Simply Red were never the coolest band around, but in the late ’80 and early ’90s, they dominated the charts with their brand of blue-eyed soul. Fronted by the charismatic Mick Hucknall, the band’s memorable grooves and sultry harmonies landed them ten top ten singles in the UK, five number one albums, and a slew of awards. To date, they’ve sold a stonking 50 million albums worldwide. Here’s our pick of the ten best Simply Red songs of all time.
10. Ev’rytime We Say Goodbye
Cole Porter composed Ev’rytime We Say Goodbye in 1940, and it’s been a popular jazz standard ever since. In 1987, Simply Red gave it a contemporary makeover for their second LP, Men and Women. A wistful, nostalgia-laced tune with swelling swings and a sweet, understated performance from Mick Hucknall, it became one of the band’s biggest hits till that point, peaking at number 11 on the UK Singles Chart.
9. Money’s Too Tight (To Mention)
Money’s Too Tight (To Mention) was first recorded by The Valentine Brothers in 1982 as a snarky response to Reaganomics, the set of policies implemented by President Reagan to boost the US economy. Three years later, Simply Red turned it into an international hit with their gritty, instantly catchy version. Released as their first UK single, it hit number 13 on the UK Singles Chart in July 1985 and reached the Top 40 in the US and several European countries.
Fake might be about the hurt and pain of a broken relationship, but it’s a strikingly lovely song, with a lavish funkiness and deep-seated groove that made it one of the undisputed highlights of the 2003 album, Home. Released as the second single from the album in July 2003, it reached number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play Chart and number 21 on the UK Singles Chart.
7. For Your Babies
As culturesonar.com writes, Mick was never more appealing than in this ballad of a proud dad serenading his little child with loving hopes for his future during the sleepless days of early parenthood. A mellow, soulful ballad that’s sentimental without being saccharine, it became a smash hit on its release in 1992, reaching number nine in the UK Singles Chart and charting in the top 30 in Ireland, Austria, and Belgium.
6. The Right Thing
On The Right Thing, Hucknall gets steamy over a backdrop of pulsing rhythms and sizzling harmonies. There’s no ambiguity in the lyrics and even less in the seductive video – from start to finish, the song is a lusty, unapologetic ode to eroticism. Released as a single from the album Men and Women in February 1987, it hit number 11 on the UK Singles Chart and number 27 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Named as one of the best Simply Red songs of all time by Smooth Radio, Fairground is one of the most surprising songs in Simply Red’s arsenal. Described by Music Week as “a charmingly-delivered song which couples instant commerciality in the tune stakes with a hip tribal backing,” this strange, hypnotic blend of Latin-tinged beats and ambient rhythms became the band’s first and, to date, only, number one single in the UK, spending four weeks at the top of the charts in September and October 1995.
4. If You Don’t Know Me By Now
Originally a hit for Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes in 1972, If You Don’t Know Me By Now became Simply Red’s second number-one single in the US in 1989. A plaintive tear-jerker with a wonderfully powerful vocal performance from Hucknall, it was equally well-received on the other side of the pond, becoming the band’s second top ten hit in the UK when it reached number two on the singles chart. To round of its success, it picked up the Grammy Award for Best R&B song in 1989.
3. Something Got Me Started
The first single to be released from the 1991 blockbuster, Stars, was Something Got Me Started, a dazzling song about a broken relationship set against upbeat rhythms and dynamite harmonies. Despite narrowly missing out on the top ten in the UK, the song became a major hit in Europe, peaking at number nine on the Eurochart Hot 100.
Stars, Simply Red’s fourth album, was a major sensation, certifying twelve times platinum in the UK and becoming the first LP to claim the title of best-selling album of the year over two consecutive years since Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Waters in 1970/1971. One of its chief highlights is the lovely title track, a yearning, mournful ballad with some especially fine vocals from Hucknall. Released in November 1991, it reached number 8 in the UK and peaked within the top 40 in over ten other countries.
1. Holding Back the Years
Mick Hucknall was just 17 years old when he wrote Holding Back the Years. During an interview with The Guardian, he revealed he was inspired to write the song after his teacher at the Manchester School of Art told him that “the best paintings are when you get lost in a piece of work and start painting in a stream of consciousness.” “I wanted to do music, not art, so started writing lyrics that way,” he explained. “The first song I wrote was called Ice Cream and Wafers. The next was Holding Back the Years.” A powerful, heartbreaking account of how his mother left him to be raised by his father as a toddler, the song became the band’s first number-one hit in the US. It also picked up a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals at the 29th Annual Grammy Awards.