CONFESSIONS OF A SIMPLE MIND
Another page in the diary… time to write down something
Paul Morley – ‘Blitz’ – July 1987 (UK)
More of myself… After two weeks of struggling through scores of interviews for European magazines, putting up with aappalling ignorance and arrogance, after being bothered with such sick idiocies, perhaps here I can discover my own reasons and my own obsessions. My own reason for being… Whenever I strayed close to wondering about such things in front of some underpaid, undernourished journalist, I could see their eyes glaze over, and they would drag the conversation back towards the definite… Trapped for fourteen days in front of a cunning display of Sony microphones suffering what Cocteau called the eternal inaccuracy of journalists… Today, I use my diary to get it all out of my system, the tedium, the quarrels, the stupidity… Some days are good days, alive and meaningful, and some days are bad days. I’ve just had fourteen bad days.
I remember when the only thing that mattered for me was being put on the cover of the New Musical Express… Back in the days when we were kind of loved because we were kind of small… because we were kind of lovable. The days when we were living from day to day, it was all spur of the moment, and who knew what was going to happen to me, to us… If you had asked me back then what would be happening to me in five years’ time, I think where I am now is the last place in the world that I would have thought of, not just in terms of record sales and the ticket sales, but in my private life, in who I am, in what I am becoming… all of that is just amazing. And I have an independence that I absolutely relish… I now have the tools to do battle with my own ignorance. If I want to know about anything, I do it, I don’t have to read about it. I get on a plane and I go to the Sahara, I don’t have to read somebody writing about it.
These journalists nagging on so naively about what it’s like to be famous, to be a rock star… they couldn’t understand that with me there’s a graciousness involved, that I could never sacrifice myself to the shamelessness that there can be. There is something within me that will always keep a distance from the cliches, the obviousness, and even in keeping a distance, it’s done in my own way, with my own understandings and expectations… Nothing is so obvious to me that I can slip through it easily inside forty-five minutes with some journalist. They probably all thought I’m over-defensive and much too cautious, but that’s just too bad… My biggest fear when I do those interviews is of appearing smug. I must not smug… and then maybe it appears that I don’t really know what I’m talking about.
Perhaps it’s because jouranlists are always interested in the results of something… I just cannot commit myself to the gross generalisations that are necessary, or so it seems, when you’re doing the interview… Morley said I was just being silly, the bastard, that the pop interview was just a lightweight arrangement of thoughts and conceits that might or might not be interesting and that by now I should be in much better control of the situation. I would have to get Morley after doing fourteen days of that crap… He likes to think he’s Robin Day or something, and you can never tell if he really means it when he asks a question… He even laughed at me, the bastard, when I said I just wanted to be as honest as I could…
Maybe I do take it all too seriously…
As a band we always seem to be too serious. Should I apologise for that? As people we all have a tremendous sense of humour, but it never seems to appear in the music… I could sit in a room until the end of time and try and analyse why and never find out. Humour should come through more in what I do, in the band’s music, it would seem a lot more realistic, maybe I’d be better off. Perhaps I do worry about things too much, maybe I should be more at ease during an interview, when some person is spending a few minutes or hours with me to then go away and pretend to completely know what I’m about. I’m ill at ease during an interview because I can never communicate properly the organic nature of what it is I do, what the band does. So I always come across as being ill at ease.
I’m at ease when I make and write the music, when I’m with my wife and children, when I’m travelling, when I’m performing. That’s what I am, something nobody is ever really going to see. The interview is a necessary evil, a place where strangers come along and tell you how you should be feeling… If you cannot agree with the way that they see you, and why should you, they write you off as some confused idiot. Simple Minds has always been a very organic thing. It was three people who grew up in the same street together, went to the same school together, discovered the same things together,
brought the same records, read the same books, went to a room together to make music, travelled to the same places, and it all went on… Nothing happened overnight, nothing changed miraculously, and I never ever felt the need to stop and think about it, to analyse it. It just was… And so why, when I’m being interviewed, should I put a pause button on and reflect on it all, just for the sake of some paper? It all just flows and moves and I do not feel any need to articulate the whys and wherefores…
Morley said it must be quite an easy thing, to sit around and talk for two hours about yourself, about what you believe in… That’s rubbish. I’m not interested in that kind of analysis, where you have no control over the you that will be presented. I like to be able to rely on instinct. Instinct takes me to the stage. Instinct doesn’t bring me to an interview with Paul Morley. Duty does. Morley said that this meant that my answers were always kind of noncommittal, or as ambiguous as a politician’s… arrogant bastard. Where I commit myself is on stage… on stage is where you will see the commitment and grace of Jim Kerr…
And it’s much more me that it ever was. It’s much more me on stage in front of 50,000 people than it was when I did the Manchester Rafters in 1979. When I go onto the stage now I know that 50,000 people paid 10 quid to see us over three months ago, and there’s a kind of craft that appears. People from the left side get offended by what we do on stage… there’s a richness to us, a hugeness, a visibility, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. For someone who never really felt like any kind of rebel, right now I feel like an ultimate kind of rebel… because what we do is so big and powerful, and it’s nothing to do with appearing at the Hammersmith Palais… Morley said it suits me to have this kind of success and these kind of audiences, that when I was struggling it looked forced and awkward. I think he’s right.
When we play now it’s a massive show,
it’s a huge thing, but actually there’s a lot more of me on show than ever there was. People say that when they saw me at Port Talbot in front of 45 people it was more intimate. Rubbish. That’s such an obvious thing to say. When I was playing at Port Talbot, there was maybe 5 per cent of me, and the rest was just sheer confusion, confusion as to whether you’re any good or not, confusion as to whether anyone will really get to love you… It’s actually much more affected when you’re struggling than when you begin to realise that you actually might have something.
In the early days I knew all the things that I didn’t want to be but I didn’t really know what I was, what I could be. Slowly, in a way I cannot analyse, in a way that I cannot say dawned on me one Friday, in a way that is completely mysterious, in a way that would have happened even if we hadn’t covered a song and got an American Number One, in a way that makes me feel so certain, in a way that I can’t possibly put into words, I began to understand what it was I was doing, why I was doing it…
Yes, I get stuck when I try and explain this in interviews, I sound vague and out of focus. Morley says it’s that I’ve got hold of a certain kind of old-fashioned showbusiness understanding and slapped it on the back of the vast uneasy pop songs we conjure up… I’m not sure if he was having a go at me or not… I think it’s much shadowier and lovelier than that, although I do admit a bit to the showbusiness idea… If you’re going to be on stage at 8.30 on a Wednesday in Belgium, I don’t care if your Frank Sinatra or Mark E Smith, it’s showbusiness. But when I go on stage, it’s more… splendid than just being showbusiness… It’s natural and it’s madness…
It’s at times like that, when you’re beginning to talk, as coherently as is possible, about the astonishment of performing, the thrill, that some types of journalists slip in the exasperating question. Morley asked me if I felt I was good. What a silly question. No, said Morley, you said you never knew whether you were good or not – do you now think that what Simple Minds do is good? Well, I said, trying to be honest, trying not to sound smug, I think that we know our weaknesses and we know our strengths… That, apparently, was the classic example of a politicians answer. I told Morley that after being asked that question five times a day for fourteen days, that was the best answer he was going to get.
When you’re asked the mundane things, you’ll give the mundane answers. When you’re asked a good, unexpected question, that’s great, that sets you thinking, you almost begin to think that the exercise might have some kind of worth… What I’m interested in is always being curious, always searching… being pushed. To say that I always want to be restless and uneasy is about as specific as I will ever get in an interview. Even on a mundane level, when we were making this live album, as we were putting it together, working it all out, living it, it was great. I expected the whole thing would be retro and uninspiring, but it was actually a great experience. There was a chance for the first time to see things in the music,
to stand back, to search through and find things out about ourselves… But do I think we’re any good? the question barely makes sense to me. You know, I can hear Prince’s single and I don’t think we’re very good, Prince can do everything I would love to do, encapsulate inside three minutes a time, the heat, the smell… If I hear Echo And The Bunneymen, then I think we’re good. But, you know, I can listen to Van Morrison, and I know there is so much to learn, there’s so much experience that I must gain. Gaining experience is the only real gain, and how do you quantify that? Experience… that is what interests me, and that just happens, it just turns up… If someone asks me if I think I’m good, I’d rather just answer – I’m not so much of a voyeur as I was, I’m touching, I’m grasping, I’m finding out for myself.
There’s been a change in me, for whatever reason. I haven’t sold out. I don’t care less about things – if anything I care more. I’ve just changed, thank God. People can say that the reason that I’ve changed is because it used to be clubs, and now it’s stadiums, it used to be cult, but now it’s big business… but, no, I’ve changed because I’m less of a voyeur than I used to be… I have less patience with just watching. I have to be involved. That’s what’s happened. It’s nothing to do with a change in my beliefs, or a crazed new love for money. It’s just that ten years ago I couldn’t have even chatted someone up, and now I cheerlead 10,000 people, 50,000 people.
I have a quest. For me, and the band, and for my family,
and for my friends. The results of this quest will affect a lot of people, so I take it seriously… Somebody can ask me what this quest is in thirty years’ time, they can ask about the results of the quest in fifty years’ time. I just know that I’m on a quest. This isn’t the kind of thing that journalists want to hear about, but that’s not too bad. They want to know the specifics of the quest, or the origin of the quest, or how it’s going, or don’t I think it’s a bit pompous. I only know that I’m on a quest. My dad was on a quest when he was 30 years old and he decided to stop drinking and start reading. You couldn’t say what the quest was but he was undoubtedly on a quest. I’m 28 and I know for sure that I’m on a quest. Morley said did this mean wanting to sell more records than U2, but he can fuck off.
Morley said did this mean that I wanted to be loved by millions of people and make incredible amounts of money, but I knew by then that he was just winding me up. Then again, you can never tell with Morley. He also asked me if the quest was so that I could become completely incorruptible, and if I thought that he was being serious, I might have answered ‘yes’. Then Morley asked if I was just some pseudo-religious nutcase relying on the generosity of a vast public accustomed to the worst. It’s no wonder that doing interviews puts me in such a bad mood.
It’s incredible how all the jouranlists are so keen to find out how I’ve changed now that I play in huge stadiums and sell loads of records. They all seem to suffer from a kind of deranged, fatuous curiosity, a loveless curiosity. They think that everything is like this ot it’s like that… for me, things arfe either strong, or else they’re worn out… How can I communicate that in an interview? Morley asked me when I first realised that Simple Minds were a successful rock group. Last week, I said. Morley laughed, for some reason. It was the fucking truth. Lask week I realised for the first time that we had really done something… You’re aware that you’re selling more and more records, and that more and more people are coming to your concerts, but last week I truly understood how successful we had become. You know, for the last six months I’ve just had time to reflect on what had happened over these past five years, then last week I saw the advanced orders on the live double album…
Things can happen to you that must make the outside world think you’ve changed, that you’re different, but you can hardly notice. Like, we did Live Aid. People go on about the magnitude of the event, the influence, the generosity… At Live Aid I wasn’t thinking about the straving babies, or isn’t Geldof great, or I wonder what’s happening over at Wembley… All I could think was, there’s Jack Nicholson! There was a sense that it was all getting bigger… but it’s only really now that I can see the size of it. Seeing the advance orders on the double live albums – and at this point, before some cheap journalist can say anything, I shout BARCLAY JAMES HARVEST (Morley, the bastard, said this was almost my one joke) – it began to hit home how big we’d become. Knowing that it will go straight into the charts at Number One, it made me realise that we had really done something. I don’t know what, I don’t know what it means, I just know that something has happened… And it feels great.
We’ve been getting the accusations of being a dinosaur band since 1979, because of the grandness of the sound… so we don’t give a shit about any of that… Morley, the bastard, said that we are a dinosaur band, but we never were until May 1985. Was he determined to get on my bloody nerves? What was he trying to get me to say? It’s always a bloody worry when the journalists is obviously a bit clever and keeps nudging you somewhere… What did he want from me? How boring and zealous is he going to make me appear in the article? I don’t think we are a dinosaur band.
Next to Age Of Chance it might look that way to a few warped idiots. But don’t make me out to be a dinosaur because of Age Of Chance’s shortcomings… I’m alive and kicking! I’ve got tons of energy! I’m getting stronger by the day… I don’t except the word dinosaur at all… If bands cannot exist for longer than sixteen months then that’s their problem… We are not dinosaurs. Morley is, for saying that we are dinosaurs, if he meant it. He claimed that he was using the word as some kind of compliment, but I’d had two weeks of fools going on about Simple Minds being dinosaurs and I’d just had enough. Morley said that to be heroes for sentimental reasons cannot be all bad, but there was a strange twinkle in his eyes as he said it.
The thing is, we’re caught in the middle. Either you get guys ten years older than you telling you that you’re not as good as Hendrix, that you’re not the real thing, or you get guys eight years younger than you talking to you as if you’re Pete townsend. And none of them really know what they’re talking about. Not liking us, or criticism, that’s fair enough. But to be dimissed for reasons that are all to do with the journalist’s problems, that’s really irritating.
I haven’t really done many interviews before this two
week batch, not for a long time anyway… This set of interviews was the first real response I was getting to the fact that we are now a successful band – maybe I did act a bit defensive. And it doesn’t really bother me, all this pettiness that piles up. It just gets a bit tiring to be accused of never changing by a bunch of people who are completely caught in limbo themselves, who individually and as a profession never change… At the end of what I do there is this gorgeous noise… and it’s a marvel. And then you meet all these journalists, who can’t either take or leave that situation, and you just look into their eyes and feel like saying, straighaway, aw, don’t talk to me about it…
Two weeks. It’s all over. I got through it, only now and then losing my patience. I lost my patience with Morley. He asked me if it’s all worthwhile. What did he mean? Aw, what the fuck, we’ve made a record that goes on sale this week and for whatever reason you cannot buy a record that sounds anything like it, and that’s a fact, and anything else is just pettiness. During those two weeks I got across that we’d made this record, and it was unique, and that it deserves to be listened to. I did my duty. I told these journalists what makes me pleased to be in Simple Minds
getting a letter from someone who says ‘I came to see you but I was fifty rows back and couldn’t see a thing. But I danced all night’, getting a letter from someone who said that they were lonely until they listened to our records, getting into a car at an airport in Australia and hearing a song that I wrote six months ago in Glasgow blasting out of the radio, seeing brickies on building sites wearing our T-shirts… I made it clear that I absolutely love what I do and that I have all the strength in the world to carry on and make it clearer, make it better and bigger…
There is definitely a loneliness, but I wouldn’t want to talk about that in an interview, I wouldn’t want to give away that… Morley said, was there anything I was prepared to give away? Apparently not. Morley said the word he would use to describe me in an interview was ‘vague’. He seemed a bit upset about it. I couldn’t understand what he wanted to get out of the interview, not at all. I told him, look, I still have to pinch myself to make sure that all of this is true. I don’t want to come over self-important or conceited, I just believe in what I do, and want to keep on doing it. It is mind-boggling what has heppened to me, whether that’s being Jim Kerr of The Simple Minds or whether that’s being Jim Kerr husband of Chrissie Hynde. But in the end it’s just natural for me to get on stage and sing.
There’s a certain kind of magic about it that I just allow to happen. I do think that there’s a lot of magic in life… I can be in the mid-west talking to someone at a baseball game and then the next day I can be talking to a Red Indian and then the next day I can be talking to a Lebanese refugee, and I can only put this down to magic. Maybe that’s what makes our music so powerful, that sense of wonder. We marvel at the size of our music sometimes, we can’t imagine where it comes from… we marvel at where that music has taken us. It could be magic. Magic is not the best word to use in interviews,
but I love the word. Magic. I have to believe that magic is involved in what we do. It’s not natural for me to say that it is because of any power that I process that has put me here. really, i can’t watch a video of us all the way through. I certainly cannot hear one of our records all the way through. Perhaps I’ve always got the feeling that the next record will be better, I can’t wait for that one, so listening to what we’ve done makes me feel uncomfortable. It’s already the past, and my enthusiasm is always for the future.
When Morley switched off his Sony, he seemed a bit disappointed. I couldn’t have cared less. Actually, that isn’t quite true. I was a bit annoyed myself. There’s something horribly artifical about the interview. I could probably sum up what I have to say in eleven lines. At home I have two film posters on the wall that inspire me to write the kind of awestruck songs I need to write – Ran and The Mission. Once you’ve written that song, if you want one person to hear it, then a million people might as well hear it. Somewhere in between one person hearing that song and one million, the problems begin. The problems, I leave to the journalists. For me, it’s always still a sense that I’m just beginning. I don’t actually feel myself a success. And whatever it is that I really am, I want to keep to myself.
THE SON OF FASCINATION
Simple Minds are currently residing at the top of the charts throughout the world with their double album ‘ Live In The City Of Light’, but has Jim Kerr sold his New Gold Dream for a dollar sign? Harold Demuir met him in Manhattan, discussed former glories and future projects, and discovered why Kerr believes Simple Minds have reached the end of an era and the beginning of something even better
Harold Demuir – ‘Melody Maker’ – 1st August 1987 (UK)
Depending on who you ask, Simple Minds’ current multinational success is either a truimph for thoughtful, morally responsible music in a cynical, amoral pop world, or it’s a prime example of a once-vital band neutered by mass acceptance. A conversation with Jim Kerr, however, makes it extremely difficult to doubt the man’s sincerity, or imagine him motivated by anything other than a genuine desire to communicate.
“I’m still not a musical person, that’s why I always talk about music in terms of images and tones and stuff. This weekend I’ve been asked to sing a line in a Paul McCartney song – he’s also asked Peter Gabriel and Bono and Sting – and I was told that I have to sing this line in the key E. I’ve done nine albums, and I don’t know the key E.”
It’s Sunday afternoon, midtown Manhattan is hot and smells rotten, and Kerr is recuperating from bouts of sunburn and food poisoning. Despite all this, he’s in an upbeat, chatty mood, pondering the significance of Simple Minds’ latest out-of-the-box smash, “Live In The City Of Light”. The double LP immortalizes the band’s imposing live show, with a conspicuous emphasis on material from their last three studio albums, “New Gold Dream”, “Sparkle In The Rain” and “Once Upon A Time.”
“The only disappointment I have with this live record is that it’s only our first. I think we probably should have done one four years ago. We’re a live band first and foremost, and we’re arrogant enough to believe that, as in the traditional great live bands, there’s a side of us that hasn’t been caputured on our studio records. We had been taping gigs and listening to bootlegs for years, and a live record has always been on the cards. The studio is still very much a stranger to us, and a lot of the songs breathe better live, after they’ve been around for a while.
“Having done ‘Once Upon A Time’ and having achieved success, we felt that we had come full circle and ended a phase, and doing a live album was a way of putting a stop to it. There’s been a couple of times in the past where we’ve heard a sort of instinctive voice that says ‘Alright, that’s that.’ The last time I felt anything remotely like that was right before we made ‘New Gold Dream.’ I knew we’d come to the end of something then, and it’s kind of the same thing now.”
The band’s next move is still undetermined, but they definitely won’t be touring behind the live album, thus breaking the stifling album/tour/album/tour cycle. Another possible departure is the instrumental album which Kerr wants the group to record and release simultaneously with their next album of songs.
“For the first time ever, there’s absolutely nothin on the calendar. We’ve got no obligation to make a record in any given time, so we can go away and come back when we feel that we’ve got something more to give. I think there have been a few things lately where we’ve sort of cut ourselves short or neglected certain sides of ourselves, and now we want to go away and come back with a body of work, as oppossed to just eight or nine songs to put on an album. it’s great at the moment, because there’s not the pressure of having a limited amount of time to make a record. But there is so much pressure, because we want to become better songwriters and make much, much better records.”
The fact that Kerr’s been residing in Edinburgh has given rise to all sorts of speculation about the state of his marriage to Chrissie Hynde. He politely deflects questions about his personal life and seems thrilled to be back in his homeland. “The outcome of the General Election is that 90 per cent of the people in Scotland are living under a governemnt that they don’t want. There’s a lot of heat and a lot of talk there right now, so it’s a very interesting place to be. And personally, it great to be there, walking down the street and not having to be part and parcel of anything.”
Simple Minds’ next musical phase, Kerr feels, may be a crucial one for the band. “I don’t think we’ve ever been in as much danager as we would be now if we were to go and make ‘Twice Upon A Time’. We’ve never had to be conscious of that before, but at the moment it’s a real concern. We’ve always known that as soon as we try to write a particular type of song, it’s gonna be the death of us, because we’re gonna be denying the organic thing that I’ve always said is the heart of us.
“‘Once Upon A Time’ was the most contrived record we’ve made, in the sense that for the first time we wanted to make a very upfront, modern, contemporary rock record. It was a challenge for us to do it that way – we already knew that we could do it the other way, sitting around writing steam-of-consciousness lyrics. On ‘Once Upon A Time’, it was like, we’re here, and the industry’s here, and are we gonna shy away because we think it’s gonna corrupt us, or are we gonna go inside and decide what’s what?
“I think it’s completely normal to do something good, then do something not so good, then do something great, and then do something terrible. If you ask me, it’s almost to the detriment of Elvis Costello that he puts out an album or two every year and they’re all brilliant. It’s like, blow it once! Two weeks ago in Dublin I saw Lou Reed and spent the night talking with him, and it was just fantastic, all the lows and highs of the stuff he’s been through.” There are those, of course, who maintained that Simple Minds were more interesting and satisfying in the days before “Don’t You Forget About Me” (a counterfeit Simple Minds track with the band making a game effort of sounding like itself) sealed the quintet’s status as a transalantic mega-act.
“A lot of people who’d seen us seven years ago say, ‘Well, I preferred you then,’ and I can’t really understand why. I mean, I can – I think the music had some sort of charm then. But we were ice cold. We adopted this aloofness, which came from a complete lack of confidence. It was really a big mask; we were standing there thinking ‘Don’t move cause you’re gonna get it wrong.’ Believe me, I was there, and we weren’t very good at all. “If people come up to me and say ‘I used to like the band, but…’ I usually will try and work it out with them. If it’s a genuine thing and we just don’t please them anymore, I’m often pretty sad and I say, ‘Look, at least we shared something in the past, and that was good.’ But when it smacks of elitism, and when they don’t like us because they just aren’t willing to share us with the mechanic down the road, I just say ‘Get the fuck out of here,’ because I hate that.”
Still, there’s something very attractive about a young, unformed band that’s still groping for an individual mode of expression, which is why a lot of people find records like ‘Empires And Dance’ and ‘Sister Feelings Call’ a good deal more compelling than Simple Minds’ better-organized recent works. Kerr, however, is not persuaded. “Many people associate groping with not being able to play your instruments. But man, I wasn’t groping then, not to the extent that I am groping now. There’s always the image of the struggling young artist that the rest of the world doesn’t understand, but in the early days I was more a voyeur and a dilettante than anything else. I was just a big fan of bands, and I was lucky enough to find a guy, Charlie Burchill, that lived in my street and played guitar and liked the same bands that I did. There was never any big thing; I was kind of running and tripped and fell into this band.
“There was a point, somewhere between ‘Sons And Fascination’ and ‘New Gold Dream’, where it became a quest for something. That was when we actually realized that there was something special at the core of our music. It’s even more like that now, and we’re amazed at how music seems to find us – we’ll go into a room with no clue, no masterplan, and we’ll come out a couple of weeks later with something very forceful. “Our music before ‘New Gold Dream’, to me, was very dense and claustrophobic. It was kind of like before a thunderstorm, when the air’s clammy and there’s a lot of tension and it feels like something’s gonna break, and after it does the air is a lot cleaner and clearer. We always had a lot of fears, but with ‘New Gold Dream’ we got more comfortable with ourselves as people and put those fears in sort of a perspective, as opposed to just dwelling on them.
“Being brought up in Britain’s a very claustrophobic thing, and for us to get into a band and go across Europe – or even for Charlie and I to first go to Europe to hitchhike – it was a real emancipation, getting outside of Glasgow and beginning to see how Britains’s hardly the world, despite what we were taught in school. “Because we had no audience in Britain when we started, we found ourselves spending our last two or three teenage years in Europe, and that made us think a lot differently. We were one week in Munich when this Baader-Meinhoff bomb went off in a train station a few blocks from our hotel and five days later in the area we were staying in Paris, a bomb went off in a synagogue. And I think that the music we were making at the time, particularly a record like ‘Empires And Dance’, reflected a lot of that turmoil.
“When we did ‘New Gold Dream’, we went back home to Scotland for the first time in years, and spent a lot of time in the most beautiful, mystical part of Scotland. All these words started flowing, and they all seemed to be of a positive nature. That record kind of made itself, and now a lot of people ask why we can’t make ‘New Gold Dream, Part II’. I wish we could, but we can’t. All the inspiration, all the clues – they just arrived on that record.” Though “Once Upon A Time” led many longtime supporters to assume that Simple Minds had permanently abandoned spontaneity for sterile AOR professionalism, Kerr considers the album a one-off departure. Future studio projects, he predicts, will make better use of the band’s creative chemistry – which Kerr claims is as mysterious as ever.
“We’re now at the stage where we’ve kind of given up on trying to work it out, because I think you can destroy it when you try nd conquer it or understand it. Why do some tones make you think of other images? Why is instrumental music so potent? I think we realize now that you don’t have to understand it. People often live together for 20 years without understanding each other. “There’s different types of songwriters. I can imagine Elvis Costello sitting up late at night, working out all different rhymes and puns – Chrissie Hydne’s like that as well. And then there’s others who seem to write from some other space, like Van Morrison. When he writes, it’s like he’s got a direct connection to the centre of the universe, yet the guy has trouble saying hello to you walking down the street.
“With me, I’ll hear a note or a chord and it kind of takes me back into the labyrinth of my memory. It could be a childhood thing or even a racial memory, if there is such a thing. When Van Morrison did it, people called it a Celtic vision. I think Bono has that too. A lot of it’s to do with where we’re from, and the images and landscapes we were brought up with. If you’d asked me about it five years ago I wouldn’t have known, but now I’m sure about it.
“On a lot of our songs, the chords come from our keyboard player Michael (MacNeil). He’s a quiet little guy and he doesn’t talk much about the big picture, yet he usually comes up with these very grand chords. I always wondered why that was, until a few years ago when I went with him to where he was born and lived the first 12 years of his life. It’s the furthest island out from Scotland – there’s only the ocean between his island and America – and there’s just sky and rocks and huge landscapes, and that’s very much a part of him. People never talk about the ethnic side of rock music, but I think that’s a very big part of us.”
Simple Minds’ long-term involvement with Amnesty International has helped raise that worthy organisation’s public profile and its bank balance, and postcards collected by the band at a California concert are credited with gaining the release of a Sri Lankan political prisoner. “The reason I work with Amnesty intially had nothing to do with the fact that I was in a band. I was a member before that, and my dad was a member when I was a kid. And as I began to realise that the band was getting closer to mainstream success, I realised the kind of media a mainstream band had access to, where you can take a minute on prime-time TV to say ‘Hey, check this out.'”
Kerr has no patience with pop people who opt out of the political arena because “they are only entertainers not spokepersons”. “I think rock music should be entertainment first and foremost, and I want to be an entertainer. But the best entertainment is the entertainment that carries a grain of information and lets you go away with something. I want a guy to come home from the factory and be entertained by me, but I hope I have something more to give him thatn just a box that’s beautifully packaged and has nothing in it.
“‘Sun City'” “(which Simple Minds cover on “Live In The City Of Light”) “for me, is the greatest rock song in years. It’s got a fantastic tune and a big chorus, it’s emotional, it makes me want to dance. Musically it’s all the things great rock music should be, and it also manages to take two or three hundred years of South African history and say ‘That’s good, that’s evil, and I’m gonna have nothing to do with this. ‘You can’t tell me that’s not fantastic entertainment. “Believe me, you don’t have to be any mental genius to be a great player or singer. But there’s no excuse not to know about acid rain or political prisoners. You can’t say ‘I haven’t got the time’ or ‘My manager doesn’t let me.’ I’m very wary, and if this thing was to fall through in two or five years, I’d want to be sure that it had been used to a postive end, because I hate waste.
“I’m not a cerebral type or political type, and I certainly haven’t got any secrets or answers. I have no time for the left, the right or the centre – I’m absolutely sick of the lot of them. I’m just pro-life. Iv’e travelled the world 12 times and I’ve experienced all sorts of people from different backgrounds and cultures. I love being 28 years old, I love having a kid, and I love information. I want to learn. I guess we are on a crusade, but it’s basically a battle with our own ignorance.”
Since Kerr has always seen Simple Minds as a rock band, for him there’s not contridiction in the group’s presence on the arena circuit. “I think I’m one of the few in Britain that still believes in the rock monster. I don’t think it’s a dying dinosaur at all, and I really believe in it as being a great form of communication. It’s just that there are very few people in it now that are working against the dinosaur image. The Who made a living out of saying ‘I hope I die before I get old,’ and that quote haunted them for their entire career. Whereas if you ask me I’ll say that I would like Simple Minds to stand for the idea of life and living and growing and learning. And if you say something stupid when you’re young, you should be able to turn around and say ‘Yeah, I blew that’ or ‘God, I was naive when I said that.”
“We’ve never pretended to be anything other than a rock band. The first interview we ever did, with NME, they made fun of us because we said we liked Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones and The Who. The whole punk idea of throwing out everything from the past was a bit Khmer Rouge,a bit Year Zero, and I always said I wasn’t gonna throw out my Leonard Cohen records or my James Brown records or my Bob Dylan records.
“Obviously we identified with certain aspects of punk – the fire, the energy, and the fact that you didn’t have to be Steve Howe to get on stage. But I think we were always very conscious of what made sense and what didn’t make sense about it all. Everyone in London was just tripped out on the fashion and energy of punk, but 400 miles away in Glasgow – which in Britain is like the other end of the earth – we had a better perspective on it. We could tell what was genuine and what was fuckin’ hokey.” Kerr makes no apologies for Simple Minds’ success, but acknowledges the contradictions inherent in the situation.
“We started as an organic thing, and the more we can keep all the industry stuff at the door, the more chance we have of that organic thing continuing. We have to admit that we are right in the centre of the industry now, whereas when we started off we were not even within a millions miles of it.
“I just don’t see what there is to be afraid of. We want to try all the different levels, from the clubs to the stadiums. We just have this impulse to try it all, and then stand back and see what is worthwhile and what is bullshit. I’m definitely not afraid of success or failure. The only thing I would fear is running out of challenges, because it’s the challenges not the results, that interest me. Because when you look back on it later, something that seemed a positive result at the time can no longer seem positive, and something that seemed a failure can turn out to be quite good. So the results are neither here nor there. I’m more interested in the challenge of things, and the potential of things.”
Jim Kerr came from the kind of Glaswegian council estate that tended to frown on artisic endeavour, especially when it wore a touch of eye-liner. Now SImple Minds’ giant clamour is a staple of the world’s arena circuit. Life’s been good, he tells Adam Sweeting.
Adam Sweeting – ‘Q’ Magazine – August 1987 (UK)
He has heard the big music, and he’ll never be the same. “At the end of the day we are a hell of a noise,” Jim Kerr says, “and it’s gonna get out of hand sometimes, and then it’s gonna be really good. It’s very simple really.”
But this year, the giant clamour of Simple Minds is off the road, following almost a year and a half’s touring on the back of the group’s 1985 breakthrough album, Once Upon A Time. It eventually sold four million copies around the world, well short of a Thriller but substantial enough to tip Simple Minds out of the “respectable” category and into the world’s first division. Simple Minds used to hang out in the rock ‘n’ roll never-never land of the Columbia Hotel in Bayswater, a twilight zone of pop stars on the middle rungs of the ladder, but Jim and his wife Chrissie Hynde spent last New Year with Bruce Springsteen.
It’s a bright summery day over the Firth of Forth, a coll breeze blowing in off the sea to whip up small white peaks on the water and to fill the sails of the boats tacking up the channell. From Jim Kerr’s kiving room window you can see the water, the road bridge and, right outside, the fabled railway bridge. “It’s great to get out of London sometimes, isn’t it?” he asks, gesturing around him at lonely sea and sky. The Glasgow where Kerr grew up is only a few miles away but the metaphorical distance is massive. As we talk, trains pass above us, clattering Intercity 125s and gasping local diesels.
Flying Scotman Kerr surveys the elemental scene, breathes in some of the healthy Scottish ozone coursing through the open windows and pours some more wine with the largesse you’d expect from the local laird. “Life’s been good,” he murmurs, humming Joe Walsh’s slide guitar lick and grinning with the school-boyish cheek wihich, fortunately, he hasn’t lost. Completely vanished, though, is the shy, stammering Jim Kerr of the primitive Simple Minds of Life In A Day, their 1979 debut album. The current transalantic rock star model has a little more flesh on those once all-too-visible bones and the black futurist quiff has given way to stringy brown new-hippy locks which tumble round his ears and over his collar. Today Kerr is crisply confident and never at a loss for words. He has money; he has fame; he has a wife and family.
To launch Simple Minds’ live double album, In The City Of Light, Kerr has been jetting round Europe, both to tackle the hacks and to drop in on his wife whenever he can. When she takes The Pretenders on the road Chrissie also takes the kids. There’s four-year-old Natalie, her daughter from her previous life with ray davies, and Jasmin, who’s Kerr’s and is two. The girls have a nanny each out on tour with them so that Mum can get on with mundane things like interviews, soundchecks and playing gigs. Must be a bloody funny way to grow up, I suggest.
“I had them here last week,” he reveals. “I’m very determined that in a sense they get a grip on reality as well. You can’t say ‘that’s reality’ or ‘that’s not reality’ but I would like them to get the benefits of the good things from my background: the idea of community and the idea of friends, as opposed to an idea of rich suburbia or the idea of isolation, sitting watching videos and you don’t go out and don’t mix.
“They absolutely love being on the road. We discovered that the kids are fine. They can handle anything if there’s a lot of love. If there’s love there, they can go on tour for eight years. They love it. They go to the soundchecks; they eat with the road crew – all those big roadies, people from different backgrounds and cultures and colours of skin. After the soundcheck they play with the spotlights. They just love that. To them it’s the biggest Christmas tree ever.
“We try to keep them on what we think are solid ethics but it still beats us sometimes. For instance, I had them myself up here at Easter and I was in the swing park with them. I was lying on a bench and Natalie said to me, What are you doing? I said, I’m sleeping here. She said right, I’ll put you to bed. She’s pretending she’s putting me to bed and she says, I’ll tell you a story. She says, Once Upon A Time there was this little girl who was so eensy-weensy, tiny-tiny-tiny that she didn’t even have a nanny….. I was pissing myself laughing. The difference between my reality of being brought up and theirs! As far as they’re concerned everyone has a nanny.”
Kerr’s marriage to Chrissie in 1984, in between batches of Simple Minds dates in Europe and Britain, took everybody by surprise except, aparently, Minds’ guitarist Charlie Burchill. “I never asked the band,” says Kerr. “Charlie knew, and he had met Chrissie and thought it was a brilliant idea, so that was sufficient.” The pair had met in Australia a few months before, resulting in a whirlwind affair which surprised not only people aware of Hynde’s long-standing relationship with Ray Davies but also anybody familiar with the rootless, fast-moving lifestyle which Kerr and Simple Minds had been leading uninterruptedly up to that point.
Simple Minds were just on the point of releasing Sparkle In The Rain, an album which caught them in transition between the luminous subtlties of New Gold Dream and the stripped-down large arena clout of Once Upon A Time. They’d been working too hard for too long. Kerr fell ill in the middle of their British dates and their live performances were tawdry and shrill.
“I was ill in every sense of the word,” he says now. “There was an emptiness around that period and it was time to ask questions. I think we had taken a form to the extreme. New Gold Dream was very complete and we didn’t want to do more of that. It was a growing thing as well. The band and the music are the utmost but it was time to get involved with people as well. Wives, girlfriends and that. You’re not some kind of a fucking machine. We’re from a very traditional background. If we went out just now and drove for 30 minutes you would see. As far as the British landscape goes, I don’t think there’s a more traditional background than the one we’re from.
“Family and friendship are big ties. No matter how much we abused them before or took the piss or tried to escape from them, they are the solid roots and the values that we still respect. The thing is we want to have our cake and eat it. We want to be thoroughly traditional and have all the traditional values and also be totally contemporary and cosmopolitian. And the clash is there.”
It’s glib but true to say that Kerr and Charlie Burchill formed Simple Minds at least partly in an attempt to get away from their closely-knit claustrophobic background. They were catholic and working class, accustomed to the kind of social cohesion in their council housing estates that tends to frown on artistic endeavour, especially when it wears eye-liner and nail varnish. It’s a solidly Labour-voting background but in the sense of old-fashioned grassroots socialism. Bernie Grant or Derek Hatton wouldn’t have got a look in, and today Kerr can’t find many good words to say for Red Wedge. “Because of where I’m from I agree I should be right in there, but they just seem such a miserable lot of bastards,” he observes. “It seems very very English as well. There seems to be no love.”
The teenage Kerr found escape through the glam-rock of Bolan and Bowie, as well as in the lavish theatrics of Genesis and the cultivated nihilism of the Velvet Underground. His father’s a bricklayer and jim briefly worked as a joiner’s apprentice before deciding that music was the only thing that really motivated him. This caused some soul-searching at home but, seeing that their minds were made up, all the band’s families chipped in as much money as they could afford to help them buy a van and some equipment. After New Gold Dream, Kerr and his younger brother paul, now the band’s tour manager, repaid some of the debt by buying a large house in one of Glasgow’s more affluent suburbs, where his parents now live.
He hasn’t found his new family life easy. When he first met Chrissie they didn’t see each other for months because their respective bands were on tour. Then Simple Minds supported The Pretenders around the States, where they were overshadowed by the headliners and were largely ignored by press and public. Being at home with the wife and children away had been, if anything, even worse.
But he must have foreseen these kind of problems, so why get married in the first place? “Well honestly, that’s the only thing I don’t feel the need to explain. If I felt like talking about it, I would. I think I got married for the cliched reasons that most people get married. I saw it as an immense challenge and I knew it would be tough. I didn’t know it would be this tough.
“The toughest thing is missing people. Like any love or friendship, it’s an organic thing as well. It’s very plant-like. It needs to be watered. I definitely didn’t get married in the rock ‘n’ roll sense – hey, it was a wild and crazy thing to do! – and get our photos taken and have them in all the papers. I think we got married in the traditional sense, and trying to keep that traditional sense inside a lifestyle that is hardly traditional….. it’s hard.”
Though the couple share a commitment to environmental awareness and ecological consciousness raising, Jim received a minimum of pratical advice from Chrissie about what the big time would be like and how to deal with it. “She’s the least self-aware peerson,” he says. “I have to tell her. She doesn’t know how many records she’s sold, how many tickets she’s sold, why she’s playing in a certain place at a certain time. She doesn’t know and she doesn’t care. And she thinks the idea of even bothering about it in the first place is really queer.”
For Once Upon A Time, the Minds made as sure as they could of hitting the mainstream rock crowd by bringing in Jimmy Iovine as producer. Iovine’s track record of work with artists of the stature of Springsteen, Tom Petty, John Lennon and Patti Smith made it pretty clear from the word go which way Simple Minds were heading. Hitherto the group had worked with a string of producers from a thoroughly English background, including John Leckie (XTC, Magazine) with his Abbey Road pedigree, and Steve Lillywhite (U2, Peter Gabriel, Joan Armatrading, XTC).
“It was great to get away and work with somebody who wasn’t neccessarily from this kind of English public schoolboy type of tradition, Iovine’s dad was a docker, and he’s very much a New Yorker. Also the great thing for me is he’s just not musical at all, which I could relate to, not being able to play a note on anything. His instinct is great, knowing what the band is capable of, judging people’s performances, knowing when something could be better.
“Also, we liked the sound of records coming out of America much more. I’m not necessarily talking about the content of the music but you could listen to a John Cougar Mellencamp record and hear that it had a great sound in terms of the snare drum or something, and that’s very important to me.” And that’s the kind of remark the Jim Kerr of five years ago wouldn’t have made, isn’t it?
“Yeah,” he retorts. “So what? You fucking probably wouldn’t say a lot of things you said before. That’s the thing all you people forget.” For an unguarded moment I appear to have become a room full of hostile journalists, all whinging and carping about Simple Minds and their new American sound. “Things that were important to you then and are not now, and vice versa,” Kerr resumes. “It’s just that we’re much more honest about it. Or it’s just there with us to be examined much more.”
Simple Minds might still be struggling in the States had it not been for the cruical success of Don’t You (Forget About Me), their big and unexpected hit from the movie The Breakfast Club. The band had to have their arms twisted to record the song in the first place, feeling that the film was likely to be crass and unrepresentative of the way they saw themselves.
“There was big record company pressure, ‘try this thing and you’ll get offers for more film work’. Originally, much bigger names than us were pencilled in. We were just going to be one of a series – Bowie was gonna do a track, so-and-so was gonna do one. We knocked it back, I think, a handful of times.” But Keith Forsey, who’d written the song, refused to take No for an answer and turned up at a rehearsal studio in Surrey where they were writing material for their next album. He talked them into at least giving the song a try.
“We took it away, wrote the coda with the whole breakdown thing and the la-la-las, which are very Simple Minds, and recorded the song in about two hours in a studio just outside Wembley. Horrible place. We were desperate to get away from it. That’s the irony – you work your balls off and we’d done this thing in a couple of hours. Maybe it’s a very Catholic thing that for something to be a success you’ve got to put all your efforts into it. We thought it would be part of a movie with about 14 other bands. There was no talk at the time of it being a single and certainly not of it being the title track of the movie.”
And the rest is hysteria. American radio loved the song, it stormed up the charts and eventually Kerr decided he was being stupid not to allow it to be released in Britain and Europe. “People can say what they like. As soonas it started to sell and as soon as people started to get immense enjoyment from it, I didn’t want to say this is a piece of crap and we could do it with our eyes closed. Really, we were looking a gift horse in the mouth. And if you’re gonna use it, at least we pulled it off in style. At least it went Number 1 in America, it never stopped at 52, and it got a lot of people into New Gold Dream and Sparkle In The Rain.”
Kerr sees the new live album as a full stop at the end of a cycle in the band’s development. It’s been impeccably recorded and edited and brings together the best-known songs from the Minds’ career so far. Thanks to what Kerr describes as “fixing and mixing”, In The City Of light presents the essence of the band’s performances without the Milton Keynes-style bombast.
“We’d done a lot of research around people who were involved in good live albums, namely, for me, The Who Live At Leeds, the Stones made good live albums, of course Springsteen made a great live album. And The Rolling Stones records that you probably think are fantastic live albums are all overdubbed. So you know the sort of illusion before you go in. The live thing is the live thing and the album is to be played in somebody’s house.”
The plan now is to concentrate on studio work for at least the next year, perhaps releasing a long-discussed album of instrumentals. The only live work in prospect is a trip to moscow in the autumn, where they’ll appear at a giant Greenpeace show alongside Peter Gabriel, The Pretenders and others. They’ve already made hefty contributions to Amnesty Internationsl and as much as anyone, they’ve come to represent the new model of global awareness which has turned rock inside out since Live Aid. “The idea of these dreams, no matter how naive they are, of some universal freedom, an ideal of universal peace or whatever,” as Kerr puts it, “it’s alright writing about that and singing about it every night, but putting it into practice is something else.”
LIVE IN THE CITY OF LIGHT
Dave Rimmer – ‘Q’ Magazine (UK)
The bottom line for Simple Minds is that their songs are uplifting. There’s a kind of blind optimism to their music, an optimism that shines through even if it’s never clear exactly what one is supposed to be optimistic about. Take a song like Waterfront (included here on side one). Is it a song about the future of humanity? Is it something to do with the rapidly yuppifying Glasgow district where the video was shot? Is it a load of bollocks? Who can tell? Singer, lyricist and spokesperson Jim Kerr-the only properly visible member of the group-uses words like heart and soul and love and peace.
He sings of new gold dreams and books of brilliant things. He urges you to sanctify yourself and promises you a miracle. He sees himself, it’s clear, as a bit of visionary. Meanwhile the rest of the group write suitably dramatic music to match. A fiercely big beat. Chiming major chords. Widescreen melody. Though they’ve come a long way from Glasgow and their early days of what someone once described as dance and trance music, there is still within the stadium scale of things plenty of room to dance along.
At times this stuff works on record, but it’s always much better medicine when taken live. It’s dead easy to be cynical about all this. Where once, at the tail end of their art rock period, Simple Minds were as hip as hell, these days it seems more fashionable to remark that the only song of theirs you like is the one they didn’t write: Keith Forsey’s excellent Don’t You (Forget About Me). That’s the one that was number one in America and that’s the one which leads off side three of this double live collection, the entire French audience singing along with all the la-la-la-las.
Live In The City Of Light (1987) – a typically epic, religious-sounding title – was recorded last August at a couple of concerts at Le Zenith in Paris set up specially for the purpose. All, that is, except for Someone, Somewhere In Summertime, which comes from a show at the Sydney Entertainment Centre, Australia. Its 15 songs span the period from 1981’s Sister Feeling Call LP up to last year’s Once Upon A Time (1985). As double live albums go, it’s pretty good. The live atmosphere and acoustics remain, most of the applause and all the waffle between songs has been removed.
Highlights include the new slow intro to Book Of Brilliant Things, the new slow fade from Promised You A Miracle and tough, rousing versions of most of their best songs. Duff moments include a hamfisted version of Sly & The Family Stone’s Dance To The Music and a weak though well-intentioned version of Sun City. As a testament to the kind of group they’ve become-an international act, fillers of huge venues, more in common now with your U2’s or Bruce Springsteen’s than with the Philip Glasses or Brian Eno’s they used to refer to in their early days-it can’t be beat.
But however you balance it up, this is not a record that will challenge anyone’s opinions about Simple Minds. If you think they’re God’s gift to modern popular culture, you will continue to find them inspiring. If you find them pompous and preposterous, you will carry on grumbling about Jim Kerr’s pretensions. If however, like this reviewer, you hover, fascinated, somewhere in between, then though at times all the mystical stuff will annoy the hell out of you, at other times these songs will lift you up a treat.
NEW GOLD DREAM 1987
‘Fan Club’ (UK)
He was only 10 years old, and yet he was filled with determination and a strong sense of justice. Little Jim Kerr had a friend in Glasgow who had a huge bird house full of prize birds. And everytime Jim would visit, he would stand in awe in front of that cage, obsessed by the incessant fluttering of hundred of wings. One day, he just couldn’t stand it; he made sure nobody was around and freed all the birds. Needless to say he took a serious beating after that, but until today, Jim still believes he did the right thing.
This passion for freedom is still very much alive in Jim today. A freedom in terms of human dignity and pride. As many of you know, Jim is a very active member of Amnesty International, an organization that seeks the release of political prisoners the world over. But to a lot of fans, it seems that Jim’s interest in politics is new, that he’s just jumping the “good cause” bandwagon. “It’s just that I have the means to speak out”, he explains. “With our music, I can touch a lot of people and make them aware. When we started, I didn’t realise that. I guess if I remained an ordinary person, I wouldn’t be able to do anything about it”. Has getting a message across to his fans worked? “I think so. At every concert, we ask people to send postcards to governements asking them to free prisonners of conscience. I just learned that four prisonners we were sponsoring have been freed.”
Since they were first known as Johnny and the Self Abusers in 1977, Jim Kerr and his friends Charlie Burchill and Michael MacNeil have come a long way. They have had a new drummer, Mel Gaynor, and a new bass player, John Giblin. Having two “strangers” in the band hasn’t been that easy. “In the last tour, I’ve realised that Simple Minds are divided in two factions: Charlie and I have the dreams and create the visual and conceptual aspects of the music, whereas John and Mel are an incredible rhythm section and they know how to add the reality to my visions,” says Jim. Knowing that these two sides exist to the Minds, the working relationship between the five musicians has greatly improved. And Jim intends to make the most out of it.
There have been rumours about the Minds recording an exclusively instrumental album titled Aurora Borealis. “It’s not done yet; we wanted to keep a tight lid on this project, but somehow the news has leaked. You know what my dream is? I’d love the Minds to release two albums on the same day: one with only instrumental music on it, and the other made up of songs. Then we would tour without an opening act, since we’d be doing the show in two parts: first for the music, the second for the songs. We’d be our own opening act!” Nearly three hours of SImple Minds live. To good to be true, but a dream fully alive!
LIVE IN THE CITY OF LIGHT
‘CMJ New Music’ (US)
When you listen to In The City Of Light, think of all the disappointing arena bands that you’ve seen in the last few years (they know who they are). Think about their inability to live up to a picture-perfect, digitally recorded masterpiece. . .Now juxtapose Simple Minds’ animated, vibrant live performance-they have the glitter and the class to necessitate the attention that this two-record set has received from A & M (one of the nicest packaging jobs we’ve ever seen) and programmers who having been sitting on the edge of their mailboxes waiting for this package to arrive.
All but one track were recorded live at Le Zenith in Paris, France, August `86 (“Someone Somewhere In Summertime” was done at the Sydney Entertainment Center, Australia) and all are crystal clear digital masters that leave nothing to the imagination. Standout tracks span the career of the popular Scottish five-piece; priority inspections should include “Ghostdancing,” the last British single from the Once Upon A Time LP; the creeping beat of “Waterfront”; and a fresher-than-the-LP version of “Alive And Kicking.” But given the fact that all of the tracks are already new music standards, find air time for the entire two-record set won’t be difficult.
PROMISED YOU A MIRACLE (LIVE)
‘Smash Hits’ (UK)
Simple Minds’ best works are now shrouded far back in the swirling spirals of time and, as if to acknowledge this, the group have just released a live double LP of their ‘greatest’ moments, from which this single has been snipped. Trouble is, live records only work if the performance adds something to the original. Such things are possible, the Minds’ live version of ‘Hunter And The Hunted’ (on the b-side of ‘Waterfront’, fact fanatics) has a freshness and grandeur which makes it far better than the LP version, for instance-but, apart from some annoying ‘audience participation’ and a general fuzziness, this slightly thin rendition of ‘Promised You A Miracle’ gains nothing whatsoever. In fact, it’s rather boring.
LIVE IN THE CITY OF LIGHT
‘Smash Hits’ (UK)
Anyone who saw Simple Minds on their tour of outdoor British venues last summer will know what to expect from this double LP. ‘Live In The City Of Light’ recorded live at Le Zenith auditorium in Paris (hence the name!) in August 1986, faithfully reproduces a typical performance from that tour, right down to the supposedly spontaneous versions of ‘Sun City’ and ‘Dance To The Music’ near the end, just before the final blast of ‘New Gold Dream’.
Basically, if you enjoyed those shows, you will love this LP, particularly the inspired versions of ‘Don’t You Forget About me’ and ‘Alive And Kicking’, the two Simple Minds songs best suited to the big stadium environment. If, however, you regarded those Simple Minds 1986 shows as just a touch pompous, dull and boring then you would give ‘Live In The City Of Light’ less than 7 out of 10.