic was just what this band needed to get a bomb up its arse and think about just WHAT their fanbase wants or DESERVES.
I’m sure Jim will not be best pleased with what I have written just above. But then again, he probably doesn’t give two shits, which is how things have felt this past year in the Simple Minds fandom, to be honest. YES! He keeps talking about new material and a new album, but then it gets handed over to record company fucking bureaucratic red tape shit. FUCK! JUST GIVE US SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO BEYOND PROMISES! JESUS CHRIST!
Hey ho. I guess the Minds story will come to an end soon enough anyway, so why does it matter?
ANYWAY! The American! Let’s celebrate The American. The rush job of a single that still has the fanbase singing their lungs out to this day. I can’t be begrudging ANOTHER “hits” tour when I have so much love for songs like The American now, can I? It has appeared on many a tour over the years, with short rests during the Street Fighting Years and Real Life tours and just the odd absence from there.
There is a demo version of the song that got a release on the 2004 mega compilation, Silver Box. It’s all pretty much there. The final studio release was refined and honed.
I find the 12” extended version of the song much better than the album version. The album version is great too, just…a bit short. Still, I guess everything that appeared on Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call was pushing for space. So much so that the LEAD single from the sessions doesn’t even get put on the lead album but on its twinned “sister extra”.
The 12” also gets a highlight on the wonderful Themes sets – on Volume 1 of the releases. As well as that, in the late nineties, there is an “Interference Mix” of the song released. It remains a solid favourite of mine of the Simple Minds remixes that have been produced.
The earliest live appearance I can find on a bootleg is at the Futurama 3 gig at Bingley Hall in Stafford on Sept. 6th, 1981. The infamous one where Jim is “as crook as Rookwood”, as we say in Oz (ie: feeling very unwell). It’s audible, to the point where it sounds to me that Jim sings “here comes the meds” during the second run of the “chorus”. There is a lot of dead air where he normally would be singing. And Derek gives the sign off at the end of the song for the end of the gig. I guess Jim is off puking again by this point?
Another favourite involves “early days” footage of the band on French TV performing it live. Jim is partly clothed in my favourite combo, in his riding boots and baggy white troosers. (And in a fairly figure-hugging white t-shirt as well – his chest looks frigging awesome! OMG!) He also does some wrapping of the mic cord around his elbow and he just makes shapes and is just the sexiest thing alive! Beautiful! He’s beautiful.
But I digress!
The most “recent” (some recent to my ears anyway) versions I have really enjoyed have been the live acoustic version (not the studio version on the Acoustic album – that never really sat well with me for some reason) but also the version I heard from the Good News From The Next World tour. It was a return of the song on the setlist after an absence of some eight years. I heard a version of it from the gig at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow on 10th September, 1995. Jim actually sings all the BV lines! The “across a curved earth / Nassau club days / in collective fame / the eventful workouts” lines. I nearly lost my shit hearing it for the first time. It was late at night but inwardly I was shouting, “HE’S DOING THE LINES! HE’S DOING THE LINES!” Lol. I was ssooo happy!
In light of what I said earlier in this post, The American is one song I would be happy to keep on the setlist. It is a firm favourite of mine at gigs and one I am guaranteed to dance and sing along to. But I would be absolutely OVER THE MOON if more tracks from Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call were performed. The only tracks with almost concrete affirmation to stay on the setlist are, The American, Love Song and Theme For Great Cities. The only other track I’ve had the privilege of hearing performed live in front of me from the albums is This Earth That You Walk Upon. I’d love to hear Sweat In Bullet or Sons And Fascination itself, or Seeing Out The Angel or In Trance As Mission. Anything really.
Speaking of “rush jobs” – the cover! Malcolm Garrett was given just 48 hours to come up with something for the cover of the single – his first design for Simple Minds. His time at the cover design helm for the band saw a number of iconic covers produced, the pinnacle of these, for many, being New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84). But the start of the working relationship with Assorted iMaGes the band had was through the first work of The American. The cover holds personal significance for me, given how Malcolm collected the images together and how I make my own art.
Overall, the 12” version as well as many live versions are my favourites of The American, so for this week’s Minds Music Monday, let’s say happy (almost!) 40th anniversary to the AMERI-AMERI-AMERI-AMEREE-AMERICAAAN!