1978 in Glasgow, Scotland - originally as Johnny & the Self-Abusers
Core '80s Band Members:
- Jim Kerr (born James Kerr on July 9, 1959 in Glasgow, Scotland) - Lead vocals, primary songwriter
- Charlie Burchill (born Charles Burchill on November 27, 1959 in Glasgow) - Guitar, violin, saxophone, primary songwriter
- Mel Gaynor (born May 29, 1959 in Balham, London, England) - Drums
- Mick MacNeil (born July 20, 1958 in Isle of Barra, Scotland) - Keyboards, songwriter
- Derek Forbes (born June 22, 1956 in Glasgow) - Bass guitar
Simple Minds evolved from a first-wave punk rock band called Johnny & the Self-Abusers that included Kerr and Burchill. The group's career in that stylistic niche was quite brief, as that pair's relationship with founder and namesake John Milarky deteriorated and the band was no more before the end of 1977. The band's first year witnessed a shifting lineup before settling into the core quintet that would take Simple Minds to the top of the charts. With its 1979 debut LP, Life in a Day, the group retained its early punk influence but also injected a glam rock-tinged pop sensibility into its sound.
Search for '80s Relevance:
The uniquely '80s alternative and college rock elements of the band's sound began to formulate on Simple Minds' second album, 1980's Real to Real Cacophony. In keeping with its intriguing title, this record featured a more experimental approach that downplayed sunny pop melodies in favor of sound effects, dark atmosphere and esoteric aesthetics. This eclecticism did not win the favor of the group's first label, Arista, which ultimately parted ways with Simple Minds following the electro-industrial meanderings of 1981's Empires and Dance. A move to Virgin would inch the band closer to greater if still hybridized focus.
New Wave Outsiders:
The band continued to allow its sound to evolve as necessary, and such a commitment to implementing elements of progressive rock into an increasingly keyboard-based approach attracted positive attention from superstars like ex-Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel. Following the initially joint release of Sons and Fascination and Sister Feelings Call, Simple Minds made it clear that the band was uninterested in squeezing itself into the increasingly stylish new wave fold. Though the departure of drummer Brian McGee made that role a bit of a revolving one for the next year or so, big things were on the horizon for the group's lingering pop music aspirations.
1982's New Gold Dream nudged the group toward a commercial breakthrough, yielding two singles in "Promised You a Miracle" and "Glittering Prize" that represented a magical halfway point between the band's pure pop and sonically experimental impulses. When Gaynor joined officially as a permanent member in 1982, the stage was set for a fresh take on the Simple Minds formula. Early in 1984, the group released Sparkle in the Rain, a record that brought in mainstream rock elements, and later that year Kerr married Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders. However, the next year would get even better for the band, at least from most perspectives.
Movie Soundtrack Immortality:
Oddly enough, Simple Minds failed to make a significant dent in the North American market until the group (as an afterthought) recorded a pop song not written by a member of the band that had been previously offered to both Roxy Music's Bryan Ferry and Billy Idol. Even so, the keyboard-fueled performance of "Don't You (Forget About Me)" became a No. 1 U.S. pop hit in April of 1985, boosted by its inclusion in the smash teen film The Breakfast Club. The song changed things forever for Simple Minds, but in many ways this may not have been quite as favorable as it seemed at the time.
Stadium Rock Tendencies, More Hits:
Despite the dismissal of bassist Forbes as internal tensions began to rise, Simple Minds released Once Upon a Time in late 1985, an LP that contained more than a few shades of arena rock but was a huge success. Some longtime fans were alienated by the highly accessible thrust of the album, but "Alive and Kicking" and "Sanctify Yourself" nevertheless shined as quality pop/rock songs. The contributions of former Chic singer Robin Clark and new bassist John Giblin helped Simple Minds maintain and build on its previous momentum, and 1986 was another banner year for the band.
Slowdown & Alternative Evolution:
After nearly four years without a studio release, the group certainly risked much in terms of retaining its core audience. However, the 1989 release Street Fighting Years demonstrated a clear willingness to allow the natural development of the band's career to run its course regardless of commercial concerns. Entering the '90s without the services of MacNeil, Simple Minds pressed on as alternative rock grew in popularity - with declining commercial results. Over the past two decades the central creative team of Kerr and Burchill has continued to produce albums, occasionally reuniting with former members for touring stints.