Simple Minds have been through countless phases, an incredible array of creative regenerations.
From their new wave origins to artful, Krautrock inspired meditations, their pop-heavy breakout to stadium-filling anthems, the band have been there, done that, and created a charity t-shirt.
It makes for an incredible story, we're sure, but it also means that Simple Minds' catalogue can be a little foreboding to the newcomer.
Catherine AD - or The Anchoress, whichever you prefer - joined Simple Minds in late 2014, and was initially overawed by the sheer depth of the band's discography.
As rehearsals continues and her confidence grew, however, she was able to sketch out a personal picture of their work, one gauged from the inside by an outsider.
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When I was invited to join Simple Minds in late 2014 I was a completely new to the band’s catalogue. Like so many millennials, I only had a passing familiarity with “that song” from the Breakfast Club and had some vague childhood memories of hearing ‘Belfast Child’ on the radio. Simple Minds hadn’t been a conscious part of my parents’ musical vocabulary either but I did know that they were a looming influence on one of my own favourite bands: Manic Street Preachers.
So, when I received the call to join the line-up in late 2014, I had an awful lot of catching up to do... I was flung in at the deep-end joining the band on the “Big Music” album and the three-month long tour that began in February 2015. Over the course of the preceding few months I plunged headlong into the vast back-catalogue and a whole universe opened up...
Speed-learning around 50 songs on guitar and keyboards from the vast library of songs, I found (much to my delight) that they drew on and shared a rich musical vocabulary with a wide variety of bands and artists I already knew and loved: Roxy Music, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Joy Division, Patti Smith, The Velvet Underground.
In turn, I also began hearing motifs from the Manic Street Preachers in a new light that I now recognised as emanating from James Dean Bradfield’s own fandom - the sounds I had grown up listening to had, unbeknownst to me, been steeped in the music of Simple Minds.
It felt like discovering a vast treasure trove that spoke a language that felt strangely familiar yet also new. Later, talking with Jim and Charlie on the many long nights on the tour bus, I discovered that we also shared a love of so many of the same records that my parents had introduced me to: Patti Smith’s 'Horses', Roxy Music, Bowie’s 'Low' and 'Hunky Dory', and Tim Buckley...
These are some of my personal highlights from Simple Minds’ vast back catalogue...
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'Life In A Day'
It’s hard for me to pick a favourite song from the band’s debut album but the title track is a particular stand out for me. Recorded with John Leckie, the band had originally wanted John Cale to produce.
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Simple Minds have always been incredible at combining electronic and rock elements with their punk roots. This is an iconic track that showcases just why they must have been one of the most exciting sounds coming out of 1980. The lyrics on the album, Empires and Dance, really capture the excitement of the touring life. Manic Street Preachers would later lyric-check “Europe has a language problem” in their song ‘Europa Geht Durch’.
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'This Earth That You Walk Upon'
An instrumental version of the song originally appeared as the B-side to ‘Love Song’ but the vocal version was included on the album ‘Sons And Fascination’ and is one of my favourite moments from the early catalogue. We’ve been rehearsing this for possible inclusion on the next tour. I’m not sure what it is about this song, but I always imagine myself transported into the body of Nico singing with The Velvet Underground! It’s hypnotic.
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'Hunter And The Hunted'
One of my absolute favourites to play live from 'New Gold Dream'. The killer bass line from Derek Forbes and beautiful romantic lyric from Jim, with a special guest keyboard solo from Herbie Hancock all combine together to make for a transcendent musical moment that you can lose yourself in, no matter how many times you play it.
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Another favourite to play live where I am always spellbound by Charlie Burchill’s incredible guitar playing on this track. The song was originally inspired by the book The Blinding Absence Of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun, a true story where political prisoners held in underground cells survived by inventing fantasy worlds.
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