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Simple Minds are a rock band from Scotlandmarker, who had their greatest worldwide popularity from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s. The band, from the south side of Glasgowmarker, produced a handful of critically acclaimed albums in the early 1980s, and later went on to produce some politically inspired and critically praised work.

Simple Minds have secured a string of successful hit singles, the best known being their number 1 worldwide hit single "Don't You ", from the soundtrack of the John Hughes movie The Breakfast Club and number 3 worldwide hit single "Alive and Kicking".

Founding members Jim Kerr (vocals) and Charlie Burchill (guitar, keyboards), along with drummer Mel Gaynor, are the core of the band, which currently features Andy Gillespie on keyboards and Eddie Duffy on bass guitar.

The band have sold more than 40 millions albums worldwide since 1979.


1977: Roots - Johnny & The Self-Abusers

The roots of Simple Minds were in the punk band Johnny & The Self-Abusers, dreamed up by would-be Glasgowmarker scenemaker Alan Cairnduff in 1977 - although he left the task of actually fleshing out and creating the band to his friend John Milarky. At Cairnduff’s suggestion, Milarky teamed up with two musicians he’d never worked with before - budding singer and lyricist Jim Kerr and guitarist Charlie Burchill, who in turn brought in their schoolfriends Brian McGee on drums and Tony Donald on bass (all four had previously played together in the schoolboy band Biba-Rom!). With Milarky established as singer, guitarist and saxophonist, and with Kerr and Burchill doubling on keyboards and violin respectively, the lineup was completed by Milarky’s friend Alan McNeil as third guitarist.

With several members taking on stage names (Milarky becoming “Johnnie Plague”, Kerr “Pripton Weird”, McNeil “Sid Syphilis” and Burchill “Charlie Argue”) Johnny & The Self-Abusers played their first gig on Easter Monday, 1977 at the Dourne Castle pub in Glasgow. They played support to rising punk stars Generation X in Edinburghmarker a scant two weeks later. The band went on to play a summer of concerts in Glasgow. Development was rapid, but at the expense of unity. The band soon split into two factions, with Milarky and McNeil on one side and Kerr, Donald, Burchill and McGee on the other, and Milarky’s compositions being edged out by those of Kerr and Burchill.

In November 1977, Johnny & The Self-Abusers released their only single, "Saints And Sinners", on Chiswick Records (which was labelled as “rank and vile” in a Melody Maker review.) The band split on the same day that the single was released. Milarky and McNeil went on to form The Cuban Heels.

Late 1977 to end of 1978: early Simple Minds

The remaining members continued together as Simple Minds (naming themselves after an Iggy Pop lyric from his song "Let's Play It Safe"). Kerr abandoned keyboards to concentrate entirely on vocals, and in January 1978 the band recruited Duncan Barnwell as a second guitarist (allowing for an optional two-guitar lineup while also enabling Burchill to play violin if he wanted to). In March they were joined by the Barramarker-born keyboard player Michael MacNeil (generally known as "Mick").

The band rapidly established a reputation as an exciting live act (usually performing in full makeup) and gained a management deal with Bruce Findlay, owner of the Bruce’s Records chain of record shops. Findlay also owned Zoom Records (a subsidiary of the Arista Records label), and used his position to get Simple Minds signed to Arista. (By early 1980, Findlay would become the band’s full-time manager via his Schoolhouse Management company).

The band’s lineup did not settle until the end of 1978. Tony Donald quit in April, before the first Simple Minds demo tape was recorded (he would later become Burchill’s guitar technician). He was replaced by Duncan Barnwell’s friend Derek Forbes (formerly the bass player with The Subs). In November, Barnwell himself was judged surplus to musical requirements (as well as being at odds with the band’s image), and was asked to leave. The remaining quintet of Kerr, Burchill, MacNeil, Forbes and McGee - generally considered the first serious lineup of Simple Minds - began rehearsing the set of Kerr/Burchill-written songs which would appear on their first album, Life in a Day.

1979: Life in a Day - the pop misfire

The Simple Minds debut album - Life in a Day - was produced by John Leckie and released by Arista in April 1979. It took a cue from fellow post-punk forebears Magazine, and was somewhat self-consciously derivative of the late-70s punk boom, with AOR crossover potential not unlike that of The Cars and also revealing that the band's influences included David Bowie, Genesis and Roxy Music.

The album's title track was released as Simple Minds' first single and reached number 62 in the UK Gallop charts, with the album itself putting in a more respectable performance at number 30 in the LP charts. However, the next single ("Chelsea Girl") failed to chart at all. While Arista were disappointed with this failure, the band themselves had rapidly become dissatisfied with the album, which they considered too derivative. While preparing ideas for the next record, they enjoyed a well-received support slot for Magazine, following which they went straight back into the studio with Leckie to work on new material.

1979: Real to Real Cacophony - full experimentation

While still categorised as 'rock', Simple Minds' second release, Real to Real Cacophony, had a darker edge, and announced some of the New Wave experimentation that would become the band’s trademark sound over the next two albums. These innovations included the occasional use of unconventional time signatures, and minimal structures based around the rhythm section of Forbes and McGee.

1980: Empires and Dance - the Eurotrance phase

The next album, Empires and Dance, was a far more radical departure, and signalled the influence of Kraftwerk, Neu! and similar European artists. Indeed, during this period Simple Minds promoted themselves as a European band, not a Scottish or UK band.

Many of the tracks on Empires and Dance are extremely minimal, and feature sequenced keyboards. McNeil's keyboards and Forbes' bass became the main melodic elements, and Burchill's guitar was heavily processed. With this album, Kerr began to experiment with non-narrative lyrics. While not consciously so, Empires and Dance was essentially Industrial in its aesthetic, and preceded by a couple of years the industrial-pop crossover of Cabaret Voltaire's album The Crackdown.

The band's label, however, demonstrated little enthusiasm for such experimentation, and in 1981 Simple Minds switched from Arista to Virgin.

1981: Sons and Fascination & Sister Feelings Call - danceable art-rock

Simple Minds' first release on Virgin was actually two albums: the Steve Hillage-produced Sons and Fascination and Sister Feelings Call. The latter album was initially included as a bonus disc with the first 10,000 vinyl copies of Sons and Fascination, but it was later re-issued as an album in its own right. (For the CD release, it was paired on a single disc with Sons and Fascination — at first with two tracks deleted, but on later issues, in full.)

Sons and Fascination perfected the formula that began with Empires and Dance, and showcases the band’s musicianship during their most prolific period. Indeed, the band’s musical virtuosity set their orientation somewhat toward the realm of progressive rock, and distanced them from the flippancy of many other New Wave musicians. The album impressed Peter Gabriel enough that he selected Simple Minds as the opening act on several European dates, which increased the band's visibility. "Love Song" was an international hit (reaching the Top 20 in Canada and Australia) and the instrumental "Theme for Great Cities" proved so enduring a composition that it was later re-recorded in 1991 as a B-side to the single "See the Lights". These minimalist, dance-oriented compositions, like those of Neu! before them, were examples of man-made trance well before trance itself.

It was also in this period that the ground-breaking visual aesthetic of Simple Minds' product was established, masterminded by Malcolm Garrett and his chameleon-like "Assorted iMaGes". Characterised, at first, by hard, bold typography and photo-collage, Garrett's designs for the band would later incorporate pop-religious iconography in clean, integrated package designs that befitted the band's idealized image as neo-romantic purveyors of European anthemic pop.

However, this period would also see the end of the first "classic" Simple Minds lineup when Brian McGee left the band at the end of the Sons and Fascination sessions, citing exhaustion at Simple Minds' constant touring schedule and a desire for more time at home with family. He would later join Propaganda.

1982–1983: New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) and New Romanticism

McGee’s initial replacement was ex-Skids/Zones drummer Kenny Hyslop, who joined the band in October 1981 in time to play the first leg of the Sons & Fascination tour. Unfortunately, he “didn’t fit in” with the band or their management (a situation which was further strained by his apparent suspicion of record companies) and departed after a mere five months. However, his interest in New York music (including funk, hip-hop and dance) did play a part in the band's musical development, and he stayed long enough to drum on the band’s next single, the disco-friendly ‘Promised You A Miracle’ (itself based on a funk riff cadged from one of the cassettes Hyslop would play on the band’s tour bus).

Hyslop left the band in February 1982 and was replaced by Mike Ogletree (ex-Cafe Jacques), an Ayrshire-born drummer with a “light, percussive” style strongly influenced by soul, funk and reggae. Ogletree played on the second leg of the Sons & Fascination tour and on the subsequent New Gold Dream tour. He was also with the band for the following sessions in Amsterdam for their next album "New Gold Dream ", produced by Peter Walsh.

Although Ogletree drummed on the album’s title track and on the songs "Colours Fly and Catherine Wheel" and "Somebody Up There Likes You", his style was ultimately deemed to be “too light” for the band’s requirements. Walsh then introduced the band to London-born drummer Mel Gaynor, a 22-year old session musician with plenty of experience (including a stint drumming for The Nolans. Gaynor proved to have the combination of broad skills plus force of playing which the band wanted, and played drums on the rest of the record.

New Gold Dream , released in September 1982, proved to be a significant turning point for the band. With a slick, sophisticated sound - thanks to Walsh's production - and similarly sumptuous design by Malcolm Garrett, Simple Minds were soon categorised as part of the New Romantic outgrowth of New Wave (along with Duran Duran and others). The record generated a handful of charting singles including "Promised You a Miracle" and "Glittering Prize", which both hit the UK Top 20 and Australian Top 10. For its initial release in the United States the album was released on clear gold vinyl with purple swirls.

Despite the success of the album, some early Simple Minds fans criticised the band's more commercial orientation. While some tracks ("Promised You a Miracle", "Colours Fly and Catherine Wheel") continued the formula perfected on Sons and Fascination, other tracks ("Someone Somewhere in Summertime", "Glittering Prize") were undisguised pop. In addition, jazz keyboardist Herbie Hancock performed a synth solo on the track "Hunter and the Hunted".

Although Ogletree played on the first leg of the New Gold Dream tour, he left the band immediately afterwards in November 1982 to join Fiction Factory. Mel Gaynor was recruited (as a full member of the band) for the remaining dates. He would go on to become Simple Minds’ longest-standing drummer (as well as its first non-Scottish member) despite leaving the band twice at various points in the following decades.

1984: Sparkle in the Rain - a more muscular approach

The formula that had defined Simple Minds' New Wave period had run its course, and the next record, Sparkle in the Rain, was a complete departure. Produced by Steve Lillywhite (who'd also produced U2's first three records) and released in February 1984, the album was an aggressive, rock-oriented album in much the same vein as U2's War. U2 frontman Bono was quoted in the official Simple Minds biography The Race Is the Prize as saying the "glorious noise" sound and feeling achieved on the Simple Minds album was one to which his band aspired. The eventual result of this shift in musical direction gave rise to hugely successful singles like "Waterfront", which hit number one in a few European countries and remains one of the band's signature songs to this day, as well as "Speed Your Love to Me" and "Up on the Catwalk".

In 1984, Jim Kerr married Chrissie Hynde from the Pretenders (who temporarily renamed herself Christine Kerr), and the band did an American tour in support of the Pretenders while Hynde was pregnant with their daughter. (The two musicians eventually divorced in 1990.)

Early 1985: "Don't You (Forget About Me)"

Despite the band's new-found popularity in the UK and Europe, Simple Minds remained essentially unknown in the U.S.marker The movie The Breakfast Club changed all that. Released in early 1985, this Brat Pack drama from writer/director John Hughes was a box-office smash and made household names of Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy and Emilio Estevez. It also broke Simple Minds into the US market almost overnight, when the band achieved their only number-one U.S. pop hit in April 1985 with the film's opening track, "Don't You ". Ironically, the song was not even written by the band, but by Keith Forsey, who offered the song to Billy Idol and Bryan Ferry before Simple Minds agreed to record it. The song soon became a chart-topper in many other countries around the world.

Mid-1985: Departure of Derek Forbes

Meanwhile, distance had been growing between Derek Forbes and the rest of the band, fuelled partly by arguments between Kerr and Forbes over band presentation. The disillusioned Forbes began failing to turn up for rehearsals and was duly dismissed (he would later reunite with Brian McGee in Propaganda). Forbes was replaced by former Brand X bass player John Giblin (who also happened to own the band’s rehearsal space and was himself a reknowned sessions musician who’d worked with Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush among others). Giblin made his debut with Simple Minds at Live Aid in Philadelphiamarker, where the band performed "Don't You " and a new track called "Ghostdancing".

Late 1985: Once Upon A Time and worldwide success

During 1985, Simple Minds were in the studio with former Tom Petty/Stevie Nicks producer Jimmy Iovine. Taking advantage of their new-found popularity, Simple Minds recorded what has been considered to be their most unashamedly commercial album. On its release in November, Once Upon a Time appeared to be tailored specifically to appeal to the stadium rock sensibilities of American audiences , although this overlooked the fact that it was heavily influenced by the celebratory aspects of soul, disco and gospel music (something reinforced by the strong contributions of former Chic singer Robin Clark, who effectively performed call-and-response vocals with Kerr throughout the album, and was heavily featured in Simple Minds music videos at this time).

Reviled by some long-time fans yet embraced by millions of new listeners and critically well-received, the record reached number one in the UK and number ten in the US, even though "Don't You (Forget About Me)" was not included. The band made it clear in interviews prior to the album's release that they would not include the song, believing that it would devalue the rest of the album, which they felt could stand on its own merits. Once Upon a Time would go on to generate four worldwide hit singles: "Alive & Kicking", "Sanctify Yourself", "Ghostdancing" and "All the Things She Said", the latter of which featured a cutting-edge music video directed by Zbigniew Rybczyński that used techniques developed in music videos for bands such as Pet Shop Boys and Art of Noise.

Because of Simple Minds powerful stage presence and lyrics that trafficked in Christian symbolism, the band was criticised by some in the music press as a lesser version of U2, despite the fact that both bands were now heading in different musical directions. However, the two groups were well-acquainted with one another, and Bono joined Simple Minds on-stage at the Barrowlandsmarker in Glasgow in 1985 for a live version of "New Gold Dream".

1986-87: Political activism and Live in the City of Light

To document their successful worldwide Once Upon a Time Tour, Simple Minds released the double-live set Live in the City of Light in 1987, which was recorded primarily over two nights in Parismarker in 1986. A double vinyl album with the band's logo in gold lettering over black sleeve makes this LP unusual among the band's catalogue, along with a 12" x 12" attached giant-sized booklet with state of the art photography of the band's performance and outdoor session pictures. This art couldn't be reproduced faithfully on later CD releases (an original 1st pressing on double-fat jewel case and the USA version packaged in a long box on two separate discs). The Simple Minds tour promoted the work of Amnesty International. The album spawned one chart single release, a live version of 'Promised You A Miracle'.

Inspired by Peter Gabriel, with whom they toured in the early 1980s, Simple Minds headlined a series of concerts throughout the US and Europe in 1988 with numerous other politically-minded artists (including Gabriel) known as Freedomfest, designed to highlight the evils of apartheid in South Africa. The band wrote the song "Mandela Day" (referring to Nelson Mandela), specifically for this series of concerts, and the song would appear on their next album.

1988-89: Street Fighting Years

After a lengthy period of touring, Simple Minds went back into the studio and recorded the politically-charged album Street Fighting Years, which was released in 1989.

The first single from the album, the six-minute opus "Belfast Child" based on the traditional Celtic folk song "She Moved Through the Fair", was the band's first and only number-one hit single in the UK; the single was also an expression by Simple Minds of their support for the campaign for the release of Beirutmarker-held hostage Brian Keenan, kidnapped by the Islamic Jihad.

The album rose to number one and received glowing praise, including a rare five-star review from Q magazine. Street Fighting Years received a less positive review in Rolling Stone which criticised the band for what the reviewer considered to be political vacuity. "This Is Your Land" was chosen as the lead single for the U.S., and even with guest vocals from the band's idol Lou Reed, the single failed to make a mark on the pop charts.

1989: departure of Mick MacNeil and other changes

Following a concert in Brisbane, Australiamarker in late 1989, keyboardist Mick MacNeil quit the band. At the time, he cited health concerns but in fact had been gradually suffering disillusionment with the band's high-life lifestyle and touring schedule. He has subsequently commented that his parting with Simple Minds was painful and acrimonious (although he has since reconciled with his former bandmates) and that this was the period in which everything began to change within the band. At around the same time, long-term manager Bruce Findlay was fired and over the next few years the band would gradually alter to the point where it was a shifting set of musicians around the only remaining core members, Kerr and Burchill.

1989 also marked the first and only time the group headlined Wembley Stadiummarker, where they were supported by fellow Scottish bands The Silencers, Texas and Gun.

The 1990s: Decline and reinvention

In 1991, Simple Minds returned with a much more radio-friendly collection of their political concerns, Real Life. The highly-polished pop/rock of Simple Minds was now considered passé by most of the record-buying public. "See the Lights" was the band's last Top 40 pop single in the US.

As the 1990s progressed, Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill became the only active members of Simple Minds. The band hired Keith Forsey, who wrote "Don't You ", to produce their next record, which returned to the uplifting arena rock of their Once Upon a Time days. Kerr grew his hair long once again, and the band released Good News from the Next World in 1995 to good reviews but weak sales, at least in the U.S. In the UK and Europe, however, the response was much more positive, with the album producing the two pop hits "She's a River" and "Hypnotised".

Three years later, after being released from their contract with Virgin Records, Simple Minds decided to musically reinvent themselves once again, this time reaching back to their Kraftwerk-inspired, early electronic pop days. Derek Forbes returned after a 16-year absence along with drummer Mel Gaynor, who became a full-time member from this point forward, and the resulting album, Neapolis charted poorly and received mixed reviews. However, it is notable for being the only Simple Minds album released by Chrysalis Records, who refused to release the album in the U.S., citing lack of interest. As a further nod to Simple Minds' European musical heritage, the music video for "Glitterball", the album's lead single, was the first production of any kind to film at the Guggenheim Museummarker in Bilbao, Spainmarker.

After the disappointing reaction to Neapolis, things became even more challenging for the band. In 2000, Simple Minds next studio effort, Our Secrets Are the Same, originally slated for release in late 1999, became mired in lawsuits when EMI declined to release it, and became further compromised after it was leaked on the Internet. Simple Minds released the cover album Neon Lights in 2001, featuring the band's reinvention of songs from artists as varied as Patti Smith, Roxy Music and Kraftwerk. A 2-CD compilation, The Best of Simple Minds, was released soon after.

The 2000s: Creative rebirth

2002: Cry

Simple Minds released Cry in 2002. Although the album did not sell in great numbers in the U.S., Simple Minds felt confident enough to mount a North American leg of their Floating World Tour (named after the instrumental track which closes Cry), their first in seven years. Although the venues were small compared to the larger venues they consistently sold out in Europe, the concerts were well-attended by passionate, long-time Simple Minds fans, many of whom brought their teenage children along with them. In a nod to the recent influence of trance and techno music, the band used those stylings to update their very early tracks, including "New Gold Dream", "The American", and "I Travel", the latter of which had not been performed live for several years.

2004: Our Secrets Are the Same [2000]

Finally released in 2004, Our Secrets Are the Same was called "Some of the Simple Minds best music in twenty years" by The Guardian newspaper and is the final bonus disc in a five-CD compilation entitled Silver Box, composed mostly of previously unreleased demos, radio & TV sessions and various live recordings from 1979 to 1995.

2005: Black & White 050505

Simple Minds' fifteenth studio album, Black & White 050505, released in 2005, was previewed on the band's official website for several weeks prior to its release, the band later toured throughout Europe, the Far East, Australia and New Zealand to support the album during 2006.

Although Black & White 050505 generated some of the most positive reviews for a Simple Minds record in many years, and the first single, "Home", received airplay on alternative rock radio stations in the US, it did not make a significant impact on either side of the Atlantic, and has still not been officially released in North America to date. Despite the response from some website sources and a few UK tabloid papers the album failed to reignite the chart success of old and the mainstream media generally ignored the album or gave it a number of poor or indifferent reviews.

2007 saw the band's 30th anniversary, and a brief but successful tour of Australia & New Zealandmarker , as guests of INXS, while Burchill and Kerr alongside bassist Duffy and keyboard player Andy Gillespie performed a brief set at the 40th anniversary tribute to Glasgowmarker Celtic's famous Lisbon Lions European Cup winning team.

The next album would be released through the new W14/Universal label, who had purchased the Sanctuary label earlier this year. W14/Universal gained the right to pick up the option on the remaining Simple Minds Sanctuary deal. A&R head John Williams originally signed the band to Sanctuary Records.

The band have continued to release a number of audio video Download "bundles" through their official website. Seven of these releases have appeared since May 2006, featuring live music and several short documentary style videos recorded in Brusselsmarker and Edinburghmarker during their 2006 tour.

2008: 30 Years Live tour

Simple Minds played the 90th birthday tribute to Nelson Mandela on 27 June in London's Hyde Park. The band then undertook a short tour throughout the UK to celebrate their 30th anniversary. Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill also played a number of unrelated shows across Europe with Night of the Proms prior to those UK dates.

During these concerts, the band performed the entire New Gold Dream album and showcased songs from their other albums in a two-part concert performance.

2008: brief reunion of original line-up

The original members of Simple Minds worked together for the first time in 27 years when they entered a recording studio in the middle of June 2008. Nothing came of the short-lived reunion; one member later commented that it lasted "30 minutes".

2009: Graffiti Soul

Reverting to Burchill/Kerr/Gaynor/Duffy line-up, Simple Minds recorded a new studio album, Graffiti Soul, released on 25 May 2009

According to Dream Giver Redux, during Graffiti Soul recording sessions, Jim Kerr suggested that Simple Minds had enough material for two albums, one to be released at the start of 2009 and the second following within the space of a year.

The single "Rockets", the first one taken from Graffiti Soul, was made available on the Internet in early April 2009.

On Sunday, 31 May 2009, the album entered the UK Album chart at # 10, becoming Simple Minds first album in 14 years to enter the UK Top 10. The album also entered European Top 100 Album chart at # 9.

Fall 2009: Graffiti Soul tour

In support of their latest studio album Graffiti Soul, Simple Minds embarked on a new (european) tour called Graffiti Soul Tour on Tuesday, 3 November 2009. The tour is visiting many western, eastern and northern European countries (including a UKmarker & Irelandmarker leg in December 2009) and will end on Thursday 18 December 2009.

Studio & live albums


Current line-up

Former members

Former live & session musicians

  • Paul Wishart - Saxophone - Empires and Dance Tour (1980)
  • Kenny Hyslop - Drums (1981-1982)
  • Mike Ogletree - Drums (1982)
  • Robin Clark - Vocals - Once Upon a Time Tour (1985-1986)
  • Sue Hadjopoulos - Percussion - Once Upon a Time Tour (1985-1986)
  • Lisa Germano - Violin - Street Fighting Years Tour (1989)
  • Annie McCraig - Vocals - Street Fighting Years Tour (1989)
  • Andy Duncan - Percussion - Street Fighting Years Tour (1989)
  • Malcolm Foster - Bass Guitar (1989-1995)
  • Peter-John Vettese - Keyboards (1990)
  • Mark Taylor - Keyboards (1991-1999; 2005-07)
  • Mark Schulman - Drums - Good News From The Next World Tour (1994-1995)
  • Mark Kerr - Drums (1999)


External links

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