“Don’t You (Forget About Me)”: In the summer of 1986, Scottish band Simple Minds were featured in our Video Profile

By on September 27, 2016

In our Video Profile of the Scottish band Simple Minds — it originally aired on “Night Flight” on June 28, 1986, and is now streaming on Night Flight Plus — we took a look at seven of the band’s videos, including a couple directed by the award-winning Polish-born director Zbigniew Rybczyński, who we featured in our popular post about the Art of Noise’s “Close (to the Edit).”

Simple Minds — taking their name from the lyrics of David Bowie’s “Jean Genie” (“He’s so simple-minded, he can’t drive his own module” ) — had originally started off in the South Side of Glasgow as a punk band, Johnny & the Self Abusers, who played their first gig at the Doune Castle pub on April 11, 1977, Easter Monday.

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They would end up supporting Generation X for a few gigs a few weeks later in Edinburgh, and would end up playing shows for the rest of the summer before releasing their one and only single, “Saints and Sinners,” later that same year on Chiswick Records.

Two members would split to form their own band, the Cuban Heels, leaving the remainder to soldier on under the new moniker, and a new sound which backpedaled on the punk and gravitated towards their earlier, glammier influences, bands and artists like David Bowie, Marc Bolan’s T. Rex, Roxy Music and Lou Reed.

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Their debut album, 1979’s John Leckie-produced Life in a Day was largely a disappointment, even to the band, who quickly re-grouped and released a sophomore album Real to Real Cacophony that same year, showcasing a moody synth-based sound all their own or at least closer to what they’d always intended.

It was a cinematic sound more ominous in its scope — at times grand, euphoric and sweeping with atmospheric flourishes that were an homage to Kerr’s Celtic origins, Catholicism — and with a lyrical penchant for dream sequence imagery.

Simple Minds would only build and improve with their next few albums, reaching a creative peak in 1982’s New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84),, which gave them a Top Three U.K. chart peak.

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They were soon a big hit across Europe, but making little impact on American audiences, and so their next album, the Steve Lillywhite-produced Sparkle in the Rain was a more deliberate attempt to get the band going in a more stadium-rock direction.

Released in February 1984. Sparkle in the Rain provided the band with several hit singles, including “Waterfront” (a #1 in a few European countries), “Speed Your Love to Me,” and “Up on the Catwalk.”

The album topped the charts in the UK and hit the Top 20 in several other countries, including Canada, where it reached #13.

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The band’s big break in the States would finally come with a single — originally intended to be released in the U.S. only while the band worked on their next new album in the UK — that was intended to be the theme song to director John Hughes’ teen angst film The Breakfast Club.

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John Hughes casually lounges on the floor during a meeting on the set of The Breakfast Club (1984)

Hughes — who had written the screenplay for Breakfast Club during what he later called his “Clash-Elvis Costello period”, although neither act’s music appears on the soundtrack — had brought on Keith Forsey as the producer of the soundtrack, and to write original material for the album and the film.

Forsey was no stranger to film soundtracks: in 1984, he won an Oscar for co-writing “Flashdance… What a Feeling.” He was also the writer (with Harold Faltermeyer) for Glenn Frey’s “The Heat Is On,” from Beverly HIlls Cop.

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Irene Cara with her Best Original Song Oscar for “Flashdance… What a Feeling. ” She shared the award with Giorgio Moroder and Keith Forsey (pictured).

Forsey and songwriter Steven Schiff had originally written “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” as a track for both the opening and closing credits and tailored it for the talents of Roxy Music’s lead vocalist Bryan Ferry.

Unfortunately, according to Susannah Gora, author of the book You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried, Ferry’s father died right before a scheduled meeting, and so Forsey had to look elsewhere.

Armed with the demo and clips from the film, co-producer Michelle Manning and music supervisor David Anderle spent several weeks shopping the song around London, to no avail, pitching the track to Annie Lennox, Cy Curnin of The Fixx, and Billy Idol (although Forsey claims the latter pitch never happened), but none of them were interested.

The director and the soundtrack producer weren’t sure who to approach next. They then got the idea to reach out to Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, but she was pregnant at the time, and since the song was going to have a video of the artist performing the song, and she didn’t want to be filmed in her current physical state, so she passed too.

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However, Hynde was married at the time to Simple Minds lead singer Jim Kerr, as of May 5, 1984 (in ceremony that reportedly took place on a horse drawn carriage ride in Central Park).

They’d met in January of that year when the Pretenders world tour coincided briefly, at two music festivals in New South Wales, Australia, with that of the Simple Minds, and she and Kerr had begun an affair (Hynde was with Ray Davies of the Kinks at the time).

Forsey, it turned out, was such a fan of Simple Minds and became so fixated on the notion of them recording his song that he flew to London to persuade them.

Hynde told her husband, “You have to do this movie,” and since the band were signed to A&M in the U.S. — the record company releasing the movie’s soundtrack album — it seemed like a perfect fit.

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Simple Minds and Kerr at first refused to record the track as well, even though they probably realized it offered them a chance to break into the U.S. market, something that A&M was eager to have happen, and soon.

Kerr and the band told Forsey they were reluctant to record material written by outside parties, but Forsey was persistent, and after he talked the band into viewing a screening of Hughes film, he played them the demo again and said “If you don’t like what we’ve got, then change [the song], make it work for you.”

They listened to Forsey’s demo and then recorded a version of their own at Wembley Studio in just three hours that was so unlike what Forsey had wanted — although it apparently sounded just like any other Simple Minds track — that the album’s producer didn’t quite know what to do, at first.

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The track certainly didn’t fit the mood of the film at all.

Someone from A&M Records and music supervisor Anderle both got involved at this point, and pretty much “forced” (or “convinced”) Simple Minds to go back into the studio re-record the track exactly like Forsey’s demo — with the same orchestrations — and when Kerr returned several days later, he reportedly told Forsey that no changes were necessary, saying of the song “I love it,” although during the recording he added his own personal touches, including a signature yell.

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Hughes, meanwhile, liked Forsey’s original demo so much he used it for the opening scenes, when the students first arrive for detention.

The video — directed by Danny Kleinman — would featured Kerr amid a bank of TV monitors showing scenes from The Breakfast Club, in addition to childhood toys, and a Seeburg jukebox.

A&M Records released the video, which debuted, along with Thomas Dolby’s “Hyperactive,” during MTV’s medium rotation in the middle of January 1985, but after the film was theatrically released into U.S. theaters on February 5th, and the single was issued on February 23rd, the song shot up the charts, spending twenty-two weeks on the charts and climbing to the #1 in April and then again to the #2 spot on May 18th (the soundtrack album itself spent thirty-one weeks on the charts, and was certified gold in sales).

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The track launched the band into the stratosphere, and soon then were filling arenas just like U2 and Bruce Springsteen, and in the summer of 1985, they were invited to appear on the American leg of Live Aid.

Their eighth studio album, Once Upon a Time, released that fall, established them as an international act, but they’d refused to allow their UK record company to release “Don’t You” in Europe, and the album was pressed up without the track included.

The first single from the album, “Alive and Kicking,” with a video directed by pioneering filmmaker and videographer Zbigniew Rybczyński, climbed to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, which pleased the label, and the band, who hoped it allayed any lingering fears that their song “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” had simply been the lucky recipient of a soundtrack hit.

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The label, Virgin Records, decided to go against the band’s wishes anyway, though, knowing it was a surefire hit, and suddenly, Simple Minds had a European hit with the song that they didn’t even want released.

For their 1986 video “All The Things She Said,” they returned to work with Rybczyński, who this time used a digital disk video recorder which allowed him to use a unique “instant video” process, the new multi-level Ultimatte technique, allowwing the director to shoot and edit simultaneously, essentially eliminating the need for post-production work.

The Simple Minds’ video was the first video ever to use the process the director had invented for his Zbig Vision Ltd. film company.

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The concept involved laying in 112 separate 23-second takes — each one atop the previous take — creating the illusion of an endless line of images without any edits.

The results show Kerr entering the foreground of the initial video frame, while the camera begins a steady, gradual backward track that continues throughout the one-shot, four-minute duration of the clip.

Every two seconds — and three feet of videotape later — either another image of Kerr or one of lead guitarist Charlie Burchill or backup vocalist Robin Clark emerges in the foreground. At the same time, the first image trails off into the background. Each individually taped character — and there are up to 13 in one frame — sings and often moves in perfect synch with the rest.

Rybczyński would later claim that the process looked complicated, on paper, but it was really very simple and an outgrowth of his “mathematically logical approach to technology.”

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Each take, paced at approximately one every eight minutes, was entered into the Ultimatte and tehn keyed over the previous take, and to facilitate the “key-ins,” the entire 3,000-square foot shooting area of New York’s Teletronics Center Stage was painted blue, and film-style lighting was created using sky pans and silks.

Additionally, a 35-foot camera dolly track was laid down, alongside of which were entered the time-code numbers corresponding to the audio master tape.

These were announced out loud while taping by a time-code reader, whose eyes were on the floor the whole time. In this manner, the dolly grip was able to synch the dolly position exactly in relation to the previously-recorded video layers on the video playback tape.

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Check out Simple Minds’ videos for “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” “Alive & Kicking,” “All The Things She Said” and four more in our 1986 Video Profile on Night Flight Plus .

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.