- THOMPSON TWINS Doctor! Doctor! (Arista)
- Week Ending 11th February 1984
- 2 weeks at #1
Every great pop act has an “imperial phase”, that period of their career where everything just falls into place and they can seemingly do no wrong, either commercially or artistically. Every decision is the right one, every new record continues to bear all the finest hallmarks of what they do best.
By happy accident, the start of the Thompson Twins’ own imperial phase coincided with the moment pop music took over my life. First, there was Hold Me Now at the tail end of 1983, and then Doctor! Doctor! right at the dawn of 1984. They made this pop lark look and sound effortless; a fully-formed image and sonic identity that proved an extremely fertile source of hit singles, and one flawless album, over the course of 18 months. It was as though they’d always been this way, one beautifully-crafted smash after another.
The truth, of course, was anything but. Years of commercial failure and personnel changes, with an experimental style unsuited to the charts, eventually led to a rethink, a breakthrough on the dancefloor with In The Name Of Love, and eventual Top 40 action with the hits from Quickstep & Sidekick.
Which is where I originally encountered them, all silly outfits and songs about detectives, executed in a style that challenged you to take them seriously (there is in fact a curious subplot here with all of the first three acts to be #1 on my chart; to varying extents I had considered them novelty artists….Frankie Goes To Hollywood because of the name and the time of year they charted, Howard Jones thanks to his mime artist sidekick who would jump out of cardboard boxes on TV).
Hold Me Now was a world away from all that frippery, and had I been compiling personal Top 40s in 1983 would have easily been a #1 in the lead-up to Christmas. Yet it hardly prepared me for the wonder of what came next; the insistent pulse of a sequencer, embellished with exotic percussion and Tom Bailey in his most persuasive mood. As befitting a band now in their imperial phase, everything just sounded so right.
I was hooked. Better still, there was a whole new album on the horizon, by the name of Into The Gap…..
I only discovered the Twins a year and a half ago (30 years late to the party), but what a marvellous pop band they were. If I was a bit older (read: having been aware of the glory of pop music in 83/84), they would probably have been my favourite act. with ‘Hold Me Now’ and ‘Doctor Doctor’ ruling my own personal charts. Great choices so far. I think I will curate a playlist for my i-Pod based on your charts – and it will NOT be generic, that’s for sure!
Back then, I always wanted to be Howard Jones but looking back now I think I’d rather have been Tom Bailey. The level of craftsmanship in his work is incredible, and the amount of focus it must have taken to create a whole album that maintained such high standards.
No wonder the poor guy had a breakdown. But yes, Tom is a musical genius and doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Then again, he never seemed to crave it either, which makes him all the more likeable.
They were promoted as a trio of equal partners, with Alannah credited with lyrics and Joe coming up with some of the music, but apparently this wasn’t true (now we are told!) and it was pretty much Tom responsible for everything on the actual records. Which explains why he became so exhausted with the workload, but I did like the idea of them all chipping in with contributions to the songs and the arrangements!
Really?! I thought that Alannah was in fact writing the lyrics (‘Hold Me Now’ after she and Tom had a fight and ‘Long Goobye’ after a personal tragedy).
See, that’s what I have always thought as well; maybe Tom was generalising when he confessed to doing everything, perhaps there were songs where the others’ involvement was key in triggering a lyric or melody, or an arrangement. I’d like to think so, because it makes a lot of sense in terms of how they came across in videos, in concert and in interviews. I’m sure there was a degree of collaboration involved, even if Tom was pulling it all together and playing most of the instruments in the studio.