The period surrounding the “Street Fighting Years” album would be marked by tumultuous change within Simple Minds, both within the band and offstage. No sooner was the master tape in the can than did John Giblin, their still “new” bass player, decide to leave the group before undertaking the world tour for the “Street Fighting Years” album. He was replaced on stage with Malcolm Foster of The Pretenders. Mel Gaynor, who found the recording of the “Street Fighting Years” album under Trevor Horn too divisive, also departed at the end of recording only to later rejoin for the subsequent world tour.
Speaking of whom, 1990 saw Jim Kerr divorcing The Pretender’s leading light, Chrissie Hynde. Their marriage six years earlier blindsided everyone who had followed either band as Hynde’s previous partner [and father of her first child] Ray Davies seemed a shoo-in as husband… right up until she split from him and married Kerr within months. Mere weeks following Hynde and Kerr’s marriage in May of 1984 found Hynde pregnant with their child. Almost immediately, Kerr took his leave for the next several years as “Don’t You [Forget About Me]” and the subsequent “Once Upon A Time” album and tour had catapulted the band to stadium A-level.
As mentioned in the previous post, their “Street Fighting Years” album reached number one and platinum status in the UK, but things could not have been more starkly divided in America. Across the pond, the album fell on absolutely deaf ears. A+M Records released a token stab at the radio market, which had already forgotten the three hit wonders by three years afterward. They pulled “Take A Step Back” as the single, in all probability because it was the only song under five minutes in length on the whole album! As a fan in America, I saw zero presence of the group on MTV [or anywhere else] from this time onward. Taped it. Erased it. Their hard fought battle for American sales and status, which saw the band willingly capitulate their integrity for numbers was already over. They, and any fans who had followed the group for years, had lost. A mooted tour of the USA never materialized and there would be an eight year gap following the 1986 tour that I had seen before they once again toured across America.
As stated in the last post, Simple Minds released an EP between 1989’s “Street Fighting Years” and their subsequent album, 1991’s “Real Life.” “The Amsterdam EP” featured two new songs paired with a leftover from “Street Fighting Years” at the end of 1989. That one new song was a cover of Prince’s “Sign ‘O The Times” was a shocking revelation. Once again, Steve Lipson, this time without Trevor Horn, was in the producer’s chair. This session in Amsterdam was significant for reasons beyond their taste in covers. This was also the final recording that keyboardist Mike MacNeil would record with the band. At the end of the “Street Fighting Years” world tour he decided he had had enough.
Early 1990 found the band were re-negotiating their management contract with Bruce Findlay, who had steered them from pubs to stadiums from the beginning in Glasgow; initially working out of his record shop. They failed to come to terms, so within a few weeks of losing MacNeil, they were also losing the manager the only manager that the group had ever had. By the close of 1990, the band had effectively contracted to just Kerr and Burchill following Giblin, Gaynor, and finally MacNeil leaving the group with their long term manager having been shown the door. Sure, Gaynor returned for the tour but I’m guessing as an employee, not a band member. Simple Minds ended the 80s in a radically different state to how they began that decade.
Next: …How can you mend a broken band?