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“One of the things I’m most proud of is that people say to me what Simple Minds are you talking about? The avant-garde, the art-rock, the pop, the ambient, the instrumental group, the political, the folk, the stadium band? We’ve been on one hell of a journey. To play all those different styles but at the same time be quintessentially Simple Minds is an amazing thing,” says frontman Jim Kerr.
Next spring, UK audiences will have the opportunity to see and hear Simple Minds revisit the many chapters of their storied career and more on the group's extensive Greatest Hits Live tour. The dates will coincide with the release of Celebrate – The Greatest Hits + collection, a comprehensive overview of their 35 years as one of Britain's most successful bands, taking in the innovative sheen of Promised You A Miracle and Glittering Prize, the anthemic sweep of Waterfront and Sanctify Yourself, the firebrand strand of Belfast Child and Mandela Day and the singalong wonder of Don't You (Forget About Me) and Alive & Kicking, and bringing things right up to date with the inclusion of two new tracks.
Simple Minds have been many things to many people: sound scapers, sound-shapers, soundtrack makers, serial chart-toppers. They have influenced acts as diverse as the Manic Street Preachers, Primal Scream, Moby and The Horrors. They have been sampled by Nicky Minaj, David Guetta, Joey Negro and Freddy Bastone. They have provided memorable movie moments for directors Christian Carion (L'Affaire Farewell), Gregor Jordan (The Informers), Cameron Crowe (Elizabethtown) and, of course, John Hughes (The Breakfast Club). They have topped the British charts half a dozen times, with the studio albums Sparkle In The Rain (1984), Once Upon A Time (1985) and Street Fighting Years as well as the Ballad Of The Streets EP (both 1989), the concert recording Live In The City Of Light (1987), and the compilation Glittering Prize 81/92, and returned to the UK Top Ten with Graffiti Soul, their most recent studio album, in 2009.
What has remained a constant, from their early days at the Mars Bar in Glasgow to their most recent run of European dates via headline appearances at Wembley Stadium and Milton Keynes Bowl, is their dedication to live performance. It can be traced back to the days when future Simple Minds frontman Jim Kerr and childhood friend and guitarist Charlie Burchill used to sneak into the Glasgow Apollo to catch Lou Reed or Genesis when they weren't hitch-hiking around the UK to follow cult groups Van Der Graaf Generator and Doctors of Madness in the mid-seventies.
Named after a lyric – 'So simple minded' to be exact – from David Bowie's seminal 1972 single The Jean Genie, Simple Minds evolved out of Johnny & the Self Abusers, the 'rank and file' punk group Kerr and Burchill had formed in April 1977. By the time Saints And Sinners, the sole Abusers single, was issued on Chiswick six months later, Simple Minds, featuring bassist Derek Forbes, drummer Brian McGee and keyboard-player Mick MacNeil, were already moving towards a darker, broodier sound that owed a debt to the Velvet Underground but also the Krautrock of Can, Kraftwerk and Neu!
Following their chart debut with the Life In A Day album in April 1979, Simple Minds recorded some of the most beguiling, inventive, adventurous music of the post-punk period and set the standard for the British alternative scene with the albums Real To Real Cacophony (also 1979), Empires And Dance (1980) and the pioneering 'twin' releases Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call (1981). The most prolific and fast-evolving band of a generation that also included The Cure, the Psychedelic Furs and Joy Division/New Order, in 1982 they went on to make the landmark New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84), which marked the debut of drummer Mel Gaynor and served as the template for U2's The Unforgettable Fire two years later.
In February 2012, Simple Minds reissued their first 'five' albums as the X5 box and embarked on the 5X5 tour with a repertoire comprising 5 tracks from each of their early albums. Ecstatic reviews followed across the pages of the music monthlies – “everybody loves them” trumpeted Q – and the broadsheets – The Guardian piled on superlatives such as “vital and “dazzling” – and justified the group's decision to go back in order to move forward. The 5X5 Live double set, documenting the dates and the variations on the 5X5 template, enthused a dedicated and wide-ranging fanbase.
Indeed, many discovered Simple Minds when they first appeared on Top Of The Pops to perform Promised You A Miracle in April 1982, or when Kerr graced the cover of pop bible Smash Hits the following year. However, the wider world and the MTV generation really embraced them with Don't You and Alive And Kicking and their appearance at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia for Live Aid in 1985.
Simple Minds went stratospheric with Once Upon A Time and became a band with a mission, the first to commit to the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert held at Wembley Stadium in July 1988, an event for which they wrote Mandela Day, included on Street Fighting Years the following year. “I’m so glad we had the balls because you got criticism,” says Kerr. “But I remember when Mandela was eventually released and came to London for the first time. There was a celebratory concert for him and he talked to about a dozen artists in the room. He said something that’s stuck with me ever since. ‘When we were in Robben Island, when there was no voice allowed, we could always feel and hear the voice of the artists, and it gave us great sustenance. I though ‘wow!’. If Mandela says it, then that’s good enough for me.”
Following Mandela's release, Simple Minds also played the Freedom Concert, again at Wembley Stadium, in April 1990, and the Nelson Mandela 90th Birthday Tribute in Hyde Park in 2008. In the intervening years, they have graced the Top 20 with the shimmering singles Let There Be Love, See The Lights, Stand By Love, She's A River, Hypnotised and Glitterball, and the album charts with Real Life (1991), Good News From The Next World (1995), Neapolis (1998) and Black & White 050505 (2005), and covered material by many of the artists who have influenced them on Neon Lights (2001) and on Searching for the Lost Boys for the Deluxe edition of Graffiti Soul.
Most of all, they have always been a formidable, vibrant, vital concert attraction, able to draw on a catalogue that includes such timeless classics as the widescreen majesty of Speed Your Love To Me and Ghostdancing, the supple avant-funk of Love Song and Sweat In Bullet and the demented electro-disco of I Travel and Celebrate, an apposite title for the forthcoming tour and collection.
“When we started Simple Minds, our objective was to be considered as one of the great live bands. A band that had the desire to go all around the world – playing everywhere and anywhere,” says Kerr. “That challenge is ongoing and we will relish touring all over the UK next spring, getting up close to so many who have supported us over the last three decades and more.”
Time to celebrate the majesty of Simple Minds.
Simple Minds are Jim Kerr, Charlie Burchill, Mel Gaynor, Andy Gillespie and Ged Grimes.