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the american: information

  • The ink was barely dry on the newly signed Virgin contract when Simple Minds were sent to The Manor to record their first single for the label. The idea was to record two new tracks, with Steve Hillage producing, as a 'try-out' session for the new album.

  • The session was fruitful and a two track master tape of The American and League Of Nations was produced.

  • The initial plan was to get the single out in March 1981. This was timed to coincide with Simple Minds returning from US and Canadian tour and starting on a short UK tour. This was to build on the exposure they acheived when they accompanied Peter Gabriel the previous year.

  • However the band's US and Canadian tour was cut short, the proposed European tour was abandoned and so Simple Minds returned to the studio. Both they and the record company also felt that the Manor version of the The American wasn't quite ready and required further work.

  • Steve Hillage remixed The American at The Townhouse on the 4th March. This was still unsatisfactory and so a third attempt was made at Odyssey Studios on the 2nd April. With everyone now happy with the master, Hillage created a 12" version from the standard track, instrumental and the drum and vocal stems.

  • The production master was created at The Townhouse on the 4th April 1981. This featured the Odyssey mixes of The American along with the original Manor mix of League Of Nations.

  • Graphic designer Malcolm Garrett had been working with Virgin since 1978, designing sleeves for Magazine and The Members. He was familar with the band's previous singles, especially I Travel and Celebrate. "So when I got the call saying 'Do you want to work with these guys?' then it was 'Absolutely!'"

  • Not only had Garrett not heard the tracks, nor met the band, but he was only given a few days to design the sleeve. "And it must've been Wednesday or Thursday that I got the call and they needed a sleeve for early next week and all of those photographs that are on The American I just took from the TV with a 35mm camera... I'm not quite sure what this film was but the film was being shown on TV that Saturday night and I sat in front with the camera: 'I've got to get some pictures!' So I got those snaps and that sort of defined the way I pieced that together. Because I hadn't met the band, I didn't know their actual personalities, I just knew their music felt cinematic, it felt like blurred, snapshoty images where something really important is going on and you haven't a clue what it is, but it's definitely happening and League Of Nations just seems like people getting on, shaking hands, obvious stuff!"

  • The woman on the sleeve was Elizabeth Taylor, a still taken from the film Suddenly Last Summer.

  • Despite enjoying designing different sleeves for multi-format releases, the timing was against Garrett and his designs for the 7" and 12" were largely the same.

  • The single was released on May 15th. As a bonus, Virgin sold the first 15,000 copies of the 12" single at 1.15, which was the same price as the 7". These first editions of the 12" featured a special sticker:

  • Both 7" and 12" were now housed in picture sleeves. Some of the 12" releases still have their 1.15 price stickers.

  • The single was a moderate success, peaking at 59 in the UK singles chart.

  • The edit and extended mix were pushed into service a year later, when A&M selected them as bonus material for their first Simple Minds single Promised You A Miracle. The extended mix made its CD debut on Themes Volume One in 1990. The edit turned out to be quite popular within Virgin, and the punchy shorter version was included on the Glittering Prize 81/92 in 1992.

the american: quick reference
7"   The American Virgin VS 410
A1. The American[Edit](3:32)
B1. League Of Nations(4:55)

12"   The American Virgin VS 410-12
A1. The American[Extended]   (6:55)
B1. League Of Nations(4:55)

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