The Thompson Twins were a British Pop group that were 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 Herg?©'s comic strip, The Adventures of Tintin.
The early band
In 1977, the original Thompson Twins line-up consisted of Tom Bailey (born 18 January 1953, in Halifax, Yorkshire) on bass and vocals, Pete Dodd on guitar and vocals, John Roog on guitar, and Jon Podgorski (known as "Pod") on drums. Dodd and Roog first met when they were both 13 years old.
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, and went on to join Savage Progress, who later toured with the Thompson Twins as their support act on the 1984 UK tour.
Membership changes in the band
By 1981, the line-up was Bailey, Dodd, Roog and three new members: Chris Bell on drums, former band roadie Joe Leeway on congas and percussion, and Jane Shorter on saxophone. This line-up recorded the first Thompson Twins album A Product of ... (Participation), documented in the film "Listen to London" 1981 . Currie, who had been hanging out with the band for a few years, played and sang on the first album, but was not yet a full member.
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 and The Fallout Club, joined. Bailey moved to keyboards and guitar in addition to serving as 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 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.
The band reduces to a trio
After the success of "In the Name of Love", Bailey, Currie and Leeway, wanting to pursue the single's different sound, toyed with the idea of starting a new band on the side, which they planned to call "The Bermuda Triangle". When "In The Name Of Love" (and the parent album Set) failed to make a substantial impact in the UK charts, this plan was abandoned. However, at the same time, manager Hade convinced Bailey, Leeway and Currie to downsize the Thompson Twins to a core of the three in April 1982. Accordingly, the other four members of the band were notified that they were being let go; they were each paid ??500 and were allowed to keep their instruments and equipment.
All the former members are still on friendly speaking terms with each other, and with Bailey, Currie and Leeway -- although Dodd once had the job of delivering a keyboard to Thompson Twins session keyboard player Thomas Dolby some time later, but (to Dodd's irritation) Dolby failed to recognise him.
The band abroad
The Thompson Twins trio then decided to go abroad and to free themselves of any UK influences, as well as to combine the songwriting for their first "trio" album with a very long holiday. They first went to Egypt and then to the Bahamas where they recorded at the legendary Compass Points studios in Nassau with Grace Jones' producer Alex Sadkin.
They broke into the UK Singles Chart and the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart at the beginning of 1983 with "Lies" and "Love On Your Side", which became the band's first UK Top 10 single. Further singles from their third album Quick Step and Side Kick (called simply Side Kicks in the U.S.) followed with "We Are Detective" (another Top 10 UK hit) and "Watching". Bailey's flame-red hair and bright ponytail and Currie's wasp-swatting style at the xylophone swiftly became endearing images of an exciting new act. All three received songwriting credits, though the band publicly acknowledged Bailey as the songwriter, with Currie contributing lyrics and Leeway focusing on the stage show. During 1983, the band had the opening spot on The Police concert tour in the U.S.
At the end of 1983, a new single, "Hold Me Now", was released. The song was an international chart success, peaking at #3 in the US in the spring of 1984, becoming their biggest American hit, and also hitting #4 in their native UK where it became the band's biggest seller earning a Gold disc. Further hit singles followed in 1984 with two UK Top 3 hits; "Doctor! Doctor!" and the quirky "You Take Me Up" (which reached number two, their highest UK chart placing, and earned a Silver disc). Further singles included a new version of the album track "Sister of Mercy", and "The Gap" (though this was not released in the UK). The corresponding album, Into The Gap, was one of the biggest sellers 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 new single, "Lay Your Hands On Me", was released in 1984 and saw the band attempt to build on their success. The single made 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 cancelled 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.
The final years
Leeway left the band in 1986, and the remaining duo of Bailey and Currie carried on making music for another seven years. 1987 saw the release of Close To The Bone and the single "Get That Love", which climbed to number thirty-one in the U.S. but failed in the UK. "In the Name of Love" was given a new lease on life in 1988, after a remix by Shep Pettibone made the Top 50 in the UK. 1989 saw the release of another album, Big Trash, and a new record deal with Warner Bros. Records. The single "Sugar Daddy" peaked at number twenty-eight in the US and would be their last brush with mainstream chart success. 1991's Queer would be the band's swansong, and was supported by various techno-inspired singles under the moniker of Feedback Max (in the UK) to disguise the identity of the band to club DJs. The single "Come Inside" reached number seven in the U.S. Dance Chart and number one in the UK Dance Chart. However, once it was discovered that the Thompson Twins were behind the record, sales dropped and the album never had a UK release.
Prior to this, Bailey and Currie (who were 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 1989. 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 duo formally disestablished the name "Thompson Twins", 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.
After the Twins
Babble have since released two albums ??? The Stone in 1993 and Ether in 1996, and one of their songs was featured on the film The Coneheads with Dan Aykroyd. Three quarters of a third album has been recorded, but remains unreleased and in the vaults of Warner Bros. Records.
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:
Dodd and Roog formed a band called Big View (with Edge on drums) and recorded a single called, "August Grass", which was released on Point Records (owned by Merton, the Thompson Twins publisher) in 1982. Dodd is now living back in Chesterfield working as a freelance journalist ??? and has just released his own History of Rock CD as Peter & the Wolves. Dodd still sees Podgorski on a regular basis.
Roog lives in London and is in a senior position in Tower Hamlets Adult Services.
Seligman worked for a law firm in London (and has played in The Soft Boys reunions as well as releasing his own CDs) but has recently moved to Japan with his Japanese wife and their daughter. In 2009, he has been contributing to the new Thomas Dolby album.
Bell moved from London to Bath, and currently plays for Spear of Destiny, Gene Loves Jezebel and Hugh Cornwell. He also works as a landscape gardener.
Booth is, reportedly, living in Shanghai and is the general manager of a music publishing company.
Podgorski still lives in Chesterfield.
Edge has a singing career and is an English teacher in Austria.
Bailey continues to make music under the moniker International Observer. His albums Seen, and All Played Out both received positive reviews. He also performs with the Holiwater group from India.
The Thompson Twins' live band was also a spawning ground for future stars:
Guitarist Felicia (Michele) Collins, who played with the band at Live Aid and on their 1985 tour, has played with Paul Shaffer's CBS Orchestra since the group's 1993 inception on The Late Show with David Letterman.
Keyboardist Roger O'Donnell and drummer Boris Bransby-Williams both joined The Cure.
Keyboardist Carrie Booth played with Shakespear's Sister.
Keyboardist Jan Pulsford, who played keys on the "Future Days" tour went on to write and produce for Cyndi Lauper.
Bassist Andrew Bodnar has worked with Elvis Costello, Rumour and Graham Parker.
Bassist Mark Heywood-Chaplin has worked with Thomas Dolby and Kim Wilde. He now owns a small jam-making business in Shropshire, UK.