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Charlie Burchill: Simple Minds

By: Tim Lawrence and Scott Kahn


 
 

 

 


Why You Should Know Him

Charlie Burchill is the guitarist and one of two remaining original members of the Scottish band, Simple Minds. Simple Minds quickly gained popularity in Europe with several chart-topping hits like “Waterfront,” “Glittering Prize,” and “Love Song” from their first few albums, yet they were virtually unknown in the US. Their next album, Once Upon a Time, brought the band a #1 chart spot in the UK and #10 in the US with hits including “Alive and Kicking,” “All the Things She Said,” and “Sanctify Yourself.”

Later in 1985, when the single “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” was featured in the John Hughes Film, The Breakfast Club, Simple Minds’ popularity in the US was firmly cemented.

The band used their newfound popularity to support political activism such as playing the famous Live Aid concert in Philadelphia in 1985 for the relief of Ethiopian famine, and in June 1988, the band played at Mandela Day at Wembley Stadium in London, calling for the release of Nelson Mandela. The event was broadcasted to 67 countries and an estimated viewership of 600 million.

Burchill is often overlooked as a guitar player because of his textural style. There is no ego in his playing; instead of an in-your-face, “look what I can do” style of playing, we hear tasteful, melodic, and atmospheric tones that flow as an integral part of the whole that is the song. Burchill has the ability to write parts for the songs that flow so seamlessly that you may sometimes miss them, but you undoubtedly connect with them on a subconscious level. Very few guitarists can say so much while playing so little.

It should be noted that as the band progressed past the New Wave era, Burchill’s guitar playing became much more prominent in the mix and the writing, but has always been true to his sense of melody, use of beautiful textures and colors, and great application of effects.


The Gear

Because Burchill is known for his atmospheric tones, it is no surprise that he has experimented with and used several different gear setups throughout his career. The early ‘80s sound came through a Roland 501 Echo unit into a Roland JC120 amp. During the second half of the ‘80s, Burchill switched to Marshall JCM 900 amps, and used a variety of effects including and Eventide Harmonizer, TC Electronic 2290 delay, Roland GP-8, Yamaha Rev 7, and a Kurzweil 250 rack-mount sound module. Burchill used a ‘62 Gretsch White Falcon and a Fender Strat in the studio, and a custom thin-line Telecaster (notably on “Don’t You, Forget About Me”).

Live, Burchill’s go-to guitars were the Gretsch and a ‘62 Les Paul with a Bigsby tremolo. Some of his current gear includes the TC Electronic G-System, Matchless DC-30, and Line 6 Vetta amplifiers.

Where Is He Now?

It is not often that a band is able to stay together for over forty years, but that is exactly what Simple Minds have accomplished. Burchill, vocalist Jim Kerr, and drummer Mel Gaynor, are the three remaining original members, and they have stayed active with minimal breaks over their extensive career. The band has released fifteen studio albums as well as three live albums and a greatest hits compilation.

On November 11th, 2016 Simple Minds released their album Acoustic, which featured acoustic re-recordings of songs spanning their career, while June 2017 saw the release of a concert DVD and album, Acoustic In Concert, featuring an expanded collection of acoustic reinterpretations.

Currently, Burchill is writing and recording a new studio album with Kerr for Simple Minds that is set to release later in 2017.

Bonus Video! In the 1990s, Burchill's guitar work became more dominant in the band's sound, and it remains a significant part of the band's sound to this day. This is Simple Minds in 2015:

 

 

   
             
             
             
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