Martin Cooper goes all 80s with some stadium rock from the arena-shaking chime and pomp of Simple Minds, and guitarist Charlie Burchill.
Martin Cooper examines the style of Simple Minds’ much-underrated Charlie Burchill.
Gabriel. They may not be quite as well-known names in the household as Bono or Sting, but founding members Jim Kerr on vocals and guitarist Charlie Burchill, along with long-term players such as drummer Mel Gaynor and bassists John Giblin and Derek Forbes, scored massive hits with songs like Don’t You (Forget About Me) and Alive And Kicking in the 80s, as well as playing huge gigs such as Live Aid in 1985 and the concert for the 70th birthday of the thenimprisoned Nelson Mandela in 1988. In fact, many bands were asked to write new material for Mandela for that concert, but only Simple Minds did, and the single that they premiered at the concert, Mandela Day, went on to become their first and only number 1 single on the UK charts in 1989.
Forming amidst the New Wave and punk scene in Glasgow in the late 70s, the band went on to become one of the biggest acts of the following decade, and even though Jim Kerr has never been one to attract too much attention to himself, he has had ‘rock star’ marriages to both Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders and Patsy Kensit. Musically speaking, they have also moved among production royalty, with the likes of U2 producer Steve Lillywhite and U2/Tom Petty studio (and now business) legend Jimmy Iovine both producing some of Simple Minds’ albums in the 1980s.
With a changing music scene and various line-up changes occurring in the 90s, the band’s star began to fade. By the mid-90s it was only Kerr and Burchill left, with a revolving door of studio and past members frequenting studio and live dates with the band. However, they continue to record and tour, and have recently been playing live on a Greatest Hits + tour. They have also announced a new studio album, Big Music, for release in October of this year.
To some extent, Charlie Burchill’s playing was always overshadowed by compatriots such as The Edge, particularly as Burchill’s playing incorporates some similar delayed
Charlie Burchill’s playing is the epitome of taste and restraint, and always serves the song.
guitar parts and atmospheric, soundscape style writing. However, his playing is the epitome of taste and restraint, and always serves the song; particularly impressive when we consider that the band’s heyday was in perhaps the decade that included the most over-the-top, self-gratifying music of the past 50 years!
The track this month incorporates many of the small chords, single notes and delayeffected lines that Burchill has made use of over the past 30 plus years. It’s in the key of G major (G A B C D E F#), although the track sounds like it resolves on the V chord which is D. So, harmonically speaking, you could say it pulls more towards D major (D E F# G A B C#) as a tonal centre than it does G.
It’s all to do with ‘playing for the song’ this month, so while it’s not overly difficult to play, you’ll need to think about the tone and timing all the way through. See the Playing Tips and Get The Tone boxes for further info.
There’s a delay set to quarter notes all the way through, so in the first eight bars you’re only playing four notes per bar, and letting the delay repeat them to create the effect. Let all the notes ring into each other in the next 12 bars, with a quarter-note triplet feel, and then play tightly with some aggression for the rest of the rhy thm par t. Make sure you mute any unwanted strings, as you’ll probably be strumming the par t even though there’s quite a bit of space around the notes you actually play; and pay attention to the muted strings from bar 21 onwards.
Although the solo is slow, it ’s also deliberately tasteful. So look and listen out for the expression that ’s put into the phrases, such slides into some of the notes, which are given extra emphasis by the delay. It ’s worth reiterating that we are playing for the song here, and not the soloist!
Charlie Burchill playing a Bigsby equipped LP Std