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Themes for Great Cities

On sale

27th January 2022

Price: £20


The Arts / Music

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Selected: Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781472134004

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‘Nobody owes us anything, but the Simple Minds story has been too condensed. After Live Aid and ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ there hasn’t been quite the credit for those first few records. I think they contain some really special music. I can hear the flaws but there’s something about the spirit and imagination in them that feels good. They draw from such a wide range of influences … but the spirit of it was always Simple Minds.’ Jim Kerr, to the author

An illuminating new biography of one of Britain’s biggest and most influential bands, written with the full input and cooperation of Simple Minds, shedding new light on their dazzling art-rock legacy.

Themes for Great Cities features in-depth new interviews with original band members Jim Kerr, Charlie Burchill, Mick MacNeil and Derek Forbes, alongside key figures from within their creative community and high-profile fans such as Bobby Gillespie, James Dean Bradfield and Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite. The book reclaims and revivifies the magnificence of Simple Minds’ pioneering early albums, from the glitchy Euro-ambience of Real to Real Cacophony and Empires and Dance to the pulsing, agitated romance of Sons and Fascination, New Gold Dream and beyond.

Emerging in 1978 from Glasgow’s post-punk scene, Simple Minds transitioned from restless art-rock to electro futurism, mutated into passionate pop contenders and, finally, a global rock behemoth. They have sold in the region of 60 million records and remain a worldwide phenomenon. The drama of their tale lies in these transformations and triumphs, conflicts and contradictions.

Themes for Great Cities tells the inside story of a band becoming a band. Inspiring, insightful and enlightening, it celebrates the trailblazing music of one of Britain’s greatest groups.


Alan Warner
The definitive biography of this most mercurial of bands. Thomson knows how to take it apart - without demystifying the mystery, he gives us the art school band that never had an art school, but went instead on an endless adventure and took a bit of all of us with them
Themes for Great Cities is so taut and so full of cliff-hangers, that it reads more like a thriller. It's exactly the sort of book that Simple Minds deserve.
Larelle Read, Priptona Weird (Simple Minds fansite)
For anyone who is newer to the Simple Minds fold or hasn't explored their back catalogue extensively, I implore you to read this book. For the die hards - you need this book! It is a fast and exhilarating ride
The Herald
One of the (many) pleasures of ... Themes for Great Cities is its desire to be an act of reclamation. Thomson wants to challenge the lazy cliches that have attached to the band's reputation, to complicate the story, to, as he says in his introduction, "remystify" his subject
Jim Wirth, Uncut
Excellent . . . shows how the five-piece Simple Minds found their place
Electronic Sound
Thomson expertly handles proceedings . . . best of all is the coverage of the epic early albums, which all too often seemed to be forgotten as soon as the mega stardom called
A thoughtful and eloquently expressed listeners' guide, taking deep dives into the track listings of those early albums
Irish Independent
Insightful and engaging ... [Thomson] writes with authority and passion about Simple Minds' best work ... The clear-headed and artfully conveyed analysis will have you returning to the material
Echoes & Dust
An essential read
Louder Than War
I couldn't read this book without digging out my old vinyl and listening as I read. It was like listening with new ears . . . utterly inspiring.
Classic Pop
A biography that gives the group its long-overdue credit. Thomson's exquisitely written account reaches poetic levels . . . An eye-opening work throughout, Themes for Great Cities may be the final word on Kerr and Co's legacy
An engaging, insightful, and welcome biography and history of one of Scotland's greatest bands ... it'll make you return to those glorious early albums and fall in love with them all over again - the ultimate accolade for any music biography
Hot Press, Music Book of the Month
Thomson's thesis is sound: for about five years, Scotland's biggest ever band made exceptional music, and there's no better man to tell you all about it.
Truly a story of 'ambition in motion' . . . There are a number of passages that almost uncannily mirror the music, where the narrative and inner vision perfectly align . . . In some ways Simple Minds' early music is a perfect secret waiting to be rediscovered.
Alistair Braidwood, Scots Whay Hae
Brings fresh insight into the early albums in particular. Any music biog which sends you straight to the records themselves is doing its job
Tom Doyle, MOJO
[The] mission here is to "remystify" Simple Minds. It's a wholly successful endeavour . . . Thomson's enthusiasm for tracing the cultural and geographical roots of Simple Minds is infectious, and the result shines a bright light into the forgotten corners of the band's story
Books From Scotland
Music has such a capacity to uplift, to inspire, to recognise, to connect, and Graeme Thomson's latest book explores how the work of Simple Minds captures those possibilities
Mail on Sunday
In focusing largely on their pre-stardom records ... Thomson elegantly reminds us how Simple Minds influenced Primal Scream, Manic Street Preachers and contemporaries U2. ****
Ian Rankin
A deep and thrilling dive into some of the greatest musical minds to have come out of Scotland in modern times