09 April 2014

The Thompson Twins

One of my favourite bands of the 1980s was the Thompson Twins. In fact, I even joined their fan club. I liked their music, which I found to be quirky and original (“I bought you sentimental roses, but you gave them all away”) and I was absolutely infatuated with Alannah Currie, hairdos, hats and all.

Me and my workmate Neal parodied the group’s songs (“Hold me now - warm my tights!”) but that was no indication of dislike.

We were a couple of daft lads who took the mickey out of anything that moved or made a sound. You have to remember, the World Wide Web wasn't even invented till 1989. There wasn't even a computer where we worked. They weren't "everyday life". Our jobs as office clerks in the early-to-mid 1980s were mind numblingly boring, we had to do something to stay awake. We had to make our own amusement.

I never told Neal I’d joined the Thompson Twins fan club. I didn’t want him taking the mickey out of me, but Alannah had me under a spell…

The Thompson Twins went through several incarnations, but the band we all know existed from 1982 to 1986 - the trio of Tom Bailey, Alannah Currie and Joe Leeway. It was these three who gave us the distinctive music and style which still produces a happy smile and a bop round the living room whenever heard for many of us who love 1980s music.
From the Daily Mirror, February 28 1984...

Three into two goes like a bomb

By Robin Eggar

The audience is screaming, Cowley carworkers’ daughters and posh undergraduates joining in with equal enthusiasm. Oxford is seething at the sight of an odd trio who have proved that three into two does go. All the way to the top of the charts.

The Thompson Twins are the first rock sensation of 1984. And this is the first night of their sell-out, thirty-four date tour around Britain.

But how are Tom Bailey, Joe Leeway and Alannah Currie taking to the road?

Lead singer Tom says:

“It’s like a three-way marriage. We live out of the same suitcase and depend on each other.

“We use each other emotionally to cope with stress. But in the long run it means we’re even stronger.”

None of the three “twins” is related - or even called Thompson. Their name is taken from a pair of bumbling detectives in the “Tintin” comic strip.

Their latest album, “Into the Gap”, has raced to No 1, outselling its nearest rival two to one. Their single, “Doctor, Doctor”, is hovering just below the top spot in the charts.

And yet four years ago they were living in south London squats and waiting to be discovered.

I saw them one night in a sleazy club. There were seven in the band then and only seventeen in the audience.

One paying guest had passed out. The other fifteen had joined the band on stage and were banging cans out of time with the music. I made my excuses and left.

It all changed when Tom wrote a song to fill up the second side of an album in 1981. It was called “In The Name Of Love” - and it became a hit in America. It was No. 1 for five weeks in the disco charts there.

Tom, 28, says:

“That was like having the blinkers torn off my eyes.

“I suddenly realised that we’d just been making music for a small circle of friends in London, kids in America really liked us.”

The only other members of the band who shared Tom’s scent of success were Joe Leeway and Alannah Currie.

And so it was that the band slimmed down to three. Joe says:

“Until Tom wrote “In The Name Of Love”, we were boring.

“Finally I sat down in this room and said I don’t want to work with you, you, you and you. I only want to work with Tom and Alannah.”

The three are from very different backgrounds. But together they form a unique blend. Tom, whose father is a Yorkshire doctor, used to teach music. He was the founder of the original band.

Alannah, 26, is a manic ball of fire with a taste for silly hats. She was born in New Zealand.

Her father was a docker and her mother cleaned hospitals at night. She was determined to escape from her home and arrived in London in 1977, penniless.

She worked cleaning toilets, washing dishes and sweeping up in a hairdressing salon. She was trying to learn the saxophone in her squat one day when “this real wimp” came over to complain about the noise.

It was Tom.

At 31, Joe is the oldest Twin. He was born in London to an Irish mother and a Nigerian merchant seaman. He was fostered to an elderly couple in Dartford, Kent, when he was two years old.

“The first black I ever talked to was when I was 21,” he says. “I still think white, even though I’ve got black skin.”

He became the Twins’ roadie after a career in acting. Then, after one evening when he complained that he wanted to do more in the band, they bought him a set of congas. He played them the wrong way round for months.

Joe now plays the synthesiser. He also designed the group’s spectacular stage show for the current tour.

Alannah takes care of the videos and the Twins’ style. She also writes the lyrics, sings and plays percussion.

Tom writes most of the music, sings and is the teenage heart-throb.

Professionally it works. But it does take its toll on their individual relationships.

All admit they have not the time or the love to give to an outsider. This has given rise to speculation that Tom and Alannah live together and are planning marriage.

“That is silly,” says Tom. “All three of us are dead against the idea of marriage. Alannah and I are very close, but we are not having any kind of secret relationship.

“I am also very close to Joe. Whatever I do with anyone else, those two are my first priority.

“We are intensely close. We love each other very dearly and it is totally different from any other relationship I’ve ever had.

“We are united by a common aim and our care for each other.

“If anyone left, that would be the end of a great adventure."

UPDATED 9/4/2014

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'd forgotten all about the TTs. They did some really good stuff.