Bray, Bono, Barca and me
Jim Kerr is reminiscing about his visits to Ireland down all the days. Taking time out from recording new material in a French studio ahead of Simple Minds' latest tour, which starts in Dublin's Olympia on March 25 and 26, the Glaswegian singer goes on a stroll down memory lane.
"In the 1990s, both (Simple Minds guitarist) Charlie Burchill and I spent time in Dublin," says Jim. "We were up where all the brats live in Killiney. It was great. When I was a kid, my family went to Bray every year. Before the package holidays to Spain came along, Glasgow families went to two places: the Isle of Man and Bray.
"I was telling Sinéad O'Connor about that recently. I've got pictures of myself and my brothers in Bray as kids. And I've also got pictures of my own kids in Bray. Did we ride the dodgems? You bet!"
Jim has fond memories of his time living in the Fair City during the boom.
"Someone said to me once: watch it in Dublin 'cos you can go out for one night and lose a few years. Especially in those days when it was all on the up. I'm one of these rare things as a Scotsman: I'm not a drinker.
"When you don't drink, you're not really in the social scene. But we'd a lot of people in Dublin looking after us and inviting us to things – great, great memories."
For a time in the 1980s, Simple Minds' only serious rival to the crown of biggest stadium rock band in the world was U2. Yet Jim and Bono were friends who saw in each other a reflection of themselves: charismatic frontmen who had by stealth, hard work and talent and sheer bloody-mindedness risen to the top of the heap.
"We did a lot of big festivals in Europe together," says Jim of U2. "The guys were not only some of the most impressive people we'd ever met but, even more importantly, some of the nicest. We had so much in common. Both U2 and Simple Minds were school bands.
"Charlie Burchill and I were both eight years old and in Holyrood school. The guys from the first band were in the same class. Obviously, some of our upbringings would be quite similar too: Ireland and Scotland. And our record collections would be the same."
Although Simple Minds are playing smaller venues these days than the enormodomes that once were their stomping ground – I remember seeing them headline Croke Park in 1986 – the group still has a devoted fanbase. Only last March, they ended their tour in Dublin when they dusted off their early esoteric art-rock records, travelling back in time to before they became global superstars with hits such as '(Don't You) Forget About Me' and 'Waterfront'.
"It was essentially a non-hits tour," says Jim. "I had a bit of trepidation about that because we hadn't played these songs in a long time.
"Ultimately – and this is the same for every band – when you step on stage what you're saying is: 'this is what we've done with our life'. And you want to give the best account of what you've done."
The forthcoming show comprises two sets: the first features their early material, the second rolls out the greatest hits.
What does Jim remember about the old days starting off in the late 1970s/early 1980s?
"We had a voracious appetite for music. We'd such a mix in our band. Driving to a gig in our day in the back of the van, you'd hear the drummer's favourite band, which was ELO; Charlie Burchill would want to hear something from some obscure Krautrock band . . . you'd hear everything from John Cale to Barry White. There was a lots of fights. There were some cornerstones: the Velvet Underground, The Doors, Bowie, Kraftwerk . . ."
Might this account for the way the band's own sound evolved through the years, with no two records sounding the same?
"Somehow we were always Simple Minds. There was no identity loss. Yet when people talk to me about Simple Minds, I say 'which one?' The early art-rock? The 1980s pop? The stadium rock? What's the folk on 'Belfast Child' got to do with 'I Travel'? Nothing! And yet it's us."
Finally, it's well known that Jim is a fanatical Celtic supporter. Does he still get to go to any of the games?
"I had one of the best nights of my life when I brought my son and my dad to see Celtic beat Barcelona last year – what a night that was.
"The best moment was, with 10 minutes to go, they're bringing on Fabregas and Villa – let's say between them worth €80m. And Celtic are bringing on a striker – against Barcelona! Lo and behold, he cost us 25 grand. Get in there. I love you."
Simple Minds play the Olympia, Dublin, on March 25 and 26 and the Waterfront, Belfast, on 28.