Thompson Twins were a British Pop group. The band formed in April 1977, and disbanded in May 1993. They achieved considerable popularity in the mid-1980s, scoring a string of hits in the UK, the U.S. and around the globe. The band was named after the two bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson in Hergé's comic strip, The Adventures of Tintin.
Arriving in London with very little money, they lived as squatters in Lillieshall Road, London. Future Thompson Twins' member Alannah Currie lived in another squat in the same street — which is how she met Bailey. It was in this ramshackle and run-down house that they found an illegal way of "borrowing" electricity from the house next door. Bailey described themselves (laughingly) as "spongers" (meaning parasites) back then, as they were living on very little and scavenging everything they could lay their hands on. He even said that the only instruments they had were bought, or had been "stolen or borrowed". Dodd managed to get a council flat not far away. Their roadie at that time was John Hade, who lived in the same house, and who later became their manager.
As "Pod" Podgorski had decided to stay in the north, they auditoned for drummers at The Point Studio in Victoria, London. Dick O'Dell (Disco Dell) the manager of The Pop Group and the Slits also had an office in the same building. Andrew Edge joined them on drums for less than one year, but left because of the subliminal tension between the other band members. Edge went on to join Savage Progress, who later toured with the Thompson Twins as their support act on the 1984 UK tour.
After the first album, the band's line-up shifted yet again. Saxophonist Jane Shorter left, percussionist Currie was made an official member, and bassist Matthew Seligman, a former member of The Soft Boys, joined. Bailey moved to keyboards and guitar and became the band's lead vocalist, with Leeway handling vocals on a few tracks.
The band signed to Arista Records and released the album Set. Thomas Dolby played some keyboards, such as the Oberheim, on Set and some live gigs, as Bailey had little experience with synthesizers before then. Set contained the single "In The Name Of Love", sung and largely written by Bailey. It became a substantial dance club hit in the U.S., and the Set album would be released as In The Name Of Love in the U.S. to capitalize on the song's popularity. It entered the Billboard 200.
When the single and album failed to make a substantial impact in the UK charts, manager Hade convinced Bailey, Leeway and Currie to downsize the Thompson Twins to a core of the three in April 1982 On UK TV, as Seligman explained:
We were all given a piece of paper that we had to sign, which said that we were to be paid 500 pounds, and we could keep our instruments and equipment. It sounded like quite a good deal at the time..."
The change did not go down well with the UK music press who had previously championed the band.They were accused of abandoning their original sound (and audience) for commercial gain and of tokenism i.e keeping the musically un-accomplished Currie and Leeway onboard for image purposes. They rarely received favourable reviews after this time.
All the former members are still on friendly speaking terms, although Dodd once had the job of delivering a keyboard to Thomas Dolby some time later, but (to Dodd's irritation) Dolby failed to recognise him.
No longer having to work out songs in beer-sodden and sweaty rehearsal rooms, as well as dealing with the opinions of other musicians, Bailey could now work on his own and at his own pace. Unfortunately this would back-fire on him in later years, as the strain of doing almost everything led to a breakdown.
At the end of 1983, a new single, "Hold Me Now", was released. A simple love song with gentle guitar lines, it marked a clear break from the Thompson Twins' previously dance-oriented sound. The song was an international chart success, peaking at number three in the US and becoming their biggest American hit, and also hitting number four in their native UK. Further hit singles followed in 1984: the Top 5 UK pop hit "Doctor! Doctor!"; the quirky "You Take Me Up" (reaching number two and their biggest UK hit); the haunting "Sister of Mercy"; and "The Gap", with its Middle Eastern rhythms (this was not released in the UK). The corresponding album, Into The Gap, was one of the biggest selling of 1984, selling five million units worldwide and topping the British album charts. The band also embarked on a world tour in support of the album.
A late 1984 single, "Lay Your Hands On Me", saw the band attempt to build on their success, but the visuals of the band draped in jewels contrasted sharply with the prevalent theme of Band Aid for famine relief in Ethiopia. The single did well, making the US Top 10 (and #13 in the UK), but by then the trio had peaked.
While working on the follow up to Into The Gap, Bailey suffered a nervous breakdown. Nile Rodgers was subsequently called in to help finish the album, which appeared in September 1985. Here's To Future Days (itself making the Top 5 in the UK and Top 20 in the US) spawned the track "King For A Day", which made the US Top 10, but peaked outside the Top 20 in the UK. Other singles included the anti-drug message "Don't Mess With Doctor Dream" (UK #15) and an unsuccessful cover of The Beatles' 1968 hit "Revolution". The Thompson Twins made headlines when they performed at the American-end of Live Aid in July 1985 and were joined onstage by the fresh-faced Madonna, who was in only her second year of fame. The UK leg of the album's support tour had to be canceled because of Bailey's breakdown (fans with tickets received a free live album as compensation) and the album itself was delayed by many months, causing the band to lose momentum. Despite this, after coming to agreements with their concert promoters, the latter half of 1985 saw sell out tours for the band in the USA and Japan.
Prior to this, Bailey and Currie (now a couple) had their first child together in 1988, and in the following years they spent a lot of time writing material for other artists including the hit single "I Want That Man" for Debbie Harry. In 1991, Bailey and Currie were married in Las Vegas and the following year moved to New Zealand with their two children. In 1992, the Thompson Twins contributed the song "Play With Me" to the soundtrack of the Ralph Bakshi film Cool World; Tom Bailey alone contributed a second track, "Industry and Seduction". The following year, the group finally formally disbanded, and Bailey and Currie teamed up with engineer Keith Fernley to form a new group called Babble.
The Thompson Twins have declined to follow the examples of many of their contemporaries and reform to tie-in with a nostalgic rebirth of the 1980s, although Bailey, Currie and Leeway appeared together on the UK Channel 4 show "Top Ten Electro Bands" in 2001. The Thompson Twins were placed at number nine.
In 1999, Bailey produced and played keyboards on the hit album "Mix" by the New Zealand band Stellar, and won the "producer of the year" award at the New Zealand equivalent of the Grammys. He has also arranged soundtracks and has provided instrumental music for several films. In the mid 1990s, Currie gave up the music business to set up her own glass-casting studio in Auckland.
After her sister died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Currie founded a group in New Zealand called "Mothers Against Genetic-Engineering in Food and the Environment" (also known as MADGE) which soon had thousands of members. Currie described this group as a "rapidly growing network of politically non-aligned women who are actively resisting the use of genetically-engineered material in our food and on our land". An advert for this group featuring a young woman with four breasts hooked up to a milking machine became famous after appearing on billboards across New Zealand.
Bailey and Currie split up in 2003, and are now divorced. They both left New Zealand and live separately in Britain, but are still close friends.
The earlier members went on to do other things:
Thompson Twin - An '80's Memoir by Michael White. Publisher: Little, Brown (4 May 2000).