The Power Station Part 2: January - June 1985

March 19, 2018

In Part 1 we covered how the Power Station came together and recorded the album.  Now the record is released across the world in a media blaze.

 

Cover mood board created for Cherry Lipstick by @be_my_icon The Paper Goddess.

February 1985: The Power Station explode across the media and this continues for the following months. 

 

John: The whole album sounds like how I'd originally thought Duran could sound, the original concept. (1985i)

 

Andy: When Duran started, all we wanted was a hit single – now we talk about selling millions here, there and everywhere. It's like a roller-coaster. That's why I think it's healthy we're doing all these solo things at the moment. Hopefully it will result in us making better Duran records. I'm going to be old one day and I won't be able to do this any more. So now I've got the chance I might as well milk it and burn myself out. (1985h)

 

John: Andy is born again. This album has brought something out of him I don't think anybody ever considered he had. (1985w)

 

Tony: it’s got more of a funk foundation than Duran Duran because I’m involved. (1985u)

 

John: I'd like to see the Power Station as a platform for other things. It's a nucleus, something flexible for other people to branch out from. (1985j)  Power Station can be related to the idea of the body as a human power station, the centre of which is the heart – and this project is very much from the heart. (1985d)

A key repeated question: will you tour?

 

Robert: To push it any further, to cut more tracks or to take it on the road, would be a contrivance.  There are definitely no plans, because everybody has their own schedule. (1985w)

 

John: there won’t be tours, it's hard enough being in one group and I can't cope with that! (1985i)

 

Robert: if we tried to repeat or recreate this spirit it would be obscene (1985j)

 

Andy: It would be unfair to take advantage of the situation if it were successful. If we tried to formularize that - the bizarre way it came together and the bizarre way we wrote it -it would never work completely. (1985w)

 

John:  It’s a one-off. we’ve all got our own projects to go back to in a couple of weeks. It was just different from the routine of Duran – an adventure. (1985k)

 

Another key repeated question: what does this mean for Duran Duran?

 

John: Duran will have a Christmas single out, which is not something we've done before (1985g)

 

Andy: The only way to answer the people who are saying that [Duran are ending] is when the new album comes out in October or November and we do our tour. (1985m)

February 16, 1985. Saturday Night Live TV show: Power Station perform Some Like It Hot and Get It On.  This is Palmer's only live performance with the band (phot below).

 

Rolling Stone: The four members of the Power Station made the oddest-looking combo this side of the P-Funk All-Stars. The dapper, well-groomed Palmer looked like he'd wandered over from Wall Street. His three-piece suit and Club Med suave contrasted sharply with the pop-star androgyny of the Taylors, who were wearing what appeared to be knee-length dresses. Add to this a black drummer from Queens, New York, and you have the technofunk equivalent of Hungarian goulash: throw in a little bit of everything and stir. (1985w)

9 March: Some Like It Hot is released (UK no 14; USA no 6)

 

Tony: I had business reasons for doing [the Power Station]. I mean, it's not bad rubbing elbows with Duran Duran and Robert Palmer. (1985w)

 

Robert: I'm pleased at the way things are going, except my curtains need cleaning and I'm broke. (1985w)

 

John: It's really weird having a good critical reaction. I've never had a good review in my life. Of course the critics love Robert and they want to say, why are you working with these guys? But his fan-mail has dropped. He's let them down. (1985i)

31 March Power Station album is released (UK no 12; USA no 6)

 

Simon le Bon: I suppose that was creeping in, that tougher, American kind of sound. On our last American tour we were watching MTV and listening to Billy Idol and Van Halen. John and Andy got more into all that, like, 'hey, let's do the ultimate in rock'n'roll.' And afterwards they made a great LP. (1985a)

 

Smash Hits album review: When a bunch of laddish superstars get together it usually means a ghastly cacophony of self-indulgence.  Not surprisingly, then, most of this album seems to be made up of Andy Taylor’s shamefully butch guitar solos kept (just) from going completely bonkers by a mixture of hard and funky rhythms, edgy brass and Robert Palmer’s seductively controlled vocals... the sheer muscle of sound does hold a sort of forcible fascination. (1985a)

 

April 1985: A View To a Kill video shoot in Paris

 

The media interest is now elevated to stratospheric levels as everyone struggles to cope with the stories exploding from the Duran camp.  The Power Station, Bond theme, Simon and Nick’s project and the future of Duran Duran create a frenzy of excitement. 

 

Robert: When John and Andy want to Paris, I nipped off with Tony and Bernard to work on my record. (1985t)

 

John: The filming was tough. It was the worst fucking day. Not surprising, given the complete lack of sleep. But in addition to that, all the band members were on different planets, in different universes. All the video filming was individual shots — Simon does this here, Nick does this there.  (2012)

 

Andy:  I made up my mind I’d do the Bond video and get the hell out of there…The booze and the drugs and the carnage that surrounded Duran Duran was all just too much. (2009)

 

John: Duran will either sort itself out or it won't. I mean, I don't know how to relate to Simon. He's going away on a boat for six months and that's like my income – thanks very much – going down the drain. (1985b)

 

4 May Get It On is released (UK: no 22; USA no 9)

 

No 1 magazine review: A stodgy, ugly version... some things are best left alone. (1985)

May 11: A View To A Kill is released (UK no 2; USA number 1)

 

May 24: Then, abruptly, the tour is announced on Z-100 radio show with Palmer on board.

 

John: We were lying. We’ve got nothing else to do this summer so we decided to go on holiday. (1985s)

 

Robert: We’ve go a list a mile long of songs we’re going to play on this tour. We can play what we like to do.  I think I can handle Save A Prayer.  (1985s)

 

John: If we weren’t friends it wouldn’t have worked. We’re going to be even better friends after this tour. (1985s)  Duran were going to tour this summer but it got knocked on the head. Me and Andy are the touring fanatics. The other three don't really like it that much. (1985c)

 

Spandau Ballet are the announced support act.

 

Gary Kemp: We’ve had a string of success everywhere apart from America. We need to play live because people don’t know what we’re about (1985)

However, Spandau Ballet's sax player Steve Norman breaks his leg and they have to cancel (Spandau did not play in the US again until 2014).

 

June 12: A View To A Kill film premiere, London

 

John: At the moment the lay-offs are doing everyone good.  I last saw Simon and Nick for the video and I won't probably see them again for another four months. Anyone who says there isn't rivalry [about Arcadia / Power Station] is lying. Of course there is, but there always has been. It's not about who sells the most but about what we can each achieve. (1985g)

 

Nick: When we get back together [in September] we'll sound like a new version of Duran Duran, and certainly not like the Power Station or the thing we've been working on (1985a)

 

June 20 – Robert dramatically withdraws from the tour

 

John: It's all been a bit of a trauma.  I was going on holiday at the time and had to come back and decide if we were going to do the tour.  (1985v)  But at the same time we knew it was on the cards. We knew his album [Riptide] was running out of money and he’s not a great fan of touring. I knew his conviction wasn’t quite right.  (1985p)

 

Andy: The kids have bought tickets and we’ll be here to play. (1985v)

 

John: Robert was advised not to do it, basically. (1985c) It was a drag but we were aware that 60-70% of kids were there to see me and Andy… I’ve got over it now but I was furious at the time… Robert’s like a kid. I knew why he did it; I knew what was going on in his head, which is actually very little… he’s pretty much told what to do. I still think he doesn’t know why he didn’t tour (1985b)

 

Paul Young is considered as lead singer but is unavailable. Michael Des Barres becomes the preferred candidate.  Michael had, most recently, been the lead singer in Chequered Past, which also featured an ex-Sex Pistol (Steve Jones) and two ex-members of Blondie.  They had supported Duran on a few dates on the Sing Blue Silver tour.

Michael: When I got the phone call it was one of the most exciting days of my life, I swear to God. (1985p)

 

John: I was determined Michael would work out because if he hadn't we wouldn't had had time to find someone else. (1985c)  I think he has a great sense of rock'n'roll style.  Anyway, I always said The Power Station would be a constantly evolving project. (1985v)

 

Michael: I had supported Duran when I was in Chequered Past, and we got along great, so when Robert Palmer didn’t feel he could do it, because he didn’t know if he could play to 20,000 topless girls, they immediately thought of me. [Laughs]

 

I was in Marshall, Texas, the middle of nowhere, making a movie with Don Johnson when the promoter called me. Obsession was number one all over the world, and I was one very happy dude. They said, ‘Do you want to come to New York? There’s a band that needs a singer.’ They wouldn’t tell me who it was, only that there was a ticket waiting for me. So I went to New York and saw a big white stretch limo waiting for me. I got in and was taken to an office – there inside were John and Tony, sweating profusely.

 

They gave me the album with and without Robert’s voice. I got on Concorde and went to London, and there I met Andy Taylor. Well, not at first – I had to wait eight hours for him. He arrived at a studio with two bodyguards in a billowing cloud of marijuana. [Laughs] I set it up where I could do Get It On, a verse and chorus. I did that, and Andy got on the intercom and said, ‘Let’s go shopping!’ So we went shopping.  (2015)

 

But then things change again…

 

Michael: I got back on Concorde to New York, and checked into the Carlyle Hotel. We were supposed to start rehearsals in three days. The following morning I got a call from my manager, Danny Goldberg, who said, ‘You’re out. It’s over. Robert’s gonna do the tour.’  Bummer.

 

Don Johnson came to town and we went out to dinner at Indochine. Who was in the place? John Taylor. Don went over to John and took him outside. I don’t know what was said; all I know is that I went back to the hotel, I packed, and at seven a.m. the phone rang. It was their manager telling me, ‘You’re back in.’ Robert got a piece of the merchandise and I went on the road. (2015)

 

The feeling was that for Robert doing his act in front of 20,000 screaming girls would be demeaning, somehow.  They ask me if I’m interested in replacing him and I say ‘are you out of our fucking mind?’ Of course I said yes.  We had 10 days rehearsing 30 songs, and the first show was Live Aid*.  Bono was there*. (2014)

 

*neither of these statements are correct

John: Michael is more of a performer than Robert, now I know it’s gonna be a more rock’n’roll show which is what it should be, really. (1985o)

 

Michael: I had an intimate relationship with my Walkman for many days. I had to learn 16 songs in a couple of weeks, it was an incredible challenge. (1985u)

 

John: Michael is from the old school of rock’n’roll and he fits in very well… there has to be someone in the band like that, because me, Andy and Tony are in it for the parties! (1985c)

In Part 3: The conclusion of the Power Station story, via Live Aid, the tour, Miami Vice and the final fling in the 1990s.

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