By Jim Kerr, Simple Minds
I’m back in Hamburg.
The sun shone as the flight descended through the clouds, much as it did October ’79 when Simple Minds first visited. On that occasion the boat we came in on arrived through the early morning mist into the third biggest port in Europe, and I remember the excitement as we stood on the deck contemplating what might unfold over the next weeks.
How could we not be excited with the prospect of playing live for the first time outside the UK, particularly so in knowing that after that night’s Hamburg show we were set to then drive through what was then called East Germany enroute for West Berlin. Although the ominous and tragic Berlin Wall was destined to stand for another decade before eventually crumbling – no one was to know that back then. Meanwhile we were just buzzin’ to be in the country that had produced so much music that had held influence over us, and still does. (Neu!, Can, Amon Dull, Kraftwerk etc.)
Excitement was not the only thing we were full of. If asked to describe the character of our unit as we set foot on the area around the Hamburg docks on that crisp autumn morning. It is only fair to say that collectively we were full of ambition.
Ambitious for what you ask?
The reply being that we were determinedly ambitious to continue down the path we had set out for ourselves when we started the band eighteen months or so earlier. The remit being then, as it is now – to take our music around the world and in doing so garner the reputation of being ‘a great live band.’
I’m sure you would agree that having that kind of attitude was a positive attribute, necessary even when starting out. After all, without ambition and the drive to succeed we would never have dared dream of putting a band together, or strategising our way to the brink of a worldwide record deal. Most of which incidentally was done by ourselves, still teenagers, and without help from managers, agents, or any kind of mentors. (All of those came later thankfully.)
It was ambition however that gave fuel to all of that, and so much else that ensued over the decades that followed.
And yet so often ‘ambition’ as a quality is used almost as a dirty word. Derogatory, full of negative connotations, more than often twinned with the word ‘ruthless.’
Well, not so in my book – where ‘unambitious’ is considered a much more unsavoury term.
For although it remains to be seen whether ‘The meek shall inherit the earth.’ (Matthew 5.5)
I can guarantee you that the meek and unambitious will never find their way to forming a great rock band – least not one that anyone will get to hear of.