Simple Minds in concert this weekend. Probably one of the most successful bands during the 80s, certainly brought about by being an almost permanent fixture on MTV during the halcyon days of that cable channel.
Simple Minds formed in Glasgow in 1977 and became the most commercially successful Scottish band of the 1980s. They achieved five UK Albums chart number one albums during their career and have sold an estimated 70 million albums. Despite various personnel changes, they continue to record and tour.
The band scored a string of hit singles, becoming best known internationally for their 1985 hit “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”, from the soundtrack of the film The Breakfast Club. Their other more prominent hits include “Alive and Kicking” and “Belfast Child” (UK #1). In 2016, they received the Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Song Collection from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors.
The core of the band is the two remaining founding members, Jim Kerr (vocals, songwriting) and Charlie Burchill (guitars, keyboards after 1990, other instruments, songwriting). The other current band members are Ged Grimes (bass guitar), Sarah Brown (vocals), Gordy Goudie (guitar), Cherisse Osei (drums) and Catherine AD (vocals, keyboards, guitar). Former members include bass guitarist Derek Forbes, keyboardists Mick MacNeil and Andy Gillespie, drummers Brian McGee and Mel Gaynor (who first joined the band in 1982).
This concert, from May of 1984 puts the band promoting their 6th album, Sparkle in the Rain. It was produced by Steve Lillywhite and released in February 1984. It gave rise to successful singles like “Waterfront” (which hit no. 1 in a few European countries) and “Speed Your Love to Me” and “Up on the Catwalk”. Sparkle in the Rain topped the charts in the UK and hit the Top 20 in several other countries (including Canada, where it reached No. 13).
In 1984, Jim Kerr married Chrissie Hynde from the Pretenders (who renamed herself Christine Kerr). Simple Minds did a North American tour where they played as headliners supported by China Crisis during the Canadian leg and in support of the Pretenders in the US while Hynde was pregnant with Kerr’s daughter. The marriage lasted until 1990.
Despite the band’s new-found popularity in the UK, Europe, Canada and Australia, Simple Minds remained essentially unknown in the US. The band’s UK releases on Arista were not picked up by Arista USA who had ‘right of first refusal’ for their releases. The 1985 film The Breakfast Club broke Simple Minds into the US market, when the band achieved their only No. 1 U.S. pop hit in April 1985 with the film’s closing track, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”. The song was written by Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff; Forsey 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.
At around this point, the camaraderie that had fueled Simple Minds began to unravel, and over the next ten years the band’s line-up underwent frequent changes. Jim Kerr subsequently recalled “We were knackered. We were desensitized. 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.”
The first casualty was bassist Derek Forbes, who was beginning to squabble with Kerr. Forbes began failing to turn up for rehearsals, and was dismissed. Forbes remained in touch with the band (and soon reunited with another former Simple Minds bandmate, drummer Brian McGee, in Propaganda). Forbes was replaced by former Brand X bass player John Giblin (who owned the band’s rehearsal space and was a session musician who had worked with Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush). Giblin made his debut with Simple Minds at Live Aid in Philadelphia, where the band performed “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”, a new track called “Ghost Dancing” and “Promised You a Miracle”. Simple Minds were the first band to be approached to play the Philadelphia leg of Live Aid.
To remind you about the band during one of their high-point phases, here is that complete concert from Hammersmith Odeon in London on My 15, 1984.
Crank it up and enjoy the weekend.