"Hardcore fans always talk to us about the first five albums, the cooler, blurrier, druggy art school ones that no-one bought": why Simple Minds tired of cult status and went for broke

Simple Minds
(Image credit: Virginia Turbett/Redferns)

Simple Minds guitarist Charlie Burchill has a brutally simple explanation for why the Glasgow band moved away from the Krautrock-and-Bowie-inspired synth-heavy post-punk sound that defined their acclaimed early records: as he explains in a new [paywalled] interview with The Telegraph, "Everybody shouts about them, but no cunts bought them."

“Hardcore fans always talk to us about the first five albums – the cooler, blurrier, druggy art school ones that get all the acclaim”, adds vocalist Jim Kerr. “Apart from your bank manager who won’t give you a mortgage.” 

New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84), the group's fifth record, released on September 17, 1982, would prove to be a turning point in the band's career: featuring their first Top 20 UK single in Promised You A Miracle, the album marked the point where the group “found a wee bit of focus”, according to Kerr. Three years on, Don't You (Forget About Me, a song written by English pop producer Keith Forsey and Nina Hagen's guitarist Steve Schiff, gave the band a number one single in America, after it was featured in the John Hughes film The Breakfast Club. As the group became arena-pop superstars, however, many original fans drifted away, as did disillusioned original band members, with Kerr and Burchill soldiering on through the '90s to an increasingly 'selective' (dwindling) audience.

“It didn’t feel good, that’s for sure,” Jim Kerr admits to The Telegraph. “We were running on fumes in the 1990s. You learn a lot about yourself when you’re in a van going to play a club that isn’t sold out, and you drive past a stadium that you did sell out. But what you gonna do, cry to your mammy? Or just get up and play?”

“Better people than us went down, better people than us didn’t even get the chance to go up,” he adds, philosophically.

The group's story is being told in a new documentary, Simple Minds: Everything Is Possible, which will premiere on December 22 on Paramount+ in the UK [there’s currently 50% off the price of an annual sub]. The band tour the UK from March 15.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.