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Some Sweet Day 2020: Part Two

Audio: Wall Of Love

TD: Strife and some of these Troubling things - The Troubles if I may be so bold - is what a lot of the writing into Street Fighting Years was about. I'd say probably - if there was a percentage - 60%. Because I keep reading about this record. And Jim, I don't know why, a record - especially in this country - that didn't get as big and popular as your previous effort, Once Upon A Time, continues to be the one record everybody asks me about. I chalk it up to the fact that if you look in the original CD - only two songs were not included, somehow, in the single releases. I don't know if you ever thought about that. Between The Ballad Of The Streets EP, which was quite prominently the flag bearer of this record, only Wall Of Love and Take A Step Back kind of became album-only tracks. Because everything else was on a single - somehow, somewhere - so the exposure level was different than the records in the past. I remember the Themes Volumes had come out towards the end of this album campaign. And looking back at that and going 'In all the political strife that we have going on right now, this record comes out as a box-set and you're having to re-examine it.' Is it not a little frightening that we're in such political craziness right now? And this record is coming out side-by-side.

JK: Yeah, certainly I’ve had some thoughts about that recently. Looking at events and seeing how people are calling out for change in their different ways. And also the political backgrounds of so many countries just now - it's so polarized. And in some ways, we [that is] Simple Minds, or we in Scotland in the UK, were feeling that. In our country at the time of course, in the same way. Margaret Thatcher was our Prime Minister, and not many in the music industry was a fan of Margaret Thatcher. To be fair to her, the world was changing and a lot of the industrial industries - the older industries, the same you had in the States - they were on their knees. Because the same industries could be much more successful in different parts of the world and basically a lot of people were being left behind - a lot of communities were being left behind - and there wasn't much sympathy or empathy coming from the top. And, so, we had that polarity here, back then. Well, if we went through some of the songs on Street Fighting Years, a song like Soul Crying Out, it's probably not the most obvious song to talk about, but you and I mentioned it earlier - if it's about anything it's about empathy or lack of empathy or how is it possible not to feel? Or to disregard feelings. So that was coming out of some places near us. Steel industries. And overnight, whole communities were told "Hey. Tough luck. We're moving on." And as a writer, then, for me, I suppose at some point you would want to try... let's call it 'The Big Themes.' Work with the Big Themes. And the themes of our day then. And it was a different world, talking about the backdrop in the UK then. We're also talking about a world where the Berlin Wall still existed - you still had that Cold War thing.

JK: But by this time we’d travelled a bit. The idea of human rights meant something. When you travel - depending on who you are, depending what your interests are - your eyes get opened to things that maybe you hadn't thought about in your own neighbourhood. You realise - in my case you realise - that wherever you travel in the world, basically people are the same. Cultures may be changed. But, basically, the fundamental things that are important to people are the same and I think, round about Street Fighting Years, those were the themes that I wanted to mess with. And I was influenced as well, the great mentors: Peter Gabriel and Bruce Springsteen, and going way back, Bob Dylan, Steve Van Zandt [and] Stevie Wonder. Prince when he did Sign O' The Times where he could take a bit of social commentary and just make this amazingly, almost perfect, piece of pop with it. That you could dance to as well. It didn't have to be all furrowed brow - but it had to exude the zeitgeist. And I thought 'Ah! To write songs of that nature would be...' - well that was the sort of thing that interested me. And I guess as a lyric writer, when things interest you that much, something starts to grow out of the seeds of your enthusiasm.

Audio: Soul Crying Out

Jim and Todd Richards
Septemeber 2020

The discovery of this promotional tape for Alive And Kicking reveals the distribution of tracks across its various formats. It shows how sparcely tracks were picked and selected. And also that Virgin had plans for a 7" promo for the single.

There's also the question of those remixes which turned up on the Once Upon A Time Super Deluxe. Where did they come from?

And the recent revelation that Zbigniew Rybczynski's original plan for the video was to put the band on a large platform, attach multiple large balloons, and float Simple Minds high above New York whilst shooting the film from helicopters.

With all this new information, it seemed fitting to rewrite the history of the Alive And Kicking single.

I'm aware of the irony of rewriting sections of this website when other parts have never been completed. So, with that in mind, Let There Be Love.

A couple of new facts for you: Ghostider was being pencilled in as a possible bonus song on the single and Steve Lipson attempted a 12" mix of it; and the two versions of the video were officially called the Narrative Cut and the Performance Cut. (I'll deal with those at a later date).

One of the questioned early concerts was the Arnhem on the 20th March 1980 as other lists had Simple Minds playing Tilbourg the same day. However, a concert poster for Arnhem, which was recently set to me by Peter, now confirms that date.

Stokvishal, Arnhem, The Netherlands
March 20th, 1980
"I saw one incorrect tour date of Simple Minds. My memory is at times spot on. I knew for sure that the date in the Stokvishal was at the 20th of March 1980. 20 is my fave number and Simple Minds blew me of my feet that day." - Coen van Hall

Thanks to Peter Noot for the scan.

De Harmonie, Tilbourg, The Netherlands
March 20th, 1980
The date of this gig is now questionable. See above.

The majority of the rescheduled concerts for 2021 have now pushed in 2022. Unfortunately the Australian Tour with OMD has been now cancelled by the promoter. "Roundhouse Entertainment and Frontier Touring regret to advise that due to ongoing international travel restrictions and uncertainty surrounding national border closures because of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, they have taken the decision to cancel the Simple Minds '40 Years Of Hits Tour' in Australia and New Zealand, originally re-scheduled for December 2021."

All tickets will be refunded.

Although there was no Simple Minds Marathon in 2020, Todd Richards did catch up with Jim at the end of the summer, and the interview was broadcast on The Sting in September.

This is the first part of the interview where Jim and Todd talked about touring and the gradual close-down and postponement of the 40 Years Of Hits tour as the Covid 19 pandemic shut down the world.

Some Sweet Day 2020: Part One

Audio: When Spirits Rise

TR: It's 88.3 FM The Sting, and a great 'good day' to you in 'the pause' - as I keep calling it, that we're all going through right now with COVID 19 and the crazy changes in there. I'm painting a wide brush because so far it's already been a fourth of the year and changing everything all the way into 2021. Earlier this year, one of my favourite bands out there (a lot of people know this already from the amount of work I've done on the Marathon Series for Simple Minds) was releasing a box-set from the 1989 album Street Fighting Years, which over the last 30 years has been an education in, not only social history, but also archival understanding of how a band puts a record together almost 180 degrees way from what they've just done. And that being said, I said to myself, I would really love to talk to Jim sometime this year, perhaps we'll do a Marathon. And then, of course, everything changed almost on a dime, and the plans the band had for a tour have been put on hold, and the constant updates on the news is when everything's being rescheduled into 2021. So you're faced with the idea of not doing any activity or doing activity remotely and changing the whole schedule of your life I guess. Which is what we're all doing including some of our musician friends. All the way over from Scotland, here's Jim Kerr.
TR: Jim, it's a pleasure to talk with you once again and I'm glad you're doing well.
JK: A pleasure. Thank you very much Todd. You're a great champion of our band. You always have been and thanks for continuing to be so. We all need [to be] encouraged and it's greatly appreciated all the support you've given to us over these years. I'm delighted to talk to you. [Laughs] If I seem a little bit slower than normal it's only because, as you were saying, we've all had to adjust in the last three or so months, and where I'm talking to you from now is my place in the countryside in Scotland. I've been here alone for the three months. I was talking to my partner who's in Italy at the moment and she said to me "How are you doing?" And I said "I'm getting a little... I'm starting to talk to the squirrels and the deer and stuff" and she said "Well, there's no problem with that." And I said "Yeah, but they're starting to talk back." [Laughs] That's how it seems to me. So I might be a little ponderous here. Usually when you go on tour you do your promo, or your interviews, and it takes you a week to get slick so I don't think I'm going to be slick today Todd, but I'll do my best.
TR: I do appreciate it. And you've never made it easy to champion you Jim. It's always work and I love the work. It's good to be at the grindstone. [Laughs]
JK: Good [Laughs]

TR: Just launch-padding off that, I was just talking to some of my friends who also attended the 2018 show you did here at the former Rocksino, it's now changed names, and what earthshattering night that was, it was simply amazing.
JK: We had a blast. We really did.
TR: I was running around, just looking at all the faces of everybody to see you again and I don't think they realised how good the current band really is. And would have been before they saw them. And that must've been really hard because you guys had just launched your 40th Year Hits Tour, kind of including Street Fighting Years, because of the box-set and everything. Can I call it a false start? Did you get deep enough into into the shows, so it didn't feel like a one-off? You were back onto that treadmill and then, suddenly, you had to stop.
JK: It really was going very well. We had worked a lot in advance because we had a new keyboard player. And bringing someone in new - some people say 'Well a band like you, you've down thousands of gigs. Why do you need to rehearse so much before a tour?' But we always change arrangements. We always bring songs in we haven't played for a long time. And, of course, having a new keyboard player in the line-up. We had to go through it all. She's brilliant anyway. So, we'd worked really hard in advance and we were really looking forward to this year - by this time we would've announced dates in North America. And a lot of people who appreciate Simple Minds were jonesing for. We were up and running and really getting the bit between our teeth. And we were two weeks in. We couldn't see it coming at Christmas or New Year but as the tour was starting, we were beginning to think, when is this thing going to grind to a halt? And it was about two weeks in. And when it did, it was very disappointing nonetheless. But listen, that's the way it is, and there are much more serious issues there than us and our desire to get up and play and hopefully, sooner rather than later, we will be back out. Of course, all the dates that we had planned, and are now postponed, we will get our chance to get back to the States next year. Everything going well - in terms of live music coming back.
JK: But just picking up from what you were saying about the gig in Cleveland. I don't know how many gigs we did on that tour but I do remember it and it was a great night. And also, as you well know, I've got a sense of family in Cleveland and we always want to be as great as we can be but I really wanted it to be great. It had been a long time and we couldn't have asked for things to go better than they did.
TR: There are a lot of people who would agree with you and still talk to me about it. I don't want to say I was running around going 'Told you so' but it felt a little like that. [Laughs]
JK: You'll recall we did two sets. And there was an intermission in between. And I remember half-way through the first set it was already pandemonium. And I was thinking 'How are we going to sustain this?' People were just having a great time. And I have this image of your part of the world and how music came out of there, and the way people embraced music long before I got the chance to visit. You know that people appreciate a good live act - or a great live act - and you know they can sense when people are giving and it becomes a two-way thing. Cleveland's one of those places.

TR: Taking away from that energy, you're ramping up for this last tour, two weeks in you have to stop. And even through the website I saw you were kind of saying 'OK. We're going to wait and see about these shows.' And I was like 'How can they do that?' How can you go home? Did you really have everything in stasis? The trucks were parked somewhere? Maybe we'll go next week? If we don't go in three weeks, we're not going? That must've been just tedious as it all got out.
JK: We've got great people who work for us: Management, agent and it was almost like as if you were caught between 'Maybe things will change in five or six weeks' as well as a voice saying 'Listen. You better book these dates for a year from now as this thing's not going away.' And the people who sort those things out for us were jumping in in between. There was wishful thinking and then there was the daily reality. And, of course, the other thing was, we weren't the only ones. There was a gazillion live acts out there and they're all thinking the same thing. So there was a race on as well to try and gaze into the future and 'So when are we going to book dates then?' because it's not as easy as one would think. There's availability of venues, there's availability of musicians, there's availability of crew and then all the other weird stuff: insurance and promoters' issues - all these real things. A lot of boxes to tick there in terms of like trying to come up with a Plan B. Whoever you spoke to, half the crew or half the band would be in denial, you know 'We'll get to Germany and it'll be fine.' Border's closed in Germany. 'We'll get to Italy and it'll be good.' Border's closed in Italy.
JK: That's a weird thing. Never in my life - well this is all weird - never in any of our lives have we seen this. But when I first started hearing 'Borders closing' it was like 'What is this?' Up until then people were like 'It's a flu thing. It's a weird flu. It's not as bad as they say.' Blah, blah, blah. Then 'borders closing.' And that was like: Wow! Hang on a second. We're not used to this. And that's when every day you'd wake up and think 'Is this a dream?' But no, it's not a dream unfortunately.

TR: You said that so well. I'm having flashbacks to another musician you probably know, Bruce Cockburn, describing 9-11 when the borders closed from Canada to America. And just the way you said that, I'm in this right again, here we are just so many years later. In New York, just sharing with you, when I was starting this and this was just shutting down, I'm following the tour, looking forward to getting the box-set, and I thought I was going to buy it in New York like a keepsake from the trip, and I start hearing these things and things are shifting and people are starting to raise doubt and I said "About the band. If they can get around the whole Ariana Grande craziness that occurred" - and I'm trying to make it not as awful as it was - but it was awful - and the way you reacted with your team, and the band, on stage, I thought 'They can handle this.' This is not going to be a grind to the finish line, crossing the line on your knees, it's going to be 'No. We'll dignify things and keep things safe and I applaud you and your team because it just goes to show how professional everybody is the face of a void of whatever you call this.
JK: Yeah, it is. It sounds like a hackneyed old thing: 'The show must go on.' But it really does. And this time it couldn't. There was a certain point where we just couldn't. This is not only what we've done for all of our grown-up lives, it's also kind of how we see the world. It's how we relate to the world. It's tied up with who we are. And also there is the old school obligation, you know, this is show business! The show must go on! I've never heard crew, I've never heard anyone go 'I hope it doesn't go on tonight. I could do with a night off.' It just doesn't happen. And so there's always - it's amazing the journeys we've made when I look back and I think of things - and it's usually sad things - that could or would put a show in jeopardy. Sometimes it's a weather thing - and that's a whole other thing. But it is true - you know, playing in Europe not so far after that horrible event at the Bataclan and having to go on stage and talk to an audience about that the next night - a club we had played not so long before. Things like that catch you out - like the events in Manchester that you were saying. So we've played through injuries, we've played through deaths in the family, it just goes on. It's how we function, but this time it was different.

Audio: Wall Of Love

Jim and Todd Richards
Septemeber 2020

Looking back now I remember that only a few days earlier I had told the New York Times: "Simple Minds never cancel. We work with a lot of bright people and I'm certain we'll find a way around this thing. The tour will definitely go on."

Despite the heartbreaking images already coming out of Italy, I was evidently in denial by saying so. And with no clue as to what might happen next from country to country, I was equally out of my depth.

Best to stay quiet sometimes, I guess?

Nevertheless, a mere ten shows into a planned ten month tour, our worst fears materialised as international restrictions kicked-in all around. Meaning that the only journey we would be making after our show that night in Copenhagen, would be taking us back home. Game over. Tour postponed!

Just as I was getting used to telling myself that after more than 40 years of touring, I had most likely already experienced all that there was? I concluded that this was something none of us were prepared for. Shops closed? Borders shutting in Scandinavia? Hotels with padlocked doors? Compulsory masks? Social distancing? Washing hands continually? Whole cities had unbelievably emptied out before our eyes?

Film director David Lynch might have been able to conjure up such a vision prior for the purposes of entertainment? But this was no movie. This was 'Real Life Baby.'

Finally arriving back in Glasgow, late evening, one day later. I had asked the 'masked driver' who had picked me up at the deserted airport to stop at the nearest supermarket. I wanted to buy some fruit. "I'm telling you Jim. There will be f*ck all left. The shelves are empty. People are panic buying. It's insane. You're a veggie though? There might be some celery left? This is Glesga' and naebody really eats that crap. Apart from you, if you are lucky enough to find some that is?"

Not only had he made me smile, he was right. The shelves were almost empty. As for fresh produce? A whole rack of limp looking celery was indeed about all that remained in Sainsbury's. So I bought some.

And I also bought an already opened pack of lentils, the very last one at that.

(A lifetime ago, staying for a few months in a damp Parisienne flat, and with little money between three of us. I had discovered that good old lentils were always cheap. As a result I had learned to make a mean daal with very few ingredients.) In any case, looking around the store that night in Glasgow March 2020, I could not help but flashback to the mostly 'threadbare' shops I'd visited in 'Communist bloc Eastern Germany' back in the late 70's.

Again I thought WTF! A dream? Or is this real life?

Home at last, I went to bed immediately. And as soon as daylight snuck through the curtains, I began loading some things into the car. Not forgetting the lentils of course. Driving north towards the studio, I could see that there was snow around but I badly wanted to get some 'thinking done,' hopefully while out hiking among the surrounding hills and lochs. Doing so I clearly recall listening in as politicians on the radio were discussing a possible 'nationwide lockdown.'

It was the first I had ever heard of such a thing.

And as they vaguely mulled over how long that could go on for?

I found myself thinking. Weeks? A whole month maybe? Surely no more? People won't put up with more than that...Will they?

7th March 2021

The mainland European tour dates, scheduled for February-March, have understandably been moved to next year. Existing tickets remain valid for the new dates.

The Nocturne Live, Blenheim Palace, UK show has also been pushed into 2022. It just fell under the date for the gradual reopening of the UK, as roadmapped by the UK government, so had to be rescheduled. The concert will take place on the 18th June 2022.

The next block of dates for mainland Europe this June/July are also being rescheduled for next year.

Even if it was hardly surprising, and although nothing else could be done in view of the ongoing situation. I still felt some regret with the announcement a few days ago that yet again Simple Minds' concerts have been postponed.

More positively new dates have now been been announced - something not so easy to do considering that all over the world 'live acts' (like us) are scrambling around trying to juggle with reorganising their tours. With that in mind I am grateful to 'our team' who have had to repeatedly face that challenge over the last twelve months or so. Even more gratitude of course goes to everybody holding on to their tickets and now planning to come see us next year.

We appreciate the support of all of our fans as always!

15th April 2021

The releases of the Sons And Fascination period gets ever more complex with the addition of three cassettes.

There seems to be an unwritten rule with record companies that the LP artwork is sacrosanct but the cassette artwork can be altered at a whim. So this gives these cassettes extra interest, thanks to their representation of the original LP sleeves.

The bold Sons And Fascination UK cassette (left) simply reproduces an image from the LP sleeve and some of the text design, losing the layout of the original LP completely. The "afterthrought" of the "Contains 7 Extra Tracks" blemishes the art further and makes no reference to the fact that this is Sister Feelings Call.

The Canadian Sons And Fascination cassette (middle) is collectable for both its different arwork - this time managing to capture more of the spirit of the original LP - and its completely different track listing, presenting a different selection of tracks from both parent albums.

The Australian Sons And Fascination cassette (right) is how the UK version should've looked, adding some whitespace and correctly reproducing the band's logo and album title.

It took a while for a Sister Feelings Call UK cassette (left) to appear in the UK, as it was represented as the "7 Extra Tracks" on the Sons And Fascination cassette. However, the cassette was released in 1986, and utilised the old record company "trick" of reproducing the whole LP's artwork at the bottom of the sleeve with extra title and artist information at the top.

The sparce Canadian Sister Feelings Call (middle) attemped to reproduce the LP's spirit but missed the whitespaces and square patterning so was left looking rather unfinished. Its odd track listing also complimented the Canadian Sons And Fascination, mopping up all the songs left over from that release.

Finally the Australian edition (right) attempted to include some of the LP's whitespacing, but almost in a random way, leaving the sleeve looking confused and uninspiring.

Many thanks to Erwin for the scans.

Another oft-neglected and mysterious part of the discography concerns the A&M Memories and Collectables reissues. Simple Minds' entry in the series, an obvious pairing of Don't You (Forget About Me) and Alive And Kicking, has now been full covered, including a "just-discovered" edition on cassette.

"Taken from a recent interview, demonstrating my accordion influence in composition of Simple Minds tunes." - Mick

Mick MacNeil's Accordion Playing

In this Retropopic interview from 2018 (see the news from 1st December 2020), Derek mentioned how the main, repetitive melody from New Gold Dream (81,82,83,84) was originally an accordion piece by Mick.

Fast forward three years, and in a Facebook post, Mick demonstrates how the accordion was instrumental in several of Simple Minds biggest hits.

Starting at 4:10, Mick starts by demonstrating the New Gold Dream (81,82,83,84) riff on the accordion, before playing it to the backing track. "You can see where that came from, can't you?"

More surprising was the melody at 7:30, where Mick demonstrated a "bagpipe thing" which clearly became Alive And Kicking. "I think that's a great chord as well"

The obvious influence was Belfast Child where Mick obliged with the main folk melody from the song (staring at 15:20). This performance is very similar to the original Glenstriven demos of the song which was just accordion and Charlie on acoustic guitar, both backed by a Bodhran.

It's interesting thinking, perhaps in an alternative reality out there where Mick didn't leave the band, how the Acoustic album would've turned out.

An early promo for Graffiti Soul has surfaced. Unlike many watermarked pressings which included the copyright and legal information on the back, this version included it on the front of the typed sleeve. It also included the two bonus tracks (Shadows And Light and Rockin' In The Free World) - normally the Graffiti Soul promos only featured the core album.

"Anyone who really knows Simple Minds' story will be aware of Scottish journalist/radio presenter Billy Sloan.

"Billy was taking the first steps in his career in media just as we were taking our own in music. And yes, Billy was present on that January night in Glasgow 1978, when Simple Minds played our first ever gig, he wrote about that recently in The Heart Of The Crowd.

"But we also go all the way back with Billy.

"I recall his first ever radio show when he presented for Radio Clyde in the late 70's, and the experience of regularly tuning in over the next years allowed me to hear music that I still consider among my favourites. (Magazine, The Associates, U2, Grace Jones, The Blue Nile and a ton more.)

"No doubt about it. In a local sense Billy was the oracle when it came to spreading the word on new artists and new releases, combining that role with his flawless knowledge of the classics from the generation in music that came before.

"And guess what? He's still the oracle!

"Only last night I tuned in to his show on BBC Radio Scotland to hear a mix of classics, side by side with the newest releases that he feels worth highlighting. His ever present enthusiasm as tangible now almost 44 years later from when he first started out.

"Amazingly though, for as long as we have know Billy, and as much I have heard him do such fine work while interviewing hundreds of artists throughout his career. I had never heard Billy detail his own career so thoroughly - until now that is!

"A remarkable and expansive tale that features some of the most stellar names of the last half century, Billy tells it so well in this two part podcast from the brilliant AYNE.

"If I were you I would definitely listen in!

3rd December 2021

Billy stared his career in the late 1970s as a budding journalist, reviewing the vibrant musical scene in Scotland, and this was why he was at Simple Minds' first ever gig, pen in hand, knocking on the dressing room door and asking Charlie the name of the band's lead singer.

From working on building sites, got a job at the Bishopbriggs Times, before being offered a column on the Sunday Mail. From here, he was a staunch supporter of the band, reviewing their latest singles and albums, most supplied personally by Jim hot from the pressing plant. He was also well placed to play their music, becoming a radio DJ for Radio Clyde between 1979 and 1985, following the band's rise to fame.

Back at Radio Clyde in 1991, he focused on local bands, and arranged sessions and interviews with international talent. Over this second tenue of 23, he became increasing disenchanted with the radio station's attitue. "We did interviews with U2, The Rolling Stones, Tom Jones, Coldplay, Simple Minds. But that didn't seem to have any currency with them because basically everyone in radioland is playing the same s*** 25 records over and over and over again. And I was always the proverbial square peg in the round hole from the word go."

During this period, he arranged two sessions with Simple Minds for Radio Clyde. The first was broadcast in April 2002 to support the release of Cry and the second was over ten years later, when the band returned to record an acoustic set for the Acoustic album.

He also appeared on stage with Jim and Charlie where he hosted the Q&As during the first leg of the Walk Between Worlds tour.

Given his long history supporting the band, he also wrote the sleeve notes for The Early Years 1977-78, The Best Of and New Gold Dream Super Deluxe; and wrote the 5x5, Big Music and Acoustic tour programmes.

Upon being made redundant in 2014 from Radio Cylde when the station went through a cost cutting exercise, he swiftly transfered to BBC Radio Scotland where his weekend night shows have become indespensible listening for the classic, alternative and new music.

Two more Danish promos for the remasters have surfaced, bringing the total to four. New Gold Dream (81,82,83,84) and Sparkle In The Rain would've been issued in Denmark in late 2002 as part of the marketing for the 2002 remasters.

It's would be interesting to know why promos were issued specifically for Denmark whilst the far more common UK set was used around Europe. No pressings have emerged from France or Germany for instance.

Heart Of The Crowd is now available as a Kindle edition. It can be purchased from Amazon and other online retailers.

Hardback and special editions are also still available from This Day In Music.

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