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The Bob Lefsetz Podcast

The Bob Lefsetz Podcast: Tom Bailey

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Spotify playlist:

“Dance with me across the sea
And we could feel the motion of a thousand dreams”

KROQ was a free-format station.

No radio market was like Los Angeles, where there were five rock stations on the FM dial. And KROQ’s niche was playing those acts that never got airplay, the deep cuts from their albums, breaking acts that you immediately had to go see and did. This is where the ska revolution started, at least in the U.S.A.

But at the turn of the decade, Rick Carroll flipped the format to the “ROQ of the 80’s,” which was top forty for the new and different. It was KROQ that broke not only Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” and Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love,” but so many other acts, which may have been forgotten but are embedded in my brain. Like the Polecats’ “Make A Circuit With Me.” Suddenly it was hip to write pop songs, albeit in the new style, and the Polecats song had such a hook, I had to buy it, I had to hear it over and over again.

And of course, KROQ played a lot of Depeche Mode.

But they also played this cut that slapped you in the face immediately with the popular synth sound, and was a joy to hear every time KROQ played it, and no one else played it. That song was the Thompson Twins’ “In The Name Of Love,” which in my mind was always an update of Ian Dury’s “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick,” it had a similarly propulsive chorus, you felt like you were being banged on the head, and it felt so GOOD!

But the Thompson Twins were just another KROQ band, you didn’t buy the records. But I knew “Lies” and “Love On Your Side” by heart.

And then came “Hold Me Now.” So simple, yet so right. But this was in an era where people didn’t make records like this. Nothing was relatively quiet and simple, everything was dressed up in instrumentation. “Hold Me Now” was almost like a love song from the sixties, especially the chorus.

And then suddenly “Hold Me Now” was everywhere, it crossed over to pop and other rock formats, suddenly the Thompson Twins were ubiquitous.

It’s hard to do it this way. Many songs are inundated with production, but the essence, the song is not there.

And what put “Hold Me Now” over the top was the last half of the chorus:

“Stay with me
Let loving start
Let loving start”

Not that there were not a lot of hooks in the song, it was positively magical and…

I had to buy the album, “Into The Gap.”

It’s one of my favorite records of the eighties.

I knew what the band sounded like, I knew the hits, but nothing prepared me for the opening cut on “Into The Gap,” “Doctor! Doctor!,” whose lyrics are at the top of this screed.

This was when albums were still a statement.

“Doctor! Doctor!” immediately set the mood, it was like you were in a seance, an alternative universe, privileged to be a member of a special club, FROM THE VERY FIRST NOTE!

This was not a traditional guitar rave-up, as a matter of fact, the intro to “Doctor! Doctor!” resembled nothing so much as “Funkytown,” which you pooh-poohed at the time, but love every time you hear it on the radio today, at least I do. Hell, even the Chipmunks covered “Funkytown”!

But “You Take Me Up,” the second song, was completely different, it started with a harmonica, or some synth that sounded like one.

“Knowing what it means to work hard on machines It’s a labour of love so please don’t ask me why”

Now you were parked in this alternative universe, and Tom Bailey was talking about his work life. He wasn’t regretting it, he wasn’t complaining, it was taking up all of his time, but he loved it!

And the title song, which opened the second side, “The Gap” started with a synth resembling a Jew’s harp, and moved on to an Arabian feel, like there was a snake charmer present, it was hypnotic.

And the finale, “Who Can Stop The Rain,” sounded like the end of something…something you didn’t want to end, so you flipped the record over and played it again and again. This was supposed to wear out the grooves, but you couldn’t help yourself.

And thereafter “Lay Your Hands On Me” was a success, but eventually Joe Leeway left, not that we were ever sure what he contributed, and Tom and Alannah Currie moved to Australia and transmogrified into Babble and…

Then they disappeared.

Until about a decade ago, when Howard Jones implored Tom to go on a short tour with him, and Tom has been plying the boards ever since.

And in preparation for the podcast, Tom’s manager David Stopps sent me this video that he shot on his phone from the side of the stage:

And it’s shot during the day, and everybody knows you don’t want to hit the stage until after dark.

And you immediately notice that everybody in the band is dressed in white, and the supporting musicians are all women.

And I was digging it, enjoying it, then at 2:15 Tom stopped singing and the band stopped playing and…

The audience took the reins. At a volume and with such vociferousness that I’m tingling watching it again now.

This is a festival. Those alive when “Hold Me Now” was first a hit are not in attendance, it’s all young ‘uns…but they know this song and they’re waving their arms in the air and…

I asked Tom what it was like having an audience sing his song back to him and he said…YOU HAVE NO IDEA!

But this was not a one time only affair. Stopps sent me a video from last Saturday, and the same thing happened. It’s outdoors, during the day and the audience is singing “Hold Me Now” at the top of their lungs, a cappella. Start around :45 to experience the magic:

I thought Tom was a super cool, unapproachable dude. But he was so normal.

Listen to what he had to say:

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