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street fighting years : information

JK: "The record company must have loved us. After Once Upon A Time came out, they were screaming out for more of the same. We came out with an eight-minute Celtic opus (Belfast Child) and songs about South Africa (Mandela Day, Peter Gabriel's Biko). Having had that, we went "Who cares?" We love America, but you really have to kiss arse - we were too tired at the time. We have a lot of energy now! As Charlie has said, the only time you saw us at that time, we were in front of crowds being fed fishes and loaves. That was the train we were on. If you're going to write, if you're young and idealistic, you're going to write about the themes of the day. You're going to take a convoluted subject and turn it into - in our case - a lengthy pop song. When I look back now, I'm glad that we had the balls or the madness to do those things. We did "Good Morning America" and there were 30 million people watching us. I thought, 'Wouldn't it be amazing if you had something to say outside of promoting a new tour or a new T-shirt.' The previous night, Charlie and I had met a guy in the Mayflower Hotel who worked for Amnesty. I was asked on the show what I'd been doing and I talked about Amnesty. THen suddenly, I had a cause! It did matter to us and it inspired the music. It was great in 2008 to play Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday."

Record Collector Interview
Record Collector #364
July 2009


  • "We were excited we didn't know what was going to happen. For the first time in a long time we were out of control. Once Upon A Time was very controlled. I liked that about it, but now we wanted to do something different." - Jim.

  • "We were sure whatever happened it was going to take us by surprise. And it definintely did. There is no logical progression between Once Upon A Time and this album." - Jim.

  • "Trevor Horn, is of course yet another who produced Simple Minds. It is he (and Stephen Lipson) who deserve the credit for our Street Fighting Years album which featured Belfast Child, Mandela Day and This Is Your Land. They both put so much thought and time into Simple Minds - in a period where in someways we were sadly in the process of coming apart at the seams. Trevor also produced so many of my fave 80's defining records. Including Grace Jones, Malcolm McLaren, Yes, ABC, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Particularly Frankie - what a sound that debut album had! In any case Trevor, who also plays bass and has his own touring band, is currently adding our very own Waterfront to his live set which also features much of the songs that he produced. Known more as "a studio beast" a recent article in Glasgow's Herald newspaper detailed how Trevor, whose music somewhat defined the 1980s, says that now playing live is therapeutic after the death of his wife Jill - who incidentally was also a great supporter of Simple Minds, someone who we also admired very much." - Jim, 21st July 2017


  • The album was written and recorded between September 1987 and March 1989.

  • There were five recording sessions at four different locations: Loch Earn (the band's newly built studio in Scotland), Barwell Court, Glenstrivin (the west coast of Scotland), Sarm West (Trevor Horn's studio in London) and finally back to Loch Earn.

  • It was officially started on the 9th September 1987 when Jim, Charlie and Mick met at their newly puchased house by Loch Earn (at that point being converted into a studio). They set up in the living room and started to write.

  • At the time, they were thinking about instrumentals and a project called Auroa Borealis.

  • Stephen Lipson was the band's main goal for producer after hearing his work with Propaganda. "Lipson turned out to be what we had hoped; a great engineer and someone to link in with Charlie and Mick. Essentially someone who was both high-tech and really soulful. He's a great mixture of wildness and conservatism." - Jim

  • Over the next three weeks, the trio produced fifteen to twenty sketches of ideas for songs. At the end of November, they invited Stephen Lipson and Trevor Horn to the house to hear the results. The first song they heard was an instrumental Mick brought along on the first day: it would eventually become Street Fighting Years.

  • In March 1988, the trio reconvened at Barwell Court (John Giblin's studio in London). But the settings weren't right and so they relocated to the remote, isolated Glenstrivin on the west coast of Scotland.

  • "I liked it there. There wasn't so much importance laid on the music, whether it was brilliant or crap. We were just in this house, and the scenery, the sky and the lochs - everything seemed so much more important than what we were actually there for." - Mick

  • The recordings at Glenstrivin were far more relaxed than a conventional recording studio, and the trio were less concerned with the polish of the songs, nailing the arrangements in rough recordings. As they were recording to multi-track, some of these performances were eventually copied and appeared on the final album.

  • Recording with the rest of the band commenced at Trevor Horn's Sarm West. Joining the trio were drummers Stewart Copeland and Manu Katche and violinist Lisa Germano.

  • ""Simple Minds and Trevor Horn? Fucking hell, doesn't make sense." I would say: "It wouldn't make sense to you 'cos we're not in the habit of trying to make sense." - Jim

  • After the Mandela Day concert, the band returned to the now-finished Loch Earn to complete the album.

  • "Musically , this whole album flew out. It was just so easy, except the rhythmic side. We've never been so abundant in musical ideas. We hardly ever came up against a brick wall." - Charlie

  • "When we heard the album back, it didn't sound a million miles away from what we had on day one. That was the whole thing that made it so great: I can dig out the very, very early demos and you will recognise the songs, no problem. Most of the arrangements are still there." - Mick

  • The lyric on the cover was taken from a bridge for Wall Of Love. Several people commented on it and sleeve designer Malcolm Garrett asked to use it on the album's cover. Unfortunately, it was then cut out of the final mix.

  • "It became apparent early on that every song seemed to be about some kind of conflict. This idea of a battleground is a nice opposite to the once-upon-a-time-peace-stuff. There's another side you have to recognise. It was all gone too one-way."- Jim

  • Ideas that never made it: Dusseldorf Beat (the first song completed for the album and subsequently shelved), People Stand Up Again (a complete demo was recorded at Sarm West) and The Power And The Darkness.

  • The working title was Street Fighting Years and the name stuck.

  • The album was remastered in 2002 as part of an extensive Virgin campaign. It was released as a limited edition vinyl replica CD and standard edition CD. This version remains on catalogue.



street fighting years: quick reference
LP    Street Fighting Years Virgin MINDS 1
A1. Street Fighting Years(6:26)
A2. Soul Crying Out(6:07)
A3. Wall Of Love(5:20)
A4. This Is Your Land(6:22)
A5. Take A Step Back(4:23)
B1. Kick It In(6:11)
B2. Let It All Come Down(4:56)
B3. Mandela Day(5:45)
B4. Belfast Child(6:42)
B5. Biko(7:34)


MC    Street Fighting Years Virgin MINDSC 1
1-1. Street Fighting Years(6:26)
1-2. Soul Crying Out(6:07)
1-3. Wall Of Love(5:20)
1-4. This Is Your Land(6:22)
1-5. Take A Step Back(4:23)
2-1. Kick It In(6:11)
2-2. Let It All Come Down(4:56)
2-3. Mandela Day(5:45)
2-4. Belfast Child(6:42)
2-5. Biko(7:34)
2-6. When Spirits Rise(2:01)


CD    Street Fighting Years Virgin MINDSCD 1
1. Street Fighting Years(6:26)
2. Soul Crying Out(6:07)
3. Wall Of Love(5:20)
4. This Is Your Land(6:22)
5. Take A Step Back(4:23)
6. Kick It In(6:11)
7. Let It All Come Down(4:56)
8. Mandela Day(5:45)
9. Belfast Child(6:42)
10. Biko(7:34)
11. When Spirits Rise(2:01)









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Ballad Of The Streets EP This Is Your Land


Kick It In The Amsterdam EP