By 1981 changes came fast and furious for Simple Minds. With the band threatening to break up to get out of their contract, Arista let them go and Virgin Records were more than eager to give them a new home in February of 1981. Soon afterward, Arista released the “Celebrate” compilation and added “Kaleidoscope” on it as bait, seeing as how the unreleased track from the “Real To Real Cacophony” sessions only had reached the public’s ears on a bonus flexidisc with the first 7″ pressing of “I Travel.”
Having made three albums with John Leckie, the band decided that it was time for a change and new producers were bandied about by the band and label. Todd Rundgren was mooted as his name is never far from the table when discussing how to “sell” seemingly unmarketable groups, but the costs of sending the band to his studio in the States, where he would only work, was prohibitive. As was the rate demanded by Steve Lilywhite, whose star turn on Peter Gabriel’s third must have turned the band’s heads. As the band were Stranglers fans, Martin Rushent was not available. Little did they know that he was then plotting the commercial metamorphosis of equally marginal label mates The Human League at this time.
Virgin Managing Director/co-founder Simon Draper sagely suggested in-house producer Steve Hillage, who had produced the Ken [Cowboys Internationsl] Lockie solo album that the band was impressed by. Score one for Draper. Hillage had several solo records in the can by this time and was no doubt looking to his future [as half of ambient techno pioneers System 7] and saw Simple Minds as a good stepping stone. As for the band, they had enough respect for 70s prog rock to consider the experiment worth trying. Stylistically, the albums was a natural progression from “Empires + Dance” with the same reliance on hypnotic trance rhythms, albeit with an enhanced sense of melody and a new emphasis on hooks.
Their timing was ripe in that as 1980 turned into 1981, the band’s reputation was on the rise among the New Romantic set, who had been early champions of the group dating from Rusty Egan’s club play at Blitz. In 1981, the New Romantics ruled the airwaves as the flavor of the moment. The public was primed and ready for danceable, art and synthesizer-heavy music for clubs. Meanwhile, Virgin were riding the band and producer hard for results. Budgets were hashed and re-hashed as the producer didn’t want to curtail the band’s burgeoning creativity. Talk began to emerge of a double album the hallmark of 70s Prog rockers!
When the dust had cleared, Simple Minds recorded everything and worked on it until the budget ran out, with almost enough material for two albums. Ultimately, they released it all. “Sons + Fascination was initially bundled together with the accompanying album “Sister Feelings Call.” The two distinct records were united only by shrinkwrap and after the initial release, they were available separately, with “Sister Feelings Call” being a budget release.
Next: …Mission Entrancable