Derek Forbes was bassist for the Simple Minds for eleven years. He recently wrote the book ‘A Very Simple Mind’ about his years with the Simple Minds. In a candid conversation with Maxazine, Derek Forbes talks about, among other things, his departure from the Simple Minds, his meeting with Paul McCartney and the legendary performances at Ahoy in Rotterdam.
In one of the first chapters of the book “A Very Simple Mind”, 67-year-old Derek Forbes writes about his childhood in Glasgow and the influence of his family on his musical career. His grandfather played the bagpipes in the army. He learned to play the harmonica with his cousins and listened to records, especially The Beatles. As a 15-year-old, Derek sang in their school band. And his mother bought his first guitar, ‘her best investment ever’, he writes in his book.
Love Like a Man
On his first guitar, Derek tried to play songs like “Love Like a Man” by Ten Years After. Not the simplest baseline for a starter. ‘I tried “Badge” by Cream, songs by Black Sabbath and indeed Ten Years After. Not the easiest indeed, but I managed it. Apparently, I had talent. According to my mother, I have been dancing and playing music from an early age,’ says Derek, after which he hums the baseline of “Love like a man” again.
His uncle John taught him the first chords. ‘He played banjo in a band with my aunt. He wrote out the first twelve simple chords for me. I spent all my free time practising, practising and practising again and before I knew it I was a lead guitarist. In fact, deep down I have always been that way.’
The Subs and Jim Kerr
Although Derek would have preferred to continue as a lead guitarist in his heart, he joined the Scottish punk band The Subs as bassist in the summer of 1977. There he impressed the then-18-year-old Jim Kerr, who then asked him to switch to the newly founded Simple Minds in early 1978. As a bassist. Because Derek didn’t see a future for himself as a bassist, he initially had doubts. The theft of his guitar ultimately helped him in his choice to work as a bassist with the Simple ‘I am still grateful to the thief, without him I would never have been able to contribute to the unmistakable sound of Scotland’s most successful band’, says Derek in his book.
1984: The best year ever
Derek Forbes starts his book with a chapter called “The Best Year Ever”. By this, he refers to 1984, a year in which the album “Sparkle in The Rain” was released and the band made its worldwide breakthrough. The Simple Minds toured almost all continents and attracted full houses and stadiums. Forbes writes in his book in detail – almost day by day and with dates – about anecdotes and encounters during the world tour in which the band performed. From America, Canada and Japan to Europe. Such as the two performances in Ahoy in Rotterdam on March 31 and April 1, 1984. ‘We were still very young and met celebrities and managers, performed for the first time in large halls and stadiums and travelled all over the world. I kept a diary That’s why I can still describe everything in detail. The sold-out performances in Ahoy were special for us because, for the first time, we felt that we had reached the top of the world. Thousands of enthusiastic fans sang along from start to finish and danced continuously. All doubts were erased. away.’
Other visits to the Netherlands are also discussed in Derek Forbes’ book. Such as a bike ride from Arnhem to Velp before a performance in the Stolkvishal in Arnhem in 1982. ‘The Netherlands is a cycling country, so I wanted to get on my bike anyway.’
Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney
During his Simple Minds years, Derek played with and met several internationally known musicians and stars. Such as David Bowie, Frida Lyngstad (from ABBA), Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Olivia Newton-John, Jeff Lynn, U2 and The Rolling Stones with whom he watched the USA-Iran World Cup. His book is full of anecdotes. Derek has no doubts about the answer to the question of which person and encounter mentioned in his book stuck with him most and who inspired him as a musician. ‘I am inspired by Jack Bruce, bassist of Cream, Stanley Clarke, Peter Hook and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, but above all by Paul McCartney. As a young boy, I was a fan of The Beatles. My eldest sister had all their records. I looked up to them. Who wouldn’t? During the remix recording of The Glittering Prize (in 1981), his former wife Linda suddenly walked in and asked us if we wanted to meet Paul in the studio next door. I was shaking with nerves when I met him. shook hands. Paul signed an old Beatles press pass I had once received and wrote “Paul McCartney to a very Simple Mind” referring to a radio presenter who McCartney always announced with A Very Beatle. The title of my book refers to his greeting.’
Speaking of places and cities. Derek Forbes has played with the Simple Minds in dozens of countries and hundreds of cities. The first show in Europe was in Berlin. Although it was decades ago, he still has fond memories of some cities and performances. ‘First of all, Glasgow, our home city and in Europe I still remember the performances in Italy and also the performances in Paradiso in Amsterdam. And America, Australia and New Zealand. In 1995 we played in front of 650,000 in Rome in 1995. But to be honest, I find performing for four people more difficult.’
In 1985, Derek Forbes and the Simple Minds parted ways. ‘Fired,’ according to Forbes in his book. When asked about the reason for the dismissal and what he would have done differently if he could turn back the clock, Derek takes his own hands. ‘René, the breakup was simply my fault. I was completely absorbed in my relationship at the time and I neglected the attention for the Simple Minds. I was no longer such a funny and nice boy as before. It was my Yoko Ono moment,’ said Derek towards the end of our conversation. In 1995, Jim returned to the Simple Minds for another three years. Derek’s last appearance in Simple Minds was on July 21, 1998 in Lyon, France.
In the title of the book, you could also read something of self-criticism. He wrote many successful Simple Minds songs such as “Waterfront”, toured the world with the band for ten years, but earned little or nothing financially from it, as can be read in the last chapter of the book. Although a sensitive subject, Derek Forbes himself is quite light-hearted about it. ‘I cherish the beautiful memories. The performances, the beautiful hotels, the countries, the cities, the meetings, etc. Money is not the most important thing.’
We conclude our conversation by discussing the state of affairs in Scottish football and my final question; If Jim Kerr were to call you now to return to the Simple Minds, what would be your response? ‘No thanks,’ said Derek. Whose deed.
In addition to Simple Minds, Derek Forbes played in bands such as Propaganda, Big Country. Spear of Destiny and Oblivia Dust and The Alarm. He is still in regular contact with former Simple Minds band members drummer Brian McGee and keyboardist Mick Macneil. He received no response from Jim Kerr about his book.