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Interview: Tom Bailey of Thompson Twins to bring playlist of our youth to Artpark

by jmaloni
Sat, Aug 25th 2018 07:00 am
Tom Bailey of Thompson Twins (Photo courtesy of Hired Gun Media)
Tom Bailey of Thompson Twins (Photo courtesy of Hired Gun Media)
By Joshua Maloni
Managing Editor
"If You Were Here," "Lay Your Hands On Me," "Doctor! Doctor!" "Hold Me Now."
As Tom Bailey explained, "If you've got songs that people remember from that kind of moment in their life, when it becomes a rite of passage - the song that's playing when they first turn from children into adults; those teenage years - you know, we've all got that playlist in our heads from that era of our lives. And if you're one of the artists that's on their playlist, then it's just an amazing thing."
Good moments become great when accompanied by a perfect soundtrack with songs like the aforementioned. Hearing them live, in a place like Artpark in Lewiston, is a rare treat.
Bailey, a Thompson Twins founding member and lead singer, will share these songs when he performs at "Tuesday in the Park" next week. He is the first act on a bill with fellow 1980s pop stars the B-52's and Boy George & Culture Club.
The British artist has recently played to crowds of 40,000 in his native U.K. After taking time off from touring - and following a nearly 30-year break from performing his Thompson Twins hits - the singer has found that level of success since returning in 2014.
While he was on a prolonged break from pop music, Bailey performed with and produced a handful of artists - as his website states - "from the experimental electronic Babble and Kolab to the Indo-fusion of the Holiwater Band, the visual astronomy project BSP and the sound-system dub of International Observer."
Now that Bailey is back full-time doing what he loves, he said he's regained "the emotional connection with the audience. To rediscover that is, it's not just a kind of payoff, there's something miraculous about that. And sometimes I'm on stage, and to be honest - and I hardly ever mention this to people - but I'm thinking, 'This is as good as it gets. This is just fantastic. I'm playing music that I love to play, and I've found that people really want to hear it.' And we're having a great time. It's all going well."
In addition to melodic masterpieces of yesteryear, Bailey said he hopes to perform at least one song from his new release, "Science Fiction," at Artpark. The 10-track record puts a contemporary touch on what audiences recall when they hear Thompson Twins songs in their heads.
Chatting this week from London, Bailey spoke of the tour, his music, and the hope pop-rock can put inside people. An edited Q&A follows.
Q: You, and Boy George, and the B-52's - it's quite an iconic lineup on this tour. How have the dates been for you thus far?
Tom Bailey: Very good. There's really quite a variety. Generally speaking, there's been great crowds. There's a party atmosphere, because of the lineup. People are expecting a good time, and I hope they get it.
I think, actually, the lineup's pretty interesting, because we're all coming from the same place and the same era, in a sense. So there's an overlap, but there's enough difference between the three bands to make it very interesting.
George is on top form, I have to say. His band's amazing. And the B-52's, they're kind of living legends of American rock 'n' roll. It's very, very good.
Q: What was the appeal for you in joining this tour? Was it that, like you said, you get to go out and spend the summer with these pop-rock legends?
Tom Bailey: Yes! What happened was, we toured in Australia with Culture Club and it all went so well. We all got along so well that the idea came up of continuing it in the states. And, in fact, in the U.K., we're doing the same thing. It seemed like a good mix.
Q: When you returned to the live stage in 2014, is this where you thought you'd wind up? Is this what you wanted? Or has this been a pleasant surprise for you?
Tom Bailey: I don't know what I expected, really. You know, I was very nervous about coming back to it, at first. I mean, I couldn't seem to get over that nervousness, (but) it was pretty well received, I guess. I felt that the connection with the audience was still as powerful as it ever was. And I suppose that's the thing that was in the back of my mind, worrying me, whether that was fading away. When, in fact, there's a lot of support.
And there's fans of those songs. People want to hear those songs again. And, if you can perform them adequately, and deliver them - check all the boxes - then you get permission to bring in new stuff, as well.
In a way, it's all gone according to plan, and the fact that I'm playing, I think, 85 shows this year, that's harder work than I used to do in the '80s! (Laughs) So, some things are going right. I'm not quite sure what it is, but it seems to be on track.
Q: You mentioned new music. I'm enjoying "Science Fiction." Tell me about making that album. How did it all come together as well as it did?
Tom Bailey: The thing is, you know, sometimes the best explanation is that one thing leads to another. I was out doing a kind of retrospective show - and really enjoying it - and knew that I wanted to carry on with that. But the one thing that was lacking for me was a sense of a contemporary creative challenge with that show.
So, obviously, I wanted to start writing new pop songs. And I hadn't done that for a long time, because all of my musical activity has been in other areas.
Again, just like getting back on stage, when I got back into writing pop songs, I recognized that it was an old friend, and I had left it far too long. So, it was a really joyous occasion for me to get back into that.
I kind of get high off the challenge of the pop song, which is a very particular thing. It's not an easy thing to write a good pop song. But, if you enjoy doing it, then you put in the hours and, sure enough, the results will flow along from that.
And the other thing to say about "Science Fiction" is it was kind of made on the road, because I travel so much. These days, a laptop is my only friend! (Laughs) It was all done like that, and in backyards and hotel rooms and dressing rooms and on buses and stuff. And that's kind of a sign of the times, really, isn't it? We can do that, and don't have to kind of put everything on hold for three months while you're making an album. You just do it while you're doing other things.
Q: I want to key in on that thought. You mentioned "sign of the times." Pop music, from when you got your start and when you had your success in the '80s, has sort of gotten a bad name over the years, because not all of the pop artists of the past 15, 20 years have been super-amazing. We don't expect to necessarily see them still performing in another five or 10 years, because they kind of were overnight flashes in the pan. But there is something to be said for good pop music. You've always created good pop music. Do you think that, especially in this day and age when there's so much unrest and divisiveness, this is an especially good time to be introducing good pop music to the masses?
Tom Bailey: I absolutely think you're right to say that. ... The way I see it, the way I kind of explain it to myself ... is pop music is a very particular form of rock 'n' roll. It's a kind of key part of rock 'n' roll. But it still carries the responsibility of rock 'n' roll's main motivation in life, which is to be rebellious against the things that we don't accept as worthwhile. ...
That leads, generally, to a sense of, I don't know, an optimism, almost, that we were famous for in the '80s in explaining the world can be a better place; and music is one of the things that can do that. ...
So, it's certainly right to raise that issue. The problem is pop music, and rock 'n' roll in general, I have to say, has lost its way, because it's become so marketed. And, scientifically, that fist-waving motivation has disappeared. In other words, people are doing it now to be famous, rather than to make the world a better place, or because their love of music just drives them on into that. ...
Back in the '60s, rock 'n' roll was a completely untamable wild child. And we always expected it to do good things for the world. Now it's just a question of how many tickets did they sell in some stadium.
•The Thompson Twins lineup in 1982 - at the start of the band's rise to fame - was Bailey, Alannah Currie and Joe Leeway. Learn more about Bailey at http://thompsontwinstombailey.co.uk.
Tom Bailey of Thompson Twins, the B-52's and Boy George & Culture Club perform Tuesday at Artpark, 450 S. Fourth St., Lewiston. The show starts at 6 p.m. For more information, or for tickets, visit www.artpark.net.

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