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neon lights : information

  • "We didn't do a lot in the nineties. Three albums. That tells you something. The band was flat lining. For about a year, we came close to not continuing. Your career and your life are so intermingled and things don't always go well. But once we decided we were going to soldier on, we got our mojo back."

  • "Neon Lights is an album of cover versions, the first time Simple Minds have put together a collection of non-original material. We thought it was appropriate at a period of looking back that we go to the very foundations of Simple Minds, which of course is the music and the bands who influenced us."

  • "Simple Minds essentially formed as friends, school friends, who were also fans of music. We like to think that we're still fans at heart and I think it's important to create - to be able to continue creating music. I think it's important that you still keep the essence of the fan." - Jim

  • After the problems with Our Secrets Are The Same, Simple Minds effectively ground to a halt. With little or no interest in music, and exasperated at the state of the recording industry, Jim and Charlie devoted their time to other projects (and in Jim's case prompting headlines as he formed a consortium to purchase Celtic football club.)

  • By this time, Jim had settled in Taormina and was concentrating on his hotel (Vila Angela). This didn't stop the local musicians trying to coax the reluctant Simple Minds front-man back into their studios, to listen to their music, and to perhaps contribute something. This spurred Jim back into action, and working with the local musicians, and other more established Italian groups, Simple Minds edged away from self-imposed retirement and set about recording again.

  • "Danielle Tignino, a local songwriter and producer more than played a part in my creative rebirth. He hassled me non-stop into coming over to his little studio in those days when I was intent on resisting giving my heart back to songs. When I finally did succumb to Dan's invitation, I found that within days together we had playfully knocked off a handful of tunes that were loaded with the strongest pop hooks. I also felt instantly that there was something strong emerging from me once again. That feeling alloyed with the recognition and soon constant nurturing of Martin Hanlin and Ged Malone meant that it became quite possible to start believing in it all once again."

  • "Inevitably the wheel had turned and I had turned with it, the sudden movement of that was like waking from a coma that incorporated the heaviness that only those who have ever experienced a chronic crisis of confidence know about." - Jim

  • To familiarize themselves with new recording studios and techniques, and to reboot Simple Minds, the new group found their feet by recording a set of covers. At the same time, they worked on an evolving new pop-orientated album.

  • Most of the work for the covers album took place at Ca-Va studios in Glasgow. Jim and Charlie worked with songwriter, musician and studio hand Gordon Goudie.

  • The working title was Covers Album Project.

  • The running order of the songs on the first Production Master was: The Man Who Sold The World, Homosapien, Neon Lights, Dancing Barefoot, Hello, I Love You, Gloria, Bring On The Dancing Horses, The Needle And The Damage Done, For Your Pleasure and All Tomorrow's Parties. The final two tracks were separated and didn't segue into each other.

  • They signed a two album deal with Eagle Records in June 2001. Oddly, the deal didn't include the collection of covers they'd amassed. But having wanted to record a covers album for years, it seemed an appropriate and opportunistic time to release one: released as a low-key budget album, it would reintroduce Simple Minds and set the scene for the forthcoming "real" album.

  • Eagle originally put together a fully-fledged CD release with a sizeable booklet; this was later cut back to just a minimal insert. However, Eagle's extravagance wasn't fully curtailed; the accompanying single (Dancing Barefoot EP) was pressed as jet black CD and made little, or no, profit.

  • The CD was released in September 2001 (Europe) and October 2001 (rest of the world). The US and Canadian editions featured extra tracks taken from the Dancing Barefoot EP. In Germany, a limited edition release of 9999 copies packaged Neon Lights and the Dancing Barefoot EP in an unique sleeve.

  • The UK promotional sampler featured slightly different artwork and longer sleeve notes than its commercial counterpart. It also featured Jim introducing each of the tracks and giving some background. Each of the songs was peppered with one second gaps to prevent copying. The sampler also turned up in Germany (sans Jim's introductions) as a plain CDR.

  • A generic interview CDR was distributed in very limited numbers. It remains the rarest of the Neon Lights releases.

  • The sampler was given away with copies of the album in some Virgin Megastores. Eagle also looked into giving away copies with every new Smartcar.

  • At Eagle's German company, someone pressed up 25 copies of a promotional version of the album, but used the original artist recordings and not the covers by Simple Minds. The cover artwork was altered slightly to state "Original Versions Of Songs Covered On". It was intended to produce more of these promos, but Eagle were unable to get clearance for a couple of the songs, and so the promo was shelved.

  • The album's time in the limelight was extremely short; all the big promotion, interviews etc. were being saved for the Cry. However Virgin took the opportunity to release The Best Of the next month, therefore cashing in on Eagle's limited advertising and promoting.

  • "It certainly wasn't easy when we looked at the prospect of doing a cover version album. There have been so many great songs, so many different sounds, so many artists and acts that have influenced our band. We tried to hone it down to the key acts involved, and you could say that Simple Minds came out on a basis of listening to David Bowie, Roxy Music, Peter Gabriel and of course, Lou Reed. On top of that there was always Patti Smith, The Doors and Neil Young as well."

  • "In this collection we have tried to stay faithful to the sentiment of the original songs, but of course we have tried to bring our own heart to the songs. It is never easy to do cover versions. In some ways you are on to a hiding to nothing because the very fact that you're choosing these songs means that you believe that the originals are great in themselves. However, real fans of Simple Minds who want to discover the genesis of our sound, want to hear what we were listening to as fans and understand the excitement that propelled us to make our sound and write our own songs, can trace it all on this album." - Jim

  • An EPK was produced but wasn't released at the time. It was eventually found in the band's archives 18 years later, and released on the Rejuvenation 2001-2014 CD/DVD box-set.

    Simple Minds began as a covers act. Simple Minds are still a covers act. Admittedly we are now a "covers act" who over the last four decades has succeeded in writing, playing, and recording hundreds of songs - mostly self written. At no point however, have we ever entirely stopped being a covers act. I suspect we never will.

    In our embryonic years, not yet 16 years old, and taking our first baby steps as a group. Charlie and I, along with fellow friends and school mates, Joe Donnelly, Tony Donald and Brian McGee, would carry our equipment over to the assembly room in St Brigids primary school in Toryglen, Glasgow, every Tuesday night.

    Permanently excited, we'd plug in and unabashedly try to copy the sounds of whatever records we had been listening to that week. We were having the greatest fun in our lives at that point in time. More importantly, in doing so we were setting out on a study of how to play and write our very own songs by first learning how those amazing songs written by others actually worked?

    The knowledge learned that came from succeeding in doing that, helped sprout wings that would eventually enable us to soar high as songwriters ourselves. And how about this for consistency? It was people like Bowie, Lou Reed, Steve Harley and The Doors that we covered in that dusty school hall way back in time - circa 1975.

    It is people like Bowie, Steve Harley and The Doors that Simple Minds have covered within our live shows from the last few years - circa 2015 - 2018. Plus Ca Change?

    Fast forward to the late 90's, Simple Minds had come to a point where discussions had taken place regarding calling time on our band. The notion of packing our bags and setting out on a new life entirely, one that no longer involved music had grown in allure, and I had become convinced that it might be the right path to take.

    That never came to pass obviously. And as a new century came over the horizon, along with it came a renewed desire from within, to attempt the resurrection of our band. If that sounds too dramatic? Simple Minds had never entirely died after all? Simple Minds were undoubtedly flatlining at that time however, and therefore very close to the end.

    So how did we get back on our feet? How did we once agin get active? How did we get the depleted confidence back? How to open and let the faith in ourselves - take over once again? There is no one single answer to all of that. Except to say, that we had to go back to the very beginning. Back to falling in love with writing and recording music.

    Much overlooked within our story, cover albums never really do get taken that seriously after all? Except by people like me that is. I am always interested and most often delighted by the choices of covers that artists who I admire make. It was nevertheless the act of recording of Neon Lights that saved our ongoing creative lives. Without it, there would no present Simple Minds. Sick men back then. Working on that album became our first step to recovery. And nothing is possible without the first step. (Thanks to Gordie Goudie and Kevin Burleigh whose efforts helped us at the period take that step.)

    Recorded over a couple of weeks in a small converted barn, somewhere out near Glasgow Airport. Making Neon Lights became much the equivalent (decades later) of setting up back in St Brigids school. It was through having fun again, and dallying around with the music of others, as we did on that album, that we managed to reboot our passion for further Simple Minds recordings.

    So much fun that on completion we decided that the future of Simple Minds was a cause worth fighting for. Resultantly, a few day later we started recording on what was to become the songs for our next album of original material.

    That album was called Cry. As in, the cry of something new being born. And we have neither stopped, or looked back since.

    8th December 2018

neon lights : quick reference
CD    Neon Lights Eagle EAGCD 194
1. Gloria(3:45)
2. The Man Who Sold The World(4:07)
3. Homosapien(4:20)
4. Dancing Barefoot(3:48)
5. Neon Lights(4:16)
6. Hello, I Love You(3:32)
7. Bring On The Dancing Horses(5:51)
8. The Needle And The Damage Done(4:15)
9. For Your Pleasure(4:08)
10. All Tomorrow's Parties(3:33)

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Dancing Barefoot EP Homosapien