In 1985/6, Duran Duran, after working non stop since 1981, decided to take a break. Oddly, rather than relax, the members splintered into two different groups instead and John and Andy Taylor ended up forming The Power Station. The group began as something of a whim—it was a one-time gathering of friends to provide backing to model and would-be singer Bebe Buell who wanted to record a cover of the 1972 T.Rex song Get It On ( Bang A Gong). Andy and John were eager to branch out from the synth heavy pop of Duran Duran and play rock ‘n’ roll – just for a break – and dug in. I’m not 100% sure how Tony Thompson became involved but it’s most likely through Nile Rodgers – both of Chic fame. (Nile had done production work for Duran). Anyway, John, Andy and Tony had the idea that the group would be a sort of supergroup. The three of them would all play on the album but there would be different lead singers and names such as Mick Jagger and Billy Idol were approached, as was Robert Palmer, who John and Andy knew from a charity concert at Villa Park in aid of MENCAP (Duran actually invited him to play). Palmer was asked to record the vocals for Communication and when he heard the group were also doing Get It On he asked to try for that one as well. Eventually the guys thought it’d be cool to use him for the entire album and the rest, as they say, is history. Bernard Edwards, also of Chic fame, was brought in to produce the album, now called 33⅓*
The first single, Some Like It Hot, reached number 14 in the UK and number 6 in the U.S. and I have to say I was really impressed – especially with John’s bass skills (I’m a bass whore). The song was really cool and both my brother and I loved it.
[EMI are still jerks so if you’d like to see the video please click here].
The guys released the album in March 1985 and it went to number 12 in the UK and number 6 on the US, which was impressive. [btw the band named themselves The Power Station after the recording studio the group was conceived of and recorded in].
(I always felt it was a mistake for the cover of Communication to break from the art of the first two singles)
The band’s second single I remember, was a huge hit and everyone loved it. Of course, that was Get It On (Bang A Gong). It went to number 22 in the UK and number 9 in the U.S., while competing against Duran Duran’s A View To A Kill, which was number one in the US – so it was a pretty good time for John and Andy lol. It was a good time for Duran fans as well, as seeing Duran members both as Duran and their various splinter groups grace covers of countless teen magazines was a treat. Not only that of course, being an average Duran fan meant there were many records and posters to be bought!
Oddly, for some reason The Power Station’s third single, Communication was not as successful; it barely reached the Top 40 in the U.S., and disappeared after hitting number 75 in the UK. I could venture a guess and say it might have been the crappy video but who really knows.
For me, personally, the absolute best song on 33 & 1/3 is Murderess. It is utterly fantastic and my favorite on the album. Sadly the band didn’t release a video for it but below is a fanmade one. It’s crappy but song isn’t of course. Again – the song is absolutely brilliant and I eagerly encourage you to take a listen if you haven’t heard it before. I’m not the only one who thought Murderess should’ve been the 3rd single rather than Communication. Everything is popping on this song. Tony Thompson is a brilliant drummer and Andy’s guitar playing is some of his best, as is John’s bass.
Happily, the band released a collection of the their three music videos called The Power Station Video EP. It was mildly interesting (I feel bad saying that as a JT fan :/) but not a patch on Arcadia’s.
Moving on, the group’s unexpected success led to two incompatible results: the band decided to do a summer tour in America while Robert Palmer decided to record a solo album. Obviously, this led to Palmer’s departure from the band, which surprised us fans, I must say. We actually all thought it was a dickish move. Not to be deterrred, the group scouted actor/singer Michael Des Barres and successfully toured with him as lead singer instead. Michael also performed as lead singer during the band’s Live Aid gig as well.
Probably the second and final episode of Miami Vice I’d ever watched, I watched for John. Michael Des Barres’ friendship with Don Johnson landed the band on an episode of the show. I barely recall it, as it was so long ago, but if I recall correctly, it wasn’t really worth watching. Being a hopeless teenager and madly in love with John Taylor though, I obviously waited with baited breath to see him and being conversely excited and disappointed at the same time. Disappointed because the band played in the background of a bar and John had about two lines. The whole scene lasted about 5 minutes. Pft. (I was expecting something better).
Not only was Michael friends with Johnson, he was also friends with Hollywood producer Joel Silver (he’s produced many movies you love, trust me). This in turn lead to The Power Station writing a song called We Fight for Love for Schwarzenegger’s film Commando.
The band folded late in 1985 and I have to admit I was relieved, as rumors or Duran’s splitting up continued to cause angst among us Duranies. With The Power Station over and done, we all breathed a little sigh of relief.
*The album is referred to as 33⅓ as the sleeve for the original vinyl record bore that name. For all you young ‘uns out there, that was the speed you played LP (long playing aka albums) at on a record player/turntable. Later, compact disc issues used CD as the title instead. It’s kinda stupid but – what can you do? :S