Forsey asked Cy Curnin from The Fixx, Bryan Ferry and Billy Idol to record the song, but all three declined; Idol would later perform a cover of it on his 2001 greatest hits compilation. Schiff then suggested Forsey ask the Scottish New Wave band Simple Minds, who initially refused as well, but then agreed under the encouragement of their label, A&M. According to one account, the band "rearranged and recorded 'Don’t You (Forget About Me)' in three hours in a north London studio and promptly forgot about it."
Continuing the rock direction recently taken on Sparkle in the Rain but also glancing back at their melodic synthpop past, it caught the band at their commercial peak and, propelled by the success of The Breakfast Club, became a number-one hit in the U.S. and around the world. It is the band's only number-one hit on the U.S. Top Rock Tracks chart, staying atop for three weeks. While only reaching number seven in the UK, it stayed on the charts from 1985–1987, one of the longest time spans for any single in the history of the chart.
Despite its success, the band continued to dismiss the song, the most obvious slight being its absence from their subsequent album Once Upon a Time. It appeared on CD in the Themes Collection in 1990, and then appeared on the 1992 best-of Glittering Prize 81/92.
Two versions were created for release; the edited version of 4:23 appeared on the 45 RPM single and the original motion picture soundtrack album of The Breakfast Club. However, the full and uncut version was released on a 12" single, which topped out at a total time length of 6:32. Most radio formats in the U.S. only programmed the 4:23 version, making it a rarity to hear the full version on radio. The compilation label UTV Records—a Universal Company—included the full version on its 2001 Pure 80's Hits Various Artists release. This version contains longer breakdowns and drum fills, a second appearance of the bridge, and a longer outro than the popular edited version.
John Leland from Spin wrote that "'Don't You (Forget About Me),' a romantic and melancholy dance track, therefore cuts ice both in the living room and on the dance floor."
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