Fiction Plane

Thompson Twin Tom Bailey takes his time with new solo endeavor

Old Tom Bailey poster

Most of us know the need for procrastination. There are days when it’s hard to muster up any enthusiasm for getting on with the day’s chores and responsibilities. Hell, sometimes it’s hard to just to find the energy and inclination. Staying in bed seems like the only thing really worthwhile.

However when you’re a musician, that luxury isn’t available. In show biz, there’s an old adage that dictates the fact that when you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind. It’s a fickle world after all, and that’s especially true when it comes to making music. There are always new hotshots coming along, all attempting to steal the spotlight in a quest to become the next big thing.

Consequently, even a year spent out of the spotlight entails considerable risk. So when Tom Bailey of the Thompson Twins opted to take a 25 year hiatus after the band’s break-up before releasing his first solo album, Science Fiction, he was risking not only his reputation, but his entire career as well. Granted, the Twins were a dominant force when it came to dominating the charts in the ‘80s, thanks to hits such as “Lies”, “In the Name of Love”, “Hold Me Now,” and “Doctor, Doctor,” but times and trends change. And while the royalties may still roll in, the fame doesn’t always linger.

In recent years, Bailey’s made some attempt to reclaim that elusive status by headlining gigs in the U.K., Japan and here in the U.S. The kudos continued when he won an award for “Best Live Show” from a leading English publication.

Still, it remains to be seen whether his time away from releasing a recording will result in apathy or eagerness. After all, it’s difficult to measure the level of anticipation over an album derived from ‘80s origins, Madonna and Duran Duran aside. And given the fact that this set of songs doesn’t veer from the approach taken by the Thompson Twins way back when, it remains to be seen if that vintage sound still has the popular appeal it once did. Songs such as “Science Fiction,” “What Kind of World,” “Feels Like Love to Me,” and “If You Need Someone” boast the same perky, percolating rhythms that lit up dance floors back in the 80s, not to mention the cool croon that still brings comparison to the Durans, Flock of Seagulls, Culture Club, and all the other bands of vintage variety who excelled through pop perfect intents.

Still, to the outside observer, the prospects might not appear so promising. As noted previously,  a quarter of a century is a long time be missing from the marketplace. However, in looking back, the passing of time never seemed to hurt the superstars. John Lennon was missed when he waited five  years after his last studio offering, Rock and Roll, to finally return to the spotlight with Double Fantasy. Cat Stevens had a change of name but, regardless of whether he’s Cat or Yusuf, 18 years was a long time to wait after Back to Earth for An Other Cup. Likewise, Big Star took a long time to regroup after Third/Sister Lovers,  with  an absence of 17 years until their next studio set, In Space, came out in 2005. Pink Floyd kept their fans waiting 7 years from 1987’s A Momentary Lapse of Reason to 1994’s The Division Bell, and another 20 years until their final album, The Endless River, in 2014.

Sometimes things just take time. But 25 years? Here’s wishing Tom Bailey luck and proof that absence does make the heart grow fonder.

Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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