Remember last week, while I was writing about “Faceless” rock band, I covered Asia, and labeled them as one of the first supergroups of the Eighties. So, after some discussion this weekend with my boys and nephews who are grown men, I decided that maybe I should go with supergroups this week.
Back in the late-Sixties, Rolling Stone ran a faux article about a supergroup being started that was including Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan and John Lennon. Now, this group never was happening, but several of these types of bands, such as Blind Faith; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; and Cream. By definition, a supergroup is a group of musicians from successful bands who are coming together to form a new group. Generally speaking, the public becomes very excited about the potential of this new band.
Well, in 1985, I got extremely excited about a band that was being formed called The Power Station. The Power Station was going to have singer Robert Palmer (hit songs: “Bad Case of Loving You”, “Games People Play”), drummer Tony Thompson from the great disco band Chic, and Duran Duran bassist John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor (not related). This band was being described as the true sound that Duran Duran wanted to begin with – a combination of Chic and the Sex Pistols, with a little glam rock thrown in for good measure. And the band was going to be produced by Chic co-mastermind and bassist Bernard Edwards. So, my excitement level was palpable.
The original idea of the band was to have a revolving door of musicians and singers come and go while recording a song or two. The list of singers included blue-eyed soul singer Robert Palmer, Billy Idol, Robert Plant and Psychedelic Fur lead singer Richard Butler, to name a few. Palmer had helped the group demo this funky rock sound with the lead vocals in order to guide the other singers through the songs. When Plant came in to record his vocals and heard Palmer’s vocals, he told the musicians to stick with Palmer because he felt no one could improve upon Palmer’s work. So, the recording line-up was set, with the Duranies determine to tone down the synthesizer use as not to confuse this new band with the band that made them famous.
If you go back to listen to the album now, you will hear a successful amalgamation of funk and hard rock. Palmer’s vocals are so soulful that they eerily remind one of Rod Stewart’s work in the Jeff Beck Group’s highly influential and successful sound, only in an Eighties setting. For my money, The Power Station set the sonic tone of tying Eighties hard rock, R&B and funk together into a highly underappreciated sound. Andy Taylor is allowed to record Steve Vai-like solo shreds, while bassist John Taylor and drummer Tony Thompson hold down the funky soulful bottom end all the while remaining in a groove pocket that makes every song as danceable as the other. And when the band takes on the Glam Rock classic T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong (Get It On)”, you feel as though you are actually hearing the re-invention of the rock and roll sound. Between that song and the other hit, “Some Like It Hot”, the rock world was handed a funky hard rock sound that should have inspired a whole new musical. Too bad it was ignored, and the sound of Bon Jovi and Poison was instead chosen as the blueprint of glam metal, since in my opinion the L.A. glam scene was missing the funky dancing that all great rock music will have.
Then again, The Power Station was using a seasoned R&B singer instead a macho screamer who was dressed as a woman. The Power Station’s sound did get carried over to Robert Palmer’s next solo album, Riptide, that was released the following year, 1986. On that album, Palmer included the funky metal songs “Addicted to Love” and “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On”. Then, the sound disappeared. Duran Duran did not incorporate it, so Andy Taylor bolted from the band to release a solo album that attempted to harness the sound of The Power Station to no avail. John Taylor would become bored with Duran Duran’s direction that he left for a few years before rejoining Duran Duran during their big 21st century comeback.
Unfortunately, The Power Station sticks out to me as a missed opportunity by all of those involved in the original album. The Power Station did released another album in the Nineties, but their time had passed. No one was interested in their fun-sounded brand of hard rock with a danceable bottom end. That sound had been replaced by the sound of Tommy Iommi’s guitar sludge sound married to a heavy, heavy rhythm that formed the basis of grunge rock.
Oh, sure, Billy Idol and INXS had some success with The Power Station’s sound, but neither act was able to catch up to The Power Station’s bottom end. But, for most part, this sound was lost to time. So, everybody, let’s raise a glass of your favorite beverage in honor of this supergroup of the Eighties whose musical influence should have been influence on the music of that decade and beyond. And, here’s to hoping that some of today’s young musicians might go back to find a copy of this album to learn from these purveyors. Someone needs to bring back this brand of funk ‘n’ roll. Long live The Power Station.