Holding Back the Years

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"Holding Back the Years"
Single by Simply Red
from the album Picture Book
B-side "Drowning in My Own Tears" / "I Won't Feel Bad"
Released 1985
Genre Pop rock, blue-eyed soul
Length 4:07
Label WEA
Writer(s) Mick Hucknall, Neil Moss
Producer(s) Stewart Levine
Simply Red singles chronology
"Come to My Aid"
"Holding Back the Years"


"Holding Back the Years"

"Open Up the Red Box"
Picture Book track listing
"Money's Too Tight to Mention"
"Holding Back the Years"
"(Open Up) The Red Box"

"Holding Back the Years" is the 7th track of Simply Red's debut studio album Picture Book (1985). It remains their most successful single, having reached #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on the UK Singles Chart. It is one of two Simply Red songs (the other being their cover of "If You Don't Know Me by Now") to reach #1 in the US. "Holding Back the Years" had initially been released in the UK the year before, reaching #51. The song was nominated in the category of Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals at the 29th Annual Grammy Awards.


Frontman of the group, Mick Hucknall, wrote the song when he was 17, while living at his father's house. The chorus did not come to him until many years later.[1] His mother left the family when he was three; the upheaval caused by this event inspired him to write the song.[2] The music was co-written with Neil Moss, a member of Hucknall's first group, the Frantic Elevators.[3]

He recorded a chorus-less version of the song with the Frantic Elevators in 1982, but the real success came when the Simply Red version was released in 1985. In 2005, a brand-new stripped down acoustic version of the song was released on the album Simplified.[citation needed]

Cover Versions[edit]

American musical group The Isley Brothers recorded the version for their 1996 album Mission to Please. Jazz vocalist Jimmy Scott recorded the version for his 1998 album of the same name. R&B singer Angie Stone's cover version was featured on the motion picture soundtrack of the 2000 film Love & Basketball. Jazz singer Gretchen Parlato recorded the version for her 2011 album The Lost and Found.

Music video[edit]

The graveyard in which the video was shot

The video for the song was directed by Tony van den Ende and filmed in the English coastal town of Whitby. The famous scene where Hucknall watches the coastal view from his window can be seen on the cover of the single, in its music video and, for a brief time, in the music video of "If You Don't Know Me by Now". British actress Maggie O'Neill appears briefly in the video, as a teacher in a school. Keyboardist Fritz McIntyre plays the role of a one-man-band and the other band members play the role of the local cricket team who see Hucknall off on his journey.


  1. ^ Holden, Stephen (11 March 1987). "Simply Red's 2D Album Blends Funk with Ballads". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 October 2008. 
  2. ^ Davies, Hugh (19 June 2001). "Simply Red star cleared after arrest for rape". The Daily Telegraph (UK). Retrieved 11 October 2008. 
  3. ^ "Holding Back The Years". simplyred.com. Retrieved 7 September 2014. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"There'll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)" by Billy Ocean
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
12 July 1986
Succeeded by
"Invisible Touch" by Genesis