“Video Killed the Radio Star: Simple Minds” features the Scottish band’s best-loved videos

By on August 14, 2019

We can’t think of a better way to familiarize yourself with the UK’s “Video Killed the Radio Star” series than to watch the first episode of the show’s fifth season, which focused on the best-loved music videos of Scottish band Simple Minds, featuring extensive in-depth interviews with lead singer Jim Kerr and video directors Andy Morahan and Steve Barron.

Watch Video Killed the Radio Star: Extended Play – Simple Minds on Night Flight Plus.

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In this episode (each one is about twenty minutes in length), Jim Kerr explains the ideas and processes behind many of the band’s most prominent hit songs and videos, including “Chelsea Girl,” “Don’t You Forget About Me” (from the soundtrack to John Hughes’ hit movie The Breakfast Club, the video directed by Danny Kleinman), “Promised You A Miracle,” “All the Things You Said (directed by Zbigniew Rybczyński), “Waterfront (Live in Verona)” and “Belfast Child” (the last two directed by Andy Morahan).

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This short-format half-hour documentary-style TV series was, of course, titled after the music video for the Buggles‘s 1977 hit “Video Killed The Radio Star.”

The 15-episode series — which initially focused on music videos from the 1980s, and occasionally on the British pop chart bands and artists of the 1990s — was originally created for Sky Arts, an arts-oriented UK-based subscription channel offering 24 hours-a-day programming which features cutting-edge documentaries, cult films, and rock concerts on its schedule.

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The first episode premiered on May 5, 2010, with the last episode airing on April 18, 2014.

These episodes — each narrated by Robert Elms — examined the life and ideas behind some of music’s most famous videos, inter-cutting the original videos (sometimes providing rare or rarely-seen content that wasn’t broadcast on basic cable TV programs in the United States) with the iconic bands and the artists’ on-set shenanigans alongside the views and tales from the directors.

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Over the six seasons it delved into a handful of the classic ’80s and ’90s-era videos and the people who made them, through in-depth and anecdotal interviews with music video directors and sometimes even with appearances by the artists themselves.

Read more about Video Killed the Radio Star: Extended Play – Simple Minds below.

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Simple Minds were formed in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1977, but didn’t really hit their commercial stride until their fifth studio album, 1982’s New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84), which charted at #3 on the UK album charts.

They’d have little impact on American audiences, however, until their next album, Sparkle in the Rain, released in February ’84, which 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 that was intended to be the theme song to director John Hughes’ teen angst film The Breakfast Club.

Hughes had brought on Keith Forsey to produce the film’s soundtrack, and to write original material for the album and film, which is what lead to Forsey and songwriter Steven Schiff writing “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” originally intended for both the opening and closing credits and tailored to suit ex-Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry.

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Unfortunately, Ferry’s father died right before a scheduled meeting, so Forsey was forced to look elsewhere, ultimately pursuing Simple Minds, a band he already loved so much that he flew to London to persuade them to record it.

At first they weren’t interested, mainly because they didn’t like the idea of recording material written by outside parties, but Forsey persisted.

Eventually, they recorded a version of their own at Wembley Studio in just three hours, but it was so unlike Forsey’s original demo that the album’s producer didn’t quite know what to do, at first.

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Ultimately, Simple Minds were convinced to re-record the track exactly like Forsey’s demo, with the same orchestrations.

Hearing the finished track, Kerr reportedly told Forsey that no changes were necessary, saying of the song “I love it,” although during the recording he’d 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.

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After The Breakfast Club was theatrically released into U.S. theaters on February 5th, the Simple Minds single (issued on February 23rd) 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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Another popular video featured in this episode of Video Killed the Radio Star was their 1986 video “All The Things She Said,” directed by pioneering filmmaker and videographer Zbigniew Rybczyński, who used a digital disk video recorder which allowed him to use a unique “instant video” process, the new multi-level Ultimatte technique.

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 single, helped no doubt by the video in heavy rotation on MTV, climbed to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, which pleased their U.S. label A&M Records, allaying any lingering fears that their song “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” had simply been the lucky recipient of a soundtrack hit.

Watch Video Killed the Radio Star: Extended Play – Simple Minds 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.