What do you do when one of your favorite bands splits up and goes their separate ways? Well, in the case of Talking Heads, you keep listening to the music you fell in love with, enjoy the solo projects they all have, and keep wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’ that they’ll get back together for a reunion tour (or just watch STOP MAKING SENSE again).
In the case of The Police, you keep listening to the music you fell in love with, enjoy the solo projects they all have, and see them on their 2007 reunion tour (like I did), because it’ll prolly never happen again.
And, in the case of Duran Duran in 1985 – one of the first bands that meant a lot to me during the early 80s – you keep hoping they’ll get back together in some form and keep listening to the music you fell in love with. Duran Duran actually made it easy. After their 1983 album, SEVEN AND THE RAGGED TIGER, the band went on a “planned” hiatus, splitting into two side projects, but not without giving us the live ARENA album and their second No. 1 song, “A View To A Kill,” from the James Bond film of the same name.
Frontman and lead singer Simon LeBon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes and drummer Roger Taylor went on to form Arcadia, which was reminiscent of their work with Duran Duran. Bassist John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor went a different route with their band, what would become the “supergroup” The Power Station.
The Power Station had an edgier Rock / Funk sound that John and Andy Taylor weren’t able to pull off with Duran Duran. In 1984, Bebe Buell, singer and former model, part-time Portlander and the biological mother to actress Liv Tyler, was dating John Taylor, and she wanted to do a cover of T. Rex’s 1972 classic, “Get It On (Bang A Gong).” John proceeded to get some of his famous music friends together to help out, and instead, it turned into something more.
John and Andy reached out to their idols from the 70s Dance/Soul band, Chic. The amazing Tony Thompson was on board as the drummer, and Bernard Edwards would be the producer. Now, they needed a singer. John and Andy approached folks like Billy Idol, Mick Jagger, Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs and Mick Ronson, who had worked with David Bowie and Morrissey.
Originally the band was to be called Big Brother, and the initial idea was to have a revolving door of lead singers, each one singing on a different track on the album. English singer / songwriter Robert Palmer – who had released several albums since 1975, but with limited success around the globe – had performed live with Duran Duran once in 1983, and was the invited vocalist for the song, “Communication.” Robert had heard they were doing a cover of “Get It On” and wanted to try out for it, and instead, the band ended up doing the whole album with Robert Palmer.
The entire band – Robert Palmer on vocals, John Taylor on bass, Andy Taylor on guitar, and Tony Thompson on those amazing drums – appeared on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE on February 16, 1985, and were introduced to the world. And from there, The Power Station was a hit, as was their self-titled album, which was certified Gold in the U.K. and reached the Top 10 on the BILLBOARD album chart.
The “supergroup” also had three Top 40 singles on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, “Some Like It Hot” (No. 6 for 2 weeks, May 1985), their cover of “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” (No. 9 for 2 weeks, August 1985, surpassing the No. 10 peak of the T. Rex original) and “Communication” (No. 34 for 2 weeks, October 1985). (“Get It On” also reached No. 22 in the U.K., and No. 8 in Australia.)
For those keeping score, The Power Station did fare better overall than the other equally short-lived Duran Duran side project, Arcadia, whose album, SO RED THE ROSE, was certified Platinum here in the U.S., and they had a couple of Top 40 singles – “Election Day” (No. 6, 1985) and “Goodbye Is Forever” (No. 33), as well as a MTV video hit with “The Flame.”
By the end of 1985, The Power Station was no more. But, the experience breathed new life and then some into Robert Palmer’s career. Before the year was out, his eighth studio album, RIPTIDE, was released (recruiting fellow Power Stationers Bernard Edwards as producer, Andy Taylor on guitar, and Tony Thompson on drums). It was the biggest album of Robert Palmer’s career. Remember those memorable drums and that guitar solo on his No. 1 hit, “Addicted To Love?” – it was courtesy of Tony and Andy.
Tony Thompson went on to provide drum support for some acts, and appeared in a few bands, along with the brief return of Chic in 1992. John Taylor opted to return to Duran Duran, while Andy Taylor did not return in lieu of a solo career. Both John and Andy had separate Top 30 singles on the Hot 100 in 1986, and both were movie songs. Andy Taylor could also be found on other hit singles in the second half of the 80s, providing his guitar talents for several artists, notably on Belinda Carlisle’s “Mad About You” (1986) and “Lost In You” and “Forever Young,” from Rod Stewart’s 1989 album, OUT OF ORDER.
They would all get back together in 1996 for their second album, LIVING IN FEAR, though John Taylor had to drop out of the project and wasn’t on the record. Bernard Edwards was all set to tour with The Power Station, but tragically died during a trip to Japan. Robert Palmer and Tony Thompson both sadly passed away in 2003, within a couple months of each other. Robert had just released a Blues album.
Today, Duran Duran is touring in support of their fourteenth studio album, the wonderful PAPER GODS (Andy Taylor did rejoin the band for their 2004 album, ASTRONAUT, but it was not to be, and the other band members have continued on without him). With my dear friend Shawn, we saw Duran Duran (with Chic opening) in Brooklyn back in April 2016. Both bands were brilliant, and both paid tribute to David Bowie. It is one of THE best shows I’ve ever seen in my life.
And “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” is one of THE best covers I’ve ever heard. You can hear John Taylor’s impressive, funky bass work; Andy Taylor’s killer guitar; the booming drums courtesy of Tony Thompson; and, the memorable, passionate vocals of Robert Palmer. One of the things I loved most about The Power Station – and you can especially hear it on this song – is that every member of the “supergroup” is represented, and they never let you forget that…