If you’re just joining us, check out the About This Project link for details. Basically, I make playlists of all the singles by certain musical artists and then try to order them using the guiding principle “do I like each song more than the last song.” I define “single” in a broad enough way to include any song that was released as a purchasable single in any format in any country; as a promotional single in any country; as a video; or generally any song that I know charted anywhere. My main sources are Wikipedia (mostly reliable) and Discogs (reasonably reliable). I welcome editing feedback since sometimes I favor speed over spelling.
Thompson Twins (there is no “the”) are a vastly underrated pop and dance band. Their album Quick Step and Side Kick (just Side Kicks in the U.S. because “reasons”) remains one of my favorite 80’s albums and they produced some decent songs at every phrase of their varied career. While I suspect most people in 2018 remember them primarily for “Hold Me Now” (to be fair, an excellent pop song), at their peak they had both a unique sound and a proven track record of chart success – In the U.K. they had 10 top 40 hits and 7 top 40 hits in the U.S.A.
While the most successful incarnation of the group was the trio of Tom Bailey (vocals, bass, guitar, keyboards and composer of music), Alannah Currie (percussion, drums, vocals, writer of lyrics) and Joe Leeway (congas, percussion, keyboards, vocals, stagecraft), there are several different line-up variations. Bailey was the only member present on all recordings and I’m using this to justify including his recent solo singles on this list. I’m also including singles by the post-Thompson Twins Bailey/Currie project, Babble. I’m not including Currie’s other major project – the genuinely cool dub band International Observer – because there are no singles associated with it, nor am I able to include Joe Leeway’s solo work (because none of it was ever released).
Thompson Twins are one of those bands who didn’t really release a whole lot of bad singles. A few were forgettable or perhaps poorly conceived, but overall I think they had an excellent track record. They also had a strong catalog of deep cuts – for example if you grew up in the 80’s, you probably know “If You Were Here” from 16 Candles which was not single (though there is an official video, so I’m including it on the list). You can find some other great tracks on their albums that weren’t released as singles including “All Fall Out,” “Love Lies Bleeding,” “No Peace for the Wicked,” and “You Killed The Clown” stand out for me, but really there’s gems on all their records. The songwriting duo of Bailey/Currie knew their way around a pop song and I think they deserve a lot more recognition than they’ve ever received.
As always, though, I start with the less successful stuff. We’ll be into the decent to good stuff as of the next entry
Fourth single from Here’s To Future Days (1985), released as a single in 1985
Controversial opinion: “Revolution” by The Beatles makes me hate John Lennon a little. Maybe it’s just the time we live in, but I hear the song in 2018 as a call to inaction – just sit back and everything is going to be all right. This is not fair because I essentially agree with him (to some extent) in regards to the lyrics in the verses but that “you know it’s gonna be all right” business on the chorus just irks me. If you want the world to be better, you’ve got to take action. That said, the music remains fantastic and I’m willing to overlook the lyrical celebration of inertia because it sounds like a revolution is happening on that guitar, man. Without the savage musical attack, though, this song is a real bummer. Thompson Twins do not attack this song with anything close to the savage gusto needed to pull it off. One of the more bizarre moments of Live Aid was Thompson Twins (with guests Madonna and guitarist Steve Stephens) playing this song as earnestly as they could. What is the message? Donate money for food for starving people – or maybe do nothing because hey it’s gonna be all right. I mean, obviously, donate money, but jeez.
43. Bush Baby
Third single from Close to the Bone (1987), released as a single in 1987
Joe Leeway left the band before Close to the Bone leaving the Thompson Twins as a duo for the first time. Bailey and Currie had some additional personal issues during this period that you can read about here. The idea on Close to the Bone was to try and create a more emotionally raw and personal album than they’d previously released. I think Currie’s lyrics frequently live up to that (we’ll address this specifically when we get to the lovely “Long Goodbye” in a few entries) and Bailey is still composing some top notch tunes, but frequently the songs lose any sense of individual band identity. This, of course, was the fate of many of the new wave bands in the late 80’s. Everything turned to light dance pop. “Bush Baby” is so close to breaking that, but the lyrics are really problematic. Maybe I am reading too much into them, but they strike me as a sort of “noble savage” riff that – 30 years later – seems kind of racist. Bailey and Currie have done a ton of stuff in their public lives that suggest they strive to be decent, forward thinking people so I recognize this wasn’t their intent, but I can’t hear this song in 2018 without cringing.
42. She’s In Love With Mystery
Stand-alone single released in 1980
Thompson Twins were a very different band in 1980 than when they broke onto the charts – more of a post-punk, Wire influenced act. “She’s in Love With Mystery” was their second single when the band consisted of Bailey (bass and vocals), Pete Dodd (guitar and vocals), John Roog (guitar) and Chris Bell (drums). The song was released on their own label and while it was hardly a hit, you can hear that the band was pretty tight by this time. You can also tell that they don’t sound anything like “Lies” much less like “Hold Me Now.” The song isn’t bad, per se, so much as it is forgettable. Early period Thompson Twins released some significantly more interesting singles.
41. Get That Love
First single from Close to the Bone (1987), released as a single in 1987
Maybe I am being unfair, maybe I am unable to get over an ancient disappointment, but I just can’t bring myself to like “Get That Love.” Indeed, the best I can manage at this point in my life is to just acknowledge that it is a well crafted pop song that no doubt deserved to be a hit in 1987 – which it was, in the U.S. at least. It is catchy enough, but the lyrics are uninspired (thought I admit I like the self-reference to “Lies”) and the music has almost nothing of the stylistic elements that I appreciate about Thompson Twins songs. It doesn’t quite slip into the “anyone could have made this song in 1987” category because it really is a little better than your average late 80’s pop song, but it’s clear that the band was figuring out who they were going to be without Joe Leeway – his absence is felt on this track. I think the band found much firmer footing on their next album, Big Trash.
Coming Soon: Some early Thompson Twins, some late Bailey solo work and a couple of huge hits.