"Modern man turned out to see modern band and it sure didn't take a headful of cottage cheese to appreciate Simple Minds.
Even so, they do seem to be the most readily accessible of the newest wave, (Tubeway Army and Co). Their songs basically being catchy pop tunes with some elaborate keyboards at the centre, provided by one Michael MacNeil.
Their show at the Marquee wasn't brilliant, but you must go to see them before you go astray and start liking all the lesser individuals in their field. If you do, your mind won't be able to cope with the classy superiority of Simple Minds.
My favourite song live was 'Life In A Day', charged up a bit but basically the same as on the album. This song makes The Cure & Co sound about as beefy as a side of pork!
'Chelsea Girl' was magnificent; a delightfully subtle pop song compared with the most frighteningly morbid feel of the last number 'Murder Story', the heaviest song they play. The packed audience went suitably berserk.
Unlike many of their super "cool" compatriots, Simple Minds seem a trifle more aware of their audience and this should be a major contributing factor to the undoubted success that is just around the corner.
Simple Minds were fidgety as they sat around the kitchen table, some of them exhaling long streams of cigarette smoke while the others rattle boiled sweets around their mounths.
On their first professional trip south of Hadrian's Wall, the five Glaswegians were recording backing tracks at the Farmhouse in Little Chalfront, then moving on to Abbey Road studios to complete their debut album.
Outside, the Rolling Stones mobile, an ancient army truck still painted camouflage greens, was parked on the snow-packed yard. Inside, producer John Leckie - a mild mannered man renowned for his work with Bebop Deluxe, XTC and Magazine - smiled benignly as he made a pot of tea.
The Minds mumbled muted greetings. They still hadn't encountered the excessive flam of the London biz and were uncertain about dealing with the media.
If they'd ever played the Hope, Marquee or Nashville, those traditional if grimy shopwindows of the rock industry, they'd have already met the usual parade of hacks and chancers and developed their own line in perfunctory chitter-chatter. But they haven't, so instead they offered round the Bensons and what remained of the sweets.
Signed to the Edinburgh independent, Zoom when two Minds visited London recently for a celebratory lunch with Arista (the major which markets and distributes their label). They sat there self-consciously with only a salad and a glass of lemonade each. The panjandrums apparently made pigs of themselves.
Inevitably they'll soon pick up the affectations; the promotion machine will corrupt their innocence and personas will be created.
Because for Arista they are an investment. And their lawyer and moneyman was at the Farmhouse to check on their progress. Admittedly he was the person who got them his bosses' backing, but his practised pleasantries were those of a businessman keeping a sharp eye on 'the product': his words prodding the livestock as sure as a farmer's stick.
The dishevelled and hung-over Zoom managing director, Bruce Finlay - who spent three months with the group, going to all their gigs, offering advice and pestering Arista to travel north and investigate - was understandably paternal. He insisted they all go out to eat lunch. But when they hedged, unwrapped more sweets and mumbled excuses, he reluctantly gave up.
"But I promised your mothers I'd make sure you ate regularly," he protested.
So five young Scots go south... But they don't represent the camps of pop inanity, punk recklessness or muscular meat-headed heavy metal which have attracted so many of their better known countrymen. Simple Minds are a rare and persuasive fusion of '70s high-tech rock: their lyrics impressionistic fragments, their music brave exploratory textures.
Untranished by those redundant R&B chords embalmed during the '60s, uncluttered by the obvious cliches of social realism, political dogma and urban despair, theirs is a distinctive sound. All aged 19 except bassist Derek Forbes who's 22 ("It's the first time I've been the eldest in a band; I've always been the youngest"), their influences cover the last eight years: from Roxy through Bowie to Television, Talking Heads and Magazine.
It was a demo tape of seven songs which first convinced me of their stunning, versatile and adventurous talent. The material ranges from the manifestations of vocalist Jim Kerr's obsessively monochromatic scenarios inhabited by grey enigmatic characters in pieces like 'Pleasantly Disturbed', 'Special View' and 'Murder Story' to the punchy pop hooks and direct rock of 'Someone' and 'Chelsea Girl'.
With Charlie Burchill's sharp, abrasive guitar gnawing at their soft, springy bellies, the songs have an intimidating power. And with a show that visually counterpoints the materials menace, inevitably a mystique has grown around the group.
To them it is unjustifiable.
"Weird," explained Kerr when we were all settled in a small living room. "People said we were deliberately weird. But we're not trying to be super-weirdos: but we're no Joe Ordinaries either.
Spongy faced, black mascara eyed and his dark hair pudding-basin cut, Kerr spoke softly with a slight stammer. Although all five were there, he and freshed faced Charlie Burchill quickly asserted themselves as the spokesmen: friendly, naive, unspoiled.
They went to school together, did the usual semi-pro dry-runs and in the early '77 formed Johnny and the Self Abusers with the Minds' present drummer, Brian McGee. They recorded a "scandalous" 45 called 'Saints And Sinners", and disbanded the day Chiswick released it.
Both sides of the single were the futile thrashing of pseudo-punk, Berry colliding with Bowie. "But the whole thing just came out of the excitement of what was happening," Jim justified. Nondescript as it was, it enabled both Kerr and Burchill to leave their respective 'respectable' trades in a way tolerable to their parents.
They thought their sons might be pop stars.
"But," Charlie added, "we knew things couldn't go on anymore and we spilt. The unsatisfactory element of The Self Absuers left, and the good element went on to form Simple Minds...
So with drummer McGee they were free to pursue moreillustrious musical visions. From the start they were consumed by a positive idealism.
"I think that comes from the bands we liked," said Jim. "The first gig I saw was Genesis when Peter Gabriel was in the band. I really liked the presence of him especially. His approach to things was pretty intense, one minute he could be some monster on stage, then the next he could be gentle and soft.
"The bit in between was unnerving because I couldn't decide whether he was a headbanger or else perfectly sane; and I though he did it well. I always got off on Bowie and Harley."
"And we know we're a good band," continued Charlie, "and we're sure of what's happening, confident. When we begin a show, it's a menacing thing, intimidating, as if we're taking a stand against the audience.
"But it isnae really; it's a case of projecting yourself above them, ultimately for them to enjoy it. People think it's an arrogant pose, but it really isnae."
To fulfil a high ideal of fusing proven theatricality with musical innovation, they engaged another guitarist for a while, but eventually they settled on the present lineup: Kerr, Burchill (doubling on violin), McGee, Forbes and keyboardist Mick MacNeil.
For six months they were deep-frozen by the rock biz. Curious but timid A&Rers went to see the band, but preferred to spectate passively, slugging the atmosphere yet clutching closed their purses. The multi-national corporation men had little sense of adventure - such an inhibiting sense of conservatism that they should be stuffed and put on display at the Victoria and Albert.
They told the Minds their demo-tapes were "badly mixed", that they sounded like Talking Heads - "But you're not as good". Then when the critical acclaim appeared and one crop bravely made a contract bid, the rest grovelled around the band at every gig. The Minds still laugh about the CBS person who was initially coolly non-commital.
"We can always take comfort that in the end he phoned us every day and said he changed his mind," Jim chuckled. "When I said that I was only an office boy, I didn't have the power to sign you'.
"We always had the attitude that we were gonna be too good to be ignored." Jim asserted.
"When we first came down in July I felt the companies that we got in touch with had got their fingers burnt... and the bands they'd signed didn't seem to be taking off. I got that impression from Polydor and CBS."
Ironically, in the same way that the business was reacting against the jumbled plethora of 'punky', 'new age' beat combos, so too were Simple Minds. They regard that period with unconcealed disdain; a brief era when 'real music' was shunted aside and lost in the confusion of verbal vulgarity and parched personas.
"We felt that what was pumped out in the last year was a challenge," Charlie explained. "Almost on a parallel with boogie bands, the punks did that exact same speed of numbers - guaranteed to shock and get people going. And that really isn't the function of music."
"We'd like to keep an edge," interjected Jim. "We always like to gamble and be adventurous.
"It was much the same in '77 when as The Abusers we were in vogue; and now Talking Heads and Magazine are in vogue. But although they are, none of these bands sell as much as, say, the Rats or even Sham.
"XTC are really pissed off, and Magazine don't seem to be favourites with the press. But the Rats and Sham are almost guaranteed airplay now. As soon as we had the real bands, like The Stranglers and The Clash, you had so many copists," Jim explained. "To us it was a turnoff. It seemed every band was talking through anger; it was more pretentious than things they were knocking.
"Attacking the National Front was in vogue; but Glasgow didn't have an NF because we don't have enough blacks for there to be any bigotry.
"We didn't feel a part of that. You can only take your circumstances where you are, and Glasgow hasn't changed since our granddads went there."
"So much of the punk era was a political movement," Charlie contiuned. "And it got to the stage where guys were singing about boring nine-to-five jobs and life on the dole... and it was really, like... boring. Just t'say something like 'I'm bored' fullstop, didnae appeal to me."
Now, of course, rock audiences are less tolerant of fatuous nihilism and more appreciative of musical experimentation. And Simple Minds undoubtedly belong in the same progressive school as XTC and Magazine. But their emergence made it easier for the Minds, and strengthened their resolve.
"We feel they've been martyrs, taking knocks," Charlie claimed. "And we've gradually become less inhibited in what we're doing."
But as they talked on it was clear their lofty rock 'n' roll ideals were partly linked to the late '60s/early '70s; and when discussing their own theatricality and expanding musical parameters, they spoke of Yes, ELP and other old guard giants without scorn.
So, paradoxically, couldn't the Minds' music be regressive, their experimentation a recycle?
"Obviously you want to be above the last era of bands," Charlie answered, "where you can be competent but people don't have to put up with a lot of technicalities. The difference between this and the Yes era is that they were self-indulgent and we're not."
The suggestion, partly a journalistic trap, tumbled them, put them on the defensive. They fumbled for words, thankfully unable to describe their music in practised metaphors or offer the quotable quote. Bruce Findlay joined the conversation, conjuring strained imagery... about the Minds being adventurously exploratory... unable to predict their course...
Already the Scottish fanzines and journalists are sceptical about the band, and they must justify their initial success: it's the usual unwelcome pressure that accompanies a 'newest and brightest prospect' once the hyperboles are drained.
And in the confusion of aspirations, ambitions and loyalties, Jim eventually relied on his sincerity to express himself.
"I think the only thing that'll make us good is ourselves.
"Perhaps if we'd done a couple of singles and lots of gigs and got round to doing an album at the end of the year, we would have had a lot of reviews and perhaps could have been affected by them.
"But we start off recording tomorrow almost as... virgins," he blushed.
Virgins on a voyage of discovery? I laughed.
"Yeah," piped a voice, "and we're just waiting to get fucked."
The real essence of Simple Minds' musical 'modernism' is in fact comparatively old-fashioned and yet their debut album comes close to defining the new sound of '70s which gives so much hope for rock 'n' roll in the '80s.
It's 'old-fashioned' because throughout 'Life In A Day' there are obvious reference points: to the late '60s with The Doors (although a Stranglers comparison may also apply), and the early '70s - Cockney Rebel, Roxy Music and Bowie. Also 'old-fashioned' because there are influences of the '70s technocrats interested in the flexibility and range of instrumental sound who're now considered dead or, at the very least, creatively moribund.
Somehow during the upheaval of the last two years, the revolutionary hardcore activists attacked not just attitudes (the root of rock's problems) but the development of technology and (understandably at the time) rejected even its worthy aspects. And it's only now in the post-punk interlude of calm that 'sophistication' and 'professionalism' can once again play a part; even if the bands like The Only Ones, XTC and Magazine gained some kind of frudging 'credibility' because of their initial inaccessibility and lack of commercial success.
Simple Minds are one of the few to draw on the strings of the early to mid-'70s and construct an 'accessible' and 'commerical' formula.
This may appear to be a convincing argument for dismissing the Minds as shallow, derivative and irrelevant; but it's their ability to be selective when embracing these inspirations and to mould them with their own distintive ideas and visions that creates something that's not essentially innovative but which is certainly rare.
And they offer a future style that doesn't creak and groan with the nuances and tricks of the first two decades of rock music.
Considering that we're now just eight months away from 1980, it's disturbing that so much 'modern' music still echoes with the sounds first discovered 25 years ago. Whereas lyrically an important part of rock has relfected cultural change, musically its vision has often been a blinkered mythology that raw, minimal chording and strict straight-fours are the fundamentals of energy and excitement. Like Magazine, Simple Minds highlight the transparency of that theory.
This album concerns progression. But it is not the alienating doodlings of experimental electronics, nor does it project a naive amateurism that has made so much recent music incomplete even if a delight. The songwriting and musicanship of this Glasgow band indicate a confidence the result of a composed competance rather than an erratic enthusiasm.
Through ten songs they develop structures and textures, emotions and images that both stimulating and entertaining. The obvious influences are there, but paradoxically they have produced what is in certain respects an importantly timeless album in that it's not concerned with 'social statement' or 'political dogma' - the feeble critical requirements that have made rock unnecessarily transient because it's so quickly redundant as yesterday's history.
Instead, lyricist and vocalist Jim Kerr focuses on subjects with a more lasting relevance, mainly romance and relationships with 'Someone', 'Sad Affair', 'No Cure', 'Chelsea Girl' and 'Wasteland'. Yet his writing has a depth of observation that transcends the simplicity and teen-romanticism of someone like Pete Shelley.
Kerr's lyrics create tension and an atmosphere not of warmth but a cold, cruel detachment that prohibits wishy sentimentality. They're snatches of real life: remorse, resentment, frustration and - surprisingly - an old-fashioned morality: "Is it true you're running around now/Is it true they're calling you the Chelsea Girl", Kerr primly sneers.
Sharply pithy, his words also portray vivid scenarios. 'Pleasantly Disturbed' is theatrical, an aural thriller that's not so much stated as suggested by the second verse in particular.
"Meanwhile Susan goes out all alone/So many reasons but they're not all her own/bend till you break, scream if you must/Someone's in her room someone she don't trust."
And the final cut 'Murder Story', a highlight of the album, is an excellent projection of a person's paranoia caused by rejection and alienation: "I feel so insecure I couldn't take another day."
Yet in his quest for originality, Kerr occasionally fumbles with an impressionism that as pretentious in its obscurity as some of Howard Devoto's incomprehensible songs. Certainly the significance of the title track and 'All For You' is effectively buried in the fragmentary word-play.
But musically the set is stunningly imaginative; to the extent that every lyric could be indecipherable and still the songs would make sense. Written by Kerr and guitarist-violinist Charlie Burchill they comprise brisk pop melodies ('Someone', 'Sad Affair' and 'No Cure'); hard, concentrated rock ('Chelsea Girl', 'Wasteland', 'Destiny' and 'Murder Story'); the measured quirkness of 'Life In A Day' and 'All For You'; with 'Disturbed' alone as a lengthy exploration of jagged instrumental shapes and sensurround 'orchestral' grandeur.
Dominated by Kerr's expressive vocals that reveal he's a committed student of the Bowie-Harley-Ferry-Devoto school, Burchill's rhythm playing and Mick MacNeil's thin and spiralling organ, all the songs possess indelible melodies. Few have changed greatly in structure or arrangement since they were in demo form, and producer John Leckie has only been tidied up to give sharper impact and added 'commercial' devices such as handclaps and a certain amount of ceremonial pomp.
Although it is an exceptionally polished album some of the Minds' vigour has been glossed by producer John Leckie's complete professionalism. Derek Forbes (bass) and Brian McGee (drums) lose their rhythmic bristle on 'Murder Story' and occasionally Burchill's lead lines prematurely drop from sight.
But most importantly, there is a distinctive Simple Minds style. While Kerr and Burchill form the creative fulcrum, MacNeil is the third member of the sound-triumvirate as he swivels between keyboards of synthesizer, organ and piano.
Strangely enough for a non-writer he has become indispensable to the band: responsible for the textures; an important component to the momentums of the rhythms; and the flexible axis between back and front-lines, contributing an astonishing range of brief but creative solo excursions.
Collectively Simple Minds have the talent, resources and uncluttered vision to be one of the most important post-punk bands. With their uncontrived commercialism they could also be one of the most successful and hopefully an inspiration to others.
For a debut album, 'Life In A Day' reveals maturity even if the potential is far greater than their achievement. Secondhand music can still be a discovery with such an invigorating approach.
I've never been this goddam excited about a rock 'n' roll band for ages. The monster media called NEW WAVE is almost finished and the climate is right for an upheaval to break the monotony of bandwagonning ex-heavy metal losers and bozos that overindulge in calculated weirdness.
The Simple Minds are impossible to categorise. Sure there are influences but they're much too fragmented and transformed to worry about. The fact that their sound is so unique must derive from the diverse tastes of the collective combo.
The Simple Minds hail from Glasgow, they came together as a positive unit in March 1978 through disillusionment with most of the new wave. A handful of gigs followed which helped steadily build up a local following.
At that time the band were as follows: Jim Kerr (vocals); Charlie Burchill (guitar & violin); Mick MacNeil (keyboards); Duncan Barnwell (guitar); Derek Forbes (bass); Brian McGee (drums); along with Jane and David Henderson on lights & sound respectively.
In May '78 they went into the studios and laid down what must be one of the greatest demo tapes ever - it comprised 6 songs namely 'Act Of Love', 'Cocteau Twins', 'Chelsea Girl', 'Pleasantly Disturbed' (the first ever Simple Minds toon, that has since become their magnum opus on stage) 'Wasteland' & 'Did You Ever?'. Surprisingly when it was hawked about the record companies no one wanted to know even though the demo was light years better than anything else that was being lapped up at the time. That was then.
So in the summer of '78, true talent was shunned and some real drivel signed or is it that the so called talent scouts are just clotheared. If you ever get the chance to hear that tape you'll see that the people that heard it and gave it the thumbs down wouldn't know a good band if it bit their nose off.
Enough griping tho', we're up to August, which is when I first came into contact with the band via this tape, just the night before the band's debut Edinburgh gig with Generation X. It took me about 40 seconds to realise that this band has it ALL. After that showing they were supporting most of the 'name' acts that ventured up to Scotland including the Decimation of the Banshees at the Apollo at an afternoon's notice.
This is the outfit that will pioneer this new frontier. They are in total control of their own electricity - No Beano political messages, just beautiful, sharp, chilling, rock 'n' roll magic and that alone gives them a big plus. Here we have the songs and technology to break down almost every taste barrier there is from the sheer compelling commerciality of 'Take Me To The Angel' through the absolutley compulsive 'Chelsea Girl' to the relentless twilight zone menace of 'Pleasantly Disturbed' and 'Muder Story'.
So the band have finally tied the knot with Z00M/ARISTA. It won't be long until the globe can bask in the glory of the music. They were in the studios a few weeks back and laid down some songs with a view to doing the final things sometime in January. The songs laid down were 'Someone', 'A Special View' (brand new), 'Murder Story', 'Rosemary's Baby' and 'Sad Affair' (another newie).
The last track has to be heard to be believed, it is truly wonderous and brought me out in a cold sweat..
I have a vision of this band, returning after a triumphant tour to the Glasgow Apollo to a packed house. The lights go out and the intro tape filters through the PA. The band walk on and its all systems GO. Mick and Charlie weave their magic out and in of Brian & Dereks's powerhouse rhythm section into 'Sweet Things' (not to be confused with Bowie's Diamond Dogs tune) and Jim'll swagger out ala LOU REED and the place will go BAZOOKS.
Today for the most part, our so called rock 'n' roll luminaries churn out gutless, monotous, 'HIP' drivel and in the face of all that hype, honesty must prevail. This band will DESTROY anybody with a heart like Lou Reed wants - 'A Rock 'N' Roll Heart'.
Like it says in the front of this mag, it is a personal opinion - don't take my word for it, see them for yourself. It'll be your loss if you don't.
Howard Thompson: I like Simple Minds and I like this song but I feel this particular version loses out on the production which lacks any sense of dynamics. I think Simple Minds will be successful providing they don't believe their own hype. The B-side stank.
Chris Briggs: Subconsciously drawn from so many elements of mid-Seventies smART school rock. Can any of these bands keep straight time? Vocals wins Contrivance Is Equal To Lack Of Conviction Award Of The Week. David Bowie has done all this on 'Low' and so much better, Scotland seems to be the stronghold of the Bowie/Roxy Music re-cloning society at the moment. But I get the feeling that I'll still check out their next record.
I was standing in the bar of a second-rate hotel in the suburbs of Manchester, swapping polite small-talk with a quartet of Scots teenagers with broad Glasgow accents. They seemed to be living up to the press image of Innocent Youngsters Abroad - until, that is, something exploded under my nose and they exploded into gales of laughter.
Drummer Brian McGee had just walked in looking very sulky and had offered me a cigarette in what seemed to be a simply diplomatic gesture, the bloody thing blew up in my face. So much for innocence...
Simple Minds were in Manchester for a gig at The Factory, an oddly-shaped club in the middle of a terminal (and I mean terminal) council estate. Three hundred people trickled into the 900-capacity club; about a third of them jumping around at the front, the rest gathering in groups near the bar talking and drinking. The acoustics of the place were terrible, and without a large crowd to soak up the sound, those who were there were at the mercy of a deafening PA. The band played a fast, vigorous set and said later they enjoyed it, but the audience wasn't so sure.
Simple Minds were formed in early '78, from the remnants of the charmingly entitled Johnny & The Self Absuers. The nucleus of the group is formed by writer/vocalist Jim Kerr and writer/guitarist (plus a touch of violin) Charlie Burchill. Joining them on the front line of Scots-rocks are Mick MacNeil (keyboards), Derek Forbes (bass) and Brian McGee (drums). The early Simple Minds plied a sprightly brand of slice-and-cut new music (they'll kill me for that) around Glasgow and Edinburgh until falling beneath the benign gaze of Bruce Finlay, friend to the stars, enterpreneur, wit, sage and onion and owner of Zoom Records.
When Zoom was hitched to Arista's wagon late last year, Simple Minds found themselves in the hands of Arista's promotion machine. They also found their debut single, 'Life In A Day', leaping into the charts at 35. An album of the same name was released after a jog around the country supporting Magazine on their ill-fated tour and was similarly well-received by the punters, peaking at 30 in the charts. The sweet smell of success began to waft around the elegant Mayfair offices of Arista... So what went wrong in Manchester?
"We were more disappointed than anyone else," said Jim. "We were really looking forward to this gig because we went down so well at the Apollo with Magazine. We thought we'd get a real good crowd there; a club with a good reputation and everything. But once we got on, I did enjoy it."
In mitigation, it should be added that the gig wasn't given the publicity splash you'd imagine a rare gig by the band should have been given. It was also in a very heavy, rundown part of the city. A few weeks before, The Lurkers only just scraped together the same amount of punters.
"Up in Scotland," Charlie adds, "it's really good. But outside that, the only time people have seen us was on the Magazine tour. Apart, that is, from these few dates now."
Hibernia seems to be a sore subject within the band. Bruce had initially tried to get the band to come on all rock 'n' rolling SNP, but they're none too enamoured of the auld sod.
"We're really restricted in Glasgow," Charlie said, "because there isn't anywhere to play, because of size, organisation and that kind of thing." He goes on to recount a nighmarish tale about playing and un-controlled college gig where 500 people milled around in a tiny hall with no bouncers or organisation. "It was just bedlam."
Jim has stronger feelings on the subject; "I don't really enjoy playing in Glasgow any more. Glasgow's a weird place for a band at our stage. When you first start off, everyone in Glasgow gets right behind you. There isn't much going on in Glasgow and when you get a band that's getting on a bit, they get really jealous. It's not as though we're getting mass acceptance, but now it's like "Those up there, those cunts. It could've been me."
This is just part of a problem assailing the group at present. They find themselves in the unenviable position between the company, which wants to capitalise on what it sees as a bright new band, and the public, who see no proof that these barbarian upstarts have paid their dues.
"We just wanted to do things straight; get a proper studio, a proper sound, a proper producer, and obviously we couldn't have done that on our own. So I imagine a lot of people think we've had it really easy because they didn't see us in the Hope 'n' Anchor or wherever."
Needless to say, it didn't actually help to dispel the suspicion when they played their first London gig... at the Drury Lane Theatre, supporting Magazine. But, as I've said, they lived up to it. They got an excellent reaction on the tour, getting called back for one or two encores each night (a virtually unheard of phenomenon in the world of downtrodden support acts).
Allowing the business machine free rein was, they all aver, a bad move.
"We'd much rather go out and get grassroots following behind us," Jim said, "as opposed to just sticking out a single, waiting for it to get high in the charts so we can sit back for a while and then do the next album. Because playing's still the most important thing to us."
The 'Life In A Day' album surfaced during the tour, and you would have forgiven for thinking that Arista was giving Simple Minds the Full Works. The press greeted it with the ticker-tape shower of names; Ultravox, Roxy Music, Magazine (?), Tubeway Army, XTC and so on.
"Some of it we could agree with," Jim said, refusing to actually say which bits they agreed with. "But some we couldn't agree withn at all. Especially XTC and things like that."
"It was recorded almost half a year ago," Charles adds. "I can see bits on it where I think, 'Perhaps we shouldn't have done that'. But we had a lot of things to get off our chests."
Jim again; "We're going to experiment, to try and get a sound of our own. I think the next album will be much more us. I don't think it will be so much of the 'Simple Minds sound like this or that or...' Some of that we could take, but some of it got on our nerves. People always look to compare a new band with someone else."
There's only one thing they'll accept as valid comparison with the abovementioned bands, "and that," said Charlie, "is the line-up."
They refuse to be drawn on the subject of where the band will move, stylistically. "I don't think we've yet come to the point where we want to come out and be black and white about things, and say we stand for this and this is us.
"It's not getting any more advanced or intricate or technical," Charlie said. "It's still really got that basic simpleness."
"We feel at this point that the basis of the band," said Jim "the hard shell of it is still - as cliched as it is - pretty much a rock 'n' roll band."
I'll drink to that.
You know that band that everybody's been waiting for - the one that will achieve that magic fusion of the verbal visions of the Bowie/Harley/Verlaine twilight academy with the fertile firepower of the New Wave, that early Roxy Music with a rock 'n' roll heart?
Well, here they are. They're called Simple Minds, they come from Glasgow, and they create not just startlingly good rock music but a whole show, an event, all in their cramped corner of a crowded city pub, the Mars Bar.
There are two basic reasons why Simple Minds are such a devastating prospect, and they're called Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill.
Highlighted by unorthodox lightning, vocalist Kerr is an extraordinary performer. With blank made-up eyes in a pallid face, he has the hypnotic aura of a man running on psychic energy as he dances jerkily around, intoning his lyrics of urban unease. "Dead Vandals", "Subway Sex", "Better Watch Out" - the titles speak for themselves.
Lead guitarist Burchill alternates between Flying V and occasional violin, providing a melodic but incisive intuitive complement to Kerr's preoccupied lyrics.
But a two-man show this is not. The six piece line-up creates a thrilling, enthralling aural kaleidoscope of searing intros and instant riffs, tuneful aggression and sparing use of effects, brief bursts of disciplined creativity and fiery rhythm work.
Revelatory execution, strong visuals, consistently good material both in busy rockers like "The Cocteau Twins" or the building emotion of their "Chelsea Girl" instant classic.... Already the superlatives are straining at the leash!
Weak points? Indistinct vocals, a jarring lack of presence between numbers, some indifferent pacing - a few rough edges but no real flaws.
Ending as they began with their odd but effective visual motif - a translucent blue head revolving silently in the darkness atop the PA Simple Minds drop the tempo to unveil their piece de resistance, "Pleasantly Disturbed."
As the twisting, turning, eerie epic burns its way home, it's hard to recall the last time I witnessed such an exciting yet thoughful new talent.
The many people who have stumbled across Simple Minds in Scotland know how wonderful they are. We've known for months that they are more approachable, more mature and much more fully realised than any other This Year's Thing. But here is the dilemma: in these times of global villages, high-powered advertising and so on, language has been devalued to the point where bands described in anything but the most extreme terms are given only scant attention - which can only work against a group as unique and special as Simple Minds.
So be warned: don't blame Simple Minds for the inevitable over-enthusiasm of the media.
Now the over-exicited ravings. Not everyone will appreciate the many subleties of the band. Their sinister, eerily atmosphere music and inscrutible apperance will doubtless be misinterpreted as cold detachment by some. But whether you brought this paper in Euston Menzies or San Fransico City Lights, you'll be reading a lot more about them within a few months.
Since Ian Cranna's review (NME 14.10.78), they have gained confidence, lost a rhythm guitarist, improved western culture with some new songs, signed with Zoom/Arista and should be recording an album shortly with XTC's producer John Leckie, who has travelled here to see them tonight.
Only a few people have arrived in time to stand in awed reverence before a cramped, 18 inch high stage where, even from only feet away, the whole band display impressive charisma and confidence.
Jim Kerr's voice was once described by a Glasgow fanzine, as 'a controlled scream'. But he's learnt fast and now sings with only a soft edge of craziness, and there's something inexplicably French about a voice that's full of fascinating twists.
Only the eyes show anything, a sly, glazed mania. Occasionally a hint of smile evokes creepy, ancient vampire nobility and arrogance. Every detail is subtle and tasteful with this band; qualities virtually alien to rock. I hope enough people can still appreciate something as quietly insidious as this after so much crass exhibitionism.
As Johnny and The Self Abusers they were good enough to have done well. Perhaps we should be grateful to a system which failed to find them until they had grown into something much more than that. Here are the names which will soon be familiar: Jim Kerr (vocals); Charlie Burchill (guitar/violin); Michael McNeil (keyboards); Derek Forbed (bass); Brian McGee (drums).
Which songs to watch for? All of them
Ca Va! Sitting in limbo on the back of a cab in Edinburgh's Prince Street pondering on what might have been.
Three or four thousand miles north of said cab the raison d'etre for this northerly jaunt are onstage. Simple Minds - for tis they - trip the light fantastic in the granite city of Aberdeen and I am slumped and slumming in Edinburgh. Ca Va! So it goes.
"Come back tomorrow," said the teen dream pig of an airline career lady. "All flights to Aberdeen are cancelled."
She shoots the crap loquaciously and leaves the live Simple Minds experience as but a mere memory in a young lad's past. Ca Va! So it goes...
...Some three months back the tiresome Generation X hit the homelands. A local contact walked into my office, threw his aquamarine trilby at the stand and sidled over my desk. I took another hit on the depleted bottle of bourbon, lit up another Marlboro, my seventy eighth of the day, and tilted my own leatherette titfer to its jauntiest angle.
"This dude looks as if he's just trod on a landmine," I mused as I delicately cleaned the motorbike grease that lurked under my fingernails with my trusty switchblade Hiram.
"Hey man," the cat exploded, "yuh... yuh... gotta see...", he wheezed as he pole-axed to the floor, dripping blood on the polished pine floorboards. I grabbed the punk by the throat and tried to wring the last vital phrase from his wilting body.
"Who? Who?" I murdered as my brogues thudded into his kidneys. "Simple Minds... they're straight outta the refrigerator man," he informed me with his dying breath. I let the cadaver thud to the floor, grabbed my mac, and went cruisin'.
Simple Minds trooped on to a pre-recorded tape, the blanket of total night exploded into magnificent professionalism and they looked like they wanted, no, already owned the world. They had the magical aura of a band who were destined for greater things and they knew it.
Descriptions bandied about read like a director of rock history's most esoteric moments, Viz. Roxy Music, Velvet Underground, Bowie and anyone who ever got kicked out of art school. Other selective souls with more power, influence and effervescence than I also checked out the Simps. They got signed a few weeks ago and now they've taken the first steps on the road to wherever it is. With the ink on a record company contract barely dry the band find themselves in the studios trotting out demos. Which is where I came in.
Down in the cellar in St Vincent Street in Glasgow is Ca Va Recording Studios, arguably the best facility of its kind in La belle Ecosse.
While drummer Brian McGee, bassist Derek Forbes, keyboardsman Michael MacNeil and guitarist Charlie Burchill lay down the day's backing tracks, Jim Kerr, the band's vocalist, and I find an eaterie and talk. We begin by discussing skeletons in cupboards and the past.
A potted history of Simple Minds has to include the fact that three of the band were in the mighty, in name only, Johnny and The Self Abusers were one of the pioneers of the original plook infested punk thing in Jock-Strap land.
Kerr explained over a bowl of soup: "The Abusers for us was just a way of getting up and playing in a band without months and months of rehearsals. At this time the whole punk thing was happening in Glasgow and a guy that worked in a local record shop persuaded his boss to put up money for us to do a single, Then he let Chiswick hear a tape and they agreed to put it out."
I mentioned the long delay in the single's hitting the shops. A delay which had rancid safety-pinned Scots frothing in anticipation.
"If it hadn't been for that the Abusers wouldn't have lasted more than two months. Chiswick promised that it would be out in August (1977) but it didn't come out until late November. We just stayed together 'cos we thought it would be great to have a record out. Then on the day it came out we spilt up," relates the Thin White Duke's wee brother.
Was that planning or simply irony?
"It wasn't planned," Kerr continues, "the thing was that our intial gigs were a pure joke we were doing Damned and Ramones stuff, really we were just a living jukebox. The first songs we ever wrote were 'Saints And Sinners' and 'Dead Vandals' and from July to November it became apparent that we had nothing in common with the others apart from the fact that we wanted to be in a band."
At this juncture I think I should point out that the royal 'we' obviously refers to Kerr and his writing partner Charlie Burchill, a self-taught guitarist and occasional violin-scraper who, live, cuts a noble dash with his Flying V axe.
Then came the anonymity of finding a new band and rehearsing it, nay, honing it to perfection. The six month period of lying low was fully justified. As Jim states, when Bruce Finlay, head of local independent label Zoom Records checked da boize out he "saw a band that was together and not one which looked as if it become together."
Finlay, a fellow Simple Minds raver, a record company boss, and most importantly a real fan of good music was so impressed that he approached Arista, the company to which Zoom is licensed, to give him the mighty moolah which would secure the services of the Minds. Brucie baby convinced the big A of the band's true worth and has been a permanent part of a Simple Minds audience ever since.
Why, I wondered, did Arista give Zoom the money for a large advance when they could have signed the band direct to their own outlet?
"Basically Bruce conned them and you can print that," he joked. He told them we wouldn't sign to them, only to Zoom."
We then broach the subject of the numerous influences which subliminally appear throughout the Simple Minds set. Straight question. Who do you think you sound like? "I wouldn't like to say who we sound like but we draw from everywhere... things as wild as Supertramp to Roxy to the Velvets and even... the first gig that Charlie and I went to was a Genesis gig about the time of 'Foxtrot' and I still listen to their albums and I still like them. When people say Roxy and Ultravox I can see why, I definitely can," opines Kerr.
However, the reason Simple Minds will be huge is their ability to take their multifarious roots and infuse them with their own unique depth and feel, sound qualities which make them unique and give them the magic aura.
How about your writing Jim? You have a song called 'Cocteau Twins' which, along with your intense theatrics - more on that later - could provoke critical daggers on the score of pretension.
"Well the thing is, I didn't say I'll go out and get a good book by Jean Cocteau. I just read a book of his plays and there was one called 'Les Enfants Terribles' and I related it back to one of my own experiences where I was staying in a flat with two out and out gays and so it's really about them."
Kerr then goes on to credit his English teacher at school as being a huge influence on him because he was not the formal strict teacher type. This gent taught the young Kerr to write compositions around a given title and this he says remains in his songwriting. Hence people mistake the band's 'Chelsea Girl' as being on the Nico connection when in actual fact the song was written because those words had "atmosphere."
"Every song I write has either got 'he', 'she' or 'they' in it simply because I find people fascinating and I think that characters are a great subject to write about," says Kerr without a snigger. "I can see why people might say we're contrived or pretentious but to me the songs are no more pretentious than 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand' because most of them are about experiences I've gone through," he concludes.
Onstage the band exude all the intense charm of five psychopathic killers. Especially Jim Kerr who comes on like Frank Sinatra, all hands buried deep in trouser pockets and shuffling on tip toes. He is rock's Anthony Perkins.
"Originally I would have liked to have gone into drama but I had no access to it. I would have liked to have done some acting lessons, and now that I'm on a wage I'm going to put a bit of money away so that, when I get a bit of time, I can maybe pay my way through theatrical school. We wear make-up because it's a kind of mask to hide behind and we'd like to think it's theatrical rather than gimmicky".
The words of a man who knows where he's going. Simple Minds, mark my words kiddies, will succeed. It's going to be a long time before acting lessons are attended. Ca Va and so it goes.