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Simple Minds

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Released 2016
© 2016 Simple Minds, under exclusive license to Virgin Music UK

Artist bio

Simple Minds have been musical pioneers for 40 glittering years.
Catching the mood of the post-punk era, when the angry sounds of
1977 were splintering into a thousand different shapes, they emerged
with a style rooted in the art-rock of David Bowie and the electronic
dance of Donna Summer. They went on to become one of the great
bands of their generation, deploying rousing choruses and booming
atmospherics to provide a soundtrack that has endured. They topped
the American chart with Don't You (Forget About Me) and followed suit
in the UK with Ballad Of The Streets. In selling over 60 million records,
they have seen three of their 20 studio albums reach number one in the
UK – Sparkle In The Rain, Once Upon A Time and Street Fighting
Years – a chart-topping feat equalled by their live album Live In The
City Of Light and the compilation Glittering Prize. A spellbinding touring
band, they have graced the world's biggest stadiums. They starred at
Live Aid and played three momentous London shows in honour of
Nelson Mandela. The past decade has also seen a remarkable
resurgence, their world-class credentials acknowledged by a Q
magazine Inspiration award in 2014 and an Ivor Novello in 2016. They
are now marking their 40th anniversary with a world tour, live album and
career-spanning compilation. As their recent albums Big Music, Simple
Minds Acoustic and Walk Between Worlds have shown, they remain a
band touched by magic – willing to experiment while remaining true to
their original instincts.

The roots of Simple Minds were humble. Coalescing around the talent
of childhood friends Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill, they emerged from
the ashes of Glasgow punk outfit Johnny & The Self-Abusers in
November 1977. In true punk fashion, the Self-Abusers – ‘atrocious and
amateur’ according to Jim – released one independent single, Saints
And Sinners, and split up the same day. Two weeks later, singer Kerr
and guitarist Burchill started Simple Minds, taking their name from a line
in Bowie's The Jean Genie. The duo, augmented by keyboardist Mick
MacNeil, bassist Derek Forbes and drummer Brian McGee, retained

punk's D-I-Y spirit, but were keen to look beyond the genre's three-
chord limitations. For them, punk was a springboard rather than a

template. Says Jim: ‘From the moment we first heard a DJ playing the
12-inch version of Donna Summer’s I Feel Love, I knew we had to find a
local musician with a synthesizer. As we got going, we soon realised

there were a clutch of other bands, like Siouxsie And The Banshees,
The Cure and Magazine, who were also moving away from punk.’
The band hooked up with a manager, Bruce Findlay, and used their
interest in electronic music to experiment with rhythm and texture. A
debut album, Life In A Day, emerged on Findlay’s independent Zoom
label, backed by the distribution muscle of Arista, in April 1979. Leaning
on Roxy Music, the album and its attendant single Chelsea Girl
showcased a group still finding their feet. Much the same applied to its
sequel Real To Real Cacophony, released seven months later. Darker
and less conventional, it yielded the single Changeling and signalled the
start of a fascination with European culture that became more
pronounced on 1980's impressionistic Empires And Dance. Inspired by
the industrial rhythms of Neu!, Kraftwerk and Cabaret Voltaire, Empires
And Dance mixed synthetic sounds with Charlie's electric guitars to
produce the first fully-realised Simple Minds album. 'It took us a couple
of albums to rise above our influences, but by Empires And Dance we
were flying,' says Jim.

The angular, industrial edges of Empires And Dance were refined on
The American, the group's first single for new label Virgin. Showing they
were determined to set their own agenda, Simple Minds then released
their fourth and fifth albums – Sons And Fascination and Sister Feelings
Call – simultaneously. The latter was initially included as a bonus disc

with the first 10,000 copies of Sons And Fascination, but was then re-
issued in its own right. Reiterating how quickly the band were moving

forwards, the albums were produced by Steve Hillage, guitarist with
progressive rock group Gong, with whom they shared an interest in
German electronica. The albums yielded a hit single, Love Song, and
the trance-like instrumental Theme For Great Cities, a track which
proved so enduring it was re-recorded as a B-side to the 1991 single
See The Lights. Unlike most of their post-punk peers, Simple Minds
also toured relentlessly, supporting Peter Gabriel (a fan of Empires And
Dance) and spending hours traversing Europe's highways in their own

The band assumed a global presence with New Gold Dream
(81,82,83,84), their first UK Top Ten album, in 1982. With songs like
Someone Somewhere (In Summertime) and Glittering Prize, the album
added a sense of lyrical exaltation that chimed with the optimistic
musical spirit of the time. In Promised You A Miracle, a single

influenced by the funk and rap the band were hearing on New York
radio, it also contained their first ‘pure pop song’. With new drummer
Mel Gaynor on board and jazz keyboardist Herbie Hancock a guest on
Hunter And The Hunted, it was clear that Simple Minds were changing
musically as they developed into a global force. 'If Empires And Dance
was our first landmark album, then New Gold Dream sealed the deal,'
says Jim. The latter was followed by 1984's Sparkle In The Rain, a
more rock-orientated record characterised by the singles Up On The

Catwalk, Speed Your Love To Me and Waterfront. Their first UK chart-
topper, it pushed the band onto bigger stages, where they found

themselves sharing the spotlight with their contemporaries U2 –
sometimes quite literally, with U2's Bono joining them at the Barrowland
in Glasgow and Croke Park in Dublin.

Another massive single arrived the following year with Don’t You
(Forget About Me). Recorded for the John Hughes film The Breakfast
Club, which starred Molly Ringwald and Emilio Estevez, the song was
written by producer Keith Forsey and musician Steve Schiff, of the Nina
Hagen band, but it was the epic performance of Simple Minds that
made it memorable. The single paved the way for a sixth album, Once
Upon A Time. Produced by rock legends Jimmy Iovine and Bob
Clearmountain, Once Upon A Time added celebratory soul and gospel
to the band's shimmering arena rock on Alive And Kicking and Sanctify
Yourself. The group went from strength to strength live too, playing in
front of 135,000 fans – and a TV audience of millions – on the American
leg of Live Aid in Philadelphia.

The band were also the first to sign up to play Nelson Mandela's 70th
birthday concert at Wembley Stadium in 1988. Organised by producer
Tony Hollingsworth and Jerry Dammers, of The Special AKA, the event
was conceived to raise awareness of the plight of African National
Congress leader Mandela, imprisoned by South Africa’s apartheid
regime. As well as performing the song Biko with their old touring
partner Peter Gabriel, Simple Minds wrote a new song, Mandela Day,
for the event. Released on the Ballad Of The Streets EP alongside
Belfast Child, it gave them their first UK number one single. 'Jerry came
to see us in Glasgow and we agreed to take part within a heartbeat of
being asked,' says Jim. 'We wrote Mandela Day to make it an artistic
statement too. I'm proud we had the chutzpah to do that, as it's hard to
write a political song without sounding trite.'

Moving into the Nineties, Simple Minds remained a commanding live
act. They continued to tour and were voted the world's best live band by
Q magazine in 1991. In the studio, a string of eclectic albums ensued.
Real Life explored a softer sound, Good News From The Next World
was the band's last album under their original deal with Virgin and
Néapolis harked back to their electronic pop roots. But, despite this
steady trickle of studio activity, the whirlwind pace of the band's imperial
phase began to ease, with Jim retreating to his adopted home in Sicily
and Charlie basing himself 500 miles away in Rome. ‘We hadn't
stopped between 1977 and 1989,’ says Jim. ‘Then, as a new generation
emerged – The Stone Roses, Blur, Oasis – it was time for us to wind
down a little. There was no desire to make music and, to be honest, I
wasn't sure where we fitted in anymore.'

But the creative urges eventually came back. After paying homage to
their heroes by covering songs originally by Roxy Music, Bowie,
Kraftwerk and others on 2001's Neon Lights, Simple Minds toured
extensively between 2002 and 2004. With momentum building, they
then pushed forward with Black & White 050505 – an album named in
part after its release date of 5 May 2005. A further tribute to Nelson
Mandela, in Hyde Park, came in 2008, with another studio album,
Graffiti Soul, arriving the following year. The reawakening gathered
even greater pace with 2012's X5 box set, 5X5 tour and 5X5 Live
double album, a batch of retrospective projects that revisited the band's
early albums. They were a timely reminder of the band's ongoing
appeal and a springboard for the burst of creativity that has since
ensued. As Jim says: 'We had kept a low profile, but the music found its
place again – a new generation saw its relevance.’

By the time of 2014's new studio album, Big Music, Simple Minds were
once more firing on all cylinders. Working with collaborators old (Steve
Hillage) and new (Iain Cook of Chvrches), the band were on a creative
roll. Big Music revisited the widescreen styles of old, but also contained
Jim's most personal lyrics to date. Honest Town, inspired by memories
of his mother, was a dream-like travelogue through his childhood
stomping grounds on Glasgow's South Side. Mojo magazine called the
record the band's best in 30 years. Big Music was followed two years
later by a first acoustic album, an unscheduled detour on which Simple
Minds added fresh nuance to hits such as Promised You A Miracle by
rearranging them in a softer style. For the subsequent acoustic tour, Jim
and Charlie were joined by bassist Ged Grimes, acoustic guitarist Gordy

Goudie, new percussionist Cherisse Osei and long-term singer Sarah
Brown. The lessons learnt making Simple Minds Acoustic were also put
to excellent use on the group's next studio album proper. Walk Between
Worlds, released in 2018, added even greater subtlety to a lean sound
now shorn of its big, booming drums, allowing more room for Charlie's
intricate guitar work. A concise affair lasting just 42 minutes, the album
put its onus on Jim and Charlie's songwriting. Magic revisited new wave
dance grooves. Barrowland Star, written about the Glasgow ballroom
that has hosted so many memorable Simple Minds shows, featured
dramatic orchestrations recorded at Abbey Road. For the ensuing tour,
Jim and Charlie worked with a fluid group of musicians that were, in
Jim’s words, ‘more like Sly & The Family Stone than a traditional rock

The 150-plus shows Simple Minds played around the world in 2017 and
2018 included their biggest American tour to date, a 31-date trek from
one coast to the other. There followed, in 2019, an extensive campaign
to mark the 40th anniversary of Life In A Day. This campaign included a
40-track live album from the 2017-18 tour. Recorded at the Orpheum in
Los Angeles in October 2018, Live In The City Of Angels featured
songs dating from 1980's Empires And Dance to Walk Between Worlds
plus covers of Ewan MacColl’s Dirty Old Town and Prince's The Cross.
Issued in October 2019, around the busiest time of the year for new
releases, it gave the band another UK Top Ten album. Augmenting the
live collection, a new compilation – Simple Minds 40: The Best Of 1979-
2019 – also emerged. Alongside re-mastered versions of classic hits, it
contained a new, string-driven cover of the song For One Night Only
from Fife singer King Creosote's 2014 album From Scotland With Love.
The anniversary is now being celebrated further with a world tour, the
40 Years Of Hits Tour 2020. Taking in Europe, North America, Australia
and New Zealand, with additional dates to be confirmed, it is the band's
first with new keyboard player Berenice Scott. The fresh activity is
certain to enhance a legacy that remains an inspiration to a younger
generation of musicians. Four decades on, they are still very much alive
and kicking. ‘The truth is we never fully wound down,' says Charlie. 'But the
perception that we're now gathering pace is down to our attitude to
playing live. There have been lots of different incarnations of Simple
Minds, but we’ve always kept our identity. A legacy can be a burden if
you allow it to be. For us, it's been empowering.'

‘Simple Minds are different now,’ adds Jim. ‘We’re not a stock rock
band, but we haven’t changed our line-up to be cool. We’ve done it
because it’s great to have so many amazing players on board. I’m
grateful for the career we’ve had, but I’m mad enough to think we can
still hit new levels. This is what we do – write, record and play live.'

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