by: Adam Glass
The 80’s. A truly innovative decade in music that was ripe with originality that is still being copied to this day. Most popular bands from this time period have either kept going WAY past their expiration date or have chosen to reform many years later. One such band who chose never to regroup was Thompson Twins. They played their last live show in August of 1987 and even though they still put out albums until 1991 they were one of the bands from the decade of excess that have yet to jump on the 80’s reunion circuit. That is until now………Sort of. Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey will hit the shores of the USA this month as part of the Retro Futura Tour to perform a series of live dates playing all the Twins hits for the first time in 27 years. The question is, why now?
Here is some background on this underrated group of misfits in case you weren’t there, missed it or are just too old to remember. Thompson Twins were formed in 1977 in London, England and were made up of four members including their leader Tom Bailey (vocals/bass). The band back then was in the thick of the punk movement but not known as a real standout act. The Twins quickly expanded and by 1980 were a seven (sometimes eight) piece. The music changed from the sonic sounds of British punk to a post punk tribal outfit. Out were the many guitars and in were anything you bang on such as hubcaps and trash bins. It was at this time as a seven piece they released two albums called “A Product Of….” (1981) and “Set” (1982) and were now the talk of underground London known mostly for their live shows where audience participation was encouraged.
Something started happening across the pond though. In the US, the first single from “Set” called “In The Name of Love” started taking off in the clubs. It was the last track recorded for the album and one that was highlighted by the use of a synthesizer, a first for the band. It eventually shot to #1 on the US Dance Charts. With this first taste of international success Twins leader Tom Bailey shook things up and let’s go of four members and slimed the band down to three. The Thompson Twins would now be made up of Tom (every instrument under the sun), Alannah Currie (Xylophone and lyricist) and Joe Leeway (backing vocals, Congas and crazy dancing). This trio would have the most success with a string of catchy hits to their credit. Songs such as “Lies”, “Hold Me Now”, “Doctor Doctor” and “Lay Your Hands On Me” (to name but a few) were staples on the radio from 1983 to 1986. Their most famous albums (and I’m talking vinyl here) were “Quick Step and Side Kick” (1983), “Into the Gap” (1984) and “Here’s To Future Days” (1985).
20 million in sales later Joe Leeway left the group and Thompson Twins continued as a duo for three additional albums “Close To The Bone” (1987), “Big Trash” (1989) and “Queer” (1991). Tom and Alannah changed the band’s name shortly after in an attempt to get rid of the 80’a stigma that was around in the 90’s and released two further albums under the name Babble called “The Stone” (1993) and “Ether” (1996). After the demise of Babble, Tom has continued to release dub music under the moniker International Observer and well as work on a bunch of other projects with The Holiwater Band and the Bailey-Salgado Project (BSP).
So…after all this and the proven track record of 80’s reunion tours why have Thompson Twins defied all logic and chosen to stay away? I was able to chat with Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey right after his first show (a warm up gig in Reading, UK) and get the scoop on the glory days and why the return all of a sudden.
Adam Glass: It’s been twenty seven years since you have played any type of Thompson Twins music live. Why now? What happened that made you say “now is the right time” and why Retro Futura?
Tom Bailey: I had definitely decided that this was not on my list of things to do. It had become too hard to think about reforming the band – and we were always busy with various other projects. Rick (the tour organizer) from Retro Futura was periodically in touch to see if I was interested – so I knew the offers were there – but I had stopped identifying as that kind of musician. Then, by chance, I was working with a Mexican artist called Alex Syntek on a project where he works with the heroes of his youth….and we wrote a pop song together. It all seemed natural enough. Then he asked me to sing on it. He was so enthusiastic that I thought “why not” – and felt that no one was watching anyway. It sounded good – then I realized that I’d crossed some kind of boundary and that I was not only singing on a pop song for the first time in decades, but that I was enjoying it, too. Shortly afterwards, and again by chance, Howard Jones got in touch to say he wanted to tour the US and wondered if I was interested.
AG: I hear that you re-recorded some of the Twins’ hits. Was this to help re-learn or re-work them? I would think this must have been somewhat therapeutic.
TB: Yes, I knew that my decision to tour rested entirely on whether or not I could re-engage with the music. So I went back to basics, which for me meant going into the studio and re-recording the material I felt I could attempt to perform. It was like meeting old friends.
AG: What can we expect from you on the Retro Futura Tour?
TB: I have a band of the most amazing musicians. We have worked hard on making contemporary but truthful versions of the songs. We have a very high-tech musical/sound/light and video system. But the most important component is the audience.
AG: Thompson Twins had such a great career and you must have tons of great memories from the 80’s. What are some personal highlights of your time in the Twins that come to mind?
TB: By now, it’s all a blur. Especially now that I’m busy updating the experience.
AG: The last two Twins albums in my opinion are real gems. Big Trash and Queer. You never toured them. Were you unhappy with the end result or just tired of touring by that point?
TB: We had tired of touring so much and become more experimental as a studio band again. It was also the beginning of the internet age, so we imagined that we could find new ways of connecting with our audience.
AG: I know you are sticking to the hits on this tour but do you have any favorite tracks from Big Trash and Queer that you would like to try live someday given the chance?
TB: I haven’t seriously thought about that yet. Good idea.
AG: You are in the final stages or rehearsal for the tour and you just had your warm up show Reading UK. Excited? Nervous?
TB: The warm up was last night. It was unbelievably enjoyable and everyone played brilliantly. The audience was fantastically warm and supportive so it felt like a family reunion.
AG: You have so many projects you work on: International Observer, BSP and the Holiwater Band. What can we expect from Tom Bailey in the future? Would you be open to touring more?
TB: This tour is something of a test for me. If I carry on enjoying it as much as last night – I’ll want to more.
AG: Tom, thanks for taking the time out of you extremely busy schedule to chat with me today. Have fun on the tour and I’ll see you in New York and Boston!
TB: You’re most welcome – and I’m so much looking forward to meeting the US audiences soon.
RETRO FUTURA 2014 TOUR DATES with Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey/Howard Jones and Special Guests: Midge Ure/China Crisis/Katrina
Aug. 21 NYC – Best Buy Theater
Aug. 22 Philadelphia – The Keswick Theatre
Aug. 23 Brookhaven, NY – Pennysaver Amphitheater
Aug. 24 Boston, MA – Wilbur Theatre
Aug. 25th Cleveland, OH – Cleveland Performance Arts Center (Masonic Auditorium)
Aug. 26 Toronto, ON – Koolhaus
Aug. 27 Chicago, IL – Ravinia Festival
Aug. 29 Los Angeles, CA – Greek Theatre
Aug. 30 Saratoga, CA – Mountain Winery *
Aug. 31 Lincoln, CA – Thunder Valley Resort & Casino **
Sept. 3 Tempe, AZ – The Marquee
Sept. 04 San Diego, CA – Humphreys Concerts By The Bay
Sept. 05 Las Vegas, NV – Mandalay Bay Beach
Sept. 06 Sandy, UT – Sandy Amphitheater
Sept. 8 Dallas, TX – Verizon Theatre @ Grand Prarie
Sept. 10 Orlando, FL – Hard Rock Live @ Universal CityWalk
*China Crisis not appearing, no replacement
**Midge Ure & China Crisis not appearing, English Beat replaces them
Follow Tom Bailey at https://www.facebook.com/thompsontwinstombailey