It took Simple Minds eight years to become overnight sensations in America. That was the gap from their year of formation to their first US singles chart entry, and what a hit it turned out to be. On May 18, 1985, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” climbed to No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
It was an unusual external composition for a normally self-contained band, written by Keith Forsey with Steve Schiff, who was the guitarist with German rocker-actress Nina Hagen. Simple Minds had been reluctant to cut an “outside” song, but as frontman Jim Kerr told The Guardian in 2016. “My wife at the time, Chrissie [Hynde], who was older and wiser, kept badgering me,” he remembered.
“‘I like the song,’ she said. ‘What’s the problem?‘ Finally, the writer, Keith Forsey, phoned me and rather cleverly said: “I’m a huge fan of the band. How about I just spend a couple of days with you? Maybe we’ll do something in the future.’” That future arrived very quickly, to their mutual benefit.
The band marked the 30th anniversary of the single, and of the movie The Breakfast Club for which it provided the opening and closing music, at the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas in May 2015. One of the stars of the film, Molly Ringwald, introduced them to an enthusiastic audience that included Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lopez, Ed Sheeran and others.
Three months to hit the top
“Don’t You (Forget About Me)” took nearly three months from its chart entry to complete its climb to the summit, where it took over from Madonna’s “Crazy For You.” In the UK, it was the Scottish band’s 11th singles chart entry, but their first to make the Top 10, which it did for the first time three weeks ahead of its American graduation. The song was the first of the band’s eight UK Top 10 singles.
“Don’t You” had been released as an American single two months ahead of its UK appearance to maximise the cross-promotion with the film, which opened in the February. It was the perfect marriage, and all these decades on, the song has clearly lost none of its appeal.
“Don’t You (Forget About Me)” is on the Simple Minds compilation Celebrate, which can be bought here.