Gold Dream (DVD Audio)
Noel Megahey -
'www.dvdtimes.co.uk' 19th August 2005 (UK)
a Glasgow punk band called Johnny and the Self-Abusers,
Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill formed Simple
Minds in 1978 and moved into experimental avant-garde
pop with progressive and Krautrock influences
through early albums such as Reel to Real Cacophony
(1979), Empires and Dance (1980) and Sons and
Fascination (1981). By the time the band came
to record New Gold Dream (1982), they had picked
up the pop sensibilities of Giorgio Moroder's
Euro-dance rhythms and the sophisticated poise
of Roxy Music, also being explored by the more
experimental pop bands of the 80's, Propaganda
After New Gold
Dream the band would go on to greater success,
breaking in America with their single Don't
You Forget About Me from John Hughes' film The
Breakfast Club before going on to rival U2 and
fill stadiums and with tediously drawn-out bombastic
anthems recorded by the then in-vogue radio-friendly
producers, Steve Lillywhite, Jimmy Iovine and
Bob Clearmountain (see the review for the DVD-A
of Once Upon A Time). Simple Minds are still
active as a band with a new album Black & White
due to be released in September 2005.
New Gold Dream
however is the sound of a Simple Minds at their
peak, their tendency towards excess restrained
here under the lush, warm, sympathetic production
of Peter Walsh, focussing the songs into tight
arrangements, yet allowing them space to breathe,
improvise and explore the soundscapes they operate
within. New Gold Dream is remastered and remixed
for 5.1 sound by Jeff Levison and released on
DVD-A format, but has a number of other high-quality
sound format options that will make it compatible
with most DVD set ups, including DTS 5.1 and
PCM Stereo. As I am not equipped to test out
the DVD-A track, this review is based on the
DTS mix. Each of the surround mixes is 24bit
at a 96K sample rate, the PCM Stereo 16bit at
48K. The video aspect of the disc is in NTSC
format and the DVD is not region encoded.
The DTS mix of
Someone, Somewhere In Summertime lifts Charlie
Burchill's chugging, echoing guitar out more
clearly in the mix, but the drums are almost
completely submerged, losing the considerable
impact they have on the song. The bass is similarly
heavy and unclear. This muddiness of bass and
drums in the mix is unfortunately prevalent
throughout the album. Jim Kerr's echoing vocals
are reasonably distinct, at least as much as
they ever where, making use of the rears alongside
Michael MacNeill's keyboard flourishes. The
poor quality of the rhythm section aside however,
this captures the character of the original
song very well.
The bass is a
little more solid in Colours Fly And Catherine
Wheel, but as if Kerr's vocal mannerisms and
mumbled delivery weren't already incoherent
enough they are practically reduced to solfege
here in another rather muddy mix.
The springy keyboard
riff of Promised You A Miracle holds the song's
structure together, but otherwise it's a mess
in 5.1 with no clear directional sounds, just
echoing from the front speaker out and swamping
everything in reverb. This is very disappointing.
In contrast to
much that has gone before, Big Sleep's vocal
is clearer than I've ever heard it on album
before, and with the keyboards pushed to the
it has much more room to breathe - at least
until Derek Forbes indistinct bass arrives in.
Burchill's guitar however also benefits from
the wider mix, the chiming, echoing chords flitting
from rear speakers to front in between the Kerr's
chanted refrain. "Where did you go, immaculate
friend?". The brooding, ambient magnificence
of the song is intact here on one of the best
mixes on the DVD, although the crashing punch
of the drums is sadly toned down.
to improve with the airy, floating dreamscapes
of the instrumental Somebody Up There Likes
You, Derek Forbes' coming to the forefront with
some Mick Karn-sounding fretless bass frills.
Burchill's guitar soars and chimes, coming through
much clearer than on the stereo mix of the track.
This in turn sets
the mood perfectly for what used to be the opening
track on Side B of the vinyl version of the
album, the title track New Gold Dream (81, 82,
83, 84). A pulsing, rumbling track, this sounds
quite different in 5.1 and there is perhaps
too much going on for the mix to handle. Underlying
layers of keyboards and occasional flourishes
are practically swamped by the thumping, muffled
bass, which even drowns out the punch of the
drum and percussion tracks, while Burchill's
guitar echoes somewhere off in the distance.
This sounds a complete mess, but... it pulls
together somewhere around the "81, 82,
83, 84" mid-section and Kerr's vocals sound
better and clearer here than in any of the other
tracks on the disc.
What the poor
mix can't disguise though is just how good this
song still is - six minutes of sheer brilliance.
What should be a driving, chunky bass rhythm
on Glittering Prize is again lost in the mix.
However, some angelic backing vocals (Sharon
Campbell) that I hadn't really detected before,
are clearly audible here. Again the husk of
a good song can be identified here, but it feels
like the soul has somehow been taken out of
When left on its
own, the bass opening to Hunter And The Hunted
can sound strong enough, but anticipating the
crash of Mel Gaynor's drums, I was severely
disappointed again by how weak they are presented
here. All impact is completely lost. The mix
plays around with Kerr's layered vocals, his
whispers and interjections thrown backward and
forward across the speakers, but this is MacNeill's
chance to shine, swirling around lush swathes
of backing keyboard rhythms for Herbie Hancock
to deliver his wonderful jazzy solo.
King Is White
And In The Crowd is the one track that appears
most noticeably remixed. I didn't recognise
the intro, with its count-in brought to the
forefront and the track stops abruptly with
a "yeah, that's the one", which has
never been on any mix of the song I have heard
before. The underpinning rhythm moreover is
completely flat when its metronomic precision
should be the structure for the other instruments
and voice to work within. I didn't like this
mix at all.
A previously unreleased
track, In Every Heaven, has the clearest mix
on the album - drums have impact and the bass
has body and definition. I have never heard
this track before and its pop-iness doesn't
have the same majestic quality as the rest of
the album, but it clearly of the period and
fits in well as a welcome extra.
As far as the
album's transfer to 5.1 goes, I can only hope
that the DVD-Audio track, which I was unable
to listen to, is better than the DTS mix. Either
that or my equipment is somehow incompatibly
calibrated with this particular album, but I
have no reason to think so, as the PCM stereo
mix is much more accurate, clearly defined,
and faithful to the original mix with a fuller,
rounded bass and stronger, solid drums. Saying
that, it never sounds as good as my original
vinyl copy of the album. There is certainly
an attraction to having New Gold Dream mixed
to 5.1, and for one or two moments, when I really
let the DTS mix boom out, it took me back like
never before to the sixth-form discos at the
King Arthur in Belfast in the summer of 1982,
and made me want to go up and hassle the DJ
to play the 12" of 'The American'. While
it replicates the muddy bass of an 80's disco,
from a strictly audiophile viewpoint, the bass
and drums on this DVD-Audio should really be
much more solidly defined than they are here,
and it would have made all the difference to
this remix. For an album that relies on a strong
rhythmic backbone, this weakness in the 5.1
mix is nothing less than criminal.
One other point
to make is that evaluating an album in DVD-Audio
is highly subjective and reliant on the particular
strengths or weaknesses of individual audio
setups. Personally, I got more accustomed to
the 5.1 mix after a number of listens and found
that my opinion on the mixing changed slightly
depending on different external conditions.
Things like the time of day and the room temperature
also have a significant affect on the overall
Lyrics are included
for all songs except the instrumental Somebody
Up There Likes You and the extra track In Every
Heaven. Considering Kerr's often mumbled delivery
and obscure imagery, it is surprising that my
understanding of the lyrics is pretty close
with only some minor differences - what I always
thought was "Eyes golden in great wondering"
in Promised You A Miracle is actually "As
golden days break wondering". I think I
prefer my own interpretation, although neither
makes any great sense and working out your own
meanings is part of the fun here. A Discography
presents cover images for other Simple Minds
albums, without tracklistings. Videos are included
for Promised You A Miracle and Glittering Prize,
in 4:3, NTSC format with both DTS 5.1 and PCM
Stereo mixes. The video quality is very good
indeed. There is some slight shimmering of aliasing
artefacts, but otherwise they are clear, spotless
and colourful. Links are provided to relevant
New Gold Dream
isn't a perfect album, at least not in terms
of it being made up 100% of 9 perfect songs
- some tend to drag and show less sparkle or
imagination - but as whole this is a magnificent
album, one of the defining albums of the whole
1980's music scene, wonderfully coherent, influential
and, most importantly, standing the test of
time better than any other album from this period.
This is one of the best albums ever recorded
and, although for the most part the 5.1 mix
is woefully inadequate, New Gold Dream still
sounds as brilliant and timelessly fashionable
as it did back in 1982.
In love with
Bowie, Roxy Music and Neu! Simple Minds turned
their own chilly soundscapes into a run of chart-busting
singles and albums, capturing all the pomp and
bombast of the 80's along the way.
- 'Q Magazine Special 'The Story Of Electro-Pop'
January 2005 (UK)
It wasn't quite
the beginning, but the first minute of the first
track of the first album is a good place to
start. In Simple Minds' case, it's Someone.
As if caught mid-chorus, Charlie Burchill's
watertight guitar swirl gave way to Mick MacNeil's
keyboards, which set up teenage singer Jim Kerr
to smash home the first verse, which begins,
mysteriously, "Ruby says she does not dream".
Before 60 seconds have passed there is time
for a chorus which begins, as all choruses should,
"Whopopopopopoppop..." Fabulous. It
wasn't quite the '80s, but Simple Minds were
already ajead of their time.
Glasgow had lost
its musical way in the late '70s. With the exception
of The Skids, punk had largely passed Scotland
by. When Johnny & The Self Abusers appeared
in 1977, they may have been cartoon punks with
a cartoon singer in Jim Kerr, who wore sunglasses
in the dark, but because they emerged into a
vacuum they were not quite as other bands. Although
Kerr and his childhood pal Burchill had fallen
in love with David Bowie and Roxy Music, their
punk heroes were Patti Smith and The Velvet
Following a demo
tape that reportedly sounded a "bit like
The Sweet", Johnny & The Self Abusers
fluked themselves a deal with Roger Armstrong's
Chiswick label. On the day Saints & Sinners,
their first and last single (recently exhumed
as a Simple Minds encore) was released, they
spilt. Kerr, Burchill, drummer Brian McGee and
bassist Tony Donald demanded a new name. "Johnny
& The Self Abusers sounded like Big Dick
& The Four Skins to me," said Kerr,
was inspired by Bowie's "so simple minded"
phrase in The Jean genie, their horror of a
band name starting with "The" and
Iggy Pop's The Idiot. Simple Minds it was, then
shortly before Christman 1977, Simple Minds
advertised for a keyboard player. Instead, just
in time for their first gig supporting Steel
Pulse in Glasgow, they decided to recruit another
guitarist, Duncan Barnwell.
Finally, in March,
the keyboardist arrived. Mick MacNeil had once
appeared on Junior Showtime in a kilt. Now,
with Donald replaced with Derek Forbes, the
new electro direction could assert itself.
In October, journalist
Ian Cranna reviewed Simple Minds for NME for
their first national review. "You know
that band everybody's been waiting for?"
"Well here they are. It's hard to recall
the last time I witnessed such an exciting yet
thoughful new talent." Perceptively, Cranna
highlighted the pivotal relationship between
Kerr and Burchill. Clearly the singer who sand
to cure his stutter and the rather awkward guitarist/violinist
were in it for the long haul. A month later,
Barnwell had been sacked and Simple Minds had
a deal. As 1978 became 1979, their debut album
was beginning to take shape. Sort of.
Their label, Zoom/Arista,
vetoed the band's first production choice John
Cale. Instead they were mated with Magazine's
producer John Leckie, taken out of their natural
Glasgow habitat and dumped in Amersham and then
Abbey Road. Released on 15 April 1979, Life
In A Day was compared to Roxy Music, Magazine
and Cockney rebel. Leckie had smoothed out some
of the rawer edges, while MacNeil had become
musically dominant. The introduction to Someone
was - in more ways than one - only the beginning.
Sleek, stylish, enigmatic and packed with strident
melodies, at one glorious sitting Simple Minds
became contenders. To everyone's astonishment,
the album reached Number 30 but, not for the
last time, Simple Minds disowned their output,
declaring it too obvious a homage to their influences.
Around this time
Kerr began listening to Dusseldorf duo Neu!
who had left Kraftwerk in 1971. Minimal, harshly
rhythmic but quietly melodic. Neu! were Krautrock
in excelsis. Inspired, Kerr and Burchill embarked
on a frenzied burst of writing. Before the year
was out, a second leckie-produced (the band
had fancied Gary Numan) album would be out too.
Real To Real Cacophony
was a curve-ball. Where the debut shone brightly,
this scurried away in the darkness. The Neu!
influence underpinned the whole project, but
the album went far beyond plagiarism. Tellingly,
they refused to let Zoom/Arista hear the work
in progress. Veldt and Scar were bug-eyed slabs
of paranoia, but Film Theme and Changeling pointed
the way forward, while Factory ("Elevators
just don't crash/The answer lies within/Elevators!
Elevators!") was their first truly great
Real To Real Cacophony
was, noted a label executive, "the most
uncommercial album Arista has ever released".
It didn't chart, but Simple Minds had become
a fully fledged electronic band. Better still,
their musical adventurism had attracted the
attention of Kerr's hero, Peter Gabriel, who
paid for them to support him on tour.
If there was nothing
Arista could have done for Real To Real Cacophony,
they ruined Empires And Dance, effectively a
Kerr tour diary. "I was 20, and I looked
around me. We had the talent always to be in
the place where the neo-Nazis exploded another
bomb. Bolonga, a synagogue in Paris, a railway
station in Munich. Don't tell me anything like
that could leave you unmoved." First, Arista
failed to ensure that the gloriously commerical
I Travel - Kerr's belated realisation of the
genius of Donna Summer's I Feel Love - was a
hit. Then, as Empires & Dance began to sell,
they failed to press sufficient copies and momentum
left Arista and signed to Virgin, who introduced
them to Steve Hillage, an ex-hippy working as
an informal in-house Virgin producer. he understood
Simple Minds and was prepared to work as hard
as they were to release two new albums (Sons
& Fascination and Sisters feeling Call)
in one package in September 1981.
The 15 tracks
are among the zenith of Simple Minds' electro
period: cold yet luscious, unemotional yet curiously
moving. The collection reached Number 11, but
Sweat In Bullet, Love Song and The American
could not give them the single they so desperately
were used on their next album, New Gold Dream
(81,82,83,84) including the formidable Mel Gaynor,
who had previously played with The Nolan Sisters.
Although still electronic-based, the new songs
luxuriated in warm, opulent textures that broke
fresh ground for the band. "There's a richness
to us, a hugeness," proclaimed Kerr. "Euphoria
probably isn't the right word, but what am I
going to call it? Grace? Majesty? Momentum?"
New Gold Dream
(81,82,83,84) delivered two Top 20 singles,
the UK album charts and a hint of the US. "Every
band has a holy grail," explained Kerr,
"and I suppose that album was ours. The
people who liked that record connected with
it in a special way." Some said Simple
Minds had compromised. "It's knowing when
and how to compromise," explained Kerr.
"I love winners, I love success."
into the commerical mainline, they made Gaynor
a permanent member and employed producer Steve
Lillywhite, on Bono's recommendation, for 1984's
Sparkle In The Rain, the first of their five
British Number 1 albums. Two years later they
achieved their commercial peak with Once Upon
A Time, their only US Top 10 album and home
to three UK Top 10 singles: Alive & Kicking,
Sanctify Yourself and All The Things She Said.
Their American great leap foward was spawned
by a rare cover version, Keith Forsey and Steve
Schiff's Don't You (Forget About Me). Taken
from the film The Breakfast Club, it reached
Number 1. Churlishly, Kerr disowned it and it
never appeared on a Simple Minds album. "As
soon as it started to sell and people got immense
enjoyment from it I didn't want to say, This
is a piece of crap and we could do it with our
eyes closed..." but he couldn't help himself.
Simple Minds' faustian penance is to be forever
doomed to play it.
Aided by some
magnetic stadium shows, not least at the US
Live Aid, these albums helped define a decade:
bold, brash, heroic, but often sensitive. Although
the link to the past was tenuous, it was never
quite sundered and at their best Simple Minds
created lusious, widescreen musical pictures,
fuzzy at the edges, sweeping of sound and intent,
all underlaid with genuine mystery.
Their fame was
almost perfect: all the cash and none of the
hassle. "I was never interested in world
domination," said Kerr, "I'd rather
leave that to people like Hitler. But there's
probably not a country in the world that hasn't
heard our music, yet we can walk down any street
Even so, after
Once Upon A Time, the decline was rapid. Its
successor, 1989's Street Fighting Years, topped
the UK charts but peaked at 70 in the US. They
parted company with MacNeil, Forbes and longterm
manager Bruce Finlay, while Kerr swapped one
showbusiness bride (Chrissie Hynde) for another
(Patsy Kensit). "I have," he said,
"come out of both relationships with no
axe to grind whatsoever."
they began to flail. Kerr marooned jimself in
heartfelt but clumsy anti-apartheid politicking.
Disastrously, he pretended to be Irish on a
career-killing version of Belfast Child. Like
sharks who die if they stop swimming the exhausted
Simple Minds stood still and lost touch. By
2001, they were winnowed to Kerr and Burchill,
without a major deal and reduced to Neon Lights,
a covers album. These days, Kerr prefers to
spend his time constructing a hotel in Taormina,
Nobody used to
cite Simple Minds in despatches, but the change
began in 2001 when Raven Maize sampled Theme
For Great Cities on their hit The Real Life.
This year's 5CD Silver Box - everything previously
unreleased - also marks something of a rehabilitation.
"We can honestly
claim to be one of the great bands," claimed
Kerr. "It's like with cars. You have new,
old and classic. We're somewhere towards classic."
New Gold Dream
'The album was
shot through with sky-gazing ambition'
- 'Q Magazine Special 'The Story Of Electro-Pop'
Edition Essential Albums' January 2005 (UK)
Few bands slogged
their way through the late '70s with such Stakhanovite
zeal as Simple Minds. An album on Virgin had
followed three on Zoom/Arista. Yet all they
had to show for it were some glowing reviews
and an intimate knowledge of every two-bob venue
in Europe. That Virgin debut, Sons And Fascination,
did reach Number 11, but arguably only because
it included a free second album, Sister Feelings
Minds went, as the title of their breakthrough
suggested, for gold.
through with sky-gazing ambition, Kerr's dreamy
quest lacked the brutal certainty of Thatcherism.
He told Smash Hits: "I'm not sure what
I'm searching for, Is it a theory? Is it a person?
Is it a God? Is it a pair of shoes?
Out went the tundra
landscapes so influenced by Neu! and Magazine,
replaced by a warmer, more expansive and intelligent
sound. in 1982 Kerr described it as "ambient
dance music" and was delighted when one
writer spotted rhythmic similarities with the
work of American avant-garde composer Philip
Glass, a favourite of the band. Before the album
was released, the uplifting Promised You A Miracle
had given Simple Minds their first Top 20 single.
The album peaked at Number 3 in late 1982. It
was also greeted by some of the best reviews
of their career, with NME's Paul Morley describing
New Gold Dream as "majestic and triumphant".
In Summertime opened proceedings in magisterial
fashion. Charlie Burchill's Edge-like guitar
descended across Mick McNeils textured keyboards,
creating a ravishing sense of wonder. The title
track is even more epic, a sweeping ride born
from Kerr's almost spiritual optimism. Back
in 1982 Kerr explained, "There's a line
in the Werner Herzog film, Fitzcarraldo: Only
dreamers can move mountains. I thought that
was great. Dreamers have got a bad reputation,
people say, He's a dreamer, he'll never do anything.
You actually need courage to dream." Big
Sleep merged desolation with ethereal synthetics,
the shimmering Hunter And The Hunted featured
improvisation from jazz giant Herbie Hancock,
Kerr's naive, romantic vision illuminates Colours
Fly & Catherine Wheel, and the delicate
anthem Glittering Prize gave Simple Minds their
second Top 20 hit.
Somewhere In Summertime failed to breach the
Top 30, New Gold Dream (81,82,83,84) stayed
on the UK charts for a year. Finally the album
reached 69 in the US. Soon, America would be
Simple Minds' for the taking - even if 1984's
more conventional Sparkle In The Rain and it's
massive follow-up, Once Upon A Time, would alienate
some of their original fanbase.
Mark Allen meets
a mind whose time has come
Mark Ellen - 'Smash
Hits' April 29th - May 12th 1982 (UK)
Among the residents
of a plush hotel in London's Lancaster gate
is a frail, slightly-built Glaswegian with a
shock of black hair dangling over his eyes.
He's dressed in a sombre grey sweater and enormously
baggy light grey trousers tapering to a pair
of immaculate laced brogue shoes.
Somehow, he doesn't
quite fit in.
In fact, Jim Kerr
gives the distinct impression that he's never
really fitted in anywhere. What immediately
strikes me, as we settle down to a tray of hotel
tea, is that he looks alarmingly old for his
twenty-two years. He could possibly pass for
thirty two. The furrows in his brow are so pronounced,
I tell him, you'd think he must have spent his
entire youth frowning.
did, come to think of it," he says, quite
matter-of-fact. "Glasgow being the sort
of place where being a hairdresser was about
the only form of self-expression, I used to
think: 'I'm not destined for this.... for the
Cortina and The Attractive Girlfriend'. If people
asked you what you did and you said: 'I write
words', they'd say 'Are you queer? Are you weird?'"
Then he embarks
on a colourful tale about his early teens, which
implies that a lot of these comments he rather
brought upon himself.
"I was always
trying to draw attention, much like Japan do
now. Going to concerts dressed up in the whole
Glam thing - this was before Bowie was really
- y'know, big boots, mascara, painted nails.
The next day I'd be working on my building site
to try and get enough money to go hitch-hiking
round Europe and i'd notice I'd still got a
trace of this nail varnish on. And I'd be terrified
these giants, these bears, that I worked with
would discover it!
that," he adds, "I was perfectly normal."
These days, Jim
says, he feels no great desire to dress up off
stage. He bumped into Mick Karn a while back,
down at Virgin Records, and couldn't believe
the state of him. "He had all the gear
have clearly been learnt from sharing a record
label with bands such as Japan and the Human
League. Much like Simple Minds themselves, both
spent a good three years in the twilight of
near-total obscurity before - almost overnight,
it seemed - leapfrogging right into the charts.
And now Jim Kerr's
boys seem firmly set on the same course. It's
no surprise to find that their overall attitude
- as with the other two - has been in for a
servicing. And it's paying dividends.
never much cared for Jim's compositions up until
now. They seem a gloomy, almost dirge-like,
and mostly lacking in force and direction. But
the new single "Promised You A Miracle"
- the band's biggest seller to date - is something
altogether different. Something of a classic,
As Jim so succinctly
puts it: "I was listening to the radio
at the end of last year and just thought: 'We're
never on the bloody thing!' We put all this
energy and enthusiasm into the band. Surely
the more people who hear it, the better."
The quintet immediately
set to work to create a more durable sound -
"something that hits you but wasn't as
jarring as our old ones". It's interesting,
incidentally, that Jim's an ardent admirer of
the "draughtsmanlike" approach of
Martin Fry. As he so rightly says: "ABC
sound great whether you hear them on the biggest
disco or the tinniest speaker. They draw your
"I was half-way
through writing the song," he recalls,
"when I thought: 'this isn't us'. Then
I thought: 'hang on a second, what isn't us?'
What a terrible state to have got into if Simple
Minds are all tied up in a box and finished."
The single sounds
a lot more optimistic, I suggest.
We are what we take in. I don't get up at eight
in the morning and play Joy Division. I play
Diana Ross or something. I thought: 'From now
on we do absolutely anything we feel, at any
risk, and if we lose friends well that's too
bad. We can make new ones'."
The other crucial
point about the song is that you can actually
understand the words (well almost). They're
obviously about, as Jim says, "a He/She
affair". I never had a clue what he was
on about in the past.
he smiles. "Sometimes I think: 'Yeah, that's
me and the things I see. The turmoils, the struggles,
the hopes or the failures.' Other times I think:
'That's not me at all. I wouldn't expose myself
like that. I'm too shy.'
attach too much importance to the words. If
they sound attractive and make a coherent picture,
Part of the new
Simple Minds policy is the result of their having
come to terms with the whole process involved
in getting singles into the charts. Jim happily
admits that the band spent their first two-and-a-half
years living from gig to gig, from LP to LP,
occasionally releasing the odd album track as
a 45 "because it might have a bit of a
Matters were hardly
helped by the appallingly inept way the band
were handled at their last port of call, Arista
Records. The label's bosses - experts all -
saw one Simple Minds concert and hit upon the
preposterous plan of splitting the band up for
a year and packing Jim off for some mime lessons
with the legendary Lindsey Kemp. "He did
it for David (Bowie), he did it for Kate (Bush),
he can do it for you," was their reasoning.
Things got worse,
apparently, when Arista generously allowed the
band a budget of £30,000 to record their
"Empires And Dance" LP and then initially
only pressed up 5,000 copies to put in the shops.
"It was ridiculous,"
Jim says. "We've got a cult following of
30 or 40 thousand that buy all our records.
Anyway I've probably got about 8,000 friends!
confident about doing things for Virgin - like
colour photo sessions - because we now recognise
the need for them.
same with letters from fans. I see the need
for that too. No matter who they're from - young
or old - they all want a piece of your heart
ultimately. Before, it all seemed like a throwback
from the past, like the girls running after
The Beatles. And you thought: 'Why?' 'Cos you
never saw what happened when they met. It was
just like band looks pretty and girls scream
after them and buy their records.
rather much rather have an attractive girl sitting
listening to our music, tapping her feet, than
get on the front page of a music paper."
Quite some change
of attitude, you'll agree. The person behind
it all, though, says he's little different.
Asked if he feels
he fits in any better nowadays, Jim shakes his
head slowly. No, he says, maybe because he still
gets too nervous about things. He hates going
to the cinema because of all the crowds and
noise. For much the same reason, he says, he'd
rather take an eight mile walk than go on a
And he never knows
what to say to people who happen to recognise
him in the streets.
the way they gate-crash into your life for two
minutes and then disappear," he says. "Somebody
told me today that once you've done Top Of The
Pops there's no peace." He sighs in a resigned
sort of way. "It'll have to be the raincoat,
hat, sunglasses and false beard, I'm afraid...."
New Gold Dream
CMJ New Music (US)
to see this Scottish quintet signed to a major
American label! Favorites on the alternative
charts since 1979, Simple Minds' A & M debut
maintains the band's danceable beat and lyrical
prowess. Like Echo & The Bunnymen, the Cure
and Teardrop Explodes, Simple Minds present
a rather dam, threatening and sinister sound
without ever really sounding dark, threatening
or sinister. In fact, their sound is somewhat
light; it features an hypnotic rhythm which
entrances the listener. Top cuts: "Promised
You A Miracle" (the single), "Glittering Prize"
and the title track.
New Gold Dream
- All Music Guide (US)
One of Scotland's
finest imports, Simple Minds deliver a strong
synth-reared release on New Gold Dream. This
album harks the darker side of the band's musicianship,
and such material alludes to their forthcoming
pop-stadium sound which hurled them into rock
mainstream during the latter part of the '80s.
They were still honing their artistic rowdiness,
and Kerr's pursuing vocals were still hiding.
But Simple Minds' skill of tapping into internal
emotion is profound on songs such as "Someone,
Somewhere in Summertime" and the album's title
track. But the dance-oriented tracks like "Promised
You a Miracle" and "Glittering Prize" are lushly
layered in deep electronic beats - it was only
a matter of time for Simple Minds to expound
upon such musical creativity which made them
a household favorite through the 1980s.
Mark Cooper - 'Record
Mirror' 4th September 1982 (UK)
Jim Kerr is sitting
in the bay window of a hotel in Portobello,
his head surrounded by a halo of sunlight. Jim
is smiling and the two frown lines on his forehead
have all but vanished. He is enjoying a change
"When I saw
U2 on television recently," says Jim, leaning
forward, "I saw the same look in thier
eyes when they were playing as I've seen in
ours in our live videos. We both look transfixed
and yet transported, as if we'd seen a vision.
All the recent pictures I've seen of myself,
I'm standing with my arms open where I always
used to be fists clenched, arms crossed, holding
Minds have relaxed. Of course they've worked
hard this year, travelling round the globe,
promoting 'Sons And Fascination',' celebrating
their first English hit, 'Promised You A Miracle.'
Yet it's not exhaustion that shows on Jim Kerr's
face but enthusiasm.
The old caginess
has gone and in it's place stands a more human,
heartful Simple Minds. The evidence is there,
shimmering throughout the joyful current single
'Glittering Prize,' and shining throughout the
varied moods of the imminent album, 'New Gold
Dream - 81, 82, 83, 84.'
What on earth
has happened? Where are the intimidating Euro-boys
of old? Have the Human League taught Simple
Minds to 'open their hearts' or are these mentions
of U2 and the crosses on the new album's cover
indications of another rock 'n' roll conversion?
Readers, I think we should be told.
Jim, about the
crosses.... "Firstly, I simply like the
image, it pleases me. I used to wear a Communist
hammer and sickle but not because I'm a communist
anything like that - I simply like the shape.
In the past, Simple Minds have always been associated
with the darker side of things. I think we encouraged
the associated because it made us seem profound.
But there's always been other sides to our personalities
and we haven't allowed them to come out."
Up to now, Simple
Minds' music has tended to explore a single
mood with a relentless brilliance that verged
on bullying. They stunned and impressed but
they rarely moved me. Suddenly, in 'New Gold
Dream,' they've conquered their fear of feeling
and come our shining.
was pretty successful for us," says Jim.
"We played all over the world and sold
a lot of albums but we were being ignored by
the radio. If you listened to our albums all
the way through, they were all on one level,
all the songs with the same intensity. When
you heard us on the radio, on John Peel or someone,
for some reason, we'd sound jarring...
During the course
of this year, Simple Minds made some basic decisions.
They wanted to be heard on the radio - they
wanted to make records that could touch a variety
of human emotions and, lastly, they didn't want
to repeat themselves.
Fascination' was the end of an era for us. We'd
pursued those images and atmospheres as far
as they would go. If we'd have gone on, we'd
have been repeating ourselves."
to do that, Jim and the band, took a long hard
look at themselves and decided to come out into
thing," muses Jim, "is that when you're
prepared to show your weakness or your emotion
and no longer hide behind a strength that you
don't really possess, people believe that you're
strong! People are intimidated by you because
you've had the strength to show your emotion
instead of hiding behind a 'strong' front."
bombastic dance music had taken them to a pretty
pass, as Jim realised when they were recording
'Miracle': "We got about half-way through
and I said, 'Wait a minute, this isn't Simple
Minds! Where's the crashing drums and the groaning
bass?' Then I realised what I'd said and wondered,
'is this what we've become? Who said Simple
Minds had to have one sound?'"
was a hit, the predictable cries of sell-out
were immediately to be heard: "'Miracle'
was a spring record, the first sign of a new
hopeful mood. Once we were in the charts, we
had letters from fans who said' 'You're not
going to change, are you, and become stars?
You're ours and you won't be ours anymore if
a lot of people like you... And I realised that
those people had never understood me, never
been close to me, and they wanted us to go on
being the same."
If new pop has
resulted in the triumph of a large amount of
cynical and defensive music (ABC spring immediately
to mind), it has also caused a number of unfocused
energies to direct themselves and find their
feet. Simple Minds havn't sold out, they've
simply found their stride. I mention to Jim
that it was a pleasure to see himself and the
Bunneymen stepping out of the underground and
into the charts. Jim tells a story that is indicative
of the state into which British 'progressives'
had got themselves.
Charlie and I were in this bar in New York and
the only two other people in the place were
two of the Bunneymen. We'd always liked their
music and we were going to go up and talk to
them....In the end we said, 'No, you klnow what
they're like, we'll only make prats of ourselves..."
went to see them when we were both in Sydney;
one of their friends came over and invited us
backstage. We didn't want to go - I hate all
that backstage stuff - but she insisted and
it was great, we did have a lot in common. They
said, 'We were going to come up and talk to
you in New York but we chickened out, we just
said to ourselves, 'You know what they're like!'"
If the old Simple
Minds made metal music, the new soul of the
group lies in human emotion. With this in view,
the Minds were delighted to hear that Stevie
Wonder had been seen in LA, playing 'Miracle'
maybe 10 times over, lifting up the needle and
putting it on again. There's confirmation from
The Minds have
discovered their hearts and, with producer Peter
Walsh, a new simplicity. They're beginning to
be able to leave out a few ideas, instead of
throwing them all in to show they've got brains.
Their chart success
comes from confidence, not calculation: "All
it's taken is just five minutes more care,"
says Jim. "It's not that we've chosen to
work with some trendy producer like Trevor Horn
who's turned us into pop. We'd rather be at
number 13 for six years than at number one for
six months. I hate pap, I hate Dollar and I
Far from making
pap, Simple Minds' new album shows signs of
maturity - a hopeful confidence in emotion and
a fidelity to the drama of their material that
makes the heart swell. Back to that cross....
always been a side of Simple Minds that's been
concerned with faith and hope and joy. I'm not
talking about specifically Christian notions,
as U2 might but I think the best music does
uplift and give a sense of joy. Like them, we
have an interest in giving, not getting."
Jik Kerr, like
SImple Minds' music, has a fascination with
appearances - the look of a cross, the shape
of a hammer and sickle, the feel of a European
city - and a love of what lies beneath. It is
Simple Minds' new golden dream to bring these
together and grab the glittering prize itself,
to make the music that moves: "In the last
few years, we've got to the stage where you've
got intelligent people who've got it all covered.
They've got good style, strong atmospheres,
interesting images but no real songs or melodies.
We want to write songs that interest, that capture
atmosphere and which have the real stone, the
New Gold Dream
So often in music,
artists produce their most thoughtful and mature
work in their later years. But equally so artists
can produce their best material in their fledgling
careers and then seek to over-egg the pudding
Simple Minds definitely
fall into the latter category. 1982's 'New Gold
Dream (81-82-83-84)' is often considered to
be their masterpiece; more tuneful than their
earlier work but also subdued enough to please
the faithful. Heralded by a trio of top quality
singles, 'Someone Somewhere In Summertime',
'Glittering Prize' and 'Promised You A Miracle'
were amongst the best of the '80s, Charlie Burchill's
guitar parts were memorable without being bombastic
and the keyboards promised hopeful escapism.
of the album is not quite up to this standard
but is at least atmospheric; 'Big Sleep' even
finds success in mixing cheap keyboard motifs
with slap bass. Their later career - which lest
we forget is still a going concern - witnessed
them trying to emulate U2 when really they were
much better at being The Comsat Angels on this
(3 out of 5)
New Gold Dream
80s rock musics
Holy Grail - this is as good as gets. You might
be tempted to laugh at some of the song titles
on this record - "Colours Fly and Catherine
Wheel"; "The King Is White And In The Crowd";
"Somebody Up There Likes You". Ive heard these
being described as nonsensical, but until the
recording "Space Face" (on their 2002 album
"Cry"), nobody - not even the Minds themselves
- were able to recreate any measured ballads
like "King Is White" and "Colours Fly", totally
in a class of their own.
"Somebody Up There
Likes You" is a haunting instrumental which
amazingly has failed to make it onto any of
the recent endless barrage of Chillout compilations
that have appeared over the last 2-3 years.
Shocking, because "Somebody Up There..." is
probably the best chillout track ever recorded.
There was the
faultless "Promised You A Miracle", of course
(no detail needed), and of course the emotive
"Glittering Prize" (which, incidentally, boasts
an ingenious video featuring computerized gold
plated graphics). You need a new word to describe
this record - it really IS that good!!!
New Gold Dream
- Classic Albums Re-Visited'
David Stubbs -
'Uncut' Magazine May 2002 (UK)
the year of Simple Minds' sixth and best album,
was one of the greatest in music history. There
was a thriving Club Culture, fed by the subversive
narcissism of the new romantics, and across
the water an explosion of synth-funk innovation,
from Larry Levan's The Peech Boys to Afrika
Bambaataa, all of which fed the sensibilities
of popists introverts New Order and Scritti
Politti. The year also saw ABC's The Lexicon
Of Love, The Associates' Sulk and, the third
in that great trilogy of impossibly romantic,
untoppable new-pop albums, Simple Minds' New
Gold Dream (81,82,83,84).
From theire raucous
beginnings as Johnny And The Self Absuers, Simple
Minds had been liked to refinement and a sense
of the epic by a love of groups like Chic, but
also by Eno, Roxy Music, Neu! and La Dusseldorf.
They swiftly rejected the glum and parochial
chrysalis of punk in order to find a sound that
straddled the biggest and best of America and
Europe: cinematic, transcendental, the stuff
of distant dreams rather than gloomy quotidian
realities - and if that sounds 'apolitical',
remember this is the sort of 'politics' pop
is very often, most effective at.
With Empires And
Dance (1980), featuring 'I Travel', it was clear
that Simple Minds had listened to the right
German groups, watched the right European movies,
read the right texts as they inter-railed across
the continents. As brilliant a musical transcription
of their experiences as it is - check the slide
projection effects of '30 Frames A Second' -
you can make out the joins of their influences.
With the follow-up
albums, 1981's simultaneously released Sons
and Fascination and Sister Feelings Call, Simple
Minds broke another punk taboo. Not only did
Jim Kerr talk in interviews of his love of Genesis
(circa The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway) but they
hired Steve Hillage, the ultimate prog hippie,
as producer. For those more interested in the
credible than the incredible, this was heresy.
Kerr's pomp baritone, meanwhile, bristled with
vaulting, epic ambition. But so it might with
tracks like 'The American', 'Theme For Great
Cities' and 'Seeing Out The Angels', Simple
Minds were on the point of achieving a unique
synthesis of pop, prog, punk, funk and avant-garde.
Come New Gold
Dream and Simple Minds enjoyed critical worship
and every prospect of a vast, dawning fan base.
If they wanted to take over the world, there
were plenty willing to hold Kerr's coat: "Anything
is possible..." Indeed.
For the cover
art, the Minds eschewed the oblique modernist
tendencies of previous sleeves for a typeface
and aura suggestive of some rekindled mediaeval
mysticism. Had the contents been less than brilliant,
more impertinent attention might have been paid
to this conceit.
As it was, New
Gold Dream glistened like a grail from it's
opening chimes. On 'Someone Somewhere In Summertime',
Michael MacNeil's keyboards are reminiscent
of Abba's 'Dancing Queen' (according to a mischievous
Paul Morley, the best new music was "post-Abba
rather than post-punk") as Kerr hints at
a shimmering and elusive fictional or authentically
imagined state of environmental ecstasy: "Moments
burn, slow burning golden nights, once more
see city lights...". 'Colous Fly And Catherine
Wheel' equally twists and flickers and falters
- grammar and sequence collapse to great effect.
"Great times attack inexpensive thrills...
catch a boy fell falling in love fell falling.."
In conjuction with the intricate interplay between
MacNeil's keyboards and guitarist Charlie Burchill,
there's a perfect, dazzling sense about these
A Miracle', which became the band's first hit
single, makes what has come before it seems
like small fireworks. "Promises, promises
as golden days break wondering." What's
so great about this track, and indeed 'Big Sleep',
isn't just it's combination of stinging riff
with delicate mosaic musical colouring, but
it's subtle rhythmical patterns, which are a
feature of the whole album. There's no programming
on New Gold Dream (though credit must surely
go to producer, arranger and engineer Peter
Walsh). Instead, three drummers were used, Mike
Ogletree, Mel Gaynor and on 'Promised You A
Miracle', former Skids drummer Kenny Hislop.
Interwoven with Derek Forbes busy, funkified
bass, the rhythms never tumble to 4/4 earth,
seeming to dance and shape-shift in mid-air,
like the aurora borealis.
Up There Likes You', a golden, dawn-breaking
instrumental follow-up to 'Theme For Great Cities',
which was generally the opener for gigs around
this time, comes the title track, in which all
of the pent-up energy of the album is finally
unleashed with full-on locomotive optimism,
a sort of celestial bullet train. "Crashing
beats and fantasy, setting sun in front of me"
- it's as close to anthemic as the album gets,
a chant for the New Pop Class of 1982 who didn't
know that Howard Jones and Nik Kershaw, were
around the next corner.
teeters gracefully, a stately but snowblinding
display of the jumbled motifs on New Gold Dream
- clear skies, dreams, romantic moments that
are both perfect but transient and uncertain.
It's these last qualities that distinguish Simple
Minds from U2, whose open-air, sanguine tendencies,
while bracing, lack intricacy or nuance.
With 'Hunter And
The Hunted', the album begins to draw to a close
and cast long shadows. "Kyoto in the snow
but heaven's far away," sighs Kerr, who
even alludes to "the side effects of cruising
at the speed of light, the side effects of living
in temptation," as if aware of the impending
mortality of the moment captured on the album.
Yet in the autumn of it's 40-odd-minute life,
it seems more beautiful than it's springtime
promise, as encapsulated in guest player Herbie
Hancock's magnificent, meandering solo - kudos
to the lateral thinker who got him on board.
the oblique and inconclusive 'King Is White
And In The Crowd', with it's surreal mix of
Simple Minds' influences, from Eno to Abba to
Krautrock, and the sense that the much-vaunted
concept of perfect pop is both fleeting and
fragile - or 'powerful and transient'. MacNeil's
decaying synth tones, the measured rhythmical
pace and Burchill's fire fly guitars all amount
to a dignified fade-out into the dying light,
leaving questions and ambiguities still hanging
in the dark, electric air.
After New Gold
Dream, Simple Minds gigged incessantly and became
addicted to stadium crowds. The Steve Lillywhite
produced Sparkle In The Rain (1983) had it's
moments, but after 1985's 'Don't You (Forget
About Me)', a song not written by them but for
the film the Breakfast Club (it had already
been rejected by Bryan Ferry), the Minds' golden
sound lapsed into turgid, leaden parody. The
political consciousness of 'Belfast Child' (1989)
and Amnesty International campaigning did them
more credit but seemed to lend a pious starch
to their sound.
In a sense, though,
the decline that followed New Gold Dream was
the point. New Pop was only ever a glimpse,
not a sustainable proposition - a break in the
clouds, a shaft of sun. The moment may have
passed but, 20 years on, New Gold Dream sounds
as pristine and out of time as when it was first