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sons and fascination: information

JK: "There was so much great stuff coming out of the electronic dance scene. We worked with Steve Hillage. We'd just signed to Virgin. Simon Draper said, "Before you say anything, we want to play you a track." He put on a track by Cowboys International. It really blew us away. "I want you to work with their producer," he said. We thought great - we're going to get this trendy producer. He says it's Steve Hillage! The first track we did was The American - you listen to it now, it's so unique. It was a very good call."

Record Collector Interview
Record Collector #364
July 2009

  • The band had now signed to Virgin Records after leaving Arista. Understandably Virgin wanted an album quickly.

  • Simple Minds wanted a change of producer from John Leckie, primarily to hear what the difference would be.

  • The first choice of producer was Todd Rundgren but Virgin rejected the idea as too expensive. (Rundgren would only work at his Sigma Sound Studio in New York). Other potentials were Martin Rushent (not available) or Steve Lillywhite (too expensive).

  • Finally the band elected to use Steve Hillage who'd impressed them with his work with Ken Lockie and was suggested by Simon Draper. This suited Virgin as Hillage was the label's in-house producer at the time. "We made an American album with an Englishman who is a champion of contiental music. And an old hippie into the bargain" - Charlie.

  • With Hillage on board, the band recorded a demo tape on the 14th February 1981 at CaVa Studios in Glasgow. These five new tracks formed the foundation for the album, including all three of its eventual singles.

  • They then relocated to The Manor to start official recordings with Hillage the next week. This included work on the first songs for a single: The American along with a B-side idea called League Of Nations. Masters for both were recorded, but it was decided The American required more mixing, so any plans for a quick single release were dropped.

  • Simple Minds then embarked of a short short tour of the UK, Europe, America and Canada. Despite its brevity, it allowed the band to try out some of the new songs live (Careful In Career, Sweat In Bullet and Love Song) and gave Jim more inspiration for the lyrical direction of the next phase of recording.

  • Virgin ushered Simple Minds into the recording studio within days of their US Club Tour. By coincidence, the studio was Farmyard Studios where they'd recorded Life In A Day.

  • Reluctant to curb the band's new found enthusiasm and creativity, Hillage simply let them get on with it and the band had recorded fifteen backing tracks within several weeks. Therefore they started talking about a double album, but the direction kept changing, they couldn't decide what to scrap and what to keep. "In retrospect I think we tried to achieve the impossible. We wanted to record a double album on the budget of a single one. But at that moment, we were so full of ideas, and we thought they were all useful. So we decided to record everything and ended up with a huge mess, a veritable nightmare" - Jim.

  • The result was an awful lot of music, lots of tension, and a host of songs in varying degrees of completion. "Even halfway through, that album never really had any proper direction. We were still writing as if we had unlimited time. We couldn't figure out how we were going to separate which ones we were gonna go with, so we decided to do the lot." - Charlie.

  • "All the musicians were writing like hell - Burchill, MacNeil, Derek Forbes on bass, but we ran out of budget. And Virgin wouldn't give us the extra. So it felt short. Eventually, Sister Feelings Call came out as a bonus album but so many people liked it as much it got a full release. Some of the mixes suffer from lack of budget when I listen back." - Jim

  • At one point, Bruce Findlay was hurriedly fetched down from Scotland as Jim and Charlie had rowed over something and weren't speaking; they were furious anyway because they felt Hillage had blamed the band for the mess when questioned by Virgin; and Hillage had rushed himself off to hospital with a suspected heart attack (which turned out to be heart palpitations).

  • (With Hillage rushed to hospital, the band turned to the engineer to complete the mix they were working on. He wasn't there. So they finished it themselves. Amongst talk of calling John Leckie to salvage everything).

  • "The group really liked Steve Hillage. You can't dislike Hillage, it's impossible, he's a lovely, lovely chap. I think he should maybe have come down on the group harder. The group wanted to spend as much time as they could, fair enough, but you have to temper that with realities. When Simple Minds got in the studio, they lost all sense of perspective - they couldn't see the wodd for the trees" - Hugh Jones.

  • Virgin wouldn't increase the budget. And the band were adamant that they wouldn't go over 20,000.

  • Hillage suggested using a cheap studio to save money. Park Gates, a studio built up from loaned kit, allowed the band to jam and experiment, but the results were not good. The band wasted three weeks there, and were interupted when Paul McCartney wanted his mixing desk back. Several multi-tracks were recorded at the studio, and all were discarded.

  • Rumours circulated that Hillage kept a potted tree in the studio so he'd have something to talk to.

  • After recording the backing tracks at Farmyard Studios, Hillage booked Regent's Park studios for mixing and overdubs. It was at this point, and with time running out, that Virgin really increased the pressure. At this point, the band were forced into deciding which songs to finish, which songs were instrumentals, and how long each should be.

  • In the end, they failed to complete all the songs. Unwilling to shelve some ideas and leave them in the archive, they decided to issue the all the material, gathering up the loose ends on a limited edition, bonus mini-album called Sister Feelings Call. Both would be issued as a set (called the twinned pack in the various press releases, and sold at reduced price as a 'thank you' to loyal fans) with Sister Feelings Call being eventually deleted.

  • Sister Feelings Call wasn't deleted as planned, but ended up as a budget album.

  • Other Virgin territories messed about with the packaging. In Australia, Sister Feelings Call was a limited edition numbered album. In Canada, the tracks were dispersed between each disc in a different order. And in Mexico, the album got a a different cover.

  • The cassette carried all the songs from both albums. A cassette of just Sons And Fascination was never issued.

  • The German LP of Sons And Fascination (Virgin 203 959-320) included a lyric sheet. These were initially planned for the UK pressings of the album.

  • Ken Lockie sang backing vocals on several tracks, and Jim returned the favour by appearing on Lockie's The Impossible album. (Another vocalist called Jacqui guested on the mysterious "Next" chorus, an album credit which has never been explained). Rusty Egan received a credit for playing the band in his London clubs and Peter Gabriel got a belated thanks for taking them on tour.

  • David Henderson received his final credit has he was no longer the band's sound engineer. After a furious argument with another engineer called Billy Worton he'd walked out. Worten then became their sound engineer until after a terrible performance at Hammersmith Odeon, he was sacked on the spot.

  • John Peel said the song titles sounded like crossword puzzles.

  • The blurred pictures on the sleeve were taken at the New Covent Garden Flower Market in London. The American cars were from Garrett's own collection: a 1969 Plymouth Fury and a 1964 Cadillac Fleetwood.

  • A CD was eventually released in 1985, an attempted to combine both albums, but due to space restrictions, two Sister tracks (League Of Nations and Sound In 70 Cities) were omitted.

  • The album was reissued in April 1990 as part of Virgin's budget OVED series. As the original packaging was minimal, then the budget reissue was faithful to the initial release, with only the labels being changed. (Virgin used their own generic label design). The cassette wasn't changed and still included all the tracks from Sister Feelings Call.

  • "There was still a great deal of intensity but Charlie would come up with these chimes and highlights that would bring light into the picture. Even within In Trance As Mission, there's a joy in there. Joy about what? Fuck knows. I try and describe it as the air clearing after the storm, the heavenly shafts on Theme For Great Cities and Seeing Out The Angel. That was the spirit of the band, and maybe the spirit of the times. I think you're right in saying that Joy Division had made such an impact and a million of those kind of bands followed in their wake, including us to an extent. It was about looking outward, an opening out, rather than this introversion. It was very powerful when it happened, and culminated in this new, shining pop music." - Jim.

    "I still think Real To Real Cacophony had a lot of good things, among them imagination and inventiveness, but to me it wasn't until Sons And Fascination that we took our influences and grew something else."

    Jim Kerr Interview
    Classic Pop Magazine
    January 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, combined with Sister Feelings Call. This version remains on catalogue.

sons and fascination: quick reference
LP    Sons And Fascination Virgin V 2207
A1. In Trance As Mission(6:50)
A2. Sweat In Bullet(4:30)
A3. 70 Cities As Love Brings The Fall(4:48)
A4. Boys From Brazil(5:30)
B1. Love Song(5:03)
B2. This Earth That You Walk Upon(5:26)
B3. Sons And Fascination(5:23)
B4. Seeing Out The Angel(6:11)

MC    Sons And Fascination Virgin TCV 2207
1-1. In Trance As Mission(6:50)
1-2. Sweat In Bullet(4:30)
1-3. 70 Cities As Love Brings The Fall(4:48)
1-4. Boys From Brazil(5:30)
1-5. Theme For Great Cities(5:50)
1-6. The American(3:49)
1-7. 20th Century Promised Land(4:53)
2-1. Love Song(5:03)
2-2. This Earth That You Walk Upon(5:26)
2-3. Sons And Fascination(5:23)
2-4. Seeing Out The Angel(6:11)
2-5. Wonderful In Young Life(5:20)
2-6. League Of Nations(4:55)
2-7. Careful In Career(5:08)
2-8. Sound In 70 Cities(5:01)

CD    Sons And Fascination Virgin CDV 2207
1. In Trance As Mission(6:50)
2. Sweat In Bullet(4:30)
3. 70 Cities As Love Brings The Fall(4:48)
4. Boys From Brazil(5:30)
5. Love Song(5:03)
6. This Earth That You Walk Upon(5:26)
7. Sons And Fascination(5:23)
8. Seeing Out The Angel(6:11)
9. Theme For Great Cities(5:50)
10. The American(3:49)
11. 20th Century Promised Land(4:53)
12. Wonderful In Young Life(5:20)
13. Careful In Career(5:08)

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The American Love Song

Sweat In Bullet