By Jim Kerr, Simple Minds
“You should have a cup of tea with the singer Colin Hay when you get here. He’s a Scot and his band Men At Work are Australia’s hottest right now. He’ll let you know how the market works ‘Down Under.’ Not sure that tea is his thing though? Whisky? A bottle each probably, considering where you are both from?”
The voice on the other end of the phone line, belonging to an Australian music journalist, chuckled at those last words. I still recall appreciating the advice, also recall being surprised to discover that Colin is Scottish? Back in those pre internet days background info of that sort was not so readily available.
It was the beginning of October 1981 after all, and the early autumn sun entered through the gap in the curtains as I lay on top of a single bed in a Bayswater hotel room. Although spotlessly clean the room itself looked like it had not been decorated since the early 60’s, a notion further enhanced by the frequent sound of 60’s pop ballads coming through the wall. My neighbour, singer Marc Almond, at that point was flush with success as a result of his group Soft Cell hitting the No 1 spot in the UK charts. Although we never spoke, I got to like the music he was listening to.
Simple Minds meanwhile were undoubtedly busy growing our fan base through continually playing live and frantically recording and releasing new albums sporadically. Nothing we had released had yet entered the top 30 singles charts anywhere on the planet. Undeterred by that fact, we were nevertheless excitedly preparing for a few months of touring that would see us return to North America followed by our debut tours of Australia and New Zealand.
And there genuinely was news worth getting excited about. That news was parlayed to me by a succession of journalists as we chatted for hours on end doing interviews, our voices communicating across continents and oceans via my bedside telephone.
Canada for example, had continued leading the way with support for our group. Previous time through, there had been a feverish atmosphere at our club gigs in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. This time though we’d be moving into bigger theatres. Hooray! As for the USA? Small scale as the venues may still have been, some cities had added a second date, including the famous ‘Whiskey A Go Go’ in Los Angeles. We were still far from any major commercial breakthrough, but there was increasing confidence from concert promoters that Simple Minds could have some kind of worthwhile career in that part of the world..
Australia and New Zealand on the other hand? As excited as we were to be setting foot on those shores, we had no idea what would be in store or how we should try to best maximise whatever opportunities might come our way.
Being so far from the UK, we felt the chances were that we might only get one crack – and wanted to hit the ground running as a result.
All of which led me to be quizzing the aforementioned journalist from Oz on how best to go about it?
As it turned out on arrival, plenty of ‘industry people’ were queuing up to help us in whatever way they could, to this day we remain thankful. As a result of the success of those first tours of Australia and New Zealand, returning back home to Glasgow with a suitcase packed with ‘gold discs’ is something never to be forgotten.
And as for that cup of tea with Colin Hay? Unfortunately it didn’t happen.
I guess I forgot to ask about how I might put the wheels in motion, in any case he was extremely busy setting fire to the pop charts the world over at the time.
I remain a fan though, and through listening to his new album just today, plus considering all that we’ve seen from his current shows on Youtube etc. (Not only a great singer and musician, he’s truly hilarious!)
Both Charlie Burchill and I reckon that there are few working in music presently who we’d enjoy more having a cup of tea with than Colin Hay.
How about you? Who in music would you like to have a cup of tea or coffee with?
Talking of sixties ballads. Colin’s version of this classic get’s a thumbs up from me.