Friday, May 22, 2009

Simple Minds “New Gold Dream (81, 82, 83, 84)” (1982)

New Gold Dream holds a special place in my heart because it is the first Simple Minds record I ever owned. It was the record that really got me to dismiss their “80s Music” legacy and seriously examine their back catalog.

The story of "New Gold Dream" begins in January 1982, when the group recorded demos for “King Is White and In the Crowd,” “Promised You a Miracle,” and “Hunter and the Hunted.” Following these demo sessions, the group returned to the road until the end of spring. A completed version of “Promised You a Miracle” was released as a single in April 1982. Much to everyone’s surprise, it crashed the top twenty, landing at number 13.

With a top-20 U.K. single and a supportive record label, Virgin, behind them, the band retreated to Fife in late spring to record some more demos for the new album. Producer Pete Walsh would later recall “They would jam for two hours on the same song, and then we would listen to it back on cassette, pick the good bits and make the song around that. A lot of it was what they'd call pure shit, or not very good anyway, and there were some magic bits that maybe were never captured on the album.”

Following the Fife rehearsals, the group headed to London to record the album’s basic tracks. Virgin encouraged Walsh to capture the energy of the group’s live sound, and so it was decided that the album would be a live studio album with minimal overdubs. To achieve this, the band would play each song several times, and Walsh would assemble an edit of the best performances.

Now, lineup changes were nothing new to the group. So it was rather unsurprising when they ran into drummer issues while recording the album. Drummer Kenny Hyslop, who played on “Promised You a Miracle,” left the group after that single’s release and Mike Ogletree was quickly drafted in to replace him. But despite his competence on the road, the other lads found his style of drumming was not meshing well with the new material. In an attempt to rectify this, Pete Walsh suggested his friend Mel Gaynor to fill in the gaps. Ultimately, both Ogletree and Gaynor are credited on the album’s sleeve:

Ongletree plays on:
“Colours Fly and Catherine Wheel"
"Somebody up There Likes You”
"New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)

while Gaynor plays on:
"Someone Somewhere in Summertime",
"Big Sleep",
"New Gold Dream.",
"Glittering Prize",
"Hunter and the Hunted"
"The King is White and in the Crowd".

Upon completing the basic live tracks, the band again moved house to record the overdubs. This time to Virgin’s “The Manor Studios” in rural Oxfordshire. The manor was more country club than recording studio, and the group regularly dipped out to swim or play ping pong when they found themselves feeling stuck. If only every band had this sort of luxury...

Interestingly enough, Simple Minds did not stop touring altogether while recording. A quick examination of their 1982 calendar shows that they managed to squeeze in a number of European Festival appearances between June and August. That the group were able to keep such a hectic schedule AND be productive in the studio is impressive. It really makes me wonder how bands today can defend taking such lengthy pauses between touring and recording.

The first word that comes to mind when I think of “New Gold Dream” is FOCUS. “Sister Feelings Call/Sons & Fascination” and “Empires and Dance” may have been ambitious, but they were cluttered and even sound unfinished in some parts. But it seems as though the heavy experimentation that defined Simple Minds’ first four albums paid off. On “New Gold Dream,” they emerge as a band with a sound that is very much their own. While the album does sound glossier than previous releases, it never comes off as boring. The melodies are strong and memorable, and the songs are cohesive. So unlike "Empires and Dance," it's much easier to listen to this album start-to-finish on repeat.
My favorite song on the album? “Hunter and the Hunted,” because it features it features a keyboard solo byHerbie Hancock. Apparently, the jazz-funk legend was recording in a studio next door when the band asked him if he’d like to contribute to the album. His solo is probably of the most poignant and moving performances on the album.

*Interestingly enough, this album sits very comfortable next to Roxy Music’s final release, Avalon, which was released in June of 1982. Simple Minds, like many of their contemporaries (e.g. Duran Duran), were heavily influenced by Roxy Music. So it’s rather interesting to notice how their work matched up stylistically in 1982.

More Information HERE
Wikipedia Entry HERE


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Tristan said...

I discover the Simple Minds catalog a couple years ago--so underrated! I also like the follow-up to New Gold Dream; "The Kick Inside of Me" is on of their best.

chris said...

Man SM is my all time favorite band! I don't know why. I like all of their pre-Street Fighting Years stuff. Eventhough people thought they sold out with Once Upon A Time,I love that album. The lyrics from Life In A Day to Sparkle In The Rain are very enigmatic. They made a great comeback with Black & White. And Grafitti Soul is TEN TIMES as good. They should have as much,if not more,success than U2 (whom I also like)

Mike said...

A message for Colonel K from New Gold Dream drummer Mike Ogletree: Alive & Kicking in New York City.

My favorite SM album is also New Gold Dream, but I am biased, followed by Empires and Dance then Sons and Fascination. Below is some autobiographical inside skinny to add to your knowledge of the writing process that led to the recording of this pivotal album for the band.

While continuing to develop music for Acoustic Burns my next album I am working on a project called An Acoustic Mind wherein I will be acoustically revisiting the album I helped write and record in 1982, New Gold Dream. Just up on my Youtube are rockin' acoustic versions of Promised You A Miracle, one of Simple Minds most elegant rock/pop songs, and Someone, Somewhere in Summertime.

Early in 1982, through a contact with my ex-manager Bruce Findlay, I joined Charlie Burchill, Jim Kerr, Mick Macneil and Derek Forbes in a huge converted barn in Perthshire, Scotland where, among other things, we wrote the music for what was considered the band's watershed album. New Gold Dream 81, 82, 83, 84 from Simple Minds will forever mark a turning point in the career of one of rock music's all time great live and studio bands. My part in it as drummer and rhythmatist, though small, was significant. Mick, Charlie, Derek and I quickly developed a musical rapport and conversation which opened the door to a totally new feel for the band in terms of rhythm and mood. Known for their "dark" sound, my arrival to the band coincided with new musical excursions into the worlds of soul and rhythm and blues, my forte.

While losing none of the power and mystery of previous years, 1982 was when Simple Minds consolidated their gains, reached out and, played the riskiest card of their long and illustrious career. They made the decision to become more consumable widen the fan-base and make an album that could compete and stand up with the best of the coffee-table commercial music that was doing the rounds at the time.

The result, now considered "an album to hear before you die", is a multi-faceted master-work of rhythm and melody known as New Gold Dream 81-82-83-84. Though I ran out of steam during the studio recordings of the project I worked closely with the great drummer Mel Gaynor to ensure that the drum parts and feels I had developed in the barn in Perthshire were faithfully duplicated and made it to tape for the final version. One highlight of the recordings was when Mel and I set up both our kits in the big stone-lined drum booth at the Townhouse Recording Studio in London and proceeded to record a double drum extravaganza for the albums title track New Gold Dream. That was some energy and some sound. Unfortunately what made it on the album, a beautiful mix, paled sound-wise compared to the memory I have of listening to the sound engineer playback a special drummer's only drum-mix for Mel and I which had the walls and roofs of the Townhouse literally shaking. The hairs on the back of my neck and arms stand on end just remembering it.

Watch this space for more music and videos from My Acoustic Life.
Mike Ogletree.

Anonymous said...

Mike - thanks for your memories on this recording. I love colour and subtlety you brought to the record - NDG would have been a completely different record otherwise. For ages, I laboured under the misaprehension that Mel Gaynor played on Somebody up there Likes You. But now, I can hear your style. Feels like Heaven. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Mike Ogletree is right and an amazing drummmer and musician in his own right. Not only that but he has a great personality also. He has shared some of his new work with me and others on youtube and it's AMAZING! The acoustic version of "Someone Somewhere..." blew my mind. Good luck and God bless your future is BRIGHT Mike! Kristian (panamaniak from youtube)

Alan said...

Mike...thanks for the insight on what is one of my favourite albums of all time. Out of interest, where exactly was the barn located in Perthshire, can you remember?

Cathy Cooper said...

Thanks Mike. This album's been springing to mind lately. Isn't it so magical? It's funny you mention Avalon as it seems to me more Avalon than Roxy's's album. This is what Roxy were trying to achieve and what SM did. No music will ever conjure up the magic and mystery of Avalon like NGD, and they weren't even trying to!