Song Of The Day: Thompson Twins – The Gap

Only a single in Germany, Australia & America!

Last week I pulled the fine Edsel DLX RMs of “Quick Step And Side Kick” and “Into The Gap” and gave them a spin as it had been a while. I came to The Thompson Twins via their college chart blockbuster “In The Name Of Love” in early 1982. I had heard the ace tune on WPRK-FM and I had certainly liked what I’d heard… a lot! When their US debut of the same name hit the stores, I didn’t wait to get a cheap used copy!

That record was cobbled together from their second UK album “Set,” along with a pair of cuts from their 1981 debut “A Product Of… Participation.” I soon read about these records but tracking down both of them in their initial UK editions proved challenging. The first one I found in the 99¢ bin at Vinyl Fever nearly 20 years ago, but any copy of “Set” proved to be more elusive. I found a Mexican pressing as late as 2008 while shopping in Portland!

But back in the real time experience of being a Thompson Twins fan, I was shocked by the 1983 schism that saw the seven piece band that I loved rupture and the trio of Tom Bailey, Alannah Currie, and Joe Leeway embrace technopop and become huge stars the world over. I bought the US third album, renamed “Side Kicks” here for no good reason I can discern. It was good but something had been lost in the move to synthesizers. The textures of their large band were now replaced by glossy keyboards. Inasmuch as I am a “keyboards guy” I soon came to prefer their earlier, more distinctive sound from their Hansa albums. I would not buy any more Thompson Twins records following their line-in-the-sand MOR pop smash “Hold Me Now.” At least until just a few years ago, when Edsel released a 2xCD DLX RM of “Into The Gap,” chock full of B-sides and remixes.

I’d heard and enjoyed “You Take Me Up” but for the most part, yeah, the album takes a sharp turn from left-field pop into boring MOR, with one stark exception. The de facto title cut “The Gap,” wipes the floor with the unexciting pap that was “Into The Gap’s” stock-in-trade! I soon found myself playing this track on repeat in my car; a new leaf for me. The thing that makes the track work like a fiend for me, is that not only does it have a pulse, next to such torpid fare as “Sister Of Mercy,” but that its heart beats with the robust power of none other than Blancmange!

Don’t just take my word for it. Tom Bailey sought the tablas of Blancmange sideman Pandit Dinesh for this track, which comes as close to replicating Blancmange in all of their glory as is possible! It is successful to the extent that when listening to the instrumental dub version that was on the cassette version [a bonus track on disc two], I can sing along doing my Neil Arthur impersonation and you would swear that the result is Blancmange and definitely not The Thompson Twins. That feature alone makes my decision to try out the “Into The Gap” album 24 years ex post facto ultimately worthwhile, even as the album confirmed my youthful suspicions in spades.

– 30 –

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22 Responses to Song Of The Day: Thompson Twins – The Gap

  1. Postpunk,
    This is a fascinating analysis. I too have quietly drew common denomiators with the mid-Eastern, arabic-chant of “The Gap” with “Living on the Ceiling” by Blancmange but you’ve actually pulled the strings of my interest with your vivid comparison between the two bands. You’re research is astounding, as I can confirm your statement about the release destinations of the track back in 1984. Arista booted the Twins English hit “Sister of Mercy” in America in exchange for “The Gap”, which actually charted at a respecting #69 in late 1984, following on the heels of their hard-to-stomach appearance on SNL. “Doctor ! Doctor !” was my personal road-to-Demascus experience with the Thompson Twins after hearing it on FM radio, ricocheting off the cement foundation of a delapidated, abandoned building project from a parked sports car at the neighbor’s house next door. I can’t describe in words how intrinsically exciting and uplifting that track was, hearing it in that capacity, serving as audio wallpaper to the brightest neon pinks and blues of graffiti paint strewn by the culdesac skater punks who frequented the area that summer. From there, I discovered “The Gap” and two of the Twins’ most underrated, spiritually ethereal moments, “Storm on the Sea” and “Who Can Stop the Rain?”. ‘Into the Gap’ may be the Twins’ at their commerical-worse to a classic alternativist, but I find it irrisistible, nostaligic, and full of cushy memories back to a time when the future was now. Thank you for honoring the Thompson Twins today Postpunk.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Jeremy Kennedy – The Twins were hard to stomach on SNL? How so? I didn’t watch SNL from the period when the original cast left until some time when I saw that Jan Hooks had joined the cast. Please elaborate.

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  2. zoo says:

    I picked up a copy of “Side Kicks” on vinyl last week (I’ve had mp3s for a while). I really like this album. They could pull these songs off live as well…there’s a pre-“Into the Gap” concert on Wolfgang’s Vault available for listen that’s really good.

    “Into the Gap” has a nice few moments, but I know what you mean about the turn to MOR. “The Gap” (listening now on Spotify) is a nice song, BTW. Hadn’t listened to it in years.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      zoo – I missed the Thompson Twins during spring break at Ratona Beach in 1983 when it would have been the time to see them. I went to two of their concerts when OMD were opening up for them on the “Here’s To Future Days” tour. In both cases, the [different] groups that I was with blew off The Thompson Twins once they started their set. We were there for OMD, who, admittedly, were on the cusp of their sell-by date. The Twins, were a good two years past that point though. The
      first three albums are the gold for them. Afterward, they made the pop charts a little better for their presence, just not enough to buy the records, personally. Years ago I bought a cheap CD of “Future Days” and sold it off. I never bought “Close to the Bone” or “Queer,” though I did pop for “Big Trash.” I remember liking it enough back in the day. Time for a revisit.

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  3. Taffy says:

    Hey PPM, good call about The Gap – indeed, that tune and You Take Me Up are my personal highlights of that disc (which i find sort of pleasant, but far inferior to earlier works). I saw the Twins live just once, when Sidekicks had just come out in 1983. They played the full album plus In The Name Of Love, nothing else. Clearly they were letting the world know it was a bg clean break from their 7-piece past. FYI, it was a really fun show, lots of energy, silly posing, and chanting.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Taffy – It seems like you and I are in total agreement on this album. Sad to hear that even if I had see them in 1983 I wouldn’t have heard “Runaway.” That makes me think of the similar sounding XTC song with the same title. What was in the songwriting water in 1982?

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Taffy – I thought that “Passion Planet” was a far better song than most of what was on offer on “Into The Gap.” Bailey seems giddily alive on that cut. No wonder it didn’t slot into that album!

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      • Taffy says:

        Uh oh, don’t cringe, but I completely forgot that Doctor! Doctor! was on Into the Gap – I have a mushy soft spot for that tune too. I think I’ve let my completist tendencies be very known i numerous other posts, so it won’t be too shocking to confess that I actually own every T Twins album right up through Queer. Oh, and the two Babble albums. I know, I’m rather absurd.

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          Taffy – Well, anything’s better than “Sister Of Mercy!” I can’t cast stones at anyone with the collector’s gene! The power of my compulsion to collect the entire recorded output of dozens of artists [if not even more] is well documented, and my ability to cherry pick the best that Thompson Twins have to offer is an indication that I am slowly, but surely, making progress! Even so, when originally laying the groundwork for my aborted BSOG for The Thompson Twins, I had planned on their rarities up to and including the “Here’s To Future Days” period – even after ditching the CD of the same! Fortunately, the Edsel CDs nipped that in the bud after spending only about $30 on 12″ back catalog. I really must get that twofer of the Hansa period, even though I have read complaints about the mastering on it. Those early singles would cost me a fortune otherwise.

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  4. Brian Ware says:

    Well, I was lucky to have seen the aforementioned 1983 Daytona show. As usual for March in Florida it was pissing rain so they moved it into one of the hotel ballrooms. They were excellent and as Taffy said, pretty much just played the new LP. I still have a very warm spot for “Sidekicks” and find “Into The Gap” perfectly listenable when I’m in the mood (although I usually skip “Sister Of Mercy”). I also dumped “Here’s To Future Days” and went no further.

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  5. ronkanefiles says:

    Not my fav 80’s band by any means…”Hold Me Now” clogged up airwaves for a good while there, preventing stuff that was more interesting from being shown / airchecked. Bailey / Currie now live / work in NZ, unless I am mistaken; so a collab with Jaz Coleman isn’t out of the question, one supposes.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      ronkanefiles – Currie and Bailey divorced some years ago. I would suspect that Bailey is back in the UK living off of the royalties that “Hold Me Now” are still generating. The topic of the career sea change single is one I should address one day. Many bands have them. They annoy the former fan base as they grow the market exponentially for the now compromised artist’s pre-chewed chart mush. Sigh.

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  6. jt says:

    Another topic for discussion is “records we liked as kids but that have not aged well, and now, from an adult perspective, kind of suck”. I quite liked ITG as a kid, and saw the TT show with OMD opening also. TT put on a very good show. I think I saw thew Future Days tour too, and although the album kind of sucked, the show was, again, very good. But listening back to ITG now, it’s nearly impossible to sit through, bland and mawkish.

    This record also suffers from having three lame ballads all released as singles… why not the quasi-listenable Day After Day instead of the miserable Doctor Doctor or Sister of Mercy? As ballads go, even Storm on the Sea is better than DD or SoM. [I can tolerate Hold Me Now, when heard about once every four years].

    There was a promo-only 12″ of the title track, that had quite a good remix on it. I once owned it and played it to death. Unfortunately, that one isn’t in the Edsel reissue. Would have much rather seen that included than the dreadful megamix thing that finishes disc 2. Those are never good, ever. No exceptions.

    Tangent: just as I thought the wrong singles were chosen from ITG, I have always thought the same about your “favorite” [I jest] Duran Duran record, Seven and the Ragged Tiger…. which Alex Sadkin produced directly before Into ITG. I think the Reflex, New Moon, and Union of the Snake are all crappy songs, while Crime and Passion, Shadows on your Side, and I Take the Dice are all much cooler. A Nile Rodgers polish on one of these [as he did for The Reflex] might have made much better singles.

    What’s up with Sadkin producing deal-breaker records for technopop bands [DD, TT] directly after their excellent breakthrough records [Side Kick, Rio]?

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      jt – Much grist for the mill you have provided! So right on “Day After Day,” one of the three good songs on that record. I had known forever that “Sister Of Mercy” was a single, just not in America. When I finally heard it after buying the Edsel DLX RM, I was shocked that someone green-lighted this as a single in place of the vibrant “Into The Gap.” [thought not in America!] All of those “hit singles” [with the exception of “You Take Me Up”] from Gap were a drag.

      Another topic that comes to mind is the dreaded mid-tempo ballad! Are there any good ones? Ever??!! Occasionally Duran can pull one out of their hat that doesn’t suck. Not many others I could name, though. Usually, the form is the kiss of death. As for “Hold Me Now” you just have to know that when Tom Bailey wrote that song he knew he had the songwriting equivalent of a vest pocket tactical nuclear weapon! Sure, it would win the war, but at what cost? Was he conflicted with the MOR nature of the song? I’m sure he recognized that it would sell like hotcakes, but did he anguish over releasing it and what it would mean for TT and their career? Once you take it to “that level” there’s nowhere else to go but down.

      I’ve often thought that were I in his shoes, I would never release a MOR pop hit, no matter how much money/stature it would confer on me. I think the thing to do in that situation, is to shop the song around for someone else with no credibility problems to cover it and sell it for you. Sure, you would not be the person associated with the hit, [sorry, ego] but you’d get the publishing royalties, and the artist would have to settle for mechanical. At the end of the day you’d have enough money and your career would look much better on paper. These songs often write themselves. The mathematics of successful pop music chord progressions in The West are not infinite. I don’t think anyone sits down to make a “Hold Me Now,” at least I hope not! But when extremely popular music manifests itself at the end of your pen, there are choices to be made. Unfortunately, Tom Bailey made what I consider to be the wrong one.

      The Promo 12″ of “The Gap” of which you speak is on the available everywhere “Greatest Mixes” CD, which is why Edsel probably opted to include the vinyl-only “Megamix,” about whose merits I certainly agree with you on! “The Gap” was a commercial US single in The States, though! If they had managed to grind out a video from the Twins for it, it could have been top 20 at least. Back to megamixes. There’s a reason no one has done since about 1988 or so! They’re one of those “head scratching moments in pop.” Why was this deemed necessary?

      Re: Alex Sadkin All of these Brit bands wanted a piece of Sadkin after his production of the seminal Grace Jones albums. These bands [Duran, Thompson Twins, Foreigner] massively failed to realize that none of their members were members of the Compass Point All Stars! This is why they never got that Grace Jones mojo. The only one who benefitted from picking Sadkin was Paul Haig. His writing is much stronger and that makes the difference to my ears. I do love the Arcadia album, but that one was Nick Rhodes making his dream record.

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  7. jt says:

    As a tangent, and just to throw this out there, I saw DD play in Istanbul ten days ago. Fun coincidence that they were in town when I had a free night there. Augmented by a percussionist/saxophonist and a single backing vocalist, the show was good, but not up to their eighties and nineties level of spectacle. With the exception of one or two album cuts from All You Need is Now, they didn’t play anything that wasn’t a single, running through a list of their new and old hits with no surprises. Closest thing to throwing the old-time fans a bone was Careless Memories… but even that was indeed a single.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      jt – Still, when in Istanbul and Double Duran are playing… you go! Duh! Since they probably don’t get there more than once every dozen or so years [if that], of course, their set will be mostly singles! I wouldn’t begrudge them that. It’s the places where bands play often that usually get the deep cuts as an inducement for the faithful to keep coming back for more. Plus, when you’ve had as many singles as Duran Duran, it must get hard to make a setlist that’s not pure singles. With them, low charting singles qualify as deep cuts, hence “Careless Memories!”

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  8. Tim says:

    You probably already know about this but there is a Yahoo group for the TT. I used to be a member a few years back…anyhow…there was a member of it who did a lot of mixes along the lines of what Dreamtime did and posted them to the site. Don’t know if the group still exists or if the files in question are still active but it was quite the goldmine of fan made mix product.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – I tend not to get into fan mixes as they are not canonical, and represent something of a rabbit hole of the kind that I try to avoid. Just collecting legit material is hard enough!

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  9. Echorich says:

    Thompson Twins can bring both nostalgia and rage for me. As much as I love the commune size version of the band and the first two allbums, I grew to dispise the threesome or sillhouette version of the band. They released the one song which can make me throw things at a radio in Lies. While I do enjoy Love on Your Side and We Are Detective, Quick Step and Side Kick is really kind of sterile when played against Set or A Product of…Participation.
    I never bought Quick Step or anything after the first two albums and the US Thompson Twins album. Early New Wave radio overplayed TT to a point that more deserving music from bands like Blancmange, Soft Cell, APB and others.
    Around 1985, Tom, Alannah and Joe were hanging out at The Limelight and Joe was being very social chatting with people and I remember looking at Tom and Alannah sitting on their own in a VIP section with two minders just sourfaced and uninterested in conversation with anyone.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Back from my travel. Well, Bailey & Currie made their own bed, and had to lie in it. Joe Leeway was smart to jump ship. I love synth pop, but when bands I previously loved that weren’t that moved in that direction, I was always sad. Yes, for the Twins, but even moreso in the case of The Tourists/Eurythmics. Sure, Eurythmics have some great records, and real dross [just like TT], but none of their stuff is as enthusiastically lovable as material by The Tourists. Peet Coombs was a genius!

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  10. chas_m says:

    I agree with all the comments made here, but I do seem to remember getting into one or two of the songs from the later TT but pre-babble here. I find their MOR period really hasn’t aged well.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      chas_m – I hear you. Like I said, My Record Cell contains both the “Sugar Daddy” CD-5 and the full “Big Trash” album, which I bought when they came out, but haven’t listened to in a long while. Should revisit soon. I never heard anything off of “Queer” or the Babble releases.

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