The greatest bands, or so the story goes, begin with two aspiring young musicians and a dream.
Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, for example, are said to have met on a train while attending art school and bonded over a love of blues.
Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill of Simple Minds, however, met while playing in a sand pit on a Glasgow building site.
Kerr still laughs about it now.
“Before Charlie and I knew each other our families knew each other. We lived in a dilapidated part of Glasgow and they moved us to this new housing project, which we found terribly exciting,” he says.
“They had modern elevators and indoor bathrooms and all that stuff.
“The very first day we moved there my mum told me to get out and play so she could unpack. I walked down the street and there were piles of cement and sand and there was a kid playing on the sand like it was his own private beach.
“And it was Charlie. We had our first conversation and I just knew him as one of the kids on our street but at the age of 12 he took on a magical identity because he was the first guy I knew who had a guitar and an amplifier. And at that time I was becoming obsessed by music.
“So we would hang out in each other’s houses. His older brother had a fantastic collection of music that he wouldn’t let us listen to but we would when he wasn’t there.”
Kerr tried his hand at various instruments for a few years and went to band rehearsals but struggled to find his niche. Then someone asked if he had considered being a singer.
“This band was looking for a singer and they couldn’t find one. That and three bottles of cider drew the singer out of me. It gave me Dutch courage,” he says with a laugh.
“A lot of rock bands usually come from an axis of two guys. They were young, maybe they were at arts school. Think of The Smiths, Morrissey, Led Zeppelin. There’s usually a couple of guys and if you’re just alone pursuing music you can think that you’re mental but when there’s two of you, you think everyone else is mental.
“It becomes a cause, a gang, a movement. I often say Charlie started in a sand pit in Glasgow and now he has his own private beach in Thailand.”
Burchill and Kerr’s bond is an enduring one. They formed in the punk era and shared a love of Bowie, Kraftwerk and electronic dance. Australia was the first country in the world to embrace Simple Minds, giving the band its first ever hit single Love Song and first gold album New Gold Dream. The love affair has continued ever since with chart-toppers like Don’t You (Forget About Me), Alive and Kicking, Promised You A Miracle, Glittering Prize and Waterfront spanning eight top 20 albums.
They last toured Australia in 2009, released album Big Music in 2014 and Simple Minds Acoustic late last year.
“It shouldn’t be as busy as this at this stage of the game but I’m glad to say that it is,” Kerr says.
“Most of our stuff Charlie comes up with. First thing in the morning he gets up and gets a coffee and then sits with a guitar on his lap, or at the piano. That’s how he converses with the oncoming day and within that half hour he is probably working on the chords of what’s to come later.
“We’re halfway through working on the follow-up to our last studio album. We took a break from that because wisdom has taught us that is a good thing to do, to come back to it. Instead of taking a break and going to the beach though, we worked on this acoustic album that has recently been released.
“As we’ve been out promoting that, we’ve been in Germany performing some of our biggest songs with a 60-piece orchestra and a choir. And then we’re heading to Australia.”
Kerr has fond memories of Australia, the country that gave Simple Minds their big break.
“Australia was the first place to give us our first ever gold disc and the first place we thought maybe we could be pop stars,” he says.
“We came over in 1981 and opened for Icehouse, and then we went and did all the pubs and clubs. We left the country feeling so positive and on such a high and we carried on the momentum.
”You had cool radio stations and the presenters didn’t have a playlist, so they could play what they wanted, and you had great Aussie bands. And then you had Molly Meldrum, and he was so supportive of our breakthrough.”
The song they are most known for, movie The Breakfast Club’s signature song Don’t You (Forget About Me), almost didn’t happen.
“John Hughes, who directed The Breakfast Club, and Keith Forsey, who wrote the soundtrack, wanted us involved with the movie and came to see us play one night.
“But it was a gig in LA with a tiny dressing room and millions of people squashed in. Everyone was a bit drunk and unbeknownst to the rest of us, they made a pitch to our keyboard player at the time, Michael MacNeil, but he was drunk and shoved the cassette they gave him into his jacket pocket.
“It stayed in his jacket pocket for over three months. We kept getting these faxes asking us what we thought about the track and we’re like who are these people? Our manager told us it was about some movie being made in America but we were so involved in what we were doing at the time we didn’t pay much attention.
“So it nearly passed us by.
“Then Mick remembered the cassette in his pocket and we listened to it. The melody was there and the words were there and it sounded okay but it wasn’t that great. It wasn’t exciting, it didn’t have the great intro and the ending , so we declined and said we were busy.
“They were disappointed but Keith asked to drop in and see us to talk about future projects. He did that and what happened was that we just liked him. He was a good guy. And then he got clever after a couple of days and said ‘Look, what have you got to lose?’
“So we slammed it down and as we were were putting it down I must say it started to sound exciting.”
The song grew on you?
“It grows on me even more when the royalty cheques come in,” Kerr replies with a laugh.
Many people associate the ’80s with Flock of Seagull hair-dos, Simon Le Bon on a boat and incessant synth but Kerr says it sells the decade short.
“Of course some of those things ring true but what I remember about that generation is the amount of invention. The imagination was there,” he explains.
“Back then you learned your trade. Now, it’s easier to find a cute girl or a one-man-band like Ed Sheeran to pour money into.
“People can get really famous overnight now and have maybe a couple of albums, or even just songs, and then they’re just gone. People get sick of something really quickly. But back in my day when you liked an artist you were in it for the long haul.
“I’ve got nephews who love a track and when I ask who the artist is they don’t know. They can’t put a face to it. It’s something they know from X-Box or something.
“The one thing that has not changed is that people are listening to music more than ever, be it on their iPods or whatever. Music is still being listened to.
“It’s just a different time.”
As for the band today, Kerr says they are “in great form”.
“There’s something about Australia – you have produced such amazing live bands – and we always want to deliver above and beyond.”