JIM Kerr remembers “crystal clear” the first time his band played in Newcastle.
The year was 1981, the gig was on a Friday night at the Newcastle Workers Club.
“We were kids, thrust into it and desperate to get recognition and we went down a storm,” chuckles the 59-year-old Simple Minds frontman in his soft, Glaswegian lilt.
“It was a small place but it felt big to us, and Australia is particularly important to us because at the time we hadn’t broken through anywhere.”
With the enthusiastic backing of then Countdown presenter Molly Meldrum, the Scottish outfit cut its teeth on the pub circuit and, recalls Kerr, “began to think we could make it”.
“It’s not a big deal now but back in the day there were bootleg tapes around and one of our best was from Newcastle Workers Club,” he says.
History records that the band enjoyed its first hit single Love Song and first gold album New Gold Dream on Australian shores.
Since then, it has topped the charts with the likes of Don’t You (Forget About Me), Promised You A Miracle, Glittering Prize, recorded 17 albums and returned to the Hunter, most recently last year at Bimbadgen Estate.
Its latest album, Walk Between Worlds, has been well-received, no more so than in the UK, where the band did a mini-tour at the start of 2018.
Now, more than 36 years later, Simple Minds will headline the Supecars Concert at No 1 Sportsground on Saturday, November 24. The venue is less than 500 metres from the old Workers Club (now NEX).
Naturally, playing in Glasgow, where Kerr and his Simple Minds co-founder, guitarist Charlie Burchill, met in a sandpit as kids, is always a particular audience.
“Playing in your home town is always a thrill and always a pain in the arse, and I mean it in the best sense,” Kerr says.
“Any other gig you can focus on gig but in Glasgow it’s like a wedding: did you invite the right people, have they got the right seats and people go way back with us.
“It's great they come but you are exhausted before you go on.”
Speaking to Weekender over the phone from Miami, the latest stop in a two-month tour across the US, Kerr says the response to the band’s latest shows has been gratifying.
“We haven’t toured [the US] for 25 years and when it was announced we thought ‘What if no-one will remember us, we'll be disappointed but we'll enjoy it as a last swing,” he begins, “but Jesus Christ, they are screaming for us to come back.”
Kerr is happy with the latest album, saying if there was ever a target it was to conjure up old classic sounds while injecting modern touches.
“When you think about it, that’s a contradiction, it's easier said than done. You want to go back but you can't, that was then this is now,” he admits.
“But if you do it carefully, you can call up the ghosts of the past and I think we managed to do that and I think we also made an album of the moment. I think we got close.”
This month the band marks 41 years and for Kerr, the decades of tours and performances have been by and large positive.
“There have been times when it's not always been great and happening and there are tough times but by and large we feel blessed,” he says.
“If you said to us at the beginning what do you want, we would have said we want to be in a great live band and we want to take it around the world playing - and here we are still getting the chance to deal with that challenge.
“We won the lotto, if you have something in your life you want to do and it puts bread on the table then it doesn't get any better.”
“We won the lotto. If you have something in your life you want to do and it puts bread on the table then it doesn't get any better.”Jim Kerr
Kerr said Simple Minds never had a plan to be a stadium band – “There was no strategy, we were not that clever” – but went along for the ride, “probably trying too hard but what were we meant to do?”
At times, three generations of families come to see a gig, and Kerr believes the band would still hold currency if it was starting over today.
“Yeah, we would have succeeded because we are relentless and unstoppable … What's the thing that those make it have, they are the ones who want to make it the most. They have the guts, the balls and can put up with disappointment, and are driven to the point that they’d put a gun to a head.”
Simple Minds recently worked on Trevor Horn Reimagines The 80s, in which singer-songwriter and music producer Horn (whose band The Buggles had the hit Video Killed The Radio Star) hand-picked artists to cover 80s songs. Robbie Williams sings Everybody Wants To Rule The World, Simple Minds tackles Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms.
Kerr acknowledges the 80s got a bad rap, what with all the “hair bands” and more, but defends the era that was arguably the most rewarding for the band.
“There were kids making music and kids making fashion labels and making movies, I think there was an abundance of great imagination,” he says.
“I mean, who sounded like Morrissey before Morrissey. Or in Australia, who was Nick Cave before Nick Cave.”
For teetotaller Kerr, the band will continue until there’s no-one buying tickets.
A wider tour of Australia is “almost certain” in 2020, he hints.
He’s a happy man, and one who feels fortunate.
“Just knowing that is a great gift because a lot of people don't know they are bloody lucky and I am fortunate, one can say it's easy to be positive but I always have been,” he says.
Having a sense of purpose, he says, plays a huge role in that. So too being wise enough to call the shots.
“When you get to our age – we are not doddering yet but we will be eventually - you are forced to enjoy the moment but also edit the moment,” Kerr says.
“Stuff that pisses me off, I don't have it around me. You get wise, and act on it.”