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