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sparkle in the rain: information

  • In December 1982 Bruce Findlay proposed a fifty date American tour to immediately follow their recent UK tour showcasing New Gold Dream (81,82,83,84). This was vetoed by Jim who argued for a break. "It was the end of a two-and-a-half-year period for us when we never had more than ten days to two weeks off. I think Charlie and I especially thought you can do it all and it doesn't catch up with you. But it does catch up with you, and you're so out of it that you blame everything else apart from yourself. That's what we were doing." - Jim

  • Therefore after the UK leg of the New Gold Tour, finishing with two nights at Tiffany's in Glasgow (with China Crisis as support), the band downed tools for a well earned break that Christmas. A recording studio in Lincolnshire was hurriedly booked for January and February to fill the gap in the tour schedule and allow the band to work on new ideas.

  • In the first months of 1983, Simple Minds worked at The Chapel, Lincolnshire, jamming and refining new ides. The results of this two month period were a batch of new semi-formed songs (such as Speed Your Love To Me) and six more officially recorded demos (which included Book Of Brilliant Things). Discussions were held with Alex Sadkin as potential producer, but it didn't work out, and he was dropped in February.

  • Jim started writing new lyrics on the road when the European Tour started in March. By the time the tour reached Germany, he'd become disillusioned with his ideas, tearing up the new material, worried that he was simply writing New Gold Dream Part Two. The tour itself was mixed: they were well received in Italy, Norway and Sweden but ticket sales were down in Germnay (which was a problem for all touring artists). But the hectic European tour was a good warm up for the US and Canadian legs.

  • The American tour was not without incident. On the positive side, Simple Minds signed to A&M Records in April, a relationship which would formally stabalize the group's American output for the next ten years. But Jim was attacked outside his hotel in New York by the jealous boyfriend of a fan; Mick was suffering from an undiagnosed stomach complaint; Steve Pollard keeled over with a collapsed lung; guitar roadie Andy Battye was carried unconcious out of a club; and the normally cheerful and grounded Charlie suffered hysterics in his hotel room and had to saved by Jim. It was clear that a much longer break was needed.

  • Meanwhile the tour continued with the band reaching Canada where they are received as heroes for toughing it out on their previous tour. Everyone takes a break after completing the Canadian gigs, with Jim and Charlie traveling to India. During this break in May, Jim goes for a walk around the deserted Clyde dockyards, and develops the lyrical ideas for Waterfront.

  • Refreshed and rejuvenated, Simple Minds play a series of open-air festivals across Europe. The music was starting to loosen up and become more rock-weighted, while visually the group were changing too, especially as Jim didn't bother with his livid white face make-up and washed the black dye out of his hair. Street Hassle appeared in the set.

  • They met U2 for the first time whilst on the European tour circuit. The press were also warming to the new sound, and musical connections between emerging bands, citing the "new rock" being created by Simple Minds, U2, Echo And The Bunnymen and Big Country.

  • Meanwhile Bruce Findlay had just scheduled a US tour supporting The Police. It was left to tour manager Lenny Love to break the bad news to him over the phone in July after Simple Minds completed their European gigs: "The band aren't doing the dates with The Police and Jim says they want Chas And Dave to produce the new album, so could you look into it?" Bruce ordered him off the line.

  • Instead Jim, Charlie and Mick were booked into the Columbia Hotel, London where they worked at Nomis Studios on ideas for the album. One idea which refused to go away was a Derek Forbes' riff which, when fused with Jim's ideas after walking around the Glagow docks, became Waterfront.

  • Derek and Mel joined the trio in London where they continued working on tracks at Nomis. Waterfront was fleshed out and completed, and received its public debut at Phoenix Park, Dublin on the 14th August, where Simple Minds appeared as special guest for U2's homecoming gig.

  • Steve Lillywhite was picked as the album's producer. The band were impressed with his work with U2 and Peter Gabriel. Lillywhite dropped his current committments, including producing an album for Rush, to work with Simple Minds.

  • The band were booked into Rockfield Studios, Wales, for three weeks during September. This was to further work on the ideas generated at the Old Chapel and Nomis, with new producer Steve Lillywhite joining them for the last fortnight. Lillywhite wanted to familiarize himself with the new material and the group. With material ordered and selected for formal recordings, the end of their stint at Rockfield, was marked by the composition of a brand new song, The Kick Inside Of Me, which was then recorded for a Kid Jensen session the next day.

  • The formal recording of the album took place at The Townhouse in mid-September. The album was going under the working title of Quiet Night Of The White Hot Day. Little of the raw Rockfield material emerged unchanged, as most of the Rockfield demos were stripped down, cut up and pasted back together in an entirely new configuration, perhaps retaining only a bassline or keyboard melody from the original demo.

  • The session, recorded for David "Kid" Jensen, was broadcast while the band were working at The Townhouse. Jim and Mel were interviewed by the DJ, and also took along the final version of Waterfront, which was also played on the show.

  • Instead of laying down the backing tracks, each song was completed in itself before moving onto the next. And the whole album was completed within 7 to 8 weeks, with all the material finished in November 1983, and was eventually given the title Sparkle In The Rain. The album's release as postponed until February so Virgin could coordinate a simultaneous worldwide release. In the intermin, it was decided to build up expection with the release of two singles.

  • Videos for Waterfront and Speed Your Love To Me were next on the agenda. Both were shot, back-to-back, over three days in Glasgow. The location was picked as Jim found inspiration for the lyrics of Waterfront whilst walking along the banks of the Clyde.

  • The director of both videos was John Scarlett-Davies who'd just won Young Filmaker Of The Year. He'd offered his services after hearing Jim dismiss the band's previous videos as "crap" on a radio show. In spite of record company objections (they didn't like the young director), the shoot took place in Glasgow at the newly opened Barrowland Ballroom and on the Renfrew Ferry (the latter doubling up as the album's first photoshoot with Adrian Boot).

  • Waterfront was released as a single in November 1983 and reached #13 in the UK chart.
  • The band embarked on a short warm-up tour, with concerts in London and Glasogw. Two gigs were planned for the band's home city, but the sudden closure of Tiffanys forced a venue switch to the newly opened Barrowland Ballroom. In the end, and due to public demand, they ended up playing three shows.

  • Alfred Bos' official biography was scheduled to be released in December 1983, but is postponed to coincide with the album's launch early next year. Adam Sweeting, who had been writing the official biography, was also planning to publish his biography with the album, but postponed his book for seveal years. (It would not appear until after the release of Live In The City Of Light.) Bos reviewed the album in OOR under the title The Fibonacci Intermezzo arguing that each Simple Minds album was the sum of its predecessors.

  • By January 1984, the pre-promotion for the album reached its climax with the release of second single Speed Your Love To Me. Simple Minds appeared on The Oxford Roadshow before jetting of to Australia and New Zealand for the start of the Tour Du Monde tour. It was in New Zealand that Simple Minds played the Sweetwaters Festival where they shared the bill with U2, The Pretenders and Talking Heads. It's often said that Jim met Chrissie Hynde for the first time at this festival, which may be true, but the two bands played alternative nights.

  • Sparkle In The Rain was finally released in February 1984 and reached number one in the UK chart, the first Simple Minds to do so. This coincided with the tour reaching the UK, but the band (in particular Jim and Derek) and the crew were starting to be affected by flu. By March, Jim was so ill that many of the UK dates were postponed.

CB: "We had written and toured it before recording. It was going to be different live, with all the big dynamics. We'd debuted Waterfront when we supported U2 at Phoenix Park in Dublin. We knew the record was going to be like that."

JK: "New Gold Dream had taken us out to the European festivals for the first time and we started to think how it would be great if we could get across on the widest stages. Lo and behold, Waterfront turns up. We were never that calculated but, at the same time, we were analytical. The touring took over and, in a sense, it was a little half-finished. Some of my favourite stuff is on there, but it's bitty. The cover of Lou Reed's Street Hassle meant we'd run out of tracks. Now we say to do an album of 10 great tracks you need to be working on 20-25 ideas. And to top it all, it's got the worst album cover in the world."

Record Collector Interview
Record Collector #364
July 2009

MM: Simple Minds songs always have excellent titles. Do they come to you first before the music?

JK: The titles do they are separate. Ever since I was a kid, I had this notebook I donít know why but I had little pieces and stories in the book. It always struck me how language could work and how different phrases could strike you in different contexts. I suppose I always thought about song and album titles to be as striking as book titles. Sparkle in the Rain is one of my favorite album titles. You will laugh when you hear where I got the title from. We were working in the Townhouse studio, and it was a horrible day. I went outside and jumped into a taxi, we had a day or two to go before finishing the album, and we still didnít know the title. The cab pulled up next to a bus stop, and a guy was standing reading the paper. I canít remember what team it was but letís say it was Queens Park Rangers had played the night before. And on the back of the paper, it said 'Queens Sparkle in the Rain.' And I really liked that."

Jim Kerr and Mark Millar
January 2018

"There was no European in it, no President getting shot, no fugitives." Ė Jim

The band recorded their last David "Kid" Jensen session to support the album. It was recorded on the 11th September 1983 and broadcast on the 3rd October 1983. Jim and Mel were in the studio with Jensen when the session tracks were aired, and the broadcast also marked the first public play of the just-finished studio version of Waterfront.

  • Was there a New Gold Dream Part 2? "It wasn't good enough to create "New Gold Dream II", much as many of their new-found supporters might have wished for it. Several excellent new tracks were junked or comprehensively rewritten as the group felt their way with instinctive certainly towards the fierce uncluttered dynamics of "Sparkle In The Rain" - Adam Sweeting.

  • Writing sessions began at The Chapel, a recording studio near South Thoresby, Lincolnshire in February 1983. (They would've preferred Rockfield but the studios were fully booked.)

  • "Every January and February is the same to me. We always use January and February to work on new ideas. We never really get around to forming them, so they're always half-baked. - Jim.

  • The entire band (Jim, Charlie, Mick, Derek and Mel) were there to simply jam and try and come up with new material.

  • Some tracks were based around the rhythm patterns of the xxx synth with Charlie and Mick MacNeil jamming over the top.

  • At the end of the sessions, a six-track demo tape was produced.

  • The one sided acetates were cut before the album was named; but by the time the one sided test pressings were pressed on the 2nd December 1983, the album was called Sparkle In The Rain.

  • In February 1984, Sparkle In The Rain was the first Simple Minds' album to be released simultaneously on vinyl, cassette and CD. The vinyl copies included a glossy inner sleeve with heavily stylized graphics, whilst the CD booklet featured exclusive pictures of the band and some of the lyrics of Book Of Brilliant Things.

  • A limited edition white vinyl pressing was also available, although the only difference (apart from the colour of the vinyl) was a sticker on the sleeve.

  • No other collectable versions of the album appeared, except in Canada, where a limited edition run were pressed in transparent vinyl. This has become the most collectable of the various commercial releases of the album.

  • Promotional issues were also lacking, with one exception. Whilst the gold stamped promo from the US was worth looking out for, Virgin Canada issued a promotional Sparkle In The Rain notepad with the album's shield graphic on every page.

  • One of the rarest, and oddest, of the special pressings, was the test pressing from Virgin New Zealand. This one-sided test pressing features the A-side of the album, and on the blank vinyl on the flip, the record company staff have etched "Merry Xmas Love Virgin NZ" and signed their names.

  • The album was released on Virgin's budget range in March 1991, anticipating increased demand after the release of Real Life. It was reissued on LP (Virgin OVED 346) and cassette ( Virgin OVEDC 346).

    Released 36 years ago this week. Listen to Waterfront and you tell me if the record sounds dated? Although not for me to mark my own report card, I'd vouch that Steve Lillywhite's production makes it feel timeless. Much like the river that our city was built on in fact. The same one that by chance, after a walk along its bank during a July sunset, inspired the chanted lyrics that gave an image to Derek Forbes' roadhouse tune.

    Despite our excitement on release, music critics were not universally receptive to Sparkle In The Rain. Only 40% were welcoming of our new direction, and although I could not understand their grumbling then, I can do so a bit more now. Likewise a fair number of fans, entranced by our previous album New Gold Dream, hoping for more of the same, were to be disappointed. But Simple Minds are never keen on repeating, then and now. Change has been the lifeblood of our band, no matter how awkward or how painful it can sometimes be.

    Alternately a lot of people loved that album. And we had no problem in seeing it become our first UK No 1. Also featuring Up On The Catwalk, Book Of Brilliant Things, Speed Your Love To Me, East at Easter, among others. The energy of music is breathtaking throughout. Lyrics? Well I'd say that they are uniquely Simple Minds. And it's not that easy to be unique. Don't believe me? Try it for yourself and let me know how you get on?

    Any faults on the album? Of course. Going back to Steve's production? Great as it is, it could have done with more light and shade. And we could have done with more rehearsals before recording began. If so, some of the songs on the second side would have had better arrangements, become better songs.

    No doubt it would also have helped if yours truly had written more lyrics upfront - as opposed to keeping everyone in the dark until the last minute. (Akin to asking everyone to run a marathon - without telling them where the finishing line is?)

    Fave song? One that I would want to listen to right now? Well, its early morning and the last thing I'd want to do is listen to my voice. Being so, I'd choose the charming instrumental that works as the album finale. It's called Shake Off The Ghosts. And I could listen to a whole album of that kind of stuff.

    Jim Kerr
    7th February 2019

  • 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.

sparkle in the rain: quick reference
LP   Sparkle In The Rain Virgin V 2300
A1. Up On The Catwalk(4:45)
A2. Book Of Brilliant Things(4:20)
A3. Speed Your Love To Me(4:25)
A4. Waterfront(4:49)
A5. East At Easter(3:30)
B1. Street Hassle(5:15)
B2. White Hot Day(4:33)
B3. "C" Moon Cry Like A Baby(4:21)
B4. The Kick Inside Of Me(4:45)
B5. Shake Off The Ghosts(3:58)

MC   Sparkle In The Rain Virgin TCV 2300
1-1. Up On The Catwalk(4:45)
1-2. Book Of Brilliant Things(4:20)
1-3. Speed Your Love To Me(4:25)
1-4. Waterfront(4:49)
1-5. East At Easter(3:30)
2-1. Street Hassle(5:15)
2-2. White Hot Day(4:33)
2-3. "C" Moon Cry Like A Baby(4:21)
2-4. The Kick Inside Of Me(4:45)
2-5. Shake Off The Ghosts(3:58)

CD   Sparkle In The Rain Virgin CDV 2300
1. Up On The Catwalk(4:45)
2. Book Of Brilliant Things(4:20)
3. Speed Your Love To Me(4:25)
4. Waterfront(4:49)
5. East At Easter(3:30)
6. Street Hassle(5:15)
7. White Hot Day(4:33)
8. "C" Moon Cry Like A Baby(4:21)
9. The Kick Inside Of Me(4:45)
10. Shake Off The Ghosts(3:58)

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Waterfront Speed Your Love To Me

Up On The Catwalk