"After touring Australia with Icehouse in 1981, I didn’t think all these years later we’d be coming back with the Icehouse guys again. What a wonderful thing!"
On Monday, two iconic acts beloved throughout the 80s until now (and likely beyond), Icehouse and Simple Minds, came together to pay tribute to a band they both love, T. Rex. Not only did they cover the hit single Get It On with grace and energy, but the new release also serves as a promotional number for the two bands’ upcoming co-headline run on the Red Hot Summer Tour.
When The Music catches up with Icehouse’s Iva Davies and Simple Minds’ Jim Kerr, the two singers couldn’t be further apart – the Aussie in Sydney and the Scotsman in Italy. But when both of them are on the phone, all you hear is two friends.
In 1981, Simple Minds touched down on Australian soil for the first time after being invited by their good friends, Icehouse.
This tour marks a four-decade-long love affair with their Australian fans, with the bands preparing to perform in Mornington at the Yarra Valley, Bribie Island and Perth in February 2024. They’ll be joined by fellow Australian rock icons Noiseworks, Daryl Braithwaite and Bachelor Girl.
To celebrate the tour, Icehouse and Simple Minds joined forces for Get It On. With Davies revealing that it was Jim’s choice to cover the classic rock tune, Kerr explains, “The first album I ever bought was a T. Rex album,” he says.
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Regarding the UK context, a lot of people of his generation said that everything began when David Bowie appeared on Top Of The Pops. For Jim Kerr, the hold music has on his life began two years earlier when T. Rex, led by Marc Bolan, fronted a string of great singles and great albums.
“I would have been 12 or 13 at the time, and that, for me, was the doorway to music. I’m sure that Iva will speak for himself, but one of the great things about meeting Icehouse was that we immediately identified a kindred spirit,” he says. Kerr and Davies agree on T. Rex, David Bowie and Roxy Music but eventually settled on Get It On – a “thrill” to work on, both concur.
Get It On was released in 1971, originally written by frontman Marc Bolan, and featured on the T. Rex album Electric Warrior. Get It On was a huge hit, peaking at #1 in England and Ireland and #14 in Australia, also reaching #3 in Germany and Switzerland, #6 in Norway and #10 in the US.
Davies details the first time he heard of T. Rex: a former girlfriend worked at a record company and had a vast record collection, amongst which were records by Tyrannosaurus Rex – an even earlier incarnation of T. Rex.
“In fact, there was a very early song called Jewel – slightly obscure, I guess, by comparison with some of the later big singles like Get It On, but in that song, there was a lyric, ‘Her eyes are electric blue’, and that popped up much later in my life with a song that went to into the United States Top 10,” Davies chuckles.
He’s long been fascinated by Marc Bolan and his incredibly simple melodies, “And one of the things I tried to do as a songwriter was write something as direct and uncomplicated as those songs appear to be on the outside, and never really succeeded.
“This is a perfect opportunity to get together with Simple Minds because this song has that very simple structure but a lot of verses and a lot of places to muck around with. We had a lot of fun with it.”
There’s a moment towards the end of the Icehouse and Simple Minds version of Get It On that brings a fresh rock and roll energy to such a well-known song, the two singers meeting for some superb harmonies and percussive elements, adding more depth.
Davies and Kerr admit that any changes to the song were purely coincidental – unplanned, pure spontaneity. “Most of those things are not calculated,” Davies admits, “That's the wonder of playing in a collective that has its own kind of collective mind. When you decide to throw in something like that, nobody can predict that coming. It’s just one of those things that happens. It's a great thing about music, that kind of unpredictability.”
“I’ll go with that as well,” Kerr adds, “It’s all about the feelings – you’re in there with whatever the music’s bringing in, and then you stand up and go, ‘That’s pretty good’.”
When the bands were thinking of a song to cover ahead of this Australian tour, Davies remembers listening to a 1971 Mott The Hoople song, All The Young Dudes, written by David Bowie. The last time Davies and Kerr spoke, things started to click. Davies explains, “There are so many of these gems, and when I thought about releasing this song – the song is decades old now, but it deserves revisiting.”
He continues, “I guess that's probably the best way that I can describe it. It's just such a great, simple, catchy, infectious creation that I'm glad that we're getting the opportunity to kind of give it some air again.” The bands were considering a number of songs, but Kerr, firm in the fact that everyone in their generation knew Get It On was a classic, wanted to pay tribute to a singer and songwriter he believes is underrated.
“I don’t think Marc Bolan gets credit for the work he did,” Kerr states, “I just feel his work and his legacy is not to the proportion that it should be compared to others.” Davies adds, “We were great believers from the beginning; they were a great contributor to my formative years, to the band then known as Flowers. T. Rex are very important to me – this whole catalogue of material, and as Jim says, highly underrated and for the greater part overlooked.”
Sharing the “huge” part Get It On has played in his life, Kerr recalls the days working his first job in a supermarket (“Believe me, it wasn’t a glamorous job,” he laughs) for a couple of hours each day after school, cleaning the butcher’s department. But, the great thing about that job was scoring some much-needed money to buy albums and go to concerts.
He shares, “I remember going in and buying the album and proudly walking around school with Electric Warrior – what a brilliant body of work, my God. I never thought when I was 15 that I myself would end up in bands and that when I did get in a band, we would be so lucky. And after touring Australia with Icehouse in 1981, I didn’t think all these years later we’d be coming back with the Icehouse guys again. What a wonderful thing!”
We lose Kerr on the phone after that statement, but we ask Davies: what is it about Great Southern Land? What inspires that song’s enduring appeal? And does he feel a sense of pride every time the song plays on the radio, television, or elsewhere?
Davies admits that the song’s impact “becomes more and more of a mystery” in 2023. “That's the honest truth because as time goes by, the fact that the song is in any way, shape or form relevant four decades later just completely baffles me. I have no idea,” he shares.
Davies continues, “I can remember the process of writing it and how desperate my set of priorities were at the time to come up with that difficult second album and enormous amounts of pressure, and the very first thing that came out of that cauldron, as it were, was that song. And so, for me, with all that background behind it, it's a completely different picture than people who were on the receiving end of that first effort.”
When Icehouse tours with Simple Minds next year, Davies is just excited to reunite and catch up with his friend. “We’ll hopefully have lots of opportunities to sit down and have a chat,” Davies says, “because we've both been on the go for a long time. I'd like to think there's going to be an opportunity to just sit around after a show at some point and just talk about stuff.”
Icehouse and Simple Minds will co-headline the Red Hot Summer Tour in February 2024. You can find the tour dates below.
Saturday, 10 February 2024 - Mornington Racecourse, Mornington VIC (18+)
ICEHOUSE, SIMPLE MINDS, Noiseworks, Daryl Braithwaite & Bachelor Girl (SOLD OUT)
Sunday, 11 February 2024 - Rochford Wines, Yarra Valley VIC (18+)
SIMPLE MINDS, ICEHOUSE, Noiseworks, Daryl Braithwaite & Bachelor Girl
Saturday, 17 February 2024 - Sandstone Point, Bribie Island QLD – (18+)
ICEHOUSE, SIMPLE MINDS, Noiseworks, Daryl Braithwaite & Bachelor Girl (SOLD OUT)
Wednesday, 21 February 2024 - Kings Park & Botanic Garden, Perth WA (All Ages)
SIMPLE MINDS, ICEHOUSE & Bachelor Girl
Tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.com.au