It's not easy, being one of the handsome young men of rock and roll. Quite clearly, Robert Palmer is just that. Palmer is also the Great White Hope of a record company that's made its mark in the USA with reggae music, and his style has been influenced by that predicament, at least on record. Palmer favors a rhythm and blues sound that's something borrowed and something blue, and he has even recorded reggae, with success. His two albums, Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley and Pressure Drop, have developped a solid following here, many of whom are attracted by Palmer's enticing elegance.
We accompanied Robert Palmer to his tailor's during his brief visit to New York recently, because he wanted to know just what makes for enticing elegance. Palmer is preparing for a major US tour and a third record will be released concurrent to his concert appearances. "I want this to be the definitive," he told designer Jacques Bellini.
We sat in Bellini's upstairs chambers, reserved for the special customers who require the designer's personal attention. Bellini has designed for multitudes of stars, and he is quick to namedrop. It is an impressive lot. Robert Palmer likes that kind of company.
Palmer wore an outfit composed of a crisp white shirt, lime green V-neck sweater with white piping, and snug, white gabardine trousers. Elegant. We also noticed that Palmer kept all his personal effects - money, keys, lighter, etc. - in a manila envelope which he hand-carried so that, we assumed, his pants pockets wouldn't bulge. Enticing.
Palmer, Bellini and Palmer's manager, a strong-willed woman named Connie deNave, were sitting around a large table dotted with filled brandy snifters when we joined the conversation.
"I want the rhythm section to be dressed exactly alike," said Palmer.
"And the bongo player?" asked the accented Bellini.
"And the three singers, alike again!" Jacques was very enthusiastic.
Bellini explained, with great hand-flourish: "It has to combine, all co-ordinated with colors, with him," he directed this to Palmer's manager "at the top, like steps up to a temple. Only one outfit, it's a freak-out," he said disparagingly. "You turn around and you are a complete different. It's a love song, a pep song."
"Jack," Ms deNave cut in, "when Robert sings, it's like an intercommunication with himself. When you say 'I've got four outfits,' I don't need it. He's only been wearing very handsome suits."
"I wore a black jumpsuit of yours once," said Robert to Jacques.
"Yes, a jumpsuit, I will make one for you," Bellini said, draining and refilling his glass, but not sooner than Palmer. "I don't want you to be a stranger in your own clothes. Please, walk for me."
Palmer lit a Dunhill cigarette with a Dunhill lighter, and reluctantly rose and paced the room back and forth. Bellini jumped out of his chair. "No!" he shouted. "You must walk with your head up! Don't ever be afraid of people. You must give light! You must be Con Edison for the zoo!"
A blonde jet-set type stuck her head through the velvet curtain and motioned to Bellini. "Jill St John is waiting downstairs, but I don't care," he said. "She doesn't have an appointment. You do. Now, what about the girls?"
"The girls are sexy, but not sh-boom." Palmer said to the designer.
"Hm. For you, what about a rust satin suit?"
"Rust yes, satin no."
"I want to put you in earth colors. You are to skinny for black. It makes you" he turned his back to us, and wheeled around, "too dramatic. I make two suits, one jumpsuit, rust and chocolate brown."
"I don't know" said Palmer. "It's very American. What about rust and lime green?"
Stan Mieses (Harlan Daily Enterprise - Octobre 1976)