On the face of it, Robert Palmer represented everything that I detested back in 1980 when I was a mere slip of a 17 year-old.

He had been fairly successful with a number of groups and as a solo artist, mostly with stuff that was a variant on R&B, jazz-rock and cod-reggae. He was the sort of radio-friendly singer that punk and then new wave had been sent along to destroy, and quite frankly, I’d probably have been happy to see him retire to his Caribbean hideaway and not bother us anymore.

One day I heard his new single on Radio 1. I was really surprised as it sounded, at first listen, like a glorious bit of electro-pop that was completely different from anything he’d ever released before. It also stood out because in those days very few singers or bands with synthesisers got much in the way of radio attention – a situation that would of course change as the decade progressed.

Intrigued, I decided to buy the single, and after numerous plays, I stuck to my initial view that indeed it was a great bit of work. But as a record in my then collection, it really stood out like the proverbial sore thumb.

Not that I gave a toss, cos I loved it, and looking back now I realise that it was an important record in that it gave me an early appreciation of synth-driven pop music that I would buy so much of in the years ahead.

Oh, and being a really sort of sensitive soul, I also found the lyrics – looking at a marriage or relationship that was on its last legs – very moving. Still do.

As it turns out, I didn’t care all that much for much more of Robert Palmer’s output in the years after this up to his death from a heart attack in 2003, at the age of 54, so this single, which was a hit in the USA but a miss in the UK, remains the only song of his in the collection:-

mp3 : Robert Palmer – Johnny & Mary

You know I’m a sucker for covers, and while this is nothing truly exciting or different, its a fairly faithful interpretation from the year 2000:-

mp3 : Placebo – Johnny & Mary


19 thoughts on “JOHNNY AND MARY

  1. this is a fantastic piece of pop music, and I agree the only thing you need by Mr Palmer (even if the (sort of) title track Looking For Clues from the album Clues featuring J&M, is half decent too and in the same vein).
    Bryan Ferry did on his latest effort Avonmore a wonderful cover of J&M.

  2. Totally agree with everything you have said , and Martin as well. The b ferry version is different enough and better than the placebo version , but I guess that depends on how you feel about his languid style

  3. In The Name Of The Sweet Lord, what’s happening here? First we’ve had The Blue Nile, and a bit later Robert Palmer. Phil Collins next?

  4. After what we now refer to only as The Billy Joel Incident, I felt a pang of fear on seeing Batley Bob featured here. Phew…at least you found one you liked! 😉

  5. blimey didn’t expect to put a great big video on here just thought you’d get a link…sorry sir!

  6. I remember reading that the song was supposed to be about Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun in the bunker in Berlin. Absolute pearler of a song, there were quite a few synth driven pop songs at the time from people you don’t usually associate with the genre- Jona Lewie, Bill Wyman, Phil Lynott, and Paul McCartney for instance.

  7. I didn’t recognise the title so out of curiosity put it on yesterday. Not only was it instantly recognisable but, ridiculously catchy as it is, it has been going through my head constantly for the past 24 hours. But now, having read the Fourth Bardo’s comment above, I hear the refrain as “Adolf’s always running around….” Lol.

    I am firmly in the camp that says anyone can do a good song and, if they do, it should be embraced and enjoyed because, soon enough they will no doubt revert to releasing rubbish again. Even Sting did a good one once. I can’t remember what it was now though.

  8. This song made the rounds with the ladies in the early 80s, too. Melissa Manchester, Tina Turner, and Ellen Foley all took stabs at it. I’ll admit, yea, I like all their versions.

  9. Like you, I thought that Robert Palmer was just a mainstream R+B/rock sort of belter. I had heard his US hits “Bad Case Of Loving You” and “Every Kinda People” in the late 70s and didn’t think too much of him otherwise. Then the “Clues” album came out in 1980 with Gary Numan contributing synths and songs [but not on that track] and I -had- to buy it. It was a wildly eclectic album where I first got a hint that Palmer did whatever he wanted to, whenever he wanted to. Often on the same albums! I find him to be a fascinating performer who I only saw live twice, but I’m currently trying to get all of the albums and have even begun buying 12″ remixes, so perhaps there’s some more intriguing stuff hidden from public view. His electro cover of “You Are In My System” from 1983’s “Pride” was killer good!

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