Simples Minds’ Jim Kerr: ‘We still just want to be a great live band’

Pupils from Cliffdale Primary Academy

WATCH: Prominent city figures unite for charity sign language music video

Have your say

Simple Minds’s 1985 hit, Don’t You (Forget About Me), is more relevant now than ever.

Perhaps that’s why they have released a new greatest hits album – their third, in fact – to remind people they are still out there.

Simple Minds

Simple Minds

But whether artists – or, more specifically, their record labels – like to admit it or not, there’s always a stigma around releasing Greatest Hits compilations. Just cashing in, some say, must be running out of ideas, others quip.

The only exception would be Goldie Lookin’ Chain, who of course are hilarious and allowed to use the GH title for their debut album.

Joking aside, for Simple Minds, whose eclectic mix of songs span 35 years and more than 20 Top 40 hits, releasing this material now makes total sense – and they’re making the most of it.

Says frontman Jim Kerr: ‘It’s just part of the landscape.

‘We have got a huge catalogue of songs and every 10 years or so it’s good to polish them off.

‘This is made for new generations and fans that are coming through. It’s all quite the norm for us.

‘Strangely enough it doesn’t feel like a trip down memory lane. It’s more a case of “here’s the music, we hope you like it”.’

The collection is a comprehensive overview of Simple Minds’s work. As well as the expected Waterfront, the aforementioned Don’t You (Forget About Me) and Alive and Kicking, there are two new tracks: Broken Glass Park and Blood Diamonds.

Halfway through their tour to mark the release of Celebrate – the Greatest Hits, the band are showing no signs of slowing down and taking it easy.

‘We’re happy. We all love the band. They are great shows and the audiences are great,’ says Jim.

‘You play these songs and you can see they are important to people. Music always evokes people’s memories and takes them to a certain time and place. It’s great to see how it affects people.

‘We take it on a day to day basis. Tonight we are playing Lincoln, so we want to be the greatest band on the planet for that, and tonight we want to give the best of ourselves, we’re not thinking about tomorrow. That’s the attitude we have.’

Simple Minds have been many things to many people: sound-scapers, sound-shapers, soundtrack makers and serial chart-toppers. They’ve even been sampled by Nicky Minaj, David Guetta, Joey Negro and Freddy Bastone.

They have provided memorable movie moments for directors Christian Carion (L’Affaire Farewell), Gregor Jordan (The Informers), Cameron Crowe (Elizabethtown) and, of course, John Hughes (The Breakfast Club).

They have topped the British charts half a dozen times, with the studio albums Sparkle In The Rain (1984), Once Upon A Time (1985) and Street Fighting Years as well as the Ballad Of The Streets EP (both 1989), the concert recording Live In The City Of Light (1987), and the compilation Glittering Prize 81/92. And they returned to the UK Top 10 with Graffiti Soul, their most recent studio album, in 2009.

It must have been quite a headache choosing which songs to put on the Greatest Hits release.

Not so, says Jim.

‘We’re releasing it in two or three formats, so it’s a bit easier to choose which songs go on which.

‘The decision for songs was made by my song-writing partner Charlie [Burchill]. He was the curator and put it all together, so on this one he had the final shout.’

But it’s impossible to love every single song that goes on there, right?

‘There are always a couple of songs you are not happy with because perhaps they never lived up to their potential or you can’t relate to them. Interestingly enough, songs feel that way but yet ,further down the line, you see them in a completely different light. So there are songs like that but it doesn’t stay like that.

‘One song we are playing in the set, War Babies, I never thought we would play that again.’

Named after a lyric – ‘So simple minded’ to be exact – from David Bowie’s seminal 1972 single The Jean Genie, Simple Minds evolved out of Johnny & the Self Abusers, the ‘rank and file’ punk group Jim and Charlie had formed in 1977.

By the time Saints And Sinners, the sole Abusers single, was issued six months later, Simple Minds, featuring bassist Derek Forbes, drummer Brian McGee and keyboard-player Mick MacNeil, were already moving towards a darker, broodier sound that owed a debt to the Velvet Underground but also the German rock of Can, Kraftwerk and Neu!

Following their chart debut with the Life In A Day album in 1979, Simple Minds recorded some of the most beguiling, inventive, adventurous music of the post-punk period and set the standard for the British alternative scene in the late ’70s and early ’80s with the albums Real To Real Cacophony, Empires And Dance and the pioneering ‘twin’ releases Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call.

In 1982 they went on to make the landmark New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84), which marked the debut of drummer Mel Gaynor and served as the template for U2’s The Unforgettable Fire two years later.

Having already received superb reviews for their live shows, their gig at Portsmouth Guildhall on April 30 looks set to be a corker. Fans will be treated to a still thriving, still rocking, still kicking Simple Minds show.

Says Jim: ‘When we started Simple Minds, our objective was to be considered as one of the great live bands.

‘A band that had the desire to go all around the world – playing everywhere and anywhere. That challenge is ongoing.’

Simple Minds are at Portsmouth Guildhall on Tuesday, April 30. Tickets £37.50 to £49.50 from (023) 9282 4355 or