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Simple Minds

Background information
Origin Glasgow, Scotland
Genres Rock, new wave, pop, pop rock
Years active 1978–present
Labels W14 Universal Music Operations, Sanctuary, Virgin, Arista, Zoom, A&M, Chrysalis
Website Simple Minds Official site
Members
Jim Kerr
Charlie Burchill
Eddie Duffy
Mel Gaynor
Former members
Mick MacNeil
Derek Forbes
Brian McGee
John Giblin

Simple Minds are a rock band from Scotland, who had their greatest worldwide popularity from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s. The band, from the south side of Glasgow, produced a handful of critically acclaimed albums in the early 1980s.

Simple Minds have secured a string of successful hit singles, the best known being their number 1 worldwide hit single "Don't You (Forget About Me)", from the soundtrack of the John Hughes movie The Breakfast Club and number 3 worldwide hit single "Alive and Kicking".

Founding members Jim Kerr (vocals) and Charlie Burchill (guitar, keyboards), along with drummer Mel Gaynor, are the core of the band, which currently features Andy Gillespie on keyboards and Eddie Duffy on bass guitar.

The band have sold more than 40 million albums worldwide since 1979.

Contents

History

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Roots and early years

1977: Johnny & The Self-Abusers

The roots of Simple Minds were in the punk band Johnny & The Self-Abusers, dreamed up by would-be Glasgow scenemaker Alan Cairnduff in 1977 - although he left the task of actually fleshing out and creating the band to his friend John Milarky. At Cairnduff’s suggestion, Milarky teamed up with two musicians he’d never worked with before - budding singer and lyricist Jim Kerr and guitarist Charlie Burchill.

Kerr and Burchill had known each other since the age of eight and were longstanding allies. After joining Johnny & The Self-Abusers, they brought in two of their schoolfriends, Brian McGee on drums and Tony Donald on bass (all four had previously played together in the schoolboy band Biba-Rom!). With Milarky established as singer, guitarist and saxophonist, the lineup was completed by Milarky’s friend Alan McNeil as third guitarist. To expand the band's potential sound, Kerr and Burchill also doubled on keyboards and violin respectively. In common with the early punk bands, various members took on stage names - Milarky became “Johnnie Plague”, Kerr became “Pripton Weird”, McNeil chose “Sid Syphilis” and Burchill chose “Charlie Argue”.

Johnny & The Self-Abusers played their first gig on Easter Monday, 1977 at the Dourne Castle pub in Glasgow. They played support to rising punk stars Generation X in Edinburgh a scant two weeks later. The band went on to play a summer of concerts in Glasgow. Development was rapid, but at the expense of unity. The band soon split into two factions, with Milarky and McNeil on one side and Kerr, Donald, Burchill and McGee on the other: at the same time, Milarky’s compositions were being edged out in favour of those of Kerr and Burchill.

In November 1977, Johnny & The Self-Abusers released their only single, "Saints And Sinners", on Chiswick Records (which was labelled as “rank and file” in a Melody Maker review.) The band split on the same day that the single was released, with Milarky and McNeil going on to form The Cuban Heels.

Late 1977 to late 1978: Simple Minds emerges

Ditching the stage names and the overt punkiness, the remaining members continued together as Simple Minds (naming themselves after an David Bowie lyric from his song "Jean Genie"). Kerr abandoned keyboards to concentrate entirely on vocals, and in January 1978 the band recruited Duncan Barnwell as a second guitarist (allowing for an optional two-guitar lineup while also enabling Burchill to play violin if he wanted to). In March they were joined by the Barra-born keyboard player Michael MacNeil (generally known as "Mick").

The band rapidly established a reputation as an exciting live act (usually performing in full makeup) and gained a management deal with Bruce Findlay, owner of the Bruce’s Records chain of record shops. Findlay also owned Zoom Records (a subsidiary of the Arista Records label), and used his position to get Simple Minds signed to Arista. (By early 1980, Findlay would become the band’s full-time manager via his Schoolhouse Management company).

The band’s lineup did not settle until the end of 1978. Tony Donald quit in April, before the first Simple Minds demo tape was recorded (he would later become Burchill’s guitar technician). He was replaced by Duncan Barnwell’s friend Derek Forbes (formerly the bass player with The Subs). In November, Barnwell himself was judged surplus to musical requirements (as well as being at odds with the band’s image), and was asked to leave.

"Original" Simple Minds (1979-1981)

1979: Life in a Day - the pop misfire

The remaining quintet of Kerr, Burchill, MacNeil, Forbes and McGee - generally considered as the first serious lineup of Simple Minds - began rehearsing the set of Kerr/Burchill-written songs which would appear on their first album, Life in a Day. Produced by John Leckie and released by Arista in April 1979, the album took a cue from fellow post-punk forebears Magazine, and was somewhat self-consciously derivative of the late-70s punk boom, with AOR crossover potential not unlike that of The Cars. It also revealed that the band's influences included David Bowie, Genesis and Roxy Music.

The album's title track was released as Simple Minds' first single and reached number 62 in the UK Gallop charts, with the album itself putting in a more respectable performance at number 30 in the LP charts. However, the next single ("Chelsea Girl") failed to chart at all. While Arista were disappointed with this failure, the band themselves had rapidly become dissatisfied with the album, which they considered too derivative. While preparing ideas for the next record, they enjoyed a well-received support slot for Magazine, following which they went straight back into the studio with Leckie to work on new material.

1979: Real to Real Cacophony - full experimentation

While still categorised as 'rock', Simple Minds' second release, Real to Real Cacophony was a significant departure from the pop tunes of Life In A Day. The album had a darker and far more experimental atmosphere, announcing some of the New Wave experimentation that would become the band’s trademark sound over the next two albums. Much of the album was written in the studio, although Simple Minds had been playing early versions of several tracks during the recent tour dates.

Innovations which the band displayed on Real to Real Cacophony included minimalist structures based around the rhythm section of Forbes and McGee, plus the occasional use of unconventional time signatures. The band also experimented with elements of dub, and included the wordless and atmospheric "Veldt" in which they attempted to create an impression of an African landscape using electronic buzzes and drones, Burchill's improvised saxophone lines and Kerr's chants and cries. The album also generated an acclaimed (but again, non-charting) single - "Changeling".

1980: Empires and Dance - the Eurotrance phase

The next album, Empires and Dance, was another stylistic departure, and signalled the influence of Kraftwerk, Neu! and similar European artists on the band. During this period of their career Simple Minds promoted themselves as a European band, not a Scottish or UK band.

Many of the tracks on Empires and Dance were extremely minimal and featured a significant use of sequenced keyboards. McNeil's keyboards and Forbes' bass became the main melodic elements in the band's sound, with Burchill's heavily-processed guitar becoming more of a textural element. With this album, Kerr began to experiment with non-narrative lyrics based on observations he'd made as the band travelled across Europe on tour. While not consciously so, Empires and Dance was essentially industrial in its aesthetic, and preceded by a couple of years the industrial-pop crossover of Cabaret Voltaire's album The Crackdown.

The band's label, however, demonstrated little enthusiasm for such experimentation, and in 1981 Simple Minds switched from Arista to Virgin. The following year, Arista put out a compilation album, Celebration, featuring tracks from the three previous records.

1981: Sons and Fascination & Sister Feelings Call - danceable art-rock

Simple Minds' first release on Virgin was actually two albums: the Steve Hillage-produced Sons and Fascination and Sister Feelings Call. The latter album was initially included as a bonus disc with the first 10,000 vinyl copies of Sons and Fascination, but it was later re-issued as an album in its own right. (For the CD release, it was paired on a single disc with Sons and Fascination — at first with two tracks deleted, but on later issues, in full.)

Sons and Fascination perfected the formula that began with Empires and Dance, and showcases the band’s musicianship during their most prolific period. The band’s comparative musical virtuosity orientated them towards the more streamlined end of progressive rock, and certainly distanced them from the flippancy of many other New Wave musicians. The album definitely impressed one significant progressive rock musician - Peter Gabriel - who selected Simple Minds as the opening act on several European dates, which increased the band's visibility. "Love Song" was an international hit (reaching the Top 20 in Canada and Australia) and the instrumental "Theme for Great Cities" proved so enduring a composition that it was later re-recorded in 1991 as a B-side to the single "See the Lights". These minimalist, dance-oriented compositions, like those of Neu! before them, were examples of man-made trance well before trance itself.

It was also during this period that the ground-breaking visual aesthetic of Simple Minds' product was established, masterminded by Malcolm Garrett's graphic design company Assorted iMaGes. Characterised at first by hard, bold typography and photo-collage, Garrett's designs for the band would later incorporate pop-religious iconography in clean, integrated package designs that befitted the band's idealized image as neo-romantic purveyors of European anthemic pop.

However, this period would also see the end of the first "classic" Simple Minds lineup when Brian McGee left the band at the end of the Sons and Fascination sessions, citing exhaustion at Simple Minds' constant touring schedule and a desire for more time at home with family. He would later join Propaganda.

Transition: rising to fame 1982-1983

1982 - different drummers

McGee’s initial replacement as Simple Minds' drummer was Kenny Hyslop (ex-Skids, Zones), who joined the band in October 1981 in time to play the first leg of the Sons & Fascination tour. His interest in New York music (including funk, hip-hop and dance) played an immediate part in the band's musical development. He stayed long enough to drum on the band’s next single, the disco-friendly ‘Promised You A Miracle’ (based on a funk riff cadged from one of the cassettes he would play on the band’s tour bus) which hit the UK Top 20 and the Australian Top 10. Unfortunately, Hyslop “didn’t fit in” with the band or their management (a situation further strained by his apparent suspicion of record companies) and in February 1982 he left the band after a mere five months.[1]

Hyslop was replaced by Mike Ogletree (ex-Cafe Jacques), an Ayrshire-born drummer with a “light, percussive” style strongly influenced by soul, funk and reggae. Ogletree played on the second leg of the Sons & Fascination tour, and was with the band for the following recording sessions in Amsterdam (with producer Peter Walsh. Although he drummed on three of the resulting tracks - 'New Gold Dream (81/82/83/84)' 'Colours Fly and Catherine Wheel' and "Somebody Up There Likes You" - Ogletree's style was ultimately deemed to be “too light” for the band’s requirements.[2]

Walsh then introduced the band to London-born drummer Mel Gaynor, a 22-year old session musician with plenty of experience, including a stint drumming for The Nolans.[3] Gaynor proved to have the combination of broad skills plus force of playing which the band wanted, and played drums on the rest of the record (although Ogletree would be credited for percussion across the entire album).

1983: New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)

The results of the Walsh sessions (along with 'Promised You A Miracle') were released on the album New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) in September 1982. The album proved to be a significant turning point for the band. With a slick, sophisticated sound - thanks to Walsh's production - and similarly sumptuous design by Malcolm Garrett, Simple Minds were soon categorised as part of the New Romantic outgrowth of New Wave (along with Duran Duran and others). For its initial release in the United States the album was released on clear gold vinyl with purple swirls.

New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) was a commercial breakthrough and generated a handful of charting singles including 'Glittering Prize"' (which reached the UK Top 20 and Australian Top 10). Despite the success of the album, some fans of the band's earlier work criticised Simple Minds' new and more commercial orientation. While some tracks ("Promised You a Miracle", "Colours Fly and Catherine Wheel") continued the formula perfected on Sons and Fascination, other tracks ("Someone Somewhere in Summertime", "Glittering Prize") were undisguised pop. In addition, jazz keyboardist Herbie Hancock performed a synth solo on the track "Hunter and the Hunted".

Mike Ogletree played on the first leg of the New Gold Dream tour, but left the band immediately afterwards in November 1982 to join Fiction Factory. Mel Gaynor was recruited (as a full member of the band) for the remaining dates. Simple Minds’ first non-Scottish member, he would go on to become the band's longest-standing drummer (despite twice leaving and returning in the following decades).

Moving into stadium rock: 1984-1987

1984: Sparkle in the Rain - a more muscular approach

The formula that had defined Simple Minds' New Wave period had run its course, and the next record, Sparkle in the Rain, was a complete departure. Produced by Steve Lillywhite and released in February 1984, the album foregrounded Jim Kerr (now singing in a much more muscular and forthright fashion) and the rhythm section of Mel Gaynor and Derek Forbes, who were by now demonstrating an aggressive and fluent merging of hard rock and heavy funk stylings. Mick MacNeil's playing had also become more rootsy (with piano and organ now as much in evidence as synthesizers) while Charlie Burchill was experimenting with a more riff-orientated playing style as well as a new interest in acoustic guitars. Although the band's previous Eurotrance and art-rock approaches were still present, they were now applied mainly to the band's textural palette in support of a far more aggressive and rock-oriented set of songs.

The eventual result of this shift in musical direction gave rise to hugely successful singles like "Waterfront" (which hit number one in a few European countries and remains one of the band's signature songs to this day) as well as "Speed Your Love to Me" and "Up on the Catwalk". The public also appreciated Simple Mind's upfront sound, ensuring that Sparkle in the Rain topped the charts in the UK.

In 1984, Jim Kerr married Chrissie Hynde from the Pretenders (who temporarily renamed herself Christine Kerr). Simple Minds did an American tour in support of the Pretenders while Hynde was pregnant with Kerr's daughter. (The marriage would last until 1990).

Early 1985: "Don't You (Forget About Me)"

Despite the band's new-found popularity in the UK and Europe, Simple Minds remained essentially unknown in the U.S. The movie The Breakfast Club changed all that. Released in early 1985, this Brat Pack drama from writer/director John Hughes was a box-office smash and made household names of Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy and Emilio Estevez. It also broke Simple Minds into the US market almost overnight, when the band achieved their only number-one U.S. pop hit in April 1985 with the film's opening track, "Don't You (Forget About Me)". Ironically, the song was not even written by the band, but by Keith Forsey, who offered the song to Billy Idol and Bryan Ferry before Simple Minds agreed to record it. The song soon became a chart-topper in many other countries around the world.

Mid-1985: departure of Derek Forbes

At around this point, the cameraderie that had fuelled Simple Minds began to unravel, and over the next ten years the band's lineup would undergo frequent changes. Jim Kerr subsequently recalled "We were knackered. We were desensitised. The band started to fracture. We were lads who had grown up together, we were meant to grow together, politically, spiritually and artistically. But we were getting tired with each other. There was an element of the chore creeping in. We were coasting and this whole other thing was a challenge."[4]

The first casualty of the band's collective change of attitude was Derek Forbes, who had always been one of the strongest personalities within Simple Minds, and was now beginning to squabble with Kerr. Forbes later confessed "I was completely bonkers most of the time. I was the oldest and seemed to have the gift of the gab. I'm a bit of a natural comedian. I was always sent out to bring the girls back - chatting up the ladies came naturally. But it got to the stage where I got too involved with the women, so they started to come before the band. I would have this totally separate life from the rest of the band and that caused pressures and tension."[5]

Forbes began failing to turn up for rehearsals, and was duly dismissed. Although he had expected this outcome, he would later describe the split as "a bereavement."[6]

"I probably haven’t been the easiest to work with. Not because I was trying to rule the roost, but I was always pushing. I always thought there was more there. I was a bit anti-social and I had lead singeritis. You have to, really. In every great band there was always one star."

Jim Kerr in 2008, reflecting on Simple Minds' internal power dynamics in the late 1980s (Daily Mirror)[7]

Despite his disappointment, Forbes remained in touch with the band (and would soon reunite with another former Simple Minds bandmate, drummer Brian McGee, in Propaganda). In 2008 – in what appeared to be an oblique reference to Forbes - Kerr reflected “Looking back, there was a sacking of one guy that was harsh. Probably something stupid like he had a better-looking girlfriend than everyone else. I feel bad about that."[8]

Forbes was replaced by former Brand X bass player John Giblin (who also happened to own the band’s rehearsal space and was himself a renowned sessions musician who’d worked with Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush among others). Giblin made his debut with Simple Minds at Live Aid in Philadelphia, where the band performed "Don't You (Forget About Me)" and a new track called "Ghostdancing".

Late 1985: Once Upon A Time & worldwide success

During 1985, Simple Minds were in the studio with former Tom Petty/Stevie Nicks producer Jimmy Iovine. Taking advantage of their new-found popularity, Simple Minds recorded what has been considered to be their most unashamedly commercial album.

On its release in November, Once Upon a Time appeared to be tailored specifically to appeal to the stadium rock sensibilities of American audiences[citation needed] This overlooked the fact that it was not only a continuation of the stylistic changes introduced on Sparkle in the Rain, but was heavily influenced by the celebratory aspects of soul, disco and gospel music. This was reinforced by the strong contributions of former Chic singer Robin Clark, who performed call-and-response vocals with Kerr throughout the album (effectively becoming a second lead singer), and was heavily featured in Simple Minds music videos of the time.

Once Upon a Time was reviled by some long-time fans, but was embraced by millions of new listeners and was critically well-received. The record reached number one in the UK and number ten in the US, despite the fact that their major-league breakthrough single "Don't You (Forget About Me)" was not included. The band had made it clear in interviews prior to the album's release that they would not include the song, believing that it would devalue the rest of the album, which they felt could stand on its own merits. Once Upon a Time would go on to generate four worldwide hit singles: "Alive & Kicking", "Sanctify Yourself", "Ghostdancing" and "All the Things She Said", the latter of which featured a cutting-edge music video directed by Zbigniew Rybczyński that used techniques developed in music videos for bands such as Pet Shop Boys and Art of Noise.

Because of Simple Minds powerful stage presence and lyrics that trafficked in Christian symbolism, the band was criticised by some in the music press as a lesser version of U2, despite the fact that both bands were now heading in different musical directions. However, the two groups were well-acquainted with one another, and Bono joined Simple Minds on-stage at the Barrowlands in Glasgow in 1985 for a live version of "New Gold Dream".

1986-87: On top of the world: Live in the City of Light

To document their successful worldwide Once Upon a Time Tour, Simple Minds released the double-live set Live in the City of Light in 1987, which was recorded primarily over two nights in Paris in 1986. John Mellencamp band member Lisa Germano contributed overdubbed violin on a version of "Someone Somewhere in Summertime", and former member Derek Forbes also contributed (uncredited) bass guitar overdubs.

A double vinyl album with the band's logo in gold lettering over black sleeve makes this LP unusual among the band's catalogue, along with a 12" x 12" attached giant-sized booklet with state of the art photography of the band's performance and outdoor session pictures. This art couldn't be reproduced faithfully on later CD releases (an original 1st pressing on double-fat jewel case and the USA version packaged in a long box on two separate discs). The Simple Minds tour promoted the work of Amnesty International. The album spawned one chart single release, a live version of 'Promised You A Miracle'.

Global conscience rockers (1988-1989)

1988: Rock activism - Amnesty International, Freedomfest & Mandela Day

By 1988, the band had built their own recording premises - the Bonnie Wee Studio - in Scotland. Following the lengthy period of touring to support Once Upon a Time, Simple Minds began new writing sessions. Initially the band began work on an instrumental project called Aurora Borealis(mostly written by Burchill and MacNeil).

This project was then supplanted by an increase in the band's political activism, something which they had begun to stress in recent years (notably by giving all of the income from the "Ghostdancing" single to Amnesty International, and playing cover versions of Little Steven's "(Ain't' Gonna Play) Sun City" on tour). Inspired by Peter Gabriel (with whom they had toured in the early 1980s), Simple Minds headlined the series of Freedomfest concerts throughout the US and Europe in 1988 (with numerous other politically-minded artists, including Gabriel). The tours were intended to highlight the injustices of apartheid in South Africa, and this in turn would inspire the band's next step.

Simple Minds was the first band to sign up for Mandela Day, a concert held at Wembley Stadium, London, UK, as an expression of solidarity with the then-imprisoned Nelson Mandela. Bands involved were asked to produce a song especially for the event - Simple Minds was the only act which actually produced one. This was "Mandela Day", which the band played live on the day (alongside cover versions of "Sun City" and a cover version of Peter Gabriel's "Biko" on which Gabriel himself took on lead vocals).

Mandela Day was also released as half of the Belfast Child/Mandela Day EP, which reached number one in the British singles charts (the only time the band would do so).[9] The other track, "Belfast Child", was a rewrite of the Celtic folk song "She Moved Through the Fair" (which had been introduced to Kerr by John Giblin) with new lyrics written about the ongoing civil war in Northern Ireland). The single was also an expression by Simple Minds of their support for the campaign for the release of Beirut-held hostage Brian Keenan, kidnapped by the Islamic Jihad.

Both "Belfast Child" and "Mandela Day" would set the direction for Simple Minds' next album, another song-based affair which would supplant the planned instrumental project.

1989: Street Fighting Years

"When we first heard the live album I thought, What a great night! What dynamics! But is that it for us - rousing choruses and crashing drums? There didnae seem any room for subtlety, and we always seem at our best when we're not trying to be powerful, but there's an underlying power coming through."

Jim Kerr reflecting on Simple Minds' change of emphasis in the late 1980s (Q Magazine)[10]

The next album - Street Fighting Years - was produced by Trevor Horn and Stephen Lipson. While still maintaining the epic arena-rock sense of scale and drama which the band had developed since the mid-1980s, it also moved away from the American soul and gospel influences of Once Upon a Time in favour of soundtrack atmospherics and a new incorporation of acoustic and Celtic/folk music-related ingredients including double bass, slide guitar and accordion. The lyrics built on the more political themes which the band had introduced with 'Ghostdancing', moving away from the impressionistic or spiritual concerns of earlier 1980s Simple Minds songs and covering topics including the Poll Tax, the Soweto townships, the Berlin Wall and the stationing of nuclear submarines on the Scottish coast.

The confident sound of Street Fighting Years belied the fact that there were significant ongoing problems within the band. The credits for the album suggested that Simple Minds were now officially a trio of Kerr, Burchill and MacNeil, and MacNeil himself has subsequently mentioned that “Jim (Kerr) had already started talking about making changes.” Mel Gaynor had been sidelined during the album sessions (apparently after disagreements with Trevor Horn) and had been reduced to session player status, with much of the drumming being done by Manu Katche and Stewart Copeland (ex-Police). Furthermore, John Giblin had left the band during or immediately after the sessions, despite having made significant contributions to the album (including writing the ballad "Let It All Come Down"). The circumstances surrounding Giblin’s departure are undisclosed, although Derek Forbes has hinted that Giblin simply “didn’t fit in” with the band.

"By chanting 'Mandela's free, Mandela's free,' over and over again on the song's celebratory chorus, Kerr creates the tragically mistaken impression that Nelson Mandela has already been released from prison — just what the authorities in Pretoria would like us to believe. When he finally cries, 'Set Mandela free,' near the end, it comes about three minutes too late... For now, Street Fighting Years stands as an unfortunate example of politicized rock at its most simple-minded."

Mark Coleman criticises Simple Minds' apparent political naivety in Rolling Stone [11]

Released in 1989, the album rose to number one in the UK charts [12] and received glowing praise, including a rare five-star review from Q magazine. However, it received a less positive review in Rolling Stone which criticised the band for what the reviewer considered to be political vacuity. "This Is Your Land" was chosen as the lead single for the U.S., and even with guest vocals from the band's idol Lou Reed, the single failed to make a mark on the pop charts. The album performed relatively poorly in the United States, possibly due to its shift in musical inspirations and lyrical content.

Having unsuccessfully tried to re-recruit Derek Forbes, Simple Minds hired Malcolm Foster (from Pretenders) as the new bass player. They also "coaxed back" the affronted Gaynor into returning to join the live band (which in turn was expanded by three additional touring members - backing singer Annie McCaig, percussionist Andy Duncan and violinist Lisa Germano). Touring began in May 1989, but by this time Mick MacNeil was becoming increasingly disillusioned, exhausted and unhappy.

1989 also marked the first and only time the group headlined Wembley Stadium,[13] where they were supported by fellow Scottish bands The Silencers, Texas and Gun.

1989: departure of Mick MacNeil, and other changes

"I knew I was going to tell them and I was nervous. I was paranoid that they'd already sussed. But from the reaction I got it was obvious it hadn't even crossed their minds... We all got very angry and it got a bit nasty. Jim accused me of splitting the band up. Charlie told me I was a rat leaving a sinking ship... I couldn't understand why they hadn't sussed why I was so bloody miserable. We were all too caught up by our own lives to think about other people. I didn't like who I was, or what I was becoming. I had to do something drastic to change it, so I did."

Mick MacNeil on his acrimonious departure from Simple Minds in 1989 (interview in "The Sun" newspaper)[14]

At the end of the Street Fighting Years tour, Simple Minds laid plans to go to Amsterdam to begin recording a new album. Just before the end of the tour, Macneil announced to the band that he would not be joining them as he needed a break. Kerr and Burchill apparently saw his actions as a betrayal, and Macneil played his last concert with Simple Minds in Brisbane a week later.

Although he hadn’t originally intended to leave the band in the long term, the breakdown of MacNeil's relationship with Kerr and Burchill ensured that his break with the band was permanent. At the time, MacNeil's departure was put down to health concerns, but he had in fact had been gradually suffering disillusionment with the band's high-life lifestyle and touring schedule (as well as what Kerr has referred to as "a number of animated quarrels"[15]).

MacNeil has subsequently commented that his parting with Simple Minds was painful and acrimonious (although he has since reconciled with his former bandmates) and that this was the period in which everything began to change within the band. At around the same time, long-term manager Bruce Findlay was fired and over the next few years the band would gradually alter to the point where it was a shifting set of musicians around the only remaining core members, Kerr and Burchill. Macneil has commented “After I left, everything kind of went, and Bruce fell into that bracket of upheaval. I don't think he deserved it and I have a lot of sympathy for him after the way he was treated."

In December 2009, Kerr retrospectively defended the changes in an online diary entry. Although he admitted that Macneil's departure had been a "colossal fracture" he also asserted that "if ever there was a time to regroup, rethink and re- strategise, it was there and then. The last thing needed was for people within the group to be quitting, for things to be fragmenting, creative engines dropping off the machine etc."[16]

In the same entry, Kerr paid tribute to his former keyboard player, rhetorically asking "Was Mick in fact the genius that many Simple Minds have made him out to be? Without an iota of doubt, he was all of that that and more in my opinion... Last night’s 26 song set in Brussels, featured sixteen songs that he either wrote or co wrote, and with that being so it is obvious that Mick’s presence is always with us... In the end, the most respect we could offer to Mick when he left was to acknowledge that nobody could ever replace him in Simple Minds. It is for that reason that we never tried and never would. But our music has gone on regardless and it will grow still over the years to come, God willing! Thanks to the incredible foundations that Mick MacNeil more than helped create."[17]

The 1990s: commercial decline

1990-1993: Real Life and Glittering Prize; departure of Mel Gaynor

Despite opting not to replace MacNeil, Simple Minds continued to record, hiring keyboard players as and where required. The first of these was session keyboard player Peter-John Vettese who played live with the band at the Nelson Mandela Freedom Concert and on a short German tour. He was subsequently replaced in the live band by Mark Taylor, who would continue to play on Simple Minds tours (on and off) up until the present day.

In 1991, Simple Minds returned with a much more radio-friendly collection of their political concerns, Real Life. However, the highly-polished pop/rock of Simple Minds was now considered passé by most of the record-buying public. "See the Lights" was the band's last Top 40 pop single in the US. The album however fared well in Europe, reaching #2 in the UK where it also spawned four Top 40 singles. The band toured to support the release, playing as a basic five-piece and cutting down on the extended arrangements of the last few large tours.

Between 1992 and 1994, Simple Minds were on hiatus, releasing the compilation album ‘Glittering Prize’ to mark time. Mel Gaynor left the band during this time to pursue session work and other projects.

1994: And then there were two... Good News From The Next World

Simple Minds returned in 1994, now officially a duo of Kerr and Burchill (with the latter taking on keyboards in the studio, as well as guitar).

Hiring Keith Forsey (the writer of "Don't You (Forget About Me)") as producer, Kerr and Burchill began to put together an album which returned to the uplifting arena rock feel of their Once Upon a Time days. With Gaynor now out of the picture, the remaining instrumentation was covered by session musicians. Although Malcolm Foster continued to contribute bass guitar to the project, his role was shared by Mark Browne, Lance Morrison and session ace Marcus Miller while drums were covered by Mark Schulman, Vinnie Colaiuta and Tal Bergman.

Good News from the Next World was released in 1995 to positive reviews, but weak sales in the U.S. In the UK and Europe, however, the response was much more positive, with the album reaching #2 in the UK and producing the two Top 20 hits "She's a River" and "Hypnotised". Malcolm Foster and Mark Taylor returned to play bass and keyboards for the live shows, joined by Mark Schulman on drums. In November 1995 (at the end of the tour), Foster and Shulman both left the band.

1995-1998: Neapolis, and the return of old friends

Having being released from their contract with Virgin Records, Simple Minds decided to musically reinvent themselves once again, this time reaching back to their Kraftwerk-inspired, early electronic pop days. The writing and demoing of the next Simple Minds album ended up as long process, during which Kerr and Burchill made use of the skills of their original rhythm section, Derek Forbes and Brian McGee (returning after respective eleven- and fourteen-year absences).

McGee ultimately only played in the rehearsals, but Forbes stayed on, formally rejoining Simple Minds in July 1996. The band then reunited with Mel Gaynor in spring 1997, initially for studio sessions, and subsequently reinstating him a full-time member for the European tour (which once again featured Mark Taylor on keyboards).

After the tour, album recording sessions were interrupted by Kerr and Burchill’s decision to play live (without Forbes, Taylor or Gaynor) as part of the Proms tour (a series of orchestral concerts featuring a mixture of light classical and pop music). The duo played versions of "Alive And Kicking", "Belfast Child" and "Don't You (Forget About Me)" backed by a full orchestra and were billed as Simple Minds - something which emphasised the degree to which the band remained a Kerr/Burchill project with backing musicians.

With Forbes and Gaynor back in place, Simple Minds completed and released their new album, Neapolis. However, the results were not entirely a "band" album - while Forbes played bass on all album tracks, Gaynor only played on one song, "War Babies", (other drum tracks were recorded by session players Michael Niggs and Jim McDermott, with additional percussion programming by Transglobal Underground/Furniture drummer Hamilton Lee). The album ultimately charted poorly and received mixed reviews. However, it is notable for being the only Simple Minds album released by Chrysalis Records, who refused to release the album in the U.S., citing lack of interest.

As a further nod to Simple Minds' European musical heritage, the music video for "Glitterball", the album's lead single, was the first production of any kind to film at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. A European tour followed between March and July 1998, undermined by problems with ill-health and contractual fiascos (including a pull-out from the Fleadh Festival to be replaced by the up-and-coming James.

Despite the relatively poor reception of Neapolis and the tour problems, Forbes and Gaynor were apparently expecting to work on the next Simple Minds album. Once again, however, events changed the band’s lineup.

1999: a new lineup and the "lost album" Our Secrets Are The Same

As Simple Minds main writing team, Kerr and Burchill had continued to demo and originate material by themselves. For the latest sessions, they had shared studio space with a band called Sly Silver Sly (who featured Kerr’s brother Mark as drummer and who themselves were working with American songwriter Kevin Hunter). The two writing and recording projects merged, and the results of the combined sessions became the new Simple Minds album, Our Secrets Are the Same.

Mark Kerr and Sly Silver Sly’s bass player Eddie Duffy were consequently added to the Simple Minds live lineup (alongside Mark Taylor) - entirely bypassing Forbes and Gaynor, who once again found themselves out of the band. The new-look Simple Minds made their debut with a short set of greatest hits at the Scotland Rocks For Kosovo festival. (Forbes and Gaynor, having apparently been told that the band wasn't appearing at the festival, formed a new band of their own to allow themselves to play. This became 'Forbes/Gaynor And Friends and went on to play several gigs in Italy at the end of the year - some of which were illicitly billed as being Simple Minds concerts).

Having delivered Our Secrets Are the Same to Chrysalis, Simple Minds then found themselves enmired in record company politics while Chrysalis, EMI and other companies attempted to merge with each other. Originally slated for release in late 1999, the album remained unreleased after the band enmired themselves in lawsuits with Chrysalis.

2000s: from hiatus to revival

2000: hiatus

In 2000, the situation became even more complicated when Our Secrets Are the Same was leaked on the internet. Discouraged with their label's failure to resolve the problems, and with both momentum and potential album sales lost, the band once again went on hiatus.

Eddie Duffy, Mark Taylor and Mark Kerr moved on to other projects while Kerr moved to Sicily and took up a part-time career as a hotelier. Kerr and Burchill would, however, continue working together on other business interests and keep the idea of the band alive.

2001-2002: Neon Lights & Cry

In 2001, Kerr and Burchill began working with ex-Primevals multi-instrumentalist Gordon Goudie (guitar, keyboards, bass, drums, vocals). The trio began work on a brand new album to be called Cry. They also recorded an album of covers – Neon Lights - featuring Simple Minds reinventions of songs from artists including Patti Smith, Roxy Music and Kraftwerk. Neon Lights was released later in the year to help to build commercial momentum and awareness of the band. (A 2-CD compilation, The Best of Simple Minds, was released soon after to continue the process.)

As the sessions for Cry progressed, Burchill began playing bass and drums in addition to guitar and keyboards, while Gordon Goudie concentrated on keyboards and drums. Later on in the recording schedule, Mark Kerr returned, this time to play acoustic guitar and to co-write several songs with Burchill. Kerr also brought in various Italian musicians (including Planet Funk and Phunk Investigation) to flesh out the sound. In the video for the Neon Lights single "Dancing Barefoot", the band would be presented as Burchill, Goudie and the two Kerr brothers (although Mark Kerr would not remain with Simple Minds for much longer).

Cry was released in 2002. Although the album did not sell in great numbers in the U.S., Simple Minds felt confident enough to mount a North American leg of their Floating World Tour (named after the instrumental track which closes Cry), their first in seven years. With Goudie opting to remain studio bound (and Mark Kerr leaving the lineup again), Simple Minds once again mended their relationship with Mel Gaynor. He returned as drummer for the tour (as did Eddie Duffy on bass) and the live band was completed by the brand new addition of Andy Gillespie (of SoundControl) on keyboards and programming.

Although the American venues were small compared to the larger venues Simple Minds consistently sold out in Europe, the concerts were well-attended by passionate, long-time Simple Minds fans, many of whom brought their teenage children along with them. In a nod to the recent influence of trance and techno music (and at the request of Gillespie and Duffy - both of them old-school Simple Minds fans) the band used those stylings to update their very early tracks, including "New Gold Dream", "The American", and "I Travel", the latter of which had not been performed live for several years.

This touring lineup of the band remained intact for the Alive And Kicking Tour of 2003 and the Festival Tour of 2004.

2004: Silver Box & Our Secrets Are the Same

The long-delayed Our Secrets Are the Same was finally released in 2004, but only as the final bonus disc in a five-CD compilation entitled Silver Box (itself composed mostly of previously unreleased demos, radio & TV sessions and various live recordings from 1979 to 1995). The album was called "Some of the Simple Minds best music in twenty years" by The Guardian newspaper[citation needed] .

For this and 2005’s following Intimate Tour (low-key gigs at smaller venues), Andy Gillespie was unable to appear at all the gigs, and thus shared keyboard duties with Mark Taylor. From this point onwards, the two would alternate as Simple Mind’s live keyboard player, depending on Gillespie’s schedule with his other projects.

2005: Black & White 050505

Simple Minds' fourteenth studio album, Black & White 050505, released in 2005, was previewed on the band's official website for several weeks prior to its release. The band later toured throughout Europe , the Far East, Australia and New Zealand on the Black And White Tour of 2006 (with Mark Taylor once again returning on keyboards).

Although Black & White 050505 generated some of the most positive reviews for a Simple Minds record in many years, and the first single, "Home", received airplay on alternative rock radio stations in the US, it did not make a significant impact on either side of the Atlantic, only reaching #37 in the UK, and has still not been officially released in North America to date. Despite the response from some website sources and a few UK tabloid papers the album failed to reignite the chart success of old and the mainstream media generally ignored the album or gave it a number of poor or indifferent reviews.

2007 saw the band's 30th anniversary, and a brief but successful tour of Australia & New Zealand, as guests of INXS. Burchill, Kerr, Duffy and Gillespie (with Jim McDermott deputising on drums for an absent Mel Gaynor) performed a brief set at the 40th anniversary tribute to Glasgow Celtic's famous Lisbon Lions European Cup winning team.

The next album was scheduled for release through the new W14/Universal label, who had purchased the Sanctuary label earlier in 2009 and gained the right to pick up the option on the remaining Simple Minds Sanctuary deal. A&R head John Williams originally signed the band to Sanctuary Records.

The band have continued to release a number of audio video Download "bundles" through their official website. Seven of these releases have appeared since May 2006, featuring live music and several short documentary style videos recorded in Brussels and Edinburgh during their 2006 tour.

2008: 30 Years Live tour

Simple Minds played the 90th birthday tribute to Nelson Mandela on 27 June 2008 in London's Hyde Park. The band then undertook a short tour throughout the UK to celebrate their 30th anniversary. Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill also played a number of unrelated shows across Europe with Night of the Proms prior to those UK dates.

During these concerts, the band performed the entire New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) album and showcased songs from their other albums in a two-part concert performance.

2008: brief reunion of original line-up

The original members of Simple Minds worked together for the first time in 27 years when they entered a recording studio in the middle of June 2008.[18] Nothing came of the short-lived reunion; one member later commented that it lasted "30 minutes".[citation needed]

2009: Graffiti Soul

Reverting to the Burchill/Kerr/Gaynor/Duffy line-up, Simple Minds recorded a new studio album, Graffiti Soul, released on 25 May 2009.

According to Dream Giver Redux, during Graffiti Soul recording sessions, Jim Kerr suggested that Simple Minds had enough material for two albums, one to be released at the start of 2009 and the second following within the space of a year.

The single "Rockets", the first one taken from Graffiti Soul, was made available on the Internet in early April 2009.

On Sunday, 31 May 2009, the album entered the UK Album chart at #10, becoming Simple Minds first album in 14 years to enter the UK Top 10. The album also entered European Top 100 Album chart at #9.

Fall 2009: Graffiti Soul tour

In support of their latest studio album Graffiti Soul, Simple Minds embarked on a new (European) tour called Graffiti Soul Tour on 3 November 2009 in Vienna, Austria. The tour visited many western, eastern and northern European countries (including a leg in the UK & Ireland in December 2009) and ended on 18 December 2009 in Wolfsburg, Germany.

Simple Minds has announced a few concerts in spring 2010 (Australia, New Zealand, Denmark) and summer 2010 (Norway).

Studio & live albums

Personnel

Current line-up

Former members

Former live & session musicians

  • Paul Wishart - Saxophone - Empires and Dance Tour (1980)
  • Kenny Hyslop - Drums (1981-1982)
  • Mike Ogletree - Drums (1982)
  • Robin Clark - Vocals - Once Upon a Time Tour (1985-1986)
  • Sue Hadjopoulos - Percussion - Once Upon a Time Tour (1985-1986)
  • Lisa Germano - Violin - Street Fighting Years Tour (1989)
  • Annie McCraig - Vocals - Street Fighting Years Tour (1989)
  • Andy Duncan - Percussion - Street Fighting Years Tour (1989)
  • Malcolm Foster - Bass Guitar (1989-1995)
  • Peter-John Vettese - Keyboards (1990)
  • Mark Taylor - Keyboards (1991-1999; 2005-07)
  • Mark Schulman - Drums - Good News From The Next World Tour (1994-1995)
  • Mark Kerr - Drums (1999)
  • Sarah Brown - Vocals - Graffiti Soul Tour (2009)

References

  1. ^ Kenny Hislop biog on Simple Minds fansite
  2. ^ Mike Ogletree biography on Simple Minds fansite
  3. ^ Mel Gaynor biography on Simple Minds fansite
  4. ^ Interview with Jim Kerr in Scottish Sunday Times, 23 September 2001
  5. ^ 'Meeting of True Minds" (interview with Mick MacNeil and Derek Forbes by Georgina Reid, The Sun, 19 October 2001
  6. ^ 'Meeting of True Minds" (interview with Mick MacNeil and Derek Forbes by Georgina Reid, The Sun, 19 October 2001
  7. ^ “Still Going For Gold - Simple Minds' Jim Kerr Reflects On The Band's 30-Year Career” article in Daily Mirror by Gavin Martin, 23 May 2008
  8. ^ I“Still Going For Gold - Simple Minds' Jim Kerr Reflects On The Band's 30-Year Career” Gavin Martin, Daily Mirror, 23 May 2008
  9. ^ "Belfast Child" number one in UK Singles Chart retrieved 08/19/07
  10. ^ "Do Not Disturb - article by Mat Snow in 'Q' Magazine, June 1989
  11. ^ "review of 'Street Fighting Years'". Rolling Stone. 13 July 1989. http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/simpleminds/albums/album/214815/review/6067940/street_fighting_years. Retrieved 27 November 2009. 
  12. ^ Street Fighting Years number one in UK retrieved 08/19/07
  13. ^ Simple Minds headlining Wembley Stadium 1989 retrieved 19/08/07
  14. ^ "The Day The Music Died" - interview with Mick MacNeil by Georgina Reid inThe Sun newspaper, 2 March 2000
  15. ^ "The Spirit of MacNeil"] (Jim Kerr online diary entry on Simple Minds website, dated 1 December 2009)
  16. ^ "The Spirit of MacNeil"] (Jim Kerr online diary entry on Simple Minds website, dated 1 December 2009)
  17. ^ "The Spirit of MacNeil"] (Jim Kerr online diary entry on Simple Minds website, dated 1 December 2009)
  18. ^ Original line-up Simple Minds to record once again

External links


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