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brothers in arms

Written by: Mark Knopfler

BMG Rights Management (UK) Limited

In 2018, Trevor Horn started a project to record a number of eighties classics with a full orchestra for an album called Reimagines The Eighties. Simple Minds were invited to participate, and it prompted a reunion not only with Trevor Horn but also with Mick MacNeil.

BS: Track number seven on the album sees you reunited with Simple Minds. Of course in 1989 you worked with Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill when the band were making the Street Fighting Years album. Why did you want to work with them again and how did the choice of song come about because they do a great version of the title track of the Dire Straits' album from 1985 "Brothers In Arms"?
TH: Well, I'll tell you how that came about. I'd been playing in a band called Dire Straits Legacy. Dire Straits Legacy is five of the guys from Dire Straits – all brilliant musicians. So I’d been playing "Brothers In Arms" and I never listened to "Brothers In Arms" much in the 1980s but when I had to learn it – because I was playing the bass part – I thought what a good tune it was, what a great song. And it sounded like an old folk song. And so I put it into 3/4, because I thought a 6/8 tempo for it... from the way it originally is in 4/4.
BS: And you actually came to Glasgow to record it with the guys?
TH: Yeah, I did. We did the backing track first. And it was while I was doing the backing track that I thought of Jim. It just hit me, I didn’t think of it straight away. And I thought "Jim. Of course." And it worked. And they liked it.
BS: And half way through the session you suddenly decided you needed an accordion on the song. And you thought "Who can we phone?" And you picked up the phone and reunited another member of the band, didn't you?
TH: Yeah, it was Mick MacNeil. We originally had a fake accordion. It was Charlie who suggested Mick. I always liked Mick – he left the band a long time ago. And Mick showed up and boy was he in good shape. He had the accordion part down – pretty complicated parts – and he had two takes. And we were there with it.

Trevor Horn and Billy Sloan
The Billy Sloan Show
BBC Scotland
26th January 2019

Jim discussed the track, along with the recording of Street Fighting Years with particualr reference to Belfast Child with Trevor Horn, in a video posted to Facebook.

JK: But of course, when you asked us to get involved in the project, Charlie and I in a heartbeat wanted to do it. Even though, I never thought of Simple Minds ever covering a Dire Straits song, when you sent up the [great] demo of you singing it, and when I heard the little pipe, and the accordion and stuff, I thought it was from the same cake as Belfast Child. So this was going to be good.
TH: And, of course, you got Mick to play the accordion part. I hadn't realised that you hadn't played with Mick for twenty years.
JK: Well, he's a champion accordion player since when he was a kid. I mean he's the real deal. And I knew you really liked Mick as well.
TH: Yes, I always loved Mick's keyboard playing.
JK: I would presume many Simple Minds fans, when they hear that they're working on this track, and that Mick MacNeil has come back to work on this track, is quite an event.

Trevor Horn and Jim Kerr
Jim Kerr and Trevor Horn in Discussion
Posted 4th February 2019

These mist covered mountains,
Are a home now for me,
But my home is the lowlands,
And always will be.
Some day you'll return to,
Your valleys and your farms,
And you'll no longer burn,
To be brothers in arms.

Through these fields of destruction,
Baptism of fire,
I've witnessed your suffering,
As the battle raged higher.
And though they did hurt me so bad,
In my fear and alarm,
You did not desert me,
My brothers in arms.

There's so many different worlds,
So many different suns,
And we have just one world,
But we live in different ones.

Now the sun's gone to hell,
And the moon's riding high,
Let me bid you farewell,
Every man has to die.
But it's written in the starlight,
And every line in your palm,
We're fools to make war,
On our brothers in arms.

Album Version (4:54)
Produced by Trevor Horn