On its release, “Graffiti Soul” managed to hit #10 in the UK LP chart on the week of its release. In the diminished modern world, this could mean that it sold as few as 7,000 copies. 30 Years earlier, and it would have languished near the bottom half of the charts with those sort of numbers, but it did give the band the sort of legitimate bragging rights that come with them in the Top 10 for the first time in 14 years. Not an easy thing for any established band to do, and at least it had happened with work that was clearly above par.
The “Graffiti Soul” tour was scheduled to begin in November of 2009. The opening act for their UK tour was none other than fellow Monk-obsession OMD! I remember when this tour was discussed, I felt that if ever either one of those bands would make it across the Big Drink for a US tour, surely, it would be with the two of them together. But, as I should have been used to seeing by this time, there was no US tour forthcoming. Even though the pairing of both of those bands was about as natural as it got with each having similar levels of US success [and both due to a John Hughes theme song].
When I saw the UK tour dates getting under way, there were some new moves being sprung on the fans. First and foremost, the band were adding Sarah Brown as a backing vocalist. I had seen Ms. Brown sing live with Roxy Music during their US tour in 2001. She also sang with Duran Duran following a stint with Ferry on his “Frantic” tour. Having her turn up in a Simple Minds lineup made all of the sense in the world. It had been over 20 years since Simple Minds had featured a backing vocalist live. At the very least, she could lean hard on the “Once Upon A Time” material in a way not possible for the group without a woman’s voice.
The next big change was the release of what Robert Fripp had called “instant bootlegs” of the band’s live concert tour. The company Concert Online offered USB flash drives with the show a fan just saw, included on it in MP3 format. These were also available after the fact from the vendor to those who had not seen the show, also with a branded MP3 player as an option. For those who had to have everything, there were 222 copies of the entire rub of the tour available on a “gold edition” flash drive with an 8 GB capacity. This was a big step up from what the band had done the previous album where they had recorded a single gig and doled out packages of 3-6 cuts each directly themselves from their web store.
The biggest revelation to follow on the heels of “Graffiti Soul” was that Jim Kerr was releasing a “solo album” under the confusing moniker of “Lostboy! A.K.A. Jim Kerr.” Kerr was posting what amounted to a blog for several years on simpleminds.com and after the main “Graffiti Soul” UK tour was over, he unfurled all of the details of the project. Apparently, he was in a productive creative headspace at the time and after the flurry of activity surrounding the release and tour of “Graffiti Soul” he was keen to get more songs down, hence the side project.
It’s important to remember that Kerr was, by this time, twice divorced with children from both of his ex-wives being raised without much of his input. This was not the case for his main partner in Simple Minds, Charlie Burchill. He was married with children and had managed to keep his family together. Probably in no small part down to the by now methodical pace of a new Simple Minds album and tour every four to five years. Viewed in this light, it’s the only reason I can see why, just six months after the last Simple Minds album, that Jim Kerr followed with a solo album, albeit one which encompassed a surprising number of Simple Minds members/collaborators as Kerr sought to revisit the sort of music he would have been likely making as a younger man.
To hear Kerr tell of it, the Lostboy! album was more of a consolidation with his younger self. A chance to re-connect with the Post-Punk Jim Kerr and maybe cut free some of the excess baggage that had come to typify Simple Minds in the eyes of some. On the face of it, it sounded lovely to me. After the last Simple Minds album had been a cracking success, this Lostboy! project might serve to make Kerr’s artistic trajectory even truer to his essential being. The guy playing to festival crowds didn’t happen overnight. He was a response to years of living that Kerr now wanted to turn back the hands of the clock on… or at least see if it might be possible.
Next: …Return To New Wave