The 80s Come Alive: New Gold Dream (Simple Minds)
For many people, Simple Minds fall into the category of one hit wonders, thanks to the soundtrack of the John Hughes 1985 film The Breakfast Club, which featured the Simple Minds' version of the Keith Forsey penned tune Don't You (Forget About Me). With good reason, I suppose-the tune is the group's only Number One chart topper in the US (and one of the few the band recorded not written by a member of the group), and the song instantly made Simple Minds a household name, launching them onto huge stadium stages and into a role as political activists who stood firm in their support of Amnesty International and spoke out (quite frequently) against the apartheid situation in South Africa.
Which is fine. really, I'm all for bands that mix politics with pleasure. It's a great way for Joe Average to get a little education about the goings-on in the world when their favourite artists give them the heads up about social injustices they might not otherwise be aware of (or take an interest in). However, I always felt Simple Minds took the activism to the point of preaching down to their audience, making it very apparent that they (and by 'they' I probably mean frontman Jim Kerr) always knew more about things than you did. When the group tried to take advantage of the wider audience afforded them by the success of Don't You (Forget About Me) by making every song a statement and every concert an event that could change the world, they gained a reputation as, well, pompous wind bags. Whereas other bands of the time like U2 managed to balance the political viewpoint of the group with great music, for a while Simple Minds seemed to focus entirely on the message and forget about backing it up with songs that were memorable in any way, shape, or form.
Preceeding all this, though, Simple Minds were a great band (both live and in the studio) with a pocket full of amazing albums. Before John Hughes tapped them for The Breakfast Club soundtrack they already had six albums to their credit, including three of my favourites from the era: 1981's Sons and Fascination, 1982's New Gold Dream (81/82/83/84), and 1984's Sparkle in the Rain. By the end of the 80s Simple Minds had become a very different beast than what they had started off as, and by the time the 90s rolled around singer Jim Kerr and guitarist Charlie Burchill were the only remaining members of the classic band line up. Once the axe started to fall on various members of the band, success became far less frequent for Simple Minds. Bassist Derek Forbes was fired and/or quit after Don't You (Forget About Me), which was a huge loss for the band since his bass playing was a key element of the group's sound. Keyboardist Mike MacNeil was sacked before the recording of the 1991 album The Real Life (which, like the many albums that followed it, sold poorly). Drummer Mel Gaynor has been in and out of the group three or four times over the years, and as of now still plays with what remains of the band, which continues to tour and has plans for another album in 2012. If it happens, it would be their 16th studio album of original material.
So, now back to the simpler days of Simple Minds. From 1982, here's the title track from New Gold Dream (81/82/83/84).