Simple Minds – This is your land
The topic of ecology was not very hot during the 80s. There is a huge difference between the awareness and attention we are used to in these days (although we certainly can and must do much more), and the concept of ecology of the 80s.
Of course the technology and knowledge available were often very basic, there were no satellites to monitor the atmosphere and some vast areas of the planet still were absolutely rural, so maybe we didn’t really assume how much things would change in a few decades.
In the early 80s the concept of environmental protection was linked mainly to the rescue of some animal species threatened by illegal hunters and traffickers, to the deforestation process in the Brazilian rain forest to obtain wood and paper, and then of course to the main nightmare of the decade, i.e. the likelihood of a nuclear war that could make the planet unlivable for thousands of years.
Dozens of songs exorcised the risk of nuclear war; the most famous is probably Russians by Sting, but many songs spoke of “nuclear war” (the first perhaps was Is There Something I Should Know by Duran Duran, even if the meaning of the song was different).
This, until April 26, 1986.
The Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident rose people’s awareness and brought the environmental question much closer to everyone’s sensibility. It was not only nuclear war that made the planet unlivable, but also the waste from any energy usage or production process, nuclear or industrial. And we were killing the planet day after day even then.
Among the various songs that in the second part of the 80s focused on environment, one of the most original was This Is Your Land by Simple Minds, released around mid-April 1989, more or less three years after the accident of Chernobyl. This Is Your Land was the second single, after Belfast Child, from the beautiful album Street Fighting Years.
Starting from the title the song is a hymn to the planet, a theme that was becoming more and more relevant. To be honest, Jim Kerr and his band didn’t so much fear global warming, which thirty years ago was certainly less evident; what they feared was still very much related to nuclear power, whether it was a war or an accident, which would forever taint the planet. Simple Minds could not imagine that within a few months the nightmare of a nuclear war would practically disappear with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, but they were well aware that more and more nuclear plants and submarines were being built, for example.
In any case This Is Your Land is not a protest song, it is a song of awareness, and a reminder for new and responsible behaviors. It’s certainly written with a more ’90s than ’80s awareness and activist spirit. And also from a music standpoint the song is very particular, almost religious. The tones are somehow sad, very refined and detailed, very far from the electronic pop we were used to.
Certainly there was also a very important existentialist vein in the 1980s (think of Wonderful Life by Black, for example), but perhaps for the first time existentialism moves from man to the living system, to the planet ecosystem. Perhaps only one song, also in the latter part of the 80s, had brought attention to the planet in the glamorous world of pop: It’s Alright by Pet Shop Boys.
There is a special presence to embellish the song: in fact, at the beginning of the second verse you can clearly hear the almost spoken voice of Lou Reed, a legend also for Simple Minds. Jim Kerr recalled in several interviews that he was very concerned about Lou Reed’s participation in the song: Reed was considered a sacred monster, with a reputation for being rather gruff and absolutely demanding, and Jim Kerr was very in awe of him.
There was probably also a question of age: Reed’s forty-seven years must have really frightened thirty-year-old Jim Kerr, which today may seem funny, considering that today at forty-seven you are probably in the middle of a career!
In fact, Lou Reed was very cooperative, and Jim Kerr mentioned the relief he felt when he realized that reality was actually much better than his worst fears. Lou Reed does not appear in the video, which was shot in Spain by one of the greatest directors of the second half of the 80s.
We are talking about Englishman Andy Morahan, who began his career with the videos for Wham!’s Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go and Last Christmas, and later directed dozens of unforgettable videos such as Pet Shop Boys’ West End Girls, The Right Thing by Simply Red, I Want Your Sex by George Michael, and many others. In short, the natural heir of video artists like Russell Mulcahy or Steve Barron.
This Is Your Land entered the top ten in many European countries, and certainly remains among the most committed songs by Simple Minds, a group of great sensitivity and certainly ready to speak about such important topics.
Simple Minds on Wikipedia