Simple Minds

Simple Minds
Simple Minds

Simple Minds performing in Oslo, Norway in February 2006
Background information
Origin Glasgow, Scotland
Genres New Wave, pop rock, post-punk, alternative rock
Years active 1978–present
Labels Virgin, Zoom, Chrysalis
Website Simple Minds Official site
Jim Kerr
Charlie Burchill
Mel Gaynor
Andy Gillespie
Ged Grimes
Past members
Mick MacNeil
Derek Forbes
Brian McGee
Kenny Hyslop
Mike Ogletree
John Giblin
Eddy Duffy

Simple Minds are a Scottish rock band who achieved worldwide popularity from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s. The band produced a handful of critically acclaimed albums in the early 1980s and best known for their #1 US, Canada and Netherlands hit single "Don't You (Forget About Me)", from the soundtrack of the John Hughes movie The Breakfast Club, #3 US hit single "Alive and Kicking" and #1 UK hit single "Belfast Child". The band has sold more than 40 million albums since 1979.

The core of the band is the two remaining founder members - Jim Kerr (vocals, songwriting) and Charlie Burchill (guitars, keyboards, other instruments, songwriting) - and drummer Mel Gaynor (who first joined the band in 1982). The other current band members are Andy Gillespie (keyboards) and Ged Grimes (bass guitar). Significant former members include bass guitarist Derek Forbes and keyboard player Michael MacNeil (the latter credited as a significant band composer during the band's rise in the 1980s).



Roots and early years

1977: Johnny & The Self-Abusers

The roots of Simple Minds are in the short-lived punk band Johnny & The Self-Abusers, founded on the South Side of Glasgow in 1977. The band was "dreamed up" by would-be Glasgow scenemaker Alan Cairnduff, although he left the job of actually organising 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, who had known each other since the age of eight, were longstanding allies. After joining Johnny & The Self-Abusers, they brought in two of their school friends, 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", MacNeil chose "Sid Syphilis" and Burchill chose "Charlie Argue".

Johnny & The Self-Abusers played its first gig on Easter Monday, 1977 at the Dourne Castle pub in Glasgow. The band played support to rising punk stars Generation X in Edinburgh 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 its only single, "Saints And Sinners", on Chiswick Records (which was dismissed as being "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. Ditching the stage names and the overt punkiness, the remaining members continued together as Simple Minds (naming themselves after a David Bowie lyric from his song "Jean Genie").

"Original" Simple Minds (late 1977-1981)

Late 1977 to late 1978: the lineup settles

In January 1978 Simple Minds 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). Meanwhile, Kerr had abandoned keyboards to concentrate entirely on vocals. In March, Kerr, Burchill, Donald, Barnwell and McGee were joined by the Barra-born keyboard player Michael MacNeil. 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. 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 debut album.

1979: Finding a voice (Life in a Day & Real to Real Cacophony)

The first Simple Minds album, Life in a Day, was 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. Possessing a similar AOR crossover potential to that of Simple Minds' contemporaries The Cars, it also revealed influences by David Bowie, Genesis and Roxy Music. The album's title track was released as Simple Minds' first single and reached #62 in the UK Gallop charts, with the album itself putting in a more respectable performance at #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.

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".

1980-1981: Eurotrance and art-rock (Empires and Dance, Sons and Fascination, Sister Feelings Call)

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 being a European band, rather than Scottish or British. Many of the tracks on Empires and Dance were extremely minimal and featured a significant use of sequencing. 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[original research?], 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.

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 showcased the band’s musicianship during their most prolific period. The band’s comparative musical virtuosity aligned them with the more streamlined end of progressive rock rather than the flippancy of many other New Wave musicians. One significant progressive rock musician - Peter Gabriel - selected Simple Minds as the opening act on several dates of his European tour. Further increasing the band's visibility, the single "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 idealised 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 drummer 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 the Kilmarnock-born percussionist Mike Ogletree (the former drummer for Café Jacques). Ogletree joined Simple Minds for rehearsals in a large converted barn in Perthshire, Scotland, where he wrote and played the drum parts for the songs that were to become what is considered the band's watershed album, New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). Ogletree also performed with the band on TV and to close out the second leg of the 'Sons and Fascination Tour'.

Although his playing and writing style contributed the R&B, funk and soul elements that gave the band the commercial edge they sought, Ogletree apparently found the transition from rehearsal to recording and live playing difficult. The band moved to Townhouse Studios for recording sessions with producer Peter Walsh, who introduced them to a London-born drummer called Mel Gaynor, a 22-year old session musician with plenty of experience (including a stint drumming for The Nolans).[2] Gaynor proved to have the combination of broad skills plus force of playing which the band wanted. Working closely with Ogletree in order to capture and maintain the beats and grooves from the Perthshire sessions, he played drums on the majority of the record (although Ogletree would play drums on three tracks and be credited for percussion across the entire album).[3]

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

New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84) was released in September 1982, combining the results of the Walsh sessions along with 'Promised You A Miracle'. The album proved to be a significant turning point for the band, becoming a commercial breakthrough and generating a handful of charting singles including 'Glittering Prize"' (which reached the UK Top 20 and Australian Top 10). 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). 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, Gaynor would go on to become the band's longest-standing drummer (despite twice leaving and returning in the following decades).

Stadium rock years: 1984-1989

1984: (Sparkle in the Rain)

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 contained a rock-oriented set of songs.

The eventual result of this shift in musical direction gave rise to hugely successful singles like "Waterfront" (which hit #1 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 and hit the Top 20 in several other countries (including Canada, where it reached #13).[4]

In 1984, Jim Kerr married Chrissie Hynde from the Pretenders (who temporarily 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 U.S. while Hynde was pregnant with Kerr's daughter (The marriage would last until 1990).

1985: Hit and change ("Don't You (Forget About Me)" & departure of bassist Derek Forbes)

Despite the band's new-found popularity in the UK and Europe, Simple Minds remained essentially unknown in the U.S. The band's UK releases on Arista were not picked up by Arista USA who had 'right of first refusal' for their releases. At this point New York club DJ and Independent Music Consultant, Neil Kempfer-Stocker, told Bruce Findlay to forget the Polydor Inc./USA offer to release the band's records in North America and steered the band to A&M's Hernando Courtright, West Coast A&R.[citation needed] The movie The Breakfast Club changed all that. Simple Minds were offered the song 'Don't You (Forget About me) only after it was turned down by Bryan Ferry.[citation needed] 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 #1 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.

At around this point, the camaraderie 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."[5]

The first casualty of the band's collective change of attitude was bassist 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."[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]

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] 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."[7]

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)", a new track called "Ghostdancing" and "Promised You a Miracle". Simple Minds were the first band to be approached to play the Philadelphia leg of Live Aid.

1985-1987: Worldwide success - Once Upon A Time & Live in the City of Light

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 #1 in the UK and #10 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. The band also toured, with both Robin Clark and percussionist Sue Hadjopoulos added to the live lineup.

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". Bono also appeared on stage at Simple Minds Croke Park concert and sung "Sun City" during the "Love Song" medley. Derek Forbes also appeared on stage at the Croke Park concert and performed on several songs during the encore. 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.

Simple Minds played 3 nights at Glasgow Barrowlands at the end of 1987 to raise money for the "Cash for Kids" charity. "Room", "Capital City", "King is White" and "Pleasantly Disturbed" were surprise inclusions to the set. Derek Forbes, Chrissie Hynde and Johnny Marr joined the band onstage during the Love Song/Sun City medley on the final night.

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 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" with Little Steven and a cover version of Peter Gabriel's "Biko" on which Gabriel himself took on lead vocals). "Mandela Day" was released on the Ballad Of The Streets EP, which reached #1 in the British singles charts (the only time the band would do so).[8] Another EP 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 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: Inwards and outwards (Street Fighting Years, band fractures and other changes)

"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)[9]

The next album Street Fighting Years (produced by Trevor Horn and Stephen Lipson) maintained the band's growing sense of scale but 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 folk music-related ingredients. The lyrics were also more directly political, 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 band underwent further lineup changes during the recording of Street Fighting Years. Mel Gaynor and John Giblin both contributed to the recording (and, in Giblin's case, to some of the writing) but both men had left the band by the time of the album's release, by which time the band was credited as a trio of Kerr, Burchill and MacNeil. In a new development for the band, various bass guitar and drum tracks were performed by high-profile session musicians. Gaynor's departure from the band was brief (he was rehired for the following tour) but the balance of power within the band had clearly become centralised around the remaining founder members and would continue in that way.

Released in 1989, the album rose to #1 in the UK charts[10] 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.

Reunited with Mel Gaynor, Simple Minds hired Malcolm Foster (ex-Pretenders) as the new bass player and expanded the live band again by recruiting three additional touring members - backing singer Annie McCaig, percussionist Andy Duncan and violinist Lisa Germano). Touring began in May 1989, and included the first and only time that the group headlined Wembley Stadium,[11] where they were supported by fellow Scottish bands The Silencers, Texas and Gun. In September, the concert in the roman amphiteatre Verona Arena in Italy was recorded for the live video "Verona", released by Virgin in 1990.

"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."

Michael MacNeil on his acrimonious departure from Simple Minds in 1989 (interview in "The Sun" newspaper)[12]

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, keyboardist Michael 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"[13]).

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."

"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 twenty-six 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."

Jim Kerr pays tribute to Mick MacNeil in an online diary entry, December 2009[13]

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." However, he also paid tribute to his former bandmate and admitted that MacNeil had been irreplaceable.[13]

The 1990s: commercial decline

1990-1995: Three to two (Real Life, Glittering Prize & Good News From The Next World)

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.

In 1991, Simple Minds returned with a much more radio-friendly collection of their political concerns, Real Life. The album's cover showed a trio of Kerr, Burchill and Gaynor and the writing credits for all songs was Kerr/Burchill. The album reached #2 in the UK, where it also spawned four Top 40 singles. In the US, however, "See the Lights" was the band's last Top 40 pop single. The band toured to support the release, playing as a basic five-piece (Kerr, Burchill, Gaynor, Foster and Taylor) and cutting down on the extended arrangements of the last few large tours. Mel Gaynor left the band in 1992 to pursue session work and other projects, and for the next two years Simple Minds were on hiatus, releasing the compilation album Glittering Prize in 1992 to mark time.

Simple Minds returned to active duty later in 1994. By now the band was 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, they 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 was included among the bass players used for recording). 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". The band toured to promote Good News from the Next World, with Malcolm Foster and Mark Taylor as touring bass and keyboard players and Mark Schulman (who'd played on the album) on drums. This would be Foster's last work with the band, and Shulman would return to session work at the end of the tour.

1996-1998: Reimagining (Neapolis and reunions with former members)

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. During the lengthy writing and demoing sessons for the next album, 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). Although McGee was not involved beyond the rehearsal stage, Forbes formally rejoined Simple Minds in July 1996. The band then reunited with Mel Gaynor for studio session in spring 1997. Gaynor was reinstated as 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.

When finally released, the new album, Neapolis - turned out to be less of a "band" album than expected. Although Forbes played bass guitar 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 James).

1999-2000: Reorganisation and frustration (Our Secrets Are The Same & hiatus)

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 to become the sessions for the next Simple Minds album, Our Secrets Are the Same.

The other result from the sessions was the supplanting of the Simple Minds rhythm section. Once again, Forbes and Gaynor found themselves out of the band while Mark Kerr (formerly the drummer with the Glasgow rock band, Gun after the departure of Scott Shields) became the new drummer and Sly Silver Sly’s Eddie Duffy joined on bass guitar. The new-look Simple Minds made their debut with a short set of greatest hits at the Scotland Rocks For Kosovo festival, with Mark Taylor returning on keyboards. (The displaced Forbes and Gaynor, having apparently been told that the band wasn't appearing at the festival, formed a new band of their own to play the same concert. 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 caught up 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 emmired themselves in lawsuits with Chrysalis. 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 all moved on to other projects. Jim Kerr moved to Sicily and took up a part-time career as a hotelier, although both he and Burchill would continue working together on various business interests and would keep the idea of the band alive.

The 2000s-2010s: revival

2001-2005: Neon Lights, Cry, Silver Box & Our Secrets Are the Same

In 2001, Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill began working with multi-instrumentalist Gordon Goudie (ex-Primevals) on a brand new Simple Minds album to be called Cry. Mark Kerr would also contribute to the project (this time as an acoustic guitarist and Burchill's co-writer on a number of songs) while Jim Kerr brought in various Italian musicians as collaborators, including Planet Funk and Phunk Investigation. In parallel to Cry, Simple Minds also recorded an album of covers called Neon Lights, featuring Simple Minds reinventions of songs from artists including Patti Smith, Roxy Music and Kraftwerk. Of these projects, Neon Lights was the first to be completed and released (later in 2001) to help to build awareness of the returning band. In the video for the Neon Lights single "Dancing Barefoot", the band consisted of Jim Kerr, Charlie Burchill, Gordon Goudie and Mark Kerr. A 2-CD compilation, The Best of Simple Minds, was released soon afterwards to continue to build commercial momentum.

Cry itself was eventually 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 band lineup again), Simple Minds once again mended their relationship with Mel Gaynor, recruiting him as tour drummer. The live band was completed by the returning Eddie Duffy on bass guitar and by new keyboard player/programmer Andy Gillespie (of SoundControl).

In 2004, Simple Minds released a five-CD compilation entitled Silver Box. This mostly comprised previously-unreleased demos, radio & TV sessions and various live recordings from 1979 to 1995, but also included the long-delayed Our Secrets Are the Same.

In 2005, the band embarked on the "Intimate Tour" (a series of low-key gigs at smaller venues). Andy Gillespie was unable to appear at all the gigs, and Mark Taylor returned to cover for him on several occasions. From this point onwards, the two would alternate as Simple Mind’s live keyboard player, depending on Gillespie’s schedule with his other projects.

2005-2007: Black & White 050505

In 2005, Simple Minds released their fourteenth studio album, Black & White 050505, which generated some of the most positive reviews for a Simple Minds record in many years. The album's first single, "Home", received airplay on alternative rock radio stations in the US. However, it did not make a significant chart impact on either side of the Atlantic, only reaching #37 in the UK and not being officially released in North America. Despite the response from some website sources and a few UK tabloid papers[who?] 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.[who?] Nonetheless, the band spent 2006 touring throughout Europe, the Far East, Australia and New Zealand on the Black And White Tour (with Mark Taylor on keyboards).

2007 saw the band's 30th anniversary, and a brief tour of Australia & New Zealand as guests of INXS. Burchill, Kerr, Gaynor, Duffy and Gillespie. Also performed a brief set at the 40th anniversary tribute to Glasgow Celtic's famous Lisbon Lions European Cup winning team (with Jim McDermott deputising on drums for an absent Mel Gaynor). The band continued to release a number of audio video Download "bundles" through their official website, featuring live music and several short documentary style videos recorded during their 2006 tour in Edinburgh and Brussels (including the complete show on 16 February 2006 at the Ancienne Belgique, Brussels, Belgium as "Live Bundles" #1 to #5 and (only) 6 tracks from the show on 28 August 2006 at the "T On The Fringe" music festival, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK as "Live Bundles" #6 & #7).

2008: 30 Years Live tour (& brief reunion of original line-up)

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.

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.[14] Nothing came of the short-lived reunion; one member later commented that it lasted "30 minutes".[citation needed]

2009-2010: Graffiti Soul by Simple Minds & Lostboy! AKA Jim Kerr by Lostboy! AKA

A new record label, W14/Universal label, purchased the Sanctuary label in early 2009. Former Sanctuary Records A&R head John Williams (who'd signed the band to Sanctuary) kept his position with the new label, and exercised the option to pick up the remaining Simple Minds albums owed as part of the previous deal.

Reverting to the Burchill/Kerr/Gaynor/Duffy line-up, Simple Minds recorded a new studio album, Graffiti Soul, which was released on 25 May 2009. Jim Kerr suggested that Simple Minds had enough material from the Graffiti Soul recording sessions for two albums, one to be released at the start of 2009 and the second following within the space of a year.[15]

The album's first single, "Rockets", 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. In support of the album, 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.

After an early spring 2010 mini-tour in Australia & New Zealand, Simple Minds embarked on a late spring 2010 European tour (Germany, Denmark, Norway, The Netherlands, Belgium, France).

Interspersed with Simple Minds activity, Jim Kerr recorded and released his first solo album Lostboy! AKA Jim Kerr on 17 May 2010 under the name "Lostboy! AKA". Explaining the project name and ethos, he commented "I didn’t want to start a new band. I like my band (laughs)...and I didn’t want a point blank Jim Kerr solo album either."[16]

A Lostboy! AKA 10-date European tour followed from 18 to 31 May 2010. In August 2010 Lostboy! AKA embarked on a 12-date "Electroset Radio" tour for various European/UK radio stations but the band played only 4 dates in Germany & Spain. A new Lostboy AKA! 25-date "Electroset" (European) tour (the third one) (featuring Simon Hayward and Sarah Brown) was scheduled from 18 October to 3 December 2010 but the band played only 9 shows till the rest of the tour was cancelled after the performance on 13 November 2010 in Dublin, Ireland because of Jim's mother Irene who had become ill with a recurrence of cancer.[17]

In August, Simple Minds played four dates in Brazil, scheduling a further concert for 11 September 2010 at La Fête de l'Humanité, La Courneuve, Paris, France. On 9 September, Jim Kerr made a cryptic blog comment on the Simple Minds website - "Heading to Paris for the last gig of this tour but being honest - with SM there is no "last gig" as such. It just means the last gig before a break that inevitably leads to the next move forward and onwards into the future. Changes are always happening though and that will be apparent when we walk on stage in Paris."[18][19] This referred to a further personnel change, revealed as a change in bass player with Eddie Duffy being replaced by Ged Grimes (originally the bass player with Danny Wilson and later a Deacon Blue member who had also played on the Lostboy! AKA project).

The band was expected to play a handful of gigs between October and December 2010[20] but gave only two shows: a mini-concert on 2 October 2010 at the Cash For Kids Ball organised by Radio Clyde at the Hilton in Glasgow, UK and a full-length concert on 10 December 2010 at the Festhalle in Bern, Switzerland.[21]

2011-2012: 'Greatest Hits Forest Tour' & 'Greatest Hits +' Tour + Future plans

In early October 2010, a new line-up of Simple Minds (Burchill, Kerr, Gaynor, Gillespie with new bassist Ged Grimes) completed four weeks at the Sphere Recording Studios in London during which four songs were recorded and mixed for an extensive new compilation album to be called "Greatest Hits +" and for the forthcoming new Simple Minds studio album.

The sessions were produced by Andy Wright and engineered & mixed by Gavin Goldberg. The four songs recorded were an 8-minute long version of 'In Every Heaven' (originally recorded in 1982 during the "New Gold Dream" sessions) and three entirely new compositions: 'Stagefright' and 'On The Rooftop' both written by Charlie Burchill and Jim Kerr and 'Broken Glass Park' originally a Lostboy! AKA song written by Jim Kerr and Owen Parker.

The initial plan was to release the album on two formats in May 2011 on the eve of the 'Greatest Hits Forest Tour'. Both formats would include the two new songs 'Stagefright' and 'Broken Glass Park' (with the limited-edition definitive set being boosted by the addition of 'In Every Heaven'). Unfortunately, in August 2011, its release was postponed until 2012 to coincide with future plans by the band. However, 'Stagefright' would first be made available as an exclusive Facebook free download on 3 June 2011. And both new songs 'Stagefright' and 'Broken Glass Park' were played live during the tour.[22]

The two other songs 'In Every Heaven' and 'On The Rooftop' could be the first tracks for what will eventually become the Simple Minds 16th studio album of original compositions due to be released in 2012.[23]

Simple Minds played a single night on 2 April 2011 at the Night Of The Proms 2011 in Frederikshavn, Denmark.[24]

The new song 'Stagefright' was made available on 3 June 2011 as an exclusive free download for members at and fans of the Official Simple Minds Facebook Page.[25][26]

From 10 June to 3 July 2011, Simple Minds embarked on the 'Greatest Hits Forest Tour', playing a series of seven dates in woodland locations of England, as part of Forestry Commission Live Music.[27]

From 16 June to 28 August 2011, the 'Greatest Hits +' tour visited European countries: the UK, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, Ireland, Gibraltar & Serbia mainly at summer festival venues.[28][29] Simple Minds played a number of free concerts (on 4 July 2011 in Potsdam, Germany, on 4 July 2011 in Florence, Italy for the opening of Florence's Hard Rock Cafe, on 18 August in Belgrade, Serbia and on 27 August in Bad Harzburg, Germany before 25,000 people).

In late august / early september 2011, Simple Minds recorded a new song called 'Planet Zero', a "space-rock" track written by Charlie Burchill and Jim Kerr.[30]

On 22 October 2011, Simple Minds will be taking part in the 600 Sounds Festival in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.



Current line-up

  • Jim Kerr - Lead vocals (1978–present)
  • Charlie Burchill - Guitar, keyboards (1978–present)
  • Mel Gaynor - Drums, percussion (1982–1991; 1997–1998; 2002–present)
  • Andy Gillespie - Keyboards (2002–2005; 2007–present)
  • Ged Grimes - Bass guitar (2010–present)

Former members

  • Mick MacNeil - Composer, Keyboards (1978–1990)
  • Derek Forbes - Bass Guitar (1978–1985; 1997–1998)
  • Brian McGee - Drums (1978–1981)

Other past members

Former live & session musicians

  • Paul Wishart - Saxophone - Empires and Dance Tour (1980)
  • 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), Guitar (2002)
  • Sarah Brown - Vocals - Graffiti Soul Tour (2009)


  1. ^ "Kenny Hislop biog on Simple Minds fansite". Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  2. ^ "Mel Gaynor biography on Simple Minds fansite". Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  3. ^ "Mike Ogletree biography on Simple Minds fansite". Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  4. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  5. ^ Interview with Jim Kerr in Scottish Sunday Times, 23 September 2001
  6. ^ a b 'Meeting of True Minds" (interview with Mick MacNeil and Derek Forbes) by Georgina Reid, The Sun, 19 October 2001
  7. ^ a b “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. ^ "Belfast Child" #1 in UK Singles Chart. Retrieved 19 August 2007.
  9. ^ "Do Not Disturb - article by Mat Snow in 'Q' Magazine, June 1989
  10. ^ Street Fighting Years #1 in UK. Retrieved 19 August 2007.
  11. ^ "Wembley Stadium Concerts history". Archived from the original on 9 January 2011. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  12. ^ "The Day The Music Died" - interview with Mick MacNeil by Georgina Reid inThe Sun newspaper, 2 March 2000
  13. ^ a b c "The Spirit of MacNeil" (Jim Kerr online diary entry on Simple Minds website, dated 1 December 2009)
  14. ^ "Original line-up Simple Minds to record once again". 9 June 2011. Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  15. ^ "Dream Giver Redux / Discography / Albums / Graffiti Soul". Retrieved 18 September 2011. 
  16. ^ "". Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  17. ^ "Dream Giver Redux / Tours / Lostboy! AKA Electroset Tour". Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  18. ^ "Dream Giver Redux / Tours". Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  19. ^ "Simple Minds Official Web Site / News / Jim's Diary: "More + More + More" (". Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  20. ^ "Dream Giver Redux / Tours". Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  21. ^ "Simple Minds Official Web Site / Live Concerts". Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  22. ^ "Dream Giver Redux / Discography / Albums / Greatest Hits +". Retrieved 18 September 2011. 
  23. ^ "Simple Minds Official Web Site / News / Studio Notes: "SM Finish Recording! - Tuesday 05th of October 2010" (". Retrieved 18 September 2011. 
  24. ^ "Dream Giver Redux / Tours / Night Of The Proms 2011". 2 April 2011. Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  25. ^ "Dream Giver Redux / Greatest Hits". Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  26. ^ "Simple Minds Official Web Site / News / Brand New Free Download Now 03/06/2011". Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  27. ^ "Dream Giver Redux / Tours / Greatest Hits Forest Tour 2011". Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  28. ^ "Simple Minds Official Web Site / Live Concerts". Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  29. ^ "Simple Minds Official Web Site / Shows in Munich & Tuttlingen, Germany!". Retrieved 1 September 2011. 
  30. ^ "Dream Giver Redux / Songs / Demos / Planet Zero". Retrieved 18 September 2011. 

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