Part 1: 1981-1984
Part 2: January - June 1985
And now - the final chapter of our Power Station story.
The tour is a success across the American summer, with a final flourish on TV and at the cinema. The project then plays out across several years of the 1990s.
Huge thanks to The Paper Goddess for her beautifully designed mood boards that have led this special issue of Cherry Lipstick.
1 July: the tour starts at a warm-up gig at The Ritz, New York
Smash Hits: Judging by this ‘secret gig’ at the Ritz it would be a dull world if The Power Station didn’t tour… Andy is, surprisingly, a fantastic musician… John’s bass backdrop was solid and never too heavy… Ace covers of Dancing in the Street and The Reflex left the crowd gawping. As for Mr Des Barres, it's obvious that being in the Power Station is the most important thing that's ever happened to him. He may have to stuff a lot of tissues into the large shoes he has to fill, but the smooth musicianship of the Power Station is a far cry from the expected Power Failure. (1985b)
John: We did the tour for the parties as much as anything. Not for the money or the career move because then it would have been a world tour. (1985b)
2 July – tour starts for real at Jones Beach Amphiteater, Watagh, NY
Typical setlist: Every track off the Power Station LP (8 tracks), plus various cover versions, including The Reflex and Hungry Like the Wolf, plus Obsession and Some Guys Have All the Luck (made famous by Robert Palmer). Additionally, they play two new Michael des Barres penned tracks which would appear on his 1986 album, Somebody Up There Likes Me.
John: The Power Station seems to have become the perfect American radio record at the moment. It used to be the Van Halen album. (1985c)
The Power Station play further shows on 5, 9 and 10 July, before breaking for Live Aid.
July 11: John and Andy join the Duran Duran rehearsals for Live Aid
Simon: I remember it was really nice to see you guys [John and Andy] at rehearsals for Live Aid. I felt a real warmth from you both and there wasn’t any animosity. (2015e)
John: Our relationships hadn’t got any better [since March] but at the rehearsals the tensions melted away (2012). I already knew the Power Station was at a dead end so I was quite happy to be in Duran Duran for a day. (2015e)
Andy: The rehearsals were a disaster. (2009)
July 13: Live Aid. Don Johnson introduces Power Station on stage.
John: The performances were fraught with technical problems. Andy’s guitar went down before the Power Station set which meant we had to cut a number. It wasn’t easy! (2010) The sound was terrible. I was really pissed about that. I couldn't really enjoy it until we'd finished but when I look back, what a day! (1985c)
Andy: We had to cancel a couple of gigs, at a cost of $250,000, to do Live Aid. (2009 ) [This may or may not be true: when announcing the tour on 24 May, John was clear that Live Aid was scheduled for 13 July and that they would perform there].
Smash Hits: The Power Station feature horrid axe solos, feverish on stage struttings and boundless onstage determination. (1985c)
Tony has another act to play with...
Tony: I was on the road at the time with Power Station in Sarasota, Florida [presumably July 9, four days before Live Aid]. I got a call from my road manager saying Jimmy Page and Robert Plant were on the phone. I was like, “Yeah, right.” [laughs] And I hung up the phone. About a half hour later, my road manager calls back again and says, “Tony, don’t hang up the phone. I have Robert and Jimmy on a three-way call from Chicago, and they want to talk to you.” I was like, “Are you serious?” So I talk to them, and it turned out they were fans of my work, so they asked me if I would consider doing Live Aid with them. They said they also asked Phil Collins, but he was on Concord flying back and forth.
So the day of Live Aid, I got to Philadelphia and Jimmy, Robert, and Jonsey rented out a rehearsal room and we rehearsed. I was glad we had that rehearsal. I grew up listening to Zeppelin. They were my bible when I was a kid… I got the chance to actually play with the guys who wrote the song, who were there. (2002)
Actually Phil Collins does fly in to the US Live Aid show from the London show earlier that day and there are two drummers in Led Zeppelin for their infamous set. That seems to be one too many…
Phil Collins: Onstage I don’t take my eyes off Tony Thompson. I’m glued to him. I’m having to follow – he’s taking the heavy-handed lead and has opted to ignore all my advice. Putting myself in his shoes, he’s probably thinking, "This is the beginning of a new career. John Bonham isn’t around any more. They’re gonna want someone. This could be the start of a Led Zeppelin reunion. And I don’t need this English fuck in my way." I’m not judging him, God rest his soul. Thompson was a fantastic drummer. But it was very uncomfortable, and if I could have left that stage, I would have left, halfway through Stairway... if not earlier. But imagine the coverage of that? (2016)
Led Zeppelin with Tony at Live Aid (sans Collins)
John and Andy also play with Duran Duran.
Smash Hits: Duran give a pretty reluctant and unconvincing performance. (1985)
Andy: When [Duran] came off stage there were no congratulatory hugs or friendly smiles. It was like we were completely foreign to each other… the following day I gave up drinking.” (2009)
14 July: Power Station tour resumes in Nashville. They play 29 more shows until the final show on August 28th.
John: After Live Aid, the tour rumbled on rather painfully for the rest of the summer. The tour was revealed to me for exactly what it was – a vanity project that had run out of steam. Despite the great songs we had recorded, I couldn’t wait for it to end. (2012)
19 July: tour recording from Southern Star Amphitheatre, Houston, Texas
John: On reflection I don't think the tour would have suited [Robert]. I don't think he would have been able to handle the audiences we're getting. (1985c)
‘Magazine’: Partying is very much the order of the night. For this the private plane is very convenient, stocked with the most exquisite food and finest champagne. To cut out early morning departures, the Power Station usually leave town straight after the concert, arrive at their next destination a few hours later, sleep all day and then repeat it the following night… Michael des Barres fits into this set-up very well. His performance is incredibly physical and sexy. (1985c)
John: We don't have a serious attitude to it, it's back to basics really. In a sense it's just fun… Duran Duran aren't really a good time rock'n'roll band, whereas this band could play in a bar! I always missed that with Duran – there was no spontaneity. This show is me and Andy let loose! (1985c)
11 August: Simon’s boat capsizes
John: Nobody called Andy or me to say ’something terrible has happened’. The news came to us as a rumour. We truly didn’t appreciate the enormity of the accident until we read about in People magazine a week later. (2012)
Andy: I was getting ready to do a sound check for a gig when I turned on the news in my hotel only to see footage of a yacht floating upside down. Fortunately news reached us quickly that he had been rescued. (2009)
28 August: The final show, at Meadowlands, New Jersey. During the encore a man appears on stage sweeping up. John goes up to him – and it’s Nick! He jams along with the band by ‘playing’ the broom as an instrument.
John: Very Dada of him, I thought. (2002b) … That's what he can play in tune (1985b)
Nick: I happened to be in NY and thought I should go and see what the opposition were up to. [The broom] was really an homage to Andy Taylor, who had been photographed with a broom in our first official photo session with EMI Records in 1981. One of my personal favourites of him. (2009)
4 October: Commando film (starring Arnold Schwarzenegger) released: Power Station (with only studio recording with Michael des Barres) provide the track ‘Fight For Love’ for the closing credits. (It is re-titled ‘Someday, Somehow, Somebody’s Gotta Pay’ on the Power Station CD re-issue).
Andy: Joel Silver the movie’s producer really wanted Power Station to do a track, so I knocked that one out in about half an hour before the session began... The movie guys put it in for the credits roll, which was nice. (2002a)
4 October: Miami Vice episode featuring the Power Station airs. They are the bar band (playing Get It On, live). John acts at the bar as himself with Crockett, and then plays live.
Michael: I’ve known [Don] for quite a while which is why he let us be on his show. (1986)
John: I had exhaustion pains [during filming] and had to see the doctor a few times to get oxygen. I was doing so much I was going crazy. And on the tour I was getting heart palpitations. I mean, I'm not 21 anymore. (1985b)
Andy: I knew Don in those days, nice guy. I mean, shit, he was Crockett on Miami Vice, the most definitive 80’s show me thinks. I do remember they were not allowed to wear red on that show, and when we did it with Power Station that caused a major row with us and the producers because our Kansai clothes were heavily red. Now that is something to fall out about. (2002b)
19 October: Simon, Nick and Roger (as Arcadia) release Election Day, followed by the album So Red The Rose on 30 November.
21 October: Press conference in New York – Duran Duran (minus Roger)and Culture Club announce they will perform a show called 'Super Concert 1' in California. It is to be broadcast live via satellite to cinemas and clubs across the world on December 27.
Boy George: When Simon le Bon sinks through the middle of the stage and his sales flop, everyone will see it and it'll be brilliant [laughs]. (1985)
Andy: It could a disastrous flop but the idea is it's like the opening night of a movie. We'll probably [include] one Power Station song and the Arcadia single. (1985k)
Within 3 weeks the plans collapse, and on December 27, Simon marries Yasmin.
2 November: Communication is released (UK no 75; USA no 34)
9 November: Robert Palmer’s Riptide (album) is released. (UK no 5; USA no 8)
AllMusic Review: The Power Station connection threatens to overpower Palmer's usually more eclectic musical interest, but with Bernard Edwards handling production duties and Andy Taylor and Tony Thompson contributing as well, stylistic similarities were inevitable. Flesh Wound sounds like a retread of Some Like It Hot. Addicted to Love shares some of the same punch, somewhat slowing down the Power Station's bombast into slinkier, blues territory, while maintaining a heavy rock crunch. (retrospective review, unknown date)
In the UK, the album was not an initial success. The first two singles were flops (Discipline of Love, no 68 October 1985, and Riptide, no 85 January 1986). The album charted for only 2 weeks. Then Addicted to Love was a major hit in May 1986 and the album took off.
Roger: Power Station are so good because they're just straightforward, powerful rock music. I miss John and Andy quite a lot, actually. When we're all together, getting a bit serious, they – especially Andy – always used to come up with a wisecrack and break the atmosphere (1985)
Andy: The Power Station made me very happy for a long time. Sadly, I don’t think it did the same for John because he had too many personal demons to deal with and he didn’t have the same creative relationship with Bernard as I had. (2009)
Michael: We went on tour and then it was done, I knew it would be. It was an odd mix – Chic meets the Sex Pistols. It wasn’t really my metier. I like bluesy rock’n’roll – plus I was sober. I’d get up early and go running. Our ways after the shows were in different directions, shall we say. The last gig was a fantastic show. Prince came! Afterwards we were all exhausted and disappeared with our various entourages. But I learned a lot from it and John’s still in my life. Then after it ended I got a part in [TV show] MacGyver. I didn’t have time to mourn the Power Station. (2014)
Tony: I did an album (The Fragile) with Nine Inch Nails. I was on tour with Power Station, and I got a call from Trent [Reznor] and his people saying they were fans of mine, and would I consider doing the album? At the time I wasn’t really familiar with the band and their work. But it turned out the Power Station tour was ending, so I went back to New York, then to New Orleans, and started to work with them. (2002)
Andy: I had to get away and work at my own pace, just to get the chance to play guitar differently, which is all I joined Duran for, before everything got out of control. I've learnt more in this past year than in the whole of the rest of the time I've been in the business. Duran Duran was such a fucking compromise... I've got a wife and kid and want to see them. Being in a big band, the easiest protection is like to put the guys in the middle and build a fucking great wall around them and then throw everything in. Throw the women in, throw the drugs in. Make it all stay in there because no one can get in and touch them.... Simon's boat sinking is just a reflection of what happened to Duran Duran: too many things done too quickly. You see all I do for those guys, the Berrows, is sell records. They go and fucking piss around on boats. Until people change their attitude towards us they can go and get fucked. They're not getting a thing out of me… Having kids really makes you think about it all. It certainly puts a dampener on chemical pleasures... I've had to give up partying. The hole is filled by the pleasure I get from my wife and kid. (1985f)
Robert: It wasn’t exactly an experience that’s set me up for retirement. I gave the Power Station that sound, they took it from me, not the other way round. (1986)
John: It’s nice to have a success with something and then say ‘enough’. In this day of sequels and exploitation I’m glad that I can say ‘no’. Maybe Duran will be a little less commercial which not be a bad thing. We can’t keep singing Girls On Film all our lives. (1986)
Cherry Lipstick asked Michael what he remembered of the first and last Power Station show:
Michael: Gratitude, exhilaration; new friends and a big cheque... (2018)
John: After Sing Blue Silver tour, we had to retreat a little, and take control again. We split with our managers and two of the band left. When we came back it was Simon, Nick and I and we did Notorious with Nile Rodgers. It was a very different situation. We had about half the audience, so be careful what you wish for! (2015d)
Nick: Personally, I think we should play the entire Arcadia album live from start to finish…and maybe one Power Station song during intermission … Actually I quite like their album, maybe we could do two… (2003)
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT:
JASON CORSARO was involved in over 400 albums, for acts including Madonna, Paul Simon and Moby, as well as back with Duran Duran on Thank You in 1995. He died in August 2017, aged 58. Nile Rogers paid his respects: “Whatever you’re doing in heaven, I know it’s loud as hell!”
MICHAEL DES BARRES co-wrote John’s debut solo single, I Do What I Do, released in early 1986. His 1986 album Somebody Up There Likes Me features Andy and Steve Jones. He continued to make music with a variety of acts and appeared regularly on screen, including Sugar Town in 1999 with John. Michael is now also a DJ and released his latest single 'Living In The USA' in January 2018.
BERNARD EDWARDS continued to produce acts, including Diana Ross and Rod Stewart. He was again the producer for the Power Station in 1994-96, joining the band as bass player when John quit the group. He re-recorded all of John’s parts. He was due to tour with the Power Station when he died of pneumonia, in Tokyo, when touring with Chic in April 1996, age 43.
ROBERT PALMER had huge international success for several years in the wake of Riptide, though his 90s albums began to sell less. He was again part of the Power Station in 1994-96 which briefly toured as a trio in 1997 (below). Robert's compilation albums in 1989 and 1995 both included Power Station songs. He died of a heart attack in September 2003, age 54.
ANDY TAYLOR quit Duran Duran in 1986 during the recording of their Notorious album. He continued in the music business with a solo album (with Steve Jones) in 1986, and a covers album (Dangerous) in 1990. Andy was a part of the reformed Power Station from 1994-97, (and, in September 1996, played on UK's Top of the Pops music show). He rejoined Duran Duran in 2001 before quitting again in 2006.
JOHN TAYLOR attempted to reform the Power Station in 1991, and gained the interest of all three other band members before the project collapsed. In January 1994 he announced he was again in discussion with Andy, Robert, Tony and Bernard about a new Power Station album, for release in 1995. Writing and recording started later in 1994 and continued during 1995. John withdrew in July 1995, officially for ‘personal reasons’, but generally accepted to be related to his drug addiction and divorce. In June 1995, John co-formed another new group, Neurotic Boy Outsiders (which included Steve Jones). They toured and eventually released an album in September 1996 as ‘Neurotic Outsiders’. The Power Station album ‘Living In Fear’ was released in November 1996 with John credited as co-writer but not featuring on any of the tracks. Also that month, John released his first solo album, ‘Feelings Are Good (And Other Lies)’. He quit Duran Duran in January 1997. He pursued his solo career for several years before rejoining Duran in 2001.
ROGER TAYLOR quit Duran Duran and the music business in December 1985. He briefly played with Duran in 1995 on their Thank You album. He rejoined Duran in 2001.
TONY THOMPSON had plans to join Led Zeppelin as a drummer in 1986, but he was injured in a car crash. Tony did not subsequently have the same success as in his early career. He did not join the reformed Chic in 1992 but was part of the reformed Power Station album and tour in 1994-97. The Power Station's final show was on 25 September 1997, in Boston, MA. Tony died from kidney cancer in November 2003, age 48.