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the best of: sleeve notes

The Best Of album
I've never kept a diary. Never felt the need. But as I glance down the track list of this album each song provides a date stamp of my life during the past 20 years.

Life In A Day was on the home taped C90 cassette handed to me by a youthful Jim Kerr in a Glasgow Bar in 1978. Those pained staccato vocals had a profound effect.

Two years later, I Travel was the perfect postcard from a band discovering life and culture outside their own city boundary. Decadence and pleasure towns indeed.

Their Top Of The Pops debut with Promised You A Miracle in 1982 was another memorable moment.

To a fan, it seemed final vindication that this nervy, edgy rock was more than just a cult thing.

Now, as I listen to each song on this compilation, they still spark off vivid pictures.

Waterfront... that was the pulse beat intro I first heard at Pheonix Park in Dublin in 1984.

Don't You (Forget About Me)... that was phoning mates at midnight in 1985 to tell them it had hit number 1 in America.

Mandela Day... I don't think I'll ever forget watching a jubilant Nelson Mandela wave from a balcony - high above Wembley Stadium in 1990 - before the group went on stage to perform the song.

I'm not alone in this. For all Simple Minds fans, these songs will provide a timeline of personal memories.

My first exposure to the writing talent of Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill came at Satelite City, a decaying Glasgow dancehall in 1978.

Simple Minds played their first ever gig on a bill of reggae acts and punk rock bands. The punks didn't like them. But there was something about them.

Kerr's self conscious on stage personna immediately gripped me. So did his eerie stare... the priest-style frock coat.

Burchill hunched over a flying-V guitar. The metallic riffs he squeezed out of it set him aside too.

The band were driven by the energy and attitude of punk. They were much closer to Bowie in Berlin... than the Pistols in Shepherd's Bush.

I reviewed the band's gigs. Played their records on my radio show. Interviewed them for my newspaper column.

At times, it was an uphill struggle to defend them against cynical industry doubters and unimpressed record buyers.

Remember, this was Glasgow twenty years ago. These European sons could almost have been beamed down from another planet.

Slowly, the songs began to hit their targets. Real To Real Cacophony and Sons And Fascination - were clear indication that melody and experimentation could slot together.

Then in the 1980s, Simple Minds' progress moved up a gear.

The trio of outstanding albums - New Gold Dream (81,82,83,84), Sparkle In The Rain and Once Upon A Time - cemented their reputation in global terms.

Of course, with success everything gets bigger... from the lighting rig to the dressing room rider.

The group's act had become a stadium show. Their records topped the charts and fans flocked to see them.

In some misguided quarters, palying to audiences of 50,000 each night was suddenly uncool and deemed a sell out.

I never believed that. It's easy to write an anthem which can reach thousands of people in a soccer field.

But Kerr and Burchill did it with songs - Alive And Kicking to name one - which could still stir emotions in a small theatre or club.

No amount of breast beating can diguise a shit song.

In 1989, the group hit No. 1 in the UK with Belfast Child. How's that for playing safe? Top of the pops with a folk song!

I've watched Simple Minds grow and develop as a group. The story doesn't end here.

Kerr and Burchill may be older and wiser - but the hunger and fire remains.

The final track on this album in 1981's Theme For Great Cities, interpreted by Raven Maize. The list of dance acts sampling or remixing their seminal work grows every day. It's a gas to hear these songs revisited.

The group's influences can be heard on scores of acts - both old and new. You know who they are.

It's fitting that a music timeline which began with The Velvet Underground and Peter Gabriel-era Genesis - moved through Roxy Music and Bowie - and swerved around Kraftwerk and Patti Smith - should have a place for Simple Minds.

There are 32 songs on this album. Date stamps of an era. As one generation remembers... a new generation discovers. Enjoy!

Billy Sloan