"The passing of time
And all of its sickening crimes
Is making me sad again
But don't forget the songs
That made you cry
And the songs that saved your life..."
In 2024, it's 40 years since I first started buying records properly, so it seems as good a time as any to look back at the records that really shaped my tastes, such as they are. My relationship with Morrissey is difficult to say the least, as is well documented here. But the old bugger had a way with words that was hard to beat when he was at his best. And he is indeed right, we shouldn't forget the songs that shaped us, the songs that saved our lives. Mine would be so much emptier without these little gems. They have either stayed with me for the last 40 years, or at least led me to the bands that have.
Hold Me Now by Thompson Twins was one of the first singles I ever bought (I'll come back round to the actual first single I ever bought when I can face that particular embarrassment). This would have been around April 1984 - a trip to visit family in Australia delayed my 14th birthday present (my birthday was spent the other side of the world in Melbourne, bizarrely 3 miles from the girl who would become Mrs JO'B 34 years later).
When we got back to Dartford, my old man bought me a stereo - it has a turntable, cassette player and build in speakers. It wasn't bought for its sound quality, just its size (small...very small, as was my box-bedroom!). I had a handful of singles, plus Now That's What I Called Music Vol 2. The stereo (cannot remember the make for the life of me and Google has failed me in finding a picture of it) had to last me until I had a job and bought something a little more impressive in 1988, when I got my first job.
Thompson Twins had been around since 1977, swelling quickly to a seven piece that produced two albums (A Product Of and Set), before ditching several members, and becoming the three piece that found fame and success (Tom Bailey, Alannah Currie and Joe Leeway). By 1983, they released Quick Step And Side Kick. which produced some proper hits (Love On Your Side, Lies, We Are Detective).
But Hold Me Now was the lead single of the next album that would make them huge (even earning a slot at Live Aid, playing alongside Madonna). Into The Gap was enormous (No 1 in the UK, top 10 in the USA). I am not sure what attracted me to Hold Me Now - it was pure pop, catchy, but had retained some of their new wave origins. I think I liked the xylophone most, and I thought Tom Bailey's red hair was cool. Mine was not a sophisticated taste...Plus I liked Tom's hair, and briefly tried to persuade my mother I should be allowed to dye my hair like Tom - the earliest remembered obsession with popstars influencing my hair styles. Fortunately, my mother was clear that would never happen...and thank God...
It was a ballad (I do like a ballad) but it had wild backing vocals (provided by Joe - I thought these were great). And it had a cool bass line (Thompson Twins always had great bass, especially those early records).
A cassette of Into The Gap soon joined my little collection (my first album purchase proper) and I played it to death. They weren't "cool" but they were talented and they got my music taste going. I picked up some of their early singles next (In The Name Of Love, Love On Your Side), but soon I moved on (pop music fandom is a fickle thing - Tears For Fears were my next big love, who would soon kick the Twins to one side).
As musical starts go, Thompson Twins were not bad at all, I am far from embarrassed. The band themselves had one more successful album, and three subsequent albums that marked a steady decline. These days Tom Bailey tours as a solo act - he's been limited to 80s festivals but is actually playing some proper gigs this year. Not sure the dates quite work for me, but I may have to jiggle things around and go and see him. He's playing Into The Gap - it would be quite a thing to see that live.
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