sound and sense, cardiff, the american, amsterdam, xs noize podcast, hamburg
Sound and Sense
Turning up in Sicily 18 months ago, at the height of Covid and the ensuing restrictions, we could sense
the worry and sadness around Taormina.
Still beautiful with its omnipresent blue skies, our hometown, one that lives and depends almost entirely on tourism,
had been forced to close its doors entirely as indeed had our favourite place Hotel Villa Angela.
Normally full of visitors and guests, like hospitality venues around the globe, its rooms and corridors had lain
ghostly quiet for months on end. Heartbreaking for all involved, no more so though than for the hotel staff who
have for two decades prior had worked to create the small hotel's warm and welcoming reputation.
Not for much longer though. Or, at least not for much longer once we arrived with the notion that rather
than leave the building dormant, we should put it to use in a way the architect would never have imagined.
As a result, within a couple of weeks, Charlie Burchill had organised the
delivery of speakers, microphones, computers, screens, guitars, keyboards, and all the other paraphernalia and
equipment Simple Minds amass when working together on creating new music. And suddenly, what an unbelievable
place we had for ourselves to work in!
Don't get me wrong. Nothing can compete with the history that surely reverberates inside the walls of say,
Abbey Road studios In London, or other legendary recording studios around the world. Nothing can compete either
with the design and technological expertise that those places pride themselves on.
But tell me another recording studio that overlooks a still active volcano - Mount Etna, and a stretch of blue sea
where the ancient Greeks first arrived in Sicily, followed by Romans, Byzantines, Arab, Vikings, Bourbons, Aragonese etc.?
(Now that's what I call history.)
Then again, I suppose Abbey Road has a famous zebra crossing outside its windows.
There's a happy ending to this story and I'll make it brief.
Over the next year, we worked continually in Villa Angela.
Actually, that's not true. In the peak summer months we went to the beach most days. In the evenings we
drove madly through the hills on our vespas, arriving at the peak of Monte Venere to catch the sunsets.
Soon enough though, the walls inside Villa Angela were bouncing to the sound of Simple Minds' music as a
handful of new anthems began taking shape.
The results? You will have the chance to listen to in the not too distant future.
Happier still! A couple of days ago, for the first time in almost two and a half years, Villa Angela opened its doors
once more. The impromptu recording studio is no longer there of course.
But the staff are delighted to be back at work and the guests are arriving by the hour.
Meanwhile, the recording of our new album, also worked on in Hamburg and
London is now complete - and Simple Minds are thrilled at being back out on tour.
"Wales will always mean a lot to Simple Minds - going way way back to our very beginnings when we used to play pubs and clubs in places such as Newport and Port Talbot etc - finding audiences willing to encourage us even when we were 'still learning our trade.'
A packed arena in CARDIFF last night left us feeling humbled by the reaction they gave to this latest version of Simple Minds.
There are some cities you wish that you could play every week, the Welsh capital is definitely one!" - Jim, 14th April 2022
I've blown the dust off the old copies of The American single and revisited
Simple Minds' first Virgin single.
Original press releases and the session tape trail through The Manor,
Townhouse and Odyssey studios reveal how it took several attempts to get this one right. It also reveals
how Simple Minds were due to play a short tour of the UK and Europe after
their US and Canadian jaunt - but that was not to be.
And it cost £1.15 - that's for both the 7" and 12". Bargain!
"Simple Minds will play to over 15,000 people tonight in Amsterdam's Ziggo Dome.
Amazing, especially when considering that there were less than 15 people in total at our very first gig in
Amsterdam in 1980 - playing in the tiny Melkweg club.
Regardless of how few people were there on that night, those that were encouraged us immensely, and from then
on Simple Minds' Dutch fans have never let us down.
For that our gratitude knows no end!
Expect 100 percent effort from us tonight. Heart and soul!" - Jim, 19th April 2022
One of the best interviews from January was The XS Noize Podcast. Host
Mark Millar asked the standards, but also went off-piste and fielded some very interesting and unique
questions as well. So, it was well worth including here. It was a long interview - around an hour - so the transcription
will be published as separate parts.
XS Noize Podcast: Part One
MM: Formed in the 1970s, Simple Minds have been one of the most successful bands to come out of the UK,
selling over 60 million records worldwide, having number one singles on both sides of the Atlantic and number one albums
the world over. Including five UK number one albums. To mark the anniversary of the band's very first performance,
Simple Minds have released Act Of Love, as a one-off single.
I caught up with Jim Kerr to talk about the new song, the early days of the band,
their upcoming tour and much more. MM: So welcome to the XS Noize Podcast Jim. JK: Yup, thank you. A pleasure.
MM: Simple Minds have recently released Act Of Love, a one-off
single to mark the anniversary of the band's very first performance at
Glasgow's Satellite City on the January 17th 1978. Before
we talk about the song, what can you remember about that night? JK: I remember it very vividly. [Laughs] The overriding thing was the before and after. Because to say I was
nervous personally would be the understatement of the century. Both
Charlie Burchill and I - and actually
Brian McGee as well - prior to Simple Minds and prior to our
debut gig, we had spent the summer being in this punk band called
Johnny And The Self Abusers. And we
probably did about 20 gigs. So,
although that hardly made us veterans, we had a taste for it. And even though
Johnny And The Self Abusers was a bit of a joke outfit, we always got a great
reaction. So we were doing something right. And we were hoping to ... JK: With Simple Minds stakes were high. This was serious. After sort-of putting our toe in the water, after
the amount of enjoyment we got from Johnny And The Self Abusers, it was like
'Yeah - but can we really do something for real?' And, we'd just had that first gig in Satellite City you mentioned
there - if it hadn't gone well, who knows? And just to set the scene for you, Satellite City was - the famous gig
in Glasgow was a place called The Apollo Theatre - it was the Green's Theatre - that was the temple. The theatre itself
is where we saw Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and all the prog rock bands. Glasgow was then a back water
culturally, it's not the Glasgow we know now. But when the bands came to town, that was the place. And the audiences were
great. And to us it was just the temple. But there was an attic space above the theatre that had this ballroom - or as
they used to call them 'discotheques' in those days. And we could never get in to it - we were never cool enough. You'd go up
with your best clobber on, hoping to get in, but we were still young and the bouncers were like 'Not tonight lads.' JK: So somebody from the local record shop - I believe- punted up the money to put on a gig. I mean, a discotheque
on a Monday night on the 17th January [Laughs] - and there were four local bands - we were one of them - making our debut.
There was a band called Nu Sonics, who quite soon afterwards went on to become Orange Juice. And a couple of
other bands that didn't really go on. JK: Anyway, we were somewhere in the middle of the bill. And we had rehearsed / worked for the six weeks in advance
to come up with a set of mostly original songs. And the first song was this song called Act Of Love.
You know, judging the fact that no-one had ever heard you or knew you, your first song was really important. Because people
decided within a minute whether they were going to hang around or give you their attention. So, your first song, you really
had to make a statement. And with Act of Love, our career began that night and,
although I said we were frigid with nerves before going on, as soon as Charlie played
the riff, I could feel the adrenaline go through me and - JK: Can you swear on this podcast Mark? MM: Go ahead. JK: This sounds fucking great. And I was away. And the band sounded great. Of course, me thinking it
sounded great is one thing, it remained to be seen what the audience thought. JK: But anyway, the long and short of it was, we played about a 30 minute set, walked on to the sound of our own
feet, and when we left there was mayhem - mayhem in a good way. And to get mayhem going on a cold January night, an
unknown band, a Glasgow audience, I remember coming off thinking 'The future's bright.' Now, when I say the future's bright,
what I mean is 'We might get a gig in Dundee, or Edinburgh, or Aberdeen or whatever. I mean, that would be amazing.
And then we'll see how it goes.' And here we are, 44 years later, on this week, or last week, still really pursuing the
same things because I think if you'd said to us back then, if you'd said to me 'What do you want out of this?' We'd no
image of the fame, or the riches, or the rewards that might come - or the experience in its wake - but I'm pretty
sure we would've said to you 'We want to be in a great live band. And we want to take it around the world.' Because we
really did. 'And we want to try and get a life out of it.' And here we are, as I say, more than four decades later, still
attempting to do that.
MM: You certainly did. You recently released a reimagined version of
Act Of Love, one of the first songs you wrote with
Charlie, and you opened the set that night. It's an amazing riff. So why
did you choose to go back to it after all these years? JK: Well, the mistake we made I think, it wasn't a mistake - what happened was it was the first song we played
that night we established, it was the first song on
our demo cassettes that I - about a month later we went into a little
studio, CaVa, there was only one in Glasgow and - it was usually accordion bands and stuff that were there - but we
went in and recorded six songs. And I hitch-hiked to London with the cassettes. A guy in the record shop said 'You just go
down and ask for the A&R guy - I'll give you the address of the record companies and I'll even find you their names.' I
said 'That'll be great.' So with these cassettes, Act Of Love was the
first song on the cassette. JK: So I hitch-hiked down to London. I've got the address, I've got the guy's name. It'll be easy! Of course,
couldn't get through the door. But somehow I managed to drop the cassettes off. Then I went to see my pals who were
living in a squat in Kilburn - by the time I got back, about two weeks later, I was still living at home, I was a kid,
Mum said 'These record companies have been phoning.' I said 'What? Which ones?' She said 'Oh, son I don't know.' I said
'What do you mean?' She never took a note or anything. She said 'Would it be BYG?' I said 'EMI'. 'Oh, maybe EMI son.'
'Or was it CBS?' 'Or DKB? 'Oh Mum!' But she said 'If they really want you, they'll phone you back.' And they did. JK: Act Of Love was the first song on the cassette and so between the gig,
the first song and the cassettes, it was the first anyone heard of our band. A year later, by the time we had a record deal,
we'd moved on and we'd written a ton more stuff. And I think we had got bored with it. Amongst the stuff for the debut we
recorded, it just kind of got left out. And I always thought that that was an error. I always thought it was a brilliant
riff. It wasn't a brilliant song but it was a brilliant riff. And given time, one day, we should go back to it. But time passes,
and you never do. JK: And then, at some point during the whole Covid thing, we're working on stuff and I said 'Let's get to this riff.
Let's work out how we can capture the juvenile spirit. But I think with experience and song writing craft now, they'll
be missing parts, let's see if we can stick some new bits in it. And try and make it seamless. And it seems to have worked out.
MM: It took 40 years to get there and it sounds amazing. Are there any other songs from that era you'd
like to revisit? JK: There are songs from the first ten years, maybe. You know, you hear it, and you think 'That's a great riff that.'
Or 'that's a fantastic feel or something.' With the benefit of song writing skill you feel that either the arrangement's
wrong, or ... To answer your question, there's plenty. [Laughs] But, who knows? The good point is just now is - they're
the kind of things you usually do in a period where you're maybe you've not been that active with new stuff, you're
just not that inspired. Sometimes people do a covers record, and I think they're all great things, to keep the muscles
going and all that but we're just so potent just now with new ideas that there's not really been that much time. You've
got a notion: 'Oh, we could do this or we could do that.' But I think while you're still potent with new stuff, you
should get that out first.
MM: One of the songs from those early demos was a song called
The Cocteau Twins which caught the attention of Liz Fraser,
Robin Guthrie and Will Heggie who named their band The Cocteau Twins after hearing the song.
So Simple Minds were inspiring artists from the very beginning. JK: That's true. We used to go through to Grangemouth to play and Guthrie's brother was the promoter. And he
would get us gigs. And we would get to open up for some other bands that were the original prototype for us, really
early on, Ultravox and Magazine, and all that. He was putting them on in Grangemouth - Grangemouth Town Hall - he
knew that was our kind of thing. And, obviously we would send him the cassettes and stuff. So I can only assume his younger
brother, got to cop onto that. But if we have inspired others then, that's a great thing. Because we were certainly
inspired by a whole host and we still are. We still refer to the people: Bowie and Roxy and
Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground. The song we spent ages the other day trying to get
The Velvet Underground piano sound, on a new thing we're working on. So it shows you. JK: You know, your DNA. You take things to begin with and that's the soil you try and grow something of yourself
"After Hamburg last night (thanks to all who came to the show) we get a bit of a break
over the next couple of days before popping up in Portugal (Porto) on Sunday night
followed by Lisbon on Monday." - Jim, 22nd April 2022
bournemouth, telegraph review, brighton, 1981 press release
"It is said that in space no one can hear you scream!
Back on earth no one could hear us play one note of our precious (to us) music over these last two years.
Hence the joy felt at finally being able to return to performing live concerts, where looking out from stage it's apparent that we are not
the only ones feeling that joy.
I had never taken for granted the sensation of witnessing arenas full of people jumping up and down and singing along to our songs. Energised
by the music, and for all I know, possibly forgetting their problems of the day; or the problems of the world dammit?
In any case, it's been nothing short of wonderful to be able to experience all of that once again.
Off to a great start then!
Thanks to all in both London and Bournemouth for making us feel so good these past two nights.
Hope to see you out there somewhere!" - Jim, 1st April 2022
The hits! The moves!
Simple Minds have still got it
Jim Kerr should take out a patent or two. The
Simple Minds singer may be 62, but the stadium rock shapes he endlessly threw throughout this (delayed) opening
night of the band's 40 Years of Hits Tour perfectly sum up his oeuvre and era.
Simple Minds' music is - just like Kerr's cavorting - dramatic, preposterous, overblown and
wildly entertaining all at the same time. As a pop cultural snapshot of the bombastic Eighties, a
Simple Minds concert can't be bettered.
But, as this career-spanning show demonstrated, there's also more to Simple Minds than
Don't You (Forget About Me) and arena earnestness. Before they became global stars
in 1985 (five albums into their career), the Scottish band were post-punk innovators, as aligned to Joy Division and
Kraftwerk in their early years as they were to U2 in their later years. And we got the full gamut here.
The 26-song show opened with recent single Act of Love, followed by two tracks from 1980's
Empires and Dance, an album now hailed as a Krautrock-influenced new wave classic by fans
including the Manic Street Preachers. The band were fantastically tight. Original members Kerr and
guitarist Charlie Burchill were joined by five other members, including
Cherisse Osei on drums, who at times brought a propulsive energy redolent of
Prince's drummer Sheila E, not something one would usually associate with Simple Minds. The hits soon came.
Promised You A Miracle and
Belfast Child were dispatched as though the Nineties never happened.
It was a ballsy move to open a long tour at Wembley Arena, particularly as it was the band's first live show in more than two years.
"Wembley Arena - what a warm-up for Bournemouth tomorrow," Kerr joked.
The show was split into two halves, partly because there was so much to pack in and partly, one suspects, to give the band a breather
(Kerr admitted to being "knackered" at one point). It wasn't surprising, given those moves of his. His
trademark stances included what I'm calling "the blinding light" (hand hovers above head to protect eyes from unseen glare, accompanied by
backwards shimmy), "the pretend lasso" (microphone is twirled above head, accompanied by backwards shimmy), and the "the knee-in-invisible-groin" (knee
is violently raised and shoulders lowered, accompanied by backwards shimmy).
At one point, Kerr did the splits in his skinny jeans, a move that was both astonishing and perhaps
inadvisable for a man who'd be eligible for a free bus pass in his native Glasgow. But Kerr has always been
something of a rock god (as marriages to both Chrissie Hynde and Patsy Kensit - before Liam Gallagher - would attest). Age is
just a number, after all.
What prevented the concert from becoming pompous was the humour with which the band carried themselves. It would be easy for such a show
to sink under the weight of its own occasional grandiosity, but there was levity here too. "Sing it to me in French!.. In Italian!"
Kerr implored during the "La-la-la-la-la" refrain of
Don't You (Forget About Me).
In recent years, Simple Minds have undergone something of a late-career critical re-appraisal. And rightly so. This concert was a
lesson in how it takes patience, astute musical and political antennae and gifted writing chops to shape a legacy. And, of course,
ridiculous stage moves.
4/5 Wembley Arena James Hall The Daily Telegraph
4th April 2022
"Transformation is a recurring theme within Simple Minds.
Starting out we wanted to live our lives being punky, promiscuous, and rampantly hedonistic - and there was an
edge of darkness attached to those times. But that's a whole other story!
Talking of transformation - of a different kind?
We sense it happening in the audience each night of this tour as the music works its spell." - Jim, 5th April 2022
The first Virgin press release for Simple Minds was a slightly bizarre missive. The final sentence
was one of Bruce's more fantastical quotes that Arista were too big for both
Simple Minds and Barry Manilow - so the Minds had to seek pastures new. And then Virgin, anxious to
highlight all the successes of their new signing, ended up promoting the band's last Arista singles, namely both
I Travel and Celebrate.
The mention of Celebrate forced a reappraisal. Later discographies gave an April release date,
suggesting the single was issued to divert attention away from The American, which hit the
shops a month later. Given its mention in this Virgin dispatch, then it was obviously released before that date. This worked
well with the timeline: the master tapes were prepared in January 1981, the single was issued in February 1981, and a stock of several
thousand were sent over to America to catch the excitement around the band's
mini American tour. This made much more sense. Hopefully that wraps up the
Empires And Dance era.
The press release also mentioned a short UK tour hot on the heels of
the USA/Canada visit.
This shows why Virgin were so keen on a 'try-out' session at The Manor in February 1981 with
Steve Hillage to quickly record
a new single. But events quickly overtook these plans: I don't think anyone was happy
with The Manor recording of the The American so it was put on ice; and the situation with
Brian temporarily halted any immediate touring plans in Europe.
SIMPLE MINDS Chase That MANILOW Magic
Simple Minds having split from Arista have signed a long-term worldwide recording deal with
Virgin Records. Scotland's premier disco rockers resisted the offers of several major companies to
sign their lives away with Virgin. Virgin views the signing of the band as a major coup, and
confidently predict Simple Minds will become one of the most important and successful bands in the U.K.
by the end of the year. The band has just recorded a new single
which should see release around April, and depart for a 20 date tour of the U.S. and Canada
immediately after their only scheduled London appearance this year at The Venue on Tuesday, March 3. It's the
band's first American tour, having previously only
played two dates in New York in November '79. The band's last
single I Travel has just entered the American disco chart in Billboard
first week at 80 - purely on import sales. Several thousand copies of the new single
Celebrate have also been imported into the U.S.
The band then undertake a quick sprint around Europe to follow up interest generated by
their major European tour late last year with
Peter Gabriel. Simple Minds return to the U.K. to begin work
on their first album
for Virgin with a tenative release set for around Augsut. The band's manager Bruce Findlay
commenting on the band's decision to sign with Virgin, says he's naturally
delighted to be with the label after considering a number of highly enticing offers from several
major companies. "We are tremendously impressed with Virgin's impact on the U.K. market and the
enthusiasm shown by the label towards the band," he said. "Also we have built up a marvellous
understanding with Ariola and we are particularly pleased that Virgin is licensed by
them in Europe which means we can continue to build on the good work Ariola have already done
in helping to break the band in a market which we feel shows enormous potential. But what really
convinced us to go with Virgin was the eventual realisation that as Arista already
had Barry Manilow and the label wasn't big enough for both of us, Virgin sorely needs
a middle of the road disco band like ourselves to grab our own slice of the Manilow
Virgin Press Release
20th February 1981
stagetimes, wembley, the piano room, the piano room footnote, australia 1981 and 1982, updates to singles, princess street gardens second gig
And so, the long delayed 40 Years Of Hits tour has finally started
again. As I write the band are on stage at Wembley Arena. And as a reminder...
"After a long break - it's going to feel like the first day at school again.
Or rather it will tonight! For tonight is when we thankfully get to begin our tour.
And we really are going to have to go and learn how to do it all again."
"Learn what? Learn how to be a great live band once again of course."
"Not that we haven't been doing some studying in advance. 'Rock school' began for some of us a
heck of a long time ago; and having already performed thousands of concerts, it means we already
know a few things about how to put together 'a good show.'"
"Or at least we did in the past. What about now? Well, you can be the judge of that.
But go easy at first please!"
"You remember the first day of the new term at school right?
It took you a little while to get your bearings again; and how you needed to get back into the rhythm of things.
Your new blazer and new shoes all felt a bit stiff etc. New books and school bag needed to be worn-in a little.
You know what I'm talking about, that's how opening nights on tour feels."
"What else to say?
We could not be more excited at the prospect.
Absolutely fresh and ready to go!
So thanks to all of you who are planning on coming to see Simple Minds, especially those who are
travelling from far and wide. Hope to see you out there somewhere!" - Jim, 31st March 2022
BBC Radio Two's Piano Room provided Simple Minds with the opportunity of picking up
the pieces of the stalled 40 Years Of Hits Tour, and reboot
the whole process with a performance of three songs with the backing of the BBC Concert Orchestra.
There was no hiding in the shadows of a smaller, provincial radio station; or warming up with a series of smaller venue shows.
Piano Room thrust Simple Minds back into the limelight, onto slightly unfamiliar ground with a new orchestral backing,
and provided them with a national showcase for their first live performance in two years.
I had a nagging worry that Jim and Charlie
might have used the Proms arrangements of their hits for the Piano Room. That would've been the easy way out,
giving them time to concentrate on the constantly rescheduled forthcoming tour. Such concerns
evaporated with the first notes of Alive And Kicking, as the song received
a 'gentler' rearrangement than the full-orcehstral bravado of the Proms.
They were loosely linked by a theme, that of the reopening of the world, the removal of the restrictions of the last two years, and, hopefully,
a return to 'normal'. This was introduced by Jim when he spoke to the host, Ken Bruce, about
Alive And Kicking:
KB: That takes you back to 1985 that song. JK: Yeah, it does. Last night I was thinking 'Gosh. In at the deep end tomorrow' because we haven't
played for two years. Hopefully it didn't sound like it? We haven't even been in a room - it's been that awkward over
these two years, as we all know. But it just felt right. And kind of symbolically as well. I think everyone was kind
of feeling - some of the songs and another song we're doing later on [The Walls Came Down] - has kind of
sentiment about it [that] finally we feel alive in the way we used to.
This was reinforced when Jim spoke about the 'new' song:
KB: What's the last song going to be for us today? JK: It's a song called The Walls Came Down. And it also ties into
what we're saying - that walls are coming down,
and hopefully we're all going to get on with life as we once knew it. It's a cover of a band called The Call,
an American band, and we used to tour with them a lot. And they were one of many opening bands who used to blow
us off stage [laughs] and still do. But it's a great, great song and sadly Michael passed away a few years ago
and we still love to keep his spirit alive. And keep the music alive. JK: This is the first time we've played this in public. So this is a genuine debut.
All-in-all, it was a graceful reappearance of the band into the public sphere after two years of relative silence. And
a useful reminder that the tour is about to start.
I don't think there are any Russians,
And there ain't no Yanks.
Just corporate criminals,
Playin' with tanks.
Perhaps the mention of Russians and Yanks was a little too 'cold war' and Jim
wanted to skip those references. Yet, even as the song was being performed, tensions in Europe were running high after
the build up of Russian troops on the borders of Ukraine - and the Russian army invaded two days later. The song, and the
timing of its performance, took on an unexpected, unintentional new relevance.
Larelle (Priptona's Simple Minds Space) suggested that the pictures
taken at the Old University Refectory, Brisbane looked like they came from 1982
(and so the the New Gold Tour) and not the tail end of
the Sons And Fascination Tour where I'd placed them. Angelina, who
originally sent me the photos, couldn't remember the date; and discussions around the photos suggested 1981.
The earlier 1981 date worked as Simple Minds embarked on their own little mini-tour of several venues after
the major attraction of the Icehouse and Divinyls tour finished. This mystery Brisbane gig would've fitted in
But I believed Larelle was right. So I trawelled through the archives. And I found the following old advert:
This confirmed the end of the Icehouse/Divinyls tour. The Adelaide dates were left vague as the venue
had been firebombed and alternative arrangements were being arranged. And there was the final night at Selma's, which
must've been added at the last moment, but this seemed to clear up the
Sons And Fascination Tour.
No mention of Brisbane gig though.
So, that left the New Gold Tour. I recalled I had a pile of
Australian press releases in the archive, and looked through those. And, a list of the Australian gigs was
included - along with the illusive Queensland gig. Mystery now solved - it was a 1982 gig. So those
early Australian gigs are now much clearer.
I'm still filling in the gaps throughout the webiste. And the latest single to get a new, full
write-up is Glitterball.
Summer Sessions, Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, UK 13th August 2022
"We can think of no better way to bring our upcoming UK/European Tour to a climax than performing not one - but now
two shows at Princess Street Gardens, Edinburgh. Maximising on that rare opportunity, we aim to make the additional show
even more special for our fans by playing in full a one-off performance on Saturday 13th August of our career landmark
New Gold Dream (81,82,83,84) plus our greatest hits. All profits
from that show will go to UNICEF - FOR CHILDREN IN UKRAINE." - Simple Minds
the piano room, record store day 2022: 5x5 live, reviews
Don't forget. Simple Minds will be the guests on The Piano Room tomorrow, which will be broadcast
during Ken Bruce'sBBC Radio 2 show.
Simple Minds will perform three tracks - a new song, a classic, and a cover - with members of the
BBC Concert Orchestra accompanying them.
Formed in Glasgow in 1977, Simple Minds are one of the UK's most successful bands, having achieved critical acclaim and a
number of chart-topping albums. First released in 2012, 5x5 Live is a live album
recorded across Europe, featuring recordings of five songs from each of the band's first five albums as well as a selection of bonus tracks.
Highlights include performances of classic songs including
Someone Somewhere (In Summertime),
Glittering Prize and
Theme For Great Cities. The complete album is now released on vinyl for the first time,
pressed on three 180g red, white and blue vinyl exclusively for Record Store Day 2022.
The colours picked for the vinyl has caused some comment. The question you want to ask yourself is: What is the colour scheme of
the album's artwork? Red, white, blue and black. And issuing black vinyl is nothing special. So, red, white and blue it is.
BS:From the album Life In A Day in 1979. The first song I ever heard from
Simple Minds, the opening track from the record, a great song called
Someone. And it's brilliant to welcome back to BBC Radio ScotlandJim Kerr - how are you? JK: Good Billy. Pleasure to be here. You might have to go easy on me because I think this is the first interview
I will have done in 18 or 19 months. So, as you can see, the brain might take a wee bit to get up to scratch. I'm sure once
we get going, we'll get into our old selves.
BS:Another thing you've not done for something like 18 months - through no fault of your own - is like in common
with just about every other band out there - you've not stepped on a stage. And for Simple Minds who spend a lot of their waking hours
living out of a suitcase and going from city to city - has it been tough for the past 18 months in the middle of all this COVID madness?
Not being able to get out and face your audiences? JK: Well it's been mind-blowing. I mean I was saying to you there - this is the first interview I've done in 18 month. The last
interview I did was in Copenhagen and it was the night before we played what was going to be - well,
we did two shows actually. We did a matinee and also an evening show - and we knew
after that, that things were grinding to a halt. Covid had really kicked in then. Places were starting to close down: UK hadn't yet; but
Scandinavia which is where we'd been and where we were - they had already taken the decision; Germany... As we were getting out of
countries the borders were closing three hours later. It was... you just couldn't believe it. JK: But the last interview I did the previous night and it was with the New York Times. And [laughs] the guy said 'So, how do
you think this will pan out? How are you going to get by?' And I said 'Three or four weeks and we'll be back. They'll sort it out.' And
lo-and-behold, as you've just pointed out there, it's coming up for almost two years. We're still on tenterhooks that this year will
allow us to get out and play and do what we do best. And do the thing that we're
most known for.
BS:But during that eighteen months, you and Charlie Burchill, the guitar player from Simple Minds,
have not been idle. Because you've actually been working on new songs and looking ahead to the next record, haven't you? JK: Well that was the instant challenge. As soon as things ground to a halt, we're not good at not doing anything. And really, you couldn't
do anything for the first three or four months because I went right back to Scotland and - I can tell people the night before I left home, I had
dinner with you - actually you're a jinx [laughs] and I think I said to you 'Well, see you in a year's time.' Because that tour was starting in
Scandinavia and it was going to end in Australia in December - ten months later. Well, lo-and-behold, I was back about 10 days later! I just couldn't
believe it. And so [laughs] like everyone else, we were like 'What are we doing?' We were locked up down here - getting out one hour and stuff. JK: But, as you know, I've got a place with a studio in the countryside in Scotland, and we had songs to work on. As you
also know, I've been working on a book for the longest time. And within a few months, Charlie and I managed to -
Charlie was in Holland at the time - we managed to organize some time in a studio in Hamburg - it was still
open and you could still go into Germany at the time - and it was one of the few places where you could work without too much restrictions. And as you
quite rightly say, we pushed on with a record that we keep thinking we've finished, but every time that happens, and we're just about to go
out of the door, and Charlie will come up with a new idea. And we think 'Hang on a minute. That's really good.' But,
for all intents and purposes, we've do have a record finished, I think!
BS:On Monday of this week, you released a single called Act Of Love which we're going to talk about
in detail a bit later on in the interview - and it marked the 44th anniversary since your first ever gig - which
again we'll talk about a bit later on. And I guess that it's just an achievement in itself that 44 years on from this crazy notion away back in 1977/78
that you're still writing songs and you're still performing and you're still as hungry as you were then now. JK: Every time you put out a new record, every time you put out a new song, you feel excited, you feel - in your own little way - you feel another
milestone passed or another chapter in the story written. But this one really does feel something because the numbers start to stop me in my tracks now - as you say 44
years. Not only just to still be playing and performing but you're putting out a record - or putting out a song - with the attitude of
Act Of Love. We just love it. I don't know if you're meant to say when you put out a record that you love it, but the energy,
it's classic Simple Minds. JK: If you wanted a new song to kick start a new phase, hopefully kick start a new year, much better than the past two years, a feel-good song, full of energy,
optimism, a young spirit. I think we managed to get all of that in the song. And it's a good taster - even though the song itself won't go into the story - even though
it was one of the first songs we ever wrote, it says a lot about where we are, once again, right now in terms of the sound of the other stuff we've been working on.
BS:Let's go back to the very beginning because we're going to be talking about the early years on the program tonight.
How did music start for you? How did it come onto your radar? I know that Charlie had an older brother who had a record collection
and he had access to that - he could dip and out. But you were the oldest child in your family - so were you watching Top Of The Pops?
Was it Whistle Test? Was it going into town on a Saturday and scraping up money to buy a record. When did it kind of start for you in
serious terms? JK: I suppose it really started - I'm not an obvious Beatles fan in the sense that there's real Beatles fans and they know everything about
The Beatles and all that - I don't think I've ever, in all the times we've spoken about music - I don't think I've ever discussed a Beatles album
with you but - I was a Beatles fan. Because my mum was a huge Beatles fan. And she would get the records and [laughs] well you knew what she was like,
she was a young woman at the time, she'd put them on and she'd dance and jump around. So it started with that. JK: But my Dad, on the other hand, I don't know where he got it from. My Dad knew some guys that were in the merchant Navy and we know the story that a lot of
those guys - those Glasgow guys - they went all around the world and they came back with records - the blues, soul, country. And I think my Dad worked with a few guys
who introduced him to it. So, on one hand, with The Beatles, we had Johnny Cash and Hank Locklin and Patsy Cline - actually Glasgow's very
big on that, Glasgow's huge on... we called it Country and Western then, Country Music - so our house was a mixture of that. Really my Dad's idols were
Fats Domino and Little Richard - so it from that, it was just music in the background, music you jumped up and down to, and music - you know
your neighbours and everybody and aunties and uncles would come on the Saturday night when the pubs shut - the pubs shut in Glasgow then at 9 o'clock - everyone
would go up to each other's house and have a sing-song. They would be the artists, that would be the music. JK: But by the age of eleven and twelve - you're right, I didn't have an older brother - it's funny that, I was thinking of the other guys in Simple Minds,
they were all the babies in the family, I was the only oldest brother. They'd gone into music through their brothers but - as you well know, I lived in this high-rise
block in Toryglen, Glasgow, I was really lucky because the elder guys - when I say elder guys it was three or four years older than me - they were all into music. You
know you got in the elevator and some day he would be holding a T-Rex album Electric Warrior or they would have Yes or, of course, Zeppelin. I
remember going in one day at school and died: this guy was holding something under his arm and it was the first time I'd ever set eyes on Alice CooperKiller. And he said to me 'Are you going to see this guy? This guy hangs himself on stage... there's skeletons, there's snakes.' What's going on here? But those
elder guys were 'Come up and listen to it.' So my education into music came through all of them. Going right up through Springsteen - I remember hearing
Springsteen way, way before Born To Run. It was Asbury Park. Sparks, another of our favourites, I knew them from two albums prior when they
signed to Island and all of that. So, it was really through that. JK: My first - and I don't mind saying it was a crush because it was a crush - was Bolan. It was like 'This is our Jesus.' Well, that's what it seemed.
There was nothing like seeing Bolan on Top Of The Pops. Just nothing like it. We thought it was Jesus. But somebody says 'It's only John The Baptist.' Jesus
was coming a year later. [Laughs]
BS:We're going to talk more about the early years but let's have the earliest track we ever heard from you in a musical sense,
let's go back to 1977, on the Chiswick record label, a single by Johnny And The Self Abusers, this is the classic
sound of Saints And Sinners:
BS:We're talking about your early musical education Jim. In 1977 there's the punk rock explosion. You think
'I wanna be in a band.' What gave you the confidence to do that? Because you'd had a stab at it. There was the famous, or the now
in-famous, Biba-Rom!, who, once upon a time, played the children's Christmas party. What made you - because you
were a pretty shy guy by your own admission - what gave you the confidence to think (a) I'm going to write songs and (b) I'm going to stand up in front of an
audience, in front of an microphone, and be the singer in a band. JK: I don't think I'll ever be able to work that out. Because, to put it in context, it's different now. And it's been different for a long, long time. But, back
then, we didn't know anybody who did that. It's not like 'Well, we saw your cousin doing that' or your sister's boyfriend was in a band or something - we didn't
know anybody who did that. Well, I think what it was, was we were a gang from school. I can't really separate myself from
Tony Donald and those guys who were in my class at school -
Brian McGee. Everyone was starting to get into the music then. But they were going the extra mile. They were buying guitars - well,
their Mums and Dads were buying them - guitars and basses and drum kits and all of that; and at the same time, the real big thing was going to see bands play live. Because
Glasgow now - and the way Glasgow's been for the last few decades, you know everyone wants to go now, it's a happening city: a city of arts, culture and all that - but, you'll
be my witness, it wasn't like that back then. There really wasn't much going on. BS:We did have the famous Glasgow Apollo. JK: That was the temple. So we had this concert hall and we had the audiences as well - because still - between the venues I say it really was the audiences - the
audience really made it. It seemed to be that a lot of bands would start their tour in Glasgow. I remember right you'd maybe see Roxy Music on
The Whistle Test on the Tuesday night or Genesis with Peter Gabriel and then the Wednesday the music papers would come - each day there would
be another paper in - NME, Melody Maker, Sounds - and then Friday - I think the agents said 'Send them off to the Jocks to start it, you'll be a bit
rusty the first night' and stuff. On the other hand, the opening night, arguably, was the most exciting night of the tour. So I just started to go to gigs then - there
was nothing like it before and there's been nothing like it since. There's nothing to touch it. A great music concert, to watch great, great performers. JK: I certainly didn't think 'I'm going to do that.' Nothing like it. But I did think 'I'll do anything to be involved in this world. This planet. I'll do anything
to be involved in it. So, lo-and-behold, the guys at school - I just started off by, you could say, encouraging them, maybe, get it together, find the rehearsal place.
We used to rehearse in St. Bridges School - the primary school - I was always pushing for things to happen. And we got all the pieces together. The one thing we couldn't
find was a singer. And one night - I guess Dutch courage - or maybe I'd been drinking too much cider - I said 'OK. I'll sing. But as long as you promise not to tell anyone'
Because it was so embarrassing. Charlie reminds me that we're still waiting for the real singer to come. I was just keeping
someone's seat warm. [Laughs]
BS:And when you moved on from there to Johnny And The Self Abusers, it was almost like two bands in the one. Did you
think you had a serious chance of doing something? Because, of course, famously when you signed the record deal with Chiswick, which
was a pretty happening little indie label in West London at that time, Saints And Sinners was released on the day that the band
split up. So why did it never go beyond that? JK: The Johnny in Johnny And The Self Abusers was John Milarky, who
everyone in Glasgow knows, and was then in the Cuban Heels and a really talented guy. It was his band really - he sort of pulled
Charlie and I into it. He knew we were into the same kind of music. By this time we were hitchhiking up
and down to London to see Doctors Of Madness and Ultravox and it was just the start of the post-punk - and
John had this vision for a band and the same thing - got the gig and then said "It's happening in two weeks' time. Are you in?" And I
think we were the first, or the only punks in Scotland - that side of the city. And before we knew it, he'd drafted
Charlie and I in. And I have to say, usually when people start a band, and usually when they talk
about their first gig,
it's terrible because there's two men and a dog there. And it all goes badly. And nobody cares. And you find out the reality and your dreams are shattered - and that's
the first gig. JK: However, in the case of Johnny And The Self Abusers, you'll remember this, again the hand of fate came in - there was a
technicality at the time in Glasgow where there'd been a bit of a riot at The Stranglers gig... BS:At the City Halls, yeah. JK: And the city fathers had taken it upon themselves - it was a technicality where visiting punk bands had been banned. Well, we weren't visiting. [Laughs] We were
from there. And so this Johnny And The Self Abusers - we put our posters up all over the record shops and all that - had our first
gig and I thought 'There'll be two men with a dog and some of their pals.' And we turned up - I just wanted to get in the van, it was
McGee's van, and drive away, because there was a queue around the block. Because every punk in Glasgow who'd been starved of
that kind of vibe, had turned up. From the very first chord, the place went mental - it just went mental as an expression: 'Here it was, punk, local punks.' To say
we were bad is an understatement but that didn't' matter. JK: I maintain that within that moment - Charlie and I knew the band was a bit of a joke - that wouldn't go anywhere. But
there was something in that first minute - we maintain that we looked at each other and went 'Hang on a minute. Imagine you could do this for real.' And so I maintain
that the summer, for then on in, was a bit of a learning curve to what would be the real thing - which was Simple Minds coming six
months later. BS:We're going to talk about that in a few moments time but let's go back to 1979, the band's debut album was a great
record called Life In A Day, and this is one of the big singles from it, Simple Minds and the sound of
BS:We were talking just before Chelsea Girl there
Jim about you thinking - looking at Charlie and thinking
'This could be serious' but when you sat down with him, in the high flats of Toryglen, and to write songs, which I presume
was something neither of the two of you had never done before, there was a bit of the old Lennon & McCartney about it, inasmuch as
it was quite literally nose to nose. You would sit at the kitchen table, and he would have his guitar and you would have your
notebook and you would try and come up with something. How did it work? JK: Well it was very much like that. And to add to it, we had no recording equipment. This was before the Walkman. And we didn't have the money for a
reel-to-reel tape and all that stuff. So we would sit on the couch at my Mum and Dad's house - in
Charlie's room, his brothers had guitars so we'd go over there - really depending on when the houses
were quiet. Charlie would have a few chords and I was 'What about this bit? And what about this bit? Maybe
if that middle bit was the start bit?' We didn't know what a bridge was, we'd hardly know what a verse and chorus was, we had no teaching of
any sort, there was no mentors. JK: Then we'd go back to it two days later. And we would have an argument. Because we couldn't remember what bit was what bit. Somehow, we
managed to get these songs, one by one, that excited us. Really to this day, that's the only thing you can go on. Because music's subjective. Nobody
knows. You think you know. JK: That was really the genesis of our song writing partnership. Which I have to say, pretty soon afterwards,
Act Of Love which I guess you'll come up to, I think was about the third or fourth song we wrote.
It's time to confess - people would say to me 'At what point did you think Simple Minds had a chance of going beyond just being a local band?' I
always used to say 'We didn't think like that. It was just the next gig and all that stuff.' But with
Act Of Love, and the riff in Act Of Love, when
Charlie came up with that, I remember thinking 'Well, if
Charlie can come up with this stuff then maybe there's a chance.' So I guess people talk about football
players, they see a young kid, and you say 'It's there already. It's already there at that age.' And I would say, in the case of
Charlie Burchill, it was just there.
BS:Things happened very quickly. You released Johnny And The Self Abusers'Saints And Sinners in November of '77, split up that day, and then on the 17th January 1978, you
get your big real break when you were part of a four band bill - a punk rock show
at Satellite City in Glasgow. And top of the bill were Steel Pulse who at that time were in the
lower reaches of the charts with a single called Ku Klux Klan. Second on the bill were Rev Volting and the Back Stabbers, who a few years later
morphed into James King and the Lone Wolves, first on the bill were a group called The Nu Sonics who went on to become Orange Juice and
sandwiched somewhere in the middle was Simple Minds. First of all, how did you get the gig because it must've been a big deal because
Satellite City would've been the biggest place you've ever played. JK: I remember David Henderson - you know
David and Jaine Henderson were a big part of our gang - BS:Your sound engineer and your lighting engineer. JK: Exactly. [After] Johnny And The Self Abusers, the summer was over. And it was time to get real.
And we found ourselves rehearsing in this dilapidated factory in the Gorbals where the guy very kindly let us use the attic to make as much noise - more
importantly it was free. And I remember we'd only been in about two weeks. And, by this time, it's possibly the start of December. And
David comes in and say "I've got a gig for you. I've got a gig. It's Satellite City on the 17th January" - which
was just over a month away. If David hadn't done that, I think there's a lot of people, sometimes they start off, and
giving up on doing it for the first time, which is so important. And in our case, to be up there - I remember how much it meant to us. I mean, did I
think we were ready? Probably not. But with songs like Pleasantly Disturbed which I still think, arguably,
is still one of Simple Minds' greatest songs, and Act Of Love was our opener. It was always important
to have ... your first song was really, really important and Act of Love was the first song of the set - because
when people don't know your stuff. JK: I remember walking on that night. We walked on to the sound of our own footsteps. But Charlie hit
that riff. And I could feel the energy in me straight away. And before I knew it, we were off. And although I say we weren't ready, I think we already
had something about us. We had a look - all those years going to watch great bands... When I say going to watch great bands people say 'What is a
great band? What makes a great band?' You well know, that after three years of going to The Apollo, you could tell the difference between a good live
band and a great live band. And if you were a front person, you have to have something a wee bit different from you - I mean years of watching
Alex Harvey and Steve Harley and Bryan Ferry and all of that. You had to have an attitude and you had to have a sound. I think we
already had that, under our belt from our first gig. And fortunately, people responded to it. BS:Now you opened the show with Act Of Love. It was one of a six song set that you played. And you weren't very punk rock.
You were more art rock than punk rock than anything else. And shortly afterwards, a few months later, you found yourselves in Ca Va
studios in the basement of St. Vincent Street, Glasgow, and you actually recorded
some of your first ever demos. We've actually got the
Act Of Love demo and I'm going to let you hear a little of it.
BS:What was going through your mind? Because 18 months earlier you hadn't been anywhere near a recording studio. And you're
suddenly in a proper place with proper equipment, there's an engineer through the glass, and you're essentially making a record. So
when you hear that early recording of Act Of Love, what goes through your mind? JK: Well, a lot of the things you say summon up the excitement of that. Here you are in these hallowed places: In a recording studio.
Again, we'd never met anyone who'd been in a recording studio. And there we were, not only with the clock ticking, I think we had two hours, maybe three
hours. I mean, most of us were on the dole so I think my Dad gave us some money, Brian McGee's Dad put up money - so
all of that's great, but on the other hand you think 'This is it.' So it's your O-levels, it's your Highers, it's your driving test. It's everything at the
one time. Because coming out of there - in your hand with a cassette that's... Again with David Henderson, we
hitch hiked to London, and went round dropping the cassettes off. And everything that's happened in our life is a result of what happened
in that day, in that moment, in the track you just played there. JK: But for me, listening to it there, I think they already sound great. They sound great. McGee sounds
great. Duncan Barnwell ... Maybe it's just me, maybe it's because I'm a big fan of Simple Minds - I
dunno - they just sound great. And that's a demo.
BS:A few months later you were lucky enough to get a record deal with Bruce Findlay's label
Zoom that went through Arista.
And you find yourself in The Townhouse in London, which is a real proper studio, you're there with a named producer John Leckie.
And you start working on songs for what became Life In A Day. Why did
Act of Love not make it on the album? Did it fall through the cracks
or did you just think at that time you had better songs and it was just pushed aside. JK: I think that's exactly what happened. It was our opening song - it was our big attitude song. It always went down well live. You
made a statement with it. But I think we started being so prolific that every time a new song came up, well another song would get shunted to the side.
'We'll look at it later'.' And quite often that happens. And you always think 'I'll go back - we can always go back to it - that's a great riff' and
invariably you don't. But, finally, we had the opportunity to do so. BS:Well, let's hear it now. Released on Monday to celebrate the 44th anniversary of that now legendary gig, on the
17th January 1978, at Satellite City in Glasgow, here's
Simple Minds with their brand new 2022 version of Act of Love.
BS:Things really took off very quickly in 78 going into 1979, you're recording
an album, you're
going out on tour, you
played the Apollo - I remember you playing the Apollo one night - I was there - with Siouxsie And The Banshees with Spizzoil and then
I think - I'm correct in saying - you put the gear in the van and went to another gig in Falkirk - is that right?JK: In Edinburgh we opened for The Pleasers - they were hot to trot at the time, front cover of the NME and such. But within a
few months of signing to Arista Records, we found ourselves on The Old Grey Whistle Test - the iconic, legendary music show that we had
sat - as I mentioned earlier - and watched all these amazing people. And there we were under that iconic sign, still not having played a gig
outside of Scotland. Our gigs were still in Alloa, Arbroath, Stonehaven, Aberdeen, Falkirk, Stirling. BS:And you played with Generation X sometime didn't you? JK: We played with Generation X in - we opened for Generation X in Falkirk. And I remember, they were the most glamourous thing
I'd ever seen. We stood with duffle coats on, watching them getting off the bus. I mean, Billy Idol, he just looked like a Greek God. It took us
about ten minutes to blow them off stage, it just ... they weren't very good. JK: You and I'll have an argument now [Laughs] BS:We'll be arguing into next week. It'll go on for hours and hours. But it happened very quickly for you. And you get
to the 1st April - April Fool's Day - that's got to be prophetic, in 1979, and you release
Life In A Day and it's got the
title track on it. And it's got
Someone which we played at the start of the program. And it's got
Chelsea Girl, it's got
Wasteland on it. And
a whole load of other great tracks. But it almost seemed very unusual that within three or four months, you were releasing another
album, in September of 1979,
Real To Real Cacophony. Did you think at the moment the record came out, you'd
already almost outgrown Life In A Day. JK: I can tell you the story on that. When we were making
Life In A Day: on one hand it was really exciting - you mentioned earlier
being in these amazing studios and all the equipment and hearing your sound coming out of this - this beautifully produced
sound - and John Leckie, famous producer, all that was great; but I had this inkling - there
was something about it I didn't like - and I couldn't articulate it. I just didn't know what it was. But everyone was coming
down and saying 'It sounds good. Cheslea Girl sounded good.' And it did sound good in a way.
But it just didn't - Simple Minds also had a darker side, Simple Minds also had an art rock side - I think, for me, it
pushed too much the pop side. You could see why people would want to do that. But I couldn't articulate it until we'd finished the
album, we'd mixed it, we were getting in the van to drive back up to Glasgow, and somebody said 'Have a listen to this on the way up.
You'll like this.' And it was Joy Division'sUnknown Pleasures. And I just thought 'Awww, Jees. We've blown it.' It was
raw, it sounded like it was done for a fiver [laughs] - well, it was done in Stockport Studios or something. And some of it reminded
me of some of the demo recordings we'd done, or some of the vibes we'd created live. JK: So I got back after listening to Joy Division and thinking 'We're so not happening. This is what it should be.' It
reminded me of our earlier recordings and some of the vibes we'd created live. And I just felt our debut had been over-produced: it was
too shiny, too glossy, too well-done, too poppy - they said there's no way they're going to ditch the album, you're crazy, you'll
have to go on and write your next one and perhaps bring out all these other dimensions that you're talking about. And, so as you say,
within six months, we had Real To Real and that started to establish us as, not just
being a mainstream fodder.
BS:We're going to be seeing you very, very soon because after a long, long period you're going to
finally be playing,
with a lot of luck, fingers crossed in Scotland. Looking forward to being back on stage in Scotland again? JK: Absolutely. I mean we're just looking forward to playing of course. Let's go back to the start of the interview, about
how much it means, if you'd asked us, when we made our debut that day, if you'd said to us then 'What's your hopes? What's your
dreams for this? What's your desires?' We didn't know about record sales then, we didn't know about the riches, we didn't know about
the rewards. But I think we would've said to you, 'we want to be in a great live band. We want to take it around the world. And,
[laughs] we want to try and get a lifetime out of it.' I'm sure - I don't think we would've been able to come up with the third, but
I'm sure it would've been in the back of our mind and the fact that, thanks to our fans, people like yourself who's supported us
throughout, all that has come to pass.
BS:Well, forty-four years and counting. I'm sure there's a few more years left in
Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill. We're going
to finish, Jim, with a song and all that you were saying, that you thought
Life In A Day was the more poppy side of Simple Minds,
you walk on stage on the 17th January 1978 at
Satellite City in Glasgow, there's three to four hundred punks there,
they just want to hear punk rock. Charlie's got a violin and a Flying-V guitar and you
play an eight-minute long song called Pleasantly Disturbed. JK: [Laughs] BS:Now if that wasn't taking a chance, I don't know what was. I mean, it was a very adventurous song not only for your
record but your first ever gig. Where did it come from? JK: Well, you know, he's a good friend of yours now, but Steve Harley was a huge influence on Simple Minds. And songs
like Sebastian and some of his epics - I have to think although we could never play like Cockney Rebel, we never had that
kind of talent - but somewhere within the epic-ness in some of his songs and the drama. Unfortunately, just at that time, Glasgow
was a bit on its knees, and drugs, and all that, that had become an everyday norm now. It was just kind of starting then and the
tragedy of it and we pulled Pleasantly Disturbed out of that. BS:Let's hear it now then. We'll see you very, very soon. And thank you very much indeed for joining us on the programme.
Don't forget Act Of Love, the brand new single from Simple Minds was released on Monday.
And let's go back to 2012 the 5x5 Live box-set
and this is a brilliant version of Pleasantly Disturbed. BS:Thanks very much Jim. JK: Thank you.
: Surely, the first Simple Minds song Billy heard was Act Of Love which
opened the show at Satellite City? : I believe the last interview Jim had was with Todd Richards in September 2020.
Which matches up with the 18 months quoted. : Can't confirm a gig at Falkirk. Generation X yes, but at the Astoria in Edinburgh on the 10th August 1978. And,
Johnny And The Self Abusers also supported Generation X at The Pantile Hotel in
East Lothian on the 19th August 1977.
themes for great cities book review
THEMES FOR GREAT CITIES
A New History of Simple Minds
27th January 2022 - hardback/eBook - £20.00
New Light On Old Ground
"This book will not endeavour to tell the entire story of Simple Minds, an epic tale spanning more than four decades. It
is foremost the story of a band becoming a band, celebrating the work they made while still finding out what they were capable of.
It covers a period of transition that lasted several years, a time of constant change and almost continuous playing. Within that,
naturally, resonances travel and reassert themselves. There is much here, I hope, that is relevant to the Simple Minds of today,
to their journey to a still-evolving present, and the music and creative choices they continue to make. I hope these pages facilitate a wider
understanding and appreciation of a band that has rarely settled into being merely one thing."
Graeme Thomson sets out his objectives and scope in the prelude of Themes For Great Cities: A New History Of Simple Minds. But he
could've simply replaced it with one stark assertion: that a new serious biography was long overdue, and he was going to deliver it. A
stalwart of noted musical biographies, including Kate Bush and George Harrison, Thomson's name would've been familiar to
readers of The Spectator, The Guardian and Uncut; and for the latter, he took on the recording of
Promised You A Miracle, part of the promotional gossip around
Celebrate: The Greatest Hits +. Therefore, he was exceptionally qualified for the role.
It's a substantial book, weighing in at around 350 pages, almost double the size of the previous contenders to the band's biographical crown.
These two main references, namely Alfred Bos'The Race Is The Prize (1984) and Adam Sweeting'sSimple Minds (1988), were
penned decades ago. Both rode the meteoric rise of Simple Minds' popularity in the mid-1980s; and both were constrained by the (then) short
duration of the band's existence. Yet, at the turn of that decade, and - as it turned out - the turn of the band's fortunes, the serious
biographical contenders dried up. Thomson's new biography is the first in the last three decades and he has the advantage of the group's
lengthy longevity, and the relatively new reappraisal of their early works, to fall back upon. Early
Simple Minds is hip again; thanks to a new wave of musical devotees and Simple Minds themselves embracing their early catalogue. It
was time to look back.
Kerr sets the stage in a conversation with Thomson: "The Simple Minds story has been too
condensed. After Live Aid and
Don't You (Forget About Me) there hasn't been quite the credit for those first few records.
I think they contain some really special music. I can hear the flaws but there's something about the spirit and imagination in them that feels good.
They draw upon such a wide range of influences ... but the spirit of it was always Simple Minds." And so
Kerr sets the scope of the book: the first few records, spread across three hundred pages, given a
chance to breathe again.
It's a fast ride through the band's initial eight years, first describing Kerr and
Burchill's forays onto stage (as the sketchy and previously undocumented
Biba-Rom!) to the globe-trotting stadium tour of
Once Upon A Time. Ian Rankin, quoted on the dust cover, describes the book as "Thrilling" - an odd
adjective to use for a band biography, but perfectly apt. Thomson's prose never lets up and he has made the band's journey thrilling and exciting - the
book does deserve the well-worn epithets of 'page turner' and 'couldn't put it down.' Even those who know the story will find a new sense of
urgency within the writing.
The narrative perfectly hits the right tone, adding colour to Sweeting's straight prose and culling the unnecessary digressions of
Bos. The breathless retelling of the band's history is punctuated by guest chapters, where other luminaries such as
Bobby Gillespie (Primal Scream), James Dean Bradfield (The Manic Street Preachers) and
Iain Cook (Chvrches) wax lyrical about the band's earlier records shaping their work and careers; whilst
Malcolm Garret flips through the artwork and expands on his classic sleeve designs.
The narrative is also interrupted by two sets of colour pictures. These are mostly completely new: either candid shots from band members,
hired hands and producers; or from unused and rejected photo sessions. There's little of the glossy PR that fans will know well and even
die-hards will be surprised at some of the hitherto unpublished images. Even the familiar photo opportunity on the freezing Renfrew ferry for the
Waterfront video offers a new perspective with a shot of the crew in front of the band.
The question for the devoted fan is whether Thomson steps in Bos' and Sweeting's footsteps or dramatically takes his own course.
Sweeting's unofficial Simple Minds, published in the post-euphoric fall-out from Live In The City Of Light,
became the definitive guide; a steady-as-she-goes foray through the band's history, not accustomed to the flights of fancy indulged by
Bos's often baffling official biography. Thomson charts a steady course between these extremes and picks up enough additional flotsam
and jetsam to embellish the narrative, or in some circumstances, rewrite it afresh.
But there is a problem. Bos and Sweeting were not dealing with a span of four decades, grappling with a potential, hefty volume, so
could fit the band's history within their slimline books Thomson's solution was to limit the scope, focus on the bare necessities, the adventures
of five working class lads from Glasgow who took on the world and succeeded. Yet his jumping off point seems arbitrary, abandoning the band after
the worldwide domination of Once Upon A Time, with
the live album reduced to a mere couple of lines. Although he left them at the height of their
success, it feels that he jumped too soon.
Perhaps the place to stop would've been when the collaborative unit, the seeds which produced those early influential and ground-breaking albums,
actually collapsed, revealing just Kerr and Burchill in the dust. An
extra chapter to examine Street Fighting Years, the further erosion of the band, and the departure of
MacNeil has he literally drove into the sunrise after the tour, would've sealed the deal and concluded
with a more satisfying 'End Of Part One.'
There's very little here for those wanting the history of Simple Minds over the last three decades: a postscript picks up the story with
5X5 Live and mentions
Big Music and
Walk Between Worlds - but it's almost as if Simple Minds didn't exist been 1990 and 2010.
There's more than enough new material to make this book indispensable for the die-hard fan. As an early history of Simple Minds during their first
decade then it's now the authoritative, definitive guide. I hope there are plans to continue the story into the 1990s but until then,
Thomson's biography has shed new light on this old, much traversed ground. What is needed now is the demystification of the 1990s and beyond.
Simon Cornwell 2022
themes for great cities book review, act of love single, billy sloan show
The forthcoming Themes For Great Cities by Graeme Thomson gets the full-page review treatment in the latest
Mojo (March 2022, #340). Under the title Urban Legends, Tom Doyle reviews the lastest biography, giving it
an enthusiastic thumbs-up with 4/5, along with a brief description, and three facts pulled from the pages under 'What We've Learnt.'
(Apparently The Cocteau Twins naming themselves after that song wasn't such common knowledge after all).
I've also got a review copy and will be posting my thoughts soon.
And - a first for Simple Minds - was a lyric video for the
new single. This took its cues from the single's artwork, having the look of a lo-tech animated punk fanzine.
Plus Act Of Love also received its first radio play, with Steve Wright exclusively playing the song on BBC Radio Two
"My special guest on this week's show is Jim Kerr of
Simple Minds who joins me to talk about his band's great new single,
Act Of Love."
"And he looks back at those early days playing in venues like The Mars Bar, supporting
Siouxsie And The Banshees and Generation X with Billy Idol before recording their
classic debut album Life In A Day."
"If you're going to dream... You might as well dream big. Dream impossible dreams even!"
As always, I enjoyed talking to journalist/radio presenter Billy Sloan.
Few know our story as much as Billy does.
He was there at our first ever gig - and I've no doubt he'll be there again this year when
we get back out on tour.
Coinciding with the 44th anniversary of Simple Minds' debut gig, we reminisced about events leading up that night,
as well as the formative days of Simple Minds. Discussed also the progress with
the recording of our next album, as well as the desire to revamp/rewrite
Act Of Love - released earlier this week.
Mixed by Alan Moulder (Suede, Arctic Monkeys, The Killers),
Act Of Love is a vivid reimagining of one of the first songs
Jim Kerr and guitarist Charlie Burchill
wrote together. It speaks of where Simple Minds have been and where they are heading. Honouring the youthful
passion and belief which sparked the band into life, it pulses with the desire which continues to drive
Burchill to create thrilling new music.
The track is an act of time travel, sweeping across four decades in just a few exhilarating minutes.
Jim Kerr explains: 'Over the years people have asked: When did you think
Simple Minds had the potential to make it? My stock answer was always, Oh, we didn't really think about that.
But I realise now that I wasn't telling the truth. I believed we had something special as soon as I heard
Charlie play the riff on
Act Of Love.'
Act Of Love is synonymous with the beginning of the Simple Minds story.
It was the first song played at the Satellite City show in January 1978,
and the opening track on the demo tape that won the band a record
deal later that year. 'I always loved the song,' says Kerr. 'To all
intents and purposes, it was the first thing anyone heard of Simple Minds. It became our rallying cry, our banner.'
As Simple Minds established themselves as the hottest property on the Scottish post-punk scene,
Act Of Love became a live favourite. 'We believed in it, but would anyone
else?' says Kerr. 'It was so great when they did. It was the oxygen we
needed to continue.'
Life moved fast back then. By the time Simple Minds recorded their debut album,
Life In A Day, early in 1979, the song had
'disappeared into the mist' without ever being properly recorded. 'Through the years, I always wanted to go back to it,' says
Kerr. In 1980 the singer recycled the title phrase as the opening line to
Celebrate, the electro-blues juggernaut from
Simple Minds' extraordinary third album, Empires And Dance.
Meanwhile, bootlegs of the 1978 demos ensured that Act Of Love was
treasured among diehard fans.
Four decades, numerous hit singles and 60m record sales later, Kerr and
Burchill have finally returned to the song. A couple of years ago, while
Burchill was in Thailand on a busman's holiday, he sent
Kerr the outline of an updated version of the track. 'It was
Act Of Love with a new bit, and it sounded great.'
While recording the next Simple Minds album in Hamburg during 2020 and 2021, the follow up to 2018's acclaimed
Walk Between Worlds, periodically they returned to
Act Of Love. 'We tinkered around with it,' says
Kerr. 'When we listened to the original demo, we loved its spirit
and its general form, but it sounded like a youth club band song. How could we do that now, adding extra pieces
without losing the essence?'
Act Of Love takes the 1978 version to new places. The original
rattled along with the youthful energy one would expect from fans of The Velvet Underground,
Magazine and Roxy Music. In 2022, the killer riff and chorus melody remain, bolstered by pulsing
synths and a surging new section in which Kerr sings poignantly to his
younger self: 'A born believer / Head full of plans / Got nothing to lose / So much to reveal.'
'I was thinking about the excitement of what we were setting out to do. We would rehearse in the afternoon
in a derelict building in the Gorbals and I'd walk past Govanhill Library, thinking about the idea of the muse: a
voice within that will appear and provide inspiration. That's what the song was about originally. Now I'm looking back,
reflecting on how the belief was real. When Charlie played that riff, it
made me think we could do this. From that belief becomes your attitude, your body language, the whole
culture of the band.'
A bridge between Simple Minds' glittering past and still-evolving future,
Act Of Love is a reassertion of faith.
The song has again become a 'rallying cry', this time for fans who have waited two years
for the group to re-commence their world tour.
Curtailed in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic, it is due to start again in the spring.
'What a thing: merging the very first Simple Minds song and where we are now,' says
Kerr. 'There's a story there. I think we've managed to tell it well.'
JK: However, we'd written these songs, one of which was called
Pleasantly Disturbed which - and I can say this, because I'm talking musically more than lyrically so I'm not being
big headed - but I thought it was a master piece that Charlie had written. He'd really come up with something there. So I knew
we had a great end to the set but I wasn't quite sure about the 25 minutes previously. However, a couple of days before the gig, Charlie
came up with this riff for a song called Act Of Love and just hearing it coming out of the amplifier for the first time, I
just thought "I think we're going to be OK here. I think this is going to work." But it's not until you walk on stage, to the sound of your own feet, and welcomed
with two hand claps...
Interview with Billy Sloan BBC Radio Scotland
2nd November 2019
'Over the years people have asked: When did you think
Simple Minds had the potential to make it? My stock answer was always, Oh, we didn't really think about that.
But I realise now that I wasn't telling the truth. I believed we had something special as soon as I heard
Charlie play the riff on
Act Of Love.' - Jim.
Act Of Love was one of the first songs written for the first post-Abusers line-up of
Simple Minds. It was written by Charlie's
in early January 1978, a couple of days before the band's first gig at Satellite City.
It was completely dominated by one of Charlie's distinctive
guitar riffs, which drove the entire song, and underpinned the verses and its limited choruses.
It opened their first gig at Satellite City,
therefore becoming the first ever song played by the fledgling group.
Unfortunately no recordings of Act Of Love by the all-guitar early line-up of
Simple Minds exist. By the time
it was demoed in May 1978,
both Mick MacNeil and
Derek Forbes had joined the group, adding their own signature parts to
the track's basic sound. Their limited time with the band showed, particularly with
MacNeil's arrangement, which was just a staccato
single-note for the versus, and a straightforward follow of the melody for the choruses.
The unofficial recording
from the Mars Bar in July 1978 revealed how much
the song had evolved. Not only were MacNeil and
Forbes filling out its simplistic structure with
more elaborate lines, but a police siren was added to parts of the song, adding to its urgent,
hurried progression. Whether this was prompted by, or prompted, the use of a blue police light
in a translucent head which spun around as an early, primitive light show is unknown.
The song's gradual relegation through the set-list during the rest of 1978 suggested it was slowly
falling from grace. From pole-position in January 1978, it had dropped back to mid-set by July 1978, and
had disappeared from the ranks altogether by the winter. By the time of the recording of
Life In A Day, it was either forgotten or dropped.
Tape box logs from the album sessions reveal that Act Of Love was never officially recorded.
It was formally officially released on the The Early Years 1977-78 CD in
March 1998. Questions over legalities, especially the financing of demo tape,
saw the CD being swiftly withdrawn.
It wasn't entirely forgotten however. One possibly extremely oblique reference was found in the run-out groove of
Lostboy's debut album where an extremely
knowledgeable engineer wrote 'ACT OF LOVE' in the run-out. Alternatively, it could've been a nod to the first line
of Celebrate. But given
Lostboy's reference to early
Simple Minds, especially by covering such rarities as
New Warm Skin, then the etching was probably a homage to
And Jim, probably searching as far back as possible,
namechecked Act of Love in a Walk Between Worlds interview,
suggesting it had early potential and could be reworked and recorded in the future. This was in response to
some criticism of using ideas and shelved demos from older albums for new releases - in doing so,
Jim probably picked the oldest bona-fide Simple Minds song he could think of.
"Two nights ago Charlie and I were coming back from a radio interview we did
in London. In the car, we started talking about the first gig we ever did which
was forty years ago last week. And we spoke about a song we opened the set with. It was a song called, Act Of Love - it never made
it onto an album. But a light bulb went on in our heads, and we thought "That was an amazing riff. We should go back to that." And
we really can't wait to go back to it. That song could be the record breaker that could turn up forty-two years later on an album
if we sort it out. You're right some songs do have a long gestation period, but that doesn't mean that they are old songs - it just
means that they are works in progress."
One of the ideas for memorabilia to be included with the Heart Of The Crowd book
was a one-sided 7" featuring a newly recorded version of the song. Unfortunately the concept was dropped; either it
was rejected out-of-hand or the COVID-19 pandemic made it too logistically difficult to record.
But the genie was out of the bottle, and the long-forgotten song, which Jim
had always wanted to return to, wouldn't leave them alone. While recording the
next Simple Minds album in Hamburg during 2020 and 2021, they periodically returned to
the song. 'We tinkered around with it,' says Jim.
'When we listened to the original demo, we loved its spirit
and its general form, but it sounded like a youth club band song. How could we do that now, adding extra pieces
without losing the essence?'
It was finally nailed by Charlie on a holiday in Thailand. He sent
Jim the outline of an updated version of the track. 'It was
Act Of Love with a new bit, and it sounded great.' It was recorded
during the album sessions in Hamburg in November 2021 and released in January 2022 as the band's first post-COVID single,
and promotion for the resumption of the 40: Best Of tour.
A new live music initiative is coming to BBC Radio 2 in February with the launch of Piano Room Month.
Twenty artists will perform accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra live from London's BBC Maida Vale studios.
The gigs will be broadcast live in Ken Bruce's Radio 2 show from Monday 31st January to Friday 25th February.
Each artist will perform three tracks - a new song, a classic, and a cover - with members of the
BBC Concert Orchestra accompanying alongside them.
Following the live shows, each performance will be available to watch live on
BBC iPlayer then on demand from 6pm that day and available for 30 days afterwards.
In addition to the live broadcasts, an hour-long special will be broadcast on Radio 2 each Sunday (7-8pm) featuring
highlights from the previous week's performances (Sunday 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th February).
Jeff Smith, Radio 2's Head of Music, said: "At Radio 2 we pride ourselves on providing our
music-loving listeners with the widest range of songs and live music to be heard anywhere on UK radio.
"We worked hard to offer incredible performances to our audience throughout the past two years,
and I'm thrilled to bring 20 live sessions to each of Ken's weekday shows next month.
"I'd like to thank all of the artists, most of whom will be performing their first live session of 2022,
as well as the BBC Concert Orchestra, who have been busy rehearsing a vast range of different songs.
Tune in live, watch them all on BBC iPlayer or listen on BBC Sounds."
Ken Bruce said: "I predict cold, rain and possibly even a smattering of snow this February, so what
better remedy than to sit back with a warm brew and join me and some of the finest musicians in the world for
Radio 2's Piano Room Month."
The artists performing are:
Monday 31st January: David Gray
Tuesday 1st February: Jack Savoretti
Wednesday 2nd February: Stereophonics
Thursday 3rd February: Anne-Marie
Friday 4th February: Katie Melua
Monday 7th February: Clean Bandit
Tuesday 8th February: Joy Crookes
Wednesday 9th February: Will Young - performing on the anniversary of him winning Pop Idol in 2002
Thursday 10th February: Rebecca Ferguson
Friday 11st February: Tom Odell
Monday 14th February: James Morrison
Tuesday 15th February: Ella Henderson
Wednesday 16th February: Craig David
Thursday 17th February: Natalie Imbruglia
Friday 18th February: James Blunt
Monday 21st February: Tears For Fears Tuesday 22nd February: Simple Minds
Wednesday 23rd February: Emeli Sande
Thursday 24th February: Jamie Cullum (pre-recorded)
Friday 25th February: Ed Sheeran (pre-recorded)
Bill Chandler, Director BBC Concert Orchestra, says: "The BBC Concert Orchestra takes great pride in its
Radio 2 home and is excited to collaborate with such a range of world-class musicians
for its Piano Room Month.
"As the UK's most versatile orchestra, we're thrilled to help bring these extra-special live
performances to audiences across the month of February."
Given the ongoing situation with Covid, please note that artists are subject to change at short notice.
themes for great cities press release, empires and dance press releases
THEMES FOR GREAT CITIES
A New History of Simple Minds
27th January 2022 - hardback/eBook - £20.00
"Graeme Thomson's will be the definitive biography of this most mercurial of bands. Thomson knows how to
take it apart - without demystifying the mystery, he gives us the art school band that never had an art school,
but went instead on an endless adventure and took a bit of all of us with them." - Alan Warner
"They did wonders." - Bobby Gillespie
An illuminating new biography of one of Britain's biggest and most influential bands, written with the
full input and cooperation of Simple Minds, shedding new light on their dazzling art-rock legacy.
Emerging in 1978 from Glasgow's post-punk scene, Simple Minds transitioned from restless art-rock to
electro Futurism, mutated into passionate pop contenders and, finally, a global rock behemoth. They have
sold in the region of 60 million records and remain a worldwide phenomenon. The drama of their tale lies
in these transformations and triumphs, conflicts and contradictions.
Themes For Great Cities tells the inside story of a band becoming a band. Inspiring,
insightful and enlightening, it celebrates the trailblazing music of one of Brtain's greatest groups.
Graeme Thomson is the author of several acclaimed music books, including
Under The Ivy: The Life & Music of Kate Bush, described by The Irish Times as
'the best music biography in perhaps the past decade', and Cowboy Song, the
authorised biography of Philip Lynott, published by Constable in 2016. In 2020, Small Hours: The
Long Night of John Martyn was a Book of the Year in the Sunday Times, Financial Times,
Telegraph, Evening Standard and MOJO. Graeme is pop columnist for the
Spectator and writes on music, literature and popular culture for a number of publications,
including the Guardian, Radio Times, Uncut and Pitchfork.
On the subject of press releases, I've now uploaded press releases for the
Empires And Dance era. This includes
three press releases for the album
along with a press release for I Travel.
They've revealed new details about these releases which I've yet to add to the discography.
Namely the tour with Peter Gabriel brought the release date of
Empires And Dance back to the 12th September, with Arista offering
the first 10,000 copies at £3.99 as an extra incentive. (Which explains the stickers on some copies of the album).
Also that I Travel was issued to promote the
UK leg of the tour. This means it was released in October 1980, not
September 1980, as published in previous discographies. This is confirmed by the Universal Tape Library
as masters were not prepared for its release until the start of September - with a month's lead time.
The discography will be updated with this new information when I next update.