Our 11 Essential Simple Minds Songs presents some of the best material from a band formed in Glasgow in 1977. Originally known as Johnny and the Self-Abusers, the band was founded by Jim Kerr (vocals) and Charlie Burchill (guitar), along with other members who would leave before the band achieved significant success. Simple Minds gained worldwide popularity in the 1980s with a string of hit singles and albums, making them one of the most significant bands in the new wave and post-punk movements.
Simple Minds is celebrated for its innovative sound, blending elements of post-punk with new wave and synth-pop. Their significance in the music business is underscored by their influence on a wide range of artists across various genres and their ability to evolve their sound over decades. The band has been recognized with numerous awards and accolades, including the Ivor Novello Award in 1992 for Outstanding Contribution to British Music.
The band released their first single, “Life in a Day,” in 1979, and the title track of their debut album was released the same year. Over the years, Simple Minds has released a substantial discography, including over 20 full-length studio albums, several EPs, live albums, and compilations, showcasing their prolific nature and ability to adapt to changing musical landscapes.
Simple Minds drew inspiration from various artists, including David Bowie, Roxy Music, and Kraftwerk, incorporating these influences into their distinctive sound. Simple Minds has inspired many bands and artists across different genres.
Here now are 11 essential songs by Simple Minds.
# 11 – Waterfront
This 1983 single was the first released from the album Sparkle the Rain. “Waterfront” by Simple Minds is not just a song but a significant cultural artifact that encapsulates the essence of the 1980s rock scene. Released as the lead single from their sixth studio album, “Sparkle in the Rain” in 1983, the track stands out for its distinctive bass line, which intriguingly consists of a single note (D) played throughout, lending the song a hypnotic quality that was both innovative and emblematic of the era’s music experimentation.
The unique structure of “Waterfront,” particularly the difference between the 7-inch vinyl single version and CD versions, showcases the band’s willingness to explore and vary their sound. The vinyl version’s absence of the repetitive bass line that characterizes the song’s main body, replaced with a simple drumstick count-in, highlights the band’s experimental approach to music production and collaboration with producer Steve Lillywhite and engineer Howard Gray.
The song’s success across various international charts, including a two-week stint at the top of the New Zealand Singles Chart and significant placements in the UK, Sweden, Australia, and Ireland, underscores its global appeal and the universal resonance of its sound.
# 10 – She’s a River
# 9 – Let There Be Love
“Let There Be Love” is one of our favorite songs released by Simple Minds. The standout track emerged during the creative sessions at Wisseloord Studios between November and December 1989. Initially dubbed “Anthem” in its demo form, the song marked a significant moment in the band’s evolution, particularly after the departure of keyboardist Michael MacNeil. Its first broadcast on national radio in February 1991 reassured fans and critics alike that Simple Minds retained their core musical essence, even in the face of lineup changes.
The song seamlessly blends the atmospheric, Celtic-influenced sounds that characterized their previous album, “Street Fighting Years,” with contemporary drum patterns and rhythms, indicating a smooth transition into the new decade while maintaining the band’s distinct sonic identity. The incorporation of Celtic-sounding melodic pipes in “Let There Be Love” connects it to the band’s Scottish roots, while modern production techniques ensured its relevance in the early ’90s music scene.
Producer Stephen Lipson added a layer of sophistication to the track, introducing trills and synth swoops that lent a modern edge to the song. These elements, borrowed from Grace Jones’ iconic “Slave to the Rhythm,” infused “Let There Be Love” with a unique sound texture, blending traditional motifs with contemporary electronic music elements.
Upon its release on March 11, 1991, “Let There Be Love” received international acclaim, charting in the top 10 across several countries and securing the number one spot in Italy.
# 8 – Love Song
In the number eight spot on our Simple Minds songs list is the most loved Simple Minds’ song entitled, “Love Song.” “Love Song” was released as the seventh single by the band in August 1981, ahead of the album “Sons and Fascination.” Accompanied by an instrumental B-side, “This Earth That You Walk Upon,” the single showcased a significant evolution in the band’s sound, moving from their early experimental work to a more accessible electronic rock style. The song, an emblematic ode to the transatlantic relationship between Europe and America, captures the enduring connection between the two continents through its lyrical themes and pulsating rhythm.
Recorded in July 1981 and debuted live on the band’s Canada/US tour earlier that year, “Love Song” marked Simple Minds’ transition towards a sound that would define their commercial success in the subsequent years. Despite its initial release only peaking at #47 in the UK, the track found tremendous success internationally, particularly in Sweden and Australia, where it reached the Top 20.
The accompanying music video, set in a nightclub with Jim Kerr portraying a DJ, adds a narrative layer to the song, blending performance with storytelling. This visual representation further cemented the song’s place in the band’s legacy, highlighting their musical and visually creative versatility.
In a testament to its enduring appeal, a remixed version of “Love Song” was released in 1992 to promote the “Glittering Prize 81/92” compilation, achieving a Top 10 position in the UK and introducing the track to a new generation of listeners. This resurgence underscored the timeless quality of Simple Minds’ music
# 7 – Someone Somewhere in Summertime
“Someone Somewhere In Summertime” was released as the third single from their critically acclaimed album “New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84)” in 1982. Despite its modest peak at no. 36 in the UK Singles Chart, the track has endured as a live favorite and remains one of the most cherished tracks from the album, highlighting its lasting appeal beyond initial chart performance.
The song’s live popularity and critical acclaim underline its special place within Simple Minds’ repertoire. Its reception in Ireland, where it reached number 19, further attests to its broader appeal across the British Isles. Featuring Mel Gaynor on drums, with Kenny Hyslop and Mike Ogletree also contributing as session drummers for the album, “Someone Somewhere In Summertime” benefits from a rich percussive backdrop that complements its atmospheric sound.
Musically, “Someone Somewhere In Summertime” is distinguished by its introspective and dreamy atmosphere, a departure from the more upbeat new wave sound of its predecessors. Described by critics as evoking a yearning nature, the track’s gentle melody and reflective lyrics capture a sense of nostalgia and longing, effectively conjuring the blissful, idyllic scenes its title suggests.
Jim Kerr’s reflection on the song in a 2008 interview, where he recognized it as a marker of the band’s maturity and songwriting craft, speaks to the significance of “Someone Somewhere In Summertime” in Simple Minds’ development as artists
# 6 – Glittering Prize
We love the bass line on this one. You can hear the influence of Motown’s James Jamerson on this hip track. “Glittering Prize” was released on August 16 1982 as the second single from their acclaimed fifth studio album, New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). The track achieved commercial success, reaching number 16 in the UK charts. It found even greater popularity abroad, particularly in Australia, New Zealand, and Norway, where it secured positions within the top 10. The song’s success contributed to the band’s growing international profile in the early 1980s.
The music video for “Glittering Prize” presents a visually engaging narrative featuring the band members in a golden room, contrasted with scenes set in a dark, museum-like space watched over by a napping security guard. The storyline involves a young woman, adorned in gold, who brings the band members to life from hanging portraits and a sarcophagus, culminating in their escape together. The video’s creative direction added a layer of intrigue and artistry to the song’s reception.
In 1992, Simple Minds released a compilation album titled “Glittering Prize 81/92,” named after this hit single
# 5 – Promised You A Miracle
“Promised You a Miracle,” was released in April 1982 as the first single from their fifth studio album New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84). It was the band’s first chart hit in the UK, peaking at #13 and remaining in the charts for 11 weeks. This success was a notable achievement for Simple Minds, as their previous singles had not breached the Top 40 in the UK, despite some regional success in Scotland.
The song’s recording featured Kenny Hyslop as the studio session drummer, distinguishing it as the only track on the album with his contribution. The rest of the album saw Mike Ogletree and Mel Gaynor behind the drum kit. “Promised You a Miracle” catalyzed a period of sustained commercial success for Simple Minds, leading to a series of 21 original UK hit singles up to 1998’s “Glitterball” from the album “Neapolis.”
The track’s music video, directed by Steve Barron, showcased the band members against a backdrop of colorful television imagery, adding a visual dimension to its dance-driven sound. A live version was later released, featuring a simulated performance filmed in London’s east end, under the direction of John Scarlett-Davis.
Musically, “Promised You a Miracle” is characterized by its danceable beat, driven by Mick MacNeil’s keyboards and Charlie Burchill’s guitar work. Inspired by a brass riff from a funk band recording, the band crafted a song that melded a funky bass line with bright melodies and splashy keyboard hooks, signaling a transition towards more radio-friendly pop sounds.
The single’s release coincided with the “Sons and Fascination Tour,” and due to the lack of new material at the time, “Theme for Great Cities” was chosen as the B-side. The 12″ release included an instrumental remix of “Seeing Out the Angel.”
Critically, “Promised You a Miracle” has been lauded as one of Simple Minds’ strongest songs, praised for its optimistic tone and intricate rhythmic patterns. Chart-wise, the song enjoyed international success, reaching the top 10 in Australia and New Zealand, and charting in several European countries. A re-release in 1987 saw the song re-enter charts in the UK, Ireland, France, and the Netherlands, further solidifying its enduring appeal.
# 4 – All The Things She Said
# 3 – Don’t You (Forget About Me)
Well you know this one! “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” is one of the most iconic songs of the big 80s. The song was released in 1985. It was penned by producer Keith Forsey and guitarist Steve Schiff and initially intended for the soundtrack of the John Hughes film The Breakfast Club. Despite the band’s initial reluctance to record a song they hadn’t written themselves, they were eventually persuaded, leading to the track becoming a significant hit and an anthem of the 1980s.
The song’s inspiration came from a particular scene in “The Breakfast Club,” reflecting a bond between two contrasting characters, which Forsey and Schiff encapsulated in the song’s theme of enduring connection despite societal roles. Simple Minds’ frontman Jim Kerr and guitarist Charlie Burchill ultimately brought the song to life, with Kerr adding the memorable “hey hey hey” intro and Burchill intensifying the song’s energy with powerful chords, transforming it into a stadium-sized anthem.
The music video, filmed at Knebworth House and directed by Daniel Kleinman, added a visual narrative to the song, featuring symbolic imagery and scenes from “The Breakfast Club.” The video’s popularity has endured, amassing significant views on platforms like YouTube.
Upon its release, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” soared to the top of the charts, reaching No. 1 in the United States and Canada, and achieving top ten status in various countries, including the UK. The song’s legacy has been cemented over the years, becoming not just a highlight of Simple Minds’ discography but also a cultural touchstone of the 1980s, celebrated for its nostalgic resonance and enduring popularity in both music and film.
# 2 – Alive And Kicking
“Alive and Kicking,” a standout track by Scottish rock band Simple Minds, served as the lead single for their seventh studio album, “Once Upon a Time.” Released in the wake of their previous non-album single, “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” “Alive and Kicking” continued the band’s momentum in the music charts, particularly in the United States where it secured the number three spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and achieved the top position on the Top Rock Tracks chart. The song also enjoyed success in Canada, reaching number four.
In Europe, “Alive and Kicking” demonstrated Simple Minds’ broad appeal, topping the Italian charts and reaching the number two spot in Belgium, Ireland, and the Netherlands. The UK also embraced the song, with it peaking at number seven on the UK Singles Chart. A 1992 re-release of the song, paired as a double A-side with “Love Song” to promote the compilation album “Glittering Prize 81/92,” saw “Alive and Kicking” ascend to a new peak of number six in the UK.
The collaboration with music producer Jimmy Iovine played a pivotal role in shaping the sound of songs on the Once Upon a Time album, especially the lead single “Alive And Kicking.” Iovine, known for his work with artists like Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Nicks, brought an aggressive guitar-based sound to the album, complementing Simple Minds’ existing style. His influence was particularly evident in the energetic vocal performance he encouraged from lead singer Jim Kerr.
# 1 – Belfast Child
We close out our Simple Minds songs list with their most successful single outside of the United States. This was a powerful piece of music that resonated deeply across the globe. “Belfast Child” was released on February 6, 1989, as the lead track on the “Ballad of the Streets” EP. The song incorporates the melody of the Irish folk song “She Moved Through the Fair,” while its lyrics, penned by the band, reflect on the turmoil in Northern Ireland, particularly inspired by the tragic Enniskillen bombing in 1987.
Jim Kerr, the band’s lead vocalist, articulated the song’s intent as an attempt to empathize with those who lost loved ones in the conflict, posing questions about the pervasive “madness, the sadness, and the emptiness” rather than claiming to offer solutions. This thoughtful approach and the haunting melody contributed to the song’s profound impact. The song’s music video, shot in black and white, further emphasized the narrative of strife and deprivation in Belfast, adding a visual dimension to its poignant message.
The B-side of the single, “Mandela Day,” along with a cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Biko,” underscored the band’s engagement with political themes, offering a broader context for the EP’s message of peace and reconciliation. Both tracks and “Belfast Child” were later included in the band’s “Street Fighting Years” album.
In 1989, Simple Minds’ “Belfast Child” saw significant success across various international charts. It reached the top position in Europe (Eurochart Hot 100), Ireland (IRMA), and both the Netherlands (Dutch Top 40 and Single Top 100), underscoring its widespread appeal. The song also performed exceptionally well in Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders), Greece, and Italy (Musica e dischi), where it secured the second spot. It achieved a commendable third place in Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade) and West Germany (Official German Charts).
The track found substantial success in the English-speaking world as well, notably peaking at number one in the UK Singles Chart (OCC). In Australia (ARIA) and Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40), it reached the 12th position, while in Sweden (Sverigetopplistan), it came close with an 11th place finish. “Belfast Child” also resonated with audiences in New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ), Norway (VG-lista), and Spain (AFYVE), where it landed within the top 10, specifically at the eighth and ninth positions, respectively. In France (SNEP), the song achieved a top 20 position, peaking at number 20 and rounding off its impressive global chart performance.