Tour spans four decades of successful song writing
Originally planned in 2020 as a celebration of 40 years of hit-making, the band’s original formation in 1977 means that the band that started out as a punk rock outfit is now 45 years old, writes Martin Hutchinson.
Childhood friends Jim Kerr and Charlie Birchall formed the punk band Johnny and The Self-Abusers.
On the same day as releasing their first single Saints and Sinners the band split with Kerr, Birchall, drummer Brian McGee and bassist Tony Donald forming the first incarnation of Simple Minds.
Between 1976 and 1995, the band released 11 albums. There was an unbroken run of six top three albums, which included three consecutive chart-toppers with Sparkle In The Rain, Once Upon A Time and Street Fighting Years.
Singles included Promised You A Miracle, Waterfront, Sanctify Yourself, Don’t You (Forget About Me), number one in the US and Canada, as well as achieving platinum status in the UK, Canada and Italy; and Belfast Child, which topped the charts in the UK, Ireland and Holland.
The band became a commanding live act. They have toured constantly and were voted the world’s best live band by Q magazine in 1991.
Front man and vocalist Jim Kerr, now 62, has guided Simple Minds’ ship since its formation in 1977 and, along with guitarist Charlie Burchill, is still the band’s focal point.
Just ahead of joining up with the rest of the band for rehearsals, I caught up with Jim, who began by telling me what he had been up to during lockdown.
“Funnily enough, it’s two years ago this week when our newly begun world tour came crashing down,” he said ruefully.
“I found myself back in Sainsbury’s in Glasgow wondering what the hell had happened?”
“At the time I was scared and confused, but we all thought that we’d be back touring by the summer, and now, two summers later, here we are. And we’re really excited to be going back out.”
But Jim and the band have been far from idle.
“That’s right, a few months into lockdown we turned our attention to writing and recording a new album.“It’s within touching distance of being finished, but we are breaking off to do the tour around the UK and Europe which takes us into the summer. We hope it’ll be released in the first part of next year.”
Jim and guitarist Charlie Birchall met when they were eight years old, and apart from the musical bond, they are both fans of Celtic FC. Jim explains how they met each other.
“The first day I met Charlie was when we moved into a house in a Glasgow housing scheme. As my mum and dad were moving our few sticks of furniture in they told me to go out and play. Just down the street were a bunch of kids and that’s when I met Charlie. We’ve been playing together ever since.”
He continues: “We started making music at school, we were in class together and we had some mates who had the same taste in music. We formed a few bands at school and Simple Minds is really a continuation of that passion for music.”
Jim’s original musical influences came in the early seventies, as he explains.
“Well, people of that generation were into glam rock, especially for me people like Marc Bolan, David Bowie and Roxy Music.
“We had a fantastic music venue The Glasgow Apollo and really great audiences. We really immersed ourselves in the live music scene.”
Thinking about 45 years of Simple Minds, Jim is philosophical.
“There’s two different trains of thought. Firstly, it’s how lucky are we that we’ve conjured up this thing and 45 years later it’s given us everything, a life beyond our dreams and a purpose.”
“Also, time is a hard thing to get your mind round. I’m 63 this year. There’s an element of pride, but life is passing by so fast. It’s fantastic and unnerving that it’s lasted so long.”
After 55 years of friendship and 45 years of being in Simple Minds, Jim admits that he and Charlie do have arguments.
“We don’t have many blow ups, but when we do you don’t want to be around. We have never had fisticuffs, but it has come close sometimes. There’s usually one every album. We know it’s coming and we ask people to leave the studio when it happens.
“It’s daft really as we shout at the top of our voices and everyone can hear what we’re saying. They don’t last long and they’re usually out of frustration. Neither of us like arguing, but it illustrates our passion for the music. Also, we tend to get more and more Glaswegian as it goes on.”
“I remember once when we had one of our iconic arguments, we were working with a recording engineer who’d seen it all in his time. After it had finished, he came up to us and said ‘I’d like to shake you by the hand. That’s one of the best band fights I’ve ever seen.”
For this tour, celebrating 40 years of hits, Jim tells me that the band want to do something for everybody.
“The set-list is gonna span through the ages. Yes, there’ll be the hits you expect to hear, but we may do some obscure songs and maybe a cover. There’s a lot of boxes to be ticked. And,” he added with a twinkle in his eye, “If we’re feeling cheeky, we may do Dead Vandals, a song we recorded as Johnny and The Self Abusers.”After so long, there must be some highlights.
“Yes, well obviously there’s things like Live Aid, our first time on Top Of The Pops and the first hits, all iconic moments for us.
“But I have great memories of our very first gig. There was only about 30 people there and they went mental. It felt like such a victory.”
“You need that encouragement. We had no reputation back then and we were hoping that they’d get on our side.”
Simple Minds 40 Years of Hits tour will be followed by further dates in the summer. Tickets are available from box offices and all usual agencies.