By Bob Andelman
August 16, 1985
John Taylor and Andy Taylor may be better known and prettier, but Tony Thompson generates the power in the Power Station.
The drummer – formerly with Chic – discussed one of the most anticipated and unexpected rock tours of this summer in an interview just two days after the Power Station made its debut at the Ritz in Manhattan on July 1.
The story picks up in early 1984. Just returned from the European leg of David Bowie’s “Serious Moonlight” tour, Thompson, bassist John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor of Duran Duran are putting together the threads of a one-shot collaboration.
“We had no singer in mind whatsoever,” Thompson says. “I had just finished doing (Mick) Jagger’s album (She’s The Boss), so I gave him a call. He said he’d think about… Then we said if we get all these name people on here, it’ll kind of overshadow what we were trying to do.
“John called Robert Palmer after we had laid down some tracks in New York and London,” and although Thompson admits he was “a little bit leery” of Palmer, John “kept insisting.” The drummer saw Palmer, a critically regarded songwriter and little-known singer, as “a real lone wolf.”
But when Palmer received a tape which included “Some Like It Hot,” the fourth relay in the Station was set in place. “He flew right to the Power Station (the recording studio from which the band took its name) in New York, didn’t even take off his coat, ran right up, sang his ass off. It was great.”
TONY THOMPSON excerpt: “We had no singer in mind whatsoever. I had just finished doing (Mick) Jagger’s album (She’s The Boss), so I gave him a call. He said he’d think about … Then we said if we get all these name people on here, it’ll kind of overshadow what we were trying to do. John called Robert Palmer after we had laid down some tracks in New York and London and kept insisting (he join us).”
The quartet in place, an album The Power Station, was recorded. As the first single, “Some Like It Hot,” was released and climbed the charts, rumors suggesting the break-up of Duran Duran flew and were just as quickly dismissed.
Power Station members did interviews and indicated they would not tour; the record was just a “one-off” project and everyone involved had returned to their usual responsibilities – Palmer to his solo career, the Taylors to Duran Duran and Thompson to studio gigs with Madonna (Like A Virgin), Diana Ross (Swept Away) and Jeff Beck (Flash).
But on Feb. 16, an appearance on Saturday Night Live, performing rip-snorting versions of “Some Like It Hot” and “Bang A Gong (Get It On)” set off a wave of interest in Power Station – and pressure.
“We started getting phone calls,” says Burt Miller of JLM Public Relations in New York, which represents the Power Station. “’Is there going to be a tour? When?’ It was almost like they had no choice.”
A decision was made to hit the road. The Taylors got a break when Duran Duran postponed recording its next album until September. Thompson was able to free up his schedule. Palmer, though, was obligated to record his next solo LP and could not participate.
“When Robert pulled out at the last moment, the DJs stopped talking about Power Station,” Thompson says. “In that respect, it did hurt us a bit.”
Taking a chance, the band replaced Palmer with Michael Des Barres, former lead singer with Silverhead, Detective and Chequered Past. He also co-authored (with Holly Knight) the recent Animation hit, “Obsession.”
“Robert, God bless him, he did the record, but Michael is so hip, it’s amazing,” Thompson raves. “He’s all over the stage, doing cartwheels behind my drum stand. Robert is a real class guy with a three-piece suit. He’d be in front singing his tail off, but this guy (Des Barres) is all over the place.”
Des Barres has also given the Power Station new material to fill out its 90-minute concert sets, including “Thinking With Your Body” and a ballad called “Too Good To Be Bad.” The band also does a cover of “Obsession,” plus the entire contents of its debut album and more covers.
A surprise aspect of the tour will be “guest stars” who will turn up in a few cities. Miami Vice TV star Don Johnson, a friend of Des Barres “has been coming by,” Thompson says, hinting, “he might pop into Miami for a couple numbers.”
Power Station, which appeared from Philadelphia during Live Aid on July 13, will perform 40 dates in July and August.