Cognitive Dissonance With Derek Forbes

Big Country © 2013 Andy Lebrow

Big Country © 2013 Andy Lebrow

Oh dear. I just got wind of something that should be significant for me and yet my Spidey-Sense® is tingling. And not in a good way. Longtime readers may be aware that my esteem for original Simple Minds bass player Derek Forbes knows no bounds. Quite frankly, I believe him to be the reason why those first seven albums hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. In the 30+ years I’ve lived with them, it has literally gotten to the point where all I hear when listening to them now [and I listen to them more than when new] are the incredible basslines that Forbes constructed.

Forbes’ facility with basses; fretted and fretless, and his instincts in constructing rhythmic foundations served the early Simple Minds material fantastically well. The group are capable of making very good music in his absence, but without those vital bass underpinnings, they will always hit a glass ceiling that insures that their current material will always compare badly with their albums from ’80-’83. This is no slight to Kerr and company today. They seems to be honestly trying hard and their results are nothing to be ashamed of. I value the current work considerably, it’s just nothing on material from “Empires + Dance” or “Sons + Fascination,” is it? It’s just my opinion on the matter.

As late as last year, I could have hardly imagined that Derek Forbes would be playing within 90 minutes of where I live but if he had, in any context, I would have been extremely charged up by the news. I would have made the trip just to genuflect at his feet. Now, I’m not so sure. First of all, late last year he replaced Tony Butler in Scot rock group Big Country. And now the almost-Big-Country-In-Name-Only band will be playing 90 minutes away next month. Some caveats are in order.

I am not not now, nor was I ever a fan of Big Country. Sure, Stuart Admason was a talented guitarist. I hold his work in his previous band The Skids in high esteem indeed. The Skids were a band that could compare with Simple Minds on equal terms as peers. Big Country were a dumbed down U2 also-ran group, in my opinion. [A fate that would also await Simple Minds during their dark days] They proffered “The Big Music” as the UK press deemed it. Not only was Big Country’s music less than svelte to me, I had a big problem with Adamson’s vocals. The way he strained while singing caused me sympathetic throat pain just hearing him reach painfully beyond his range! Case in point: I did not like Big Country. At all.

Of course, over a dozen years ago Stuart Adamson ended his time in Big Country the hard way, by suicide. The band continued on for a while with Tony Butler on lead vocals, but in 2010, Mike Peters formerly of The Alarm, joined as their new lead singer. I am not now, nor have I ever been a fan of The Alarm, either. At the very least, Peter’s vocalizing didn’t hurt to listen to. Who knows? He may make for a more appealing lead vocalist than Adamson was for me. I should listen to samples of their new album, “The Journey.”

Well, I listened to the samples on iTunes. It was certainly nothing to cross the street for. Barring the fact that Peters does not strain his voice while singing, it was about more or less what I’d expect to hear from Big Country. Earnest rock music. Zzzzzzzz. And as for Mr. Forbes, what has he done for me lately? Though I hold his Simple Minds run in the highest possible esteem, after that there was but a single performance on a single song he gave that was as good; his playing on the simply amazing track “India” from Billy Currie’s wonderful first solo album, “Transportation.” Elsewhere he seemed to have lost the plot. Inserting him and Brian McGee into the Brücken-less Propaganda for their disastrous second album seemed like a great idea on the face of it, but the results did most certainly not bear this out.

So what I’ve got is Derek Forbes playing bass in a band I don’t like, with a singer from another band I don’t like, playing material that I don’t like, but it will doubtlessly be the only chance I ever have to see Derek Forbes, my favorite bass player, play a concert. It’s at The Chop Shop on Charlotte on August 9th. Should I go? This situation is now reminding me of my thoughts regarding my first trek to see Simple Minds in 1986. The band was then sans Forbes, pushing an album I didn’t like, but I reasoned that I may not get another chance to see them so I went… and deeply regretted it. Feel free to discuss below.

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14 Responses to Cognitive Dissonance With Derek Forbes

  1. Nick A says:

    Derek was playing with Brian McGee as XSM [ ex simple minds ] last year so not sure what has happened with that project. Their website has some info : http://xsmband.co.uk/ if you’re interested or if you’re weren’t aware Monk ?

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Nick A – Thanks for stopping by and adding your two cents! Especially so quickly! I am a Forbes fanatic, so I followed the exploits of XSM as well as the previous FourGoodMen with some interest. But really, the original Simple Minds rhythm section in a Simple Minds cover band is a little unseemly, is it not? Would I have gone to an XSM show? I don’t doubt it. Especially with Forbes and McGee there. Bottom line.

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  2. Nick A says:

    I should never have doubted for a second you didn’t already know about them – the heat we are getting here in the UK is just getting to us ! Have you booked your tickets for the US Simple Minds shows yet ? BTW i’m with you on both Big Country and The Alarm, never liked either of them and really they should have just called it a day when Stuart died then left it all to history. I’ve had emails from Blancmange this past couple of weeks and they will be touring without Stephen Luscombe later this year which again just won’t be the same

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Nick A – I am “well chuffed” to state that I already have tickets for my wife and I to enjoy the splendor of Simple Minds in D.C. on October 18th. Few bands get me as excited to attend, even without Forbes. This period surrounding my 50th birthday in September and October is rife with amazing concerts we are traveling to see: John Cale + Pere Ubu in Raleigh, Simple Minds in D.C., and Sparks in Atlanta. Regarding Blancmange, I understand why Stephen Luscombe cannot tour, and find it regretful, but I grasp the situation and given the chance, would certainly attend in any case.

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  3. Echorich says:

    Big Country – Big Miss…. I was given – yes given, did not pay for – tickets to see them on The Crossing Tour on the US back in, ummm 83/84…It was the same night that Spandau Ballet was also playing. As luck would have it, Big Country went on reasonably early at Roseland Ballroom and Simple Minds were playing a late set at The Savoy – 8 blocks away… Yes I went to both shows, no I barely remember much of Big Country because I was so eager to hear SB play Chant No. 1, Communication and Glow – and they did!!

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  4. Brian Ware says:

    If it were me, I’d pass. You know you’ll have a miserable time. Stay home and watch the Old Grey Whistle Test performance of “I Travel” from the DVD and bask in that glory.

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  5. jsd says:

    I saw that ’86 simple minds tour! They were promoting Once Upon A Time (oh well). Shriekback opened. I didn’t really pay attention to Shriekback, which came back to haunt me when I discovered their music in a serious way a little later. I kicked myself after for not paying more attention to the Shrieks but luckily they came to my college to promote Big Night Music not long after. GREAT show.

    I can’t stand The Alarm, and Big Country had about 2 songs that I’d care to hear again, so I’d give the concert a miss.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      jsd – Leiber Gott!! YOU got Shriekback on their “Oil + Gold” tour opening for Simple Minds in ’86??!!!! What I would have given to have seen Shriekback… EVER, much less at their arguable peak!!! Sadly, in Tampa, the opening act was The Call, a.k.a. The World’s Most Boring Opening Act!!! Yes, insult was added to injury. The Shrieks opening would have made it all worth while in the rear view mirror of life.

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      • Echorich says:

        Monk, what is the connection between Jim Kerr and The Call? I’ve never investigated it, but I seem to remember that they stayed sort of involved with SM during their dull Arena era…Oh and yes VERY boring band…They opened up for The Bunnymen for some shows on their Songs To Learn & Sing Tour – the one where Blair Cunningham stood in for Pete DeFrietas – yawn…

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          Echorich – I was saddled with The Call as opener for The Psychedelic Furs during their tepid “Midnight To Midnight” tour in ’87 as well. I guess The Call were the perfect opening act for UK bands coasting on their endless attempt to “break” America. When you are in a band on the downward slide, it looks bad to have an opener who is a Bright Young Thing. Why not give The Call a ring? You’ll look good in comparison and there’s no danger of them blowing you off the stage at this low arc of your career.

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  6. JT says:

    Not to hijack the thread, but Shriekback live in their heyday were a wonder to behold. I caught them headlining twice: the Oil and Gold tour in ’86, and Big Night Music in ’87, both at the Phantasy in Cleveland. Carl Marsh was gone by then, but Andrews/Allen/Barker were all there for both gigs. Made a believer outta me, no doubt!

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