Simple Minds might just be celebrating a significant anniversary this year. It just depends when you start counting.
“We have got a lot of anniversaries,” says lead singer Jim Kerr. “We can’t quite decide when our 40th is. The first time Simple Minds got into the rehearsal studio was November 77. Or you could say that our anniversary was from the first gig in January 1978, 40 years of playing live. Or our first album was in 1979. But we are certainly coming up for our 40th anniversary.”
Whichever way you look at it, though, you can safely say they have stood the test of time – as response to their latest tour and album shows. They are taking their new album Simple Minds Acoustic on the road for a tour which sees them perform a career-spanning collection of songs acoustically for the very first time.
The demand was such that they have added an extra date at Brighton Dome on Saturday, June 3.
Jim believes part of the success was beginning when they did, just after punk had broken a few doors down: “I think what changed was the punk ethos and not just with the music. A guy along the road was starting a fanzine. People were starting their fashion chains. Certainly in the area where we were in Glasgow, nothing had happened like that before. The lunatics had taken over the asylum. Before that, there were just too many gatekeepers. You had to play really proficiently. You had to be in London. But now anybody could start a band. And things were happening. We started a band and, within two months thanks to one great live review, we were asked to play New York.
“There was a new ethic. It reinforced the idea that anyone can do it. It doesn’t mean that you would be great at it, but it was giving everyone the opportunity to say ‘Let’s do it!’ It was a quick start for us. Word spread very fast. Like most people, we made a demo and people heard it and pretty soon other people heard it. There was a demand for it.
“From starting in a rehearsal hall, it took about two years to get the record deal that we wanted to have. No, a year and a half. No, a year. It’s getting shorter!
“I don’t know if we kept it sane. We were not sane at the weekends. But Monday morning, it was time to knuckle down again. There was the graft, and I am not talking about travelling and jumping in the back of a van. You are working hard at becoming a success in one country and you think you have made it, and then you play, say, Holland the next week to two men and a dog, and there goes your rock star ego, and you realise it has all got to be done again.
“But actually, the graft is writing the songs. We had no mentors. We had no teachers. There was no one to tell us how to do it. It was trial and error.”
Inevitably the world has changed considerably since those early days – days when you could have seen Simple Minds in all sorts of contexts, a bit electronic, part New Romantic, part of the MTV generation, part stadium rock.
“But Simple Minds by its very nature was always evolving. But I would say that whatever swerves and curves we have taken, Simple Minds has always stayed Simple Minds.”
Now, though, there is a new chapter with the great acoustic experiment. As a band that got going though a shared love of Bowie, Kraftwerk and electronic dance, Simple Minds are not natural acoustic adventurers, Jim admits.
“But the concert stage is where Simple Minds do their best work. It is where we forged our live reputation.”
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