Simply Red

  • British soul/pop group formed in 1985 from Manchester England. The members during their most successful period in the 80s and early 90s were Mick Hucknall (frontman, lead vocals, guitars, songwriting), Ian Kirkham (saxophone, keyboards), Tim Kellet (trumpet, flugelhorn, keyboards, backing vocals), Fritz McIntyre (keyboards, vocals), Tony Bowers (bass guitar), Chris Joyce (drums) and Hector Pereira (guitars).
  • Hucknall performed for seven years with a punk band named the Frantic Elevators. When the band broke up in 1984, he worked with a manager to assemble studio musicians into a new group. Thus, in 1985, Hucknall, Kellet, McIntyre, Bowers, Joyce and guitarist David Fryman formed a band. They performed with several names – World Service, Red and the Dancing Dead and Just Red were early names, with the emphasis on red because of Hucknall’s flaming red hair. Hucknall eventually decided that Simply Red sounded better than Just Red, and they continued with that name.
  • They signed a recording contract later in 1985, and after recording the song Red Box, Fryman left the group. He was replaced by Sylvan Richardson, and an album titled Picture Book was recorded and released. Several songs charted in the UK – Money’s Too Tight (To Mention) reached #13 in the UK and #28 in the US. The single Holding Back the Years was a song written by Hucknall when he was 17 years old and it was originally performed by the Frantic Elevators. Initially released as a single in 1985, it only reached #51 in the UK. In 1986, the record company re-released it, and it became a hit, reaching #1 in the U.S., #2 in the UK, and earning a Grammy nomination. The success of the song increased interest in the album, and eventually it was certified platinum.
  • In 1987, they released their second album, Men and Women. It was more popular in Europe than it was in the US – one single, The Right Thing, peaked at #27 on the Hot 100 chart, while it reached #11 or higher on six International charts. After this album, Richardson left and was replaced by Pereira on guitar. Also, Kirkham was added as an official member, after contributing as a touring and session musician.
  • The A New Flame album was released in 1989. They adapted their style to try to maximize commercial success, still focusing on Hucknall’s blue-eyed soul vocals. The album included a cover of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes’ 1972 hit If You Don’t Know Me By Now – the song became their second #1 hit in the U.S., and it was the #2 song for all of 1989 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
  • By 1991, the public focus on Simply Red was clearly on Hucknall, and members of the group began to move on. They released the Stars album that year – Joyce and Bowers were gone by the time the group started recording. Stars became the best selling album of the year in the UK for both 1991 and 1992. It was less popular in the US, though the single Something Got Me Started peaked at #23 on the Hot 100. 1995’s Life album also topped the UK chart, and the group had their only #1 UK hit – Fairground. By this time, Kellet had left the group, and after Life was released, McIntyre and Pereira left. Simply Red had become a solo project for Hucknall –  concerts and recordings were supported with session artists.
  • The 1998 album Blue became their fourth consecutive #1 album in the UK, but it barely charted in the U.S., and their 1999 album Love and the Russian Winter was a disappointment even in the UK. They were dropped by their label in 2000, and Hucknall set up a website to handle releases of new music. This distribution method was surprisingly successful – their three albums released in the 00s all were top five releases in the UK, and they managed to get two songs in the top ten in the UK and on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. By 2010, Hucknall announced that Simply Red would be retired. They reunited in 2015 and released two albums from 2015 to 2019.
  • Simply Red managed to successfully do homage to American soul music, even though they were a British band of white guys. It suited them well – they were one of the best selling bands of the 90s in Europe. Here’s Hucknall (oh yeah, and the rest of the band) in 1992, performing If You Don’t Know Me By Now.

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