Interview

Jim Kerr talks to SDE about Simple Minds’ Street Fighting Years

With the super deluxe reissue imminent, SDE spoke to Simple Minds frontman Jim Kerr about the band’s 1989 album Street Fighting Years. “We sort of disappeared up our own arses, to tell you the truth…” he tells SDE editor, Paul Sinclair.

SDE: It had been a while since the previous album, ‘Once Upon a Time’. Did you have an idea in your mind as to how you wanted the next Simple Minds album to sound?

Jim Kerr: It’s funny, I mean, we didn’t realise it at the time, but by the end of Once Upon a Time and the subsequent tour that went with it – which stretched over a about a year and a half – I think we were dead on our feet. I think we really had come to the end of something.

We were so keen to get back home, not just for the sake of getting home, but waiting for us back home was this studio complex thing that we had bought, [and that we had been] building while we were away on tour and we were excited. It wasn’t so much that we were tired physically, although we were that, because from 1978 up until then, we’d never stopped.

And within that we’d also started to find good lives together outside of Simple Minds, and there was a lot of things needing attended to. So, we were dying to get back, but I also think we’d had it with what we were doing at that time. We were keen to see what the next thing would bring, and pretty much that’s my mentality as we began to work on what became the first few ideas for Street Fighting Years.

SDE: And you ended up working with Trevor Horn and Stephen Lipson. How did the choice of producer come about?

JK: Well, funnily enough, it came about because of the remarkable records he had made, they had made. They hadn’t really worked for many bands, although Trevor had worked with Yes, of course. We weren’t sure how that would work with us, but I think we felt that, unlike other producers who we’d worked with – and we’ve worked with some of the great ones – but we’d never looked to those previous ones to bring musicality to it, and we thought that Trevor and Stephen would bring a musicality and all their Fairlights and technology. Becoming bored with our own thing, we thought, well, we will strap our engine to that.

SDE: Did you have any concerns that they might take over too much and try and control what was going on? Because Trevor had a bit of a reputation for that, particularly with Frankie and all the rest of it.

JK: Ah come on, you can’t compare Simple Minds to Frankie! Give me a break [laughs]. We’re already six albums down the road and filling fucking stadiums… No, we didn’t have any problem with that.

SDE: I think they’d worked with Paul McCartney just before you; Trevor spoke to me about that. There were definitely some awkward moments with Macca.

JK: Whoever we worked with, and the people we worked with really beginning with John Leckie, Lillywhite, Jimmy Iovine, and then of course Trevor… I mean, there are lots of elements to these people and we were kind of in awe of them… we liked the pressure. I mean, Jimmy Iovine was the toughest cookie; he had a habit of both making you feel great and making you feel like shit, so you would try harder. And we wanted that, because all of them had made such great records.  So, in terms of taking over… no, usually they all came at Simple Minds with such great enthusiasm that we had no need to feel that.

SDE: How much writing had been done prior to getting into the studio with Trevor and Steve. Did you have a bunch of songs or did you do quite a lot of writing in the studio?

JK: Well as I said, you know, because we had our own place [studio] by then, it wasn’t quite like before, when you would do your homework and get your stuff together and amass a load of ideas and go into the studio. So we had this place and at a certain point I think we felt we had a lot of ideas; some more fully formed than others. But [still] a lot of ideas and at that point we would say you know, we’re feeling good about getting a start here and to whoever we’re about to work with, here’s our progress to date. Very rarely did we have finished demos. But there would be titles, there would be choruses, there would be verses, there would be the atmospheres and it was like, okay, maybe producers would help us pinpoint missing pieces, if there were missing pieces. And indeed, how to turn all of that into a record.

SDE: You mentioned the studio, which was in the Highlands of Scotland. How much did the location influence your writing and the music?

JK: You know, in the last 10, 15 years I’ve written a lot of music. A lot of songs have been written in Italy where I’m sitting at a desk and I’m looking at Mount Etna, a volcano! [laughs]. But I don’t think you could hear that in the music. If you’re in a place where you feel good, where you feel energised [it’s good] but I think more of a point was that being there with no distractions, we were going to work Monday to Friday, and then we’d go home at the weekends, we would live there. So were immersed in it.

Funnily enough, thinking about all of that now, it sounds heavenly and it sounds blissful and I’m not sure that’s a great thing! [laughs]. Sometimes it’s good to step back, sometimes it’s good to be away, sometimes it’s good to have the clock going.  At that time as well, technology came along. Up until then, our albums would have a maximum of, whatever, 48 tracks. Now you could have as many fucking tracks as you wanted. Well, that’s great [in theory], isn’t it?  But you then have to develop a whole new talent around editing [the material]. And I think a lot of the weeks we sort of disappeared up our own arses, to tell you the truth.

SDE: Trevor Horn said that he was a little bit surprised that there wasn’t as much band-playing-live as he expected. It seemed like you were building things up in layers. Can you describe a little bit of the actual recording process?

JK: Well, I remember one thing… this was Michael MacNeil’s last album with the band. We didn’t foresee that, but I remember Charlie, everyone, started getting their own little home studio as well. So, Charlie would come in with an idea where not only was he playing guitar on it, but he was playing keyboards on it, because Charlie always played piano as well. And he would come in with something and it would be great. But it would be like, what’s the roles here? Who is doing what? You know, it was the start of all that bullshit as well. I didn’t care who wrote anything on what, I just cared that it sounded good.

There was new toys and I think some great stuff came out of some of those new toys. Charlie had been playing guitar for 10, 15 years and these new toys come along, he didn’t want to just do that [anymore]. He wanted to experiment and all that stuff, I mean, Mick did too, you know. You could program drums and they could sound great and you didn’t need a drummer sitting there all day. Usually, the drummer would get bored because he would be there for an hour or something, do his thing and then have to hang around until he was called on again. Everything was changing and I think a lot of good things came out of it, but you know, there’s always the stress of when things change. Certainly, it wasn’t, like all the albums we’d done up until then, where it was like “we’ve got five weeks, let’s do it.”

SDE: Obviously, it was the end of the 1980s and the album does evoke something to do with the end of an era. That seemed to inform your writing and your lyrics and the general vibe of what was going on.

JK: Yeah, I think, you know, that album… it’s all subjective, people’s memories of things, but in terms of music at the time, in terms of our generation, for many people I think the album embodies a kind of spirit at the time. Songs about the Poll Tax, obviously Belfast, human rights, all that stuff that… well, you know, they were the big themes. And I think, you know, if you’re going to be a writer and you’re going to write a lot of songs, I think it’s quite adventurous at some point to try and grapple with what’s meant to be the big themes.

You know, the Berlin Wall and all that stuff was on the verge of coming down. apartheid, a lot of that stuff, it came out in the music. Then there is personal stuff as well. I was beginning what became my divorce of my first marriage and there’s emotions there. A close friend had been murdered in Glasgow; all of this stuff was in there, from my point of view. Not obvious, I don’t think, but somehow there. To me, it’s obvious, but maybe not so obvious to anyone else.

SDE: Did you have any reticence about the overtly political nature of some of those songs? In terms of how it would be perceived by your fans?

JK: Yeah, I think we knew, you’re going to get in the neck. I think we were bright enough to know that for a lot of people once you step over what’s perceived as ‘your box’, that all this stuff of being… what would they say now, that you are ‘virtue signalling’ [laughs]. But you can only go with the music that’s in you, and the words that are in you, regardless of whether you’re writing a little pop ditty or whether you’re writing something about some tragedy in Northern Ireland; you can only go with what’s in you. You deal with the reaction later on.

SDE: Any concerns about the commerciality of what you were doing? As it turned out, ‘Belfast Child’ was a major success, but was the record company keeping an eye on you, worrying about big singles and all the rest of it.

JK: Well yeah, I mean particularly if you think the album, before it’d done so well in America. We knew, you know, they were pissed off at us because the thing is, success anywhere has to be celebrated and all that. But the success we got in America was great, but it was out of kilter with our success in the rest of the world, inasmuch as they were wanting us, six months later to be back in the studio and be back out with ‘Don’t You Forget About Me 2’. And you know, most people would’ve gone with that or tried to do that and certainly from a commercial point of view, that would’ve been the target. But what did we do? We headed for the hills for three fucking years and came back with a song about Northern Ireland, yeah, they weren’t too happy about that.

SDE: So how surprised were you when that first single, that EP, did so well and had such a positive reaction?

JK: Yeah, it was wonderful. I mean, you know, it was fantastic. I remember hearing it in the car and it was the least likely number one, or one of the least likely number ones. You know, the whole idea of a number one, well, what is it anyway?  You know, what’s number one or number two? But it’s good.

SDE: ‘This is Your Land’ was the second single, and that has a memorable contribution from Lou Reed. Could you talk a little bit about how that came about and how you got Lou to contribute to the song?

JK: They all say that Trevor is childlike, in the best way. A child doesn’t feel limitations, and basically we had the song, and we liked it, but we had this middle bit and couldn’t find what to do with it.  And really, somewhat pissing around during one take, I had done this kind of spoken Lou Reed thing, an imitation, and we just called it the ‘Lou Reed’ bit, and we were like, “yeah, we’ll get something for that…” And the weeks were going on and the months were going on and we hadn’t quite addressed it, and it always sounded really good when it came up. I actually thought it was more a Mark Knopfler kind of thing. But Mark Knopfler, Lou Reed; whatever. And finally, the clock was really on, we’ve got to finish this song, but what are we going to do? And it didn’t dawn on us for a minute that you could get Lou Reed; that Simple Minds could get Lou Reed to appear on a record. It just didn’t dawn on us that it would be possible. And also, I knew from someone really close to Lou Reed, that working with him could be a nightmare, according to them. And, so never in a million years did we think [it would work]. But Trevor was just like, “what do you mean?  We’ll get Lou Reed.”  And we were like, “fuck off, Lou Reed is never going to do this.” He said, “yeah, I think he will.”

So yeah, lo and behold, a few days later, Trevor got in touch with his management and he was like, “Yeah. He’s in Paris, he’ll do it tomorrow night.” So they looked at me and they said “you better to go over” with young Heff [Moraes] who was just sort of like a tape op. at the time. And I was like, “I can’t do that, I don’t know how to fucking do that.” It’s Lou Reed, to me it was like “get Picasso”. They said, “you’ll have to do it; go!”

So, I remember going over to the airport and when I landed in Paris I started having fucking palpitations. Because again, I’d spoke to my friend who had said, “he’s a nightmare.” Anyway, we book this little studio, set up the tape, put up the mic and just the magnitude of it to me… because I grew up with The Velvet Underground. I mean, they were really my band and Lou Reed was going to walk in the room. Talk about waiting for my man!

So right on the appointed time he turned up and he looked exactly as you would expect Lou Reed to look, and he gave me the limpest handshake I’ve ever had in my life.  And he said, “so what is it, you know? What exactly is going here?” I said, “look, we just want you to talk over…” I said, “ignore the words, the words are just mumbo jumbo.”  And he looked and he said, “the words are mumbo jumbo?” I said, yeah. He said, “I thought the words were beautiful.” And yeah, it was done and dusted in 20 minutes. And he couldn’t have been more gentle.

SDE: John Giblin’s work on the album was quite significant, wasn’t it?  You know, in terms of writing and just overall contribution.

JK: Yeah. See, Giblin is one of my all-time favourite musicians. It’s a wee while ago now, but when Kate Bush played in Hammersmith [in 2014], I didn’t know John was in the band. I knew that he had played on her records through the years, but I hadn’t seen John for a while and I was delighted to see him up on stage.

I mean, John was only in our sphere for a couple of years because… I mean, John was older than us and although he was a Scot, he was older than us and we were probably a bit like brats compared to him. And he was such a fucking player and kind of a mysterious guy, but yeah, he didn’t particularly love Trevor. John and Trevor didn’t quite hit it off, I don’t think, and John didn’t quite like Trevor’s instructions.

SDE: What was that to do with specifically?

JK: I couldn’t tell you; I couldn’t tell you exactly why. Some people get on and then other people don’t, but John wasn’t in the studio much. You know, he did his thing then he left, he didn’t mind.

SDE: And what about Mel [Gaynor] then?  Was it the same kind of situation. Potentially a bit awkward because you were using drum machines and this that and the other?

JK: Well, I think it wasn’t just with drummers. I think Trevor… how can I say this? Mel is so great at the ‘Mel thing’, but Trevor really tests you. I mean, he’ll go, “that’s great, got it – now give me something I’d never expect.” And I don’t think Trevor felt he was getting that from Mel, I think he felt he was getting the big thud the whole time, and it worked on some tracks, but maybe not on others. Yeah, I think Trevor felt that Simple Minds had done that so much on the previous records, certainly the previous couple of records maybe. That he wanted a lot more light and shade from the drums and that’s, you know, I can see the logic in that.

SDE: But that puts you in a bit of an awkward situation though, doesn’t it? That’s a bit tricky to deal with.

JK: Yeah, it does. But you have to… you can either be mature about these things or not [laughs]; you have to, that’s the way it is.

SDE: The flip side of that coin was the freedom to bring in some other guys like Stewart Copeland or Manu [Katché], how much did you enjoy that aspect of it?

JK: I mean, they’re great, great players, they’re great, great players. I’m not sure that… you are kind of caught between a rock and a hard place, because yeah, great, open the door and bring in other people, but it takes time to gel and sometimes there’s not enough time and so maybe you only get a flavour of what someone’s got, rather than the whole thing… but you know, we were huge fans of Copeland and I think I remember him talking more than playing [laughs] But it was great to listen to him!

SDE: You followed up this album with some new material on the ‘Amsterdam EP’ – namely ‘Sign O’ The Times’ and ‘Jerusalem’. What inspired those particular covers? And where did the enthusiasm to do some new material so soon come from?

JK: I think it was just one of those cases, you know, they were making that third single or something, and so therefore, you know…we need to get a B-side and that. So, we always tried to make a little bit more than, like a little event.  And so, we tried some stuff, well more on tour I guess; we had a few days in Amsterdam, out of which came the stuff that you said and yeah, it was more like fun… and doing the unexpected.

SDE: With those tracks, and also with the following album, you were working with Stephen Lipson on his own. Was there ever any talk of getting the Trevor and Lipson back together? Or was Horn off doing something else?

JK: Well, they were having a little fracture between themselves by then. I mean, a bit like a band, they had worked together for the longest time and I think that was the start of them… I mean, they have worked together since, but it was the start of them doing stuff more on their own. I don’t think they did albums together after Simple Minds, both Lipson and Trevor Horn. Lipson did Annie Lennox and then that was such a big deal and he was off.  But I mean, we saw Trevor last year and he was talking about Lipson and I’m glad to know that they’re still mates.

SDE: When this reissue was announced, there was there was some disappointment expressed that there were no unreleased demos that could offer an insight into the building blocks of the record. Was that something deliberate, where you just didn’t really want to open the sock drawer and get those demos out?

JK: Well, yeah, I saw that too. Some of the box sets we put out get a better reaction than others. It’s hard to explain, how can I say this without being patronising… I mean, just because you’ve put something on a piece of tape, it doesn’t mean to say that’s it’s a demo to go out. There was a few songs in the air there, but they were never part of Street Fighting Years, they were just something at the time. There’d be songs that Trevor wasn’t involved in or Steve wasn’t involved in… we were working every day. If you were to say every day equates to a demo for Street Fighting Years… no, it wasn’t, it was just that day’s work. And even the fact that people know about those tracks, means that someone nicked them and someone put them online!

Who knows? There’s a couple of those songs we might go back to – they’re unfinished. There are songs on our last album, Walk Between Worlds, from an idea that was more than 25 years old. Finally, we cracked it! So, the idea that you just load [the box set] all up with whatever was in the air at the time, I don’t think so.

SDE: I remember when the ‘Sparkle in the Rain’ reissue came out. Steven Wilson created a great 5.1 surround mix, and given the kind of widescreen, cinematic nature of ‘Street Fighting Years’, was there ever any discussions about maybe doing a surround mix of the record?

JK: Honestly, without putting the blame on anyone, it is our catalogue, but it’s not. If Universal [Music] want to invest in that stuff, they do, if they don’t, they don’t. I mean it’s theirs to do that stuff and sometimes they do it, as you say. What can we do? We can either sit and say, well, we want fuck all to do with this, this stuff. Or else we say, alright, if you’re going to do it, then let us get involved to whatever degree we can. But if they don’t see the logic in doing that just now, or have some vision of doing it at some point in the future, that’s up to them and they live with the consequences, I mean, we all do. But people either like it and want to buy it, or they don’t.

SDE: Most of the eighties Simple Minds albums are now reissued, but what about some of the earlier ones? Are there any plans to go back to ‘Empires and Dance’ and some of those early records?

JK: I would say again, that’s pretty much on the cards, all of it. Because again, the record company have a catalogue and these albums, certainly to a number of people, become iconic and stuff, and there’s always a feeling of wanting to bring stuff up to scratch. And to rework it or to remix it, or to whatever. So, if you’re asking if there’s any plans right now, is there a board with plans on it – no.  But could I see that kind of thing happening, yes, probably.

SDE: Finally, all these years later, how do you look back on the ‘Street Fighting Years’ album and how do you, where do you rank it in the Simple Minds canon?

JK: It was a troubled record, it definitely was. It was the end of a period for us, we were still trying to figure out a lot of what was going on. Obviously, we did the tour. The tour was very enjoyable, because a lot of those songs worked so well live. But by the end, Mick decided he didn’t want to part of it anymore. And perhaps all of that stuff affects my feeling of it. But at the same time when I think of just the title and I think of the title song and it just sounds beautiful; very brave, I think a brave record. They’re all flawed, all of them. But yeah, it wasn’t the happiest time, but at the same time, I do remember a lot of great fun with Trevor and Steve and all of that. And as I said, hinted at, earlier, you can’t separate it out from what was going on at your life at the time. Not that I would want anyone to feel sorry for us, having number ones and playing stadiums [laughs] but, you know, not everything was well, and so when you look back on a record, it’s hard to separate it from all of that.

Whereas when I think of New Gold Dream, I just think, fuck… every day, it’s just amazing. These are the sort of, instant impressions, but, you know, we made this album, Street Fighting Years, it was a privilege to get the chance to make it and work with those people, and it’s a privilege that a fair amount of people took the music to heart and have embraced it.

The super deluxe edition box set of Street Fighting Years is released on 6 March 2020. The box is down to £41 on Amazon in the UK.

Thanks to Jim Kerr, who was talking to Paul Sinclair for SDE.

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Street Fighting Years - 4CD box set

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Simple Minds / Street Fighting Years 4CD box set

Street Fighting Years – 4CD box set

CD 1 – Street Fighting Years remastered

  1. Street Fighting Years
  2. Soul Crying Out
  3. Wall Of Love
  4. This Is Your Land
  5. Take A Step Back
  6. Kick It In
  7. Let It All Come Down
  8. Mandela Day
  9. Belfast Child
  10. Biko
  11. When Spirits Rise

CD 2 – Edits, B-Sides and Remixes

  1. Belfast Child (edit)
  2. Mandela Day (edit)
  3. This Is Your Land (edit)
  4. Saturday Girl
  5. Year Of The Dragon
  6. This Is Your Land (DJ Version)
  7. Kick It In (edit)
  8. Waterfront (’89 remix)
  9. Big Sleep (live)
  10. Kick It In (Unauthorised Mix)
  11. Sign O’ The Times (edit)
  12. Let It All Come Down (edit)
  13. Sign O’ The Times
  14. Jerusalem
  15. Sign O’ The Times (C.J. Mackintosh Remix)

CD 3 – Verona part 1

  1. Theme For Great Cities ’90
  2. When Spirits Rise
  3. Street Fighting Years (live)
  4. Mandela Day (live)
  5. This Is Your Land (live)
  6. Soul Crying Out (live)
  7. Waterfront (live)
  8. Ghost Dancing (live)
  9. Book Of Brilliant Things (live)
  10. Don’t You (Forget About Me) (live)

CD 4 – Verona part 2

  1. Gaelic Melody (live)
  2. Kick It In (live)
  3. Let It All Come Down (live)
  4. Belfast Child (live)
  5. Sun City (live)
  6. Biko (live)
  7. Sanctify Yourself (live)
  8. East At Easter (live)
  9. Alive And Kicking (live)

Simple Minds / Street Fighting Years 2LP vinyl reissue

Street Fighting Years – 2LP vinyl

SIDE ONE

1.  Street Fighting Years
2.  Soul Crying Out
3.  Wall of Love

SIDE TWO

1.  This Is Your Land
2.  Take A Step Back
3.  Kick It In

SIDE THREE

1.  Let It All Come Down
2.  Mandela Day
3.  Belfast Child

SIDE FOUR

1.  Biko
2.  When Spirits Rise

Simple Minds / Street Fighting Years

Street Fighting Years – 2CD deluxe

CD 1 – Street Fighting Years remastered

  1. Street Fighting Years
  2. Soul Crying Out
  3. Wall Of Love
  4. This Is Your Land
  5. Take A Step Back
  6. Kick It In
  7. Let It All Come Down
  8. Mandela Day
  9. Belfast Child
  10. Biko
  11. When Spirits Rise

CD 2 – Edits, B-Sides and Remixes

  1. Belfast Child (edit)
  2. Mandela Day (edit)
  3. This Is Your Land (edit)
  4. Saturday Girl
  5. Year Of The Dragon
  6. This Is Your Land (DJ Version)
  7. Kick It In (edit)
  8. Waterfront (’89 remix)
  9. Big Sleep (live)
  10. Kick It In (Unauthorised Mix)
  11. Sign O’ The Times (edit)
  12. Let It All Come Down (edit)
  13. Sign O’ The Times
  14. Jerusalem
  15. Sign O’ The Times (C.J. Mackintosh Remix)

93 responses to Jim Kerr talks to SDE about Simple Minds’ Street Fighting Years

  1. Sergej Novoselic says:

    Dear Paul; I got the booklet and read it with great interest. Then I heard the new Verona recording from the new box and was a bit stunned with choice of strange mixes and uneven treble levels troughout the live concert. Did Steven Lipson take any part on this new edition?

  2. fisonic says:

    Your interviews are always the best! You always manage to touch all the questions I had in the back of my mind for years and years. And all that in a very natural flow of conversation.
    I can’t praise you enough, Paul.

  3. Paul says:

    Great interview!
    Reading between the lines unfortunately Simple Minds lost John Giblin and nearly Mel Gaynor because of Trevor Horn. A lot of people have mentioned the difficulties of working with Trevor Horn. But shouldn’t have allowed 2 band members to leave, I would have changed producers or just worked with Lipson. It all changed for Simple Minds after that album!

  4. ALS says:

    For me, this was their last great record.

  5. Reed says:

    Just came back to have a look at the box set track list after reading that great Jim Kerr transcript. Am I understanding correctly that the first two tracks of the Verona disc (Disc 3; Theme For Great Cities ’90, When Spirits Rise) are not live songs?

    • David says:

      Themes 90 is the intro off playback and when spirits rise is live and mixes into Street Fighting years

    • New Gold Nige says:

      I remember the same intros at Wembley Stadium, curtain falling etc and into SFY. 40 minutes in before they played a song we knew!!! Great gig overall tho – plus support from Gun, who I was a big fan of at the time.

  6. Derek Langsford says:

    Great interview and matter of fact responses from Mr. Kerr but it doesn’t make the boxed set anymore attractive for me. It needed a disc of demos or early versions and mostly a 5.1 mix to tempt me as it was the album that caused me to drop Simple Minds from my list of artists whose albums I must have on, or soon after, release day. After Real Life, I gave up completely and have just collected the boxed sets and three compilations. Celebrate (3 CD) may be my last Simple Minds purchase as I cant see any 5.1 mixes for the earlier albums being a priority if they get any deluxe or super deluxe treatment.

  7. Otto says:

    That is one of a f!cking great interview. Very interesting, thank you so much. One slip of the pen maybe?
    …he didn’t want to just to that [anymore].

  8. Chris says:

    Paul – as always, you do great interviews with the artist in question. I’m glad you asked questions that I had seen people putting out there (demos, early stuff). I hope that you’ll get this opportunity – if and when – Duran Duran puts out their SDE of The Wedding Album.

  9. Walter says:

    Great interview Paul.

    I like the Q & A articles from 80’s group members that I grew up with. The Tears for Fears interview from Aug.2019 and now Jim Kerr from Simple Minds Feb.2020 offer a great insight of a particular topic and other randomness. More Q & A would be greatly appreciated from band members or solo performers from re-releases.

    In addition, I also enjoy your daily updates of upcoming or older re-issues. I use your info. to track down new items to add to my collection. Great web site.

  10. Daz says:

    Paul do you think there is any chance of them re releasing there previous box sets like tears for fears are doing?

  11. Ernie says:

    One of my biggest gig regrets is not doing a sickie for the gig near me in that summer of 1989 cos I couldn’t get the day off work. Feck!

  12. GTR says:

    Great interview, Paul. Well done. Jim is a good guy and a bit more honest than many other big names might be. Have always liked him.

    Played the album again last night and I still really enjoy it. Have often thought the sequencing lets it down a little. I’d have ‘Take a Step Back’ as track 2 instead of opening with 2 slow tracks. ‘Let It All Come Down’ is one of the best things they ever did.

    Are there plans for them to do an SDE of ‘Real Life’ and beyond?

  13. Blade Runner says:

    To me they were history after „A Sparkle In The Rain“.

  14. V says:

    Many thanks to you Paul, and of course Jim for the fantastic interview. Definitely was more interesting than work today and I was happy to spend time reading this. SFY was a big album for me during college and an overseas study in London. While I haven’t liked it as much over time as most of their other albums, it really is a pivotal moment in the band’s history. SM, OMD and a-ha really have been the flag bearers for me these past 10 – 15 years and am glad to read anything I can on them.

  15. Marc Pearsall says:

    Paul.
    Lovely interview with Mr. Kerr. It was nice of him to talk with you candidly about the sessions and his memories. As a diehard, I’ll be buying two of these SFY box sets (one for me and one for my cousin as a gift).
    However, one gripe with Mr. Kerr’s attitude about the unreleased tracks. His comment ‘…And even the fact that people know about those tracks, means that someone nicked them and someone put them online!…’ is pure balderdash! None of these songs were nicked nor have they been aired on Youtube, which is why we wanted to hear them!
    Simple Minds’ entire studio and demo session output from 1983-1990 was thoughtfully and professionally catalogued with their permission, by arguably some of the biggest SM authorities. Simple Minds should be thankful that after 43 years, their biggest fans care about their unreleased work with the same passion as Beatles, Metallica, Marillion, Peter Gabriel, Springsteen, etc fans. All that petty gripe aside, the world is a better place because of Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill.

  16. Dan T. says:

    Great interview Paul. Thanks!

    Excited for this one. It’s a real gem for those with an ear for producers like Horn; lots of mood and atmosphere. Not as “radio hits” as other SM material, and I like it for that. It’s a lush record.

    Would love it if Steve Wilson could take a crack at opening it up for surround…

  17. Chris says:

    Simple Minds is my favorite band, they were the first band that was “mine” after growing up with mum’s Beatles, Doors, Dylan then hearing Zeppelin, Floyd, Pistols from the older kids…..the Minds were my own discovery and I laid claim. As luck would have it, I don’t know if any band had seen such a coming and going of people which went against my own instincts regarding “the rules”. What was “the band”? McGee left after Sons and right before the Holy Grail. Forbes? Out after DYFAM and leaving me stunned when seeing their Live Aid set. Then Mel is absent from SFY then turns up for the tour, then Michael. SFY was the book end to what was a volatile decade but I loved everything that came out. I still wonder “who is in this bloody band?” sometimes as it just doesn’t feel right that it’s Jim and Charlie then whoever they nab for a year or two. SFY isn’t one of my favorites now but I remember buying it in Germany the same day as Disintegration and dubbed the former the winner that day. I still find it funny that they disappeared for 3 years then turned up with a song about Northern Ireland.

    • John McCann says:

      Mcgee left to join endgames and gave us the classics first last for everything and we feel good. great band, Owen Paul’s brother wasent he

  18. Chris2 says:

    Great interview, Paul! You should have asked him though if it really was him and Charlie Burchill commenting on the Marillion Box. ;D

  19. Mark Wasiel says:

    Very nice interview Paul. I started to worry when I started reading it because I remember you had asked for questions to ask on Twitter and I thought, “Oh, I had wanted to have Paul ask how Lou Reed was involved.” Turns out I had nothing to worry about! :D

  20. Mark says:

    “Belfast Child” was No.1 thirty-one years ago this week.

  21. Marcdl says:

    Fantastic interview, Paul! Thanks a lot. I Love Love Love SFY, especially the title Track and This Is Your Land, but having bought both the album and Jerusalem EP secondhand on vinyl last year i will only be tempted if these go for much lower prices. Shipping to the Netherlands for the booklet Almost doubles the price, so although very interested in it, will only buy it if i can combine it with another product from the SDEshop.

  22. John O'Brien says:

    I was involved in the Roxy Music deluxe edition of their debut album with the posh title of ‘Archive Consultant’ which sort of means ‘resident Roxy anorak’……or Roxy geek

    There is a disc on there full of stop/start takes of the songs and the band and engineer & producer chatting. I was in Bryan Ferry’s studio when this was being played to him and he wasn’t that keen on releasing it. I said to him “this is gold dust to die hard fans who have bought the original album 10 tines over at least and played it to death for years. These demos/out-takes are now taking us right into the day the album was committed to tape and rediscovering the album all over again” The crucial thing I said to Bryan was ” this sory of stuff is the role of a deluxe edition and certainly an expectation. This material has no other place to be released than a deluxe edition” i got a thumbs up from management at the time as they could see he was now buying into that idea.

    That Roxy material was different to the Street Fighting Years stuff as Jim did say they may return to it and finish it off in the future. Bryan Ferry’s last few albums have some material started off as demos years ago and he is not alone in doing that. I can see why Jim wants to hold on to it but it is also nice when ‘re-buying’ an album that you get something new, something different to what has been released before.

    • Neil says:

      Great comment, John.For me,you have really got to the heart of the disappointment that has been surrounding this release.This boxset offers very little for the die hard fan (who are surely the target audience ? ) and it’s not particularly cheap either for what’s on offer. While respecting all that Jim says in this excellent interview, would it really have been too much trouble to include a bit of “gold dust”to keep us all happy ?

  23. John McCann says:

    Trevor horn has always been a bit funny regarding drummer’s,he was supposed to produce the true album but insisted that they replace John k with another drummer,gary kemp chased him,swain and jolly made the perfect album,one of my faves,and a big shout out to piano player jess Bailly, hes all over it,gary kemp owes that guy a right good drink.
    Maybe macca wanted to play drums on the project that he worked on with horn and got told no,hence the fallout if their was one.

  24. mike says:

    Something a bit odd, Jim is interested enough to do the interview but there clearly isnt much love in his heart for the album. He is interested in promoting the product but kinda says its up to Universal what they are prepared to include – and importantly what they are prepared to pay for. He thinks its good to release the earlier ones but isnt involved in plans or advocating for them. I guess we can draw from it that as ever, artists aren’t particularly keen on being seen as legacy, despite making the touring money off the back of legacy! Rock ‘n’ roll, a funny game.

    The interview rather sums up my interest in the SDE, meh for an album that deserves slightly better.

  25. Eric Generic says:

    Really enjoyed the interview…Jim’s views on the past are more balanced and honest than a lot of his peers. He doesn’t appear to worry about (not) being down with the kids, and doing stuff to be fashionable. He does his thing, and you can take it or leave it.

    And, much as any fan wants to hear every fart in the studio during the creation of an album, Jim’s within his rights to say that it’s up to the artists to decide if it goes public. I don’t see a problem with that at all.

    SFY is one of my Top 5 Simple Minds albums and was a huge deal at the time (at least in my world). I played the crap out of it, and never got bored. It may not quite be a New Godl Dream or a Sparkle In The Rain, but I will (eventually) get this SDE to go next to them on my shelf.

    EG.

  26. Reed says:

    Great interview, thanks so much for posting. I put on SFY vinyl in the background as I read through this transcript, and I was instantly transported in my mind back to 1989 and to all the places I haunted at the time. Magic stuff.

    • John Franklin says:

      “I was instantly transported in my mind back to 1989 and to all the places I haunted at the time.”

      So true. This album, while not my favorite SM album, has a very special place for me because what I was going through in my life at the time. This entire album and its EP’s were the soundtrack to 1989 for me. It started in Feb/Mar when the Ballad EP was released, then the album proper in Spring and then in Nov 89 when I got the Amsterdam EP. When I play these songs, or when they come up on shuffle on my ipod, I am 22/23 again before my life changed irrevocably.

  27. Joe J says:

    ….also Paul…the box set pics on Amazon looks to be a little slimmer than the NGD and SITR boxes…is this correct do you know, or am I just imagining it??

  28. Christian P. says:

    Thanx for the interesting interview! The box is a must and already orderd, even if i can not accept and understand why “Wall of Love” had not been choosen for the Live-CD….

  29. Joe J says:

    Brilliant interview Paul – and really refreshing to see the tough questions being asked that all of us on here wanted answered. I was undecided to purchase this one. But having read Jims honest and understandable views and responses re demos, 5.1 mixes etc, plus the icing on the cake of your booklet, I’ve decided to invest. (They should be paying you commission for what I reckon will be increased box set sales as a result of the booklet!!!).
    By the way, is there any reason why the TFF booklet (which I’ve also ordered) for SFTBC is a bigger format that the actual box set?
    Thanks

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Thank you. I think with the booklets it will be on a case-by-case basis. With the TFF one I licensed that great photo which will look much better BIG, and there’s going to be more content. Even though it won’t fit in the box, it’s going to be good. But yes, I can see myself doing other ‘mini-booklets’ in the future…

  30. negative1 says:

    Hi Paul,

    Great interview as usual. I suspected there would
    be a booklet about it, and ordered it instantly when
    I saw the link.

    Jim, is great in it, and I love the album.

    However, he seems to be disingenious about the answers regarding
    the album, the boxset and the labels involvement.

    Simon Cornwell, has been working on all the previous ones as far as I
    know, and has been pretty transparent about whats been going on with
    them up until this point, as we’ve had no real information about this,
    before the announcement of Street Fighting Years.

    He’s worked closely with the band, and has a site with more information
    than any official Simple Minds has ever had.

    All the information about the Demo’s has come from there, as he’s had
    access to their archive, and the tapes. Sure, as Jim said, a few demos have
    gotten out. But to accuse people (or persons) of stealing them, is just
    pure speculation and paranoia.

    He knows that Simon has had that information posted, and it’s been
    there for ages. The only reason those pages were pulled was after
    people found out about them, and complained.

    Very disappointing if Jim thinks fans of the bands are thieves and
    are freely distributing these tracks, or making money off them.
    Well, no one is. And if they want to keep the demos to themselves, fine.

    It’s not going to stop me from buying this boxset, but this will probably
    be the last for me anyways, as I have no interest in any future ones, or
    unnecessary 5.1 mixes either.

    later
    -1

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      I think you are making a little too much out of what he said. The demos are ‘out there’ if you wish to find them, so if that hasn’t been approved by the band (and it clearly hasn’t) then by definition they have surfaced by nefarious means. Obviously this happens a lot, with loads of artists. I don’t think he was blaming fans.

  31. Paul Taylor says:

    Very interesting interview, captures Jim perfectly!
    I know a few people who had experience of meeting him when he was with Chrissie Hynde. They said he was one of the most pleasant, friendly and genuine people you could ever meet. They never said the same about Chrissie Hynde…….

  32. Chris says:

    Good work. I thoroughly enjoyed this interview. I bought Sparkle in the Rain 5.1 recently and it was a complete bust. Stereo mix was louder, and all the mixes sounded the same with no separation. Awful, so I returned it. Maybe that’s why no 5.1 for Street Fighting Years

    • Chris2 says:

      Hey Chris, there have been faulty blu rays of SITR out there which contained a mono mix instead of the new stereo mix. So maybe you have got one of them. I am not sure though if there was an issue with the 5.1 mixes on them as well. But with my replacement disc there clearly is a difference between new and old stereo mix and the 5.1 mix sounded great to me.
      PS. I have that name Chris2 on here for a while now, so no trolling intended.

  33. Finn Taylor says:

    Brilliant Interview Paul. This is exactly the type of interview that’s missing in music publications these days. I really hope you get to do more.

    Your emails of deals and this site is a blessing.

  34. Dave H says:

    Interesting to hear Jim’s answer regarding a 5.1 surround mix. Wonder if the multi-tracks have been lost in a fire and Universal are keeping it quiet.

    Paul,
    Seeing that the Simple Minds booklet is A6 size, is the Tears for Fears booklet gone to the printers and is it also going to be A6 to fit in the box?

  35. Andy says:

    Hey Paul – I want to order the Simple Mind booklet as your previous ones have been uniformly excellent. However the postage to the USA is more than the item. Do you combine orders as I also bagged those up and coming rereleased Tears for Fears boxes from you?

  36. Thib says:

    Thanks Paul for this great interview and clearing up things about the demos and 5.1 issues !

  37. Gary Hunter says:

    A fantastic read again Paul.

  38. Jim says:

    Great interview Paul, Jim Kerr gives a great insight into that period 1988/89, what I found strange was the album/tour was so successful in Europe yet America did’nt take to it, I just thought after the success of once upon a time this would have continued with street fighting years, any way looking forward to boxset and seeing minds in august with my 2 boys their first gig!!

  39. PAtrick says:

    Great interview as usual. Jim always comes across as very sincere in his interviews. Nice man as a well as everything else. Not one of my fave albums from SM but it has it’s moments for sure.

  40. Adam says:

    So the Verona show on the two CDs is missing 4 songs to be the complete show, right? Wall of Love, Once Upon A Time, Oh Jungleland, and Big Sleep? Those have never been released before in any format? But compared to the Seen The Lights DVD release of the (same?) Verona show, this new box set does offer new audio tracks not on DVD from that show? Soul Crying Out, Book of Brilliant Things, Biko, Sun City? Is the sequencing of songs correct at least on any of them?

  41. Lee Carson says:

    Excellent interview Paul

  42. Christopher Merritt says:

    Great interview – ordered! Love these exclusive printings you do…

  43. Eric says:

    A fascinating interview Paul! It’s without a doubt one one of my favorite albums & those lush atmospheric sounds lend themselves Perfectly to a 5.1 mix so why the record company have’nt done one shows how much they actually don’t appreciate and don’t understand the music! Numpties ! Make that stupid Numpties!! Anyway, I’ve already ordered my copy & despite the gaping flaws in what the label SHOULD have done I am very excited about this arriving on my doorstep!!

  44. Sergej Novoselic says:

    Thank you for this great interview and for getting straight answers of JK, Paul. I bought your booklet, also because of Lipson – I adored his work on live SM recordings at that time, especially his soundscape as well the way bass drum was produced – more like a sound of a heartbeat. In a way, I was waiting for this interviews for 30 years, so thank you for asking him questions I would have asked him myself because I always wanted to know. Kind regards from Croatia/Switzerland! Sergej

  45. Kauwgompie says:

    Ordered the booklet!! Great interview Paul. It gives great insights as to what was going on at the time. Also, thank you for the size of the booklet so it fits in the box. Makes it all so much easier in terms of keeping track of things.
    The Simple Minds should thank you. This is a mediocre album and an even worse reissue without the demo’s and 5.1 mix but now that I ordered the booklet, I have to buy the damn box. So the record company is to blame for the lack of 5.1 mix. As usual, they’re totally out of touch as to what fans want. If you offer a 5.1 mix in all the Simple Minds box sets of their albums, why would you cut corners and not do it for this album? Whatever….

  46. Isaías says:

    I loved the Interview!!

    I’m still waiting for LIFE IN A DAY, REAL TO REAL CACOPHONY, EMPIRES AND DANCE, SONS AND FASCINATION/SISTER FEELINGS CALL deluxe box set.

    What about reissue THE EARLY YEARS which is out of print for decades!!!!

    Jim Kerr should think about it !!!!!!

  47. Julian says:

    Great insight. Good work Paul. I know some people have their doubts about this album, but love it, and does include surely one of the best opening tracks for a SM release.

  48. Chris says:

    Thank You for the interview, it was informative and a good read.

    I’ve also pre-ordered the book.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Many thanks!

    • Col says:

      Great interview! Thanks to you and Jim.
      Ordered the booklet.
      Would have loved the full Verona gig but that would have required another CD.
      This is the thing about Deluxe Editions vs downloads.
      Anyway look forward to listening to it!

  49. Mark Wardle says:

    Great interview Paul – as always – am not a big fan of the band – but really enjoyed reading it – you ask the questions that we’d all ask I think. Good job.

  50. Edu says:

    Great interview, Paul! Congrats!

    And did he say anything about the other songs on the Verona show that werent included in the box? Regards.

  51. David says:

    Great interview.
    Good to know (well sort of) that the band and Universal are considering Empires and Dance, SFC/SaF deluxe editions “at some point”
    2020 = 40 years EaD,
    2021 = 40 years Sons / Sisters….just saying!!

  52. Remon van Aubel (NL) says:

    Thanks for the interview Paul, enjoyed it all the way through. I was at the Maastricht 1989 concert when Jim took that dive from stage which he told during Ghostdancing in the Verona video. Personally, I did like that 1985-1989 period, unlike most other fans. SFY apparently was a difficult album to make, both musically and the stage the band were in at the time. As live band, they matured enormeously during that period so I’m happy that the Verona gig is available now. Demos is always a thingy because bands work so differently and early versions not always make sense for a (later) release.

  53. Sergio Vittorio Nanni says:

    I will be buying the box set. Great interview. I really like Jim Kerr, such a honest, down to earth guy. Read also the liner notes he wrote for the deluxe edition of Sparkle in the rain. He’s a musician, not a rock star. Respect!

  54. Neil Storey says:

    Paul, you might want to revise one thing… rather fancy the word gentile should have been gentle. No?!

    • Michael says:

      I figured they meant genteel but gentle makes more sense. And since Lou came from a Jewish family…which means non-gentile, right?

  55. Gareth Jones says:

    It’s always interesting to hear how an artist feels about looking back. The fans are eager for every demo, remix, surround sound mix etc. when it comes to a box set, but I’d never really considered the fact that the artist may not actually want EVERYTHING put out into the world!

    John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants said in an interview that they didn’t like the way demos now leak onto YouTube etc. and fans comment about it. It will receive the same critique as the finished polished album version. That was clearly never their intention when a demo is recorded, it’s supposed to be a rough sketch of a song. In other words, he doesn’t like the fact that fans can access everything they do these days. He would rather they just hear the final finished product.

    They used to run a Dial-A-Song service where fans would hear a demo down the phone line. Some of the songs went on to become proper studio recordings, some never went beyond the demo stage. But he was quite happy for fans to hear work-in-progress material then, because only a limited number of people would hear it (their number was ALWAYS engaged!) and they wouldn’t get to keep it (unless they wanted to record terrible audio off their phone line!).

    Likewise, I’m sure there are certain deceased artists who would be outraged about their label putting out certain demos and unreleased songs in box sets that they would never want for public consumption if they were still alive today.

  56. DJ Salinger says:

    Excellent interview as per, Paul. Good to know more about the reasons behind the absence of demos, unreleased tracks and 5.1.

    Even better to know that there may be future expanded editions for the earlier albums at some point. Jim’s interview in the latest issue of ‘Classic Pop’ indicates the band are using the ‘Empires & Dance’/’Sons & Fascination’ era as a major reference point for their next LP, due late 2021. I thought the excellent ‘Signal & The Noise’ on ‘WBW’ was reminiscent of that era as well.

  57. Simon Carson says:

    Ordered the booklet Paul, thanks!

  58. Kai says:

    SFY was simply an overproduced and failed attempt to be promoted to the U2-league after the success of The Joshua Tree. That’s the truth. Such attempts ruined the carrers of quite a few bands by producing lame albums between 1987 and 1990. Big Country, The Alarm…you name them. Not mentioning all the U2-clones.

  59. Mike Walker says:

    Great interview as always Paul. Getting straight answers from Jim is not always easy. I saw him do a live Q & A when they toured the last album and he was slippery but I think you nailed him on this. The booklet looks like a Brucie – Bonus and I’ve just ordered.

    Thanks

    Mike

  60. patjoller says:

    Brilliant interview and you asked him the question everyone was dying to ask.
    I’m on the side of the happy fans, can’t wait to get my hands on this and listen to all the content, especially the live one, while reading the booklet.

  61. Alastair says:

    Great work Paul, and a great idea to size the booklet to fit the box. Too bad I have mixed feelings about this release. I really wasn’t up for the full super deluxe, and as I read the interview I was coming to the view that the 2cd version would do me. As always, Jim Kerr was honest about the whole project from the original album to this forthcoming version. Reading it made me regret that Universal were too feart to pony up for a 5.1. JK is clearly open to the idea, and keen about deluxing other albums, so I can still hope it may happen. I’ve ordered your booklet, and since you have produced it to fit the box set, I guess I’ll have to buy the box after all. I’ll wait for a deal though. Hope that won’t affect your royalty Jim!

  62. David Whiting says:

    Thanks for the interview Paul. It was a strange album for me. The singles were great but it felt an era had closed. The world was changing. Both Michael and Derek had left the band and Mel’s role was a bit of a mystery. Sign O’ The Times was very left field and the band I initially saw at Festival Hall in Melbourne in 81 had effectively gone.

    But still, I will be seeing them with OMD In December……

  63. Nuno Bento says:

    Great to have JK on board answering to direct and solid questions, namely regarding the poor execution of the box. I take that the lack of a surround mix is due to the label not wanting to invest money on it and the lack of demos is due to JK not wanting the people to heard demos of this period. That seems to be because of his mixed feelings towards the album, which are very very evident in this interview. Being brutally honest, if he still feels that mixed about it, he should have done the Sons And Fascination Deluxe instead. No point of addressing an album for an expanded edition and doing such a poor job at it.
    JK, I know you’re reading this and look, you’re better than this. Simple Minds have habituated us to high quality releases and high tier boxed sets and this one is so below your standards. At least offer the remaining Verona tracks as downloads or something.

    • Michael McA says:

      …… is he reading this? …… if so ……..

      Please please please do a SDE of Sons and Fascination ……. and thank you for all the magnificent music you’ve produced.

      There has always been something majestic about Simple Minds. U2? – fine until Bonio (not a typo) starts singing and being a prat.

      Jim has never been a prat.

      So many great songs reminding me of so many great times, places and people – however – New Gold Dream? Quite possibly the most glorious of all albums – overwhelming emotional – still today – when I listen to it. Like the sun shines through it. The perfect album for a perfect time in my life (I turned 21 the week it was released). Happy days. Difficult to follow therefore – for me. Understandably. So thank you eternally Jim – and Charlie – for it.

      So much joy your music has given me.

      Oh – and Jim – the Let There Be Love video? – Dead f******g sexy!

  64. Peter Muscutt says:

    Love these interviews, Paul. Not a fan of Simple Minds but found myself reading it all, Jim Kerr sounds very open and honest and happy to discuss things that even weren’t so rosy at the time of the album. You have a very conversational style to the interviews – a great read (as ever!)

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