Simple Minds

Mandela Day

Composed by Simple Minds

Song Review by

After the American radio friendly excesses of Simple Minds’ Once Upon a Time album, 1989's Street Fighting Years arrived less like a breath of fresh air, and more like an aural hurricane, with "Mandela Day" just one example of the album's phenomenal sound. With the crisp production showcasing the band's rich styling and complex arrangements, the song’s theme echoes much of the set's interest in current concerns. Yet, though it celebrates Nelson Mandela's long-awaited release from prison, the song contains none of the easy exuberance one would expect. Rather, Simple Minds, while elated by the ANC leader's freedom, are still somewhat stifled by the terrible injustice of his imprisonment, a mood that ensures the entire piece is washed in an almost bitter-sweet quality. The sound, however, is magnificent, weaving together the complex rhythm and thick layers of instrumentation into a vibrantly textured, evocative atmosphere.

Most bands would (and did) plump for a simple fist in the air anthem to celebrate the accomplishment of such a long-held ambition as this. Simple Minds, however, offer a much more nuanced piece, one that shimmers with joy, while never allowing the horrors of the past to be forgotten.

Fittingly, "Mandela Day" would feature on the flipside of the band's equally evocative "Belfast Child" single, a British #1.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
No Image 1988
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution
Ballad of the Streets 1989 A&M
Street Fighting Years 1989 A&M / JDC Records / Virgin 5:42
Themes, Vol. 4: February 89-May 90 1990 Virgin 8:12
Glittering Prize 1981-1992 1992 EMI Music Distribution 5:41
Promised: Night of the Proms 1998 EMI Music Distribution / Virgin
The Best of Simple Minds 2002 Virgin 5:41
Seen the Lights: A Visual History 2003 Virgin
Seen the Lights: Live in Verona 2004 EMI Music Distribution
Produced by Trevor Horn 2005
Various Artists
ZTT 5:41
Platinum Collection 2006 EMI Music Distribution
Gift Pack 2007 EMI Music Distribution 5:41
Themes, Vols. 1-5 2008 EMD Int'l 5:43
Live 16.06.2011: Hampton Court Palace 2011 EMI / Four Worlds 4:31
Live 16.07.2011: Northern Meeting Park 2012 Four Worlds 5:00
Celebrate: Greatest Hits 2013 Virgin 3:55
Celebrate: Live from the SSE Hydro Glasgow 2014 Edsel
No Image
Various Artists
Universal 5:41
blue highlight denotes editor's pick