[continued from previous post]
On side two of “New Gold Dream [81, 82, 83, 84],” the title track began with an relentless rhythm box chugging away, but on the US LP, the title track was edited by nearly a minute to 4:46. The track began instead with the song’s distinctive bass rondo echoed with Mike McNeil’s synths – also playing a rondo at a higher pitch. In any case, the song instantly became a Simple Minds benchmark for me. I love the way it represents the furthest mutated strain of Krautrock in its warmest possible guise.
Forbes’ bass rondo stayed in place while the synths surged ahead, giving the song a curious sense of advancement and stasis at the same time. It transfixes my mind whenever I hear it. Ogletree played the drums lightly, as was his wont, with an emphasis on cowbell [strangely enough, already part of Simple Minds’ toolkit from “Sweat In Bullet”]. However, this was the single track on the album featuring two drummers. Mel Gaynor was overdubbed for extra oomph on the track. Producer Peter Walsh recorded the album as live sessions at the behest of Virgin Records, who asked to have this album reflect the band’s live energy. To this end, Walsh recorded multiple takes of each song live to multitrack, and he assembled the optimum takes of each element for the final mix down.
Amazingly enough, this incredible track was only released as a single in Italy [of course!] in both a 7″ edit [using the US LP edit] and an extended remix of 6:52, which is strangely called the “German remix” by Minds’ fans. This was because the track surfaced outside of Italy only on the original West German pressed CD of this title without fanfare, but I recall the “eureka” moment that ensued when my friend Tom found a copy of this CD in 1985. Talk about buried treasures!
“Empires And Dance and Sons And Fascination were so crammed, the sound was so heavy, the way it feels before a storm breaks. When the storm is over, the air is clear and clean. That’s what New Gold Dream felt like.” – Jim Kerr
It is a holy grail of sorts to me to one day hear the full length ten minute take of “New Gold Dream [81,82,83,84]” that was edited down for all subsequent releases. What I would not give for a studio version of this song that lasted that long! One hopes that any NGD mega-box would cough that full-length take up. Kerr’s vocals began pitched low and eventually reaching for the skies as the song progressed. Walsh’s production wrapped the entire band in a shimmering, glistening envelope that emphasized light and air at the expense of grit and shadow. For that reason, it has become almost a self-referential album with few connections to the outside world as it constructed a hermetic seal, cocooning the listener in whorls of dreamlike sound.
The second single from the album was “Glittering Prize;” a delicate and gentle paean of almost monastic devotion to the ideal of romantic love given the lightest and most insouciant setting possible. Forbes’ bassline was a wonder of subdued power and intricacy that remains a paragon of complexity while being nestled within a song that seems as light as a soufflé. The bass tenderly caressed the song in a spirit of good fellowship and used its strength and power to allow the melody to hold itself aloft and take flight. It also sported the coldest intro that any single ever had [just one chord] and gave the band a song to start “on the one” as tightly as any James Brown funk workout while remaining an entirely different beast.
The mood turned more somber when “Hunter And the Hunted” began as built upon a bass line rondo that was progressively overlaid with delicate Mike MacNeil synth lines until it formed a web of subdued passion, gradually fading out as MacNeil occupied all of the space in the intro. Forbes then re-entered the song on fretless bass giving the synth leads a subtle rhythmic impetus that drove the song forward. Jim Kerr sang in his lowest register for the quietly devastating chorus where powerful lyrical imagery like “Kyoto in the snow – heaven’s far away” could not have been painted in a more darkly romantic light.
This track also paid host to the strangest credit to land on a Simple Minds record. None other than Herbie Hancock played the song’s distinctive synth solo that lasted from he song’s middle through to its conclusion. He was recording at Townhouse studios when the band were laying it down and called the man in to see if he would play on it. Not just any jazz keyboardist could have made a berth for himself on a Simple Minds number, but this instance showed that fortune was beaming on the band and their efforts. His low-key injection of jazz DNA resonated within the dark structure that the band had built, making it greater than the sum of its parts.
The one look backward on this album was the album’s introverted closing track, “King Is White & In The Crowd.” It is the album’s one link with the past. It features a minor key melody and hypnotic trance rhythms as it examines a political subtext [the assassination of Anwar Sadat] in a result that would be at home on their third album as much as this one though the hazy, dreamlike production here was nothing like the monolithic sounds of “Empires + Dance.” Not surprisingly, it was one of the first tracks written after wrapping production on “Sons + Fascination.” It strongly radiated the vibe of the previous two albums, albeit within the shimmering context of the band’s present. One last dip into the Krautrock toolkit with its trance rhythms and long, repetitive 7:00 running time for good measure.
I have heard live recordings of this song from a few years later where Forbes’ bassline had undergone a dramatic metamorphosis to become the dominant note of the song in a fashion that I can only describe as the bass riff of god. The heavily flanged monster that dominated the proceedings on recordings like the Irvington broadcast of 1984 are jaw-droppingly astounding in ways that show how dramatically Simple Minds forward progress would be, at least for the next few years. The band were not content to write songs and let them calcify onstage into a rote pantomime. This band were striving to refine, re-imagine, and re-model their history by taking their songs and refining them in the fire of performance like the gold that they were.
With “New Gold Dream [81, 82, 83, 84],” the band had shed their constructivist chrysalis to emerge as iridescent butterflies held aloft on the classic themes of eros and thanatos. Most of the songs examined desire from a wholly Apollonian perspective of Romantic idealization. At most smoldering with an intense passion that only young men seem truly capable of. A few of them, [“Big Sleep” and “King Is White And In The Crowd] investigate death and demise but they maintain a similar distance from the center of these strong emotions. In spite of the intellectual distance that their songs kept from their increasingly less abstract subject matter, they still seemed to be somewhat tentative in their level of commitment. Perhaps for this reason, Jim Kerr called “New Gold Dream [81, 82, 83, 84]” a “coffee-table album” half-dismissively, shortly after its release. Their next album would address this sense of restraint.
Next: …From Shimmer to Sparkle