Jim Kerr back
from the road to Katmandu
Jim Reid - 'Record
Mirror' 10th January 1984 (UK)
Simple Minds have
been away. Away from Glasgow. Taking a trip
from British pop. They've moved many miles and
they've shifted musical direction. The ambience
of 'New Gold Dream' has been replaced by a more
direct, dramatic attack. Simple Minds have moved
closer to rock music.
the last album was a total thing," says
Jim Kerr. "On the last LP we were obsessed
with a pursuit of perfection. The LP was almost
coffee table-ish, you could sit down and talk
over it. Although we really liked it, there
is another side to us. 'New Gold Dream' was
obsessed with a quiet power, willpower. But
this album hasn't got any time for dreaminess
or willpower, it's really straight for the jugular.
is dead hard - it hasn't got rock cliches, but
rock dynamism. We're going for the giant sound.
A giant sound without pomposity."
Jim Kerr has a
slight stammer, but he says all this clear and
straight ahead. Kerr sits right in the middle
of the Simple Minds mystery; a group that straddle
both pop and rock sensibilities and yet remain,
after six years, no more than a super cult group.
High on tour revenue, low on top ten singles.
it's great, I'd much rather be number 13 for
five years than number one for six months. I
just think that at our pace, we watch, and learn,
and grow, and we know it's us. At our own pace
we can handle it as we grow each year. I just
think that the chief thing with us is that we
really love what we do, and we're getting good
at what we do. We do make mistakes as we go
along, but we live and learn."
Kerr talks a lot
about Simple Minds working at their own pace,
about Simple Minds' forays into foreign parts
not being tours, but adventures. he also talks
about something called 'the gift of vision'.
What I wonder is this novel approach to songwriting?
"It's a lot
of things - it's a feeling inside, a confidence.
The whole inspiration for us comes from living
and learning, keeping our eyes and ears open."
That's the artistic
approach. But don't pop groups have to bow to
commerical pressures as well? What makes Simple
Minds take their own route whilst others stand
in line for the next video shoot?
strong. We don' have to make records 'cos we've
got a really big live following throughout a
lot of countries. We love making records, but
it's not our bread and butter, we're satisfied
is not to put anything out unless it's good,
unless it's the best you can do, because you
only get a few chances each year. For me it
disnae matter when a record's out, whether it's
in ten years time, as long as it's good. I think
that's the way it should be - your head should
be on the chopping block, if you put out a bad
record it should sink."
This is all fine
enough, but one wonders if Kerr's vision of
a world tour as a 'great adventure' is just
a smokescreen that hides a very ordinary rock
Similarly it could
be argued that the group's use of producer Steve
Lillywhite (U2, Big Country) is an attempt to
tap America's current infatuation with British
rock sounds. Kerr disagrees.
know what to say - we just wanted to do it.
It disnae matter whether it'll be a good record
for Africa or America or what.
been going to our gigs for three years and we
were going to work with him sometime. We were
planning to work with Alex Sadkin and if we
worked with him people would have said it was
a conscious attempt to break the charts, so
you just can't win."
certainly gives the group a crisper, harder
sound on their current single 'Speed Your Love
To Me' and on the forthcoming album 'Sparkle
In The Rain'. But this dilemma, the poppier
ways of Sadkin or the rockier ways of Lillywhite
remains at the heart of Simple Minds failure
to break big. Artistically and commercially.
the diversity in the band.
a better bass and drum section now than any
funk band in Britain and a guitarist and keyboards
player who could play on Genesis or Roxy albums."
Kerr may be right,
but I wonder if that's a strength? I shouldn't
think Kerr worries too much about these contradictions,
he's happy for his group to be moved by their
own creative impetus, not the vagaries of the
British pop market. Movement, musical or personal,
is never very far from Kerr's mind. Travel,
new people, new places are the things from which
he draws inspiration.
and I went to India last year for a break. We
got these motorbikes and went to Katmandu, Nepal
and right to the border of Tibet. It's weird
when you're thousands of miles from home, but
when you're thousands of realities from home
it's even stranger.
"You go along
these roads that are still being built, and
see all these Chinese guys, about the same age
as you, working. You're looking at them, but
obviously you can't communicate much at all.
But there's always something in people's eyes
and expression that gets through."
"It's a wee
bit like being in a TV documentary. When you're
in a drastically different place for a short
time you feel like a ghost, you're there but
you have to pinch yourself."
the world with Kerr, it's a bit disconcerting
for me to get on the bus back to Rotherhithe.
Jim's attitude may smack of pretension, but
as long as Simple Minds continue to pursue their
own course, I'm not going to knock it. Gosh,
next stop Bermondsey...
On the banks of a New Gold Dream? Or Simply
wet? Don Watson fathoms it out with Jim Kerr.
Don Watson - 'NME'
3rd September 1983 (UK)
Whump! It's that
point when the aeroplane's acceleration borders
on the terrifying, when there's the momentary
flash of fear, the back of your stomach meets
the front, and a hidden rush of energy is released.
Capturing that momentum and harnessing its energy
is an art of which Simple Minds are masters.
Their music has,
for me, become synonomous with travel. 'New
Gold Dream' evokes arriving at the Gare St.
Lazarre at five in the morning. Taking off for
Dublin, just at lift off, I could hear that
moment in 'Theme For Great Cities' when the
melody soars from behind the clouds.
If, as Neubauten's
Blixa Bargeld recently quoted from the futuristic
manifesto, "There is a new dimension to
beauty - the beauty of speed", Simple Minds
have become its greatest aestheticians. Movement
courses constantly through the molten moments
of Simple Minds' mission, movement as a means
to an end and as an end in itself, physical,
spiritual and musical movement interwine until,
as in all romantic dreams, the search itself
becomes the reward.
Now, for Simple
Minds, the movement has, for the moment, come
to a halt. After months of pursuing the New
Gold Dream across Europe they played their last
date of the tour in Dublin before returning
to London to work on a totally new set. "When
something finishes," as Brando observed
in Last Tango In Paris,
"it begins again." So I flew out to
Dublin to catch the transition between end and
For someone who,
during performance, glows with such weightless
grace, Jim Kerr is an ungainly figure offstage.
His hair, previously sleek black, now falls
over his forehead in a wispy mop of natural
auburn, his nostrils flare from a still untamed
nervousness and his eyes bulge from a face swollen
from lack of sleep.
Every now and
again he'll shudder to a halt in the middle
of a sentance and stare, with a desperate look,
over your shoulder as he stumbles on the edge
of a stutter.
Beneath the nervous
exterior, though, there's a constant store of
energy and enthusiasm which frequently bursts
through during the course of the interview.
"Yes" he'll say
with a strangely removed excitement, "that's
right," and launce
into a restless stream of words. Often he loses
literal meaning along the way, but maintains
an instinctive sense, and a power of pure likeability
that makes you feel precisely what he means.
Perhaps it's just
a certain amount of the past we happen to have
in common, a common stretch of history along
the banks of the Clyde. Although Simple Minds
have never made much of their Scottish roots,
there's a power in that past that exerts its
control on even the freest spirit.
There was an indication
on 'New Gold Dream' that Kerr was turning to
matters closer to home, to a lyrical romanticism
that was more distinctly Scottish than anything
the band had done before. Now it seems that,
at the very time I come to interview him, there
is an increased feeling of national idenytity
creeping into Kerr's work.
thought of myself as a Scottish person, I've
never been patriotic in that sense," he
begins, "but last year I'd had a bit of
a block on writing for a while and I was feeling
a bit disturbed by that. Then I got back to
Glasgow, and it was pissing down with rain,
and somehow getting back there was like rediscovering
an identity, a realisation that although it
was nice to think about all these exotic places
this was where I was from,
and I realised that you can gain a great deal
of strength from the place where you were born.
thing is that feeling is so often abused. In
Glasgow particularly the image has always been
that 'hard man' bit, and most of the singers
have been gravel voiced, bluesy groaners that
drink whiskey by the bucketful."
enough, though, the creative explosion that
has occured in Scotland over the last few years
has worked to counter that stereotype, not only
with the new breed of Scottish groups but with
Bill Forsyth's cinema.
he agrees, filled with further enthusiasm, "there
is a connection when people go to see Forsyth's
films, they come out using words like 'beauty'
that have never been associated with Glasgow
before, and the same words have also been used
to describe 'New Gold Dream'. Its good people
are seeing there's more to the place than the
immediate impressions they get from seeing the
The one new song
included in the Phoenix Park set was 'Waterfront',
a wide screen epic with a rougher edge reminiscent
more of the power of 'Empires And Dance' than
the smoother dynamics of 'New Gold Dream'. As
Jim points out, with that LP they were experimenting
with the idea that "a whisper really could
be louder than a scream," a progression
that included numerous accusations of blandness.
To anyone that listened, though, there was a
power of optimism in that collection that continues
to run through 'Waterfront'. The romantic force
is the same - but this time they've decided
to scream it.
The song itself
was inspired by Kerr's return to Glasgow, although
its sentiments are no more restricted than those
of his European songs.
always asking me why I didn't write songs about
Glasgow and the problems there, but it was because
I felt it would be hypocritical. I could have
written about it from a bird's eye view because,
although I wasn't there, my family and friends
were - but it just wasn't me. With this song,
I feel I've got the combination right because
I was there when the idea happened, but it still
has that cosmopolitan feel to it.
I go there is something that always takes me
to the water; if I go for a walk I'll always
end up by the river.
time I walked right along the front, and Glasgow
was packed with empty ships, like ghost ships.
Even from the factories you could hear from
the echoes and acoustics that they were all
empty, just shells. And it was kinda special
for me because all my people, my grandfather
and that, worked on that front. So I was looking
about and there was this real sadness. I hope
it doesn't sound too romantic, but I had a fantastic
view, which I didn't know you could get from
there and I couldn't help but feel... you can
sit around and say it's all finished, industry's
finished. Glasgow's a ghost town, but the river
was still going through, and there is a force
there that you can't hold back.
"It was just
moving on and moving on, and that is to a great
extent how I go through it - you can wallow
in it for a while, but you somehow come up saying
'It's more than that'."
Like most of the
worthwhile music of today, Simple Minds take
despair as the basic premise and move on from
Quite apart from
the rivivalist hammer horror schtick currently
being peddled by black clad goths, the songs
of the moment are mostly from graveyards like
Sheffield, Glasgow and New Cross. In Simple
Minds' case, though, there's a force of optimism
rising from the realism.
And Dance' crawled with imagery of marching
men across central Europe and a continent with
a chronic lanuage problem, there was a creeping
wonder seeping through the follow-up pair of
'Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call'.
That collection, although it suffered from a
rushed and hyperactive recording rate, contained
the germ of the feeling that was to create 'New
Gold Dream' that giddy sense of awe that called
to mind the image of a kid staring up at a skyscraper.
Jim wonders, "it's brilliant that you say
that... because I lived in a skyscraper for
14 years," he brays. "I do love that
feeling of size, though, and I love the feeling
of looking up and even if its so
massive, having that sense that if you really
forced yourself enough, you could shadow that
and..." he trails off, clenching his fists
together, struggling to express his excitement,
"and just... I don't know, get up
If the 'Sons/Sisters'
collection expressed the desire, 'New Gold Dream'
attained what seemed at the time an unscalable
height. Criminally unrecognised as a modern
classic, it reels with a dizzy excitement of
being on the top while the world is spinning.
LP was finished," he recalls, "I remember
phoning up Bruce, our manager, and saying 'We've
really kinda surpassed what
we should be'. And he's going 'It's two o' clock
in the morning, what are you rabbiting on about'
and I wuz just going, 'You don't understand!
tracks were just so enormous I was just really
afraid of trying to find
a voice and a sentiment that could match them.
Inside I knew that I had them but it was just
a matter of bringing it out without going over
that fine line that divides grandeur from pomposity.
Eventually I had one day left and I was just
forced to do it. I had all
these pages with phrases on them and I just
formed the structure of the songs as I went
I came out and I knew it had worked it was just
a brilliant feeling, but a feeling of danger
that you'd attained something that you'd got
no right to, you'd reach a point you really
shouldn't have reached.
worried in a way that once we reached that point
there would be nowhere else to go, but it never
seems to work like that. It's like growing up
in the one room and you think you're getting
really big, then you grow to the level of the
window and you realise there's so much more
It's that naivety
that has distinguished Simple Minds; naivety
not in the sense of ignorance or childishness
but an openness and a continuing will to learn.
absolutely no world weariness about us, some
bands travel from Manchester to Liverpool and
they're fucken' world weary, whereas we like
to take something from anywhere that we go.
always the Graham Greene's of the world who'll
say no matter where you go the place is fucked.
The technicalities might be, but there's always
incidents that show that the rest isn't and
it's the incidents that make the world turn."
Is that an attitude
that's hard to keep up, or does it have a strength
that perpetuates itself?
have because nothing seems to even give it a
bash, nothing dents it for a moment, but it's
not as if we wander around with a determined
idea of 'Ah things will be better' but I can't
help thinking, even when people throw it in
your face, that this is not
the end, it just can't be the all and end
But wasn't 'Empires
And Dance' fascinated with despair?
it was there, but once you've come through it
what's the point of getting bogged down? We
did it at a time when people in Britain were
going 'War, what war?', because in Britain things
were still OK, but we're missing fascist bombs
in Munich and the whole Paris synagogue thing.
You could just feel it spreading across Europe,
that discontent. So what could you do apart
from write it down?
time I felt terribly young and that all I could
do was record fragments. Then a year later the
whole thing had raked through
Britain and a year later again people did know
what a war was in Britain. By that time, though,
I'd gone through it and to go back to that would
just have been too easy."
So why the countdown
to 1984 in 'New Gold Dream'?
1984 has no significance to me whatsoever, as
far as I'm concerned we're not afraid to look
forward to the future and that is just stating
There's an increasing
strength and boldness about Simple Minds, a
belief which is almost religious. That one subject
though causes Jim to clamp his jaw.
"I just can't
talk about it," he says, "at least
not until I feel capable of articulating the
way that I feel."
Does he believe
not vain enough to think that everything I do
comes from me alone, I believe it comes through
me and I channel it. I don't feel comfortable
talking about it, though, it's something that
makes me feel very vulnerable."
Is there a limit
that you place on yourself then?
"No, I was
talking to Bono the other night, he's the one
person I have most respect for within music
and we were really firing one another up. But
certain things that we were saying... I don't
know... I think we could get ourselves in trouble."
there are no limits, so there's no holding back.
The only real danger is when the music stops
and you're left with a personality that the
music has entranced in you. Then the music stops
and you could go out on to the street and just
do something. I could envisage the situation
when I could," he stops again and grips
the air," ...I don't even know, but I do
know that there is a danger in some of my ideas.
were in Germany some people really hated the
kind of optimism that I had. One journalist
particularly I know would
have liked to punch through my skull to it.
I realised then... It comes down to belief really,
a lot of people just get smashed out because
of what they believe in and what they've done
through their beliefs, whether they're planned
or spontaneous actions.
about sitting in a room and nothing's really
happening and you just get up and kick something."
There is an energy
and an aggression in Simple Minds right now
and it erupted on stage at the Phoenix Park
is just spinning with all these new ideas,"
Jim told me before he went on, "we're just
going to storm our way through
that hour." And they did, in a performance
that was almost frightening.
It was fitting
that the last show was in Dublin; there was
something tangibly right about the setting as
we drove along the shabby waterfront of the
Liffey towards the site.
The final coincidence
lay a quarter of a mile from the stage in the
shape of the huge metal cross, straight from
the cover of 'New Gold Dream'.
in memory of The Pope's visit," our taxi
driver told us proudly.
used our PA when he came to Glasgow," Jim
announced, adding mischeviously, "I hope
he didnae catch anything," and continuing
to chant, "The Pope's got herpes,"
as I glanced nervously at this taxi driver and
the madonna on his dashboard and wondered whether
he was going to throw us out.
A Catholic upbringing,
they say, stays with you, whether as a belief
or a desperate blasphemous urge, it seems that
Jim just can't decide which way to go.
Mick, our keyboard player had a protestant upbringing
and his was the weirdest of the lot, his old
man used to get drunk and talk to the dead.
You'd go round there and his mum'd be watching
the telly, and his old man'd be lying on the
table talking to the dead, and Mick'd be sitting
there in the corner with his synthesiser goin'
'Ach will you shut up'."
On stage, from
the first number, all traces of Jim's nervousness
is gone. His hair lifted into a crest by a slight
cross wind he leaps towards the audience screaming
"Come out, come out, come
out of the raaain." The tension crashes
out through the immensity of that sound and
WHUMP! The front of your stomach meets the back.
A Change Of
On the eve of
Simple Minds' third Oz visit, Phil Stafford
strains to disentangle Jim Kerr's brogue from
the phone lines. Meanwhile Adam Sweeting checks
out the Minds' current perfromance at a home
Phil Stafford -
'RAM' 20th January 1984 (AUS)
lurch of Waterfront threatens to bring down
the battlements as Jim Kerr makes a lunge for
it's chorus... 'Step on up to the Waterfront,
a million years from today'.
More than a few
miles away from New Gold Dream
as well, the luxurious confines of which album
saw Simple Minds all but banished to the cocktail
lounge. It was almost too refined, too richly
contoured for effective translation to the live
arena - which became the band's natural habitat
for much of 1983. A contradiction in terms...
Gold Dream was a very quiet album, an album
more obsessed with quiet power," Kerr explains.
"The idea was to use the Dream as a weapon,
almost like a willpower. This one may have the
same kind of targets, but it's not really the
time for willpower anymore; it sets out to take
different situations and physically shape them."
is the third for the resilient Scottish band,
and it's called Sparkle In The
Rain. Yet another allusory title, but the
metaphor implies stark contrast. It may
well be as painstaking a studio creation, but
this recording exudes far more aggression than
either of its predecessors. It's the resounding
upshot of twelve months' of solid roadwork,
and fairly throbs with accumulated energy. An
extensive touring schedule took the band to
North America and through most of Europe, after
first previewing New Gold Dream
in Australia some eighteen months back. And
after so long on the road, it was no surprise
that the Dream was slowly
mutating into a nightmare.
to a sort of standstill at one point,"
Kerr recalls with dread. "We tried to write
some new songs, and to be honest, they sounded
just like New Gold Dream
Part 2, and that obviously wasn't good enough.
kept playing live and tried to forget about
records for a while. We always seem to work
more by instinct as opposed to planning, so
it comes as no surprise that with the amount
of live work we'd been doing that we'd have
an album that sounds very much like Simple Minds
In The Rain may in fact come as plenty surprise
to some. Recorded over two months at London's
Townhouse studios with the abiquitous Steve
Lillywhite at the controls, this thing rocks
with walloping clout. It's a brutal slap across
the sensibilities of anyone who sunk too deep
into the lavish pile of New
Gold Dream, and leaves its oblique symbolism
behind in a rush graphic, pointed imagery. The
colour scheme is black and white, with Kerr's
lyrics in particular sharpened to a realist
edge. It's like he's woken from a gentle, literary
stupor, looked around and got angry at what
it's really crept up on me now; I'd previously
avoided the spokesman-for-current affairs tag,
but I find it seeping in. I'd like to think
my resentment at the British malaise is not
cynical, I just think it's better to be honest
and to take it from there. What I'm bitter about
is the way Britain presents itself media-wise,
and I just can't stand the whole Thatcher regime.
you when you leave Britain - when you're here,
you never think of it as a island, 'cos the
media still paint it as the centre of the universal
or something, when we all know it's hardly that.
That's what I'm saying in the songs, that things
may be down but I don't like to wallow in the
Rather, he shoots
out of it like some jet-powered phoenix, waxing
positive through the homeland gloom.
trying to say that if you close your eyes things
will go away, but we've been through a realistic
patch where we all just pulled everything to
bits, and I feel that despite it all, I'm glad
to be alive and glad to be writing. And the
band feels so good as people now, whereas on
some of our earlier work, the writing might
have come across a little nihilistic through
"But I do
live in great fear of writing and making a point
and then coming across like a hypocrite, 'cos
I've watched a lot of other people in bands
having to eat their words. We do have points
of view, and it is hard
to express certain situations in the lineup
of a song. And sometimes I think if I've got
a story to tell, I'll write a book!"
Or read another
author, and Kerr's done just that on Sparkle
In The Rain with a lucid interpretation of Lou
Reed's Street Hassle. An
odd choice of cover to be sure, so from whence
European tour, we kept playing that track on
the bus 'cos it's got such a beautiful riff.
And then when we went in to rehearse, Mick (MacNeil,
Minds' keyboardsman) began playing it.
'God, when people do cover versions like Motown
numbers or Beatles numbers', but here was this
quite obscure song with a beautiful feel - we
began playing it live, and the effect was quite
classical; it'd bring a hush over the audience.
"It was a
hard song to try; 'cos Lou Reed's version is
so incredibly sensitive. But we thought if we're
gonna do a cover, then we should at least put
something of ourselves on it."
The song is suffused
with all the quasi-religious reverence that
marks a Minds performance, though it's one of
the few downbeat moments on the new album. Elsewhere,
the frantic fervour is buoyed along by Steve
Lillywhite's typically monumental production
(drums as megatonne depth charges under livid
guitar-keyboard crossfire), in direct contrast
to the more sober inflections of Peter Walsh's
New Gold Dream treatment.
As Kerr puts it.
"There's always been a rawness we've held
back on. In the studio, we've always gone for
a much more kind of sophisticated sound. On
Dream we achieved a certain
kind of 'perfection', and now - whether it's
just a reflection of the personalities or not
- it's more on the edge.
grown a lot; I think you'll see a giant difference
in the band since the last tour. There's been
a giant improvement - I think we were all a
bit larger than life, but now it's just so upfront,
pushing and in control."
We'll get a chance
to assess the strength of the superlatives at
Narara '84. And don't think the Minds are at
all short on the 'festival experience'. They've
become veterans over the last year, performing
at no less than a dozen open-air extravaganzas
during 1983. As difficult as it might be to
imagine the band in this sort of alien environment,
the new-found bluster and intensity of Sparkle
In The Rain appears tailored to the big
"We see festivals
as a challenge," says Kerr. "When
you do a festival, you're really in the hands
of the gods. Often these events can become battle-of-the-bands
type things if the attitude is wrong..
asked me this time last year, I think I'd have
had a very narrow view of the situation. It's
easy to sit back and criticise these things,
but actually getting up there and trying to
do it is a different thing. It's certainly not
how I thought I'd be. Like it doesn't have to
be 30,000 hippies sitting in the mud stoned
out of their brains. And it's a challenge for
us to go in broad daylight - no lights, no lasers,
none of your big screens - and just through
playing, get to someone up the back. People
say it can't be done... I think it can."
That sort of negativism
was directed at the band about six months ago
when they knocked back an American tour as main
support to the Police. Where most middle-rung
acts would gladly sell body and soul for such
an opportunity, the Minds were immovable. They
were also exhausted to the point of collapse,
and bored to the brink of stagnation.
we'd come to the end of the line; we could play
all the songs with our eyes shut. And to go
on doing that just wouldn't have been the same
- we'd just be going through the motions. We
still had the energy to get up on stage, but
our heads were bursting with all these new ideas
and we just had to get them out first.
people said, 'This is your chance,' the album
went in at No.30 or something, and a lot of
people thought we were crazy.
you go, and I think with all due respect to
the Police, I think if our future were in the
hands of ten or twelve dates with them, then
I don't think we'd have much of a future. We've
always moved at our own pace, and I'd like to
think that it's the best thing for us to do."
It seems more
a case of moving beyond their own pace, if the
strenuous activity of the last twelve months
is any indication of Simple Minds' renewed sense
of purpose. Rounding off Sparkle In The Rain
is a comparatively subdued instrumental, appropriately
entitled Shake Off The Ghosts. Positivism in
the face of paranoia? Jim Kerr is similarly
we're expressing a change of skin, to be honest."
Glasgow 21st December 1983
Adam Sweeting -
'RAM' 20th January 1984 (AUS)
With their new
single Waterfront making
a healthy dent in the charts, Simple Minds decided
to defy the odds last month and combine a free
gig in Glasgow with a spot of video-shooting.
The location they chose was Glasgow's old Barrowland
Ballroom, in the heart of the city's market
district called the Barras.
hasn't been used for concerts since the old
package-tour days of the sixties, also has a
bit of a dodgy reputation, largely thanks to
the activities of the notorious strangler, Bible
John. He used to pick up his female victims
at Barrowland and then strangle them while reciting
from the Bible. Three detectives are still working
on the case, which was never closed.
But no matter.
The Minds had been due to play three nights
at Barrowland just before Christmas in any case,
the place having been chosen as a substitute
for the recently-deceased Tiffanys. After wrapping
up a couple of months' recording a new album
in collaboration with Steve 'Natural High' Lillywhite,
the Minds were bored with sitting around in
Japanese restaurants, bars etc. and decided
the only thing was to get up there and play.
So, after a couple
of day's rehearsal of some of their new songs
at Nomis in London, the men sped up to hometown
Glasgow and crashed feverishly through final
preparations for the gig on Sunday afternoon.
As the video crew
clumped around the hall with camera dollies
and assembled great lumps of scaffolding which
swayed unsteadily above the mixing desk, the
band busied themselves with refining the new
material. Having recorded the songs on multi-track
with all known gadgets, the trick was to refine
them down to their performable essence without
sacrificing any raw power. This was swiftly
achieved, and even during rehearsals it was
becoming clear that the new songs are rougher,
tougher and altogether more hostile than the
material from the ineffable New Gold Dream.
The Minds, possibly wary of mutterings in certain
heretical quarters that New Gold Dream was "coffee
table" music, had thrown all excess baggage
overboard and aimed ruthlessly for the jungular.
Rock group? Why the hell not?
By Sunday afternoon,
a crowd in the region of a thousand-ish was
heaving at the doors of Barrowland. Video director
Tim Bevan, a man hilariously afflicted with
a classic Oxford accent in the middle of Tam
country, scuttled through the doors. When they
were at last let in, the weight of numbers almost
succeeded in destroying the giant catwalk the
video men had spent the afternoon building.
The Minds' set
was compact and straight to the point.
Waterfront was stretched and restructured,
finally reaching cacophonous dimensions, and
Speed Your Love To Me (probably
the next single) blended brute force with the
Minds' familiar hypnotic momentum. Jim Kerr's
dad, Jimmy, was particularly impressed with
the brisk rhythmic crossfire of Up
On The Catwalk, though guitarist Charlie
Burchill's parents vanished abruptly when the
band left the stage.
After all this,
the video session exuded a faint air of farce.
The plummy tones of Bevan, who addressed the
crowd through a megaphone and ended each sentance
with "Okay?", drew massed roars of
"spot the loony" and "England's
out", and of course the tape machine broke
down several times, leaving the Minds trying
to mime to dead silence. Once they finally got
the ball rolling, though, the crowd joined in
with rare zeal, clawing up at Kerr as he cavorted
down the catwalk and trying to grab Charlie
Burchill's ankles when he got too near the front
of the stage.
Derek Forbes thanked the crowd for their patience
and said they'd see them again at Christmas.
For the first
time ever, Kerr had to be escorted through a
waiting mob by police. "Not bad, are they?"
muttered one of the coppers as the band left
comes in and out of the rain to relate a tale
of four great if Simple Minds enthusing about
the new LP, and reticent Jim Kerr insisting
that all that sparkles is neither New Gold Dream
nor a Glittering Prize. But first let's talk
Adrian Deevoy -
'International Musician' February 1984 (UK)
Concept as cake.
In retrospect it was inevitable that the rich,
layered gateau that Simple Minds produced last
year would leave an uncomfortable aftertaste.
New Gold Dream, sweet but
rarely sickly, with it's excess of whipped cream,
proved too palatable for some although the gluttons
couldn't get enough. A lush synthesizer base
garnished with syrupy bass and hundreds and
thousands guitar constituated a deep, soft foundation
for Jim Kerr's golden cerebral meanderings.
These days, after the half-baked experimentation
of Life In A Day and Real
To Real Cacophony was superseded by the
sweet edibility of Empires And
Dance and Sons And Fascination,
Simple Minds have eschewed the pending icing
that New Gold Dream threatened,
to make another music from a different kitchen.
Derek Forbes and Mick McNeil could dance. They
feel they have arrived. The new album has captured
every breath of emotion and every pained moment
of twisted musical movement that has come to
them in the past year.
Jim Kerr could
cry. The album has lifted the usual burdens
of guilt, failing and love. Lyrically it's been
a positive exorcism and a journey into unexplored
of his soul. No-one is wondering why he is singing
in excelcis. Having found a friend in Steve
Lillywhite and sanctuary within the walls of
the Townhouse and The Manor, Sparkle
In The Rain, is a discovery for Simple Minds.
Strength through simplicity and producing sound
as an emotion is the key to the sheer life of
the album. The band are positively bubbling
in the foyer and Jim Kerr is sitting quietly
in his room.
Bearing in mind
that bubbles burst and silence often matures
into thought I opt for the band's ideas on Jim,
the album and their present attitude. Later
Jim will talk about the band, the album and
Jim. But that is, as I said, later. Meanwhile,
the minstrels see the new album as more of a
the last album was a pleasure to listen to,
a sort of coffee table album, this one is a
real sweat to listen to, and whereas the last
album stimulated certain emotions this one will
stimulate different ones. You certainly couldn't
go to sleep to it. It's much more Rocky and
there's not so much holding back on it. It's
not quite screaming solos and big riffs but
it's a lot less restrained than New
Gold Dream. Playing live all last year really
changed our approach. We really were expressing
ourselves a lot more."
Is it possible
to channel that adrenalin into the more relaxed
atmosphere of composing?
we went into Rockfield for a while and really
worked the songs out pretty well. But that gives
you a bit of an odd outlook on the songs because
you're all playing in a hall all at once, which
is different from playing in a studio where
you tend to put the songs under a microscope
and you end up reconstructing everything. I
don't know if it was particularly worth it but
in another way it does give you a new sort of
light to look at the song in while you're writing
think it's hard to tell how writing changes,
it's probably easier to examine the changes
that happen in the period that lapses in between
writing albums. We toured a lot and that translates
itself into the music when you come to writing
again. We tried a lot of new ideas out when
we played live and we played outdoors a lot,
which effects your concept of the sounds you
produce. We also played in a lot of different
countries. That alters your perspective as well.
we missed the point a lot when we tried to get
a live sound on the other album because the
way you tend to think about a live sound as
a sound with all the characteristics of a live
sound, like echo and reverb and so on. But that
isn't it, it's a performance thing, a personally
thing, and even though this album has overdubs
and everthing it has much more as it has a real
did the songs in batches of three. Like we'd
do three at the Townhouse then three at The
manor and so on. They didn't fall into any sort
of categories, it was just a lot more interesting
that way because you were dealing with complete
songs all the time. When we did New
Gold Dream it was like bass and drums and
then two months overdubs and then the vocals."
Gold Dream a consummate recording? Was it
the end of one particular train of thought or
the beginning of a new one?
reached a point where we recorded New
Gold Dream when we were ready to do something
polished, and although it does include references
from the other four albums this album is different.
In a lot of ways New Gold Dream
was the end of an era of sorts, although there's
never been any obvious continuity between albums.
If the last album was comparable to Genesis
this one is comparable to the Stones."
it has got some soft pieces on it as well. It's
just not as finished sounding."
are a lot more bits to catch onto. It's not
continuous and it doesn't have all those monotonous
bass lines that I used to do. It was more varied
for playing bass on. Iv'e never done loads of
bass overdubs before or played lots of different
bass lines. I did anything from three to eight
overdubs using different lines and different
bases. it was really interesting - quite a turn
around. I think the fact that we went into the
studio quite organised helped, though. The songs
were the healthiest they've been at that stage
and that leaves you more time to play with."
Of course the
most intergral part of the machinary was newly
adopted producer Steve Lillywhite. Simple Minds
are in love with his attitude.
Pete Walsh was concerned with the cosmetics
of sound, Steve used raw spontaneous sounds
and that, for us, was a lot more valuable. We
also double tracked a lot of things on the last
album which made it very clinical and locked
seemed to have a place and it was pleasant for
New Gold Dream but it was
all very regimented. The new album is the exact
opposite and it's largely due to Steve. It was
like anything goes, mistakes and everything.
We re-wrote a song completely on the last day
of our recording time. We'd written it and finished
it and then we decided that we didn't like the
structure or the parts, so we totally reworked
it and Steve didn't flinch when there was three
hours to go and it was only half finished. I
mean we're quite famous for re-structuring songs
in the studio but that would have killed most
the group, and Jim Kerr live together on their
own as a musical unit and a lyrival unit. Neither
interfere with the other as both are confident
within their own field but naked and ignorant
without. The only call for a merger comes where
vocal melodies are written.
oftens sits and writes while we're playing and
he jots down ideas that are inspired in him
by the music. Some tracks lend themselves to
a certain melody but sometimes I don't know
how he finds a melody because there is so much
going on. He often picks a very unusual melody
because of his technical ignorance."
he's quite melodically minded really. He doesn't
place so much of an emphasis on the rhythm,
which always makes things quite interesting.
You should hear him trying to sing over a tune
for the first time. He doesn't quite know the
music and he grasps around for a melody, searches
all the possible ideas. He often forgets them
once he's found them too. Next time we play
the song he'll have totally forgotton the tune.
It seems that he remembers a melody only when
it's very definite."
Music never goes
without influence and diverse influences always
result in a strong challenge to the Common Mean.
thought the last album was Genesis and Velvet
Underground influenced? I thought it was Herbie
influenced... actually it's not like anyone
I can think of immediately but it's hard to
do that with a new album.
been listening to Philip Glass a lot lately;
Marvin Gaye, Grace Jones, Joni Mitchell, Joe
Cocker all those sort of people. We don't keep
our fingers completely on the pulse, we've got
enough other stuff to listen to. I think it
stops you from trying to compete unnecessarily.
We're still catching up with records that came
out five years ago."
enjoyed an overt relationship with their equipment,
Simple Minds have now become inspired by the
choice available. A new sound processor offers
a new dimension, a new instrument gives new
what new equipment has become to us. I think
that really helps to bridge that gap between
the technical bozo side and the artistic side.
There's a really strong link and that's the
brilliant bridge. If you're going to write and
you get a new echo unit it inspires you. The
same with a new guitar, it's pure inspiration."
Derek: "I think
with a new instrument you should always turn
on a tape recorder before you touch it. Some
of the sounds you get when you first experiment
are the best you ever get.
"But we've all
changed gear in the last year. I've got an Alembic
Spoiler and it's fantastic. It's a different
sound altogether, it's a much more classic sound
now and it maked slapping make sense."
Mick: "I've never
really played a piano seriously before much
but I used a Yamaha Grand on the album because
they had one in the studio and I loved it so
I've just brought a Baby Grand for the live
shows. I've really started noticing dynamics.
The subtlety was something I wasn't used to
at all. It sort of inspired me to get a Yamaha
DX7 because that has a facility where you can
programme in touch-sensitivity. Charlie's got
a twelve string as well now. We're slowly turning
into The Crusaders."
Have you discovered
the physicality of acoustic sound?
Charlie: "Oh yeah,
the twelve string is great to play, you can
actually feel the dynamics. It becomes emotional
not just instrumental. You can thrash it or
strum it gently and the response is immediate
and from you."
Then there's this
Bond guitar innovation. Ridges instead of frets,
buttons instead of knobs. What's the attraction
of the beast?
I find most guitars compromise between Fender
and Gibson. Like Fenders are good for one thing
and Gibsons are good for another and there hasn't
been a guitar that gives you both sounds and
more sounds in between, and this new Bond does."
And it leaves
the neanderthal guitar standing...
volume and pickups have little LEDs on the body
of the guitar and they tell you the volume you're
playing at and the pickups you're using. And
the traditional pickup selector and volume and
tone knobs have been replaced by buttons so
you press two buttons to set your pickups out
of phase or together.
has ridges not metal frets because they've a
lot more accurate and they don't wear down and
wear your strings down. The fretboard doesn't
wear either because it's made of this stuff
that... (laughs) doesn't wear out. Actually
I don't know what it's made out of... it's a
It's called phenolic
resin matrix. Didn't you know that? Has it taken
a long time to feel comfortable with?
is really fast once you get used to it and that
literally took me a day. Getting used to the
fingerboard, or the pitchboard as Bond call
it, and not having any frets and having no boundries
is a bit of a task, but once you do get used
to it you don't want to go back to a fretted
guitar. I forsee that the only thing people
will find strange is that, in effect, they'll
have to undo everything that they've learnt
on the fretted guitar. As it is, though, I'm
very comfortable with it and you can play it
really fast because the neck and frets are so
smooth... there's also the fact that the body
is made from carbon fibre which makes it solid
So what will happen
to conventional guitars once everybody has a
solid Bond in their heart?
"I think it will
give people a chance to lose that inhibition
that they have away from Fenders and Gibsons.
I mean you can learn on a Gibson or a Fender
and you'll always think that they sound great,
but as you fluctuate between them you never
get used to the feel and the sound at the same
time, but this guitar means that the feel is
always constant and all you have to worry about
is the sound."
So what's happened
to playing a guitar in and that Gibson sound?
"Well really I
don't think people stick with a guitar long
enough to play it in properly anyway. I mean
people with '58 Strats are usually very conventional
players and the main thing about this that people
should realise is that it is an innovative guitar.
it's stepping into regions that a lot of guitarists
think is sacred and therefore this guitar is
almost sacrilege - which is garbage. I think
once people get used to this they'll lose all
their preconceptions about just having a vintage
guitar and an amp and nothing between. Anyway
I'm not sure if people really know what that
Gibson sound is. There's all this elitism but
I'm sure a lot of them couldn't tell the difference
between a 335 and a Les Paul."
So what are the
sounds that set the Bond apart.
"It's much chunkier
than a Strat, even though it works on single
coils and it has the heaviness of a humbucker
guitar. But if you want that very scratchy telecaster
sound you just punch in back and front pickups,
and then if you want to go back to your humbucking
sound - so you can switch from rhythm to lead
- you just punch one button and you're back
to develop a memory for pickup configurations
for particular sounds so you can get all the
sounds you want by only having to press a button.
That's a bit like the Vigier guitars, but the
big difference is that those cost £1200 and
these will cost £400, or £220 for a sort of
mass market one. That's brilliant."
And now you can
afford whatever you want?
you can abuse that. Spending a lot of money
doesn't always secure a good sound. I've got
a horrible cheap Gretsch with terrible pickups
but the sound is brilliant. Sometimes you can
communicate better with something that has a
cheap sound. Don't you think? It's not just
a case of buying the most expensive equipment.
It's having the inspiration to know what to
do with it."
Mick: "If you
want, the effects can play themselves but that
will only last up to a point. You can take advantage
of them but if you don't know what's good and
what's right for you then it's very easy to
end up with something that's useless."
can never imagine Jim Kerr as being unshaven.
But in the shadows of his hotel room a definite
dark blue dampens his sharp features, his body
is relaxed to the point of looking crumpled
and his eyes are tired. Why wasn't it an interview
with the Jim Kerr five?
a musician. I write lyrics. Anyway that's their
area and although I am the mouthpiece of the
band it's nice to give them a chance to talk
about what they do."
Are the band as
alien to your activity as you are to theirs?
actually sit down and write lyrics together
but we often sit and discuss topics that will
turn up in the lyrics later. Like there's a
track on the new album called East
At Easter and it doesn't actually refer
to places like the Lebanon or anything but we're
concerned about the world we live in, and even
though the song doesn't mention names, we all
know what it's about in the same way as we all
turned very quiet and watched the television
when we first saw it.
be weird. We can have an idea for a song three
months before we go into the studio then we'll
take a month to record it and then I can change
the complete idea by the vocal I put on it or
the title. You can see the concept changing
in their heads as it happens. They rarely expect
the vocal melody either because in a lot of
ways I am technically ignorant or musically
explain my lyrics readily to them. If they ask
what the lyrics are about I tell them lies.
We're quite a sensitive band in that respect.
I think I'd die of embarrassment if somebody
read my lyric book. Not so much by things I
wrote a long time ago but just by the personality
of it all. I used to get embarrassed by things
I'd written a long time ago but I've grown to
think that that's vain and you have to accept
that you have to walk before you can run. You
can spend years being embarrassed by an old
photo but eventually you get over that stage
and learn to laugh at it or learn to live with
it. believe it or not I can still see links
between what we were doing then and what we
are doing now. We've got back that rawness we
had when we recorded Real To
What was attracting
your attention around the time of the album?
to do with power. Sex, money, war, even friendship.
I always tend to write about the same things
because they're the things that fascinate me.
I write about other people, like I write about
the closeness of a friendship or the clumsiness
of a friendship. I write about communication
and pathetic attempts at communication.
"In the past
year I've found I've started writing letters
to people and I'll put them in an envelope and
put a stamp on them but I won't send them, but
that doesn't matter because I get things out
of my system and writing is like that.
kept stuff written down in a book so a song
could have a line from yesterday and a line
from two years ago. They could come from me,
they could be something you said last time we
met. It's me but there's always an element of
try to use very few words. I take two or three
images for a song and then pad it out. I never
really think I'm learning through writing songs
but they do ask some questions of myself.
how easily the various ideas piece together.
maybe the common theme is me. When I say 'you'
in a song, I don't always know who that 'you'
is. I often wonder who it is. Like Someone
Somewhere In Summertime I often think who
that somone is. I'm very romantic like that.
If I see a sunset I always wonder who's on the
other side of it."
As the audiences
get bigger do you hide further behind characters
in your writing?
always me in there. I'll always find excuses
to say it's not but it's always me even if I'm
in somebody else's shoes. I like to ghost write
I do adopt a character on stage because I'm
not an outgoing person. I get nervous if I do
a big party with a lot of people. I get nervous
before I gon stage or up until five minutes
before we go on then it will be good or bad
and there's nothing you can do about it.
this attitude last year that touring was the
easiest thing in the world. It really isn't.
Touring has seen the end of many very good bands.
Like The Associates, Billy McKenzie was rehearsing
next door to us at the beginning of their last
tour which was sold out. And three days before
the tour was meant to begin, McKenzie was coming
into our studio saying 'it's alright for you
guys, you can play live'. But the fact is that
we were working at it and they were just fucking
around which you can't do. You can't expect
things to just happen."
Does the fact
that you're with a reliable band help you to
test those limits that at one time seemed so
we played a festival with U2 on the continent
and I'd just never seen anything like them in
all my life. They played two days and one day
they were astounding and the next day they were
three times better. I just stood there and thought
'during this gig I'm not going to think of anything
else but this band on stage right now'. I think
the magical band is one that knows the sum of
the whole thing is much better than it should
a few other live bands made me think about playing
live. Because as much as I enjoy playing live
there was always a question mark over how far
you could take it. I'm not so sure about that
question mark now. I think that you can take
it very, very far indeed."
As The Common
Mean crumbles, Simple Minds remain in the wings
waiting for the necessity of attack to rise
again. The concept is becoming more delicious.
Jim Kerr makes the initial incision.
an attitude when we were making the album that
was very fresh and very naive, but it was that
we could be one of the best youngish bands in
Minds' new name, apparently. Something to do
with all the risks they've been taking on their
new LP. Peter Martin hears tales about Stevie
Wonder, meeting Bowie, broken noses, trips to
Delhi and everything else they've been doing
for the last 12 months
Peter Martin -
'Smash Hits' November 24th - December 7th 1983
a few years ago when we did 'Real To Real Cacophony'
(Simple Minds' second LP) and the popular bands
were The Merton Parkas and Secret Affair. I
just don't feel part of it. Most hits sound
like they come from the drawing-board. Last
year we got a foot in the door with the hit
singles, 'Promised You A Miracle' and 'Glittering
Prize', and we could easily have come up with
some little electronic riff or funk ditty -
but we decided to wait and stay our ground."
While I'm talking
to Jim Kerr the results of this "wait"
waft in. It's the new Simple Minds LP and it
sounds magnificent. We're chatting in a console
in Virgin's Townhouse studios and in the next
room sits producer Steve Lillywhite (of U2 and
Big Country fame) mixing a track called "East
him are the rest of the band, frantically tapping
feet and sipping wine. Their press officer remarks
that it's like a dentist's waiting room in there.
You see, they're about to undergo one of the
most gruelling experiences of their lives...
The Smash Hits Interview!
But first it's
Jim's turn. He looks very casual in his brown
tweed jumper and new haircut. Gone is the artifical
black shock of hair; back are the natural brown
a lot the past year, but certainly not in a
contrived way. We just constantly played live,
moving towards this heavier sound and suddenly
it's like we've woken up and found we're there."
In fact they've
taken so many risks with this LP they've given
themselves the name The Glasgow Chancers. This
change of heart - and direction - has come
about through 12 months of constant touring,
building in confidence as they went until they
decided it was time to "stop holding back
and go whoosh!"
had this notion that we could be the best young
live band in the world. So we toured and worked
at it. But after a year of that our heads were
bursting with new ideas, so we decided to make
So what have been
the highlights of the past year? "Well,
we met Alex Sadkin (who's just produced Duran)
and we decided to work with him - then we blew
each other out."
That was February.
The next month saw them touring Europe, while
April and May meant the grand US hike. And there
Jim had his nose broken by a jealous fan. "I
was attacked," says Jim, a smile barely
concealing a look of disbelief. And then it
was time for a holiday. One month off.
me and Charlie (the guitarist) decided to go
East. I'd read about India and I wanted to go.
Japan was really trendy. So we just got on a
plane. I slept all the way and as I woke up
in Delhi there were millions of people around
trying to sell us things, cum here and cum there.
In comes Charlie.
"We went to Katmandu and the Taj Mahal.
We even had this wild idea of climbing the Himalayas,
but we decided against it." They both agree
that the most amazing thing about the place
was the people. "They had an amazing beauty
and although they were living in abject poverty
they were so happy," beams Charlie. Jim
adds that he felt like a "Texan with my
Sony Walkman. But that's the way it is I suppose."
But don't expect
to hear any Eastern influence on the new LP
(which won't be out until March '84). "I
know everybody would think we'd come back like
a couple of Ravi Shankar's with sitars on our
knee - but that would be a bit cheap. Kitsch,"
They also agree
that the most important thing about the trip
was that it "rekindled" their friendship.
what we did the past five years, seeing if it
was worth going on. Obviously we decided it
The pair go back
a long way, going to the same schools and even
living opposite one another in the same street
in Glasgow's Toryglen district. All four original
members share the same working class background,
whereas the latest recruit Mel Gaynor - session
drummer on their last album "New Gold Dream"
and full-time member since spring - was born
in South London. His brother Gordon used to
play guitar with Eddy Grant and Mel himself
used to be with funk outfits Gonzales, Linx
and Light Of The World. He also did session
work for Heaven 17, Beggar & Co, Elkie Brooks,
the Associates, The Nolans, Imagination and
Samson (the heavy metal band).
So how's he finding
life with Simple Minds? "I seem to be fitting
in perfectly. The day I stepped into the studio
I found they had a completely different approach
to music - they changed my whole attitude."
Mick McNeil also has a varied musical history.
"I got landed with the accordian when I
was nine. I started a band with my brother Danny
- we used to play at local dances. We were called
The Barnets. We even got on TV, Junior Showtime.
I had to wear a kilt. For the next year in school
I walked around with a red face."
one in the band, he still gets nervous onstage.
But being in Simple Minds does have it's rewards.
"I got to meet Herbie Hancock. I went round
to his house in America and his wee 13 year-old
daughter opened the door - she'd been to see
us the night before - and all her schoolfriends
were round there wanting autographs, MY autograph.
So here's me standing next to one of my heroes
sigining autographs." Still, he managed
to get Mr Hancock to play on their last LP,
"New Gold Dream".
Bass player Derek
Forbes is glad to see that there's more SPIRIT
in their current work. "During one track,
'Kick Inside' - which Jim describes as 'being
as good as anything the Sex Pistols ever did'
- my fingers were physically bleeding. We did
that track last and I just went really mad."
Apart from drawing
cartoons about the day-to-day events in the
studio, he's written a children's book - The
Adventures Of Sally And The Moonpeople. And
like Mick, he's had the chance to meet a few
of his musical heroes.
"I met Stevie
Wonder in Hollywood at a Return To Forever gig
(a group made up of Jazz greats). He said he'd
played 'Promised You A Miracle' 40 times on
the run. He was right into us."
And that's not
all. Derek and Jim have also met - and sung
with - the group's all-time fave, David Bowie.
up to Rockfield Studio to try and get him to
play sax on our LP - 'Real To Real' - as he
was producing Iggy Pop's LP 'Soldier'. But to
our amazement he actually asked us to sing.
We're on quite a few tracks and on 'Play It
Safe' it's credited as Bowie and Simple Minds
on backing vocals!"
So what more can
Simple Minds possibly do? Derek has the last
word. "I'd like us to be the best band
on the planet."
Don't ask for
much, do they?
Love To Me
Martyn Ware (Heaven
17) - Smash Hits 19th January - 1st February
You'll be relieved
to know that I haven't been bribed by Virgin
to review this one well but nevertheless this
is a very catchy piece of material from some
great friends whose taste in music is not dissimilar
from our own. This verges on the modern gothic
but they had better be careful because it also
sounds surprisingly similar to their last single.
It will be a hit but the massive one they deserve
will elude them this time.
Passive 80's fans
may not realize that Scottish band Simple Minds
recorded a wealth of material before their #1
American single "Don't You (Forget About Me)"
from 1985. Sparkle In The Rain is their 6th
album, released in early 1984. After experimenting
with a variety of sounds (garage rock to art
rock to synth pop).
Simple Minds greeted
the year of Big Brother with an all-out rock
attack. "Up On The Catwalk" blasts out of the
speakers with the twin attack of thunderous
drums and rocking...piano! Jim Kerr's vocals
are front and center within the first 10 seconds,
but it's ultimately the brilliant guitar of
Charlie Burchill that sets the listener up for
what lies ahead. "Speed Your Love To Me" is
undeniably one of the best songs in the 'Minds
repertoire...while many bands with egotistical
leaders bury a rhythm section under the vocals,
Simple Minds bring out each instrument with
thundering clarity. First single "Waterfront"
starts out with a heavy, throbbing bassline
before a gutteral crash of guitar, drums and
keyboards. It's one of the biggest 80's hits
The band have
always worn their musical influences on their
collective sleeves, and on this album, they
paid their first real tribute by covering the
Lou Reed classic "Street Hassle." After an extended
intro with keyboards and string samples, the
song kicks in after a few minutes with earth-shattering
drums and soaring guitars. One of the real gems
of the album is the relentless "The Kick Inside
Of Me." Recorded live in the studio in one take,
an interview with the band circa 1984 revealed
that everyone in the band was left with bleeding
fingers at the end of the session by rocking
out so hard on the song! As with many of their
records, the album ends with the lilting instrumental
"Shake Off The Ghosts." It's a great showcase
for the solid musicianship of this sorely under-rated
CMJ New Music (US)
2nd A & M LP finds Steve Lillywhite producing
and he has given them a grand sound to match
their lyrical ambitions, quite like (perhaps
too much like) his other recent outings with
U2, Echo and Big Country. Overall, it helps
Simple Minds sound more cohesive...the words
and music forming a complete whole rather than
two antagonistic elements as in the past. Commercially,
it has greater potential than previous records
- even without an obvious hit single. The best:
"Street Hassle" (the Lou Reed track), "'C' Moon
Cry Like A Baby," "Waterfront," "Up On The Catwalk."
of Scotland. Released two years after 1982's
beautiful and synth-slick New Gold Dream, Sparkle
in the Rain continues that earlier record's
spiritual overtones while capturing Scotland's
Simple Minds at a turn in their evolution and
the height of their creativity. The next few
years would see the band reap the rewards of
their years of hard work through the release
of such enjoyable and more straightforward commercial
hits as "Don't You Forget About Me," "Alive
and Kicking," and others, and who could blame
them. But it was Sparkle in the Rain that caught
the essence of the band. Like a newly fashioned
diamond, it is utterly unique and intense, and
it could only have come from Messrs. Kerr, Burchill,
Forbes, McNeil, and Gaynor, -- Scottish sons
all with a taste for the epic and the North
in their veins. Even 14 years after its release,
the album is charged with a pure and fresh urgency
fueled by McNeil's soaring keyboard tapestry,
Burchill's ethereal and razor sharp guitar,
Gaynor's crashing, Godzilla-has-come drumming,
and Forbe's pounding heartbeat bass. Enmeshed
in all this is Kerr singing lyrics more powerful
for their imagery than for their meaning, but
all delivered persuasively and, again, urgently,
emotionally, truthfully. This is a record with
its manifold ripped off, with its pistons pounding
at dizzying speeds and heights. One can almost
feel the heat and light, the expansive blue
warmth of Scottish skies and a ride through
Heaven. And it is glorious!