Randomising the record collection #28: Simple Minds – Promised You A Miracle

#8171 – Simple Minds – Promised You A Miracle
(12-inch single, 1982) (Discogs tracklisting)

28 simple minds

Aha, I thought, this will be an appropriately sardonic commentary upon our post-Brexit times; what fun I shall have, drawing lines from the past to the present! Far from it, though: this is an almost wholly optimistic love song, shot through with a sense of infinite possibility, which became a hit single at a time when pop itself was probing new possibilities.

Everywhere you looked in the first half of 1982, bands were vaulting from cult acclaim to overground appeal, without (yet?) fatally diluting their original sense of purpose. Just off the top of my head, The Associates, Japan, Echo and the Bunnymen and Bow Wow Wow spring to mind. There were, of course, many more.

(Something analogous happened in the mid-Nineties, too – although perhaps the borders were left too open for too long, without an effective points system to hang on where am I going with this shut up move on.)

Despite all the praise that was heaped upon them in the corners of the music press which held the most personal sway, Simple Minds were never one of “my” bands, and “Promised You A Miracle” was the only record of theirs which I ever went out and bought. Beyond 1985, I was done with them completely; they had become too broad-brush, too foghorny, too flag-wavy, too stadium. But the “Promised You A Miracle” of my memory was an airy, sprightly, shimmering thing, as much a part of the New Pop as, say, “Poison Arrow” or “Party Fears Two”.

Playing it again today, I can hear more of the band they became, and less of the band I thought they once were. The track strains for the sky, but it never quite breaks its earthly shackles. Perhaps the shackles are at their loosest in the final, repeat-and-vamp-to-fade passage of this extended version, as the band locks into a cyclical progression that can never resolve, while Jim Kerr ecstatically extemporises, leaving language behind.

The two instrumentals on the flip side, both produced by Steve Hillage, have worn pretty well – particularly the icy, magisterial synth-funk of “Theme From Great Cities”, which crossed over onto New York dance floors as electro was starting to emerge. (I know it better from “The Real Life” a juddering 1988/89 reworking by Freddy Bastone, a.k.a. Corporation Of One, who spliced it with a “Bohemian Rhapsody” vocal sample and placed it somewhere between freestyle house and early techno.) They offer a glimpse of an alternative future for Simple Minds, had the lure of arena-friendly big-statement-rock not proved so strong. Had they followed such a path, I might have walked with them further.

 

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Randomising the record collection #27: The Gorillas – She’s My Gal

#584 – The Gorillas – She’s My Gal
(7-inch single, 1976) (Discogs tracklisting)

27 gorillas

I’ve got other, more important stuff to do today. No change there, then – but faced with a need to scale down my obsessive post-referendum news/social media fixation, I must conjure up a fresh displacement activity. And so, as “She’s My Gal” has been in my direct line of vision for the past three months, patiently stacked behind the office hi-fi, perhaps it’s finally time to dispatch it back to its rightful resting place around the corner, nestling between The Go-Go’s and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci.

In the autumn of 1976, impatient for the arrival of UK punk on record, I was casting around for the nearest substitutes. Six years ago, writing about Dr. Feelgood in The Guardian, I made mention of this transient phase.

For those of us who were impatient for British punk rock to make the leap from enticing music-press buzz to ­tangible vinyl product, Dr Feelgood and their compatriots at the rowdier end of the pub rock scene – Eddie and the Hot Rods, Count Bishops, Tyla Gang – were as close an approximation as we could find to the music we had read about, but could only piece together in our imaginations. Ahead of the punk eruption, these John the Baptist figures were leading the charge, showing that rock music could be reinvigorated by a high-energy, no-nonsense, back to basics approach.

And so it was with The Gorillas, an equally rowdy product of the London pub-rock circuit, and this release for one of the UK’s first independent labels, Chiswick Records. Having already hoovered up as much as I could find from the Stiff label – Nick Lowe, Tyla Gang, Lew Lewis and, most crucially of all, The Damned – I was now turning my attention to their spiritual counterparts, and “She’s My Gal” duly became the second of five near-consecutive purchases from Chiswick (a run that was only broken by “Anarchy In The U.K.”).

As much a perpetuation of bovver-glam as a prefigurement of punk, the catchy swagger of “She’s My Gal” bridged my listening gap more ably than most. I shall place it back among the G’s with fondness.