It’s very curious to read that League Of Nations was worked on in the early recording sessions of the Sons/Sister albums because it really does sound so incomplete! And especially given that as soon as they go on tour for the album – the first leg of the tour within the UK – they are performing it live and Jim has added extra lyrics to it.
Lines like, (If I am hearing them correctly) “When the link comes, you’re gonna know when the link comes”, “Tangled lodge had a thousand lodgers, here comes the judge singing law and order” and then I am not sure whether he says the word “caliphate” or “counterfeit” – but there’s a line “caliphate/counterfeit judge, caliphate/counterfeit lawyer – here comes the judge singing law and order”. I mean, it would make the most sense to be “caliphate” – as a Caliph (or various spellings thereof – Calif, Kalif, Khalif) is a Muslim ruler and a caliphate their area of jurisdiction, office and/or region, which then makes sense of the line “here comes the judge singing law and order” – a call to prayer at a mosque? Or perhaps he wasn’t meaning it like that.
Yeah, tell me again when Jim Kerr started to get political with his lyrics? 1989? 1988? 1985? PISH! This is 1981, people! And take a listen to Citizen (Dance of Youth) from 1979’s Real To Real Cacophony (as just one example) for further proof of how long Jim had been weaving the political into his lyrics.
I also think that despite the lyrics being printed as “relief” – he definitely sings “repeat”. It just doesn’t have the intonation of “relief” in how he vocalises it. It’s not how it sounds to me anyway.
Musically, I like the sparsity of it. It’s heavy in atmosphere. I really like Charlie’s guitar work on it when performing it live and I like Kenny’s drumming on it during the live performances too. And others wax lyrical about “Big Dan’s” bass work better than I seem to.
It certainly works much better as a live track than it does as a studio recording album track. It was a great decision to put the live version recorded from the Hammersmith Odeon gig on September 25th, 1981, as a track on the Sweat In Bullet 7” double gatefold and 12” extended remix singles.
Other than that – there’s not much else to discuss with this track.
So, other than the original album version and the official live version that features on the Sweat In Bullet single – there are only two other live versions I’ve heard. One from the Futurama gig at Bingley Hall in Stafford on September 6th (listen HERE), and the other from the gig at the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool on September 22nd (listen HERE). By the time the tour moves on to Canada and Australia, the song has been booted off the setlist, never to reappear.
This one really is a short and sweet post. I wish I had more to talk about with League Of Nations, but this is pretty much it.
But I would like to hear what any of you reading this think of it. Do you like the track? Do you think it is a weak link in an otherwise exemplary body of work from a phenomenal young group of musicians who, at the time, should have already been strong in the consciousness of every music lover on the planet? Do you prefer the live version to the album version? Or vice versa? Would you like to see it back on the setlist, even? Post in the comments.
The song was written at the beginning of 1981 in Edinburgh after a conversation between Jim and John Leckie in which Leckie thought Jim should try his hand at writing a more “traditional” love song. Kerr’s is anything but traditional. In fact, I am firmly of the belief that it is anything BUT a love song. More on that to come.
It started life out as a rough demo. In fact it started life not destined to be a Simple Minds song at all. For Jim was going to gift the song to Jaine Henderson to record. Jaine’s brother, David, former sound engineer of the band (and behind-the-scenes extra member) was running the Hellfire Club, a social rehearsal space and recording studio, located down a small lane just off Derby Street right by where the old CaVa Studio was (with access also via Bentick Street).
Jim and Charlie arrived at the Hellfire Club one night in the winter of 1981. Charlie recorded the basic musical parts, using a drum machine, bass and guitar and Jim recorded a guide vocal for Jaine to record along to. EDIT: For clarity – the original recording that Jaine was involved in took place at the original Hellfire Club location on Carnarvon St. They relocated to the Derby Street site some months later.
With some reluctance, and nervous to try a recording of the vocal in front of Kerr and Burchill, they left the club, leaving Jaine to record her vocal with David at the mixing desk. Not convinced by the outcome (though sounding musically very good – sparse and electronic), and with no ambition to be a singer, for Jaine the idea fell flat. Jim then asked Jaine if Simple Minds could go ahead and record the song themselves. Of course! Jaine had no qualms with that at all.
When discussing it with Jaine back in 2019 when I interviewed her, she said the version she was working on was quite minimalist and stripped back, compared to how it ended up sounding on the single and album. The idea was for it to have a Grace Jones vibe to the sound and vocal. Now THAT is something I’d love to hear! Grace Jones doing a Simple Minds song! Imagine that?! That would be amazing!
There is a demo tape listed on record on the Dream Giver site (see image above). Five songs were recorded at CaVa in February – Valentine’s Day, in fact! The American, Life In Oils, “Twenty One” (working title for Sweat In Bullet), “Checkout” (working title for Careful In Career), and Love Song. These demos eventually get released officially on the Virgin Records produced Silver Box in 2004. CLICK TO HEAR ‘LOVE SONG’ DEMO
Just two weeks later, Love Song is performed for the first time at their gig at Tiffany’s in Glasgow, on March 1st, 1981. CLICK TO LISTEN
And so, more than anything, Love Song is a song about ambition, and a desire for “greatness” – as Jim puts it. Very much not a traditional love song in the “boy meets girl, boy gets girl” sense of it – or even of the unrequited sort “boy meets girl, but boy will never get girl”. It’s neither of those. It’s Jim’s love of success and winners – and of that desire for greatness. The love of ambition. “Ambition in motion!”
Some of the music journalists at the time couldn’t seem to help but give rather disparaging or back-handed praise to SAF/SFC – accusing the promotions department at Virgin Records of “over-hyping” the marketing of Simple Minds. Ouch! (See excerpt of article from The Face further below)
And this idea that the clubs played them to death but they got the cold shoulder from radio – well, perhaps commercial radio and “prime time” radio snubbed them for a time, but the right radio DJs gave them exposure. The likes of John Peel and David Jensen really championed them here in the UK. And I am sure other radio stations around the world would have been playing them! Certainly stations in Canada and Australia did. The right DJ’s who realised there is much depth to “rhythm” as there is to “melody”. One should not be exclusive to or cancel out the other. Why can’t rhythm BE melodic? And vice versa? Is it me that still has no grasp on what exactly melody is? Do I grapple with the basic concept of it?
Speaking of the record company and their hand in things…can we discuss the video made for Love Song?
It is ssooo deliciously bad – it’s good. It’s great! And it has such a hedonistic air to it. The Minds boys act like a right bunch of neds (Scottish term – look it up!) in the video. Well, perhaps Jim is the only one that actually “behaves” himself in the video, though he’s a bit of a shit to the woman in the lift, like “Here, WENCH! Take ma claes and look after ‘em. I’ll be back for ‘em later.” Lol
Let’s pretend we’re storyboarding it here:
You guys rock up to the nightclub (not before you arrive later by yourself, Jim. Always running late, Kerr, fuck sake!)
Jim, you get on the decks and do some DJing.
Kenny, you hit the dancefloor with a couple of dolls
Charlie, you try muscling in on a game of backgammon(!) and get into a punch-up
Derek, you try and chat up some guy’s burd
Mick, you sit at this businessman’s table and as his dinner is served, slap him across the face with his fish supper
Now, Jim, you come and take a seat (on your haunches!) and sing the song to camera for a bit
Mick – punch the businessman’s lights out
Derek, spike the guy’s drink and get into a punch-up with his friend – another bloke piles in and, Kenny, you come help out Derek
You guys have been acting like right jerks so now people are wanting to leave the nightclub to get away from you – but…hello!
What’s going on at the entrance to the nightclub? Is there some kind of forcefield in place at the door?
Derek, Kenny – have a sit down, guys. Just wait for Jim to finish singing
Mick, “Aye, ‘mon Jim, we want outta here”
Where the fuck has Charlie gone?!
Nightclub patrons “Aw, man! We’re gonna be trapped here forever! Who are these dudes? What have they done to us?!”
Jim – “Time to go, boys! Follow me. Play it COOL AS FUCK! Straight through, lads. Straight through. Watch the burds!”
The two burds at the back “Aye, those guys were well fit. Why didnae not take us wit ‘em? We want ‘em.”
Me too, ladies. Me too. Well…the guy at the front, anyway. As far as I am concerned he’s the coolest of the cool. But…I get why you dolls were dancing with Kenny. I’d have probably not said no myself! Good old “Consolation Kenny” – sorry, Mr Hyslop. You get bonus points for being a drummer.
Sometimes I think it was lucky I was only 11 years old at the time! And living on the other side of the world! Or perhaps it was THEY who were lucky? Lol
It’s a preposterous concept for a video and yet, it is probably my favourite of all the Simple Minds videos due to its absurdity.
As discussed in a previous post – the video was recorded in a nightclub that was located at the Kensington Roof Garden that was then being leased by Virgin Records.
The talk of the musical approach to Love Song being a subtler one – opposed to how the sound is with I Travel and Empires And Dance is a curious one. I honestly don’t hear any kind of “softening” myself – not with the direct comparison to Love Song To I Travel. And yes, there are softer, calmer pieces like This Earth That You Walk Upon and Seeing Out The Angel – but then there is the ball-breaker that is Boys From Brazil – and how is that “subtler” to anything that is on Empires And Dance?
Listen to that jarring synth coda at the beginning of the song. It almost sits outside of the rest of the song’s structure and plays off kilter to the rest of the song’s rhythm. But there is so much more propulsion to it and funk to it compared to how it sounded as a demo. And Jim has refined and played around with the lyrics a bit. The whole thing became much more streamline. And its placement on the album’s tracklisting is perfect. I am referring to the UK release when I say this, as it is the track that opens Side Two, or the B-Side to the album. Curiously, the albums’ tracklistings are completely reset for the Canadian releases of the albums and Love Song is the opening track for Sons And Fascination’s Canadian print.
As much as it was making a buzz, especially in the nightclubs of the UK and Europe, its sales were (of the time)… mediocre at best in most places around the world. Just sitting outside the UK Top 40 at number 47 – it was, however, their best chart placing of all their singles so far. In Sweden, it broke into the Top 20, reaching number 16. But the best result came from some 12,000 miles away in Australia in which the single broke into the ARIA chart at an impressive number 9 – giving them their first gold record and Top 10 hit! THANK YOU, COUNTRY OF MY BIRTH for having exquisite taste!
Below is a review of Love Song from November, 1981, printed in Australian music magazine Roadrunner – published by an expat Scot, Donald Robertson. It may even be Donald himself that gave the review. No one is credited as giving the review, though when it comes to the album reviews written in the magazine a couple of pages later, credits to the reviewers are given. It may just be the interviewer of the corresponding piece that appeared with Jim – Ruthvven Martinus – as he is the reviewer of the album that appears in those couple of pages behind the Love Song review.
The boys certainly did promote the single quite heavily. Really gave it a push, appearing on music programs over Europe to “perform” the song (quotation marks as sadly most television appearances would be a lip-synching mime to the single or album track. Nothing I’m sure that ever sat well with the band. They would have always wanted to perform it live, I am sure).
There are three different appearances you can watch on YouTube – one is of them on German music program Szene. They are on such a tiny platform. All crammed on it, jostling for some space. Jim plays it wonderfully nonchalant as the album version gets the full musical intro treatment. But once the song gets going, there’s little room for him to perform his wonderful “prowling panther” style lunging moves – and he and Derek almost bump into each other at one point, which results in a bit of a sideways glance and a bit of chuckle between them. VIEW THE VIDEO HERE
The second clip I love to watch is still from a mystery source. No one can really agree where this clip comes from. What TV program aired it. Or even perhaps if the band recorded it in a nightclub somewhere. It’s certainly from 1981 – the clothes and the style of the band sit right within that look – and the fact that Kenny Hyslop is with them on drum duties (they he was still with them early in 1982) would very much keep inline with being 1981. They look as though they’ve had a rough few days. Jim looks the worst for wear – but still by far the hottest and sexist guy around right at that point. Just look at him! The clothes, the moves…he’s just the whole goddamn package right there! And well, the rest of the guys are doing their best to look pretty cool beside him. VIEW MYSTERY NO.2 CLIP HERE
Finally … we return to Oz and to Countdown. Countdown is, of course, Australia’s answer to Top Of The Pops. Anyone who was anyone, even Oz and Kiwi bands – or the international groups and artists that actually decided to tough out the grueling travel times to get half-way around the world, appeared on Countdown. And so with a band like Simple Minds in the country, and Love Song already making such a buzz and sailing up the charts, they HAD to appear! Look at them all! Charlie’s fucking WRECKED! Kenny’s got a tan that any modern day West End Glasgow hipster would be proud of! Derek’s almost in salute to Sir Les Paterson with what looks like a bloody STRING VEST on. Mick also seems to have a bit of a tan – but is his usual understated self. AND THEN THERE IS JIM FUCKING KERR! Head to toe in black (before Charlie took over with that look and made it “standard issue” Burchill) – complete with sunglasses – indoors (I’m sure in an exercise to conceal just how fucking shattered and/or off his tits he is), with this bloody bright, yellow satchell bag that I read on this lady’s blog from loooong ago, that he picked up in a shop in Sydney for the princely sum of $A8.00. I’m not sure what that would equate to in today’s money, or what it equated to him splashing out on it in pounds (given what I imagine the rate of exchange was then – perhaps about £3.00-4.00) but I’m assuming it would be about £20 today. Who knows what delights were in this bag? He told me “sherbet straws” once. I always took it to be code – hence the glasses, eh, Jim?
The most recent uploading of the video to YT sees Greedy Smith of Mental As Anything introducing Simple Minds. Greedy sounds well into them, giving them due praise for being a fantastic live band.
And here we are some 40 years later with the reputation of theirs of being a stellar live band firmly in tact. My tally of seeing them 23 times, to date, in my seven years of Simple Minds fandom (with many more booked to come!) I hope pays some testament to the calibre of performance they achieve to this day.
The song has been a fairly constant site on the setlist over the years. With only the short lull of it not appearing on the setlist during the Street Fighting Years tour of 1989/1990. So, there are many, many live versions that are available to hear. But for finality, it seems apt to share the final time (to date) that it performed live by the band. My recording of them performing in Copenhagen at the Store Vega in March 10th, 2020.
There have also been several remixes made over the years. Beginning with an extended 12” version that was released simultaneously with the release of the 7” version in 1981. There was a remix that was produced in 1992 to appear on the Glittering Prize ‘81/‘92 best of compilation as well as the Themes Volume 5 release. This version was mixed by Charlie and Gregg Jackman. It doesn’t bear too marked a difference from the original album version but I love the subtle remix treatment it has been given. I play this version often.
I shall leave the final words to Jim – featured below. They were written out by Paul Morley and appeared as part of an article that was in the New Musical Express on October 3rd, 1981. Morley wrote the piece out as through a “stream of consciousness” internal dialogue from Jim’s mind. You can read the full article HERE
The amazing and brilliant Dream Giver Redux – it really is the Simple Minds bible and an endless source of information.
Wikipedia – for certain other information on tracklistings and release dates as well as chart positioning information.
Lost Glasgow – more detailed information on the exact location of the Hellfire Club.
Lol-Z on YouTube – for the clip of David Henderson and Jacquie Bradley (and the other ladies from Sophisticated Boom Boom, as well as Clare Grogan) at the Hellfire Club.
Lastly but most importantly – big thanks to Jaine and David Henderson – you can find out more information on the Hellfire Club by visiting the dedicated Facebook page – HERE
One final little extra note is about the image just above. It’s to do with a post that Jim posted on the triggers he uses to remind him of where in the setlist he is during a show. A “visualisation” technique – something he talked about again only recently when posted about watching the drama series Queen’s Gambit. Anyhow – these short bits of notation will spark visual indicators – and you can see the one in the list for Love Song is – the Hellfire Club. All these years down the line and it still sparks the memory.
Thank you for reading this mammoth labour of love.
“So when I thought Charlie’s guitar in ‘Angel’ sounded like church bells…” – writes Adam Sweeting, having just been given an explanation by Jim of the ideas behind the song. You can read a full extract of that below.
I’d be intrigued to know what the book of short stories was. I thought for a few minutes about asking Derek Forbes if he’d remember it. Even went to Twitter in further contemplation of conjuring up the gumption to ask him…but I can’t. Best to let sleeping dogs lie. And I guess if Jim had remembered it, he’d have mentioned its name or the author back then during the interview. Maybe someone could find out or shed some light on it?
Anyway, let us ‘push on’.
UPDATE: A regular visitor and reader of this blog – Scott, contacted me about who he thinks the author of the short stories might be and which short story it is! And I think he just may be right. He read on Dream Giver about Jim mentioning Philip K Dick. Well of course I remember that too because of Jim’s reply to me (when I quizzed him about having read sci-fi) about “growing out of things…like drugs, alcohol, hair dye and jodhpurs”. But I didn’t make the connection when compiling this post. A book of short stories of Dick’s is titled “A Handful Of Darkness”. Released originally in 1955, it contains a short story called “Upon The Dull Earth” (that even sounds like a line Jim would use in a song!) – a link to the plot of the story HERE – I think Scott came up trumps with this! Where would I be without him?
The original working title for the song was “Petrocello” – a word entirely made up it would seem. A portmanteau of the words “petronella” and “Limoncello”, perhaps? Or maybe of “petronella” and “uccello”? A portmanteau of those two words could translate as “dancing birds”. For “petronella” is a style of Scottish folk dance while “uccello” is the Italian word for bird. That would be lovely if it was a combination of those two. I’m always trying to put romantic connotations to everything.
Again it was one of the songs that Mick gave to Jim to listen to on cassette and obviously he could hear such potential in all the pieces. I guess had Mick not heard the potential in the music himself first, he’d have not passed it on to Jim to pass his lugholes over it.
I can’t claim to know about music or its structure and complexities (or otherwise) and what it is to describe something as “melody” as opposed to labelling it an “arpeggio” – but what I do know is those chords, those notes from Mick MacNeil’s synths are some of the most beautiful pieces of musical notation you will ever hear. And that Adam Sweeting is right, that Charlie’s guitar chords do sound like church bells.
As it started life as one of Mick’s workings, it may have initially been going to remain an instrumental. Who knows at what point during recording proceedings Jim was ready to provide lyrics? He seemed quite the procrastinator back then – leaving lyrical input until pressed to provide it. Then again ‘Angel’ was seemingly one of the earlier tunes to be formed so maybe it was a rare time in which Jim was ready with lyrics fairly early on but he just delayed putting them across in the studio? All supposition by me.
The song had a brief run of being in the live set during the opening part of the Sons And Fascination tour in Aug/Sept of 1981, performed just a handful of times before leaving the set altogether. Never to reappear again until 2006 on the Black and White tour. And not on a set list again since.
The only live recording of it that exists from those handful of 1981 shows is from the Royal Court in Liverpool on September 22nd. It’s performed in Edinburgh on the opening night of the tour on August 28th – it doesn’t seem to go too well.
The next two shows, it’s off the set list – the reason for the Bingley Hall absence I guess would be to how ill Jim was on the night. The next gig in Nottingham, was the one and only time that Wonderful In Young Life was performed. Ironed out, perhaps? It was then back in the set until the final gig of this first short leg of the tour at the Hammersmith Odeon in London on September 25th. A total (potentially – as some set list information is unavailable) of seven shows that it was performed at. Amazing then that there is even one recording to exist of it. I’m sure that given that the gig was recorded for the specific purpose of putting out some live content, that a recording of it being performed at Hammersmith must exist somewhere in a vault.
It was a fairly prominent feature in 2006, particularly during the first part pf the year as the band tour around Europe. It makes its last appearance during the opening gig of the Australian leg of the tour in May. There are several live versions to be heard. The pedant in me couldn’t really stick with any of them. I am terrible for that. I love lyrics as they are. As they’ve been written and intended to be heard in the first place and when that doesn’t happen I find it annoying. Yes! I know. There is the excuse that the band hadn’t actually performed the song 25 years by that point – I could give them a break! But my counter argument would be one – they would have given themselves time to rehearse before going on tour. Also, the element about it that leaves me disappointed has nothing to do with the music. It’s being played very well from the examples of performances I had heard. My gripe is with Jim and the lyrics. The version I can listen to that plays furthest along in the tour is in Rome on March 19th. Some six weeks into the tour. It’s the 34th performance of the song.
I will say no more of it because I know where he’d tell me to stick it – esp. after given a critique of something some 15 years after the fact, but I can’t help being a pedantic c*** about these things.
All I know is that as a track to end an album with? Very few match it for statement and feeling, to summerise and sum up all that has passed in the album that has just been experienced. The melody. The “church bells”. The amazing bassline. The underplayed drum beat. The beautiful backing vocal. It’s exquisite. As delicate and as haunting as the angels it is depicting. That daydream, vision, visitation – whatever it was that Jim experienced as a child certainly left its mark on him. And all these years later it still lives on and will live on eternally in the mindset of Simple Minds fans. Those angels are with all of us. For many of us they feel like guardians. Guardians of the thoughts and feelings we hold so very precious. If what Jim experienced was indeed “a vision”, then it was definitely meant to be. They wanted to be seen, and they wanted Jim to see them.
What an absolutely sublime piece of work to finish an album on.
Photograph of Jim by Virginia Turbett
Angel wings vector graphics: Bastian Schwind
Additional source information: simpleminds.org
Someone has uploaded what I guess must be a clip from Rage airing the original fill Countdown episode this came from. I never knew they were introed by Greedy Smith from Mental As Anything. And he seems to be raving about them too.
Aaww, Greedy was a fun guy. Well, he seemed it. I was too young and certainly of no age to be going to gigs or what not, but the Mentals were HUUUGE. A lot of bands were around in Oz then, and a lot of them managed to have big status down there. Not many made themselves known beyond the shores of Oz and NZ. And some that did were confined to being one-hit wonders, which is tragic. A case in point – Mental As Anything were only ever known for Live It Up outside of Oz – which is just a f***ing travesty!
Anyway, I digress…
This video never gets old. Would love to know what happened to the sherbet straws carrier. Lol
As promised in a previous post about Boys From Brazil, here is information about the Kensington Roof Gardens. The tenancy was held by Virgin Limited Edition since (despite some erroneous information saying it was 1982) 1981.
I think Simple Minds must have been one of the first bands on the label to make use of the space, having promotional photos for Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call done there with Jill Furmanovsky. As well as shooting the video for Sweat In Bullet in the Spanish part of the gardens.
Along with that, Love Song was shot inside the Babylon nightclub. I have always wondered where the Love Song video was filmed and only as I was researching for the post on Boys From Brazil did I see information on the wonderful Dream Giver Redux about the Kensington Roof Gardens. As I said previously I was aware of a Branson/Virgin connection with the location of the SAF/SFC promo photos and the Sweat In Bullet video but thought it was Branson’s private garden or gardens at the Manor House. And I had no idea that the Love Song video was done at the same site as the promo photoshoot and the video for Sweat In Bullet. I had always just assumed it was some nightclub in Glasgow or Edinburgh.
You can read about the Babylon nightclub by clicking the photo above.
Back to the gardens themselves. The gardens were designed in the 1930s so now it is entirely understandable to me why it feels to have this certain…air of sophistication around it. And the way the Minds boys are clothed and photographed for the promo photos ties right in with that aesthetic. They look so bloody glamorous! I love those photos, and Jim looks as hot AF. I mean, they look like they’ve swanned in off the set of The Great Gatsby or something. They look amazing!
I’ve added a couple of videos about the gardens sourced from a really insightful article about the gardens that you can look at by clicking on the photo of the Spanish part of the garden below. There are a couple of older Pathé News clips you can watch of the gardens in 1938 and 1949, just check along the right hand side when you click on the article. All their resource information is down that side in columns.
And for good measure, I added the videos for Love Song and Sweat In Bullet here in the post for you guys to enjoy and maybe see things in a slightly different perspective now.
It’s a shame it’s currently closed. But there seems to be plans afoot to have it open back up again. I think a new tenant has been found. Stay tuned!
A couple of things to highlight from recent days. One is an interview (well, part one of an interview said Neil Saint in reply to a comment left on the FB post) with Kenny Hyslop about his days in Slik. You can listen to the interview by clicking HERE
UPDATE: There is a part two of Kenny’s interview with Neil Saint in which he talks about his time with SM. You can listen to that HERE
I’m still yet to listen to it myself, but will do imminently. And I will link to part two when it airs.
The other is this (linked below)! A rare 1979 bootleg of the Minds playing a gig at Orebro University in Sweden. It was on November 1st, 1979. I have just turned nine years old the day before and Real To Real Cacophony is about to be released.
I don’t think this is a full set on this bootleg, but it’s more extensive than what I’ve been exposed to from this gig previously. There’s a good blend of tracks from Life In A Day and Real To Real. Premonition is a bit of a cut up job and Jim fluffs on lyrics several times throughout. Nerves getting the better of him, I guess. Fluffing only in the sense that lyrics end up out of order – and I am far too much of a pedant not to notice. In amongst the album tracks there’s also Here Comes The Fool and their cover of White Light/White Heat getting an airing.
I started listening to it last night and had to stop before hearing WL/WH and Chelsea Girl.
Obviously it isn’t the best bootleg going as far as sound quality is concerned. It has its moments though, and I am always appreciative of there being bootlegs from so early on to listen to. Jim even has a go at engaging with the crowd! Which I find amazing for that period, because he rarely utters a word at this point in time. And when he does talk, he sounds as nervous as hell!
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!
Final couple of acquisitions for now. I had been waiting to have the funds to get this final two as I couldn’t just grab them all at once. I thought at one point I lost out on getting the band photo but it was just the listing had ended and it took a while for the seller to relist it.
I’ve gotten all the ones I want for now. Unless something new crops up, I’m happy with all my recent finds.
Just one last thing with the band one – if you look at the inside of Charlie’s jaiket, down by his left hip, you’ll see he has one of these passes (pictured below) clipped to it. I’d love one of those. I love how it is pretty much a silhouette of Jim’s head. It’s all in the hair and ears. Lol
There are no details with either of the photos but I am guessing with them being German photographers that these were both taken in Germany? The band photo from 1981 during the Sons And Fascination tour – that backstage tour pass was certainly for that tour (and used into 1982 as well) – and well, Kenny’s with them, so it would see to confirm a 1981 date for that photo. But looking at the gig dates on the Dream Giver site, Kenny never goes to Germany with them. Hmmm – confusing! The only European dates he seems to do is a couple of Spanish dates at the tail end of the tour to Canada/USA/Oz/NZ in 1981.
Answers on a postcard for that. A band photo like that one is pretty rare anyway. I’m glad I got hold of it in the end.
As for the one of Jim on his own, I speculated it being taken at a gig in Berlin in March, 1983. Again, just a theory as there are no details with the photo other than the photographer’s name on the back.
FURTHER UPDATE – MARCH 4th: The crowdfunder campaign has been extended for two weeks – which I think also extends the time of the prize draw. The announcement of the winners won’t happen until April, so one can assume the prize draw is still active right now. If you’d like to make a donation and be in the prize draw, check with Carlton for certainty.
UPDATE – MARCH 2nd: Prize draw donations will be closing in a couple of days from now, so if you want to be in with a chance, be sure to make a donation ASAP!
Carlton Studios in Glasgow is a rehearsal space and professional recording hub for local bands within the city. As far as I am aware, Kenny Hyslop was involved in the set up of the studio.
Due to the lockdown restrictions that have gone on over this past year, the studio is in real danger of permanent closure. It needs funds to stay afloat. It needs our help.
Virginia Turbett has donated eight A3 sized prints to Carlton Studios to help raise funds. The prints are being auctioned off. The prints centre around the Scottish music scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s and include images of Simple Minds, Bruce’s Records, The Skids, Alex Harvey and The Rezillos.
Please take a look at Dennis Ramone’s video in the Facebook link below….
You can donate by clicking HERE – please consider donating anything you can to this. Rehearsal and recording space such as these are vital for cities like Glasgow, where music is one of the major driving forces of the community.