Simple Minds Overview

Simple Minds are a rock band from Scotland, who had their greatest worldwide po***rity 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 John Hughes (film director) movie The Breakfast Club and number 3 worldwide hit single "Alive and Kicking Alive and Kicking (song) ".

Founding members Jim Kerr (vocals Vocal music ) and Charlie Burchill (guitar, keyboards), along with drummer Mel***nor, are the core of the band, which currently features Andy Gillespie on keyboards and Eddie Duffy Eddie Duffy (Scottish musician) on bass guitar.

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


Roots and early years

1977: Johnny & The Self-Abusers

The roots of Simple Minds were in the punk punk rock 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 Brian McGee (drummer) 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 Generation X (band) 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 Isle of 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 Zoom Records (Scotland) (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 Life in a Day (Simple Minds album) . Produced by John Leckie and released by Arista in April 1979, the album took a cue from fellow post-punk forebears Magazine Magazine (band) , and was somewhat self-consciously derivative of the late-70s punk boom, with AOR Album-oriented rock crossover potential not unlike that of The Cars. It also revealed that the band's influences included David Bowie, Genesis Genesis (band) 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 Magazine (band) , 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 New Wave music 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 minimalism 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 Industrial music in its aesthetic , and preceded by a couple of years the industrial-pop crossover of Cabaret Voltaire Cabaret Voltaire (band) '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 Virgin Records . The following year, Arista put out a compilation album, Celebration Celebration (Simple Minds album) , 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 trance music 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 Propaganda (band) .

Transition: rising to fame 1982-198

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.
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 Propaganda (band) ). 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." The other track, "Belfast Child", was a rewrite of the Celtic folk Celtic music 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 Brian Keenan (writer) , kidnapped by the Islamic Jihad Islamic Jihad Organization .

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

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 Once Upon a Time (Simple Minds album) 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***nor 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 The Police (band) ). 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.

Released in 1989, the album rose to number one in the UK charts and received glowing praise, including a rare five-star review from Q Q (magazine) 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***nor 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 Wembley Stadium (1924) , where they were supported by fellow Scottish bands The Silencers The Silencers (band) , Texas Texas (band) and Gun Gun (band) .

1989: departure of Mick MacNeil, and other changes

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").

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

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 , 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).*Life in a Day Life in a Day (Simple Minds album) (1979) 1st studio album>
*Real to Real Cacophony (1979) 2nd studio album>
*Empires and Dance (1980) 3rd studio album>
*Sons and Fascination / Sister Feelings Call (1981) (2-LP/1-CD) 4th studio album>
*New Gold Dream (81/82/83/84) New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) (1982) 5th studio album>
*Sparkle in the Rain (1984) 6th studio album>
*The Breakfast Club (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) The Breakfast Club#Soundtrack (1985) one song: Don't You (Forget About Me)>
*Once Upon A Time Once Upon a Time (Simple Minds album) (1985) 7th studio album>
*Live in the City of Light (1987) (2-LP/2-CD) live album>
*Street Fighting Years (1989) 8th studio album>
*Real Life Real Life (Simple Minds album) (1991) 9th studio album>
*Good News from the Next World (1995) 10th studio album>
*Neapolis Neapolis (album) (1998) 11th studio album>
*Our Secrets are the Same Silver Box#CD five: Our Secrets Are The Same (originally 2000) 12th studio album (finally issued as CD#5 from Silver Box (2004))>
*Neon Lights Neon Lights (album) (2001) (covers album)>
*Cry Cry (Simple Minds album) (2002) 13th studio album>
*Black & White 050505 (2005) 14th studio album>
*Sunday Express - Live Vol. One & Two (2007) (2-CD live album) (promotional Sunday Express Daily Express free release)>
*Graffiti Soul (2009) 15th studio album>
*Searching for the Lost Boys Graffiti Soul (2009) (bonus covers album included in the "Graffiti Soul" Deluxe edition 2-CD set)>
Current line-up

*Jim Kerr - Lead vocals lead singer
*Charlie Burchill - Guitar, keyboards
*Mel***nor - Drums drumkit , percussion (1982-91; 1997-98; 2002-present)
*Eddie Duffy Eddie Duffy (Scottish musician) - Bass guitar (1999-present)
*Andy Gillespie - Keyboards (2002-05; 2007-present)

Former members

*Brian McGee Brian McGee (drummer) - Drums (1977-1981)
*Derek Forbes - Bass Guitar (1978-1985; 1997-1998)
*Mick MacNeil - Keyboards (1978-1989)
*John Giblin - Bass Guitar (1985-1988)

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)


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