Simply put, those “U1” jokes about Simple Minds that Py Korry referred to in his most recent Mix Six installment began here.
“Produced by Steve Lillywhite.” For most bands, those four words are akin to being touched by the hand of God. For Simple Minds, it ultimately caused more problems than it solved. The band was riding a steady wave of buzz after the release of their 1982 album New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) in 1982, so it was easy to see why Lillywhite was interested in applying his sonic bombast to the band’s atmospheric art pop. The end result, 1984’s Sparkle in the Rain, is arguably Simple Minds’ finest record, and fewer songs displayed that bombast better than the album’s second single, “Speed Your Love to Me.” Along with its crash-boom-bang drum track, Mel Gaynor positively rocks that cowbell, and Lillywhite’s 12” mix, which highlights Charlie Burchill’s scratch guitar technique, inspired U2 comparisons by the pound. Bono didn’t mind, though; he loved Sparkle in the Rain, saying it was what U2 aspired to do with War. You know, if Bono had any idea back then how to lighten the fuck up.
This is the part where the writer is supposed to talk at length about the difficulties Simple Minds had living in the shadow of U2, their decision to record a silly pop song that Billy Idol and Bryan Ferry had already turned down, etc. But not here, not today. We choose to remember Simple Minds as they were before the music machine crushed their spirit. Consider this: when Sparkle in the Rain was released, it was still anyone’s guess whether U2 or Simple Minds would prove to be more popular. Isn’t that just adorable? Not as adorable as Kerr’s jacket in the song’s promo video, of course, but you get the idea.