They said they wouldn't tour. Three of them were wrong. Suzan Colon and David Keeps investigate the "constantly evolving project" called The Power Station.
Robert Palmer seems excited. He also seems perfectly at home in the swank surroundings of the Essex House on the edge of Central Park. But, after all, he's the pop star most likely to be found in an elegant suit. Is this suave, white wine-sipping image really consistent with the raucous rock and funk of The Power Station?
"It doesn't really concern me. Uh, I do enjoy wine and good food and clothes... well, on a superficial level the image is real," he concedes. "But it's mostly a disguise so I can get into good restaurants! I suppose it's better than having the image of a drug addict or a religious zealot!"
Well, as long as we're on the subject of good grooming and godliness, just why has Mr. Palmer dressed as a priest in the Some Like It Hot video? "Well, Andy's supposed to be a Mexican bandit, John's a gambler, Tony's a rocker. And they said 'You be a priest!' I already had the black suit, so I just turned my collar up," he giggles. "You watch, priest suits will be all the rage!"
Perharps that explains why Robert Palmer is burning incense in his king's-ransom-a-day suite. (He certainly doesn't explain it.) He's also burning a bit of the old midnight oil, too. On this particular night he's due to co-write the new theme song for the stud-cop TV drama Miami Vice with Bernard Edwards (for no less than Chaka Khan to croon). He's also recording his next LP with Bernard producing ("I knew within five minutes that I had to have him") and choosing the list of songs for the Power Station tour.
"It's just like the album - there are no rules. We can play anything we fancy, really - some of my stuff, some Chic stuff, some Duran stuff. There's no reason we can't do the current Number One, whatever that is." Uh, gee Bob, the current Number One is Everything She Wants by Wham! "Oh, I don't think we'll bother with that then!" Robert chuckles, a little red in the cheeks.
"This tour," he explains, "was just a matter of too many phone calls and people saying, 'Well, you're not doing anything else, why not?' and us saying, 'Well... all right!' It was force of demand, really. Initially when we were asked if we would tour it seemed impossible and impractical. This is very sudden."
Not as sudden as the strangest new chapter in the unpredictable story of The Power Station...
NEWSFLASH! READ ALL ABOUT IT!
ROBERT PALMER WILL NOT BE TOURING WITH THE POWER STATION!!!
REPLACED BY MICHAEL DES BARRES!!!!!
"Every interview I've done today they've asked me things like 'How are you coping?'" John Taylor chuckles. "Well, we've had a bit of a trauma. It was a complete surprise. I was on holiday and had to come back and decide if we were going to do it. We'd announced the tour and kids had bought tickets and the rest of us were still really into it. So we spent about two days hemming and hawing and then said 'We're gonna do it!'"
Well, what happened? "Please don't ask me why Robert decided not to tour. I know he's got recording commitments and he's still in the studio and very determined to get his record finished. We're still friends, but I just wish he'd told us earlier. But I know he's behind us touring all the way. I mean we had conversations about who we can get to replace him."
They got lucky on their first call to Michael Des Barres, who supported Duran on their last tour as the lead singer for Chequered Past. "He has a similar style and said he could do it and it's working out well," John says, obviously relieved. "So now it means we can say 'Well, you know, The Power Station was always meant to be a constantly evolving project anyway.'"
Sounds a wee bit chaotic. "It's a different kind of chaos, that's for sure. Power Station has given me a crash course in every aspect of organization. With Duran you can let yourself be guided through he day, but this project I really had to work for. We had to put the album back two months in order to sort out contracts because everybody in the band has different lawyers. It's been uphill. It's a shame really, because it makes you realize that as much as you pride yourself on any artistry in what you do, it's still very much a business."
And after the tour it will be business as usual with the Duran gang. "We're going to have to adopt a different approach," John confesses. "Seven And The Ragged Tiger took almost seven months which I think is way too long. We'll be starting in September and a few weeks later Simon will be going on his yacht race, so we'll be mixing it while he's off sailing."
He seems particularly keen to get back in the studio. "Oh God yes, especially after I heard what they were doing. It's a bit of a cliché to say but it's very different from Duran and very, very different from Power Station. I think it's going to surprise a lot of people. Before these projects we'd only ever worked with the same people and you can get a little bit of tunnel vision. We should all have gained quite a bit of knowledge."
But first there's at least another month of Power Station gigs to fire Mr. T's enthusiasm. "We're going to do some of our favorite songs and some that you know and love and songs from the album and some surprises that I'm not gonna tell you about," J.T. teases. "Perharps there'll be a live LP too. It's always difficult to predict and I don't know whether Power Station will go on after this anyway. But we're going to make this a goodtime night out as opposed to just another concert. That's why we're doing as many open air gigs as possible. I've never done a summer tour before, but it's going to be a whole different vibe. I'm really looking forward to it."
So are we, John. So are we.
Suzan Colon and David Keeps (Star Hits - 1985)