At the end of 1989, I was listening to Simple Minds’ cover of Prince’s Sign o’ the Times [which lamented the concerns of the era – from Aids to urban poverty and drug addiction]. On the TV was coverage of the Berlin Wall coming down, and all these people celebrating. I never thought that I’d see such a thing in my lifetime, and I wanted to write a sort of updated but positive Sign o’ the Times to reflect what was happening.
For the original instrumental demo version of Right Here, Right Now, I sampled the Prince song. I had a two-bar loop from it run all the way throughout as my drum and bass track, and I played some guitar chords over it. Then I made a guitar solo out of lots of Jimi Hendrix samples mashed together, because I wanted to be on a record with Hendrix.
Our producer, Martyn Phillips, had just sampled an opera singer on a track by the Beloved. Apparently, the singer had walked into a greengrocer’s and heard herself on someone else’s record, and Martyn was badly stung for it financially. As soon as he heard our Prince and Hendrix samples he said, “You’re not using those!”, and so we had to rebuild the track from top to bottom. The lyrics – “Right here, right now, there is no other place I want to be / Right here, right now, watching the world wake up from history” – were just something to hang the tune on.
Straight after finishing it, we went to play in Romania. It was just after the fall of the Ceaușescu regime and his execution, and we saw bullet holes in all the buildings. It looked like a place that had been in a war. People there had this saying, “We couldn’t trust the pillow we slept on”, because the secret police had been everywhere. The country was emerging out of a tunnel, which was exactly what I was singing about.
The song went to No 31 in the UK. The US record company insisted they needed a remix to release there. I sat in as a top producer and was paid a ridiculous amount to take the track apart and reconstruct it. At the end it sounded identical. But it went to No 2 – only Bryan Adams’ (Everything I Do) I Do It for You kept us off the top spot. On the back of the US success, it was rereleased in the UK and went to No 31 again, but it’s since become our best-known hit.
It has a poignancy today because I don’t feel anything like as optimistic. Once again, I feel like we could be on the brink of Armageddon at any moment. But if things could change very quickly then, they could just as easily do so now.
Iain Baker, keyboards
I vividly remember the grotty bedsit in Chapter Road, near Dollis Hill in London, where Mike started the song. There was a bed, a chest of drawers, a coffee table piled high with musical equipment, a fireplace stacked with cassette tapes, and a poster for Subway, the Luc Besson film starring Isabelle Adjani. It was the last place you’d imagine a gangly 24-year-old bloke to come up with a song that played a role in two US elections.
In 1992, we suddenly started getting all these calls and faxes telling us that Bill Clinton was using Right Here, Right Now as his campaign song. Then, in 2007, Hillary started using it in her campaign as well. Looking back, it’s brilliant but ridiculous. I remember calling Mike, and saying to him, “I’m pretty sure their car stereo is knackered and our CD got stuck in there, so when they needed a campaign song, it was the only one they knew.”
The track was originally called Nelson, after Prince Rogers Nelson. We thought the Simple Minds version of his Sign o’ the Times was awful, so went back to his original, but Right Here, Right Now only really took shape once we got rid of the Prince samples and deconstructed it.
The other big influence was Lou Reed, especially his New York album. Mike was aiming for this Lou Reed-y guitar line, but in the process found something else entirely, so Right Here, Right Now sounds nothing like him at all. Back then, we were one of the first groups mixing rock guitars with samples, and people said: “That’s not real music.” But I’d been going to acid-house clubs and hearing music that was entirely made from samples, so had enough youthful arrogance to think, “Don’t be silly, grandad!”
- Jesus Jones’s new album, Passages, is released by Absolute Label Services on 20 April. Their UK tour starts on 21 April. Details: jesusjones.com