'Simply The Best!'
This year sees Simply Red celebrate their 22nd birthday, having introduced themselves to the world in 1985 with the hit single ‘Money’s Too Tight (To Mention)’ a Valentine Brothers cover taken from their debut album Picture Book
The seeds of Simply Red were sown in Manchester in the early 1980’s. Mick Hucknall formed the punk band Frantic Elevators. After they disbanded, Mick put the first Simply Red incarnation together. Picture
Book was followed by a string of critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums: Men And Women (1987), A New Flame (1989), Stars (1991), Life (1995), Blue (1998), Love And The Russian Winter (1999), Home (2003), Simplified (2005), and next month the brand new album Stay.
Propelled by Mick Hucknall’s voice and passion, Simply Red are unique among their peers. The group effortlessly glide between highly original material and totally exceptional covers of other people’s songs that suddenly become their own.
“I’m very much of that British tradition that started with the Rolling Stones whereby black American traditions are filtered into something that is original in itself and not at all derivative. Having a good,
strong voice helps in that process too,” explains singer Mick Hucknall.
Simply Red have had 29 Top 40 hits in the UK, have had 5 number 1 albums in the UK, and 9 albums in the Top 5.
Is it true that a Sex Pistols gig in 1976 at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester was the catalyst for you to jump into music and form your own band – The Frantic Elevators? A punk band, of all genres?! "Well, it wasn't just that gig. I was listening to a lot of reggae and soul at the time but I think seeing the Pistols in '76 really made believe I could get on stage and do it."
And with that in mind, is it true that before the name Simply Red was chosen that for short periods of time the band was called both ‘Red and the Dancing Dead’ and then ‘Just Red’? There seems to be a recurring theme there, me thinks! "Your research is good, yes it's true! I didn't like the name Simply Red at first but I guess it was meant to be!"
Knowing that Simply Red kicked-started its success in 1985, how has the business changed in your eyes in these passing 20+ years? "It's so much faster and more cynical. If artists like Van Morrison or Neil Young were starting now I don't think they would be given time to develop."
At this stage of your life is Simply Red a band or just Mick Hucknall and some touring/session musicians? "I'm often asked this but I've had pretty much the same band since 1995 who all have some co-writes on the recent albums. Ian kirkham has been with me for 20 years so I don't think they would like being called a load of session musos!"
This new album ‘STAY’ is quit easily one of the best Simply Red-sounding albums in a long while. What has finally gotten you back on track musically? "Thank you. Funny thing happened. We are releasing an official book on Simply Red at the end of the year and I had to read the proof of the book last August over a weekend. It knocked me for six, reading my whole life in one sitting and really refocused me on what I was doing."
On the final track on the album ‘Little Englander,’ you sing "Let me smash the plastic face of my country" ... but what exactly do you mean by that statement? "It's written about bigotry and small mindedness and that's what I want to 'smash'"
Do you have a new favorite song from ‘STAY’ that is your go-to track when talking about it to friends or the media? And if so, why is it so? "I guess it's 'Good Times' ... and that song just kinda fell out of me. The band were jamming this blues progression and I loved it and started singing these lyrics straight off. They stayed pretty much the same. I love the groove."
Even today for an established band such as Simply Red, is it still hard to crack the US market and give it as successful run for its money as England allows you to do? "I wish I could spend more time there. I think it's harder if you don't live somewhere to really break through."
Are you still as staunt (and as vocal) a political supporter for the Labor Party as you once were? Does it get you into trouble, perhaps? "I'm very pro-labour party which sometimes rubs people up the wrong way. I'm proud that I have been consistent on this since I've been old enough to vote."
Will you be touring here in the States sometime soon, perhaps? "I'll be coming over for some promotion next month then who knows? I'll take a short break to become a father in the summer but at some point I'd like to tour properly there."
Is it true you own a vineyard in Italy that produces the red wine Il Cantante (The Singer) along with part-owning a Parisian restaurant-bar called Man Ray with Johnny Depp: , John Malkovich and Sean Penn ? If so, especially re: the wine, where can we buy it from?! "We're just starting to sell the wine outside of Italy so you should be able to buy it here before too long!"
What’s your opinion on 'American Idol' and the instant success some of these artists are achieving without having had to pay their dues? "Good luck to them ... but don't confuse the TV industry with the music industry."
Throwing a comedic curve ball in, Exclusive Magazine love Penguins, ... but do you?! "I used to eat one every day when I was growing up! You do mean the biscuit?"
Finally, Exclusive Magazine would like to send out some hearty congratulations to you and the lovely Gabriella for the news that you are expecting a baby daughter in June. That is wonderful news and we hope your life becomes richer because of it :-) "Thank you."
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
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