Rock G.P.A.: Simple Minds [part 74]

The band taunted us with the original lineup for a 30th anniversary session that was never to be

The band taunted us with the original lineup for a 30th anniversary session that was never to be

[…continued from previous post]

Where the band finally hit some sort of creative paydirt was when Jim Kerr got involved with local Italian DJs who looked to him for his experience and the next thing that happened was that he ended up writing lyrics with them. This was probably a win-win for all concerned, since the DJs got to hitch their wagon to a known quantity with a much higher profile, and Simple Minds got a taste of the sounds that they had made their names with, back in the day. While they were filling stadia around the world, I’m guessing that the group’s dancefloor aura that had served them well up to their breakthrough in 1982, had all bud vanished.

In the intervening years, deep cuts such as “Theme For Great Cities” had become ex-post-facto seminal dance classics with the rise of house music and raves. It was not for nothing, that all of the singles from “Néapolis” featured post-modern DJ remixes of their classic canon. Some of these were fantastic [“The American (Interference Mix)”] while others [“Love Song (Ultimate Lobotomy Mix)”] failed to convince. By re-integrating the dancefloor side of their developmental DNA back into the mix, Simple Minds got a foothold when and where they needed it the most. It didn’t hurt that these Italian DJs and even bands [Phunk Investigation, Planet Funk] had obviously taken inspiration from the band’s salad days ca. 1980-’82. The new material was only Simple Minds in the lyrics, but listening to the music, it sounded more like Simple Minds had for much of the previous 15 or so years.

It was a welcome development from a pure listening perspective, but it shed a spotlight on the weakness that the band was carrying along with them by the time of the new millennium. Namely, neither Kerr nor Burchill were capable of writing material alone. They either needed to rely on each other [and that well was perhaps coughing up sand after 20+ years, judging from the talk of ‘writer’s block’ Kerr has been forthcoming with lately] or they had to rely on outside writers if they wanted to advance forward.

In the larger marketplace, the severe pruning back of record sales in the file sharing era led to the closing of music retailers and the grim realization that the band could not rely on physical sales to float their financial health. This led to the situation where the band had to really step up their tour scheduling, and it’s not as though they had been shy before. It’s just that the frequency of touring had less dead spots, leading to a two-fold attack on the group releasing new albums. On one hand, the increased time spent on the road took away from time spent writing and demoing new material. On the other hand, the demand [possibly perceived, maybe not] for the band’s “classic hits” material in concert led to several years of “Greatest Hits” tours that somehow managed not to completely devalue the group’s reputation over the last decade.

There was the 30th Anniversary tour that took place in early 2009. When Virgin talked of a new “Greatest Hits” collection [that didn’t actually see the light of day until 2013] the notion was to salt the release with a few new songs with Mike MacNeil and Derek Forbes back in the fold. The band even met with the original members at a 60th birthday party for their original manager, Bruce Findlay. The band didn’t have long, and originally the notion was to lay down a few covers in the brief window they all had to do this. When they convened together, Kerr and Burchill proposed some new material instead, and while this was initially agreed upon, in short order, the politics and squabbles that had driven the band apart in the first place, had quickly resurfaced. During much of this time, MacNeil and Forbes had been active in third tier bands like Four Good Men [Simple Minds + Big Country] or XSM [Ex-Simple Minds with McGee and Forbes] and they still occasionally hit their legacy for the odd project pillaging their past work. Clearly, re-engaging with past members was not the way forward for the band.

Next: …More [Seemingly Endless] Conclusion

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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