Once Upon a Time in the Top Spot: Simply Red, A New Flame

Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Once Upon a Time in the Top Spot: Simply Red, A New Flame

25 years ago today, Simply Red topped the UK charts with an album that didn’t do quite as well in the States but still managed to provide the band with the second U.S. #1 single of their career.

After the success of the band’s 1985 debut album, Picture Book, and its biggest hit single, “Holding Back the Years” (their first U.S. #1 single), on both sides of the Atlantic, it seemed as though Simply Red were poised to be a full-fledged pop phenomenon…and so they were in just about every country other than America. In the States, however, the band’s sophomore effort, 1987’s Women and Men, earned disappointing sales, and although they earned a top-30 single with “The Right Thing,” it was evident that America wasn’t nearly as interested in what Mick Hucknall and company were selling as other countries. (In the UK, for instance, the band pulled five Top 100 singles from the album, with two of them – “The Right Thing” and “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” – hitting #11.)

When the band returned with A New Flame, though, they clearly struck a chord in the States with their decision to cover “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” a song originally recorded by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, which topped the Billboard Hot 100 on July 15, 1989. While the album itself wasn’t as successful in America – it only hit #22 – the same obviously wasn’t the case in the UK, where it spent three weeks at #1 (albeit nonconsecutive) and ultimately went platinum seven times over. In addition, it paved the way for Simply Red’s greatest global success, 1991’s Stars, which went platinum 12 times over in the UK. Not so in the U.S., alas…but, hey, at least we’ll always have “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.”