Thompson Twins — who were neither a duo nor related, but simply
named after the Tin Tin cartoon — were one of the more popular
synth-pop groups of the early MTV era, scoring a handful of hits
before fading away into lite-funk obscurity. While many of their
contemporaries indulged in stylish variations on Roxy Music or
robotic electronic funk, the Thompson Twins were more pop-oriented,
even when they strayed into dance-pop. Despite their success —
"Hold Me Now," "Lay Your Hands on Me," "King for a Day" all reached
the U.S. Top Ten — the group was unable to successfully expand
their synth-pop sound and, consequently, their audience had virtually
disappeared by the late '80s.
Founding member Tom Bailey was attending a teacher's college in
Cheshire, England and harboring dreams of becoming a classical
pianist when he met Joe Leeway, a fledgling actor, in 1977. The
pair hit it off, yet Leeway wasn't part of the original incarnation
of the Thompson Twins, which featured Bailey (vocals, keyboards),
guitarist Pete Dodd, guitarist John Roog and drummer Chris Bell.
During the late '70s and early '80s, the band released a handful
of independent singles and became fixtures on the burgeoning New
Romantic scene in London before signing with Arista Records in
1981. That year, they released their debut album, A Product Of...,
to little attention.
Not long after the release of A Product Of..., Bailey added his
girlfriend Alannah Currie (percussion, saxophone, vocals), Joe
Leeway (percussion, vocal) and former Soft Boys bassist Matthew
Seligman to the group. The Thompson Twins recorded one album in
this seven-piece incarnation, 1982's Set, which was released in
America as In the Name of Love. The record was a bomb, and following
its release, the group was trimmed to a trio — Bailey, Currie
and Leeway. The revamped Thompson Twins released Quick Step and
Side Kick in 1983, and the album became a major hit in the U.K.,
climbing all the way to number two, as the singles "Love on Your
Side" and "We Are Detective" reached the Top Ten. In America,
the record was released under the truncated title Side Kicks and
earned a cult following.
The Thompson Twins had their American commercial breakthrough
in 1984 with Into the Gap. "Hold Me Now," the first single from
the album, became a bigger hit in the U.S. than it did in the
U.K., peaking at number three; it reached number four in England.
Into the Gap also featured the hits "Doctor Doctor" and "You Take
Me Up," and the Thompson Twins quickly followed the record in
1985 with Here's to Future Days. "Lay Your Hands On Me" became
an American Top Ten hit, as did "King for a Day," but none of
the singles from the record became major hits in the U.K., signaling
that the group's popularity was beginning to decline. Leeway left
the group in 1986, and the Thompson Twins remained a duo, releasing
Close to the Bone the following year. Bailey and Currie made their
romance public in 1988, when the couple had a child. That same
year, they released the remix album The Best of Thompson Twins:
Greatest Mixes, which was generally ignored.
By the late '80s, the Thompson Twins' audience had decreased substantially.
Big Trash, their 1989 debut for Warner, produced the minor U.S.
hit "Sugar Daddy," but it was overlooked in England. In 1991,
they released Queer, which was ignored in both the U.S. and the
U.K. In 1994, Bailey and Currie decided to form a new band, Babble,
in order to explore newer electronic musics such as ambient. Working
with programmer Keith Fernley, Babble released The Stone in 1994
on Reprise to little notice. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine