The last Rock G.P.A. series that I ran on Japan was impressive in that it features a horizontal line of four segments at the top [from ’80-’84] of the scale. Simple Minds rated a five segment line to at top, keeping in mind that I consider “Sister Feelings Call” as a discrete album. After all, from 1981 to 2002, the only way to hear all of it was to buy the vinyl LP of it, which was kept in print for a long time. This was undeniably impressive and a feat that few bands/artists could match, but due to the inherent drama and catastrophe inflections in the band’s 35 year career, the actual Rock G.P.A. was not all that impressive; a modest 2.69 for a C+ average.
A 2.69 Rock G.P.A., and yet, I’ve devoted 70 posts and probably over 100,000 words to the subject! Clearly, there was something about this band that got its hooks into me, but good. Again, I’d have to point to that five segment horizontal line at the top of the graph. When coupled with the first two entries, it describes a consecutive artistic arc that was one of the finest that I could name for one who would dare to call himself the Post-Punk Monk. The music on those albums began modestly, before dramatically turning against the tide of their debut album to encompass a potent cocktail of artistic influences that put them right where they could beguile me for a straight five year period. That I missed the first two years of their career and had to play catch up only meant that my experience of the band during this time was distilled down more potently into a shorter period of time than someone who saw “Life In A Day” in 1979 and gave it a try.
Simple Minds – The Band
The period from 1979 to 1985 was what hooked this fish. This was the era when Simple Minds were a band and as such, greater than the sum of their parts. Five individuals came together to form a group that, when honed on an incessant touring schedule that took them far afield from their Glaswegian roots, shaped them into a formidable band capable of synthesizing disparate influences into a dynamic new hybrid. The trance inducing rhythms of Krautrock were one touchstone. My favorite of their albums, “Empires + Dance” was indisputably informed by groups like Neu! and La Düsseldorf, albeit infused with an underlying dread and paranoia that was far from the more blissed out vistas that those two bands proffered. Simple Minds learned the value of pace, drive, and repetition well enough to create four albums informed by this sound.
Another piece of their formative DNA was disco and funk. There was incremental change between “Empires + Dance” and “Sons + Fascination/Sister Feelings Call” and the greatest difference was the new emphasis on disco and funk’s influence on the vibe on those records. The ice had been broken on “Empires + Dance” with the Moroder influence on “I Travel,” but their 1981 albums were rooted in the powerful rhythm section of Derek Forbes and Brian McGee that started with one foot in Krautrock and another in the disco. These muscular tunes had powerful bass lines that formed the backbone of the song. These songs were notably, all credited to Simple Minds, suggesting that they arose out of jamming as a means of composing. The band were on fire creatively and issuing more than an album per year was very possible, even with recording squeezed into their touring schedule that saw them zip from Canada, to Australia, then back to Europe and the UK.
The rhythm section anchored this material, and in a unique fashion, the melodic instruments achieved a give-and-take balance with the rhythmic components of the group. Melodies via keyboards or guitar were interjected often as counterpoints to the more dominant rhythm. It was as if an art rock band were trying to make jazz records with an eye on the disco floor. In other words, it was exceptionally stimulating. It’s worth reminding ourselves that while David Bowie cast a huge shadow on the band as they grew up, he was trying on his Krautrock suits a few years prior to the time that Simple Minds did the same, and the end results in each case, showed how far apart two bands could sound while exploring the same territory. It bears mentioning that a 1981 UK Music paper interview with Bowie revealed that he had bought a recent Simple Minds record and thought highly of it.
Next: …Conclusion continues