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