Music-making situations where everything sparks happen maybe twice in a lifetime, says singer Robert Palmer, mostly known for Rhythm'n'Blues. The second time it happened for him was in making The Power Station with bassist John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor of Duran Duran and drummer Tony Thompson of Chic. Bernard Edwards of Chic produced.
Palmer's first musical "perfect situation," he says, was when he left bands in England and made his first solo album, Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley, in 1974 for Island Records.
"The music we've made is undeniable," Palmer says of The Power Station, released in March by Capitol Records. "It is beyond all our expectations. We're all rather unnerved by it."
"It isn't as if we're green about all the prevalent aspects of music. But you don't know what you're going to get. It is only chemistry. Putting music down on a tape - I know it is an old-fashioned word - but it is nothing but vibes. You can get the best people and do a professional rendition but to get something that has excitement, you can't try to do it or fake it. When you fall into something like this, you're driven by it."
"We were in a situation where you can do what you do to your best ability, without anybody breathing down your neck. This thing took all the players over."
"When that happens, it can get out of control and go out the window. But Bernard can keep the lid on. You trust the guy to know the right moves to make."
The first single, released before the album, is Some Like It Hot. When they started the project, Palmer says, "It made us all sort of nervous. It is like starting again to the extent you're working on a blind instinct rather than what you know works. But we listened to it and knew we were creating something entirely fresh."
"Another strange aspect is, I get on fairly well with the media. Duran Duran doesn't. Everybody thinks they're pretty faces making videos. A lot of people are going to have to adjust their preconceptions when they're faced with the music we've made."
Palmer calls The Power Station "what we did on our holidays, basically." Duran Duran went on to make the theme music for the next James Bond movie. Edwards is producing Palmer's new solo album, plus playing bass on it. Palmer has been producing himself for seven years and has been looking for the right producer, for one thing to help him decide which of his many compositions to record.
His wife designs fabrics. They have a daughter, 7, and a son, 5.
Even before Duran Duran was formed, Palmer says, John Taylor had the idea of blending Rhythm'n'Blues Dance music with Pop music.
Palmer met Duran Duran members socially, about five years ago. "They weren't the usual negative, cynical people. They liked the whole thing; I enjoyed that in them."
"John and I talked about his idea in art school days of what Duran Duran was going to be, before he actually met the players and everything changed. We both had full schedules. The last time we talked about it, Duran Duran was doing a charity show in London at a football ground. I'd flown in from Vancouver to do this one show. The following day I had to fly to San Fransisco to do a show."
"The next time he called me, he was actually in a New York studio doing it. John's inspiration to play bass had been Bernard Edwards. Through a series of wonderful events, starting with meeting on the David Bowie tour, he'd actually hooked up with this guy. Andy Taylor twisted John's arm to be bold enough to ask his hero bass player if he would be interested in working on this project."
"When they called me, they had four tracks down. I was in the midst of my solo album. They sent me a cassette of the tune John was interested in me doing. I booked a flight that evening. I carried the cassette with me and wrote the words to the song on the plane. I caught a cab from the airport to the studio; I knew sessions started at 8 at night. I walked in and said, "It goes something like this." They flipped. We played it and it just clicked."
"It was a producer I'd never met and a drummer I'd only heard on records. We listened to the tape; it worked perfectly. Then we started really thinking seriously about it. They asked how I'd feel about singing another one. It became a quartet all of a sudden."
Instead of John Taylor's original idea of getting different singers for different songs, Palmer sang them all. They hired a producer for the video and designed the album cover before Capitol Records really knew what was going on. Palmer says, "Company executives were saying, "I didn't know the boys were so talented" and "How did this happened?"." Money that's made will be split evenly, six ways, Palmer says, among the four performers, producer and engineer.
Mary Campbell - AP Newsfeatures Writer (Chicago Tribune - Mai 1985)