JK: "On our first 90s album, Real Life, we thought that if the melodies were there, we'd be fine. They weren't there.
Up until then, it was a group thing, but then it was all on Charlie's shoulders. We thoguht
we could sail through this, but it was fragmented. Engines were falling off, leaving only Charlie
and I. At the time, it was going to be tough anyway. For a band of your generation, with one or two exceptions, you're going to get it
in the neck with what's coming next. For us, it was The Stone Roses or Happy Mondays coming over the hill.
At times like that you need to have all your wits about you and be at the top of your game. Ironically, we never saw it that way."
CB: "Real Life was a big selling album, but everyone was talking about slippage. Becasue we weren't selling
quite as much, there was a negative air about it. We were still trying to change sounds, but we overshot the mark at times."
Record Collector Interview
Record Collector #364
- "I felt I'd peaked with [Street Fighting Years]. I got a snifter of where we
wanted to go when we did the Prince track, it was really exciting. I wanted to make music with noises. Anything
went then with the advances in technology. I loved working
on that EP with Steve.
And then I heard what Jim and Charlie were
doing, it was more like Keith and Mick. Maybe they want to go back to old songs, when I wanted to go down
the technological road. It was never discussed, but I felt that it was a battle I didn't even want to fight. I'd rather
take a step back. There was no battle. I thought I'd peaked." - Mick - Street Fighting Years Super Deluxe
- "We'd had so much success, it was the end of a decade, Mick wanted more time with
his family... Ultimately Mick felt he'd covered so much ground, there was nothing left
to achieve. That's great, as a lot of people don't know when to stop." - Charlie, Classic Pop Magazine, March 2020
I recall it being around January/Feb 1990. Although unwilling to admit to myself, I was definitely feeling the pressure.
Mick MacNeil, our friend and band mate for the whole of the previous decade, one who had
brought to so much to the music, had finally decided (not entirely unexpectedly) that he no longer wished to play keyboards with
Simple Minds. Simultaneously, although disconnected to that event, Bruce Findlay
our long time manager, mentor, father figure etc, also felt that he had taken Simple Minds as far as he could. In doing
so we found ourselves genuinely bewildered - suddenly without a manager and our greatest supporter.
They say "it never rains, then it pours". Well I could understand that saying easily, as news of various legal disputes also
started to accumulate. In fact, they were business disputes that in the end mostly came to not that much at all. Nevertheless,
against a backdrop of plenty enough turmoil, they certainly added to whatever worries were in the air that surrounded as we licked
our wounds, while also trying to get on with the next bout of songwriting.
After all our record company were already pushing for the next album what was to become Real Life. Plus, no matter what
happens, what disasters unfold etc, Charlie and I just never seem to blink and therefore
the work goes on always. With pressure. And without pressure. As already stated though, we were feeling the strain. My confidence
had taken a major dent.
Plenty of time was spent searching and reviewing how things could have gone so wayward? How communications had broken down?
How disputes had got out of hand etc?
I certainly could see with hindsight how I could have done things differently. But I could also see how we could all have
improved the situation that led to things growing apart.
Quitting however... well that was never an option!
Recalling those days brings me to Tom Petty. How so you may ask? What the hell had Tom Petty to do
with the turbulence blowing through the heart of Simple Minds back in 1990?
While all that stuff was going on, I was living alone for a couple of months, in a rambling house that overlooked the Atlantic Ocean.
I had one book with me and I read it repeatedly. It is called Bhagavad Gita - the Indian classic - a tale that itself takes place
on a battlefield. (Civilisation in turmoil.)
I also had one album continually on rote. It was Tom Petty's latest, and although full of wonderful songs, the song
that called out most to me was I Won't Back Down.
Given what I felt at that time, with all I was going through, how could it not?
That little song of defiance gave so much to me in fact. It reaffirmed how I was going to react in situations when it felt
that "walls are closing in." And it also gave me an attitude that is written through me to this very day.
Thanks for that Tom Petty. Rest In Peace.
Well, I won't back down
No, I won't back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won't back down
4th October 2017
"By the end of 1989, when it became clear that Mick MacNeil no longer felt like
continuing as keyboard player with Simple Minds, I presumed that we would look to bring in another keyboard player
to work with us on the up-coming writing and recording for what was to become our 'Real Life' album. Who that would be... I
had no idea?"
"All I knew was that the sound of keys/pianos/synthesizer/sequencers etc. were an integral part of our sound and that
was something that needed to be continued. At that point I was also aware that Charlie
had gone to Italy/Switzerland, intending to take a bit of a post-tour break, but also to begin working on musical ideas
that he would then forward to me as the basis for new songs - so long as they might inspire me to write words?"
"A couple of months later a cassette tape including a handful of new ideas composed by Charlie
turned up in the post. I don't know what I was expecting, but I certainly wasn't expecting these new songs to be
so full of fantastic keyboard sounds and melodies? So much so, that I had imagined that Charlie
had already gone ahead and appointed a new keyboard player and had maybe forgotten to tell me? No problem, it's
Charlie who decides that stuff after all."
"At any rate, I needed to find out ASAP, firstly to congratulate the keyboard work done on these 'demo tunes' that
would eventually become known as Real Life,
See The Lights,
Let There Be Love,
Rivers Of Ice and others that to this day
feature in our live set."
"Eventually Charlie called, giving me the opportunity to quiz him on who
the mysterious keyboard player was that had featured on the recordings? "It was me
Jim. I've been working away and getting more confident. I played all the keys
on those recordings."
12th October 2020
"In 1990, along with Stephen Lipson on bass and drum programming,
Charlie and I rented a small basement room in Hilversum, Netherlands.
Suddenly writing as a duo once again, much like we did when we wrote the songs that first established
Simple Minds. Our task was to "not blink and keep rolling the ball uphill" by working on the follow
up album to Street Fighting Years.
Quite a challenge!
As I knew it would. The initial song worked on, (with it's wondrous intro) became the album title - and that
album was released thirty years ago this week.
2nd April 2022
- The album was remastered in 2002 as part of an extensive Virgin campaign.
It was released as a limited edition vinyl replica CD and standard edition CD. This version remains on catalogue.
- "Well they'd lost Mick MacNeil. And so, the three of us, and probably
Heff Moraes was well, just went and decamped to Amserdam and sat in a basement, and came up with an album.
And then we recorded it in LochEarnHead. But there were loads of songs on that I think are really, really
good. I was amazed it didn't do better; not blowing smoke up my own arse, I just throught it was a really good record." - Steve Lipson,
Street Fighting Years by SuperDeluxeEdition.