This was featured in the 1985 movie The Breakfast Club. Directed by John Hughes, it featured many members of the "Brat Pack," including Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald, and Judd Nelson. The song is so associated with The Breakfast Club, that it is often used in movies or TV shows any time they reference the movie, often with a parody of the iconic ending shot where Judd Nelson throws his fist in the air (perhaps the most famous freeze-frame in movie history, although Rocky 2, where Rocky and Apollo are frozen mid-punch, is also up there).
Examples include the TV shows Scrubs, Psych, 30 Rock and Family Guy, and the movies American Pie and Easy A. In the 2001 film Not Another Teen Movie, which even features a cameo by Molly Ringwald, the version in the movie was performed by Sprung Monkey.
Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff wrote this song specifically for The Breakfast Club
. Forsey, who also co-wrote "Shakedown" for Beverly Hills Cop II
and the title song to Flashdance... What a Feeling
, was in charge of the music on The Breakfast Club
. Schiff had been a guitarist in Nina Hagen's band and co-wrote one of her biggest songs, "New York / N.Y."
Forsey and Schiff wrote a few other songs for the film as well, including "Fire in the Twilight" by Wang Chung and "Didn't I Tell You" by Joyce Kennedy. "Don't You (Forget About Me)" was the only hit from the soundtrack, but it was a big one, rising to #1 in the US.
Simple Minds had been around for five years and developed a strong following in England when this was released. The song was much more bombastic and radio-friendly than their previous material, which alienated some of their core fans, but gave them a breakthrough hit in the US, where it was by far their biggest hit. It is one of the few Simple Minds songs that they didn't write themselves.
According to Keith Forsey, Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music was his first choice to record this song, but Ferry turned it down. Forsey was also a big fan of simple minds, so he tried to get them to record the song by delivering a cassette demo to the band.
At the time, Simple Minds was gaining traction in the UK, with with three modest hits from their 1984 album Sparkle in the Rain: "Waterfront," "Speed Your Love to Me" and "Up on the Catwalk." In the US, however, they had no luck, in large part because their US record company, A&M, didn't promote them. An A&R guy at the label named Jordan Harris tried to rectify that by having them record this song (The Breakfast Club soundtrack was on A&M), but the band wanted nothing to with it because:
1) They didn't like recording songs they didn't write.
2) Jim Kerr didn't like the lyric (especially the "vanity... insecurity" line).
So why did the band record it? They simply changed their minds. They met with The Breakfast Club director John Hughes and got a screening of the film, which put the lyric in better context. Forsey visited them in Scotland, and they got on well. While there, he convinced them to give it a go, and they recorded the track in a few hours at a studio in London.
Jim Kerr didn't think this song was up to snuff when he heard the demo, but looking back on it, he's thrilled with its impact on pop culture. "The song and the film are almost iconic to certain generations, especially in America," he told us in 2014
. "So it's great when things come together and work so well. It's been a pleasure to see how much joy that song gives to a lot of people.
This got a ridiculous amount of radio play, partly because it was played on both rock and Top 40 stations. It continues to get played on classic rock, modern rock, and even Top 40 radio stations as a solid recurrent with a huge recognition rating - when songs are tested by stations to determine if audiences like them, this consistently does very well, which keeps it on the air.
The prom scene in the 1986 John Hughes movie Pretty in Pink
was shot to this song, which might explain why the dancing doesn't follow the music of the song that was used: "If You Leave
" by OMD. Andy McCluskey
of OMD told us: "The song had to be 120 BPM cos that's the tempo of 'Don't You Forget about Me,' which is the track they actually shot the prom scene to. Unfortunately, the editor obviously had no sense of rhythm because they are all dancing out of time in the final film."
The song's co-writer Keith Forsey took over as drummer for The Psychedelic Furs in 1984 and produced their album Mirror Moves
that year. When John Hughes found out that Forsey wrote "Don't You (Forget About Me)," he delved deeper into The Psychedelic Furs and discovered the group's 1981 song "Pretty In Pink
." He made that the title song to his next movie, which was released in 1986. This gave The Furs a huge career boost and a surprising hit.
Despite the band's then-popularity in the UK and Europe, back in 1985 Simple Minds remained essentially unknown in the United States. That changed when this song gave them a foothold; their next album, Once Upon a Time
(which didn't include "Don't You (Forget About Me)"), scored with the #3 hit "Alive And Kicking
." A few minor hits followed in America, but their stronghold remained the UK, where they topped the chart in 1989 with "Belfast Child
Jim Kerr, the group's lead singer, was married to Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders when this came out. He was later married to the actress Patsy Kensit, who divorced him and took up with Liam Gallagher of Oasis.
Molly Ringwald released an album of standards in 2013 called Except Sometimes, which featured a cover of this song. Ringwald wanted to pay tribute to John Hughes and integrate her past by covering the song.
In 2005, the punk rock band Yellowcard recorded this live from the MTV Video Music Awards as part of a 20th anniversary special for The Breakfast Club
. Clips from the movie were shown during their performance.
Season 7 American Idol
winner David Cook recorded a cover of "Don't You (Forget About Me)" as the farewell song for the 10th season of the reality television music competition. The song was chosen by American Idol
creator and Executive Producer Simon Fuller and made available for sale on March 8, 2011. Cook told The Hollywood Reporter
: "When I was approached about that song, my first thought was how iconic it is. Every time I hear that song I think of Judd Nelson on the football field with his fist in the air. How do you make it your own without completely bastardizing the original? It was an interesting experience. I'm extremely happy with the end result. It was a lot of fun to record. We got Kenny Aronoff on drums and Neal came in and helped cut some of the guitars. With Matt Squire's help - he was on board as a producer - we went in, had fun with it and tried not to worry about the inevitable pressure associated with that song. It was a huge honor."
The song's "la-la-la" coda is a case of a placeholder becoming the actual lyric, as neither Keith Forsey nor Jim Kerr could think of actual words that made sense.
The music video was directed by Daniel Kleinman, who also did the clips for Paula Abdul's "Knocked Out" and Wang Chung's "Dance Hall Days." Oddly, there was no footage from The Breakfast Club in the video, which takes place in a large room filled with the band members and various television monitors. Simple Minds were never huge on MTV, which had moved away from British acts and were more interested in artists like Madonna and Prince. It was radio that made this song huge in the States.