gets a hard dose of reality from Simple Minds
- 'Meldoy Maker' - 19th September 1981 (UK)
Some curse it,
even more encourage it, but there's no avoiding
that physically cramped psychological chasm
between the lip of the stage and the stalls'
front row. Something happens there: something
special, something weird, something wonderful,
something worrying - something showbiz.
I'm sitting in
an Edinburgh bar, Saturday lunchtime, discussing
(dissecting!) last night's Simple Minds show
with singer/songwriter Jim Kerr:
"That bit when
you stalked off stage after the first number
and made that grand re-entrance mid-second song
stripped of the ol' tweed jacket... very effective."
"Yeah. You know
what happened? I had to throw up. I was so nervous
and I didn't want to do it THERE, in front of
the audience on that nice clean stage, so I
rushed to the wings and... bleeuch!"
Some while - four
lagers (me), two cokes (jim) to be precise -
later: "What about the intro to that new number?
Was it? "Seeing Out The Angel"? That bass and
drum beat building up unaccompanied. How'd you
plan that at such a short notice?"
"Oh, after 'Love
Song' you mean? That was horrible. I looked
around and Charlie and Michael were gone - they
thought it was the end of the set as we always
used to finish on that number.
"I just said to
Derek 'for Christ's sake play something'. They
were already in the dressing room when they
heard the bass and had to hurry back on. There's
gonna be a real post-mortem later..." He laughs.
Simple Minds won't
shrug that one off, won't fake it in a fantasy,
don't forget too easily. They're constantly
careful over their set, worried about their
audience's (especially last night's stilted)
reaction, concerned about their reputation,
anxious over their power of influence, infuriated
by the insurmountable gap between their intentions
precisely, proud of their achievements, aware
of their progression, obsessed with the need
"At one time in
our interviews, we were always praising others,
our influences, but at this stage, now, we really
don't feel below any band at all."
present priority is to reach more people accurately;
to construct meticulous atmospheres capable
of communicating on record, on stage, exactly
the emotion intended while remaining oblique
and none-too-obvious. Simple Minds seek new
ways and the fact that I'm here, demanding answers,
is painful proof that, despite that chilling
confidence and mounting monotony, the perfectly
honest performance is far from fruition.
Simple Minds dream
the impossible dream - reality: "I want to achieve
greatness I think," says Jim. "Greatness and
something. I'd just like to do something that
I know is great and, as yet, I haven't fely
anywhere near it..."
Chief cause of
current frustration is the double "new" album
set, "Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call";
a satisfactory sample of Simple Minds now, an
effort that should shame most bands stupid.
It should/will reach a bigger, wider audience
than any Minds' product ever before.
But that's not
enough - it's a disappointment - it hardly begins
to further their personal vision: "I'm pleased
with it, yeah, but I feel it's a tiny bit one-paced
and samey. A lot of the songs on this album,
and the last album, have been based upon repetition
as opposed to drama - bringing it up and bringing
it down - and although I like that, we'll have
to give it a bit more thought in terms of when
we're actually taking it on tour.
"It's funny. We
were talking about it last night and, subconsciously,
I feel the new album's the end of a phase for
us although we didn't realise it or speak about
it at the time
" We never
saw it as any double album kind of thing - that
frightens me because straightaway ideas of a
concept and an onslaught of music, of something
ending up really out of focus - but once we'd
done ten to 12 backing tracks, it was obvious
it wouldn't all fit on one album yet no-one
could make up their minds which to leave out.
"I think we were
subconsicously clearing everthing out so that
next time we go in to record, I'm sure - though
I've no idea what it will be just now - it'll
be on a totally different level altogether."
In the wake of
"Empires And Dance", one of last year's finest,
fiercest, most well focused offerings, "SAF/SFC"
is something of a let down, a chip off the block
too self-indulgent to communicate much beyond
chaos - not slipped standards, more a pioneering
promise unfulfilled by their many altered circumstances.
They left Arista
recently because "they found us a really hard
band to market - saw the Gary Numan thing and
thought we should be in on it", and signed to
Virgin where the atmosphere's more conducive
- "DAF coming out of the offices instead of
Barry Manilow". - They lost drummer Brian McGee
to married bliss, hired ex-Zone Kenny Hislop
on "impermanent terms" and, "just for change's
sake", put all prejudice aside to record with
hippie-hero-turned-popular-pro Steve Hillage
("we knew we'd get a lot of snide remarks but
we aren't concerned with that; we wanted a sound
and Steve, with his mutual interest in Krautrock,
really impressed us with his treatments"...
After all that, the final vinyl statement seems
a remarkably unadventurous affair.
Only "Love Song",
the single, suggests any development towards
a lighter, more accessible, more immediate sound
although Jim remains remarkably candid:
"To tell the truth,
Steve, when it comes to singles we just listen
to the promotions department or whoever it is
who's gonna take it to the BBC because they
should know best as to what stands the best
chance. For a long time I thought of us as just
an albums band because we'd never recorded isolated
singles, they were always taken from the albums.
a lot of the stuff we've done before has been
subdued on the surface, I'd like to try things
that are obviously attractive and have a bit
of substance and backbone."
Simple Minds aren't
about to be duped into satisfaction by "Love
Song" 's certain commerical success. They see
all too clearly that, important as these things
are, all the trappings - proper promotion, careful
control over packaging, value for money: all
the things that should be taken for granted
but are turned to marketable virtue by other,
lesser bands - are no subsitute for substance
and integrity. For having something to say and
The Minds' message
is... "Message... that's a horrible word - suggestions
going on's better. I think we've a lot of ambiguities
going on. I'd like to think we're not the kinda
band who are absorbed with the superficial world
of just being in a band and doing what you do.
I think we pay a lot of attention to... I don't
know... newsy things. We do get caught up in
"Take 'Boys From
Brazil': last year we spent a full year in Europe
and when we came back, we'd got a totally different
picture of Britain; found the attitudes, in
Glasgow especially, really kinda frightening.
All these new-Nazi movements and things, not
really with depth but people getting involved
from some romantic point of view.
"I'm sure that's
where a lot of our lyrics came from. The verse
at the end of that is so ambigous; on one hand
it's like a fairy story saying that 'Not just
a boy that's crying wolf/No, someone else is
screaming up at your door', on the other hand,
if that isn't heavy imagery...!
"It's very easy
for people to see us as just lost in big cities,
hollow travellers naming exotic places to impress
people, churning out pictures, but I like to
think that's just the surface and backgrounds
"I mean, I have
to work that way. I couldn't go out and tell
people what to think because I don't know -
I'll make a decision, wake up in the morning
and I've changed my mind. It's like none of
us vote - that's terrible but we don't really
know who to vote for, don't really know enough
about it but we wouldn't want our right to vote
Simple Minds fully
understand, yet struggle with, their dilemma.
They continue to work within the creaking confines
of popular music - the crassest medium, seldom
capable of communicating anything beyond black-and-white
- tired of, tormented by, yet tethered to all
the tricks and angles.
"The thing is
with us that in this day and age, when lots
of bands are getting by on the strength of particular
movements and becoming the leaders, like last
year the Teardrops and Echo, this year the Postcard
and Spandau thing, we've always been outsiders.
"It's good in
a way because we're packing out big halls like
we did last night but we feel we haven't had
to cheapen our music to get vital airplay, we
haven't had to do any arrangements that we didn't
want to do or attach ourselves to any category
or movement that was currently hip of fashionable
"People have been
coming up to us and saying why haven't we quite
broken through when people who are meant to
be our contemporaries have, but this is our
forth album in two years and I still feel it's
happened too quick.
"We're still really
vulnerable I think; we dislike people who don't
really like our music and yet don't believe
people who really like it - always want to know
Jim Kerr is, at
present, far more articulate off stage than
on; a better thinker and talker than artist
Two weeks ago
he was 21. The astounding potential is that
it's about the most optimistic idea that's occurred
to me all year.
We Got Our Crown
says Jim Kerr
of Simple Minds. John Gill doesn't disagree.
- 'Sounds' September 19th 1981 (UK)
come home, my children, the sun is gone down,
And the dews of night arise; Come, come, leave
off play, and let us away, Till the morning
appears in the skies." ' (William Blake,
'Nurses Song', from 'Songs of Innocence!)
won't be - once you've read the mirror-stanza
that ends this piece. Put simply, Simple Minds
have undergone a change like that documented
in Blake's 'Songs of Innocence & Experience'
- although it's by no means as drastic. And
come to think of it, the wild, lusty shaman-revolutionary
Blake isn't a bad name to invoke when talking
to James Kerr - Man, Myth & Magic.
In his review
of 'Sons And Fascination/Sister feelings Call',
the NME's admirable Chris
Bohn (no lie - these playground antagonisms/rivalries
get on my tits) made a comment to the effect
that the 'Minds can no longer dine out on their
image as naive young innocents at large in Big
Bad Europe.' The main point of this latest vinyl
birthday is that that is precisely what Simple
Minds have graduated beyond.
And that shouldn't
diminish the power of 'Empires And Dance'; if
anyone can produce a band who can put the European
Neurosis to dance-time better (excepting Kraftwerk's
squibs and DAF's bitter ironies), I'll wrestle
with a Kimono dragon.
ranges from the universal to the particular.
Experience has brought further subjects within
their vision; quite literally, from angels
to nazis. They have the guts, the drive, the
rhythm-poetry-inspiration to do
it and say it.
I almost feel
like a parasite on these earthy rock 'n' roll
Schweizers, enjoying a vicarious moralism. I'd
like to walk right up and buy them a drink (in
fact, I probably did. Things got rather emotional.)
They were playing
a gig in Edinburgh during the 'Festival'. That
handsome town thronged with foreigners brandishing
American Express Traveller's Cheques and 'Scotch'
Phrase books. (Joke: and that was only the English).
The packed gig at the Odeon was one of their
worst; simply because the wrong PA had been
supplied by the promoter, and the mix went awry.
Regardless, their muscular love burned through
the mess. Only Virgin mafiosi Simon Draper could
resist the urge to swing...
This was only
the third gig they had played in Britain during
1981; the previous two being one in England
and one in Scotland. It was also the first performance
they'd given at all since March (the small club
tour of the US). Three months of that period
out of the public eye they had been in the studio
With Steve Hillage.
we wanted a change from John Leckie," says
Charlie Burchill, by the way of explanation.
"Purely because we wanted to see what the
difference was, and we wanted to change just
for the sake of it, really. Simon Draper (him
again!) said 'there are a few people we know,
new producers, and we've got some examples of
their work'. We just heard this track by Ken
Lockie, and it sounded amazing. We asked who
produced it, and they said it was Steve Hillage."
Jim laughs, "we thought, 'Old
Collapse of stout
we'd been interested in music, one of the bands
we'd never heard was Gong, or Steve Hillage.
We'd heard a lot of bands of that era. I knew
- " Jim coughs thetrically, "- Steve's
image, and we knew there was a giant contrast
with our image, but we heard the backing track
stuff, and we said 'Who's doing this?' They
said 'Steve'. We met him, and he was talking
about a lot of European bands - Can and Neu!
and things - and it just seemed that we had
that in common."
aware that he was quite innovative," says
Charlie, "and had a lot of theories...
There was a lot of new ground broken in the
chemistry between us."
the chance to flout hollow Rock trends, Jim
sneaks, "Quite a lot of people have slagged
us since we used him. Not because of the sound
or anything, but because they thought we should
use some ultra-trendy producer. We thought,
Hillage (who denies
all those rumours that he had a tree in a pot
trucked into the studio so that he could talk
to it) and they got on well, although the production
process did give him heart palpitations.
he started getting pissed off towards the end,"
Charlie counters, "There were thousands
of pressures, weren't there, really?"
They admit they're
rather difficult to produce these days, having
developed "a kind of stubborn streak when
other suggestions are made." But the need
for an objective earhole was obvious to them,
and Hillage was ideal. I went pale and queasy
when told he was at the desk on the album, but
the stratospheric piledriver sound on 'Sons'
will dispel even the most cynical of listeners.
The album appeared
as an almost-double simply because they had
so much material.
"We had 15
backing tracks," says Jim, "and our
songs never tend to be just three-and-a-half
minutes, so we knew from the start there was
too much. A lot of tracks we do, because of
the reptition in it - we feel you need
so much length before you can get inside it
- we had these ideas for fifteen backing tracks,
and it just wasn't possible to do a single album...
the main thing was that we went through a period
of having a lot of ideas."
This isn't simply
a case of going through a prolific period; more
a sense of get it out while there's time.
somehow," Jim says, "subconsciously,
we're trying to get all this stuff out because...
I just think it's this feeling that now
is the end of the first stage for us. Of our
we are just clearing ourselves out," Jim
continues, "because I do think it's the
end of some kind of phase."
Could you explain
there is a connection between 'Empires And Dance'
and this album, somewhere, and because of that
it won't go on. Whatever we do next, album-wise,
I'm sure we don't have any idea now of what
it will be like. I'm sure it'll be something
radically different, because I think there's
a big difference between the second and first
albums, and the second an third, but with the
third and this, the difference isn't that big."
After an honestly
derivate first album, 'Real To Real' signposted
their direction. 'Empires And Dance' re-routed
it fabulously; 'Sons' refines that detour.
we were forming and breaking conventions as
well with 'Empires And Dance', " says Charlie,
"And with the fourth album - it's strange.
I find it's a great deal afterwards that I can
get a picture of it."
'Sons' is a slapping,
pumping extension of the 'Empires' sound. They're
not too sure where it'll lead them, but are
also adamant that they won't stand still with
what has turned out to be a 'successful' sound.
Of the risk inherent in progression Jim says,
"Well, we're going to risk something if
we stay the same."
They deny that
it's the Hillage/Studio production values that
distinguish the album - Charlie asserts that
although some of the technology may have been
wanting, ultimately the sound is a "question
"I just think
fuel is one of the major things that entered
into us for this album," he says.
A major distinguishing
factor of 'Empires And Dance' was it's European-ness,
but there's no uifying theme to 'Sons' at all.
The lyrics are also a mite elliptical, fragmented
know," Jim says, "The lyrics are
collage, anyway. I don't sit down and write
songs and verses. I'm just constantly writing
and adding things, taking lines that have been
written over a period of a year and piecing
can be the image of a song, and the rest can
be padding. If it came to a lyric sheet, I'd
now rather take a line from each song. I'd think
you'd get more of a focus. It's becoming more
of a schizophrenic thing. Of course the lyrics
are very important, but in terms of values and
that, I wouldn't care if no-one at all paid
any attention. They're all pictures in themselves,
every line's a different picture. It's the atmosphere
of words. It could be for the sound, or it could
be for the meaning, or for the image of the
word. They deal with a lot of images and ambiguities."
the 'Minds are wising up; noting the horror,
but giving it enough rope, fighting fire with
fire, allowing the viral verbals to multiply
but... A dangerous game.
these songs seem like the most lightweight we've
ever done, but others are the heaviest. But
even the lightweight songs are so only on the
surface. 'Love Brings The Fall To 70 Cities';
inside that there are two lines which contradict
that sentiment; "in cities
heavy moving and breathing", and "The
need to draw some blood somehow." I
love that contrast, where you can have a song
that, if you want to spend enough time listening
to it, you'd get a worthwhile description or
image. Although we don't go around writing about
the problems of our times, I think a look at
our lyrics will make people think, 'Yeah, that's
really heavy'. Not heavy, but cynical,
the utmost in cynicism. I'm not cynical for
the sake of it, but I'm not entirely sure what
'Empires And Dance',
they'll agree, was an album born out of a reaction
against their experience of Europe; they saw
Ulrike Meinhof getting a cop bullet in the back
of the head while the rest could only see transvestite
clubs and the too thrilling decadence of Berlin.
Yet 'Sons' has no recognisable 'theme'. One
could talk, crassly, of 'Boys From Brazil' and
the book/film of the same name. An epiphany
of sorts ensues.
concerned with seeing, in Britain not in Europe,
that almost total neo-Nazi romance, which is
really dangerous. There are lines in that, like
'Not just a boy that's crying wolf', and 'Someone
else is screaming up at our door'. I was really
pleased with that. And the lines about babies
('Babies cannot manage crocodiles').
It is a fascination with that style.
really dangerous. It isn't about the book, but
that was a starting point, and you see this
kind of glossy movie tie-up in the streets.
Rather than find a base-line, like 'Death to
the Neo-nazis!' we wanted to... it is ambiguous.
But I'm sure some of the criticism is going
to be, 'If you're so concerned and involved,
don't be so ambiguous'."
You took the words
right out of my mouth. Isn't the point of transmission
that it be received? And received correctly?
Jim says. "Obviously we don't want to see
anything like that glorified, or anything taken
the wrong way. It was just a point, a motivation.
It is a game we play, and when it comes to lyrics
I think we're too scared to commit ourselves;
"I'll take a stance", or "I'll
take a stand."
think it's fear or anything like that,"
says Charlie. "Obviously, there are things
on 'Sons And Fascination' that some people are
just scared of."
Because it's too
general, people can't tag you like they could
on the specific 'Empires And Dance'?
Jim ponders, "It's a subconscious thing.
There's this blurred picture on the album cover,
which we'd never thought about. We just wanted
to use it. It's like when you're doing the album,
you're so much inside it you can't see it from
singing about the problems of the world,"
Charlie says, "but ultimately someone's
going to turn round and say what are you doing
in a band? Why don't you go and join that party,
or become a missionary?"
Jim says, rather cynically, "You could
throw our words away if you wanted to. But I
also think that, in terms of if there's anyone
writing in music now of any value, I don't think
there are many doing it better than us."
How can you justify
"In the past,"
Jim says, "We've always paid praise to
a lot of things, saying this is great and that
is great, but at this time I'm finding the music
I like is always from a few years back. There's
not much getting played that hits you."
There's a rising
tone of ego here - healthy ego, not over-reaching,
but a definite and surprising change from the
kiddies-in-cardies PR of early 'Minds. When
saying that the 'Minds sound is too 'powerful'
to get radio play, Jim says that "to get
radio play you have to be milky... Teardrop
Explodes or something."
A soon-come 'Starlines'
type Kerr collection in another paper also includes
a veiled snipe at the Gumdrops.
something against everybody just now,"
Jim says, getting surly. "I think it's
time we got our crown. I think it's time. It
pisses me off because I think the last three
albums are as worthwhile as anything acclaimed
in the past year or two.
want to come across as having a chip on my shoulder,
but I certainly don't think there's anybody
doing what we're doing better than us. As I've
said before, I've always paid tribute to the
bands who have influenced us, but right now,
with the potential I feel inside us, there's
no other band I'd rather be in. I hope that
doesn't come across as bravado, but I really
do think there's no-one doing it better."
resent, but not of the 'I have a right to be
a star' variety. It's resent - perhaps directed
towards his earlier naivety - at being stuck
for too long on a label that hadn't the faintest
clue what to do with the 'Minds. Perhaps tellingly,
that label was swallowed by Europe's biggest
manufacturer of tacko schlagermusik.
But while those years toiled on, it became more
and more likely that Simple Minds would turn
out to be a name that was always mentioned but
Jim says, in a despairing flashback. "That
would break my spirit, very quickly. But I think,
well, if there's anyone worth buying it's us."
we're a band that will always be interesting
in terms of a vogue type of thing. We were talking
about bands, a lot of bands came riding on the
crest of a movement. But what are we part of?"
There's a lot
of "optimism" surrounding Simple Minds
at present, but he takes that as it comes. Disarmingly,
he only looks at success in terms of good work
done by the record company or gig promoter.
If that goes wrong?
"If we don't
sell enough, we just don't get to make, and
that would be horrible."
There is, however,
the reassuring buffer that, unlike the majority
of bands, Simple Minds can exist as an album
band, and he'd see it as a personal victory
against the "system" if they could
live on without the pressure to produce hit
singles and play that star game.
left with a gem of a band finally receiving
their due recognition. Chris Bohn was wrong.
Age and bitter experience have wrought something
magical from the band who stumbled out with
'Life In A Day'.
Kerr taps confused
humanity in such a way that I really don't give
a flying one if you think all Rock lyrics should
be limited to words of two syllables or less.
Simple Minds' music has a sweetly jarring soulful
swing about it, saying more
in their amalgam of European and English music
while others (hi, Ultravox) prefer to root around
in the garbage left out by Neu and Cluster.
Spands reveal their latest frock. Simple Minds
reveal their blazing souls.
Those dismal others
are produced by ad-men. 'Sons' was produced
by human beings who are frank about their confusion,
passion, lust, hatred, ignorance, fear, love,
visions, sentimentality, arrogance, favourite
food and inside leg measurement.
It's all frightfully
uncool, but then you're a sucker if you put
a penny on any of these bimbo cults and movements.
Simple Minds are the only band whose outlook
I can wholeheartedly endorse. They're a design
And last week
their album went straight in at number 14.
Rock City, Nottingham
17th September 1981
Moren - 'Sounds' September 26th 1981 (UK)
It's a long way
from the Berlin Wall to this sweaty little closet
in the darkest depths of the East Midlands.
It's a great gulf to cross, between the two
cultures, the one of cold, soulless people who
are striving to live under the shadow of political
oppression, and the other of lads and lasses
putting on their best lacy finery, wearing their
hearts on their sleeves, going out for the night
to celebrate, show off and enjoy themselves.
Getting drunk, trying to pull a bird, trying
to forget about their day jobs, or lack of one,
and lifting themselves up from lives of the
Would Simple Minds
live up to these peoples' expectations? Their
hopes were high. The intro tape of 'Theme For
Great Cities' (Nottingham a great city?) from
'Sister Feelings Call' built these hopes to
fever pitch, then...
Simple Minds appeared,
decked out in their best New European suits,
and launched into their opening number - the
mix was so bad I'm still trying to work out
what it was. All we could hear was heavy bass
riff and the synithesiser.
this shambles was Jim Kerr, who must rate alongside
Vic Godard and August Darnell as one of the
most original stage personalities around. His
movements are fluid and betray the fact that
he is a star by the way he carried them off
as if he's floating in another atmosphere. The
audience are near enough to touch but daren't.
Although physically he's near the front row,
his personality radiates around the hall.
The Minds dispensed
with the first number as if it were a poor soundcheck
but as soon as they launched into 'Changeling',
recorded over two years ago, they assumed control.
It stands the test as a timless classic. They
were beginning to communiacte. Blue lights turn
to red and it was all systems go.
'30 Frames A Second'
followed next and it was time to notice the
rhythmic talents of the Minds' new drummer.
He has what is by most standards a medium sized
kit, yet it is utilised to provoke feet to dance,
not be just another sound facet. His high points
come in 'Sweat In Bullet' (Simple Minds' heavy
funk song) and at the start of the anthemic
'I Travel', where he turns the frenetic Euro-disco
beat into a percussive celebration. We were
privileged to hear the latter twice in one night,
and we all responded by moving like men possessed.
Derek Forbes' bass-playing has gained a greater
fluidity in the last twelve months, and his
feeling has spread through the whole group giving
their music a far greater intensity and power.
Simple Minds set
out to enertain and don't tour purely to promote
new product, but to give enjoyment. They limited
the amount of material from the new LP, knowing
that most of us would be unfamiliar with it
and wouldn't find it as rewarding as songs like
'Real To Real', 'Celebrate' and 'The American',
where we all chanted the chorus. However, when
they did play the new songs like 'Wonderful
In Young Life', 'In Trance As Mission' and 'Sweat
In Bullet' they came across with much more effect.
If you've been
a fan of Simple Minds for years, then seeing
them live will increase the intensity of your
love for them. If not then it will make you
want to begin an affair. They are (almost) perfect.
Bushell - 'Sounds' August 8th 1981 (UK)
Simple Minds are
another 'sound of young Scotland', but these
poor darlings are still bogged down in sombre
electro-disco when just everyone knows funk
is where it's at, cats (or so alot of people
who don't dance tell me). They're so uncool
they've even got the horrendous Steve Hillage
bubble under. Mark Cooper tries to get them
on the boil.
- 'Record Mirror' September 26th 1981 (UK)
sound of marching feet and moving trains, crumbling
statues and foreign voices lacking a translation,
refugees and immigrants, the masses on the move
- you've seen it on your TV set, the black and
white film flickering, the jerky dance of uncertain
motion. Now you want to find a soundtrack for
the film and a disco dance that captures the
pulse and the mad mayhem movement of such times,
such lives. If it's Thursday, it must be Simple
Jim Kerr speaks
quietly and sometimes with difficulty, threatening
a stutter while he puts a point across. He's
a familiar of the rock interview, knowledgeable
of all potential criticisms of the Minds and
capable of dealing with the same, if not always
of seeing them off.
Jim Kerr is the
soul of politeness and his belief in the present
majesty of the Minds is total: "I think
it's time that we began to get the kind of recognition
that we deserve and that we've earned. I'm just
fed up with a lot of pretenders getting all
the limelight while we have to struggle. We've
made four albums in two and a half years that
deserve an accolade, who else has done that,
who else is doing that at the moment?"
Simple Minds aren't
quite succeeding in making that final leap into
star staus; popular they are, sure enough, and
'Sons And Fascination' has charted hard and
high so far but the Minds aren't quite getting
the airplay or the reviews that Kerr feels are
their due: "We've been accused of making
hollow travel music but we're not sending postcards
from exotic places, there's a lot more to us
than that. If it was hollow travel music, we'd
probably have hit singles; as it is, our singles
don't get played enough for that to happen.
going to be a constant source of documentaries
or travelogues, our music is always changing.
I think the reason we don't get played more
is that the music shocks them too much, there's
too much passion in it and that makes people
is complete: "I'm scared that bands like
us don't get heard, it terrifies me," Three
years' work and records that ascend in quality
as the Minds develop and Kerr is confronted
with the churlish reaction of such as yours
truly. He's just read my album review and he's
got some points he wants to make and I've got
some arguing to do. The suggestion that Simple
Minds trade on the pseudo exotic for their effect
has particularly got his goat. What am I to
Jim is a hard
taskmaster; he expects the best from himself,
recognition from others and yet he's wary of
all other opinions of his music: "I hate
people who don't like us and I don't believe
people who do."
I'm not quite
sure where that leaves Jim and I, with me coming
on friendly and lukewarm and him coming on friendly
but a bit put on.
Two months before
Jim and the rest of the band had tried to explain
the Minds' interest in things European and American:
"I just can't stand these bands who ignore
the fact that there's a world outside their
hometowns and a language outside all the rock
and roll cliches. If we're pretentious, what
are we pretending to be? Unless you're going
to go through the rock and roll language, it's
good to write about different things, real things,
buildings, roads, whatever."
True enough, but
there's no doubting that Simple Minds' attempt
to write about the world they see has resulted
in them developing a style so rapidly that already
they're in danger of boxing themselves into
a corner. If 'Empires And Dance' established
the Minds as one of the most powerful and compelling
bands in operation, 'Sons And Fascination' often
threaten to turn inspiration into formula. The
Minds are in danger of becoming travelling namedroppers
who rely on a mystique borrowed from "abroad"
to manufacture a sense of mystery and power
that has no depth.
a number of bands who're more guilty than us
of this tendency to name an exotic place in
order to impress. Our European thing came from
spending almost a year travelling and working
in Europe. As a band we're very open and impressionistic,
wherever we go, we get caught up in the world
we're in. In our songs we're trying to understand
the world without preaching. The best movies
always mix a certain amount of social fibre
with image and imagination."
the Minds certainly are. It's an endearing quality
yet I'm forced to wonder how deep their impressions
go; the Minds seem all too content to be overwhelmed
with the world rather than to investigate it;
to argue with it seems outside their range.
Impressionable, the Minds seem content to be
This enables them
to make a music that throbs with the power that
they see around them in the new industrial world,
that echoes their impressions and their awe.
Yet this condems them to remaining wide-eyed
boys, professional pupils travelling a road
of images that belong more to TV than any concrete
The Minds explain
the romance of travelling: "There is a
great deal of romance implicit in movement.
Travelling brings out the actor in everyone.
When you're in a foreign country you have a
lot of freedom because you can't really understand
how that country works from the inside. As a
result you feel free enough to say and be what
and whom you want; and because people don't
know who you are or where you're coming from,
they'll believe you are who you say you are.
Your cultural baggage is left behind, it's almost
as if you've been born again."
Simple Minds delight
in this passive mystery, this cinematic freedom.
Jim always did, right from growing up in Glasgow:
"For 12 years I used to lie awake at night
listening to the trains going back and forth
to London, perhaps that's when I got interested
in the sound of travel."
Simple Minds celebrate
that sound; they capture the pulse and the power
and the big beat. Wide-eyed and impressed, they
stare out of windows. Jim Kerr has some peculiar
loves: assassins and corporations.
"I just love
big coroprations. We were driving in America
through a desert wasteland when suddenly we
see this giant building, a multi-storey thing
and it says 'GIANT CAN CORPORATION' on the front.
It looked really impressive, it had to be a
front for something. "Jim's eyes fill with
wonder, the mystery of it all amazes him. "We
are impressionable, that's our lifeblood. That's
what's so exciting, we don't know where the
next impression is coming from."
Kerr's other current favourite, he's thrilled,
frightened, impressed to discover that the man
who attempted to assassinate Reagan stayed at
the same hotel as the Minds used in Washington:
"We could have been staying in the same
building as a person who tried to blow the head
off the President Of The United States. That's
not romantic, it's bloody frightening."
Yes, Jim. But
there's another part of him that clearly does
find such possibilities romantic. Or so it seems
two months later; "I'm thrilled to bits
with events like that. Assassians really intrigue
me. He's really alone for the moment that he's
pulling the trigger. He's stepped completely
outside the norm and for that moment he's seized
a kind of power, he's stopped being ordinary."
Thrilled by power,
intrigued and impressed by the horrors of the
modern world, Simple Minds float on the outside
and celebrate their detachment, little boys
lost in a skyscraper world. I think they're
capable of doing more, of challenging the world.
Jim doesn't agree, he feels they're already
tend to place so much importance on words. Half
the time I use words for their sound as much
as for their meaning. I don't like bands that
are into sloganeering, I've always liked mazes
of us are sure enough of anything to be able
to tell anybody what to think. We work with
atmospheres and moods yet our music has a spirit
and a soul, a humanity, that's lacking elsewhere.
One of the songs on the new album has the line
'Encourage your dreams' I think that's one of
the most positive lines that have come out this
While Simple Minds
step outside day-to-day-life, they travel through
it, on the outside like that assassian, on the
run as if they were fugitives. And fugitives
they've become in rock's whirligig of fashion:
"To get caught up in any one of these superfical
trends is ultimately death for a band. We used
to look at the American charts in disgust and
look at it here now. Bucks Fizz and all, just
a lot more to life than fashion. New romantics
now means people like Spandua but it should
mean bands like the Cure, ourselves, New Order,
bands mixing a kind of romance with a sense
At the moment,
Simple Minds are exactly that, content to be
fascinated, intrigued, impressed. Content to
remain amazed, they're built an awesome and
powerful sound that attempts to impress as they
have been impressed. Mostly they succeed but
then they're limited by the fact that they're
not attempting enough.
There's a lack
of range on 'Sons And Fascination' and I think
it's a lack rooted in Simple Minds' refusal
to get involved. When they come in from the
outside, they'll bubble over. And I know I'll
Glasgow 19th September 1981
Mirror' September 26th 1981 (UK)
Simple Minds' progression into the big league
remains only partially fulfilled.
Live, they seem
less self assured and composed than on vinyl
- creating and falling into the same musical
Gone are the instant
disco motions of 'Empires And Dance', to be
replaced largely by plodding, enveloping would-be
ambient epics which lose out in the transformation
Still the Minds'
can't resist staging a hackneyed climax of their
four most recent singles - a manoeurve presumably
to please the crowd, but one which does little
to urge the set towards the expected heights,
only to see the aim achieved much more skilfully
by the moody and haunting 'Seeing Out The Angel',
a truly magnificent closer.
And still they
insist on duplicating numbers for the encore.
The audience of course respond, but more because
of familiarity than because they've developed
any better second time around.
If anything it's
on the numbers you least expect that they excel.
The dark, sombre
improvisational 'League Of Nations', Jim Kerr's
breathless vocals dressed by Mick MacNeil's
distant eerie keyboards frills remains as one
of my most memorable Minds stage moments, while
the passionate, unfolding lyrics of 'Sons And
Fasciantion', plus the stilted unease of 'Thirty
Frames A Second' with Derek Forbes superb bass
artery providing a strong contrast of new and
But they seem
content to concentrate on their resepective
roles, and as a unit labour over melodies and
riffs that should be more fluent and free, turning
too many into leaden, sprawling monsters. An
atrocious sound mix, where what you hear depends
on what you're prepared to listen out for, re-inforces
their current onstage dilemma.
They seem uncertain
of whether they want you to get up and dance
to a succession of Euro - rhythms, or whether
they want you to bask in a cloudly ambience
that they seem hell bent on foisting on you.
Simple Minds should appreciate that live the
fusion isn't working well enough to be easily
palatable and they'll dismiss the smiling faces
and congratulatory back slaps as no more than
typical home town fervour.
Progress Of Simple Minds
Minds have spent the last three years building
a well-deserved reputation with critics and
the public through their back-breaking commitment
to touring and a single-minded determination
to keep pushing their music forward from its
early Bowie and Roxy-derived beginnings. Yet
commercial recognition has consistently eluded
them, leaving the band heavily in debt to the
company they left last year - Arista - and with
high expectations of their new label, Virgin.
THE FACE untangles some of the threads of the
complex history behind this frustratingly slow
progress and finds a stronger, wiser band with
- surprisingly - its optimism firmly intact.
- 'The Face' October 1981 (Issue 18) (UK)
there: not before time Simple Minds stand poised
on the brink of unqualified success. "Sons
And Fascination" is an excellent album,
in spite of an almost wilful-seeming obscurity
about the songs themselves and a danger of over-extending
sound ideas and compoundind their inaccessibility
with a vocal style that buries the majority
of the lyrics.
Though this article
will try to disentangle some of the business
history which has held the band back, it has
to be said that they have always had some substantial
musical problems too... well, things that only
become problems as such when a band begins to
ponder the scale of its record sales and ensuing
success. Simple Minds reached this point some
time back: "To be honest," says Jim
Kerr, their singer, "we didn't really think
about selling records until the third album."
All in all, their
sojourn with Arista records - the period covered
by their first three LPs - has produced sales
of around 110,000 albums and 100,000 singles,
according to their manager Bruce Finlay. For
a recognisably 'successful' band, figures like
that would hardly be the beginnings of one
hit in this country alone; Spandua Ballet's
45s are supposed to sell around the 400,000
mark. Finlay is understating the case when he
describes those sales - half of which were in
Europe - as "neither a disaster, nor a
there has always been a strong feeling that
Simple Minds would come through. Musically,
because they've developed rhythm at the expense
of melody, they were bound to be played to death
in the clubs while the radio gave them the cold
shoulder. The high-tech Moroderisms of "I
Travel" shook the likes of The Rum Runner
up a treat, but it's taken the subtler treatment
applied to "Love Song" to insinuate
it into the singles chart.
suffered from a shortage of advocates: often,
crucially, they have been blessed with a surplus
of enthusiasm over expert advice which has proved
a genuine hindrance. Even now they're being
pushed by some quarters of their new record
company, Virgin, with a bludgeoning aggression
that is in danger of failing to allow the quality
of "Sons And Fascination" to speak
to start at the beginning, emerged from the
musical confusion of immediately post-punk Scotland
looking like strong contenders. Firstly they
were well organised; long before a record deal
was in sight they'd been putting away a fiver
a week each, enough to buy a school bus in which
they toured Scotland and slept while on the
road. According to Bruce Finlay they were 'totally
together', though this money sense didn't extend
to relations with the outside music business.
One early associate describes them as being
"extremely green in business matters."
The same observer,
however, also bears witness to the obvious charisma
of singer Jim Kerr: "One of the few people
in Scotland with real vision." He added
significantly that Kerr, though talented, "didn't
know where to go."
Kerr already had
some small experience of attempting to connect
raw talent North Of The Border with the corporate
purse strings over three hundred miles away
in London - never an easy task, ask Midge Ure
or The Associates. He'd been part of the punkily-titled
Johnny And The Self Abusers who released a single
on Chiswick in the winter of '78-'79. They broke
up on the day it came out.
Kerr was looking
for other ways in; he sent a cassette of early
Simple Minds tunes to an NME
freelancer, Ian Cranna, for a reaction. Cranna,
convinced that "they had an obvious
spark; they were going to get somewhere",
agreed to manage them against his better judgement
- mainly out of "protective, paternal instinct"
and began playing the tape to record company
A&R men on his periodic forays to London.
At the same time
there was a minor revolution in A&R (talent
scouting) strategy in som eof the more aware
major British labels. Latching onto the rich
amongst young regional bands, but in despair
at the inefficiency of their own sporadic jaunts
outside the Greater London area, the majors
began to appreciate the value of local, regional
entrepreneurs with their ear to the ground.
Looking to Scotland, they found a figure already
establishing himself in that role: Bruce Finlay.
ran a record shop in Falkirk in the 1950s; as
a nine-year-old he was impressed by the arrival
of rock and roll through carrying cases of Elvis
Presley 78s from the railway station to the
shop. Through managing an Edinburgh record shop,
Findlay ended up joining his brother in opening
a very successful emporium in Falkirk in '67,
specialising in Summer Of Love imports from
The Doors etc..
By the early '70s,
Bruce's Record Shops had expanded to number
eleven and one of his main suppliers, Island
Records, were suggesting that he started his
own label to combine the marketing side with
Findlay's enthusiasm for local bands. As Bruce's
became the biggest independent record shop chain
outside Virgin, he toyed with management with
an Edinburgh act called Cafe Jacques and helped
Lenny Love from the Sensible label with The
an extension of the successful record retail
business, but an alternative to it. Virgin's
vigorous discounting (Branson invented it as
a marketing ploy) set a breathless pace, as
Findlay admits: "In the mid-'70s with Virgin
and that it became big money,
real capitalism and I didn't like that, I'm
not a big businessman." But, when it came
to bands: "I've always loved being involved."
The business management
of Bruce's shops went awry: "We'd been
taken over by Guinness in 1976 - when we nearly
went bankrupt. The cut price war was unbelievably
fierce. We invested hard in two new shops, but
didn't increase our overall turnover to pay
When Findlay and
Simple Minds crossed paths, he was setting up
his own Zoom label, signing a distribution deal
through Arista for a small number of singles
by the Valves, the Zones, the Questions and
others. Arista boss Charles Levinson heard the
Simple Minds tape and suggested they signed
to Zoom/Arista, with a cash advance from the
bigger label, the idea being that they could
retain Findlay's close attention plus Arista's
Kerr, with characteristic
quiet confidence, doesn't feel that it was such
a bad deal for Arista; "We were a pretty
attractive package for companies, we looked
pretty together." They already had some
of the stronger material to appear on the debut
album in demo form, notably "Chelsea Girl"
and "Pleasantly Disturbed".
deal, according to Findlay, didn't materialise
as expected. "Their stuff still came out
really as an Arista record." Small labels
conferred kudos then, as Kerr observes: "If
they had any suss, they'd have played the Arista
Ian Cranna, who'd
been informed of the band's lack of confidence
in him as a potential manager by this stage,
makes no bones of his lack of faith in Findlay:
"He didn't have what the band needed. I
could see him leading them astray, which I think
he's done. They're working-class Glasgow boys
with something special. Bruce came from the
Edinburgh middle-class and was very into the
star trip of the whole thing."
with Arista got off to a good start however,
something Kerr puts down to the fact that "after
punk, the record companies were looking for
something a bit more together."
for the first album, didn't coincide with the
band's, though: "We were really emarassed
by the material and the production - the stuff
was already 18 months old. When we took the
second album into Charles Levinson's office
on the day we finished it, we realised they
were expecting it to be just like the first.
We played a tape of it to him, there was a lengthly
silence and he said 'I'll have to play it to
the rest of the company'."
In the desperately
faddy atmosphere of '79, when the Pop Group
were about to change the face of rock as we
know it - and then changed their minds at the
last minute - Simple Minds felt as if they were
being sunjected to some strange conglomerate
over when they were gigging in Paris to tell
them that he'd fly David Cunningham of the Flying
Lizards out to Germany to produce them, if they'd
only say the word. "We gave the impression,"
says Kerr, "that were not going to work
with somebody just for fashion's sake.
And Dance' (their third album) was a real strengthening
thing we were really proud of it. That kept
us from getting ultimate depressed. When we
spilt from Arista it made us feel we'd get a
deal, no problem."
disillusionment with Arista coincided with the
"galling" phenomenom of Gary Numan's
success and the interviewers "who asked
us if we'd been influenced by him": Arista's
apparent shortcomings in marketing the group
were thrown into sharp relief.
to lose faith; according to Findlay, "He
admitted to me six weeks after 'Changeling'
(the single) flopped that 'we knew it was never
going to be a hit, anyway'." A new head
of A&R appeared, the improbably-named Tarquin
Gotch. His first signing was Secret Affair;
it was the summer of Noveau Mod.
claims that Gotch "got totally into that
fashion thing". Kerr is less kind. While
he concedes that Levinson "had ears",
his opinion of Gotch is that he relied too much
on the music papers each week to tell him what
was hip. The lack of empathy took a personal
turn; when Gotch visited the band when they
were recording at Rockfield studios in Wales,
a person unknown poured "horrible food
waste" over his car. Kerr says "he
wasn't into talking to us at all after that."
so heavily with Arista, claims Kerr, that Gotch
was present at an Edinburgh soundcheck for the
band a week after they'd left the label; buzzing
with the "Futurist" schtick, according
to Kerr, he wanted to re-sign them.
The mutual loss
of faith came at a curious cross in the band's
history, not least because the hard roadwork
they'd put in throughout Europe had quite definitely
paid off. The positive noises from their German
company, Ariola, were particularly loud. As
a result, they had to wriggle free, surrendering
future royalties from their Arista back catalogue
- which will start to shift as soon as they
break through - against the debts they'd accumulated.
"We felt a bit put out," says Kerr.
"We were hoping to get dropped."
He's adamant that
the debts aren't going to form a millstone around
the band's collective neck: "I don't feel
guilty about it, because we were only taking
£35 a week (recently upped to £60).
The money all went on touring. Every penny we've
had is in a book and accounted for; it's not
'Where did that £20,000 go?' That'd be
Kerr's grip on
the practical realities of the band's continuing
survival is impressive - he'd set aside a whole
weekend after our interview for sorting through
the following six month's finances with the
According to Ian
Cranna," With the total lack of empathy
between the band and Arista after the second
album, Jim Kerr grew up overnight. He was the
leader of the band and he realised there were
things he had to do, like go in and hassle Arista."
that the band suffered similar treatment to
that which Iggy Pop complained of in a recent
interview - underpressing of LP quantities:
"'Empires' had an initial pressing of 7,500.
They had no idea of the band's stature. They
doubled it and it still went out of stock."
The band toyed
with the idea of managing themselves around
this time, merely employing an administrator.
Fortunately, in one respect, the interest from
other companies after the spilt from Arista
was such that they needed Bruce Findlay around.
Virgin Records had a long-standing interest
in the band and, to prevent the kind of shifting
enthusiasm that dogged them at Arista, they've
signed "personally" with Virgin directors
Richard Branson and Simon Draper.
Kerr is already
pleased with the deal, partly because of the
sales of their first Virgin single "The
American" which doubled any previous single's
performance. And also because of the company
interest in the recording of "Sons And
they've stuck their heads inside this recording
is so much more than Arista ever did,"
said Kerr halfway through the sessions, "It's
such a change from clueless remarks like 'the
bass drum could be higher in the mix'."
As to the ever-tricky
topic of management, Kerr admits an element
of truth in Ian Cranna's assertion that they'd
considered parting with Bruce Findlay at the
time of the Arista spilt. His reason, though,
is that "when things go ultimately wrong
you look for someone to blame."
Bruce, he says,
"shielded us from a lot of real life, figures
and debts and things. He meant it to be well-intentioned,
but it made us a bit spoilt. The fact is that
we never thought about selling records until
we saw the size of the debts. We got very money-conscious
disagreement with Bruce," says Kerr, "was
that he was too soft; he needed somebody to
say 'wait a minute'."
This now appears
to be happening: Findlay is now in partnership
with a former business lawyer Robert White,
who Kerr describes as "the toughest man
I've ever met". Coming from the self-posessed
singer that's some praise: what exactly does
the sort of man who'll come into the studio
and say 'I'm only a simple lawyer, I know, but
wasn't that violin solo an octave out'?"
Sons And Fascination/Sister
Ian Cranna - 'The
Face' October 1981 (Issue 18) (UK)
What can a poor
band do when they've recorded too much material
for one album and it's all simply too good to
chop and drop? Well, if you're Simple Minds
you top it up with a remix of your last single
and issue the lot, intially as a bargain twin-album
package and afterwards as two individual sets.
Fascination" is reckoned to be the stronger
of the two (with "Sisters Feeling Call"
to be available more cheaply later) though in
fact it's a pity this whole packaging distraction,
along with the handful of rushed moments and
incomplete ideas, couldn't have been avoided
by a little more studio time.
Still, what you
do get is mostly first-rate stuff though the
quantum jump in progress between albums hasn't
quite been maintained here. Both the lyrical
motif of travel (for Europe now read America)
and the creative use of funk rhythms from "Empires
And Dance" often reappear here in modified
form, though it's a much more confident and
sophisticated band offering their reactions
to their changing surroundings.
The most obvious
change this time is in production, with Steve
Hillage's more open production leaving a much
more warm, human feel than the condensed studio
trickery of John Leckie.
attractive melodic content is as high as usual,
and if Jim Kerr's lyrics have taken a turn for
the more obscure then the moving hesitancy of
his delivery communicates the urgency of the
message powerfully enough.
At it's best the
double set is superb (look upon "In Trance
As Mission", ye mighty, and despair!) and
at worst merely average. At a time when really
strong single albums are as rare as rocking
horse droppings, a full eighty minutes of music
of this consistently high calibre for a mere
£5.75 from a band whose time is well and
truly nigh must represent the bargain of the
Invest at once.
album, "Sons And Fascination", takes
shape in the presence of Ian Cranna
- 'Smash Hits' - 17th / 30th September 1981
Setting: A beautiful,
balmy summer's day earlier this year at Rockfield
Studios, a converted farmhouse tucked away in
the lovely, lush green countryside near Monmouth
in Wales. Inside the old stone building a lot
of noisy activity is taking place - games of
billiards and table tennis are in progress amid
waves of laughter from the constant flash of
Glaswegian wit among the five young men who,
having finally got out of bed, are here to rehearse
their new ideas into songs for an album. Like
many young contemporary bands, Simple Minds
are well into expolring and enjoying what opportunties
for good times life has to offer but when it
comes to music, suddenly it's time to be serious...
The sons of working class
Glasgow families, vocalist Jim Kerr and guitarist
Charlie Burchill go way back together, a longstanding
by hitching round Europe together during school
holidays and by a common taste in music - less
fashionable bands like Genesis or the unpredictable
Doctors Of Madness (featuring one Richard 'Kid'
Strange) as well as the more popular Bowie/Roxy/velvet
Underground division. Together
with drummer Brian McGee, Kerr and Burchill
formed half of a short-lived amalgamation of
two schoolboy bands during the summer of '77
- yes, the legendary Johnny & The Self Abusers,
who capped a less than earth-shaking career
by splitting up the day their
"Saints And Sinners" single came out
on Chiswick. (They're gonna hate me for dragging
that one up again but I still think it's a good
single.) Kerr, Burchill and McGee then stuck
together and recruited the previously unattached
Mick MacNeil (holder of many a medal for classical
music) on keyboards and Derek Forbes, then a
guitarist with a nondescript pop-rock band called
The Subs (one single, "Party Clothes"
on Stiff), to bring his creative talents to
the bass. Calling themselves Simple Minds, the
new line-up soon started packing out local venues
with their imaginative, melodic blend of old
and new waves - a rare treat amid the snarling
power chords of the day. A contract was signed
with Arista, to be followed by two years of
frustration as Arista clearly had no idea of
what kind of band they had signed. Three albums
were issued - the poorly recorded, anxious debut
"Life In A Day", the startling rebirth
with "Real To Real Cacophony" and
the major leap to "Empires And Dance"
- but a parting of the ways became inevitable.
A Move to Virgin then took place, which brings
us back to Rockfield and the five young men
headed for the rehearsal room...
The rehearsal room is a long,
tall rectangular affair, the walls draped with
yards of brown horsefair for soundproofing.
Even with the windows are shuttered, keeping
from view the distraction of the outside world.
Watching a band at work can be an enlightening
experience. At one end of the room sits Brian
McGee at his drumkit. At the other end is Charlie
Burchill plus guitars while Forbes and MacNeil
occupy the middle ground. All four are playing
around with a couple of tentative ideas while
Jim Kerr squats silently on his haunches, forehead
on his forearm, listening intently. The experimenting
is clearly not working out. Glances are exchanged
and the playing peters out. Kerr raises his
head, "Play that bit in 9/8 time again,"
he says. The rhythm section lock together and
suddenly the spark is there, Mick MacNeil slowly
building a melody over the unusual beat. And
so "In Trance As Mission" - the opening
track of Simple Minds' splendid new "Sons
And Fascination" LP - is born. It's a true
band creation as well, as Simple Minds do not
have a dictator figure. No one is afraid to
speak. This also tends to mean that the band
have become very hyper-critical of their music,
a curious but compelling mixture curious but
compelling mixture of enthusiasm and insercurity.
"Before it seemed very straightforward,"
Kerr recalls later, "but now there's lots
of questions going on. I think before we had
a, let's say, a amateur, humble approach to
recording but now there's an enthusiasm to do
something really great. Before in articles we've
always felt we were a shadow of, and so forth.
Now we really feel we're up there. Now we really
"Something grand, I
think," muses Kerr, casually potting another
billiard ball to send yours truly to yet another
heavy defeat. He's talking about the lyric he'll
add later to the music now filtering out from
the rehearsal room into the games room as Burchill's
guitar is worked in and "In Trance As Mission"
slowly takes shape. Simple Minds' lyrics are
Kerr's department. though he's not keen on the
idea of their being taken away from the music.
So it's the images and the atmosphere of a song
that the band are keenest to get across? "Yeah,"
Kerr nods, "that's really my interest.
I used to buy albums on the strength of the
atmosphere of song titles if I hadn't heard
the band before." These days, he enthuses,
inspiration comes from everywhere - plays, films,
actors, documentaries, magazines, books... The
band's previous single, "The American",
was in fact inspired by the bright colours of
an exhibition of modern American art that Jim
had visited before he'd even been to The States.
It's this openness to their surroundings that
causes so much of their work to be associated
with travel. "When I travel," Jim
offers, "it's almost trancelike. If I look
and see a house or something, I don't think
about what kind of architecture, I think who
built that house and what happened to their
families. Your mind goes off in all kinds of
places. Some places the atmosphere is just so
thick - you just feel some places and it's really,
really inspiring." It has been suggested
to Jim that Simple Minds should tackle issues
closer to home instead of travel. Kerr's answer
is that he'd feel a hypocrite for suggesting
that he had any affinity for that sort of dogma,
never having been bored or unemployed except
through choice. Not that he shuts himself off
from the world. For instance, the new album
track, "Boys From Brazil" (inspired
by the book on escaped Nazis) deals with the
recent rise of new Nazis like the National Front,
but from a side angle instead of tub thumping.
Kerr also criticises Spandau Ballet for romanticising
dangerous ideas with "Musclebound",
which he describes as "really sick".
Simple Minds' own music Jim sums up as cinematic
food for thought. "You do get a chance
to travel and talk to a lot of people of our
own ages from different countries," he
says. "You just get more and more things
that piss you off, or just find out more things
- it's more education than politics and beliefs.
That's the vehicle I choose; it really is education.
I think if I was totally concerned with the
problems of the world I'd be a missionary or
something, as opposed to working for Virgin
The album is now complete,
of course, and "In Trance As Mission"
is wonderful, easily the equal of anything Simple
Minds have done so far, with its majestic, melodic
cruising drive. That and the rest of the music
from the Rockfield and later sessions can be
found on the band's new bargain twin album pack.
"Sons And Fascination" contains the
tracks the band are most pleased with, while
"Sister Feelings Call", (an appropriate
line from the title track of the other) will
embrace the rest - by no means rejects - and
will be available at a reduced price after the
Siamese twins have been separted. Drummer Brian
McGee left the group on completing the albums
- giving up the touring he disliked so much
to marry his girlfriend and settle down - but
his departure has, if anything, pulled the other
four closer together. (No permanent replacement
for Brian is expected; former Zones drummer
Kenny Hislop will sit in for the current British
tour.) Never, says Kerr, has the situation in
the band settled. Although they're almost like
a different band now, so much have they developed
during their four albums in two and a half years,
it's interesting to recall their earliest days
when the young, unknown and unsigned Kerr and
Burchill vowed to create something too good
to be ignored, something that would secure the
genuine appreciation they're always looked for
without having to compromise for the sake of
getting on the radio. "We've always said
that there was something traditional about us,"
Kerr agrees, "like we admired these bands
of the seventies who didn't really come through
until their third or fourth album. I think despite
trends and fashion we've always come up with
something that's been too good to throw away.
I think we're beginning to see some reward for
Sons And Fascination/Sister
It should be no
surprise to many that the early work of Simple
Minds has aged far better than the breast-beating
rock band they were to be come in the late 80's/early
90's period. Common consensus has it that 'New
Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)' is the true classic
but spare a moment for 1981's ambitious double-set
of 'Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call'.
It is an 80-minute
opus of electronic music with a decidely European
sound following on neatly from the early Ultravox
albums. 'The American' and 'Love Song' gave
the group their first hits since 'I Travel'
and although this recording is considering more
commercially viable than the first three long
players - they had just signed to Virgin Records
after all - there is a high standard of artistic
merit on show.
A cursory listen
to '70 Cities As Love Brings The Fall' is like
listening to a space-age elevator opening and
closing and the first title track brings an
unlikely case for marrying together slap bass,
Oriental keyboards and Jim Kerr's gothic vocals.
'Seeing Out The Angels' is an indication of
the prettier textures incorporated on their
next album whilst 'Careful In Career' proves
that they had not totaly discarded their post-punk
routes. Admittedly the slap bass use becomes
wearisome after a while but this is a highly
presentable example of what Simple Minds thought
the future would sound like from 1982's perspective.
(4 out of 5)
Bristol September 1981
Slade - Bristol Evening Post 'My Best Gig' (UK)
summer of 1981 was a truly great one for this
17-year old. I had just returned from my first
holiday with my mates-eight of us, sharing a
flat together in Torquay. I was also earning
a wage for the first time in my life. I felt
like I owned the world.
of my mates suggested that we go to see Bryan
Eno's band Magazine. I was not really a fan
of their music but went along anyway as I was
a great lover of live music. I was looking forward
to the gig as the day arrived and we were full
of anticipation as we took the stairs up to
the Locarno, passing skins, mohicans, punks
and rockers on the way.
support band were to be a band called Simple
Minds. I remembered a lad that we met in Torquay,
wearing a white all-in-one jumpsuit, urging
us to see them when we had the chance. As they
took the stage, I was struck by their raw energy.
Like a rough diamond, they has vitality and
enthusiasm that I had not seen before, and I
remember thinking that with good production,
they would make a decent band.
set was magnificent. Charlie Burchill's guitar
work was superb and he looked so cool, nodding
his head in time with the music as he strummed.
Mike McNeil's keyboards were totally atmospheric
and Jim Kerr's vocals had a gravelly raw quality
that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand
up. His voice frequently gave out momentarily
during the show, he was putting so much into
it and he was wearing a white all-in-one jumpsuit!
must have performed their entire early repertoire
during the hour they were on stage, from early
classics like 'Life In A Day' and 'Chelsea Girl',
through 'I Travel', right up to their then-cuttent
material like 'Love Song' and my favourite 'The
American'. It seems incredible to say this but
the apperance later on by Bryan Eno's Magazine
was almost an anti-climax!
following day, my mate and I spent all afternoon
trawling the record shops for "Minds" material.
We brought a couple of their albums, which we
played to death over the remainder of the summer.
The last time I saw the Minds play live was
10 years ago this month. Cardiff Arms Park was
the venue and it was worlds away from a smoke
filled Locarno (there were a hundred times as
many people there for a start). Their performance
was both professional and perfected, but they
had lost none of that energy and agreesion that
made them so good to see live some eight years
this, it still wasn't quite the same, the rough
diamond had been cut and polished.