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Digital Subscriptions > Classic Pop > March 2019 - The Specials > THE LOWDOWN: SIMPLY RED

THE LOWDOWN: SIMPLY RED

SIMPLY RED EMERGED FROM THE POSTPUNK SCENE IN MANCHESTER TO BECOME A BRIT POP-SOUL SENSATION, CLOCKING UP NO.1 SINGLES ON BOTH SIDES OF THE ATLANTIC, WINNING MULTIPLE BRIT AND GRAMMY AWARDS AND SHIFTING MORE THAN 55 MILLION UNITS WORLDWIDE.
© Ron Wolfson/WireImage

Before Simply Red came The Frantic Elevators, fronted by a flamehaired Mancunian with the sort of powerhouse voice the post-punk milieu couldn’t contain. After seven years paying his dues in a band that never transcended their local fanbase, Mick Hucknall shifted direction in 1984, forming Simply Red – the name referencing his avowed love of Manchester United, allegiance to socialism and, of course, those red tresses.

Within a year, they had reached the Top 20 at home, and pitched up in the US Top 30, with a version of The Valentine Brothers’ Money’s Too Tight (To Mention), while their debut album, Picture Book, achieved platinum status.

But it was a reissued single, penned by Hucknall in his bedroom, that sent Simply Red’s star shooting into the stratosphere. Holding Back The Years gave them the first of two American chart-toppers, while it was only kept off the No.1 spot in Britain by Doctor And The Medics’ Spirit In The Sky.

Simply Red’s second album, Men And Women, spawned a handful of minor hits, among them The Right Thing and Cole Porter’s classic Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye, before 1989’s A New Flame gave the group their second pole position Stateside with If You Don’t Know Me By Now, a 1972 success for Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes.

“THE NAME SIMPLY RED REFERENCES HUCKNALL’S AVOWED LOVE OF MANCHESTER UNITED AND, OF COURSE, THOSE RED TRESSES”

1991 would bring what is generally considered the group’s best long-player, the sublime Stars. In fact, it tickled the nation’s cultural sweet spot so much that became the best-selling album of the year in the UK for both 1991 and 1992.

Despite Stars’ success, they had to wait until 1995 before securing their sole UK No.1 single, Fairground, which sampled The Goodmen’s 1992 dance track, Give It Up.

Simply Red had gone through numerous line-up changes by the time keyboard player Fritz McIntyre departed after the release of the Life album – which left Hucknall the only surviving member of the original outfit.

Subsequently, although he continued to record and tour under the Simply Red moniker, Hucknall was essentially a solo artist flanked by a moveable feast of session musicians.

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About Classic Pop

Issue 50 of Classic Pop is on sale now! For our 50th issue, we had to come up with something very special – and we certainly have… our cover stars this month are The Specials, hot on the heels of the release of their superb chart-topping album, Encore. Our must-read interview with the band delves into their remarkable comeback and the story behind their superb new record. We also catch up with the iconic Gloria Estefan who tells us how she brought Latin grooves to the world and Bonnie Tyler talks us through her new studio album, which features a hotly-anticipated duet with Sir Rod Stewart. 30 years on, we celebrate New Order’s Technique in our latest Classic Album feature and we also serve up a buyer’s guide to the blue-eyed soul of Simply Red. As Wet Wet Wet face the future without Marti Pellow, we meet the band as they embark on a fresh chapter with new frontman, The Voice winner Kevin Simm. Our packed new album reviews section features the wonderful return of Chaka Khan plus Dido, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Paul Weller. On the reissues front, we check out a must-have 10-CD Heaven 17 boxset plus re-releases from David Bowie, Sparks, Erasure and more. In our live reviews section, we elbow our way down to the front for Gary Numan and Echo & The Bunnymen at the Rockaway Beach Festival plus gigs by Chrvches and The Christians. Enjoy the issue!