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empires and dance: information

JK: "Our own language was coming together and we were starting to get pretty good. We'd done two albums and Arista were having serious second thoughts. We thought we were going to get dumped; and we thought that that mightn't be bad, as we'd heard that the people from Virgin might be interested. We'd amassed some debts. The whole picture wasn't looking good. Thought it wouldn't be fair to say we were hoping to get dumped, we thought a clean slate mightn't be a bad idea. But then Rusty Egan started championing us and suddenly we began to register in the Futurist charts. Arista thought that they may be on to something."

Record Collector Interview
Record Collector #364
July 2009

"40 years ago this month we would have been in Rockfield working on I Travel and a handful of songs that would feature on our Empires And Dance album to be released a few months later."

"Although Empires And Dance was received well enough by the UK critics, considered by a few as one of that year's best. It would be an exaggeration to say that it received 'glowing reviews' anywhere."

"Further to that, with little advertising and virtually no radio play, as a result the album sold very few copies on release and throughout the year or two that followed."

"Depending then on your outlook as it was back then? It would have been perfectly acceptable to look on Empires and Dance as yet another Simple Minds failure. Our third commercial failure in a row that is. Since neither of our previous two albums were sellers either."

"And if you wanted to be brutally honest? You could have said that after three album releases, the only thing Simple Minds had definitely succeeded in, was submerging ourselves in a mountain of financial debts - owed to our record company at the time."

"After all, we never skimped on the the costs of making those albums. (That's probably why sonically they still work decades later). We always invested in the best for our recordings, using both top notch recording studios and name producers etc. None of which came cheap of course."

"Alternately, if back then you were the type to understand how long lasting music careers, as with most businesses built on sound foundations - needed time to develop. You might have singled out Simple Minds as a band ahead of its time and forging forward, confident that despite setbacks - a worldwide audience in its millions was waiting somewhere up ahead."

"Meanwhile, what was I thinking as the 'failures' continued and the debts mounted up?"

"I would love to say that I didn't give a damn! But that's not true. I was worried that the our record company would get tired of our loss making efforts and 'pull the plugs.' If so, at the age of 21, my dreamed of career would already have been over. On the other hand? Whenever I listened to I Travel? I would catch myself thinking. Simple Minds over? You've got be f*cking joking!"

24th July 2020

  • It was initially planned to release the album in late September, to coincide with British leg of the tour. However, being offered the change to support Peter Gabriel on his European tour, meant that the album was going to be released earlier in Europe. Rather than miss due to the UK market then being flooded with imports, Arista rush-released the album, and got it to the shops on the 12th September. As an added bonus to help sales, the label offered the first 10,000 copies as the reduced price of £3.99.

  • "If there's any kind of concept to Empires And Dance, it must be the boy or man who's run away - a fugitive" - Jim.

  • Empires And Dance was written about the experiences and places visited by the band during their previous tour. "I was twenty, and I looked around me. We had the talent always to be in the place where the neo-Nazis exploded another bomb. Bologna, a synagogue in Paris, a railway station in Munich. Don't tell me anything like that could leave you unmoved." - Jim.

  • "We were seeing the picture postcard stuff, statues parks and galleries – but bombs were going off, the Red Brigade had struck, or Baader Meinhof, or one time when we were in Paris, a synagogue had been set fire to – there was danger in the air. Against the backdrop, you've got classical Europe, you're reading Graham Greene and Albert Camus and back in London, there were so many independent cinemas showing these great Italian and French classics – it all fed in, that and our own experiences. We seemed to be in Berlin every week there, going through the corridor from Hamburg, seeing all these Russian guards and feeling like these post-war kids, able almost to touch that." - Jim

  • Strong, percussive and driving, the music of the album was based around the rhythm section with Mick and Charlie filling in.

  • "We'd never thought about selling albums until this third one; never thought 'Oh, this cover'll look great in the window of Boots' or this and that. It was just we were in the band, which was a hobby that someone wanted to finance." - Jim.

  • Unlike Real To Real Cacophony, the band produced a set of demos for the album, recording several of the new songs which had appeared in the last previous tour: Capital City, Room and I Travel.

  • Whilst John Leckie sat in on the album demos, Arista considered David Cunningham as a producer at one point. The song demos and arrangements were recorded at Monow Valley Studios on two-inch tape whilst waiting for the Rolling Stones Mobile to arrive at Rockfield and recording proper could begin.

  • "Empires and Dance was great record to make. Derek was there with the bass lines which really formed the backbone to Simple Minds music right up to time he left and very often his line was first idea written." - John Leckie.

  • "We spent a lot of time working on guitar sounds to sound like keyboards and keyboards to sound like guitars. Technology was a bit primitve at time as no-one was MIDI conversant and yet we did some great tracks with the arpeggiator on the Roland Jupiter and Korg MS20. We spent a lot of time doing handclaps and getting the right tone and reverb space and size, and weird ringing snare drums." - John Leckie.

  • "The Skids were in other studio at Rockfield so there was a lot of messing around and food fights and buckets of water on top of doors etc." - John Leckie.

  • "[After the Real To Real Cacophony Tour] there was rehearsal and recordings - down in Wales as far as I remember - mad time there with doors getting bashed in and other wild times - mainly with Brian it has to be said! Nothing new there then!" - Eddie Cairns

  • The front image, a photograph by German photographer Michael Ruetz, was spotted by Jim in a magazine during a plane flight. This is refuted by Derek: "Jim and I were out in Soho and we saw a photo magazine and that was on the cover or inside it - it looked like Rommel at The Parthenon. I was 'That looks great, it's striking, what a photograph.'... That's what we were doing at that time. Passing through, going to Berlin through a transit route. It was all Russian soldiers with Fruit Pastilles on their head, and missiles pointing up, and tanks and soldiers. That was a weird time."

  • The style of the album, including the cyrillic font used by designers The Artifex Studio, later inspired the artwork for The Holy Bible by The Manic Street Preachers.

  • The chipped statue was used as a motif through single sleeves, tour posters and tour T-shirts. Often referred to as a 'soldier', he was actually an air force officer, shown by the wings on his breast pocket.

  • Original LPs included a lyric sheet, although Room was left off.

  • The band photography was by Richard Coward, a friend of John Leckie, who had previously shot the band in Edinburgh and Glasgow. For the sleeve artwork, he experimented with live video, capturing the band individually and collectively, and photographing the results on a TV screen. He also took the studio portraits of the band for the lyric sheet - these were taken at his home studio at New Crane Wharf, Wapping with the band posing against a brick wall.

  • The album was finished in July 1980. Arista didn't know what to do with it, and Jim, Bruce and John Leckie ended up telegramming the company daily: "What a great album. Stop. This album is a hit. Stop. Jim Kerr. Glasgow."

  • Finally Arista selected on a release date of September 19th as this coincided with the first plan of the tour.

  • Arista only pressed up 15,000 copies of the album, waited for it for sell out, pressed up another 15,000 copies, watched it sell out, and then pressed up another batch. This ensured that the album wasn't often available in shops, and lead it to stall at a lowly 41. Bruce ended up writing a letter to the music press, apologizing for the absense of the LP in the shops.

  • The treatment of the album and its single by Arista was the final straw; the band considered splitting up to rid themselves of the record company.

  • I Travel was selected by as the first single, and included the band's first limited edition and 12" release. By the time Celebrate was issued, the group had long left the label.

  • Virgin aquired the rights to the album when they purchased Simple Minds' back catalogue in 1982. Empires And Dance was reissued on the label's full-price range as a LP (Virgin V 2247) and a MC (Virgin TCV 2247). These were reprints of the Arista originals, with the LP including the lyrics on the inner sleeve (and not as an insert as with the originals). A further pressing, now without the inner sleeve, was produced in June 1988 anticipating the success of Street Fighting Years this time on Virgin's budget OVED range.

  • "We were in a lot of debt and Arista wanted to get rid of us. The feeling was mutual. Within a week, Virgin signed both Simple Minds and Japan from Arista and went on to have great success with both. Virgin was so cool. You went into the office and they were playing dub. They had XTC, The Human League, OMD."

  • "Simple Minds did three albums for a label called Arista back in the day. They signed up with great enthusiasm. Three albums later, we still weren’t making any money. They were about a hundred grand in the hole, maybe more, which in 1979 was probably like a quarter million. They were about to dump us when Richard Branson came along and offered them 35 grand to take the debt. So, we were kinda dumped, but had a new lease on life and people who had new energy. Whereas Arista were saying, “You’re not doing the right thing!”, Virgin were saying to us, “You are doing the right thing. It’s just a matter of time until the rest of the world catches up. So keep doing it." - Jim, North OF The Internet, March 2018

  • The album was remastered in 2002 as part of an extensive Virgin campaign. It was released as a limited edition vinyl replica CD and standard edition CD. This version remains on catalogue.

empires and dance: quick reference
LP    Empires And Dance Zoom Arista SPART 1140
A1. I Travel(3:56)
A2. Today I Died Again(4:39)
A3. Celebrate(5:03)
A4. This Fear Of Gods(7:00)
B1. Capital City(6:14)
B2. Constantinople Line(4:44)
B3. Twist/Run/Repulsion(4:38)
B4. Thirty Frames A Second(5:14)
B5. Kant-Kino(1:50)
B6. Room(2:30)

MC    Empires And Dance Zoom Arista TCART 1140
1-1. I Travel(3:56)
1-2. Today I Died Again(4:39)
1-3. Celebrate(5:03)
1-4. This Fear Of Gods(7:00)
2-1. Capital City(6:14)
2-2. Constantinople Line(4:44)
2-3. Twist/Run/Repulsion(4:38)
2-4. Thirty Frames A Second(5:14)
2-5. Kant-Kino(1:50)
2-6. Room(2:30)

CD    Empires And Dance Virgin CDV 2247
1. I Travel(3:56)
2. Today I Died Again(4:39)
3. Celebrate(5:03)
4. This Fear Of Gods(7:00)
5. Capital City(6:14)
6. Constantinople Line(4:44)
7. Twist/Run/Repulsion(4:38)
8. Thirty Frames A Second(5:14)
9. Kant-Kino(1:50)
10. Room(2:30)

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