Simple Minds’ Jim Kerr Talks ‘Catholic Guilt’ Over ‘Breakfast Club’ Success, His Band’s New ‘Management’ and Unforgettable 45-Year Career


Jim Kerr of Simple Minds in 2022. (Photo: BMG)

“I came here 20 years ago, and at that time one of the reasons I came here was that I thought the writing was on the wall,” the Simple Minds frontman said. , Jim Kerr, speaking to Yahoo Entertainment via Zoom from his home in Sicily, Italy. “I was like, ‘Look, some things aren’t meant to last forever. You don’t want to extend your welcome. I was bored with myself. I didn’t really think we had that much benzene in us.

While Kerr, now 63, points out that the band “didn’t break up and reform; we just kind of calmed down,” he and longtime bandmate and songwriting partner Charlie Burchill finally decided, “Okay, are we gonna do this or not? If we’re going to do it, it has to be 100% – new songs, new records, promo, tours, everything in its own right. It sounds great when you’re 18 and 19, when you have nothing else in your life and nothing to lose. It’s not quite the case when you’ve been around the block a few times, and there’s no guarantee and people tell you the record industry is “over”. in any event. But we decided, “Let’s see if we can get up and turn around in the right direction, and see how far we can run with it.” And pretty much, that’s the story of the last 10 years.

The most recent result of this courageous decision is Simple Minds’ 18th studio album, direction of the heart, an anthemic opus brimming with newfound confidence and joy despite the difficult time it was created – when Kerr’s father was terminally ill, then the coronavirus pandemic forced the band to cancel their planned tour of a year for the 40th anniversary after just 10 days, in March 2020. The new album is also a loopy affair. It opens with ‘Vision Thing’, which was written after Kerr returned to his hometown of Glasgow for the last 10 months of his father’s life, and includes ‘Act of Love’, the very first demo from Simple Minds which was bought from record companies. in the late 1970s. “It’s quite amazing how ideas seem to find their time; this one took 45 years to make,” laughs Kerr. “Dad gave us the first hundred pounds to make our demo tape, which I then hitchhiked to London. He always said he never got the hundred pounds back – and he was looking forward to it!

As for “Vision Thing,” it was inspired by many long father/son discussions over these past emotional months. “We were working at my house, which is not far from where we grew up and where we went to school, and dad was nearby. He was in and out, and it was obvious he wasn’t well, but none of us knew. How? ‘Or’ Whathe was sick. And then it became very clear, but the most important thing for him was, ‘What are you doing? Don’t sit around your hubbub. Get to work! But then he was shouting from the room, “This fucking music is driving me crazy!” Do you really need to listen to it 100 times?’ But I couldn’t quite say, ‘Shut up, I’m writing a song about you!’ I couldn’t say that. But yeah, we didn’t know what that song would be, what the story would be, but we felt like we were on that opening chapter. And that set the tone for the rest of the album.

But of course, no review of Simple Minds, 45 years after the start of their career, would be complete without a look back at their greatest success, the breakfast club the theme and 1985 US No. 1 hit “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” – especially with the massive John Hughes box set, Life Moves Fast Enough: John Hughes’ Mixtapes, which will be released on November 11. (Simple Minds’ signature song is track 2 of mixtape 1.) While Kerr and company’s legacy in other parts of the world extended far beyond this hit – in 1985, they had already released six albums, two of which peaked at No. 1 and No. 3 in the UK – it was ‘Don’t You’ that turned them into stadium superstars in the US. At the beginning, the breakfast club the success did not sit well with Kerr, causing him to suffer from impostor syndrome and “Catholic guilt”, as Simple Minds had not written the song themselves. “Don’t You” was written by Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff and was first offered to Billy Idol and Bryan Ferry, both of whom were successful; Simple Minds almost passed too, because of these apprehensions.

Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill of Simple Minds in 1981. (Photo: David Corio/Redferns)

Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill of Simple Minds in 1981. (Photo: David Corio/Redferns)

“We were approached to do it at the time, basically because everywhere else in the world we were getting success, but in America there was little promotion for New golden dream, which had been a hit everywhere else,” Kerr begins. “And the record company came to us and said something that record companies rarely say: They said: “We have ruined everything”. We really should have promoted America to you. It was up to you to take it. Blah, blah, blah. ‘Just keep doing it. The next record that we are going to promote. And then it went, ‘But there’s one thing about acting that would be great. There’s this movie called The breakfast club, and the director loves the band and would love for you to be involved…’ And we were like, ‘Cool, great!’ And then they went, ‘We’ll send you the song.’ And we went, ‘Um, What song? Wait a minute! We write our own Songs! They want us because they love us, but they don’t our Songs?'”

Kerr says the original demo of “Don’t You” the label presented to him sounded “a bit generic” and he “couldn’t relate to the lyrics,” but he “could tell the hell of ‘la -la-la-la’s – which let’s be honest is the best part. So after Forsey came to visit the band in the UK and “within days he became our best friend, going to the pub and all it,” they agreed to “just give it a try.” And the rest was history. Soon the band were on stage in Philadelphia at Live Aid, and their post-breakfast club studio album, produced by Jimmy Iovine Once upon a time, charted in the top 10 in the United States (as well as 10 other countries) and produced three top 40 Billboard Hot 100 singles – all written by the band, of course. “In America, ‘Don’t You’ didn’t just get us through the door, it soufflé the door closed. But it left us feeling, ‘Oh my God, we don’t have work for that.’ We hadn’t worked like everywhere else. And so, there was always this feeling of unease,” Kerr admits.

However, while Kerr points out that he was not fully prepared for this level of stardom – particularly when it came to the tabloid scrutiny surrounding his personal life and his six-year marriage to Chrissy Hynde of The Pretenders (” There was a certain level of creepiness that I had never experienced before, which took some getting used to”) – unlike some of his British new wave peers, he had no qualms about “selling out to America”. Simple Minds had always had lofty goals, ever since that ‘frosty Monday night’ at a Glasgow nightclub in January 1978, when they opened their first gig with ‘Act of Love’ and were ‘arrogant enough to think, ‘We’re going there. distance. It looks great ! ‘” Kerr laughs. “I mean, we were going. … I was already in America, talking to Jimmy Iovine. I sought work with Jimmy. yes we were Go for that. Why wouldn’t we? I mean fucking America invented the rock ‘n’ roll thing, so why wouldn’t you want to test your mettle there?

But, as Kerr jokes, after that wave of mainstream success, the band “had to go on and do their own thing, and we got awkward again, because instead of doing ‘Don’t You Part 2,’ we come up with those seven-a-minute Celtic thing called ‘Belfast Child’ and started singing songs about apartheid. And the tag was like, ‘Oh my God, that wasn’t in the script!’ I think the marketing guys thought that, and who could blame them? But you know, we were always moving forward; none of our albums sounded the same, and we were always like, ‘What’s going on? what’s next?” But I think maybe for some people in the industry, we didn’t deliver on our promise.

But 45 years and 18 albums later, Simple Minds are still full of promise and pushing themselves to try new things, like enlisting Russell Mael of Sparks for Unusually Light People. direction of the hearttrack “Human Traffic” because Kerr didn’t think it sounded “ironic or cartoon enough” with his voice alone. It’s safe to say no one will forget Simple Minds, and Kerr now has no regrets.

“It was all exciting,” Kerr says of the highs and lows of fame. “If someone came to me when I was a young boy in school and said, ‘Listen, here’s the deal, do you want it or not? – I would have bitten their hand and taken the whole kit and caboodle.

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