Friday, 25 January 2013

You can't sleep, you can't eat There's no doubt, you're in deep Your throat is tight, you can't breathe Another kiss is all you need

Double Hit: Robo-chicks

“Addicted to Love” by Robert Palmer (1986)
“Simply Irresistible” by Robert Palmer (1988)

I remember in 2003 when Robert Palmer passed away and Bill at work said, “He was in Emerson, Lake and Palmer too right?” I cringed inside and tried not to be a total music nerd. I simply said, “No that is Carl Palmer and he was the drummer. I don’t think he is dead. Carl was also in the group ‘Asia’, remember them?”

Robert Palmer, (also not to be confused with the music historian Robert Palmer) was an English singer-songwriter who combined many styles of music. He could take jazz, blues, rock and even reggae and create unforgettable rhythms.

You may recognize his voice from when he covered ‘Get It On (Bang A Gong’, the old T-Rex song when he was in PowerStation or maybe you remember when he did the Moon Martin penned ‘Bad Case of Loving’ You’. His voice was distinctive. His style was polished. He dressed well. He was always trying to find a new and interesting sound or lyric or idea.

His dad was a naval intelligence officer who moved the family to Yorkshire in England in 1959 when he was a kid. His interest in music had been spawned from listening to American Forces Radio when they had lived in Malta when he was a wee lad.

By 15 he was in and band, singing and playing rhythm guitar. That trend would continue as he played clubs in Northern England and then join ‘The Alan Bown Set’, then the jazz-rock outfit ‘Dada’ and finally ‘Vinegar Joe’ where he found his home with Island Records.

When Vinegar Joe failed to click after 3 albums and disbanded in 1974, Palmer went solo. It was a slow start once again for one of the most persistent of rockers. Palmer had some success with ‘Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley’, which he went to New Orleans to records. He wanted to get the feel of the place and it does come through as he recorded with Lowell George of the band Little Feat and the band The Meters.

After more experimentation with the albums, “Pressure Drop” and “Some People Can Do What They Like”, he was still trying to break through with that elusive pop hit.

He worked hard and was aligned with the right people. Island Records did not drop him. In fact he went to Nassau in the Bahamas and worked with his mentor and the owner of Island Records, Chris Blackwell.
In 1978 the Caribbean influenced “Double Fun” album had a cover of the Kinks “You Really Got Me” that did modestly well on the charts. He had another modest single in “Every Kind of People”.

Finally in 1979 his album “Secrets” had a top twenty hit with “Bad Case of Loving You”. He finally was getting recognized more mainstream. It had been a long battle for Palmer.

In 1980 he started to get some consistent exposure with the hits “Johnny and Mary” and “Looking for Clues” from his “Compass Point Star” album and then later in ’82 with his EP “Some Guys Have All the Luck”.  When Duran Duran went on a hiatus for a while, Palmer formed the group “PowerStation” with guitarist Andy Taylor, bassist John Taylor, and Chic drummer Tony Thompson. They pounded out two top-ten hits with T-Rex’ Get it On (Bang A Gong), and “Some Like it Hot”.

In 1985 he left PowerStation to finish his solo album “Rip Tide” with help from the two Taylors. This produced the single “Addicted to Love” which finally gave Palmer his number one hit in the U.S. (#5 in the U.K.).
Duran Duran Rio album cover
The ‘80’s art deco artist Patrick Nagel1. did the cover for Duran Duran’s ‘Rio’ album. The videographer, Terrence Donovan loved Nagel’s art and this became the inspiration for the robo-chick videos.

Partrick Nagel Art Deco

Concerned about the rising crime in the Bahamas, Palmer moved to Switzerland in 1987. He produced another strong album in “Heavy Nova” which gave us the second robo-chick video in “Simply Irresistible”.

He became a bit more experimental after that and produced a few more albums. In 2003 while on vacation in Paris with his good friend Jack Bruce (Cream), he died of a heart attack at age 54; likely contributed to by his life-long smoking habit.

Palmer worked his art his whole life and left us a legacy of a very decent catalog of music and memories. Somehow you are left with a feeling that he could have been higher in the world of rock. There seemed to be something not quite achieved. RIP Robert.

Top 10 Robert Palmer songs:

1. Bad Case of Loving’ You
2. Simply Irresistible
3. Addicted to Love
4. Looking for Clues
5. Get it On (Bang a Gong)
6. Johnny and Mary
7. Some Like it Hot
8. I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On
9. Some Guys Have all the Luck
10. Every Kind of People

1.        Ironically after making a presentation to raise money for the American Heart and Stroke Association in 1984, he was found dead in his car. Cause of death: Heart attack.

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