Simply Red

Simply Red are an English blue-eyed soul ensemble that emerged on the mid-eighties Manchester sophisti-pop scene. The name references ginger-haired frontman Mick Hucknall, whose impassioned vocals propelled them to transatlantic stardom with their debut album Picture Book.

Simply Red’s biggest hits include “Holding Back the Years,” “Money’s Too Tight (to Mention),” and their cover of the Blue Notes classic “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.” Their music combines fifties vocal jazz and soul from the sixties (Stax) and seventies (Philly) with songwriting indebted to the Tin Pan Alley tradition.

Members: Mick Hucknall [aka Red] (vocals, guitar), Fritz McIntyre (keyboards, 1984-96), Tony Bowers (bass, 1984-89), Chris Joyce (drums, 1984-89), Sylvan Richardson (guitar, 1984-87), Heitor Pereira [aka T.P.] (guitar, 1989-96), Aziz Ibrahim (guitar, 1987), Ian Kirkham (saxophone, 1986-2010), Tim Kellett (brass, keyboards, 1984-92)


Mick Hucknall formed Simply Red after a seven-year stint in the Frantic Elevators, a Manchester punk band that cut five singles between 1979 and 1982 on assorted indie labels, including the original version of “Holding Back the Years.”

Mick was born Michael James Hucknall on June 8, 1960, in Manchester to parents Reginald (1935–2009) and Maureen, who abandoned the family when Mick was three. He had a happy childhood despite his mom’s absence and got along with his father, a Stockport barber, until he reached adolescence.

Hucknall studied fine art at the Manchester Polytechnic’s School of Art. On June 4, 1976, he attended the first northern Sex Pistols show at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester, where the London punks opened for local symphonic rockers Mandalaband. Fellow attendees included (future Smiths frontman) Steven Morrissey and (eventual Joy Division members) Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner.

The Frantic Elevators

In late 1976, Mick Hucknall joined Osiris, a band formed by fellow pupils at Audenshaw Grammar School, including guitarist Neil Moss.> After spells in other bands (Red Star Radio, Purple Haze) he re-teamed with Moss in Elevation, which became The Frantic Elevators with bassist Brian Turner and drummer Kevin Williams.

In June 1979, The Frantic Elevators released their first single, “Voice In the Dark,” on the Manchester punk label TJM .

A1. “Voice In the Dark”
B1. “Every Day I Die”
B2. “Passion”

Jan 1980 TJM (unreleased)
A1: Hunchback Of Notre Dame
B1: See Nothing And Everything
B2: Don’t Judge Me

20 Oct 1980 on Eric’s
A: You Know What You Told Me
B: Production Prevention

1981 on Crackin’ Up
A: Searching For The Only One
B: Hunchback Of Notre Dame

10 Dec 1982 on No Waiting
A: Holding Back The Years
B: Pistols In My Brain

In early 1983, Hucknall left the band, which briefly carried on as The Elevators. Mick set out to form a soul band.

Simply Red Forms

In 1984, Hucknall scouted talent with friend Elliot Rashman, who managed Mick’s new undertaking. By early 1985, they found guitarist David Fryman, bassist Tony Bowers, drummer Chris Joyce, keyboardist Fritz McIntyre, and brass player Tim Kellett.

Bowers cut two late-seventies albums as a member of comedy rockers Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias. He interacted with Joyce in Liverpool post-punk Pink Military and spinoff group The Mothmen. Joyce also played in the Suns of Arqa and a recent iteration of Wah! Kellett was active in the current Durutti Column.

The six-piece band started as World Service and functioned under multiple names that referenced Mick’s hair color: “Red And The Dancing Dead,” “Just Red.” Hucknall took the latter name and replaced the first word with “Simply,” an affirmative.

Simply Red signed to Elektra and recorded a thematic song (“Red Box”) before Fryman cleared for guitarist Sylvan Richardson. In June 1985, Simply Red released its first single.

Picture Book

Simply Red released their debut album, Picture Book, on October 11, 1985, on Elektra.

1. “Come to My Aid” Mick Hucknall, Fritz McIntyre (4:03)
2. “Sad Old Red” Mick Hucknall (4:33)
3. “Look at You Now” Mick Hucknall (3:02)
4. “Heaven” David Byrne, Jerry Harrison (4:32)
5. “Jericho” Mick Hucknall (6:03)

6. “Money’s Too Tight (to Mention)” John Valentine, William Valentine (4:13)
7. “Holding Back the Years” Mick Hucknall, Neil Moss (4:30)
8. “(Open Up the) Red Box” Mick Hucknall (3:56)
9. “No Direction” Mick Hucknall, Dave Fryman (3:41)
10. “Picture Book” Mick Hucknall, Fritz McIntyre (5:49)

Studio Soundpush Studios, Blaricum, Netherlands
RAK Studios, London

Mick Hucknall – lead and backing vocals, acoustic piano
Fritz McIntyre – keyboards, backing vocals
Tim Kellett – keyboards, trumpet, live backing vocals
Sylvan Richardson – guitars
Tony Bowers – bass
Chris Joyce – drums, percussion

Guest Musicians
David Fryman – guitars (8), backing vocals (8)
Ronnie Ross – baritone saxophone (2, 4, 5)
Ian Dickson – tenor saxophone (2, 4, 5)
Francis Foster – congas (1, 3)

Producer – Stewart Levine
Engineered and mixed by Femi Jiya
Assistant engineer – Chris Dickie

Sleeve design – Peter Barrett
Front cover photo – Simon Fowler
Back cover photo – Malcolm Heywood

3 Jun 1985
A: Money’s Too Tight (To Mention)
B: Open Up The Red Box

Aug 1985
A: Come To My Aid
B: Valentine

Nov 1985
A: Holding Back The Years
B: I Won’t Feel Bad

Dutch Mega Albums Chart[13] 1
UK Albums Chart[19] 2
Australian Kent Music Report[10] 6
Canadian Albums Chart[12] 7
Italian M&D Albums Chart[14] 8
West German Media Control Albums Chart[21] 8
New Zealand Albums Chart[15] 9
Austrian Albums Chart[11] 10
Swiss Albums Chart[18] 12
US Billboard 200[20] 16

Mar 1986
A: Jericho
B: Jericho The Musical

May 1986
A: Holding Back The Years
B: Drowning In My Own Tears

Aug 1986
A: Open Up The Red Box (Remix)
B: Look At You Now

Men and Women

Simply Red released their second album, Men and Women, on March 9, 1987, on Elektra.

1. “The Right Thing” Mick Hucknall (4:19)
2. “Infidelity” Mick Hucknall, Lamont Dozier (4:09)
3. “Suffer” Mick Hucknall, Lamont Dozier (4:55)
4. “I Won’t Feel Bad” Mick Hucknall, Fritz McIntyre, Chris Joyce, Tony Bowers, Tim Kellett, Sylvan Richardson (4:14)
5. “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” Cole Porter (3:23)

6. “Let Me Have It All” Sylvester Stewart (3:45)
7. “Love Fire” Bunny Wailer (3:58)
8. “Move on Out” Mick Hucknall (4:55)
9. “Shine” Mick Hucknall (3:22)
10. “Maybe Someday…” Mick Hucknall (4:18))

Recorded 1985–1986
Studio Yellow 2 Studios (Stockport, UK)

Simply Red
Mick Hucknall – lead and backing vocals
Fritz McIntyre – keyboards, backing vocals
Tim Kellett – keyboards, trumpet, flugelhorn, percussion, live backing vocals
Sylvan Richardson – guitars
Tony Bowers – bass, percussion
Chris Joyce – drums, percussion

Additional musicians
Steve Rainford – keyboard programming
Ian Kirkham – baritone saxophone, tenor saxophone
Derek Wadsworth – trombone on “Love Fire”
Eleanor Morris – cello on “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye”
Janette Sewell – backing vocals

Alex Sadkin – producer (1-4, 6-10), mixing (1-4, 6-10)
Mick Hucknall – producer (5)
Yvonne Ellis – producer (5), engineer (5)
Barry Mraz – engineer (1-4, 6-10), mixing (1-4, 7)
Chris Dickie – assistant engineer (1–5, 7, 10), mixing (1-4, 7)
Simon Sullivan – assistant engineer (6, 8, 9)
Kevin Whyte – assistant engineer (6, 8, 9)
Colin Andrews – assistant engineer (10)
Joe Barbaria – mixing (6, 8, 9)
Nick Launay – mixing (6, 8, 9)
Ted Jensen – mastering
Robert Erdmann – photography
Paul Smith – clothes

Recorded at Yellow 2 Studios (Stockport, UK)
Tracks 1–4 and 7 mixed at RAK Studios (London, UK); Track 5 mixed at Yellow 2 Studios; Tracks 6, 8 and 9 mixed at Mayfair Studios (London, UK); Track 10 mixed at Utopia Studios (London, UK)
Mastered at Sterling Sound (New York City, New York)

Feb 1987
A: The Right Thing
B: There’s A Light

May 1987
A: Infidelity
B: Lady Godiva’s Room

In Germany, “Love Fire” became an a-side in June 1987
A: Love Fire
B: Love Fire (Dub Mix)

Jul 1987
A: Maybe Someday…
B: Let Me Have It All

Italian Albums (Musica e Dischi)[15] 1
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[21] 1
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[11] 2
European Albums (Music & Media)[12] 2
UK Albums (OCC)[22] 2
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[9] 3
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[14] 3
Spanish Albums (AFYVE)[19] 3
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[17] 4
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[20] 4
Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[8] 5
Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[10] 5
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[18] 6
Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista)[13] 14

16 Nov 1987
A: Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye
B: Love For Sale (Live)

22 Feb 1988
A: I Won’t Feel Bad
B: Lady Godiva’s Room

A New Flame

Simply Red released their third album, A New Flame, on February 13, 1989, on Elektra.

1. “It’s Only Love” (Jimmy Cameron, Vella Cameron) (4:58)
2. “A New Flame” (Mick Hucknall) (3:57)
3. “You’ve Got It” (Hucknall, Lamont Dozier) (3:55)
4. “To Be with You” (Hucknall) (3:22)
5. “More” (Hucknall) (4:08)

6. “Turn It Up” (Hucknall, Dozier) (4:35)
7. “Love Lays Its Tune” (Hucknall) (4:05)
8. “She’ll Have to Go” (Hucknall) (3:10)
9. “If You Don’t Know Me by Now” (Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff) (3:24)
10. “Enough” (Hucknall, Joe Sample) (5:10)

Recorded 1988–1989
Studio AIR Studios (Montserrat, West Indies)

Mick Hucknall – lead vocals (all vocals on “Enough”)
Fritz McIntyre – keyboards, backing vocals
Tim Kellett – keyboards, trumpet, live backing vocals
Heitor TP – guitars
Tony Bowers – bass
Chris Joyce – drums
Ian Kirkham – saxophones

Guest musicians
Erik Hanson – synthesizer programming
Larry Williams – synthesizer programming
Lenny Castro – percussion
Stephanie Spruell – backing vocals

Producer – Stewart Levine
Engineered and mixed by Darren Klein
Assistant engineers – Clark Germain and Karl Lever
Recorded at AIR Studios (Montserrat, West Indies)

Design – Peter Barrett and Andrew Biscomb
Cover photograph – Juergen Teller
Inner sleeve photos – Shelia Rock and Juergen Teller

Jan 1989
A: It’s Only Love
B: Turn It Up

27 Mar 1989
A: If You Don’t Know Me By Now
B: Move On Out

26 Jun 1989
A: A New Flame
B: More

Italian M&D Albums Chart[15] 1
New Zealand Albums Chart[17] 1
Swiss Albums Chart[20] 1
UK Albums Chart[21] 1
Australian ARIA Album Chart[10] 2
Austrian Albums Chart[11] 2
German Media Control Albums Chart[14] 2
Dutch Albums Chart[13] 4
Norwegian VG-lista Albums Chart[18] 4
Swedish Albums Chart[19] 4
Canadian Albums Chart[12] 15
US Billboard 200[22] 22


  • Picture Book (1985)
  • Men and Women (1987)
  • A New Flame (1989)
  • Stars (1991)
  • Life (1995)


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