I can never really peg it, but the Scottish new wave band Simple Minds just stood apart from their keyboard toting contemporaries. Maybe it was the vaguely medieval album graphics that adorned nearly all the bands releases during the first half of the ’80s.
Scottish tradition may have had a part in it as the band sounded less ‘electronic’ and more guitar oriented. Whatever it was the Simple Minds had evolved from making teen dance in the late ’70s to the stoic masterpiece of New Gold Dream 81 82 83 84. The odd title might suggest a greatest hits album, in fact that’s why I bought it not knowing any better.
Being that alt-rock music info was hard to come by in pre-internet 1983, it seemed like a good place to start. In reality New Gold Dream represents a little bit of Simple Minds past (dance music) with their new-found musical maturity expressed in soaring twin guitar and keyboard anthems. The album even featured Herbie Hancock on a track.
Produced by Peter Walsh, the stoic sound lead by vocalist Jim Kerr would later be known for getting its start here. The big wall of sound of songs like “Someone Somewhere in Summertime” and ’Glittering Prize’ were countered by dance songs like ‘Someone Up There Likes Me’ and ‘Promised You A Miracle”. The former single was a minor hit in the US. Like most English new wave music, its entry into American households was via MTV or possibly college radio.
‘Promised You a Miracle was the first Simple Minds song I had ever heard, it alone would have been enough to make me a fan. Written specifically to appeal to radio audiences, the song worked and is acknowledged by Jim Kerr as the bands first pure pop song.
New Gold Dream had that effect on a lot of people. It was the big breakout album that put the band on the map in the UK and Europe. Americans would not truly embrace the band until Once Upon a Time in 1985. In the years leading up to mainstream success, Simple Minds was playlist favorite on many college radio stations.
Like many great bands that rise to a point, Simple Minds lost its way. By the mid ’80s they were hardly recognizable from what they were just five years before. The recognition that the album was a pivotal juncture in Simple Mind’s career was recognized by the multiple re-issues in 2003 and once again in 2004.