One Love, One Life – Billy Sloan

Surely of much interest to Simple Minds fans as well as music fans in general, this week’s book release from veteran Scottish journalist and BBC Radio broadcaster, Billy Sloan, has been eagerly awaited by many in the music industry.

As friend, confidante, and all round tireless supporter to almost all music artists considered part of Scotland’s forever vibrant music scene. No other journalist has had such a close up view of Simple Minds, accompanying them as he has on many of their endless ventures.

Whether visiting backstage, going along for the ride on the band tour bus, or hanging out with them at home as they relaxed between projects – Billy was always trusted inside the inner sanctum of Simple Minds. To this day his influential opinions are still sought and listened to by both Jim and Charlie, as is his weekly BBC Scotland radio show.

‘One Love, One Life’ released on Thursday 28th of September and with a foreword written by Jim Kerr, it features a lengthy chapter entirely on SM that is not to be missed – the following anecdote from Sloan’s ‘book of brilliant things’ being typical of many other recollections of Simple Minds included.

Meanwhile, for those curious to know what it must be like to live a life as an elite music journalist/radio presenter, who within a career spanning more than four decades has interviewed the absolute biggest names in rock music?

Trust us when we say that few could tell it any better than Billy Sloan does!
(read an excerpt below)

You can order ‘One Love, One Life’ from Amazon & Waterstones

You can also meet Billy Sloan and secure your own signed copy on Thursday October 5th at Waterstone’s, Argyle Street, Glasgow. 7.00pm. In conversation with Tam Cowan. Tickets £5 – Waterstones website.

Followed by Sunday October 8th: Barrowland, 244 Gallowgate, Glasgow. 2.00pm.


Through his newspaper articles or via his radio shows, Billy Sloan (see pic) has spent his professional life to date getting artists to divulge and explain some of the most impressionable stories for audiences to enjoy.

A couple of weeks ago Sloan had both Charlie and I back in the studio as he quizzed us on our creative relationship, as well of course discussing the recent announcement of Simple Minds Global Tour ’24.
(In total 55 minutes of chat/music from Simple Minds including 6 live songs – 3 from ‘New Gold Dream Live at Paisley Abbey.’ (You can listen in on Saturday 30th September. BBC Radio Scotland 22:00 GMT. 5pm EDT, 2pm PDT)

From the gazillions of Billy’s interviews that I’ve had the pleasure to take in over the years, tons of which feature in his recently released book ‘ONE LOVE, ONE LIFE.’ Two interviews in particular stand out for me.

The first is Billy’s interview with Scotty Moore. For an entire15 year period, Scotty was both studio and touring guitarist for Elvis Presley, and in my opinion contributed his talents to some of the greatest records ever made.
A much older man by the time Billy interviewed Scotty, I recall the genuine humility that came from Moore within that interview.

The other interview I often reflect on, comes from a different sphere altogether.
Invited to a special event in Glasgow City Centre, I looked on while Billy, with great sensitivity, interviewed Auschwitz survivor Eva Moses Korr.
Subsequently devoting her life to Holocaust awareness, thanks to Billy, Eva’s story is one I could never forget and should never want to.


Billy writes (excerpt from One Love, One Life):

“My friendship with Simple Minds dates back to their live debut at Satellite City on January 17, 1978.
They were third on the bill of a “punk rock” gig headlined by reggae band, Steel Pulse and featuring Rev Volting And The Backstabbers and The Nu Sonics, soon to become Orange Juice. The disco – all sparkly walls and sticky carpets – was hallowed ground as it was located on the top floor of the world famous Glasgow Apollo.

From the moment the Minds walked on stage there was something about them. The group line-up of Charlie on guitar and violin, Duncan Barnwell on second guitar, Tony Donald on bass and Brian McGee on drums looked a solid unit.
But it was Jim who commanded your attention.

He wore a black priest’s frock coat – bought from the Briggait market – tight jeans, winkle-picker boots and had a severe pudding-bowl haircut. He didn’t look like anybody else I’d ever seen in Glasgow. He also seemed ill at ease, as if he’d rather be anywhere else other than behind the mic in front of 500 music fans.
But it was his obvious discomfort that made him so compelling.

It would be too simplistic to say he had the look of a rabbit caught in car headlights – for that would suggest fear.
He had NO fear.
Instead Jim had an inner confidence and knew, even then, that Simple Minds had a chance.

They opened their 25-minute set with Act Of Love, then powered through Wasteland, a cover of The Velvet Underground’s, White Light/White Heat and Pablo Picasso which included the lyric: “Pablo Picasso … all the girls think you’re an asshole”. Their closing number that night was an eight-minute-long film theme called Pleasantly Disturbed, which saw Charlie switch between his Flying V Gibson guitar and a violin.

I thought they were stunning. After their set, I politely knocked on the dressing room door and asked Charlie for the name of the band’s singer for my review. Jim vividly recalled that momentous gig when he guested on my BBC Radio Scotland show in January 2022, to promote the release of Act Of Love, which the band revisited for their latest album, Direction Of The Heart, nearly 45 years later.

He said:
“I remember how much it meant to us. I mean, did I think we were ready … probably not? We walked on to the sound of our own feet. But when Charlie hit that riff for Act Of Love I could feel the energy in me straight away, and before I knew it, we were off. Although I say we weren’t ready, I think we had something about us. You had to have an attitude and a sound. We already had that under our belt from that very first gig. And fortunately, people responded to it.”

Could I have predicted what would follow for Simple Minds? Never in a million years.

But of the four bands on the bill it was significant that I focused on them. Even then – after just five songs – I thought they had the potential to make a major impact. When they did I was fortunate to have an Access All Areas pass to see them become the most successful band in Scottish rock history.

In those early days, I wrote about them in my Sunday Mail column and played their songs and interviewed them on Radio Clyde. At times it appeared almost as if our respective careers were running parallel, in terms of learning on the job. Jim would drop white labels off at Clyde reception so I got an exclusive first play of their latest track.

In August 14,1983, I was with the Minds when they played a massive open air gig as guests of U2 at Phoenix Park in Dublin … on a dream bill that also included Eurythmics, Big Country, Steel Pulse and Perfect Crime.

The day before the show, they sound-checked with a brand new song that became one of the key tracks on their forthcoming album, Sparkle In The Rain. It was the first time anyone had heard the pulsating bass intro to Waterfront, now regarded as one of their greatest hits. When the group opened their set with it the following day it went down a storm with the 50,000 strong audience.

Two months later, I was drafted in to help promote Waterfront. The band decided to shoot a video for the new single at Barrowland. The Glasgow ballroom had lain empty since the notorious Bible John murders in the 1960s. But promoters Pete Irvine and Barry Wright, of Regular Music, thought the old place had real potential as a concert venue.

The Minds needed an audience … and fast. I put out an appeal on my Radio Clyde show asking listeners to send a stamped addressed envelope into the station for a ticket ballot. The response of course was overwhelming. I got sack loads full of mail. It was like the Blue Peter Appeal. After my show, I sat in the Clyde canteen with my colleague Ross King and we dutifully put a pair of tickets into the first 750 envelopes chosen at random. I then went straight to the Head Post Office in George Square at 5am and stuffed them into the letterbox to get delivered.

On November 19, the Minds shot some outdoor footage on the old Renfrew Ferry that crossed the River Clyde. The following day they took the stage at Barrowland and filmed take after take of Waterfront to produce one of their most exciting videos. It was screened all over the world and showed their native Glasgow in a great light.

That video shoot also helped re-invent and re-open Barrowland, and over the next few years artists such as U2, Radiohead, The Smiths, R.E.M., The Clash, Foo Fighters and The Beastie Boys all played there.”

You can order ‘One Love, One Life’ from Amazon & Waterstones

You can also meet Billy Sloan and secure your own signed copy on Thursday October 5th at Waterstone’s, Argyle Street, Glasgow. 7.00pm. In conversation with Tam Cowan. Tickets £5 – Waterstones website.

Followed by Sunday October 8th: Barrowland, 244 Gallowgate, Glasgow. 2.00pm.