By Keith Sharp
Simple Mind’s Jim Kerr is painfully aware that when it comes to writing new material, patience is a virtue. Yes, the Scottish band enjoyed magic success in the mid 1980’s with three hit albums that culminated in them topping the U.S Billboard charts with “Don’t You (Forget About Me), which was featured in `The Breakfast Club’ hit movie soundtrack.
Yet even as the wheels came off during the following decade, Kerr and guitarist song writing partner, Charlie Burchill continued to record and tour, all be it with a constantly revolving band lineup. Perseverance that eventually paid off with the 2014 of `Big Music’ co-produced by Andy Wright and Gavin Goldberg which put Simple Minds firmly back in the spotlight.
And following the release of an acoustic record, the band’s new lineup which features three women, Sarah Brown (vocals), Cherisse Osei (drums) and Catherine AD (vocals and Keyboards) along with bassist Ged Grimes, guitarist Gordy Goudie, Burchill and Kerr, Simple Minds have joined up again with Wright and Goldberg to release a new album `Walk Between Worlds’ containing eight tracks plus an additional three tracks as a bonus release.
What is relevant about the new release is that the majority of the tracks were actually written, in some cases, decades ago, but have finally found the right album at the right time.
“It is amazing and a bit mysterious how some songs find their time,” agreed Kerr, over the phone from New York City where he is meeting with agencies to negotiate future U.S touring opportunities. “With some songs, you go, this is good but it’s not now, somehow, five years later, it makes sense.”
In discussing the 11 tracks that make up the bonus edition of `Walk Between Worlds’ Kerr cites examples of material being written and re-written several times before appearing on this record. One track, “Utopia” was originally suggested as an album title in 2012 with a follow-up album to be titled `Nostalgia’. That idea was scrapped in favour of the current title.
“Walk Between Worlds” is a track about empathy,” Kerr explained. “It asks, how can you put yourself in the shoes of another, and If you can, how did that help you understand what someone else is going through.”
A track which didn’t feel right originally is “Magic”, the album’s first single, which was originally titled “Fortune Teller” and appeared on their 2005 Black And White (050505) release. “Originally I though, I can’t write a song called “Magic”, it’s too superficial, there’s been a million songs called `Magic’, Kerr admitted. “But every time we played it as a work in progress, people would say, “Oh I like that one! And then I thought that the sounds Charlie plays through his amplifier are magic to me so I can work with that idea.”
Fans listening to “A Sense Of Discovery” will no doubt notice a strong instrumental reference to a previous hit “Alive And Kicking”. Everyone was saying, `that’s a beauty’ but I had a nagging feeling that something was missing. So I was wondering what was going to seal the deal when I happen to play one of Charlie’s reverb effects, that was so like “Alive And Kicking” and the line “whatcha gonna do when things go wrong, whatcha gonna do when it all cracks up”, and I’m thinking, that song is telling me what to do.”
Of special interest is the band’s cover of The Pogues’ hit, “Dirty Old Town” which was recorded live at the London Palladium May 27th 2017 as a tribute to the 23 (mainly children) who had died five days earlier during a terrorist attack at Manchester’s MEN Arena during a concert by Ariana Grande.
“We were playing in Liverpool the night that terrible tragedy happened and we were supposed to play in Manchester, the day after,” Kerr related. “We had to decide whether we were going to play or not but we decided to go ahead because that is what we do. But we wanted to offer something special to Manchester, so at the sound check I suggested we sing “Dirty Old Town” a song written by Ewan McColl about Manchester. Sarah Brown had never sung the song before, didn’t even know the words but she gave a special performance, and five days later we recorded that track directly off the deck at the London Palladium.
Simple Minds have already tested the new material during seven European dates with a unique concert format in which they performed the new material as a complete set, breaking for a Q&A session with the audience before concluding with a set of classic band material.”
“Maybe it was a mad idea but we’ve been receiving the best reviews,” enthused Kerr. “It’s given us a great confidence boost. I never thought Simple Minds would receive the re-evaluation that we are receiving.”
In discussing the band’s current renaissance, Kerr felt that the long-term drive to keep his band alive and relevant was driven by a feeling they still had unfinished business to complete. “There was a period of time when I felt ashamed that we had let things go. At the end of the 80’s and through the 90’s, the wheels had pretty well fallen off. We had lost faith in ourselves. But I knew we were better than that, I knew we are one of the great rock bands, we just had to renew that faith.”
With three women adding a great deal of vocal power (and sex appeal) to the band and with Kerr and Burchill, along with Grimes and Goudie enjoying a revival marked by seven well-attended European dates, Simple Minds are back! They have a major U.K tour with his ex missus Chrissy Hynde and The Pretenders and Kerr is currently in New York negotiating future North American concert dates.
Of course the shadow of that Breakfast Club hit single is still strongly associated with the band on this continent and Kerr accepts that Don’t You (Forget About Me), in giving the band, their only No.1 U.S hit was a fortuitous event.
“We felt so guilty about spending an afternoon recording that track,” Kerr laughs. “It wasn’t a song we had written, (Keith Forsey and Stephen Schiff wrote the track originally for Billy Idol) we had already completed our “Once Upon A Time” album but our record company (Virgin) insisted on adding the song as a bonus track.”
The label’s perception proved prophetic. Fueled by the success of the Breakfast Club movie and the power of MTV, both the movie and track proved to be an icon for 80’s pop culture.
“That track and that movie are just as iconic today as they were when they were originally released,” Kerr observed. “And to think we almost passed on Don’t You (Forget About Me) being included on the album, how mental was that!”