Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey Reflects On Global Smash ‘Into The Gap’

Tom Bailey, original member from the 80s hit pop group Thompson Twins, is returning to Australia next month to perform some of the great songs from the Thompson Twins, including performing the all the tracks from their global hit album, Into The Gap.

Whilst the Thompson Twins started as a seven piece band in the late 70s and went through a few personnel changes, it was the trio of Tom Bailey, Alannah Currie and Joe Leeway that achieved massive international success. The Thompson Twins were known for their synth/ pop sounds and partnered their songs with clever video clips that were on high rotation on MTV. They became synonymous with the 2nd wave of British invasion that infiltrated music in the 80s and are still considered one of the most influential UK bands from that time.

Their biggest album was Into The Gap. Released in 1984, it was their fourth album and the most successful. It featured the hit singles Doctor, Doctor, Hold Me Now, You Take Me Up and was one of the biggest album releases of the year. It reached #1 in the UK, Top Ten on the US Billboard charts and was a Top 5 album on the Australian album charts. Their global success of Into The Gap led to seven top 40 hits in the US and ten in the UK with another 4 top 40 hits in the US Dance Chart including 2 No1’s with Lies and Hold Me Now and over 10 million album sales worldwide. Tom Bailey speaks to Hi Fi Way about the tour.

It must be great to be finally returning to Australia, did you ever lose faith that this might not be able to happen?
There were always times where I would be thinking is this ever going to happen. I think this was the third attempt to get this run of dates in Australia confirmed. So yeah, you got to just keep believing!

Are you continually amazed by the enduring legacy of ‘In To The Gap’ and how that continues to grow bigger and bigger every year?
That surprises me in a way, because certainly when we were doing it the first-time round, we didn’t think it would last so long. We had no intention to create that kind of legacy material. I think we were doing the best thing we could do at the very time we made it. The fact that it’s endured is a kind of weird an unexpected turnout. I can only be happy about that. I mean, some people don’t like that, they want to shrug off there. I think we even went through a period where we wanted to leave that stuff behind, but actually it’s fantastic in a way that I never anticipated, which is that you have this big emotional connection with an audience from shared experience.

Did you ever anticipate when you were writing these songs and even recording them that almost forty years later they would still just as relevant and important today?
You kind of get a clue because you develop some skills in noticing which one of your songs gets played on the radio. The ones that have a sing-a-long chorus and you can tap your foot to it, all those kind of crude measures of whether you’ve written a good song or not. But in the case of something like Hold Me Now, which was the big single from the album then, I definitely knew there was something special about it. There was an emotional depth, which I hope carried on in the rest of the album as well. We weren’t quite so kind of superficially cartoonish issue about what we were doing. We got a little bit under the surface of the emotional connection.

What do you remember and what stands out for you for when the album came out in 1984?
I can remember the massive tidal wave of optimism that was around at that time. It felt like there was a change in the world for the better, and it felt like strangely enough, it felt like pop music was part of that change. We carried a kind of responsibility to be liberational, to make the world a better place in what we do and suggest ways forward. So, you know, the beginnings of the environmental movement and all those kind of things were around and prominent at that time. Now, since that moment, of course, the world has been through so many shocks and tragedies and unpleasantness of one sort or another that in a way we’ve had that optimism knocked out of us by events. I do rediscover it actually in concert, I find that the audience comes with that memory of what it used to feel like, to feel good about the world and making it a better place. So there we go! It’s a funny thing but hope springs eternal.

Do you still get a buzz seeing the audience reaction to these songs and when they sing them back to you?
You’ve absolutely landed on the main thing there because I have this amazing band of musicians and we really love playing it from a musical point of view, but it doesn’t really mean anything until we get that emotional connection with the audience. That’s what we’re always looking for and that’s what makes us do it again and again.

With the fortieth anniversary of Into The Gap coming up are there any special plans to commemorate the occasion and any special re-issues?
I don’t know if there are any special plans. Maybe there should be, but I don’t get involved in the business side of things because I only have so much energy and I’d much rather put it into creative pursuits, writing music and playing and what have you. The thing is that all of this stuff is available on online at the flick of a switch, right unless people want the physical product in their hands.

Are you noticing the generational shift in the fans coming to your shows?
Yes, I do! I do notice that, it’s a strange thing. Sometimes I see young people at the front singing along to songs that their demographic would suggest that they shouldn’t know those songs, but they do for some reason. I think, I wonder what direct you into this and might be their parents. One big change in popular culture in general is that we have the entire history of recorded music available to us on the internet. You know, so any person can listen to any record at any time. That is an amazing thing. It kind of dilutes, I guess, the here and now aspect to pop music, which is that, you know, what’s happening this week is to be so critically important to us. I guess the good thing is that people can just seek out music of any sort and stick with the things that they find satisfying or enjoyable on some level. But of course, a lot of my audiences there because it reminds them and, and reconnects them to some experience in the past. There’s a kind of nostalgia element as well,

With your Australian tour do you get to squeeze in some of your own solo music? I absolutely love the Science Fiction album and there’s some absolute cracking of singles on that.
We might, the concert will probably be in two halves and the second half will be a performance of, Into The Gap album, but in the first half we can try playing all sorts of stuff and some of the other well-known songs and maybe a couple not so well known, including some cuts from Science Fiction.

What’s next for Tom Bailey? Are there plans for new music?
I’m always writing actually, I write on the bus, I just keep going, it doesn’t mean I’m necessarily about to release it or that it’s even the kind of music that you’d recognise me for doing, but, it’s my kind of habit.

What are you looking forward to most on your return to Australia?
Well, usually the answer to that question is some decent weather because the UK is so miserable, but actually we’ve had an Australian summer here and it’s been incredibly hot and dry. I could actually do with a little cooler weather, but of course I love Australia. I’ve got friends and family in Australia, so I’ll be able to hook up with them and reconnect. We’ll be travelling immense distances on this tour to get to the main cities of Australia. It’s going to be an adventure!

Interview By Rob Lyon

Catch Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey on the following dates, tickets from Destroy All Lines

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