Ahead of Simple Minds’ long-awaited gig at Slessor Gardens on September 9, guitarist Charlie Burchill tells Michael Alexander about the “heady times” in Dundee during the band’s early days –and explains why he’s “fallen in love again” with Scotland.
With days to go until rock legends Simple Minds play Dundee’s Slessor Gardens at the end of their Grand Slam 2018 tour, guitarist Charlie Burchill is “looking forward immensely” to taking to the stage again alongside old friends The Pretenders and the “amazing” KT Tunstall from St Andrews.
While Simple Minds are synonymous with Glasgow where founder member Charlie and lead singer Jim Kerr grew up, the Dundee ties have been strengthened over the past decade thanks to bass player Ged Grimes, formerly of Dundee’s Danny Wilson, joining the band.
But Charlie, 58, who wanted to play guitar from around the age of eight, laughs when he thinks back to some of their early Dundee gigs back in the day.
“We had some heady times in Dundee – it used to be quite rough!” he says.
“That whole drama of that side of the country that we’re not from.
“That always fascinated us. We were always intrigued.
“We loved the humour. We loved the humour of Fife as well.
“It was quite alien to us believe it or not – especially in the early days.
“Being from Glasgow, it was like going to a different country!”
Founded in Glasgow in 1977, Simple Minds went on to be one of the most commercially successful Scottish bands ever, having achieved five UK number one albums during their career and selling over 70 million records worldwide.
Hits included Don’t You Forget About Me, Alive and Kicking and Belfast Child – and in 2016 they won the British Academy’s Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Song Collection.
With the V&A Dundee opening yards from Slessor Gardens on September 15, their 1983 track ‘Waterfront’ will take on even greater significance – and fans can expect the greatest hits to be played alongside a selection of tracks from the recently released acclaimed album Walk Between Worlds.
“It’s going to be great,” he says. “KT Tunstall is amazing. She’s incredible on every level.
“And I’m so excited to be playing with The Pretenders – because we toured together – we did America, Japan, Australia. Chrissie Hynde is brilliant. You can learn so much from watching her play. She’s dynamite.”
However, it’s his friendship with Chrissie’s ex-husband Jim Kerr, who he grew up with, that remains central to the success of the band.
“We’ve never had the ‘creative friction’ relationship – we’ve never had that,” he says.
“That never really worked for us. We are so different. I couldn’t write a lyric to save myself and Jim couldn’t write music!
“So we’re kind of in our own territories and we are very reliant on each other.”
Charlie’s inner sense of exploration fuels his song writing and has seen him enjoy visiting new places over the years.
But having toured the world and having lived in Rome, Charlie admits that as he’s got older he’s come to fall in love with Scotland again.
“Recently I’ve been spending a lot more time in Scotland – in Glasgow,” he says.
“I really fell in love again with the place.
“I never really left – it’s hard to articulate.
“Scotland really shaped us – it’s in our DNA.
“People say to you ‘your music’s got a kind of Celtic atmosphere to it’.
“In a way I think – now when you get to this point, a wee bit older, it’s nice to think ‘Scotland – that’s my place’.
“Roots are really important. It’s now that I’ve come to really appreciate it.”
*Simple Minds/Pretenders/KT Tunstall, Slessor Gardens, Dundee, September 9.