ALBUM 9: Live In The City of Light | 1987| designer: Assorted iMaGes
Malcolm Garrett returned to the design duties for the next album, but I must ask… at what cost? Jim Kerr has quipped in the press five years earlier that the cover of “New Gold Dream” should have been sold in furniture stores since it had a “coffee table book” cover. That had nothing on the middlebrow pretensions that had come home to roost for the cover of “Live In The City Of Light.” With a gatefold binding redolent of fine Corinthian leather, complete with faux gold tooled stamped cover, this puppy perfectly encapsulated the fraudulent noise within, so I can only assume that Garrett was having a small private joke at the band’s expense. At least I hope that he was!
The CD initially came in a fat, double case, but this was twin, single jewel boxes in America, home of the used copy I finally deigned to purchase a year or so later. Later pressings might have been sold in a thin double case, but I’m not sure. I saw the luxurious UK LP more than once in the bins, but owning a single copy of this was the maximum that I could withstand! The US 2xLP might have had the same cover as the UK edition, but I can’t really say, since I never looked at them that closely when crate digging.
I don’t care much for this cover. As I mentioned, it’s Thatcher-esque aspiration levels put it in a class all its own, but what really sticks in my craw about this design was the introduction of the dreaded Claddagh! How I’ve grown sick and so tired of seeing this Irish icon ceaselessly associated with the band. It has come to represent, visually, all that I ever despised about Simple Minds. At least the new album didn’t wheel it out for a change!
ALBUM 10: Street Fighting Years | 1989| designer: Assorted iMaGes
Simple Minds’ worst album has a cover that was at least twice as good as it deserves, but even this cover has some serious missteps by the normally reliable Garrett as he finally got his feet wet with Macintosh computers. I assume he was new to them, because no expert would have ever chosen to set the album title that large, and with such clumsy kerning as on the circle surrounding the oval knockout photo of the band; itself another grievous design sin. The rest of the cover looks nice. The band name over the landscape photos knocked out with the fractal art, were not ground breaking, but at least looked professional. I much prefer the back cover, with the song titles on radiating spokes against more fractalized landscapes.
I never bought any UK pressings of this album, only the US CD. But there were some exotic variations out there in the wilds. The boxed UK CD was radically different with the CD in a presentation box with two cassettes and a 64 page songbook. The cassettes contained a radio interview with the band [probably just Jim Kerr with a few words from Charlie Burchill and maybe Trevor Horn] discussing the enormity of it all. Unusual, but it would have to be going for $3.00 before I would even think of buying it. And then I’d probably flip it to collectors with far more love for this album than I carry. Sorry about the photo, this was all that I could find. There also existed a 3 x cassette version of the same thing and at least that has a good cover shot on the web.
The most daring format of this album was definitely the promotional UK boxed set of 7″ singles! The Brobdingnagian songs of this grand gesture were somehow fit onto a set of three 7″ singles in vastly unique packaging. With the length of the tracks, I wouldn’t be surprised if those discs spun at 16 r.p.m., the speed you probably never used on your first record player… if you’re really old, like me.
Now that I recall, I do believe that I did see this once or maybe even twice at some record shows I attended at the time of release. Again, one copy of the straight CD, much less that of an exotic variant, was probably already too much for the Record Cell. But by far the best exotic variant for this album was the Sony MiniDisc! In 1989, it was poised to take over mobile hi-fi listening. In the rear view mirror of history, all MD really did was to get us used to the idea of lossy compression and the MP3 yet to come! Of course, Sony’s ATRAC® compression was proprietary, and led to its downfall in the marketplace. That it sounded phonetically like “8-track” probably didn’t help matters any!
Why was this the copy of the album to own? For a start, the likelihood of having a MD player or deck to play it was remarkably slim 26 years ago and even slimmer now!
Next: …[Son Of] Still More Covers!