The year 1999 was the beginning of deep tribulations for Simple Minds. After their “Néapolis” album and singles performed very poorly, I remember Jim Kerr posting to the band’s website about their new direction moving forward. First of all, the return of Derek Forbes on bass and Mel Gaynor on drums was short lived. Kerr and Burchill found themselves rubbing shoulders with Jim’s brother Mark’s band, Sly Silver Sly. They were rehearsing in the studio next to where Jim and Charlie were writing. Sly Silver Sly were having their demos produced by American Kevin Hunter, formerly of the “college rock” band Wire train. One thing led to another and Forbes and Gaynor found themselves ejected from their seats and replaced with Jim’s brother Mark on drums and Sly Silver Sly’s bassist Eddie Duffy. In a more shocking move than even that, Kevin Hunter began writing songs with Simple Minds.
To say I was flabbergasted by this news as it unfolded in real time was putting it mildly. Kerr was beating the drum for this new direction in his website posts and I could only gasp in wonder at the notion of this band shoring up their fortunes by ejecting their core rhythm section and bringing in a college rock also-ran who lost out to R.E.M. almost 20 years earlier and Jim’s little brother and some unknown guy on bass! It sure seemed to be the case that desperate, crazed decisions that were being hastily made, but given the enormity of their high-profile failure on their new label Chrysalis, I would imaging there were many heated “discussions” of how to pull their collective fat out of the fire. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall on some of those sessions.
By the summer of 1999, the new “Simple Minds” album had been given a name and tentative release date. “Our Secrets Were The Same” would be released by Chrysalis in January of 2000. Meanwhile, their label Chrysalis, was caught up in the proposed merger of EMI [their parent label] and US octoglomerate AOL Time Warner. The Simple Minds album was pushed out to a Spring, then Summer release schedule while phalanxes of lawyers prepared the buyout of EMI by the US internet/media titan; untroubled by release schedules for an obscure Scottish band. Then in October of 1999, two things happened that had immediate, negative repercussions for the band
First of all, an internal CD-R of “Our Secrete Are The Same” reached the hands of a Catalan DJ Jordi Tardà, who proceeded to broadcast the unmastered files of the album cuts on his radio show. He ended up playing all ten of the album’s tracks over a period of several weeks. The album had now been leaked. Worse, the tracks were in a raw state without being mastered, so they had been meant for review before the mastering process had been undertaken. The public were in effect, hearing unfinished works that had not been polished for consumption. Then, once the tracks had been recorded off the air by various and sundry, new wrinkles called the internet and peer-to-peer networks entered into the picture. MP3 file sharing networks soon featured the cuts for mass distribution. In short order, CD-Rs were surfacing on ebay of this unreleased Simple Minds album, The ship had sailed while the captains were still on shore.
Secondly, the AOL Time-Warner/EMI merger was tabled, no doubt darkening the mood of the elite at EMI who would have profited handsomely by the action. It was in this environment that Chrysalis rejected the band’s album for release. Simple Minds were now booted off the label that had signed them just three years earlier with a reputed £10M advance. Simple Minds took back their masters and then the litigation began in earnest.
At this point we could undertake two potential timelines to continue this series. We could insert a two year wait for the next Simple Minds album that was released in real time, or we could turn our attention to “Our Secrets Are the Same” as it was meant to be released following “Néapolis.” That it eventually saw release years later means that it is in the Record Cell, so for the purposes of this mega-thread, we will next cover the released version of “Our Secrets Are The Same.” As if it had appeared as scheduled.
Next: …Desperate Rockstars