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simply red - manchester's new flame
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Simply Red
 
"I don’t get hassled in Manchester. Northerners aren’t like that. They’re slightly embarrassed by giving you too much hassle. The truth is, I think we’re actually intentionally misread by the press in London." - Mick Hucknall
 
   

'Michael Hucknall was born on June 8th 1960 in Manchester's St Mary's Hospital. By the time he was 3 years old, his mother had walked out on him and his father.

Mick attended Audenshaw Grammar where he was bullied by the other boys for having red hair. He bonded further with his best friends and together they later went on to form a band, The Frantic Elevators.

The Frantic Elevators, a Manc punk band, failed to allow Mick to express his vocals as he desired. They were therefore disbanded four years later to allow the brilliant singer to change direction and in 1984, Mick's new group, Simply Red, signed to Elektra Records and have since become one of the greatest acts of all time, selling almost 50 million records World-wide.

For the original line-up, Mick recruited three ex-members of Manchester band, Durutti Column, in Tony Bowers (bass), Chris Joyce (drums) and Tim Kellett (trumpet), as well as guitarists Fritz McIntyre and David Fryman (later replaced by Sylvan Richardson).

Their debut single, a cover of the Valentine Brothers' "Money's Too Tight (To Mention)", echoed the anti-Thatcher feelings in Manchester at the time (May 1985) and immediately scored Top 20 success, (UK Number 13). In fact Simply Red were so called in acknowledgement to Mick's support of the Labour Party and Manchester United as well as his trademark red hair.

The follow up single, "Come To My Aid", failed to chart in August 1995 and the debut album, "Picture Book", originally only reached a disappointing No.34 in the UK.

It was the track "Holding Back The Years" however that broke Simply Red into the big-time. Originally recorded as The Frantic Elevators in 1982, it failed to make any impact in the UK at first (No.51 in Nov '85) and was quickly followed by a further flop-single, "Jericho" (which failed to chart in Feb'86). However, as if to keep faith in their investment, Elektra took one final throw of the dice in March 1986 - as a result the U.S.A. release of "Holding Back The Years" topped the charts and was followed by "Picture Book"'s No.16 Billboard album chart success.

The international success of "Holding Back The Years" brought the group further attention from outside Manchester and the U.S. and was subsequently re-released in May 1986. Simply Red suddenly found themselves sitting high at Number 2 in the UK charts. "Money's Too Tight" was re-released in the U.S.A. to Number 28 Billboard chart success in July 1986, although the single, "Open Up The Red Box", failed to score any success in either the U.S., nor the U.K in the same month.

Saxophonist Ian Kirkham and backing vocalist Janette Sewell were added to the band before Sylvan was replaced by Aziz Ibrahim (the brillaint guitarist who has since scored success with Ian Brown).

"The Right Thing" brought Simply Red singles chart success in February 1987 (No.11 UK/No.27 USA) and introduced the second album, "Men And Women" (No.2 in the UK album charts) which also spawned the singles "Infidelity" (UK no.31), "Maybe Someday" (didn't chart), the cover of Cole Porter's classic "Everytime We Say Goodbye" (No.11), "I Won't Feel Bad" and "Let Me Have It All" (which both also failed to chart).

The sudden interest in the group saw "Picture Book" re-enter the UK album charts to sit pretty alongside its follow-up (it also reached No.2). Aziz and Janette left the band as guitarist Heitor T.P. arrived for the next smash album;

"A New Flame" instantly topped the UK chart in 1989 (No.22 in U.S.A.) and was premiered by the hit single "It's Only Love" (UK No.13), a cover of the Barry White classic. The album's biggest success though came with the splendid re-working of Harold Melvin and the Bluetones' "If You Don't Know Me By Now" which returned Simply Red to the top of the US Billboard charts. Again the success could not be quite matched in the UK - it reached Number 2. The single-release of the title-track, "A New Flame" (UK No.17), was followed by the less successful "You've Got It" (UK.No.41) before Tony and Chris were replaced in 1991 by Gota (drums) and Shaun Ward (bass).

The album, "A New Flame", went on to sell almost 2.5 million copies in the UK alone however was soon to be eclipsed by the staggering success of Simply Red's next release...

In September 1991 the single "Something Got Me Started" reached Number 11 in the UK (No.27 in the U.S.) and heralded the superb album, "Stars", which not only topped the charts but also sold over 3.6 million copies in the UK alone! The album spawned the massive hit singles, "Stars" (UK No.8), "For Your Babies" (No.9), "Thrill Me" (No.33), and "Your Mirror" (No.17), an attack at John Major's ruling Conservative party which included live recordings from the band's Lancashire Cricket Club's Old Trafford stadium concert.

November 1992 saw the release of the superb "Montreux EP", (UK No.11), a collection of tracks recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival, highlighting the bands diversity and Mick's creative edge.

After just one albeit successful album, Shaun and Gota left leaving Mick, Fritz, Ian, Heiter T.P., and newly appointed backing vocalist Dee Johnson to record the group's fifth album, "Life" in 1995. It again found success, topping the UK charts and spawning Simply Red's first UK Number One single, the dancy almost-techno tune, "Fairground", a different style but distinctive Simply Red nonetheless. The singles, "Remembering The First Time", "Never Never Love", and the official Euro'96 theme, "We're In This Together", which Mick performed live at his beloved Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium in a concert with M People to close the European Football Championships.

Simply Red's "Greatest Hits" was released in October 1996 and included the new hit single, "Angel". In reaching Number One, the album also made the Manchester soul act the UK's biggest selling artist of the 1990's (surpassing even Queen).

The oddly-titled "Blue" album followed in 1998, taking a slightly more reggae-approach, and included the hit singles "Night Nurse" (UK No.14), "Say You Love Me" and "Ghetto Girl". It was the cover of "The Air That I Breathe", originally recorded by fellow Manchester band, The Hollies, that created the biggest impression though and two versions were included on the Number 1 Platinum-selling album.

Mick and the band returned to the recording studios and in October 1999, the dancy-house single, "Ain't That A Lot Of Love", heralded the arrival of the new album, "Love And The Russian Winter" which in February 2000 has also spawned the brilliant single "Your Eyes", a soft ballard in the "Stars"-mode.

Whlst Simply Red's final offering of the 20th Century was certainly one of their best recordings, "Love And The Russian Winter" surprisingly failed to score commercial success, only reaching UK Number 6.

The compilation album, "It's Only Love", followed in November 2000, lifting classic love songs from the Simply Red back catalogue. Reaching only Number 28 in the UK charts, it was the bands biggest flop to date, signalling the possible end of a successful era. Had Mick Hucknall become a has-been?

The critically acclaimed comeback album, "Home" was released in March 2003., heralded by the single "Sunrise". Are Simply Red back? Maybe the lyrics of the album's title track says it all..

"So fake cool image should be over
‘Cause I long for a feeling of home
Real life, depicted in song
A loving memory
After long, home is a place where I yearn to belong"

Manchester will always remain home to Simply Red - we still love you Mick!

 

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