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“The big music” is a term you don’t hear much any more in pop discourse, but for a little while in the mid-1980s it issued forth regularly from the lips of ambitious talkers like Mike Scott and (of course) Bono as a signifier for grandiose pop-rock projected right to the back row of the stadium. It also played a hand in ruining Simple Minds as a world-class pop band.

One evening in 1983,...

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