Rock G.P.A.: Simple Minds [part 26]

simple minds - litcol1USCDASimple Minds | Live In The City of Light – 1

By 1987, when this was released, I was in no hurry to buy it on the day of issue. I had been badly burned by the very tour that this release purported to document. I had become wary of Simple Minds. As I recall, I bought it about 18 month later, when I saw a cheap copy in the used bin at Murmur Records, half afraid of what it would reveal. That I would avoid buying a Simple Minds album for a year and a half was a statement, but a live album from their 1986 World Tour was finally released a year later caused outright head scratching. How and why should a live album take so long for it to be mixed and released? With internet hindsight, all is revealed. The concerts given for the bulk of the show were recorded live at Le Zenith in Paris on the 12th and 13th of August, 1986. Here is the set list from each night:

August 12, 1986

  1. Waterfront
  2. Speed Your Love To Me
  3. Come A Long Way
  4. Book Of Brilliant Things
  5. Ghostdancing
  6. Don’t You [Forget About Me]
  7. Big Sleep
  8. Promised You A Miracle
  9. Hunter And The Hunted
  10. Once Upon A Time
  11. Oh Jungleland
  12. All The Things She Said
  13. Alive And Kicking
  14. New Gold Dream [81,82,83,84]
  15. Someone Somewhere [In Summertime]
  16. Sanctify Yourself
  17. East At Easter
  18. Love Song/Sun City/ Thank You Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin/Dance To The Music

August 13, 1986

  1. Waterfront
  2. Speed Your Love To Me
  3. Come A Long Way
  4. Book Of Brilliant Things
  5. Ghostdancing
  6. Don’t You [Forget About Me]
  7. Big Sleep
  8. Promised You A Miracle
  9. Hunter And The Hunted
  10. Once Upon A Time
  11. Oh Jungleland
  12. All The Things She Said
  13. Alive And Kicking
  14. New Gold Dream [81,82,83,84]
  15. Sanctify Yourself
  16. Someone Somewhere [In Summertime]
  17. East At Easter
  18. Love Song/Sun City/Thank You Falletin Me Be Mice Elf Agin/Dance To The Music

Pretty consistent, you’ll agree. The only difference was the swapping of “Sanctify Yourself” in the second night running order with “Someone Somewhere [In Summertime].” If a band was performing a 150 date world tour, it’s reasonable to expect less than a new set list each night. Now compare and contrast with the album itself:

Album Running Order

  1. Ghostdancing
  2. Big Sleep
  3. Waterfront
  4. Promised You A Miracle
  5. Someone Somewhere In Summertime
  6. Oh Jungleland
  7. Alive And Kicking
  8. Don’t You [Forget About Me]
  9. Once Upon A Time
  10. Book Of Brilliant Things
  11. East At Easter
  12. Sanctify Yourself
  13. Love Song/Sun City/Dance To The Music
  14. New Gold Dream [81, 82, 83, 84]

Not a single pair of the released tracks reflects the original running order. This indicates a lot of post-production was necessary to “hide the stitches.” Just how much post-production is a point of controversy in Simple Minds fan circles to this day, but the facts are that Callum Malcolm and his Castlesound studios were credited for “additional fixing and mixing in Scotland.” The full extent was revealed with a careful listen.

The album began not with the “Waterfront,” the most logical set opener for this time in the band’s history, but “Ghostdancing” instead. Their “Unforgettable Fire” pastiche was stretched out even longer and Jim Kerr’s vocals had lost all subtlety in a ragged approximation of Bono’s patented bluster. Kerr was already two steps over the line on the studio versions of this material. Here, he’s approaching minstrelsy. The only notable point in this song was that Tony Levin’s “Sleepless” bass line was appropriated for the middle eight. Given that I actually noticed the bass on this song lends suspicion that this might have been the handiwork of an uncredited Derek Forbes. Still, if he was going to indulge in slap bass, maybe it was better if I didn’t know for certain. I’d like to remember him the way he was.

“Big Sleep” still features Kerr’s tooth gnashing vibrato. [“Big slee-ee-ee-ee-ap!”] Its bass is shockingly lacking the inexorable pull of Forbes, gutting the song of its central vortex of power. But within the context of this disaster of an album, I have to be thankful for small miracles. The temptation to turn this deep cut from “New Gold Dream” into hyperthyroid stadium rock, was somehow resisted. Kerr avoided over-emoting here like a thespian in a diving bell with a kinked hose. The final result is an oasis of subtlety in an era where that was mighty thin on the ground for the band. If anything, it errs too far on the side of caution with the drawn out coda tacked on to the song’s end. It can be argued that this was the first telegraphing of where the band was headed for. Rocky shores, indeed.

“Waterfront” was sturdy enough. A song designed not to be subtle could have been a blank check for grandstanding in the worst way possible, but the track here managed to be an honorable version of the song, if a tad lacking in excitement. Scuttlebutt has it that this was almost half the length of what was actually played live. I can’t even remember “Waterfront” from he live concert I saw in 1986, and that’s indicative of a problem.

simple minds - promisedyouamiracleliveUS12ASome tracks were completely re-imagined here. “Promised You A Miracle” was the sole single release from the album and the skittering energy of the original had been shoehorned into more pedestrian stadium rock. There seems to have been a horrific edit at 3:43 where a jarring synth “whoosh” attempts to gloss over a brutal splice of Burchill’s guitar solo. Was it being spliced together from two performances or was it down to the extensive post production? In any case, the song’s energy was drained about three quarters through the number for what would be a pattern on this album; the long, stately fadeout.

Next: …Extensive Post-Production!

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5 Responses to Rock G.P.A.: Simple Minds [part 26]

  1. Echorich says:

    Here’s a great example of why I don’t buy live albums. No matter how good the band, the show, the…post-production, I don’t need a live document. For me the live experience is one that needs to be experienced in person, as a participant. Sure, over the years, there have been live albums that have reminded me of concerts I’ve seen, but none have ever matched being there.
    The fact that so many albums, Frampton Comes Alive or Dave Mason Live, have so famously been rebuilt from the ground up in the post production studio has stuck with me since I was a kid. Then there are the albums that probably needed more post production – David Live! comes to mind – so does Bowies Stage but that’s actually an album that likely benefited from post production.
    I know being so anti-live album can be seen as kind of pretentious, but it’s a pretension I don’t have any trouble standing behind.

    Like

    • zoo says:

      The best thing about live albums, IMO, are when bands do a lot of improvisation or play around with the arrangements. SM apparently did this at one point, but not so much for LITCOL. Sounds like the SITR tour would have been the one to hear those enhanced versions of the songs.

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      • postpunkmonk says:

        zoo – The Tour De Monde was the apex of Simple Minds live to these ears! Have you heard Irvington? It staggers the mind to think the gods walked upon the earth on …New Jersey’s soil!! Fortunately, the SITR DLX box will have the Barrowlands ’85 show which was one of Mr. Forbes last hurrahs with the band that tossed him out on his ear soon afterward.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Bless your pretensions, my son! Though I am something of a sucker for live recordings, your stance has adequately protected you from such stuff as the abomination that was the hoedown version of “Someone Somewhere [In Summertime]!” More to follow on that horror!!

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  2. I enjoy live recordings when it was a great concert that I happened to attend (PSB in Miami, REM in Athens, Talking Heads in Atlanta, that sort of thing) and if the band is doing something new and interesting (see any Joe Jackson live record). Otherwise, I can give most of them a pass.

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