Simple Minds were the first band I ever truly adored. From the very first moment I heard their third album, Empires & Dance, I was captivated by the possibilities of travel, new frontiers and a single European ideal. Unbelievably, I bought this album almost forty years ago from William Power’s electrical store in Warminster’s’ Three Horseshoes Mall. The shop doubled as a record shop no doubt inspired by the managers willingness to order in even the most obscure indie releases of the day which he found far more interesting than flogging washing machines.
The shop was the nearest we could get to the music scene sweeping the nation and its doorway served as our hang-out most nights. With just a Sony transistor radio, my mates’ and I would meet at Will Power’s every evening and look longingly at the newest hi-fi systems glistening in the windows whilst listening to the Richard Skinner, David Jensen & John Peel shows. Punk was giving way to the New Wave and U2, Ultravox, Gary Numan, Japan, Magazine and John Foxx were all releasing ground breaking music and projecting highly-stylised and futuristic personas; we were obsessed.
I Travel, the first track of Empires & Dance captured the moment: hypnotic electronics inspired by the clubs of Berlin & New York provided a disco soundtrack to Jim Kerr’s visionary lyrics echoing his longing to escape the harshness of late-seventies Glasgow. In essence, he probably felt the same as us; there had to be more to life than this; provincial towns and attitudes; political implosion and a crumbling conservatism. “Cities buildings falling down, ideal homes rolling down…. Travel round, travel round, decadence and pleasure towns.”
Cut to today; listening to I Travel through Apple AirPods while speeding to Paddington on the train, I am struck by the songs prevailing modernity, aspirational rallying cry and dance-driven rhythms. No wonder Jamie Woollard and I flitted off to Düsseldorf to see a Simple Minds gig advertised in the back of the NME without telling our parents; it was the first time I had ever travelled abroad and the image of Jim Kerr’s dancing silhouettes on the walls of the gigantic Philips Halle still lives with me today. The sound was vast with pounding drums and thunderous basslines providing the platform for jangling guitars and glacial layers of synths which heralded a new age.
These teenage influences seem to take on a deeper significance with the passing of time which probably explains why I booked tickets for the Minds’ 2018 tour choosing Amsterdam’s Paradiso over any UK venue. The trip squares the metaphorical circle and acknowledges my deep debt of gratitude to a band who helped me escape the trappings of rural West Wiltshire and, perhaps more importantly, broadened my horizons evoking a hunger for travel, all things contemporary and to chase the New Gold Dream.