Rock G.P.A.: Simple Minds [part 31]

simple minds - john giblinThe 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.

simple minds - takeastepbackUSPCDAAs 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.

simple minds - amsterdamEPUK7AAs 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?

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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4 Responses to Rock G.P.A.: Simple Minds [part 31]

  1. Echorich says:

    Simple Minds’ story isn’t unique, but it is a great example of the risks a band takes when they go for the gold, or the promise of the gold.
    As I said this isn’t unique, my favorite band Echo And The Bunnymen also chose the Stardom Road over any other choices after their masterpiece Ocean Rain. The resulting eponymously titled album was fractured, lightweight and sown together with the seams showing. It gave the band their best showing in the US, but it certainly came no where near topping charts or overplay on MTV. In the end the choices made helped to break apart an already fracturing group.
    What was so grossly upsetting about Simple Minds decisions, ascension and fall was the heights involved, the Number 1’s, the radio and MTV airplay and then the realization that they were an artistically spent force which could not sustain their achievement.
    Their next release would be a band on life support, crash cart at the ready…

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  2. Brian says:

    Monk, I consider myself a pretty big fan, but I have to admit that to this day I have never heard this or the next album… not a note… which backs up your statement about the presence in America at the time. You would think I would have heard something just by osmosis… even if I had completely lost interest by this point.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Brian – You are not missing much! The joy of the 3xCD version of the recent “Celebrate: The Greatest Hits” box is that one could throw disc two into the dumpster and discs one and three would offer a picture of Simple Minds that I would find highly pleasing. My only regret would be missing out on a single song in the next album, but more on that later.

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