With “Black + White 050505” getting out in the world to positive reviews [Darryl Esslea of Record Collector have it a lapsed fan 5/5 rave], the time of release was marked for me by a bittersweet moment. Getting the two CD singles for “Home” were the final physical CD singles that I have gotten for the group. And those came from online as gifts from my wife. The last such singles I actually bought in a store were the pair of Eagle Rock singles for “Cry” four years earlier. There was a new download only track, “Too Much Television,” that was released to iTunes only, but only available to UK residents. Grrrr. By 2006 the time of no physical singles had begun in haste.
Speaking of which, by the following Spring, the band themselves were getting in on this hot, download only action by releasing bundles online, available only in their webstore from their “Black + White 050505” world tour. The first of these was released in April 2006 and four more followed over the next three months. Each of these features 3-4 songs live and 1-2 short video clips featuring live clips and interviews. As it transpired, each of these were compiled from a single concert held at the Ancienne Belgique in Brussels, Belgium on February 16, 2006.
The critical redemption of Simple Minds probably got a boost when James Bradfield of Manic Street Preachers came out of the Simple Minds fan closet by praising the [brilliant] “Empires + Dance” as being a profoundly creative album; a fact that got glossed over once Simple Minds became fat stadium fodder and the butt of critical jokes for a generation.
2007 brought a new Simple Minds release… sort of. The Sunday Express released a two volume set of CDs from the band’s current tour. Bands were resorting to this in lieu of selling albums, which few were doing at this time, anyway. Getting a newspaper to pay you for distribution rights to your music was a valid channel of income. Each CD held about 40-45 minutes of live Simple Minds… and three 10:00 ambient tracks by one Austin Stewart Hanlin. I suspect that he may be the son of band supporter Martin Hanlin of Silencers fame, who has ended up being a friend and advisor to the band in recent years.
Surprisingly, in 2008 the band reactivated their Live Bundle download program with two more volumes, six and seven, which both completed the Ancienne Belgique show as well as offering some highlights from the band’s appearance at the previous year’s “T On The Fringe” festival. This marked the first time that an entire Simple Minds concert had been commercially released, albeit not in the actual running order. The bundles were sequenced like stand-alone EPs.
The Summer of ’08 brought a least likely surprise. The long un-awaited [17 years since volume 4 in 1990!] “Themes Vol. 5” box of five CD singles appeared on Virgin, compiling all single tracks associated with the “Real Life” and “Glittering Prize” albums. To mark the occasion , all four of these seriously out of print and very costly collections were repressed as a box of 25 CD singles with vol. 5 also being available separately. As I had all of the original CD singles, and the vinyl with loose tracks not on those CD5s, I passed this time.
That Summer also marked the first news of the next Simple Minds album which was going into the recording stages. Once more, Jez Coad was producing and the band were holed up at Rockfield Studios in Wales for the first time in donkey’s years working on the album. Rockfield was a residential studio, so as these things go, it gives focus to the task at hand with few distractions. Given that many bands were now recording their album on computer rigs in their spare rooms, this was a defiantly “old school” tactic to employ. It;s important to remember that during all of these months, Jim Kerr was posting to what amounted as a blog on simpleminds.com on the ongoing process of writing and recording; offering his cheerleading on the songs as they were happening behind the scenes. He would keep up to approximately a monthly schedule of postings going forward to this day.
By the end of 2008, the band were commemorating their 30th year with a series of concerts confined to the UK and Europe; their primary markets. It had been six years since the band had last trod the boards on these shores, and I had grown weary of waiting for another tour that never seemed to come. By the time the tour wrapped up, Kerr and Burchill were holed up in Los Angeles for much of December as Bob Clearmountain and his Mix This! studios were putting the final touches on the upcoming Simple Minds album.
Next: …Graffiti Soul