The Singer tells OK! that he's not only "Addicted To Love" but also fashion, his family and, of course, music.
"Look at this", says Robert Palmer. "Check out these shoes, they're unbelievable. They're like footgloves." We are standing in a photographer's studio in Milan and the singer is in his element. He and his american girlfriend, Mary Ambrose, have driven down from their futuristic Swiss home just over the italian border this morning. His cigarette case is full, the drinks are on tap and a rail full of designer clothing is ready to be draped on his compact muscular frame. What's more, he is rather pleased with his new album Rhythm And Blues.
There's nothing half-hearted about Robert Palmer. He either adores something or loathes it. Ask him about his favourite designers and those big names trip off the tongue: Gianfranco Ferre, Armani, Gucci. "I wouldn't wear them on stage though, because I'm wet through after an hour and a half, I'd ruin them. It's not that I'm precious about my clothes, but I wear copies of my favourite suits that I can throw in the wash.
His passion for fashion can be traced back to his childhood when he grew up in the midst of the international naval scene in Malta. Those Italian uniforms and the grand balls, coupled with an adoration of the style of Fifties' icons like Cary Grant, made a real impression on young Robert.
And as soon as he had some money in his pocket, he was able to emulate that style. "I like wearing formal attire, what the Italians call 'smoking', with a white dinner jacket, bow tie, the lot. But it's difficult to find places where you can dress elegantly and feel comfortable without sticking out and looking ridiculous." But he and Mary have found those places - where they live in Lugano, Switzerland and here in Milan. "Italian clothes appeal to me because of the quality of the tailoring and the craftsmanship. It's a matter of pride to them. They won't have something in their shop that isn't really fine."
Robert Palmer is clearly warming to his subject, while posing in a sleek leather jacket and low-cut trousers. He goes on to talk about his music. "It would be nice if listeners felt moved emotionally, I like to sing love songs because those are the things that move me,." he says.
Before he could work on Rhythm And Blues Robert had to negotiate the fall-out from the collapse of his previous record company. The only disappointment was that his 1994 album, Honey, was given no promotion. "It vanished, but you can't take it personally because the majority of acts suffered more than I did. So I decided to take more control and I'm autonomous now. I've made this new record on my own."
So what's the record like? Well, Robert's eclectic taste and restless nature usually sees him zipping around a whole host of styles on any one album, but this time he wanted to make a piece of music that lasted 50 minutes with a consistent mood. "It's a record you could get lost in," he says. "And as it's all basically love songs, the difficulty was to come at the same subject from different points of view, going from the eroticism of I Choose You to the overtness of True Love."
Experience has taught him to be a realist though and he knows his album is another product in a crowded market. At 50, Robert who has collaborated with such artists as Elkie Brooks, Duran Duran and The Meters, says, "I think the only way to succeed is by risking failure and doing something heartfelt."
His partner, Mary, is one inspiration, and he wrote Simply Irresistible in 1988 for her. "She tells me what not to do and she's really organised," he explains. "It's what it should be: a total partnership."
Robert originally moved his family to Switzerland from Nassau, in the Bahamas, for the sake of his young children. "I wanted them to have a neutral education in a country that didn't consider itself the centre of the universe," he says. "Where there are four languages and the curriculum for history is world history."
Today their dad glows with pride as he speaks about them. "James (21) is making his first album and his songwriting astounds me." So much so, that Robert has financed Palmer Junior's demo. Jane (19) is still dabbling, says her father. "She's a very gifted artist, experimenting with different techniques and materials."
Meanwhile, Robert is content to be a bit of a chameleon musically. "Think of Johnny And Mary, She Makes My Day, Addicted To Love - they're all so different. Half the time people don't link them with me." He stops to think. "Perhaps it's got something to do with my longevity, that I've never been pinned down."
Helen Jerome (OK! Magazine - Octobre 1999)