music, x marks the pod

X Pod Episode 8: The terrific Thompson Twins

Hello, Gen Xers and Gen X sympathizers! Quick note on show notes today — I’m going to start doing these episodes as both a podcast AND a blog post, so you can check them out on the medium of your choice. Here on the site, you can scan through the transcript and see more links and videos, but I recommend listening to the podcast. Especially if you’re driving.

Here we go …

One mistake a lot of people make in looking at 80s music is dismissing pop musicians because they have nice hair or funny videos or whatever. Critics wrote off Duran Duran as pretty boys, only later realizing that John Taylor is a fantastic funk bass player and Nick Rhodes is a keyboard pioneer. 

And when you think of the Thompson Twins, the first thing you think of is probably hair. 

That’s not fair. 

You might also think they were a band that had a superfluous member or two — the classic “What did Andrew Ridgeley contribute to Wham?” question. After all, bands of that era sometimes recruited people specifically for their looks. That was taken to an extreme when the band ABC added a blonde bombshell (who happened to be an irreverent music journalist) and a very short, bald Japanese man, neither of whom played any instruments. 

In Thompson Twins, Tom Bailey was the lead singer, the guitarist, the keyboardist, the bassist and the co-producer. Alannah Currie, in addition to having the most eye-catching hair this side of A Flock of Seagulls, sang backup and played percussion. Joe Leeway was pictured with a bass on occasion and played a bit of keyboards live, but he was hired as a conga player and backup singer who came to the band as a roadie after a brief career in theater. 

Thompson Twins were a trio (yes, we know, they’re neither Thompsons nor twins — it’s apparently a literary allusion of some kind) after they got rid of all the members of a traditional rock band — two guitarists, a bassist and a drummer.

But just as you can’t write off image-conscious bands, you can’t write off image-conscious members. Watch Thompson Twins videos and live clips, and you’ll see that Currie can play. And if you track their career, you’ll see that they tailed off after Leeway left, which may or may not be coincidental.

Before that happened, they had one of those careers in which they were only big for 3-4 years, but they packed a lot into those years. A LOT.

Let’s take a look. This is X Marks the Pod.

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