The Blue Nile

The Blue Nile - Good Scottish Pop

Simple Minds are a band we have been mulling over our attitude to for a couple of years. Our inclination was to stick them in Bad Scottish Pop. A desire to be provocative and some deep rooted suspicion about them were the motives.

But this morning, while performing mundane domestic tasks, we stuck a "Best of Simple Minds" compilation CD on the old boombox and cranked it up to "annoy the neighbours" volume. And here we are in "Good Scottish Pop".
Early SImple Minds and some distinctly dodgy haircuts
Early SImple Minds and some distinctly dodgy haircuts

Although Simple Minds produced some derivative crap, they also produced some anthemic songs that were the backdrop to a generation and filled stadiums around the world.

So why, when they were so successful, would we consider putting them in Bad Pop? Was it that tackily named "Caledonian Cringe", the inability to accept Scottish success? It's not a theory we subscribe to, so no.

So what was it? When some of your formative years have been defined by many of the bands in Good Scottish Pop; Orange Juice, the Associates, Aztec Camera, Cocteau Twins and Big Country (to name but a few), then the biggest of all of them, by far, were Simple Minds.

And they had credibility, integrity ....... and global commercial success.

So what was it?

Was it that Jim Kerr is a Celtic supporter?   No, so are some FirstFooters.
Was it that Jim Kerr is/was a socialist (small "s").   No, so is FirstFoot.
Was it that Simple Minds had no sense of humour?   No, there is a story that after Simple Minds played Ibrox Stadium, home of Glasgow Rangers, they returned the keys to their dressing room on a Vatican City key ring. Childish, but funny.
Was it because Jim Kerr went all rock star and married a rock chick babe?   Well, no. We always thought Chrissie Hynds was plookey and hackit anyway.

The top half of this article was started nine months ago. What motivated us to return to it was an evening spent in a middle England market town. Out for some half pints of brown foamy water in a "young persons" bar where the music was too loud and the clientele frustratingly young and confident. In the midst of lots of music we didn't recognise was "Don't You (Forget About Me)", Simple Minds' 1985 U.S. number one hit single. It still worked, it hadn't dated and went down well with today's young crowd.
Jim Kerr live with Simple Minds in 1985. There is a very definite glaze to his eyes which makes FirstFoot demand to know .... "was he drug-tested?"
Jim Kerr live with Simple Minds in 1985. There is a very definite glaze to his eyes which makes FirstFoot demand to know .... "was he drug-tested?"

The downside to that tale is that "Don't You" isn't a song penned by Simple Minds. Their biggest hit and probably the song they are best remembered for was written by Keith Forsey, the drummer of The Psychedelic Furs. It was rejected by Bryan Ferry, subsequently recorded by Simple Minds and was first released as part of the soundtrack to the 1985 movie The Breakfast Club. It didn't feature on a Simple Minds album until after it was a hit.

Ambivalence aside, the band grew out of a Glasgow punk group called Johnny and the Self-Abusers that included childhood friends guitarist Charlie Burchill and lead singer Jim Kerr.

Simple Minds' early albums were marked by their changing styles. From Life in a Day which had pretensions to art-school pop, to the "experimental" Reel to Real Cacophony and the Euro-disco themes of Empires and Dance. In line with the style changes, the band line-up changed frequently but life is too short to document them here.

For any old hippies reading this, Steve Hillage of Gong dope-rock fame produced "Sons And Fascination" and "Sister Feelings Call". The albums were first released as a limited edition double LP and became the band’s first UK top 20 hit.

But hey, this isn't a discography. It's an appreciation (of sorts). There were half a dozen great tracks, admittedly spread over half a dozen or so albums, that really stood out. Simple Minds are in here because they lasted the course, they went global, they avoided ephemeralism and because they still sound good twenty years later.
Charlie Burchill in 1985 with a distinctly dodgy looking shirt. That's not fringes is it?
Charlie Burchill in 1985 with a distinctly dodgy looking shirt. That's not fringes is it?

And you can't say that about many bands.

The band are still around in various forms. Diehard fans will no doubt shell out for gigs and CD's. It is worth having Simple Minds in your CD collection. We would recommend the Greatest Hits double CD album. There are half a dozen truly great tracks and the rest are .... well, the rest probably describe Simple Minds in a similar way that this article attempts to.

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