REDUX: Steel Cage Match – Simple Minds VS U2

September 24, 2013

steel-cage-sm-vs-u2Sure, sure. We all acknowledge that there’s a weird, almost reciprocal relationship between U2 and Simple Minds. I can’t shake the feeling that the each band has somehow used the other for artistic inspiration and that were it a mathematical function it would coil into a spiral too tight for comfort. The significant factor for me is that I have never drank the U2 Kool-Aid® and that Simple Minds have been a core collection band [perhaps the core collection band] for me since 1981. Since U2 cracked the US market first, many tongues wagged that when Kerr + Co. hit the heights two years later, they should be called U2.5 or some such. Well, by 1984 The Minds did appropriate “War” producer Steve Lillywhite for their own “Sparkle In The Rain” opus. The results from the first drop of the needle were not a million miles away from the sound proffered on U2’s breakthrough album that made them Names. Booming drums, piano, and full on Bono-esque bluster accompanied “Up On The Catwalk.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Celtic dividing line, U2 had looked at “New Gold Dream” and pondered how they could get them some of that. When they went to Brian Eno, caps in hand, they pointed to Simple Minds breakthrough album that had made them Names; albeit with shimmering ambiance and delicate panoramas. U2 got the better end of the deal in that they used the Simple Minds sound to get from “huge” to “massive.” Simple Minds were a step behind in spite of being several years their senior. By the time that U2 had made their first 7″ in 1979, The Minds had two albums and a handful of singles under their belts. So when Simple Minds covered Patti Smith’s wonderful “Dancing Barefoot” in 2001, it came seven years after U2 had already covered that song on the “Threesome” OST. Who then had the winning version to smack the other one down in the Monk’s Ring Of Pain?

Epic Soundtrax | US | CD | 1994 | EK 57881

Epic Soundtrax | US | CD | 1994 | EK 57881

Various: Threesome OST US CD [1994]

  1. Tears For Fears – New Star
  2. General Public – I’ll Take You There
  3. U2 – Dancing Barefoot
  4. Teenage Fanclub – Like A Virgin
  5. Apache Indian – Boom Shack-A-Lak
  6. Bryan Ferry – Is Your Love Strong Enough?
  7. New Order – Bizarre Love Triangle
  8. Duran Duran – Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)
  9. Jellyfish – He’s My Best Friend
  10. Brad – Buttercup
  11. Human Sexual Response – What Does Sex Mean To Me?
  12. The The – That Was The Day

U2 open the track with the same acoustic guitar that drove the Patti Smith original. U2 keep it simple with this self-produced [probable] demo leaning heavily on the basics. There might be a gentle wash of keys but I’m guessing that I’m hearing tremolo guitar overlaid in a dub by The Edge. The whole affair is disarmingly low-key for this most bombastic of bands. The only fire here comes courtesy of The Edge’s snarling, trebly garage-rock solo at the song’s bridge. It sounds more conservative than the Patti Smith Band version which lacked a guitar solo and had the song’s one synthesizer part there courtesy of Richard Sohl instead. All in all, a surprisingly modest and likable outing from one of my least favorite bands. That Bono was able to dial it down for a change went far with me.

Eagle Records | GER | CD | 2001 | EAGEP198

Eagle Records | GER | CD | 2001 | EAGEP198

Simple Minds: Dancing Barefoot EP German CD [2001]

  1. Dancing Barefoot
  2. Gloria
  3. Being Boiled
  4. Love Will Tear Us Apart

Simple Minds began with the same acoustic guitar common to all three versions but quickly ramped up the synth quotient via their DJ-friendly producer Gordon Goudie who started out producing house tracks for 911, a Glaswegian “boy band.” The resulting track has synths out in front with a pulsing synth bass rhythm track that makes the greatest strides in taking the song furthest from its origins. The female backing vocals also add more gloss than on any other versions.

Where the song trips up for me is, ironically, in Jim Kerr’s vocals, which sound like he’s channeling Bono far more successfully than the original did on his turn at this song in 1994. His backing vocals flatten their vowels just like His Smugness usually does, albeit not on U2’s take on this song. When you hear Kerr perfectly ape Bono’s phrasing on the line “Here I come and I don’t know wh-y-y-y-y” he hits a perfect 10 on the Bon-O-meter®… to his detriment.

The verdict? As much as it pains me to type this in public, I have to hand the championship belt to the Irish rockers whom I have no time for in my Record Cell*!! By the simple fact of Bono sounding less like himself than Jim Kerr managed on the same song, that makes it the winner in my book. In a perfect world, I’d take Simple Minds backing track and put Bono and The Edge on it and Bob’s yer uncle… you’d have the ultimate cover of this, the one classic track on Patti Smith’s patchy “Wave” album.

– 30 –

* Truth in labeling laws compel me to admit that the “Threesome” OST and the “Red Hot + Blue” album contain the only two U2 performances in my home.

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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6 Responses to REDUX: Steel Cage Match – Simple Minds VS U2

  1. Echorich says:

    Ok, so to start with…”patchy”?? Sorry I can’t go there. The only thing Wave is guilty of being is more accessible than any other PS/PSG album…but then we aren’t here to rake over those amazing albums….
    So as for the U2 attempt…I remember at the time not buying the version, and after quite a few years since the last time I listened to it, nothing has changed. Bono approaches the song with a sort of attempt at a Jim Morrison-esque reading of the lyrics. But the Bono “nasal trail off” manages to find its way into so many of the verses. Edge’s “solo” starts off all post punk by numbers and quickly devolves into some garage psychedelia that is just grating. This is just passionless.

    My problem with Simple Mind’s take on Dancing Barefoot is the Goth drama that this Dance/Rock version attempts. I don’t think it’s U2 that Kerr + Co should be compared to. Rather this is a dance infused version of the one The Mission offered the world way back in 1987. While that version is a all acoustic guitar version, somehow Charlie Burchill manages to encorporate a good number of Mission guitarist Simon Hinkler’s best Goth Guitar moments in the SM version. The percussion pattern is just flat and the beat really overpowers the song. I will say that the dance beat break is much more enjoyable than the Edge’s solo, but mostly because it’s so short. Finally, Jim Kerr sings like he’s keeps sitting on a cactus while singing in an attempt to sound emotional.

    I say fight called because of poor ticket sales….now about Wave….


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Re-reading this now, you may have a point with your conclusion. Besides, my favorite cover of “Dancing Barefoot” was by neither Simple Minds, U2, or The Mission. It’s the one by Xymox that works the best for me. But really, “Wave” didn’t work for me apart from the first two tracks. I can hardly believe that we are disagreeing over a Todd-produced album; and you are on the “pro” side. Just shows to go you. I should have another listen in case I’m up for some late-in-the-game revelations… if I can stop listening to “The Delivery Man!”


  2. Tim says:

    Next up Dead or Alive vs U2 – Even Better Than the Real Thing?


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – I only have the H17 track as a DL from that Cleopatra comp but how could Dead Or Alive not improve upon a U2 song? For what it’s worth; the last U2 material I have even the slightest passing familiarity with is “Rattle + Hum.”


      • Tim says:

        I find both versions of the track acceptable. If someone is gonna go sonically Clockwork Orange on me and make me listen to U2 I can handle Achtung or Zootopia. i draw the line at The Joshua Tree.


        • Echorich says:

          Tim – Achtung Baby and Zootopia were glimmers of hope that maybe U2 had some creativity left in them, but alas, it was a fleeting sensation. These days I limit myself to the first two albums and selections from War and Unforgettable Fire if the mood strikes, but with so much more and better Post Punk available to revel in, U2 have stiff competition for my attention.


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