news
discography
songs
tours
videos
people
family tree
timeline
press releases
reviews
faq
mailing list
fanzines
site map
links
about
contact

belfast child


composer
Traditional.
Arrangement: Simple Minds
Lyrics by: Simple Minds
Traditional / Words by: Kerr / Burchill / MacNeil / Gaynor / Giblin (Post 2013 credit)


publisher
© 1989 Virgin Music (Publishers) Ltd
© JKMC-Bucks Music Group Ltd / Hornall Music / EMI Music Publishing Ltd. (Post 2013 credit)


background
The ideas that Simple Minds play a folk song was suggested by Trevor Horn. "[He] came up to Loch Earn [in September - October 1987] , looked around, saw the lake and said 'Have you ever thought of doing a folk song?' We had, but we didn't know which one and we didn't know how to go about it. So it was a feeling in the air that he underlined. It's the kind of feedback you'll always need." - Jim, Street Fighting Years songbook

"I think it was the surroundings that suggested the idea to do a traditional melody. It was such an obvious thing. That's the thing with Trevor - and I love the guy for it - to suggest the absolute obvious. To do that needs a real talent. We definitely have a feel for where we come from. Everyone was thinking of doing a traditional song but no one was to say it or do it." - Mick, Street Fighting Years songbook

The talk obviously continued when the trio moved south to Barwell Court, John Giblin's studio in London, in October. It was here that the bassist played She Moved Through The Fair. "I didn't know if the melody was Irish or Scottish. I knew I was getting a northern feel. I was getting a grey day and a dark night; a mist and a blackness. It was Ireland because the previous week there were more events in Ireland than usual and it had got to me. The event Jim was probably referring to was the Remembrance Day Bombing in Enniskillen, on the 8th November 1987.

In January 1988, the trio of Jim, Charlie and MicK, along with Trevor Horn and Steve Lipson, moved to a remote Scottish studio in Glenstriven. It was here that they started work on the song. "We had all kinds of different versions of it: an acoustic guitar version, an accordion version, a more symphonic one. Again, it's a song of two parts. The song itself with a very simple, straightforward and beautiful melody; and the second part with the same chords but more as Pete Townshend would have played them. It started shaping up and appearaed to have a heavier side to it. We never talked about it but that symbolised Northern Ireland, the hope and the harsher realities of war." - Charlie, Street Fighting Years songbook

The housekeeper at the studio, Maureen Kerr, played pennywhistle and bodhran on the demos at Glenstiven, for which she received a credit on the album.

However, timelines and locations are thrown into disarray by the Classic Pop Interview of 2020. Not only were all the band now at Glenstriven, but the sessions at that location must've been in late 1987, not early 1988. The story's the same - it's just the location that's different. John Giblin wandered off from a band dinner and started playing She Moved Through The Fair in the instrument room. "John is a deep guy, which was reflected in the music he played. I was captivated by this Celtic piece and, when he finished, I said 'Wow! When did you write that?' And John replied 'About 200 years ago'." - Jim, Classic Pop Magazine, March 2020.

They tried to record it at Sarm, when the group started formal recordings in March 1988, but it didn't work out. "I remember Mel and John made a big announcement of the rhythm section coming in. Here we are! In the album version there is no big fill or anything. Just suddenly the drums are there." - Steve Lipson - Street Fighting Years songbook

The version which appears on the album was finally recorded at Loch Earn with just Jim, Charlie, Mick and Steve Lipson and a drumbox. "I started to think simple throughts of Ireland. Someone said 'You run the risk of over-sentimentality as soon as you mention the world child in a song.' But you want to talk about the future, there is not a more apt symbol. I don't know what can happen in Northern Ireland, but I do know that some day it won't be like that." - Charlie, Street Fighting Years songbook

"Trevor had a story behind the sound - he'd fantasise. I remember he walked downstairs during the recording of Belfast Child in Loch Earn. He slammed the door, and the mics were still on. So you heard this distant double door slam, and Trevor had the image of a bomb going off in Belfast in the background. It did, it sounded like a crash you heard in the distance. Trevor would come up with this whole romantic image for something someone else would think was an error on the tape." - Mick - Street Fighting Years Super Deluxe

The song's length was causing problems with both the producers and the record company. "One night we had a huge row in the studio. Trevor was getting nervous and said: 'I think I can cut it down to three minutes and forty-nine seconds.' He played it and I said: "What's the point in writing a song like this? What's the point in doing it?" But at least he gave me the attitude of what I was going to be up against, particularly in America." - Jim, Street Fighting Years songbook, 1989

"I remember spending quite a long time to mix down Belfast Child because it was such a long track. And then having to edit it for the radio, and Charlie getting cross with me, and me trying to explain to him that you can't edit something without taking something out. It's not possible." - Trevor - Street Fighting Years Super Deluxe

The song was being worked on throughout the entire recording process. From the initial acoustic roots in Glenstriven, it was slowly built upon, first at Sarm, and then at Loch Earn, with a final remix and polish up at Air Studios in London. It was the centrepiece of the Ballad Of The Streets EP, helping the single to reach number one in the UK charts. (The radio edit which received massive Radio One airplay still weighed in at a hefty five minutes in length).

It was obviously a much anticipated highlight of the Street Fighting Years Tour in 1989 and was a feature of the set-list in the 1990s and 2000s. Its popularity waned in the 2010s but was a major part of the band's Proms performances that decade.

"I was nervous about it, because songs like that can seem mawkish, tokenistic and trite. If you isolate the lyrics to Belfast Child, it can seem that way, even though our heart was in the right place. But I think it's different, because of the emotion" - Jim, Classic Pop Magazine, March 2020.


TH: Jim, you and I haven't worked together since 1988 when we did Street Fighting Years.
JK: Of course the big success was when we did a track called Belfast Child which was a traditional Irish folk song based on the air She Moved Through The Fair. And we had played around with it, but we were never in a million years going to do it, because we were Simple Minds. We didn't do folk stuff. We were a big rock band, we were electro, and we were all that stuff... And yet you wouldn't let it go. You were 'You have to do this. You've got to do it.' And lo and behold, the song that was never meant to happen, goes on and becomes a number one. And it was our only number one ever in the UK; and in some places in Europe. But it became this epic.

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


"And then low and behold we were working with Trevor Horn, and he always comes from an angle you would never expect. So we were working in our place in Scotland, and he said, 'Have you ever thought about doing a Celtic tune?' Our keyboard player Mick MacNeil is from the islands and is steeped in Celtic music, and he was always up for it. So we decided to give it some thought, but I certainly wasn't pushing for it. Then one night we were in the studio a few days after particularly sad events in Northern Ireland, and I went into the room after dinner and our bass player at the time who also played keyboards was playing this most haunting melody. I didn't know what it was, but it was obviously Celtic, - I thought it was fantastic.

"Before I knew it, I was thinking about images and all that stuff. In the end, when he was finished playing, I said to him, 'What is that?' And he said, 'It's a piece of music I'm working on." I said, "it's incredible when did you write that?" He said, "Hundreds of years ago." I said, "What are you talking about?" He explained that it's from the classic folk song, She Moved Through the Fair. So I checked out the song and all the versions and thought, "I don't know if I can do this, can you take an old classic and contemporise it?." I spoke to a friend of mine who is like a music historian, and he said, "That's the very nature of folk music. It's always been handed down and people wrote new words and the songs developed." So we took a swing at it, and had no idea even if it would be on the album, and low and behold it ends up being a number one record." - Jim, XNoise Interview with Mark Millar, October 2019



JE: Talk to me about Belfast Child. Because that's one of my favourites of yours. It's a great running song by the way. Put it on when you're flagging and when the drums kick in, you're in a Chariots Of Fire moment. Talk to me about how that came about because it was a real shift in sound for you guys.
CB: Well it was Trevor really.
JK: The Celtic idea.
CB: We were working with Trevor Horn and Steve Lipson. We'd built a studio in Scotland in the highlands.
JE: What was it called again, your studio?
CB: Bonny Wee Studios. [Laughs] We'd been working - and Trevor came from this... he threw a curve... and he was like "You should really do a Celtic song." That would've been the last thing on our minds because we were always a bit conscious about trying to avoid the Shortbread and the kilt stuff. And then Trevor said that. And was John playing it on a piano?
JK: As Charlie said, Trevor always tries to throw a curve and we were doing our thing, and he said "You're up here now. Have you ever thought of using any of the musicians and doing something Celtic? People love that." And as it happens, Mick MacNeil, the keyboard player, his family are from Barra - Mick's an accordion player. And he was up for it. So, the idea was up in the air, but we weren't quite sure how to go about it. In the meantime, we were getting on with the rest.
JK: And then it's amazing how things fall into place. A particularly horrible thing had happened that week in Northern Ireland and it was all over the media and John Giblin our bass player - who could play keys as well - after dinner one night, the guys were still sitting around, having a glass of wine or whatever, and John was just playing this haunting melody that I then discovered that he hadn't written - I said to him "When did you write that?" and he said "About two hundred years ago." [Laughs]
JE: It's based on an old folk song?
JK: An old folk song She Moved Through The Fair. I thought I wondered if you could take that and take some of the sentiments, some of the imagery, it's been around...
JE: Some of the soundscapes that's in your mind. You can hear the drama.
JK: But how it went from that to essentially what you're referring to - this great jam - it's into Stairway To Heaven.
JE: It's almost as if you started this nice Celtic folk song and Mel Gaynor's like "Hang on lads" and [mimics crashing drums]
JK: And those chords and the whole thing. I don't remember that getting worked out - it probably wouldn't have been a jam - but it come from a jam and I think it would've been Charlie... we couldn't have worked that out, Mel would've done that and Mick would've got on the Hammond and then Charlie - everyone had a go I think. And then to me the movie was opening and you got all this turmoil and it starts to mirror the...
JE: That was huge for you.
CB: I remember in the early days with it, because we knew the rhythm of that would be... We wanted to get a Bodhran player - there are so many different ways to pronounce that - you know the handheld drum - and we wanted to get somebody to play that. There were a few people who played on it: we had a penny whistle and a couple of other things. We had that rhythm which is very Celtic and it's so generic but it's part of that, and that was really the thing. And I remember at one point we did a discussion about "It would be great to make this sound like The Who." If only! But that's what I think we were trying to do.

Interview with Jamie East
Virgin Radio
17th November 2019



lyrics
When my love said to me,
Meet me down by the gallow tree.
For it's sad news I bring,
About this old town and all that it's offering.
Some say troubles abound,
Some day soon they're gonna pull the old town down.
One day we'll return here,
When the Belfast Child sings again.

Brothers, sisters, where are you now?
As I look for you right through the crowd.
All my life here I've spent,
With my faith in God the Church and the Government.
But there's sadness abound,
Some day soon they're gonna pull the old town down.

One day we'll return here,
When the Belfast Child sings again,
When the Belfast Child sings again.

So come back Billy, won't you come on home?
Come back Mary, you've been away so long.
The streets are empty, and your mother's gone.
The girls are crying, it's been oh so long.
And your father's calling, come on home.
Won't you come on home, won't you come on home?

Come back people, you've been gone a while,
And the war is raging, through the Emerald Isle.
That's flesh and blood man, that's flesh and blood,
All the girls are crying but all's not lost.

The streets are empty, the streets are cold.
Won't you come on home, won't you come on home?

The streets are empty,
Life goes on.

One day we'll return here,
When the Belfast Child sings again,
When the Belfast Child sings again.



discography
Edit (5:11)
Produced by: Stephen Lipson and Trevor Horn
Engineers: Heff Moraes, Robin Hancock
Assistant Engineers: Danton Supple, Martin Plant

Ballad Of The Streets EP Single-Sided 7" Promo Ballad Of The Streets EP 7" Promo Ballad Of The Streets EP CD Promo Ballad Of The Streets German CD Promo</A>
<A HREF=Greatest Hits + CD Celebrate: The Greatest Hits + Promo CD Celebrate: The Greatest Hits + Promo CD Celebrate: The Greatest Hits + 2CD Celebrate: The Greatest Hits + 3CD Celebrate: The Greatest Hits + Australian Promo 2CD Celebrate: The Greatest Hits + US CD Celebrate: The Greatest Hits + Canadian CD Icon Promo CD Icon CD Celebrate: The Collection CD 40: Best Of: 1979 - 2019: Promo CD 40: Best Of: 1979 - 2019: Promo 3CD 40: Best Of: 1979 - 2019: Promo CD 40: Best Of: 1979 - 2019: LP 40: Best Of: 1979 - 2019: Limited Edition LP 40: Best Of: 1979 - 2019: CD 40: Best Of: 1979 - 2019: Deluxe CD Street Fighting Years 2020 Deluxe 2CD Street Fighting Years 2020 Super Deluxe 4CD

Album Version (6:40)
Produced by: Stephen Lipson and Trevor Horn
Engineers: Heff Moraes, Robin Hancock
Assistant Engineers: Danton Supple, Martin Plant

Ballad Of The Streets EP 12" Promo Ballad Of The Streets EP CD Promo Ballad Of The Streets EP 7" Ballad Of The Streets EP MC Ballad Of The Streets EP 12" Ballad Of The Streets EP CD Ballad Of The Streets EP Limited Edition Box Ballad Of The Streets German CD Promo</A>
<A HREF=Ballad Of The Streets EP German 12" Ballad Of The Streets EP German CD Ballad Of The Streets EP Jukebox 7" Ballad Of The Streets EP Italian Jukebox 7" Street Fighting Years Promo 7" Box Set Street Fighting Years Promo MC Box Set Street Fighting Years Promo CD Box Set Street Fighting Years LP Street Fighting Years MC Street Fighting Years CD Street Fighting Years US Promo MC Street Fighting Years Limited Edition MC Box Set Street Fighting Years Limited Edition CD Box Set Street Fighting Years Picture CD Themes Volume Four Theme Sixteen: The Ballad Of The Streets CD Theme Sixteen: The Ballad Of The Streets MC Glittering Prize 81/92 Instore CD Glittering Prize 81/92 LP Glittering Prize 81/92 MC Glittering Prize 81/92 CD Glittering Prize 81/92 DCC Glittering Prize 81/92 French CD Glittering Prize 81/92 French CD Glittering Prize 81/92 Australian MC Glittering Prize 81/92 US Promo MC Street Fighting Years MiniDisc The Promised CD Street Fighting Years Reissue CD Simple Minds Box Set The Best Of ... (Sampler) Selections From The Best Of The Best Of Simple Minds CD2 Promo The Best Of US Promo The Best Of The Best Of SACD The Best Of Night Of The Proms Special Remastered Edition Street Fighting Years Remaster Promo CD Street Fighting Years Remaster Limited Edition CD Street Fighting Years Remaster CD The Platinum Collection CD Gift Pack CD Limited Edition Gift Pack DVD Limited Edition Themes 15-17 Promo CDR Themes Volume One - Five The Best Of Donna Moderna cover CD Five Album Set Classic Album Selection The Music Of Simple Minds Street Fighting Years 2020 Reissue LP Street Fighting Years 2020 Reissue CD Street Fighting Years 2020 Deluxe 2CD Street Fighting Years 2020 Super Deluxe 4CD

Live Version (15th September 1989) (8:18)
Recorded: Verona, Italy
Producer: Stephen Lipson

Live And Rare CD Street Fighting Years 2020 Super Deluxe 4CD

Live Version (13th Aug 1991) (9:20)
Recorded: Barrowlands, Glasgow, UK
Produced by Stephen Lipson
Engineered by Heff Moraes
Mastered by: Simon Heyworth

Real Life 12" Real Life CD Real Live 91 Fanclub CD Silver Box Promo CDR #4 Silver Box Promo CDR Sampler Silver Box Mexican Promo CDR Sampler Silver Box Themes 21-24 Promo CDR Themes Volume One - Five Themes Volume Five

Live Version (3rd November 2009) (3:18)
Recorded: Arena, Vienna, Austria
Mixed By Concert Online

Boxed USB Stick Boxed MP3 Player

Live Version (5th November 2009) (3:34)
Recorded: Saschall, Florence, Italy
Mixed By Concert Online

Boxed USB Stick Boxed MP3 Player

Live Version (7th November 2009) (3:37)
Recorded: Atlantico, Rome, Italy
Mixed By Concert Online

Boxed USB Stick Boxed MP3 Player

Live Version (18th November 2009) (3:38)
Recorded: La Riviera, Madrid, Spain
Mixed By Concert Online

Boxed USB Stick Boxed MP3 Player

Live Version (19th November 2009) (3:50)
Recorded: Kursaal, San Sebastian, Spain
Mixed By Concert Online

Boxed USB Stick Boxed MP3 Player

Live Version (22nd November 2009) (3:47)
Recorded: Falconer Theatre, Copenhagen, Denmark
Mixed By Concert Online

Boxed USB Stick Boxed MP3 Player




videography
Edit (5:14)
Produced by: Stephen Lipson and Trevor Horn
Engineers: Heff Moraes, Robin Hancock
Assistant Engineers: Danton Supple, Martin Plant


Belfast Child promo video Glittering Prize 81/92 Seen The Lights - A Visual History Promo DVD Seen The Lights - A Visual History DVD

Live Version (15th September 1989) (8:11)
Recorded: Verona, Italy
Producer: Stephen Lipson

Verona Promo Video Verona Video Seen The Lights - A Visual History Promo DVD Seen The Lights - A Visual History DVD Seen The Lights - Live In Verona Promo DVD Seen The Lights - Live In Verona DVD Gift Pack - Limited Edition 2xCD 1xDVD Gift Pack - 2xCD 1xDVD




downloads
Live Version (3rd November 2009) (3:18)
Recorded: Arena, Vienna, Austria
Mixed By Concert Online

Concert Online Download

Live Version (5th November 2009) (3:34)
Recorded: Saschall, Florence, Italy
Mixed By Concert Online

Concert Online Download

Live Version (7th November 2009) (3:37)
Recorded: Atlantico, Rome, Italy
Mixed By Concert Online

Concert Online Download

Live Version (18th November 2009) (3:38)
Recorded: La Riviera, Madrid, Spain
Mixed By Concert Online

Concert Online Download

Live Version (19th November 2009) (3:50)
Recorded: Kursaal, San Sebastian, Spain
Mixed By Concert Online

Concert Online Download

Live Version (22nd November 2009) (3:47)
Recorded: Falconer Theatre, Copenhagen, Denmark
Mixed By Concert Online

Concert Online Download




live history
Street Fighting Years Tour: 1989
Germany: 1990
Real Life Tour: 1991
Good News From The Next World Tour: 1995
Festival Tour: 1997
Night Of The Proms: 1997
Neapolis Tour: 1998
Grand Prix Night Of The Proms: 2001
The Floating World Tour: 2002
Night Of The Proms: 2002
Alive And Kicking Tour: 2003
Festival Tour: 2004
Intimate Tour: 2005
Black And White Tour: 2006
Night Of The Proms: 2008 Spring Dates
Night Of The Proms: 2008 Winter Dates
Celebrate 30 Years Live Tour: 2008
30 Years Live European Tour: 2009
Graffiti Soul Tour: 2009
Night Of The Proms: 2011
Greatest Hits Forest Tour: 2011
Big Music European Tour: 2015
Night Of The Proms: 2016
Night Of The Proms: 2016