Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Simple Minds 'Belfast Child'

Chart Peak: 1
The first Scottish group to top the UK singles chart since Wet Wet Wet way back in May 1988!... Stormed in at No. 2 on February 1989, [sic] progressed to No.1 the following week.
Presumably the reference to Wet Wet Wet is intended to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek, since May to February is a gap of less than nine months and I doubt that's anything like the longest gap between Scottish acts at the top of the chart. Still, though 'Belfast Child' isn't the best-known or biggest-selling Simple Minds single, it is their only Number One over here (sometimes listed as a double A-side with 'Mandela Day' or as Ballad Of The Streets EP'). It's also the second track on this side based on a traditional tune, after Status Quo, though the source here is the relatively well-known 'She Moved Through The Fair'. The reasons for using an Irish tune in the context of a song about the Troubles in Northern Ireland are obvious, and Jim Kerr says he was inspired to do so after the atrocity of the Enniskillen bombing on Remembrance Day 1987. I've no doubt he was well-intentioned in doing so and I can imagine how a more subtle take on this idea may have worked, maybe as a brief acoustic track at the end of an album. Unfortunately, Simple Minds never really seem to have understood simplicity, and the finished article, even at the five-minute duration of the radio edit, seems to drag as it strains to carry the weight of its own pomposity; not helped at all by the super-slick production which ramps up the sentimentality at the expense of any genuine feeling, nor the airbrushed-looking video. My copy of Now 14 is scratched during this track so I've never been able to confirm exactly which edit is on there.

I will be fair and say that this might actually have sounded better at the time than it does now, and at least its heart is in the right place. What the band themselves might think of it at this point I don't know, but I suspect they might be prouder of this than 'Don't You Forget About Me'.

Also appearing on: Now 1, 5, 6, 7, 15, 23, 30
Available on: Celebrate: The Collection

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