To this day I remember that diminutive, engaging guitarist
4 Charlie Burchill telling me in a strange hotel bedroom in Avignon in 1980, ‘We often hope to not only outline a problembut also to offer a
solution, be like the light at the end of the tunnel. That’s what was wrong with the punk thing. It offered no alternative for the kids moaning about being on the dole and how to get out of that predicament.’
And yet the Minds came out of punk and could in a perverted way be referred to as one ofthat wave’s-most lasting sons. Like many others, Johnny and the SelfAbusers had a oneeoff-single on the then (1977) inﬂuential Chiswick label Saints and Sinners. The line-up of that group, the aforementioned Charlie, Jim Kerr and Brian McGee teamed up ’with Derek Forbes and Mick McNeil and influences were shared. .‘The
~-'Doors, Television, Van Der Graaf Generator, Genesis, early Roxy 4 Music, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Cockney Rebel and The Velvet i Underground with John Cale playing violin.’ — an oft forgotten fact, that Mr Burchill himselfwas featured on that instrument early on — ‘Me and Jim used to hitch hike all over to see Doctors of Madness who were very theatrical. Kid Strange had blue hair, the bass player looked « like a skeleton and Urban Blitz was on violin Out of all this a sound was somehow born. I caught them in 1979 supporting Magazine (who ’ seemed to have cornered new wave) in Sheffield, 3 time Burchill recalls. 1“The album Life in a Day came out, it Was higher than theirs in the charts. Magazine never'seemed to progress after their debut LP, whereas we’re forever moving on. We’re always totally behind everything we do‘ but loOking back we realise our mistakes. i ‘Some ofthem were rather endearing, like that debut LP with its big guitar riffs, catchy hooks and twisted lyrics. “Murder Story” and " “Pleasantly Disturbed” reﬂect “where we came from in Glasgow ‘ ’which was very violent. We also had 3 a song called “Chelsea Girl” abOut Jean Shrimpton which flopped as a single. But with hindsight we realise that ifwe’d had a hit early on Our ‘ music would have changed, We would have had to carry on ’ " producing hits. Instead we played i‘the music we felt within ourselves. Nobody dictated to Simple Minds.’ They proved it with their second LP, Real to Reel Cacophony which they ‘5 Edescribe as ‘spontaneous’ to thisday. ‘We intended to represent our, ' = environment and part of our culture but got accused of being too bleak and industrial.’ ‘Veldt’ about Rhodesia and South Africa, like ‘Ghost Dancing’ from their latest album, is proof that even early on their wide—eyed innocence was turning into a genuine concern for their fellow human beings. Jim Kerr ’ was starting to come into his own as a lyricist, writing cryptic words which i Charliedeclared ‘were really puzzling to us too.’ “Citizen” was. ’ not a political, but an ethnical condemnation of America.’ Having got their inﬂuences out of
6 The List 21 Feb — 6 Mar
FEATURE LIST " ‘
AsSimple Minds head home to Glasgow for three sell-out nights at the ‘SECC Pierre Perrone looks back on the career of Scotland’s most successful
ever band with the help of his memories and ' ‘ guitarist Charlie Burchill. 1
the way and‘written about their native surroundings, and not yet beingquite attuned'to the States, Europe appeared to be the most logical place to turn to. Empires and Dance was the most EurOpean of records and contains some classic tracks. ‘1 Travel’ became an
alternative hit of sorts: ‘in trendy.
cities in Germany wevfound they played us instead of Chic. We were dead chuffed as we’d always hoped people Would enjoy and dance to us. At the beginning of the 805 oar music was European as opposed to British or American. We were reﬂecting our environment and cities in general which are much the same all over.’ Those cities were everywhere on their 1981 LPs Sons and Fascination and Sisters Feelings Call - probably to this day their finest works. With ‘Boys from Brazil’ , ‘League of Nations’and ‘20th Century Promised Land’ a definite international perspective was appearing and also a foretaste of what you call the q‘uasi=mythical/mystical work to c0me.
They moved to Virgin to find ‘more co-operation and satisfaction’, losing Brian McGee in the process and worked with two Of their heroes, Steve Hillage and Richard Strange.
Simple Minds: The Original line-up, until 1981. Let! to right: Charlie Burchill, DerekForbes, Jim Kerr, Michael McNeil and Brian McGee. ,
‘We never wanted to be programmed into getting a hit single,’ said Charlie, but it arrived
, with ‘Promised You a Miracle’ from
New Gold Dream 81, 82, 83, 84. ‘Glittering Prize’ and ‘Someone Somewhere in Summertime’ followed as ‘the music became less aggressive, more positive.’ And the rock critics were seriously wondering whether Jim had found God. He certainly acted and talked like he had all his wisdom and purpose inside him — he could look right through you, not scaring you, just making you aware of his inner power. Very strange indeed. As was their inability to find a permanent drummer— until that is, Mel Gaynor came along. With their most successful and acclaimed LP to date word was spreading faster than a fire in the bush. Sparkle in the Rain was, however, a disappointment of sorts. The grand sweeping sounds ultimately empty, the falsely impressionistic lyrics 3 let down. The Minds were relying too much on Mel’s big drum sound and Steve Lilywhite’s OTT production to carry
songs like ‘Waterfront’ — a return to
their native Glasgow. ‘Speed Your Love to Me’ seemed full of double entendres given Jim’s surprise
marriage to Chrissie Hynde. ‘Up on the Catwalk’ became one of my faves despite its parade of pseudo wax ' dummies in the accompanying ' video. This was certainly not the band’s forté and yet their big break in the USA was to come from the visual medium.
From the start they had always been into the movies - Jim had written lyrics inspired by Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby and they had been frequent visitors to the GET where they found films by Luis Bunuel and Jean Cocteau an inﬂuence. They had also” collaborated on the soundtrack of a documentary film about Bertrand Tavernier’s shooting of Dimwatch in Glasgow. The soundtrack to the film The Breakfast Club, the Keith Forsey written Don’t You (Forget About Me)ropened the US door to, them after years just knocking. ‘The most we ever asked was for our music to be spread to a greater audience,’ said Charlie, ‘which is exactly what “Don’t You” and a lot of gigging did'.’
Derek Forbes quit to be replaced by former Peter Gabriel sidekick, John Gibin and they released their current album Once'Upon a Time. A fair share of the material for this LP sounds incredibly familiar as in the celebration of two 455, ‘Alive and Kicking’ and ‘Sanctify Yourself’. ‘It’s pretty difficult,’ Charlie admitted, ‘One song taken from an album has to represent the rest of the
" material.’-With Ghost Dancing being
dedicated onstage to Mandela, Bio and Tutu, it is only fitting that the Minds have seen Amnesty» International as a worthwhile cause to support, with the whole proceeds
. from one of their mega-gigs going to
the organisation. ‘We wanted to do something constructive. Jim needed an incentive other than the band’s success — and being massively popular we can help that cause. We’ve been accused of being everything from born-again Christmas to Devil-worshippers, but Amnesty International is the only, cause we support.’ Although ‘there has been a bit of a swing against the band in the British press’ according to manager Bruce. Findlay, the boys are unlikely to lose any sleep over it. Simple Minds never gave up where a million others would have — being content to become cult heroes to the discerning afficianados. Their international sound is now all purpose music to teenagers the world Over who dance, sweat and articulate their emotions through the audio — travelogue of Once Upon a Time. It is difficult to believe, watching them overcome the sheer size of the Pavillon de Bercy in Paris that, as Jim once sang in ‘1 Travel’; Europe has a language problem.’
Thanks for the quotes and the memories to Charlie Burchill, Bruce Findlay, Derek Forbes, Jim Kerr and the rest of the gang, past and present.
Thanks for the quotes and the memories to Charlie Burchill, Bruce Findlay, Derek Forbes,Jim Kerr and the rest of the gang, past and present.