Simpley Red contines….
Several low-charting singles would follow for the band. Among the comparative flops was a re-recording of the Frantic Elevators’ “Holding Back the Years”, done up in a new soul-ballad style arrangement. Released as Simply Red’s third single in 1985, the track initially placed outside the UK Top 50. However, upon being re-released in 1986, “Holding Back the Years” became a major hit, peaking at #1 in Ireland, #2 in the UK, #3 in the Netherlands, #20 in Italy and later #1 in the United States. The song established Simply Red as a household name.
Simply Red’s second album, 1987’s Men and Women, saw the band adopting bowler hats and colourful suits instead of their earlier ragamuffin look. As well, the introspection and social commentary of their debut album was replaced by a blue-eyed soul sound with funk influences. Veteran Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier co-authored two tracks with Hucknall for the album—these tracks were credited to ‘Hucknall/Dozier/Hucknall’ in the original album credits, in homage to the famous Motown writing team of Holland/Dozier/Holland.
The album’s lead single “The Right Thing” was another international hit, charting in the top 40 throughout Europe and North America. Several follow-up singles also met with modest success in the UK and elsewhere.
Peak years (1989–1995)
Guitarist Richardson left after the release of Men and Women, and was replaced by Heitor Pereira (billed as Heitor TP).
With their third album A New Flame in 1989, Simply Red adopted a yet more mainstream popular sound aimed for commercial rather than critical success, typified by their cover of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes’ pop classic “If You Don’t Know Me by Now”, which became their second U.S. #1 hit, and one of the biggest singles of the year internationally; and their greatest success to that point.
Hucknall was by this time an international superstar, being photographed with models and Hollywood celebrities. This seemed to harm the band’s coherence as a unit, with Hucknall declaring in 1991 that Simply Red was “essentially a solo project”. The rhythm section of Bowers and Joyce left around this time; they were replaced by bassist Shaun Ward (ex-Floy Joy and Everyday People) and drummer Gota Yashiki (often billed as just Gota).
The band’s career peaked in late 1991 with the release of Stars, which became the best-selling album for two years running in Europe and the UK (though notably had far less success in the US than their previous albums). The album spun off five top 40 singles in the UK, and the singles “Something Got Me Started” and “Stars” were also significant chart hits throughout all of Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. After the tour, Tim Kellett left to form dance band Olive.
After touring and promoting Stars for two years, Simply Red returned in 1995 with “Fairground”, a dance-influenced track prominently featuring a sample from Zki & Dobri’s Goodmen project. A massive radio hit, “Fairground” went on to become the band’s first and only UK #1. Its parent album Life sold more than a million copies in the UK alone, making it the fourth-biggest seller of the year. By this time, the band was officially Hucknall, McIntyre, Kirkham, Pereira, and new backing vocalist Dee Johnson. Guest musicians (including Sly & Robbie) filled in on drums and bass. For the subsequent live shows, Simply Red were joined by new recruits’ Steve Lewinson on bass, Velroy Bailey on drums, and second backing vocalist Sarah Brown.