Simple Minds
1978
Scotland
Music group
Timeless and epochal, Simple Minds was formed in January 1978 by Jim Kerr, Charlie Burchill, Tony Donald and drummer Brian McGee. They rose out of the ashes of Glasgow punk outfit Johnny And The Self-Abusers who, in true anarchic fashion, deliberately folded on the day their debut single "Saints And Sinners" was released.

A second guitarist Duncan Barnwell and keyboard player Michael MacNeil were recruited through newspaper advertisements, before Derek Forbes replaced a disaffected Donald. The numerous upheavals of this initial era were completed with Barnwell's departure. During this time, they did manage to record an impressive demo that caught the attention of New Musical Express writer Ian Cranna.

This key exposure gave them immediate notoriety, and they quickly established themselves as one of Scotland's hottest new attractions. Kerr soon charmed other music journalists with his charisma and precocious banter.

Simple Minds were subsequently signed to Zoom Records, an Edinburgh-based independent label marketed by Arista Records and run by Bruce Findlay, who shortly afterwards became the band's full-time manager. "Life In A Day", the band's debut single, broached the UK charts in March 1979 while the attendant John Leckie-produced album reached number 30. Critics were divided over its merits, although a consensus deemed the set derivative.

Within weeks, the quintet began decrying their creation and embarked on a more radical direction. Real To Real Cacophony unfolded within the recording studio in an attempt to regain an early spontaneity and while this largely experimental collection was a commercial flop, it reinstated the band's self-respect and won unanimous music press approbation. Empires And Dance was released in September 1980.

The set fused the flair of its predecessor to a newly established love of dance music and reflected influences garnered during European tours. It included "I Travel", a pulsating travelogue which became a firm favourite throughout the club circuit and helped engender a new sense of optimism in the band's career.

Now free of Arista, Simple Minds were signed to Virgin Records in 1981, and paired with producer Steve Hillage. The resultant sessions spawned two albums, Sons And Fascination and Sister Feelings Call, which were initially released together. It became the band's first UK Top 20 entrant, spawning three minor hit singles with "The American", "Love Song" and "Sweat In Bullet' and began Simple Minds" transformation from cult to popular favourites.

This very success unnerved Brian McGee, who abhorred touring. In August 1981 he was replaced by former Slik and Skids drummer Kenny Hyslop (b. 14 February 1951, Helensburgh, Strathclyde, Scotland), although the newcomer's recorded contribution was confined to "Promised You A Miracle".

This powerful song reached number 13 in Britain, and proved popular in Europe and Australia where the band enjoyed an almost fanatical following. Although Mike Ogletree joined on Hyslop's departure, a former musician, Mel Gaynor (b. 29 May 1960, London, England), eventually became the quintet's permanent drummer. All three musicians were featured on New Gold Dream (81, 82, 83, 84), which peaked at number 3 in the UK album chart.

Here the band began harnessing a more commercial sound, and they achieved a series of hits with the attendant singles, "Glittering Prize" and "Someone Somewhere (In Summertime)". A sixth collection, Sparkle In The Rain, united the quintet with producer Steve Lillywhite, inspiring comparisons with his other protégés, U2. "Waterfront", a brash, pulsating grandiose performance, and "Speed Your Love To Me", prefaced its release, with the album entering the UK chart at number 1.

The set also featured "Up On The Catwalk", a further Top 30 entrant, and a cover version of Lou Reed's "Street Hassle", a long-established group favourite.
Kerr's profile reached an even wider audience when he married Pretenders' singer Chrissie Hynde in 1984, but their relationship could not survive the rigours of constant touring and being in different parts of the world.

The following year Simple Minds, with new bass player John Giblin, chose to record in America under the aegis of Jimmy Iovine and Bob Clearmountain. It was during this period that the band contributed "Don't You (Forget About Me)" to the soundtrack of the movie The Breakfast Club. The quintet remained ambivalent about the song, which was written by Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff, but it paradoxically became a US number 1 when issued as a single.

Although the band initially vetoed a worldwide release, they reneged in the light of this achievement whereupon the record became a massive international hit and confirmed their world-beating status. However, the track did not appear on the ensuing Once Upon A Time that, despite international success, drew considerable criticism for its bombastic approach.

Three tracks, "Alive & Kicking", "Sanctify Yourself" and "All The Things She Said' nonetheless reached the UK Top 10, with the former also making US number 3, while a concurrent world tour, documented on Live In The City Of Light, was one of the year's major events. The proceeds of several dates were donated to Amnesty International, reflecting a growing politicization within the band. They had also been one of the many highlights of 1985"s legendary Live Aid concert, with Kerr clearly relishing the moment.

In 1988, Simple Minds were a major inspiration behind the concert celebrating Nelson Mandela's 70th birthday, but although a new composition, "Mandela Day", was recorded for the event, Simple Minds refused to release it as a single, fearful of seeming opportunistic. The song was later coupled with "Belfast Child", a lengthy, haunting lament for Northern Ireland based on a traditional folk melody, "She Moved Through The Fair".

This artistically ambitious work topped the UK singles chart in February 1989 and set the tone for the band's subsequent album, Street Fighting Years, their first studio set in four years. Although it provided the band with their fourth UK chart-topping album in a row and achieved platinum status within five days, sales then dropped rather dramatically, reflecting the uncompromising nature of its content.

Two further singles entered the UK Top 20, "This Is Your Land" and "Kick It In", while The Amsterdam EP, which included a cover version of Prince's "Sign 'O' The Times", reached number 18 at the end of the year. This contradictory period closed with the rancorous departure of Giblin and MacNeil, the latter replaced by Peter Vitesse, and the ending of the band's ten-year association with Bruce Findlay and Schoolhouse Management.

Simple Minds entered the 90s with only Kerr and Burchill remaining from the original line-up. Mel Gaynor, Vitesse and new bass player Malcolm Foster completed the line-up on Real Life, which saw the band re-introducing more personal themes to their songwriting after the political concerns of previous albums. The new material, including the Top 10 single "Let There Be Love", recaptured the band's trademark grand, epic sound. Kerr married Patsy Kensit in January 1992, although the couple would split-up only a few years later. During the same year, Gaynor left the band, leaving Kerr and Burchill to complete their next album with a host of session players. The highly commercial "She's A River' preceded 1995"s Good News From The Next World, the band's final album for Virgin.

After another lengthy hiatus, Kerr, Burchill and a returning Forbes released Néapolis, an album that marked a determined effort to recreate the edgy, electronic style of their early 80s work. While not always successful, it did at least indicate a band once again willing to take a few chances.

In 2001, they were signed by Eagle Records, and released Neon Lights, an album of cover versions including "The Needle And The Damage Done" (Neil Young) and "All Tomorrow's Parties" (the Velvet Underground).

A new studio album followed in 2002: Cry.

Again the band took a three years' hiatus until they returned to form in September 2005 with another studio album: "Black and White 050505".

(main source: www.musicstrands.com)
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