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Left to right: Jim and Charlie.

vocals: Eneas Mullen
vocals/management: Jim Kerr
guitar: Charlie Burchill
drums: Brian McGee
bass: Tony Donald
rhythm guitar: Joseph Donnelly

Before Johnny And The Self Abusers, Jim and Charlie were constantly inventing band names and putting budding musicians together. "Me and Jim were in bands that were really just like me and him and sort of friends, and we had all these different names - we changed names every three days."

It wasn't just thoughts and talk - they also performed. Their first gig was playing in front of a group of five year old orphans.

The first documented band of the period was Biba-Rom! - which featured the same group of school friends (Jim, Charlie, Brian McGee and Tony Donald) who would later make up part of Johnny And The Self Abusers and also end up as the first line-up of Simple Minds #1.

The first vocalist was Eneas Mullen whilst Jim was both singer and manager. When Eneas left the band, Jim continued on vocals alone.

Whilst the majority of the line-up went onto Johnny And The Self Abusers, Eneas Mullen set up a record label whilst Joseph Donnelly later played bass in The Silencers.

Like the early days of the Abusers, Biba-Rom! were a covers band, taking on Patti Smith, Cockney Rebel, David Bowie and Lou Reed.

And the name? "... there was a band at that time called Be Bop Deluxe and I think we said we can't use be Bop but Biba was close enough and Rom just because it sounded a good fit! Simple as that really!" - Eneas Mullen, 26th February 2015

"...The bio reveals that Joe Donnelly was previously in The Silencers. However prior to all of that, Joe who went to Holyrood School, was also in our first ever band BIBA ROM. (A glam rock outfit that rehearsed often in the basement of Brian McGee's mother's house - but only played one gig) also featuring absolute original Minds - Brian McGee, Tony Donald, Charlie Burchill and yours truly." - Jim, 30th November 2016

SL: You made this record back near where you grew up. Is that right?
CB: Part of it Steve. We did it in London and Glasgow. The last stages were in Glasgow. Funnily enough, the studio we were working in, in the back room there's a stage – it's a little small hall with a stage – and it's where we first ever got on a stage together. It wasn't even the punk band we were in before Simple Minds. It was a band we had earlier than that.
JK: You've got to tell Steve the details. He'll like that – the context.
CB: It was a gig to orphans who were about twelve years of age. We played eight Velvet Underground songs.
JK: It was Christmas party. We're played Heroin, What Goes On, Waiting For The Man... the guy said "The kids were crying." I was crying, never mind them. But that was the birth. It was a glam rock, pre punk... and now that hall is converted into a studio. It's minutes from where I was born and ten minutes from where Charlie grew up.

Jim Kerr, Charlie Burchill and Steve Lamacq
Steve Lamacq Show
BBC Radio 6
24th January 2018

At the studio, formerly the Polmadie Railway Social Club, Kerr tells us it's the venue where he and Burchill performed a very early gig — a Christmas party for the rail workers' kids.

As he shows us around he notes: "The stage is still the same. It was the Christmas party but rather than play any Christmas songs we covered "Heroin" by The Velvet Underground and "I'm Eighteen" by Alice Cooper.

"We were so loud and all the kids were crying. It's amazing that we are here again to rehearse.”

Up Close With Simple Minds
The Sun
8th February 2018

Today, Kerr and Burchill take Q on a tour of their old haunts, kicking off in the Gorbals Sound recording studio where they’ve just made their 18th album, Walk Between Worlds. The building is a former youth club where as teenagers they played their first ever gig in a band called Biba Rom. This afternoon the two sit together and reminisce on the still-existing stage, as Kerr remembers, "It was somebody's birthday party and there we were playing 'Heroin' by The Velvet Underground."

Local Heroes
Q Magazine
May 2018

JK: This was the Gorbals Railwaymen's Union's Club. People would come here Saturday and Sunday. You were meant to be in the Railwaymen's Union, but your pal got you in.
JK: So relating to Charlie Burchill and myself, our families came from within 5 to 10 minutes from here, so our aunties and our uncles came to this building to dance and sing and make merry. So we always knew it as 'The Railway Club'. In 1975, Charlie and I went to the same school – it was that period where we were just leaving school and not quite working yet. We had a little school band called Biba-Rom! - don't ask me why - and Brian McGee, who played drums in the original Simple Minds, his dad was never out the railway club and he said to us "I can get you a gig," he said. "Yeah, the Christmas party for the kids on a Saturday afternoon before Christmas." So we did our one-and-only gig in this building. The kids were crying.... [Laughs].... We were on stage dressed in clogs and satin bomber jackets and all this stuff, playing versions of The Velvet Underground. I think it was all The Velvet Underground with feedback, singing songs of heroin and debauchery. The kids were just screaming but not in a good way. [Laughs]

Jim Kerr and Janice Long
The Long Walk
BBC Radio 2
12th July 2018

To New York With Lou Reed As The North Star

"The North Star, formally known as "Polaris", has served as a beacon of inspiration and hope for many." Make no doubt about it! The journey that sees us walk out on stage tomorrow night in New York's, Beacon Theatre, began somewhere around 1974 in the washroom/cellar of a house in the southside of Glasgow. That house belonged to the parents of our school friend, and original Minds drummer, Brian McGee, and we will always be in debt to their goodwill in allowing a bunch of exciteable 15 year old school friends through their front door. Especially knowing that for the rest of the night they would have to endure what must have been a godawful racket.

Their act of kindness was a godsend. As anyone who has tried to put a rock band together from scratch, and without financial means, will tell you. To have had a place where you can work out of, make as much noise as you want etc. Plus, have one that comes free of charge? Well, that is almost unheard of and much too good to be true?

Would Charlie, or my own parents, have be so willing to suffer the same as the McGees?

The answer is that they would have on occasion. The reality however is that there was no room in our abodes to swing a cat. In addition, I doubt the neighbours who lived in our building would have been so tolerant. Who could blame them? Brian's father had his own business however, and had seemingly done well enough to enable the McGees to inhabit their own independent home. A thoroughly welcoming place it was.

And so with Tony Donald on bass, Joe Donnelly on guitar, alongside Brian on drums, and augmented by Charlie and yours truly - still quite reluctant to humiliate myself by daring to stand in front of a microphone - we first plugged in and tried to work out the basic chords to records that we, as fans, were infatuated by.

That is how we came to first learn about the chord patterns and song structures that lay behind some of our favourite music. Think about it? We had had no training, no music teachers, no mentors, and we knew no one who was in a band professionally or in a position to lay any wisdom on us.

Instead we looked at the music and songs of one man in particular, who through his own music and attitude, eventually kick-started our career, as well as the careers of many others, hungry and mad enough - to dare emulate their heroes.

The name of that man was Lou Reed. And symbolically speaking, he was the "North Star" - as far as we were concerned.

Waiting For My Man, Sweet Jane, White Light White Heat, are only three of many Lou Reed compositions that we covered in that basement cellar. The noise that came from The Velvet Underground being the noise that all garage bands want to make. Lou Reed showed us the way back then - and in many ways still does.

We were thinking about Lou today, as we made the drive into Manhattan from Newark. One of New York's greatest ever artists, we were in NYC 5 years ago on the sad day of Lou's passing.

I am sure we will think about him again tomorrow night as we make our way onto a New York stage. And how it all began for us as teenagers in Glasgow, listening incessantly... to Lou Reed.

1st October 2018

"In our embryonic years, not yet 16 years old, and taking our first baby steps as a group, Charlie and I, along with fellow friends and school mates, Joe Donnelly, Tony Donald and Brian McGee, would carry our equipment over to the assembly room in St Brigid's primary school in Toryglen, Glasgow, every Tuesday night. Permanently excited, we'd plug in and unabashedly try to copy the sounds of whatever records we had been listening to that week. We were having the greatest fun in our lives at that point in time. More importantly, in doing so, we were setting out on a study of how to play and write our very own songs – by first learning how those amazing songs written by others actually worked."

"The knowledge that came from succeeding in doing that helped sprout wings that would eventually enable us to soar high as songwriters ourselves. And how about this for consistency? It was people like Bowie, Lou Reed, Steve Harley and The Doors that we covered in that dusty school hall, way back in time – circa 1975. It is people like Bowie, Steve Harley and The Doors that Simple Minds have covered within our live shows from the last few years – circa 2015 - 2018. Plus ηa change? " - Jim, Neon Lights reissue sleeve notes, January 2019

Circa 1975-1976


live legacy:

It didn't last long - they left school and Jim and Charlie hitchhiked across Europe.

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