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The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
A Decade in the Life
of
Thompson Twins
Joe Leeway, Alannah Currie, Tom Bailey (1983)

In 1977, aspiring classical pianist Tom Bailey (b. 6.18.57, Halifax, Yorkshire), joined forces with guitarists Peter Dodd and John Roog and drummer Chris Bell to form a band called Thompson Twins (after a pair of identical detectives in the cartoon Tin Tin.) Moving to London in 1978, the quartet diligently played the club scene for two years. By the time the 1980s rolled around, they were ready to take their shot at the singles charts. In time, percussionists Joe Leeway (b. 11.15.57, London) and Alannah Currie (b. 9.20.59, Auckland, New Zealand) would join Bailey, while Dodd, Roog and Bell would leave the band. When, in the mid-Eighties, the Thompson Twins became an international success it consisted of the trio of Bailey, Currie and Leeway. The band, according to Currie, strove to "make something completely different . . . using technology." At the time, many purists scoffed at the nation that "good" music could be made with machines. The Thompson Twins proved the skeptics wrong -- and became the leading purveyors of synth-pop. They were innovative, mixing dance, pop, reggae and dance elements with experimental sounds to produce a string of distinctive hit singles that were not only commercially successful but were also critically acclaimed. Daring to be different not only in their music but also in appearance, they became heroes to disaffected youth in the process.


May 1980
Thompson Twin's first single, "Squares And Triangles" is released on its own independent label (Dirty Discs).
November 1980
Independent label Latent releases "She's In Love With Mystery," which tops UK independent chart. Tom Bailey begins dating Alannah Currie.
February 1981
The band signs with Arista Records in the UK.
June 1981
The band's debut album, A Product Of..., is recorded.
March 1982
Set climbs to UK#48, while the single "In The Name Of Love" soars to #1 on the US dance chart. The album is released as In The Name Of Love in the US, and stalls at US#148.
April 1982
Bell, Dodd, Roog and bassist Matthew Seligman are fired, leaving the Thompson Twins consisting of the trio of Bailey, Currie and former roadie Joe Leeway.
October 1982
"Lies" peaks at UK#67, and will reach US#30 in March of the following year; supported by Tears for Fears, the band embarks on an extensive UK tour.
January 1983
"Love On Your Side" makes it to UK#9. In a few months it will climb to #45 on the US singles chart.
March 1983
Quick Step & Side Kick peaks at UK#2. Released as Side Kicks in the US, it will spend 25 weeks on the album chart, reaching the #34 spot.
April 1983
Currie's vocals are featured for the first time on the single "We Are Detective," which hits UK#7.
November 1983
"Hold Me Now" climbs to UK#4. Six months later, it peaks at US #3.
February 1984
"Doctor Doctor" soars to UK#3. Into The Gap hits the top spot on the UK album chart and stay there for three weeks; it will spend over a year on the US chart, peaking at #10. In October it will be certified platinum by the RIAA.
March 1984
"You Take Me Up" makes it to UK#2. It will stall at US#44 in October.
July 1984
As the band begins a world tour, "Doctor Doctor" reaches US#11.
November 1984
"Lay Your Hands On Me" climbs to UK#13. It will take a year for the single to reach its #6 high mark on the US chart.
March 1985
After two years of touring, and hard at work on a new album, Tom Bailey falls sick from exhaustion. American producer Niles Rodgers comes aboard to help finish the album.
July 1985
With Bailey recovered, Thompson Twins performs with Madonna at the Live Aid benefit concert in Philadelphia.
August 1985
The anti-drug song "Don't Mess With Doctor Dream" peaks at UK#15.
September 1985
Here's To Future Days soars to UK#5. In November it will be certified gold by the RIAA. It's first single, "King For A Day," reaches UK#22.
February 1986
Here's To Future Days climbs to US#20, while the single "King For A Day" will hit US#8 in March.
September 1986
"Nothing In Common," title track for the Tom Hanks film by the same name, stalls at US#54.
December 1986
Conflict within the band leads to the departure of Joe Leeway.
May 1987
Close To The Bone reaches US#76 and UK#90. The single "Get That Love" makes it to US#31. Another single, "Long Goodbye," fails to chart.
April 1988
Bailey and Currie have their first child.
September 1988
A collection of remixed hits, Greatest Mixes, stalls at US#175.
October 1989
Big Trash is released on a new label, Warners, and peaks at US#143. The single "Big Daddy" hits US#28 in November. Bailey co-produces two tracks on Deborah Harry's debut album, Def, Dumb and Blonde.


A Product Of.... (Arista, 1981)
When I See You
Politics
Slave Trade
Could Be Her, Could Be You
Make Believe
Don't Go Away
The Price
Oumma Aularesso (Animal Laugh)
Anything Is Good Enough
A Product Of
Perfect Game
Vendredi Saint

"The name notwithstanding, there are no twins and no Thompsons in this globally successful modern pop band. Once an obscure, loose collection of as many as seven Sheffield-to London players led by singer/synthesist, songwriter Tom bailey, the Twins pared down to just Bailey, New Zealander Alanahha Currie and Joe Leeway and became one of the world's leading purveyors of occasionally adventurous, invariably danceable modern chart fare."
Trouser Press

"After a few mundane 45's, it's good to see the Thompson Twins put together an album that does some justice to their (very) live show. Everywhere the accent is on riddum, with an appealing you-can-all-join-in indiscipline dancing round the central axis. Not that they don't write a good chown or two, too -- so the results are never as boringly indulgent as they might be in less inspired bands."
NME (6.20.81)

Set / In The Name Of Love (Tee, 1982)
In The Name Of Love
Living in Europe
Bouncing
Tok Tok
Good Gosh
The Rowe
Runaway
Another Fantasy
Fool's Gold
Crazy Dog
Blind
(The US version, entitled In The Name Of Love, substituted two tracks from the band's first LP, "Make Believe" and "Perfect Game," for "Tok Tok," "Crazy Dog" and "Blind")

"One of the best live bands around, the Thompson Twins have trouble recreating the style and energy of their stage performance. Their records usually come as something of a disappointment, though Set in fact succeeds surprisingly well. What has been lost is the looseness and rawness, which is a major part of their appeal to me, and at times the result is too smooth, too lacking in spontaneity. What they have gained, though, is layers of sound and textures which give the songs more depth and imagination."
Kevin Swayne, Sounds (3.6.82)

"The Thompson Twins belong to that traditionally English pop sensibility which blends galloping eclecticism with offbeat amiability. Their catholic approach incorporates touches from a wide spectrum of present and past music -- from Adam to Brinsley Schwarz to The Move -- but the band of which they're consistently reminiscent is XTC. . . . The result is an all-round lack of bite. The Thompsons have nothing distinctive to offer. Set comes across as a pleasant-to-dull LP that, for all its hard work and invention, is still a bit of a bore."
Graham Lock, NME (2.27.82)

Quick Step & Side Kick (Arista, 1983)
Love On Your Side
Lies
If You Were Here
Judy Do
Tears
Watching
We Are Detective
Kamikaze
Love Lies Bleeding
All Fall Out

"Don't know if you've noticed or not, but all of a sudden, the floodgates are open and new British pop groups are being welcomed into the American musical mainstream at an amazing rate; haven't seen anything like it since the '60s....The Thompson Twins are right in the middle of all this -- they just may be the most 1983 group of the year. They have 12" dance club hits like "In The Name Of Love," "Lies," and "Love On Your Side." They now have synthesizers and no guitars, drum programmes but no drums, since their drummer and guitarists were booted out after the TTs decided to trim their ranks down to the threesome of Tom Bailey, Alannah Currie and Joe Leeway (although they did swell back up to six again for touring purposes.) So they may not have stability but they've got instant pan-sexual, pan-cultural credibility and a logo as well; a trio of blank faces topped by three different colors of hair, meaning, I suppose, that all sexes, creeds and colors can get along as long as they all have funny hair-dos. Let Fun Boy Three top that."
Creem (May, 1983)

"On their American debut, "In The Name Of Love," the Thompson Twins were a welcome alternative to the arch synth-pop then rolling across the Atlantic. Working with a bubbly, salsa-inflected bounce instead of the usual electronic angst, the Thompsons were as fun as they were tuneful. Their new album, Side Kicks, is fun too, and is just as likely to leave you humming. But with their lineup condensed from seven members to three, the band now relies almost exclusively on synthesizers and percussion, and though they've come up with an impressive synth version of a string-popping funk bass, they have yet to find an adequate substitute for Peter Dodd's chattering guitar. Consequently, most of the instrumental tracks are locked in a percussion-and-synthesizer style that isn't appreciable different from late-Seventies disco. Still, the band has retained most of its wit, and that adds sparkle to the arrangements....And, in the end, Side Kicks is better than no kicks at all."
J.D. Considine, Rolling Stone (4.14.83)

Into The Gap (Arista, 1984)
Doctor! Doctor!
You Take Me Up
Day After Day
Sister Of Mercy
No Peace For The Wicked
The Gap
Hold Me Now
Storm On The Sea
Who Can Stop The Rain?

Soft Cell, Human League and their ilk may have transformed synthesizer-based "new wave" music into chart-topping commodities. But few bands make this technical wizardry sound so delightfully commercial as the Thompson Twins. They use all the tools at their disposal, mix them together with current trendy beats (reggae, calypso, etc.), and create a stunning concoction which, to these battered ears, is the best album of 1984 so far.....Into The Gap could be perceived as a distinctive milestone on how far new musix has come in the past few years. It's enough to make you forget that the old dinosaur bands ever existed."
Keith Sharp, Music Express (April, 1984)

"Obviously, this is a band that knows how to sell a melody -- "In The Name of Love" and its successors proved that without trouble. But with Into The Gap, the Thompsons have made a breathtaking show of just how adept they are with a telling detail, an illuminating flourish. "You Take Me Up" features a melody that's just a little too busy to stand out on its own, but after the Thompsons have girded it with an underpinning of marimba, set it on a slippery shuffle and sprinkled the verses with homey harmonica obbligatos, it's hard NOT to sit transfixed.....At times, the gimmicks can be as slight as a sythensizer setting, but they invariable make the album seem dazzling even when it isn't."
J.D. Considine, Musician (May 1984)

Here's To Future Days (Arista, 1985)
Don't Mess With Doctor Dream
Lay Your Hands On Me
Future Days
Roll Over
Revolution
King For A Day
Love Is The Law
Emperor's Clothes (Part I)
Tokyo
You Killed The Clown
Breakaway (bonus cassette track)

From bohemian free spirits to a calculated, commercial music entity -- that has been the price of fame for the Thompson Twins, who find themselves firmly entrenched in rock's mainstream. Into The Gap took them to this position, an album which confounded detractors with its high-gloss production and infectious beat. Tom Bailey, Alannah Currie and Joe Leeway were probably just as surprised as anyone. It was almost as though they had stumbled onto some secret elixir; to the point where the trio ensconced themselves in the studio for almost a year to dissect their recent success and puzzle over how they would produce a suitable follow-up. To a certain extent, their labors have been successful. Here's To Future Days is, for the most part, a clean and addictive batch of songs with catchy melodies soaring over a calculated synth beat."
Keith Sharp, Music Express (October, 1985)

"You can't always judge a band by its haircuts. Take the Thompson Twins: on the surface they're the perfect example of vintage 1985 pop, three designer-style cartoon characters lip-syncing breathlessly trendy techno ditties. And sure enough, their fourth U.S. release is crammed full of relentless melodies, singalong choruses, swooning synths, percussive exotica and the sort of hooks that should be baited with Excedrin. But it also contains actual guitar solos -- groovy, grotesquely distorted ones -- and deceptively simple lyrics that offer love and optimism as an answer to drug addiction, nuclear war, racial strife and loneliness."
Mark Coleman, Rolling Stone 460 (11.7.95)

Close To The Bone (Arista, 1987)
Follow Your Heart
Bushbaby
Get That Love
Twentieth Century
Long Goodbye
Still Waters
Savage Moon
Gold Fever
Dancing In Your Shoes
Perfect Day

"Mathematical purists will be relieved that with the departure of percussionist Joe Leeway . . . there are now only two Twins, even if they are non-siblings -- Alannah Currie and Tom Bailey. The Twins haven't lost much musically. Bailey is basically a routine rock singer. . . . He's a top-rank bass-player and arranger, and with Currie's percussion effects -- supplemented in this case by drummer Geoff Dugmore -- the Twins have one of rock's most explosive born-to-dance-to rhythm sections. Currie's lyrics also show occasional bite."
Ralph Novak, People (5.4.87)

"In April 1986, at the end of a six-month world tour, Joe Leeway left the band. . . . Finally reduced to the titular duo, Bailey and Currie carried on, releasing the modest and, for the most part, likable Close To The Bone, produced by Rupert Hine. Currie's lyrics (Bailey wrote the music) take a surprisingly reflective approach here, suggesting doubt and anxiety instead of the usual oblique contemplations. . . .[N]otably lacking the group's characteristic energy and rhythmic magic, the record proves that the Thompson factory can turn out quality merchandise even when the creative thinkers are napping."
Trouser Press

Big Trash (Warners, 1989)
Sugar Daddy
Queen Of The USA
Bombers In The Sky
This Girl's On Fire
T.V. On
Big Trash
Salvador Dali's Car
Rock This Boat
Dirty Summer's Day
Love Jungle
Wild

"Plenty has changed in the Thompson Twins' sound -- instead of those clanking, shirts-untucked backing tracks of yore, there's the spotless digital sound of a group putting on their best manners for American radio....Bailey has a trained ear for a melody you can hum, and he has a knack for threading together neat bits and pieces into an atmosphere which can brighten a plain pop tune....Still, there's something dry and calculated and too damn cool at the heart of the record. The songs are about being lost -- or at least at a loose end -- in America....A complacent comeback, pointless to most fans."
Richard Cook, Sounds (10.14.89)

"Big Trash shows a real musical growth for the Twins....Much as I think "Hold Me Now" is one of the loveliest pop songs recorded, they haven't played it safe by repeating past successes with a new title and some new words. Instead, Tom and Alannah have taken a real chance with Big Trash as it's quite diverse and doesn't scream Top 40 with its first couple of bars."
Kathy Nizzari, Dance Music (11.19.89)


Alannah Currie was made an Honorary Cultural Ambassador for New Zealand in the mid-Eighties.

In the Nineties, Bailey and Currie formed a new band, Babble. Their debut album, The Stone was released by Reprise Records in 1993, and they were featured on the soundtrack of the Dan Ackroyd film, The Coneheads.

Bailey met Leeway, an aspiring actor, at a teacher's college in Cheshire in 1977. Leeway and Alannah Currie were old friends.