English singer Thomas Bailey will always be remembered as the lead vocalist and composer for the band Thompson Twins. Thanks to a string of hits like "Hold Me Now" and "Doctor! Doctor!," the group was kept at the top of the charts for years.
Bailey was the only formally trained member of Thompson Twins, with a background in classical piano. He formed the band back in 1977 and continued with them until the final album, Queer, in 1991.
His first solo project is called Science Fiction and was released in July of this year.
During a recent Ravinia stop on tour with Culture Club and The B-52s, Bailey spoke backstage about his lengthy career in the music business.
Windy City Times: Did you always want to be in music?
Tom Bailey: I believe so. I have done other things, but it never lasted very long. [Laughs] I taught as music teacher at school.
People ask me why did the other two leave, but the fact is they never played another note of music when they left the band. It is all I have ever done, really. I wake up in the morning and want to make music.
WCT: Is Thompson Twins named from your name Thomas?
TB: No. We were looking for a name and we stole it from a Belgian cartoon called The Adventures of Tintin. There were twin characters Thomson and Thompson who were detectives. They would goof everything they did, but would arrive at the right conclusion.
WCT: When did you first realize the band was big?
TB: We were very lucky to be big in America. Not every group in the UK that was our contemporary had that opportunity. Part of it was what we did, but the other part was good timing. We made a wacky video the week that MTV wanted something from the UK. They put "Lies" in high rotation. The video opened lots of doors for us, but wasn't a big hit musically.
WCT: Did you hear from gay fans after Queer came out?
TB: Not really. Alannah Currie was obsessed at the time with poet Edith Sitwell. She had a particular way of saying the word "queer." We wanted to include that in a song, then decided to call the album that. At the time it felt like something was being reclaimed by using the word.
WCT: What have you been working on since that album?
TB: Everyone thinks I have been relaxing by the pool. I haven't sat down for 30 years! I have been making music that will never appear on the charts. It is for an underground project or film music.
WCT: How does it feel to put out your first solo album Science Fiction?
TB: I got back onstage singing Thompson Twins' hits. I felt not completely satisfied because it was nostalgia. I wanted something more current creatively.
WCT: Where was it recorded?
TB: On my laptop, sometimes lying in bed after a show, at a friend's house or in the back of the bus. Back in the day I had to schedule at least three months to make an album. Times have changed.
WCT: The track "What Kind of World" sounds retro. What is the story behind it?
TB: There was a catchiness of that phrase "What kind of world are we living in?" It's about there being an escape on another planet for rich people and we need get things right now.
When I was writing it David Bowie died. He was a massive influence.
WCT: Did you ever meet Bowie?
TB: Yes, I did. I opened for him at a concert in Scotland. There was a ramp where he drove onto the stage in his limo. He performed then got back in the car and left. He didn't speak to a single person.
WCT: Do you have a favorite memory with Madonna?
TB: I gave her a big break when I introduced her at Live Aid, didn't [I]? [Laughs] We were trying to get away from fans at Live Aid and we accidentally walked into a room there, not much bigger than this one, and there was Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Tina Turner and a few other people as well. I realized we had gone in the wrong room and turned to walk away, but Madonna stayed. That is the difference between me and her.
WCT: British musician Hal Ritson produced Science Fiction?
TB: The vocals. I made the decision that when I am singing I can't be the producer and the engineer as well. I need to totally be the performer. I thought it best to get the best performance out of me vocally was to have someone else capturing it.
WCT: How do you maintain that voice after all this time?
TB: I am the laziest person of all time. I don't smoke or drink. I am vegan. I don't exercise, only a little cycling. The advantages of being lazy is I sleep a lot and that is the best thing for your voice. You have to look after yourself with the pressures of touring.
WCT: Have you learned anything from touring with The B-52s and Culture Club?
TB: We are all friends. My band is very young so they are thrilled to be around the old soldiers of rock and roll.
I had never met The B-52s until now. I had been a massive fan of theirs ever since their cassette got stuck in my car player and wouldn't turn off. I know their first album better than they do!
WCT: Is there a song that you are sick of playing live?
TB: Yes, so I don't play it…
For more on the tour and music, visit ThompsonTwinsTomBailey.co.uk .