ALBUM 3: Empires + Dance | 1980| designer: The Artifex Studio
The third album by Simple Minds had a photographic cover that was a huge break from their first two. It was a pre-existing photo that had caught Jim Kerr’s eye in a magazine. What a powerful image for the music inside of that sleeve! The color is deceptively desaturated, and the judicious use of white space belies the oppression and claustrophobia of the songs within. The crypto-Cyrillic font was a brilliant juxtaposition as East met West in a welter of suspicion and paranoia; the Cold War threatening to unleash the heat that we all feared. The band were as usual, depicted on the reverse cover, albeit in a slightly distorted video still. Fervent fans The Manic Street Preachers copped the look and font for their album “The Holy Bible” in 1994, when Simple Minds were lost in the wilderness between albums during the dawn of grunge, almost ready to begin their topple from the commercial heights they’d had a lock on for the previous 14 years.
ALBUM 4: Sons + Fascination | 1981| designer: Assorted Images
What a dazzling cover! When I think of Malcolm Garrett, I think of this album cover first, even though I probably saw the Buzzcocks cover for “A Different Kind Of Tension” prior to this. That record never reached the Record Cell, so that’s probably answer for that. The white space from “Empires + Dance” was held over for this sleeve and this time it was contrasted with intense, hypersaturated color and a stratified, grid-like layout that reflected the pulsing, motorik grooves within. Fonts were still ultramodern sans serif faces, with the exception of the defiantly contrasting catalog number on the reverse of the album set in Bodoni Poster. The effect was mathematical and precise, with room for something more organic as reflected with the blurring in some of the images. The band actually got on the front cover this time, though the long exposures blurred them into semi-obscurity. Appropriate enough as this album would finally deliver them from semi-obscurity to the top ten of the LP charts for the first time. It can be argued that the Kensington Flower Market never looked better.
The Mexican sleeve was an alternate design, of the Stiff America compilation “Themes For Great Cities.” Even then, Virgin Mexico recolored that design brown and red to be dramatically different from the original blue and green composition.
This was the first Simple Minds albums lacking a printed inner sleeve or lyric insert, though the Mexican pressing of “Sons + Fascination” once more distinguished itself by including one of these as shown above.
ALBUM 5: Sister Feelings Call | 1981| designer: Assorted Images
For the companion album issued at the same time as “Sons + Fascination,” Malcolm Garrett maintained the aesthetic, but shifted the color palette to two shades of dominating blue, with photos relegated to grayscale. Since this was designed as a budget album, once the twofer sold out, the selling price of this was just £2.99, and the two color job was probably down to budgetary concerns.
Next: …[Yet] More Covers
In full agreement here. Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call’s album design, artwork and photography are seminally Post Punk and Post Modern. Malcolm used his own car in the shoot and if you pair it with the design of B.E.F.’s Music of Quality and Distinction Vol. 1, you have the best use of realistic photography ever on album artwork. Sheila Rock’s photography deserves much acclaim as well… I’m just saying…
Echorich – Yeah, I recall that the sleeve cheekily credited cars to “Auto Images!” How I love the cover to “Music Of Quality + Distinction!” The use of Bryan Ferry and Deborah Harry lookalikes was inspired!!
Garrett really had his finger on the pulse of the 80’s – even his Genesis album cover for Invisible Touch is so obviously in sync with the sound of the album and mid 80’s graphics. As heralded as Pete Saville (and his minions) have been for his album artwork, I always fall back to Malcolm Garrett. His work is like a primer on the graphic artistic style of the 80’s.
SM’s sound and vision are finally (and gloriously) realized with the “Sons/Sister Feelings” release(s). This is where it all really starts for me (and I still listen to these songs with freakish regularity–almost every week!).
PPM: Thanks so much for the incredibly detailed (and honest) review of Simple Minds’ catalogue. I’ve loved reading every entry!
Stephen Sheafer – I hear you, pally. Hardly a week goes by for me as well. S+F/SFC is among my most played albums for the last 30+ years. Ever since they first came out on CD. I never tire of what they offer. They were such a recipe of unique ingredients put together in such a fascinating combination.
Have always loved the Sons artwork, I had to have the album…just as well it was as good as the cover. As a 14 year old it set the tone of my design tastes for life!
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