Tuesday, May 2, 1989

Simple Minds’ Street Fighting Years released

First posted 7/9/2010; updated 10/9/2020.

Street Fighting Years

Simple Minds

Released: May 2, 1989

Peak: 70 US, 11 UK, 24 CN, 11 AU

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.6 UK, 2.44 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: alternative rock


Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Street Fighting Years
  2. Soul Crying Out
  3. Wall of Love
  4. This Is Your Land (with Lou Reed) (4/22/89, 37 AR, 12 MR, 13 UK, 40 CN, 38 AU)
  5. Take a Step Back (6/24/89, 14 MR)
  6. Kick It In (7/17/89, 15 UK, 94 AU)
  7. Let It All Come Down (12/3/89, 77 AU)
  8. Mandela Day (4/18/89, 17 MR, 12 AU)
  9. Belfast Child (2/6/89, 1 UK, 12 AU)
  10. Biko (2/6/89, 12 AU)
  11. When Spirits Rise

Total Running Time: 61:13

The Players:

  • Jim Kerr (vocals)
  • Charlie Burchill (guitar)
  • Mick MacNeil (keyboards)
  • John Giblin, Stephen Lipson (bass)
  • Manu KatchĂ©, Mel Gaynor (drums)
  • Leroy Williams (percussion)


3.550 out of 5.00 (average of 9 ratings)


About the Album:

Simple Minds built a following in the U.K. during the early ‘80s, but didn’t have their U.S. breakthrough until 1985’s #1 pop hit “Don’t You Forget about Me.” Before the year was out, the band followed that up with their most successful album to date, the top 10, gold-selling Once Upon a Time. Then, other than an interim live album, the group disappeared from the scene for four years.

The band was now officially a trio, comprised of founding members Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill, as well as Mick MacNeil, who’d joined in 1978. Mel Gaynor, who’d drummed with the band since 1982, was demoted to a session player after disagreements with producer Trevor Horn. John Giblin, who’d joined the band on bass in 1985, left during the sessions. Horn maintained the “arena rock sense of scale and drama which the band had developed since the mid’1980s,” WK but added “soundtrack atmospherics and a new incorporation of acoustic and Celtic-folk music-related ingredients.” WK

The new approach made for a “decidedly, noncommercial follow-up. Street Fighting Years is a moody, dark affair. The music is yearning and most of the songs are politically charged lyrically.” TD Kerr noted that “every song seemed to be about conflict.” WK The lyrics covered topics such as “the Poll Tax, the Soweto townships, the Berlin Wall, and the stationing of nuclear submarines on the Scottish coast.” WK

It made for mixed reviews. Rolling Stone’s Mark Coleman said the album “stands as an unfortunate example of politicized rock at its most simple-minded.” WK On the other side, though, Q magazine’s David Sinclair said the band “had finally produced a record to justify their reputation.” WK

“Noteworthy tracks include a version of the Peter Gabriel classic Biko and the soaring Mandela Day.” TD “The title track takes some dramatic turns that give the gentle melody added thrust. Take a Step Back pulsates and Wall of Love rocks with conviction. Slower tracks like the brooding Let It All Come Down and a spirited run through the traditional Belfast Child are well done.” TD

The latter was the lead single in the UK and went to #1, as did the album. In the U.S., however, the album was a commercial failure. This Is Your Land, with a guest spot from Lou Reed, was released as the lead single in America. It made the album rock and mainstream rock charts, but failed to dent the Billboard Hot 100.

Overall, “Street Fighting Years is an artistic and elegant album that might lack immediate choruses but draws in the listener.” TD “It might not have satisfied the band’s newly won fans, but Street Fighting Years is an interesting, enjoyable album with some truly lovely moments.” TD

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