Podcast Transcript

Takin a walk. You know nostalgia is a funny thing because it can be cheapened by just kind of using it to get a response but on the other hand if it reminds us of the way we felt when we had an optimism about changing the world to make it a better place and all those kind of things then I think it has a more noble purpose as so there’s a great nostalgia that you can engage with about saying hang on we’ve been

we’ve been derailed we’ve been you know kind of pushed off our track by all the weird and wonderful and bad things that have happened in the world. I’m Buzz Knight and this is The Takin a Walk podcast.

We talk with musicians and we get the inside stories behind their music. Today a walk down memory lane with Tom Bailey, bass guitarist, keyboardist, vocalist,

one of the founders of Thompson Twins. Remember the British pop band with hits like “Hold Me Now” and “Lay Your Hands On Me” and a slew of others? Tom is co -headlighting the totally tubular festival and he’s returning to North America for the first time in six years.

This is a ’80s alternative dream festival. Thomas Dolby part of it. Modern English. Bow wow wow. Tommy Tutone,

the Romantics and of course the Thompson Twins will be part of it with Tom Bailey and he’s next on Taking a Walk. Tom Bailey, thanks for being on Taking a Walk.

It is my pleasure, but I was good to talk to you. So tell me the moment you first knew in your life that you would be attached to music.

Oh, in a general sense, before I could even make sense of that idea, I think probably two or three years old, I was reaching up to the piano keys.

My family had a lot of music going on, mostly classical and baroque music. So that was my early influence. My father, who was actually, he was a physician, a doctor, but he was an early hi -fi,

home -building high -fi enthusiast. So the music we had always sounded fantastic, you know. So whatever it was, it seemed to kind of get through to you. And yeah,

probably that was my biggest influence. And then as you got into the formative years, what other artists and musicians influenced your style?

Well, I was a kind of classical music snob until early teens when I suddenly got the Beatles big time. And interestingly enough, it wasn’t the early love song Beatles.

It was the psychedelic era of the Beatles that really kicked me into the long grass, as they say. And I never really recovered from that.

I still love that period of music. When a band is successful and then suddenly uses the opportunity to go fully experimental. I think that’s one of the most noble things they can do.

Now, rather than just collect the money, they took serious risks with their idea of what music could be, and it changed the world for me. What was your first concert experience?

Oh, well, I went to many, many classical concerts on recitals when I was too young to go on my own, and I was taken by my parents, and also performed in a lot of school concerts and choirs and orchestras and as a soloist and what have you.

But my first rock or pop experience was probably in the kind of late blues, British blues explosion period,

where it kind of met up with the early progressives. So bands like Free and family and the earliest version of Fleetwood Mac,

things like that. I’m always fascinated talking with all musicians, but in particular the British musicians, because the diversity of styles that influence so many of the British musicians is one consistent thread among all of them.

Do you agree with that? Well, do you think it’s more diverse than in America, for example? I think so, yeah. Yeah, well, that’s an I’ve never really thought of that, but yes, you’re probably right.

I mean, America is such a big place in a strange ironic way. It creates local scenes. So there’s like, you know, there’s a sound collecting around one city,

where everyone’s going to copying each other and forming a kind of movement movement in music. Here, not so much. I’d say we’re a smaller place, so everyone gets to hear everything and we soak it up like crazy.

Yeah, it’s an interesting way of looking at it actually, yeah. I always wonder about it too from the standpoint of the impact that, you know, certainly radio has had on the way people get to music consumption and music discovery as well,

because I think in certainly our earlier era here, you know, top 40 radio played all different styles of music at that time and probably the same as you were developing in England as well.

– That’s right. I mean, and there was one national radio station that really captured the market as it were and they had to play whatever was popular. So it, you know, it would be some out, some rocktastic heavy metal thing right next to a synth pop or,

or some kind of one hit wonder record. And yeah, they didn’t play a genre. They just played what was popular from every style. Well,

we’re going to talk a little bit more about the totally tubular festival. I love the name. I love saying it three times fast, totally tubular festival, totally tubular Festival, and it’s just an amazing bill.

This is an alternative music dream festival with folks like Thomas Dolby in modern English and Men Without Hats. Were you close with a lot of those folks during the era when Thompson Twins was first beginning?

In this case, actually, no. I hardly know most of the people on the bill, apart from Thomas Dolby, who, strangely enough, I met in the very early days of the Thompson twins,

and he was even a little bit of a mentor to me in terms, he was already ahead of me in getting synths involved in the sound. And so he played on our second album as a guest musician,

just when I was beginning to get to grips with synthesis. But oddly enough, we never have played on stage together. And that’s been a long time coming as an idea.

We’ve discussed it many, many times, in fact, all sorts of weird and wacky ideas, ways of getting together. But finally, this opportunity’s come. And it’s going to be great, actually, because he’s,

he’s a special guy, you know, he’s, he’s got all sorts of great ideas. And I can’t wait to see his show, actually. And I think I’m going to join him and play one of the songs with him.

All right. Science. Well, I could do that, couldn’t I? In Magnus Pike’s part. I just had to do that. I couldn’t hold back. Science.

It’s funny, isn’t it? I don’t know what happened to Magnus Pike, but we all remember that exclamation. Yes, thank God. So, the success of Thompson Twins,

Will it take you by surprise in any way? Well, there are two answers to that question, one of which is, of course, the whole thing just blows you away when it happens, and you’ve got no idea what it’s actually going to be like.

But on the other hand, as a young group, you’re all the time looking forward to success and scheming and plotting ways of getting there. And so when it arrives, you can’t exactly say,

“Well, I never expected that,” because it was everything you put your, your mind to. But of course, the roller coaster ride of success, you can’t really anticipate because it’s crazy.

And the roller coaster has to do certainly with the way bands collaborate and get along and inspire each other and probably drive each other crazy too,

right? Yeah. Oh, for sure. And there are lots of examples. I mean, forget the Thompson twins. There are so many examples of bands who were great, but hated each other.

By the time they reached that great pinnacle of greatness, they could hardly bear to be on a stage together. It’s a funny thing. It’s an intense relationship, which often doesn’t survive.

And yet, the chemistry throws up all sorts of amazing stuff. And I guess that happened in relatively mild way to the three of us as well. For a few years,

we were so tight together that we were like a family. We were like brothers and sisters. And that was amazing. But there came a point where we just had to spend time a lot.

What are your favorites from the catalog? There’s so many that We’re just the soundtrack, certainly, to our lives and so many people’s lives. What were some of your favourites?

Well, I mean, in the end, the work kind of falls into different categories for me. And I quite like the quirky stuff that got people’s attention. But it’s the other side.

It’s the emotional heavyweight songs that seem to have a lot more kind of life in them. You know, when we sing a song like, say, lies,

the mind reinterprets the purpose of that song because it was certainly not written about politicians today, but that’s what it ends up being about today because the context has changed.

But something like, hold me now, the essential meaning of it, of people coming together and getting over a problem and kissing and making friends again after an argument is that’s a universal and eternal idea that never is changed by context.

So I like those heavyweight emotional contents, and I tend to save those for last and enjoy what it does to me and to an audience.

Well, that was my other question, which is when you look out in an audience when you’re performing and see that moment where the audience has come together,

they’re feeling the vibe, they’re going back in their life and remembering where they were at the moment when these songs first hit. How does that make you feel as a performer?

Well, it’s actually an amazing privilege. And nostalgia is a funny thing because it can be cheapened by just kind of using it to get a response. But on the other hand, if it reminds us of the way we felt when we had an optimism about changing the world to make it a better place and all those kind of things,

then I think it has a more noble purpose. So there’s a great nostalgia that you can engage with about saying, hang on, we’ve been derailed.

We’ve been pushed off our track by all the weird and wonderful and bad things that have happened in the world and to us. But if you can remember that there was once a time when we felt good about the possibility of making the world better.

I think that’s a great thing to remember. And the world always needs that one way or another. And there’s also a broader question because I think rock and roll used to have that ambition very,

clearly. And we’re going to talk about something like live aid in a minute. So that, in a way, was a perfect example of where rock and roll automatically wanted to get involved in solving a problem.

Now I see that rock and roll is more about celebrity and success on the internet than it is about any ambition to make the world better. So that’s another nostalgia.

I like to think about the time when it meant something like that. And I think that was one of the motivations for a lot of my peer group, you know, who we got into music because we loved music,

but because it was also a powerful position to be in. Well, tell me how Live Aid came together. How were the Thompson twins ultimately part of that amazing event?

And tell me about your memories of that. Well, we were slightly off -sided by the fact that we were in New York working on an album with Nile Rogers,

and so we weren’t in London, which would have been our natural bill to join the Wembley show. So we said, “Can we do it in Philadelphia instead?” And they said, “Sure.” But then,

of course, we had a problem of having no band, because our regular band and live band in London were are not available or over there and so on. And at very short notice,

we had to put a band together, but someone pointed out that the David Letterman band had the night off because of Live Aid. So they were available. And I think Niall used his influence to get them.

And Steve Stevens, Billy Idol’s guitarist, who’d already played on that record. I said, come along and play your part on one of the songs. Nile, of course, was producing, so he was another guitarist.

We haven’t five guitarists we had that day, and Nile just worked with Madonna, so we did a kind of backstage deal, do backing vocals on each other’s sets. So the Thompson twins and Nile sang BVs on her songs,

and she sang on one of ours. So it was a ridiculous kind of superstar band thrown together like in a day and a half or something. – Amazing, wow. – Yeah.

– It must have been a blur and a blast at the same time. – It was, and of course, it was one of those things where you just had to go with the flow. At the last minute before we walked on stage, we had to cut a song out of our,

because someone had gone on too long before us or something. You know, those things happen. You just have to roll with them and get on. But it was an amazing event. I met a lot of people who were my heroes from way back,

you know, and some of whom I was kind of deeply touched to even be on this in the same backstage area as them, you know. And so those kind of events are one of the little rewards of getting involved in the music business,

I think, to meet your heroes. Who were some of those folks that you met that really stuck out? Well, I mean, actually, there was a whole long list of people that I met that day that I hadn’t met before.

But the one that really stands out for some reason is Joan Baez. When I was a young kid, someone gave me a Joan Baez record which I loved. I didn’t even know who she was really. And then later kind of figured out that she was one of the great influences of American folk music and a great musician with a wonderful voice and a wonderful sense of poetry.

And I think all her ideas were kind of on the right side of the line as well, you know, she was fighting for the right team as it were. And yeah,

amazing to meet her. And she was thrilled that the kind of younger generation of kind of UK synth pop troublemakers were also getting involved in activism, you know, so it was a great meeting.

That’s really cool. My God. We’ll be right back with the “Taken a Walk” podcast. Welcome back to the “Taken a Walk” podcast. – Tell me how you got involved in some of these things that I want you to explain to the audience and explain to me.

Experimental, electronic, babble and collab. What is that, sir? – Well, babble was what the Thompson Twins turned into when they decided to go back into the underground and made two albums.

It was basically Alanna and myself. We signed a new record deal and said, “Yeah, but we don’t want to be top 40 popsters anymore.” As a result,

we felt free to reengage with the underground because there’s something fertile in that soil, which you can then translate into more commercial activity,

I guess. But there’s something really fertile in the underground that I really like. And so I always keep at least one toe in that water, and it helps. And it’s very interesting.

Collab was also another kind, and that was really, really experimental music collab. It’s kind of ambient textural sound, really. And it’s important to do these things.

And I couldn’t release them as Thomson trains, obviously. I mean, it’s just way, way, way left of center. But it’s important to do them anyway and dig and dig around and discover what’s in there.

You know, as I’m talking to you, I’m sort of prompted to ask you about Jerry Casale from Devo as somebody who I was fortunate to speak with,

who, You know explores into these places that are unique much like you. Do you know him to Jerry? Who Jerry Casale from the band Divo?

No, I don’t know him I mean I’ve admired Divo from a distance for years obviously, but I don’t know any of them and yes I mean, but you can tell can’t you that from the Divo that they’re not your regular Rock and whole group.

That’s right. They actually, they’re seeking at a weird angle on everything, you know, so we need bands like that for sure, you know, and it’s, and it’s because they’re experimentalists. I mean,

some of the best pop musicians ever, like David Bowie, are experimentalists. And that’s why, for example, every third album of his was not very good because he was going in an area that he didn’t stand yet,

but he had to grapple with it. So with him, another artist like that, every successful album isn’t followed by another successful album all the time.

They have to be divergent and look in other places. I think that’s really important. Tell me about Indo -fusion of the Holly Water Band. Once someone asked me to construct,

because I’m interested in Indian music and in film music as well. And someone who was making a film about water conservation and the rivers in India said, “Would I consult on the music for the film?” I said,

“Sure, it sounded like an interesting project.” And he’d already met up with some musicians there in northeast India in Varanasi. And we ended up meeting and writing music together,

recording it for the film, which was never completed, by the way, the film never got finished. But by that stage, as it were, formed a band. And we went on tour in India and in New Zealand.

And it was completely wonderful. And we love each other. And it’s a kind of musical marriage made in heaven. I wanted to learn more about Indian,

North Indian classical music. So It was a great opportunity to do that. And the musicians are brilliant and very generous in teaching me as well. So I just get involved and wherever we can,

we play together. And then tell me about the Visual Astronomy Project. Oh, my gosh. Well, one day a message from an astronomer who makes films about the night sky and such subjects called Jose Francisco Salgado and he was at the time working at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago and he wanted to license a piece of music that I’ve made.

It was actually a piece of music by Babel. He wanted to just use it in a film for a lecture and I said, “You know, I can get in touch with the publisher and the record company and ask them and get the permissions that you choir and all the rest of it.

But I’m not doing anything this week. Why don’t I just write a new piece of music for the film instead? It would probably be simpler and a lot less boring than chasing up the admin on all of that,

you know, to actually make some music. And I thought that would be, you know, like a few days’ work. We ended up making 12 films together. It was a fantastic thing and we still,

when we can, do such things. He does a lot of work with making films that synchronize to classical pieces that are performed by an orchestra in front of a projection of things about the night sky or aurora or the influence of the moon on tides.

It’s kind of scientific things to do with astronomy. I’m asking this question with tongue -in -cheek. What do you do in your spare time? Ah,

well, I just, last night I flew back from France where I live when there is spare time, and I had a couple of weeks there,

working on a very old house, fixing it up and gardening, and going for long walks in the forest and cycling over the mountains and for the rest of it. I like a country lifestyle to forget about the kind of urban rock and roll that takes up most of my life.

So the totally tubular festival hitting somewhere near you coming up, first time you’ve been back in six years to the US, is that right? Yeah,

it’s taken too long, of course, because of COVID. Normally, you can leave it three years and that’s enough. But yeah, so we’ve been looking for ways of getting back to the States all this time.

And then this, this possibility came up and it seemed like a really good idea and we jumped into it. And as I say, I’m very pleased to be finally working with Thomas Dolby. And it’s a relatively big tour.

I think we’re doing 30 odd dates with a few extras here and there. Modern English, men without hats, the Romantics, Bow Wow Oh, wow. Tommy Tutone, The Plim Souls.

I want to know who’s got the stage management job because getting all those bands on and off in time is going to be hard work. You got that right. Tell me about the current band that you’re playing with.

Well, my band is an incredible group of musicians. They’re all female, actually. There’s something I’ve, for some reason, that just emerged as an idea and it’s now become a tradition.

I love working with women and they bring a new energy, a different kind of energy to men in contemporary music. Some of them are fairly young as well,

which means, I mean, I sometimes mention when I introduced them that they weren’t born when the songs they’re about to play were written. So they have a different take on it all together,

you know, they’re not going, “Oh, the good old days.” They’re going, “What’s this?” And it’s fascinating to work with them. In fact, they’re not always consistently available.

So at the beginning of this tour, I’ve got some different people playing with me and after about a week, it settles into the usual team that we have. But that’s one of the things I’ve discovered is that,

I mean, back in the 80s, I mean, sure, you could get female back in vocalists. And with a lot of searching, we, for example, found a female bassist and a female guitarist for one of our tours.

But generally speaking, there wasn’t the kind of gene pool of female musicians that there is now. And they’re incredibly clever female musicians available to work now.

So something’s changed. I think that’s a great, great news. Tom Bailey, one of the coolest guys on the planet. Good luck on the totally tubular tour, festival,

and have a blast with it. And thanks for all the great music that you continue to give us. You’re very kind. Well, it’s my pleasure. And I’m so much looking forward to getting to the States and having a good time.

Travel safe, sir. We’ll do. Okay. Take care. Thank you. Bye -bye. Bye, Tom. Tom Bailey, Thompson Twins, hitting the states on the totally tubular tour.

What a blast talking to him on the “Taking a Walk” podcast. Available on the iHeart Radio app, Apple podcast, or wherever you get your podcasts.

About The Author

Buzz Knight

Buzz Knight is an established media executive with a long history of content creation and multi-platform distribution.

After a successful career as a Radio Executive, he formed Buzz Knight Media which focuses on strategic guidance and the development of new original content.