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Tom Bailey To Play The Thompson Twins’‘Into The Gap’ Album In Full For The First Time

PERTH, SCOTLAND – JULY 24: Tom Bailey performs during the 2022 Rewind Festival: Scotland at Scone … [+] Palace on July 24, 2022 in Perth, Scotland. (Photo by Lorne Thomson/Redferns)


The British musician Tom Bailey, best known for his work as a member of the famed 1980s New Wave band Thompson Twins, would probably be the first to tell you that he couldn’t have imagined performing his former band’s songs again following a long hiatus. After the Thompson Twins’ breakup in the early 1990s, Bailey had been working on his own music but kept a relatively low public profile. But that all changed in 2014 when he went on tour as a solo artist and revived such beloved Thompson Twins’ classics such as “Hold Me Now,” “Lay Your Hands on Me,” “Lies” and “In the Name of Love.” Nearly a decade later, he recalls his return to playing pop music.

“I’ve certainly thought that the pop music thing was over,” Bailey says. “Thompson Twins was dead buried. I never really considered it. What happened was actually a Mexican artist got in touch with me and said, ‘I’m doing this weird project where I’m writing a song with all my teen idols, the people that I looked up to when I was a kid. And you’re one of them. Will you write a song with me?’ And I thought, ‘Why not?’ And I got into it. What I didn’t realize was it was seducing me back into the idea of falling in love with pop music.”

Since then, Bailey has been a mainstay on the touring circuit, headlining his own shows and making appearances at ’80s music festivals. On Saturday, he and his solo band will be performing the classic 1984 Thompson Twins album, Into the Gap, in its entirety for the first time ever and other hits at Britain’s Friars Aylesbury. That record is considered the Thompson Twins’ most popular and commercially successful work, especially in the U.S. Ahead of this special performance, Bailey says he was looking to change things up show-wise that would appeal to the hardcore fans.

“Of course, someone said, ‘Why don’t you do the whole of Into the Gap, including those tracks that no one’s heard for so long?’ So that’s how it came about. It’s also a creative challenge for me, so that’s good. You know when it gets too comfortable, that’s when things go off the boil for me. You have to have an edge of unpredictability.”

This performance will also be an opportunity for Bailey to perform other tracks from the original album that were not singles, including “Day After Day” and “Storm on the Sea.” “First of all, I have to revisit them myself or reacquaint myself with what they were, what they meant musically, what they were about. And then I did new arrangements in order to teach my band what to do and all the rest of it. And also, because I like to contemporarize, I don’t wanna be exactly the same as the way we were thinking all that time ago. Revisiting old things for me is like a diary: you’re reading your thoughts from a day 40 years ago. (laughs) That doesn’t mean to say that you become that person. You look back at it with affection or concern, depending on what it is.”

Portrait of members of the English New Wave group Thompson Twins as they pose backstage at the … [+] Poplar Creek Music Theater, Hoffman Estates, Illinois, August 21, 1984. Pictured are, from left, Alannah Currie, Tom Bailey, and Joe Leeway. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

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Looking back at the record, which he co-produced with Alex Sadkin, Bailey says Into the Gap marked a creative peak for the Thompson Twins who were at the time ascending in popularity. Prior to the release of Into the Gap, the band, which formed in 1977 and started out in post-punk music, had experienced success with the preceding album, 1983’s Quick Step and Side Kick. That record went to number two in the U.K. chart and was the first to feature the classic Thompson Twins lineup of Bailey, Alannah Currie and Joe Leeway.

“For some reason, everything came together at that moment,” says Bailey. “Our previous album [Quick Step] had also been very exciting and creatively rewarding, but we were very narrow in our references. So for example, we had no guitars—we just banned guitars from that album apart for one little bit that’s snuck in there. Whereas on Into the Gap, we suddenly became more relaxed about balancing the synth and drum machine sound with a lot more organic material as well. I think Alannah, for example, became more mature in the depth of her lyric writing as well. She kind of touched that kind of emotional spot that makes songs like “Hold Me Now” work so well. So I think that’s it. It was less kind of cartoonish and a little bit more serious than the previous album.”

A harbinger of Into the Gap’s success came in the form of the aforementioned and lovely ballad “Hold Me Now,” the first single released off the record. It peaked at number three on the Billboard chart in May 1984 and has since become a staple of 1980s pop music. “I knew we were onto something good,” Bailey says. “But I didn’t know how good. Mind you, all bands think what they do is great when they’re doing it. (laughs) But I think there was a special feeling that this was something worth getting out there pretty quickly too. So that’s why we did record it and finished it. But we had no idea it was gonna be so big. We certainly had no idea that we would still be talking about it and indeed singing it 38 years later. The fact is that it was a relatively natural song to write: we had an argument, we made up, and that was the song that came out of it.”

The album’s second single was the gorgeous and cinematic “Doctor! Doctor!” which reached number 11 in the U.S. “That was one that we did start to record with Alex in Compass Point [Studios] in the Bahamas, and that very opening sequencer part—I played that to Alex and he said, ‘Sounds like a hit to me.’ And it did. It kind of characterized our feeling then, that we have to do everything possible to make it kind of foot-tappable and sing-along-able, but have a kind of style and a meaning at the same time. So I think we kind of succeeded. It just fell off the tree, that particular piece of fruit.”

The bouncy and positive-sounding “You Take Me Up” became the Twins’ third single from the album and was accompanied by a quirky and playful music video. Recalls Bailey: “We always had this ingredient in our writing…we had this thing where we weren’t afraid to be a little bit silly and eccentric, even kind of goofy, about what we did. On the previous album, there was a song called “We Are Detective.” It was a silly kind of jokey song that had a more sinister message perhaps. I guess “You Take Me Up” was an attempt to follow in that vein, to have an ingredient in the album that was like that. But in fact, its lyric is obviously liberational. We want to say that human beings have a great effect on each other, which is actually the message of all Thompson Twins songs.”

The track “The Gap” perhaps epitomized the Thompson Twins sound at that point: a blend of synthpop, funk, prominent percussive instrumentation, and world music influences. “We were very much into breaking boundaries,” says Bailey. “It was one of our foundational ideas. The fact is that the way the Thompson Twins end up in that three-piece broke a mold because the iconic way of looking at pop music is four white guys with guitars on stage. (laughs) And suddenly you’ve got black, white, male, female, synthesizers, and we had costumes and video ideas. It was an inadvertent but simultaneously conscious attempt to break down the idea and what it should all be. And of course, “The Gap” addresses that very issue, and we thought that rather than saying that East and West should be separated by a line of demarcation, actually where the two cultures meet is the most interesting place of all.”

Both Into the Gap and its accompanying hit singles and music videos catapulted the Thompson Twins to stardom, especially in the U.S. as the band rode on the wave of the Second British Invasion of America. It was an incredible time for the trio who toured behind the record. “It wasn’t gonna be a standard rock and roll tour, that’s for sure,” says Bailey. “And within the Thompson Twins, there was always a very clear division of labor: I did the music, Alannah wrote words and looked after the visual image, and Joe had a theater background–he was interested in the way that the live show was put together. It was very, very interesting that tour. We had the spotlight, we had the attention, and therefore we had the budget to play around with a few wacky things.”

The Thompson Twins released the follow-up to Into the Gap, 1985’s Here’s to Future Days, which gave the band additional hits in “Lay Your Hands on Me” and “King for a Day.” After Leeway’s departure from the band in 1986, both Bailey and Currie continued the Thompson Twins as a duo until about 1993, after which they became the experimental music duo Babble for a time. It wasn’t until two decades later that Bailey, who had been making music on his own under the name of International Observer, returned to performing the Thompson Twins’ music onstage as a solo artist.

“By chance, Howard Jones called me a couple of days later and said, ‘I wanna do this tour in America. Are you interested?’ And for the first time in nearly 30 years, it just went click and I said, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna do it,’ with no idea of how to pull it off. And then I had to go and find musicians and dust off the keyboards and all of the things that I’d left behind so long ago. Actually, some of those things are really weird because you can never really escape your past. I didn’t have any copies of the album even. I had to go out and buy a Thompson Twins’ greatest hits to reacquaint myself with some of that material.”

As for the future, Bailey says he plans to reprise the Into the Gap show for Australia later this year, with an eye for a possible tour of America in 2023. Meanwhile, the Thompson Twins’ songs continue to endure in the hearts and minds of Generation X-ers who came of age during the 1980s. Could Bailey have ever imagined that the popularity of his former band’s songs would last for 40 years? “No,” he says. “When you’re actually doing it, you think it’s good and that’s all…and you’re more worried about your chart position next week—not the one in 40 years’ time.

“The important thing I have to say about that is that these songs trigger memories–often memories about good times as well as bad. So we’re thinking back and we kind of touch an emotional funny bone in a way, and that allows us to connect with an audience on a level that’s not just about music anymore. It’s not about show, it’s not about impact. It’s the better part of nostalgia. As a band, that’s what we look for when we’re performing those songs. We can play them brilliantly, but if we don’t make that emotional connection, it doesn’t actually mean anything. We’re just rehearsing an old song. But if we make the connection, my God, it turns into something completely powerful. And that’s what we live for.”

Tom Bailey will perform at Friars Aylesbury this Saturday.

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