Simple Minds (viz. Jim Kerr – vocals/Charlie Burchill – guitar/Michael MacNeil – piano, synthesizer/Mel Gaynor – drums, vocals/John Giblin – bass) formed in 1977 in the wake of punk & would establish themselves in the UK as a prominent art-rock outfit, highly influenced by David Bowie (their name came was lifted from “Jean Genie”) & Roxy Music.
Initially focused on a more synth-driven dance-rock approach for the first five albums, the band would make a major shift in direction in 1984 to a bigger stadium rock sound with the assistance of producer Steve Lillywhite on Sparkle in the Rain. The joke at the time was that Simple Minds had traded places with U2, as the Irish band seemed to have adopted a more arty dance-rock style with The Unforgettable Fire, released in that year as well.
Although already successful in UK and Europe, the band had also now become popular in the US, mainly due to the Keith Forsey-penned “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” which appeared on The Breakfast Club soundtrack and had become a No.1 hit there.
When Once Upon a Time was released, the band refused to include the hit & instead insisted on pushing their own compositions. The result was three Top 20 hits in “Alive and Kicking”,”Sanctify Yourself”, and “Ghost Dancing” – Simple Minds had conquered the US on their own terms!
30 years on, these songs still resonate for the heartfelt lyrics, the big guitars and drums and the soulful uplifting vibe (the inclusion of singer Robin Clark, being a masterstroke). It’s hard not to moved by the infectious energy of Once Upon a Time, which cemented Simple Minds’ place in the rock pantheon.