With Simple Minds returning with new album Big Music on 3 November, and touring the UK next sping, frontman Jim Kerr is set for an extended period away from Glasgow. In a guest column for Q he examines the forces that always draw him back home.
I’m a traveller and most likely always will be. Nevertheless, no matter how far and wide I venture, and no matter the extent of the restless curiosity that drives me on continuously, I still travel in a circle that consistently brings me back to my beginnings in the southside of Glasgow. The city that produced both me and then latterly the music of Simple Minds. It has of course produced much else besides, but hopefully you already know that.
As I write, I am in my hometown and happy to be so. Doing mostly weekend festival shows in Europe with the Minds, I have been flying in and out over the summer months, recharging between some unforgettable gigs. And what an eventful summer it has been, with the eyes of the sporting world fixed on this city throughout the recent Commonwealth Games, and then soon after the eyes of the political world on us throughout the final days of the referendum.
The weather today was fantastic, with an end of summer sun and deep blue skies. All around the leaves are turning red, orange and gold. Glorious. Getting up before 6am as I usually do, I spontaneously thought about driving over to the dreamy Ayrshire Coast, as we often did as a family during my childhood. Soon after, and still undecided, I then thought about heading to the Trossachs where the idea of spending the morning hiking one of the Munro‘s always appeals.
In the end I settled for something a good deal more leisurely, deciding on a stroll to Pollok Country Park, and in turn a walk along the banks of the River Cart. The park is arguably my favourite place in the entire city. Situated 20 mins walk from my house ad only 10mins drive from the city centre, with waterfalls, Highland cattle, and huge Clydesdale horses featuring, it is difficult to believe that we are not somewhere else entirely more rural.
Being a regular to the park, I often chat with some other regulars familiar to me. Some of the people I meet recognise me, while others have no clue. In general I am more interested in them and their stories, than I am in revealing mine.
Both myself and Charlie Burchill, another Glaswegian, were raised in the same street within the now infamous Toryglen housing estate. Both from Gorbals families suddenly rehoused in those then fabulously modern, high rise buildings that started to populate Glasgow’s skyline in the mid sixties. Badly designed and made of cheap materials that were wholly unsuited to the damp west of Scotland climate, as a result the flats that we lived in from the age of eight to 18, were demolished some time ago. Sweet memories of living there, live on inside us all the same.
Today, as I walked into the city centre, en route meeting up with a friend of long standing. I passed many landmarks central to our childhood, our teenage years, and of course the origins of our band. Toryglen itself was visible in the distance, as was Holyrood School, complete with the classrooms that Charlie and I sat in, dreaming mostly of Brian Eno and Mark Bolan. Neglecting our Latin classes all the while, ironically we are both mysteriously fluent in Italian these days. We still occasionally dream about Eno and Bolan, it has to be said.
Further on, I pass by Shawlands Cross and the building where Simple Minds played some of our initial gigs. That was back in February 1978 and Shawlands was the place to hang and see new bands. It still is by all accounts and current local greats, like Lola In Slacks, are due to play there tomorrow night. I might go see them. If I don’t go and watch piss-poor Celtic, that is.
Reading all of this you might well think that I am fixated on our past? You’d be wrong however. Fact is, while in Glasgow my past is all around me and its echoes are pleasingly unavoidable. Meanwhile, my days are spent putting all my energy into creating an on-going future for Simple Minds. Yes, I’m still committed to that same goal, almost 40 years after we began. Thrilled to be so.
The result of some of that energy manifested today as our new song Honest Town (above) was aired on BBC Radio. A worldwide premier, I caught it being played as I walked on over the Clyde Bridge and into the city centre. Honest Town sounded special I have to say. And the city somehow never looked, or felt, so good to me.
Jim Kerr @simplemindscom
For more, including the full tour dates, Simpleminds.org.uk.