PRIPTON Weird has come a long way. Starting as a Self Abuser, he became a Simple Mind, and now has a hotel in Sicily.

I’ve truncated a fascinating and inspiring career there, but where do you begin with Jim Kerr, the Simple Minds singer described as having “David Bowie’s rich baritone melded with Bryan Ferry’s velvety croon”?

Let’s revisit his first breath, which took place on July 9, 1959, at Rottenrow Maternity Hospital, Glasgow. Ah, Glasgow. Kerr adores his birthplace: “We’re all carved from a certain rock – and in my case, that rock is Glasgow.”

Domestic life began within a loving Irish-Scots family in the Gorbals.

Dad was a brickie’s labourer and a keen reader, who took five-year-old James to Govanhill Library, so beginning the process that would take his words into the ears of millions.

When Jim was eight, the family moved to an 11th-floor flat in Toryglen, where he met the boy who was to become a buddy and bandmate for life: Charlie Burchill.

Kerr eschews the idea that high-rises are necessarily hellish or devoid of community. At least they weren’t back then. “Heroin hadn’t turned up yet,” he told The Guardian last year. “There were jobs. It was the modern world.” 

His mother Irene was employed in a bakery next door to a bookie’s where Burchill’s mother Ellen worked. He remembers Ellen later lamenting the fact that when Simple Minds first flew to the States, her boy hadn’t taken a jacket.

An introverted boy, Jim had a stammer during childhood until music liberated his voice. Music costs money and, to earn some, 14-year-old Jim took a weekend job as a butcher’s boy in a local supermarket.

The blood on his hands (later, he became vegetarian) bought tickets to see David Bowie (“60p – still got that ticket”), Genesis, Roxy Music, and Lou Reed. 

Then came punk. He and Burchill hitchhiked to London to see the Sex Pistols, which they didn’t, opting instead to see Europe (continent not big-hair rock band).

Weird moniker
In April 1977, Jim, Charlie and pals decided in the spirit of punk to do it themselves, forming Johnny and the Self Abusers, for which Kerr adopted the pseudonym Pripton Weird. 

Their first gig was at Glasgow’s Doune Castle pub, and they supported Generation X in Edinburgh shortly afterwards.

A review by Hanging Around fanzine of a gig at Glasgow’s Art College Club noted: “The audience of wilted flower children and drunk straights didn’t appear to enjoy it.” Beer cans were thrown.

The Self Abusers – described by Jim as “atrocious and amateur” – released one independent single, Saints And Sinners, and split up the same day. Two weeks later, Kerr and guitarist Burchill started Simple Minds.

Their first gig was at Satellite City, above the Glasgow Apollo, part of a bill supporting Steel Pulse, on January 17, 1978. 

Jim recalls “walking on to nothing more than the sound of our own feet”. They left, he added, to loud applause. 

So began the road to stardom and becoming Scotland’s most commercially successful band of the 1980s. On April 1, 1979, though, they fooled no-one with the release of debut album Life On A Day, showcasing a Roxy Music influence from a band unsure of direction. 

Darker sequel Real To Real Cacophony took them a few steps further, signalling a fascination with European culture that became evident in third album Empires And Dance, inspired by the industrial rhythms of Neu!, Kraftwerk and Cabaret Voltaire. NME called it “a weird, agitating record”, AllMusic a “post-punk dance classic”.

Jim says: “It took us a couple of albums to rise above our influences, but by Empires And Dance we were flying.” Calling it a flight from punk would be over-egging the pudding but, as the band’s website says, “punk was a springboard rather than a template”. 

Donna Summer’s I Feel Love inspired the desire to incorporate synthesiser.

The Herald:

Golden years
THE band achieved global reach in 1982, when New Gold Dream provided their first UK top 10 album. 

Part of its popularity doubtless relates to its lyrical sense of hope and possibility at a time of mass unemployment, but songs such as Promised You A Miracle, Glittering Prize, and Someone Somewhere In Summertime also helped.

New Gold Dream has stood the test of time and last year was gigged in Paisley Abbey for a Sky Arts programme. 

An album of the performance has recently been released.

After a hit single – Don’t You (Forget About Me) – the following year, the album Sparkle In The Rain, including the songs Waterfront, Up On The Catwalk, and Speed Your Love To Me, topped the charts in 20 countries. 

While selling 60 million albums worldwide, Simple Minds played for millions more at 1985’s Live Aid, organised by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure for Ethiopian famine relief.

Gigging for aid continued in the US where Jim’s father flew in from Glasgow to watch him perform before 90,000 in Philadelphia’s JFK stadium. 

Shortly beforehand, though, faither couldn’t be found. At last, he turned up explaining: “Oh, I was with Dylan.” Bob of that ilk. 

Kerr senior expressed his concern that Mr Dylan and Keith Richards, 
due to take the stage, were both “steaming”.

Simple Minds ran out of steam in the early 2000s but, after a subtle musical makeover, soon found form again. 

With Kerr and Burchill the only surviving founder members, their 18th album, Direction Of The Heart, was released last year, reaching four in the charts. 

A global tour takes place next year, including Glasgow’s Ovo Hydro on March 29 and 30.

Paradise lost
JIM Kerr’s life hasn’t been all music. Another great love is Celtic. He once formed part of a consortium trying to take over the club, telling then majority shareholder Fergus McCann to “get the kettle on”.

The Herald:

The bid never came to the boil.

He was married to Chrissie Hynde and Patsy Kensit, not at the same time, and appears to have met both either while waiting for or getting in a lift. Like all relationships, they had their ups and downs, but also produced a son and daughter.

Today, he lives mostly in Taormina, Sicily, with his Japanese partner Yumi. He owns the hotel Villa Angela there, and also spends time in Nice. And, of course, Glasgow, the city he says that “literally made Simple Minds”.