Robert Palmer (singer)

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Robert Palmer
Birth name Robert Allen Palmer
Born (1949-01-19)19 January 1949
Batley, West Yorkshire, England
Died 26 September 2003(2003-09-26) (aged 54)
Paris, France
Genres Rock, pop, blue-eyed soul, hard rock, blues rock
Occupations Singer-songwriter
Instrumentalist
Record producer
Instruments Vocals, guitar, keyboards, bass guitar, drums
Years active 1964–2003
Labels Island, EMI
Associated acts The Power Station, Vinegar Joe, Andy Taylor, John Taylor, Duran Duran, Chic

Robert Allen Palmer (19 January 1949 – 26 September 2003) was an English singer-songwriter[1] and musician. He was known for his sharp dress sense and distinctive voice, and the eclectic mix of musical styles on his albums, combining soul, jazz, rock, pop, reggae and blues. He found success both in his solo career and with Power Station, and had Top 10 songs in both the UK and the US.

His iconic music videos directed by British fashion photographer Terence Donovan for the hits "Addicted to Love" and "Simply Irresistible" featured identically dressed dancing women with pale faces, dark eye makeup and bright red lipstick, which resembled the women in the art of Patrick Nagel, an artist popular in the 1980s.[1] Palmer's involvement in the music industry commenced in the 1960s, covered four decades and included a spell with Vinegar Joe.[1][2]

Palmer received a number of awards throughout his career, including two Grammy Awards for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance, an MTV Video Music Award, and was twice nominated for the Brit Award for Best British Male.[3][4]

1964–1973: Early bands[edit]

Palmer's father was a British naval intelligence officer stationed in Malta. Palmer moved with his family from Batley to Scarborough, North Yorkshire in 1959. Influenced as a child by blues, soul and jazz music on American Forces Radio, Robert Palmer joined his first band, The Mandrakes, at the age of 15 while still at Scarborough Boys' High School. His first major break came with the departure of singer Jess Roden from the band The Alan Bown Set in 1969, after which Palmer was invited to London to sing on their single "Gypsy Girl".[5] The vocals for the album The Alan Bown Set!, originally recorded by Roden (and released in the US that way), were re-recorded by Palmer after the success of the single. According to music journalist Paul Lester, Palmer rose from northern clubs in England to become "elegant and sophisticated" and the master of several styles.[6]

In 1970, Palmer joined the 12-piece jazz-rock fusion band Dada, which featured singer Elkie Brooks. The band lasted a year, after which Brooks and Palmer formed the critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful rhythm and blues group, Vinegar Joe; Palmer sang and played rhythm guitar. Signed to the Island Records label, they released three albums: Vinegar Joe (1972), Rock 'n' Roll Gypsies (1972) and Six Star General (1973), before disbanding in March 1974.[5][7]

1974–1984: Early solo career[edit]

Island Records signed Palmer to a solo deal in 1974.[2] His first solo album Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley recorded in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1974, was heavily influenced by the music of Little Feat and the funk fusion of The Meters who acted as backing band along with producer/guitarist Lowell George of Little Feat.[5] Although unsuccessful in the UK, both the album and single reached the Top 100 in the US.[5] Notably, "Sailin' Shoes" (the album's first track), Palmer's own "Hey Julia" and the Allen Toussaint–penned title track carry virtually the same rhythm, and were packaged on the album as a "trilogy" without a pause between them.

After relocating with his wife to New York City, Palmer released Pressure Drop, named for the cover version of the reggae hit by Toots & the Maytals, in November 1975 (featuring Motown bassist James Jamerson).[5] An album infused with his interests in reggae and rock music,[2] it was noted for its cover art of a nude woman on the threshold of a balcony, rather than any commercially successful songs. He toured with Little Feat to promote the album.[5]

However, with the failure of follow-up album Some People Can Do What They Like, Palmer decided to move to Nassau, Bahamas, directly across the street from Compass Point Studios.[5]

In 1978, he released Double Fun, a collection of Caribbean-influenced rock, including a cover of "You Really Got Me". The album reached the Top 50 on the US Billboard chart and scored a Top 20 single with the Andy Fraser–penned "Every Kinda People".[5] The song has been covered by other artists including Chaka Demus and Pliers, Randy Crawford and Amy Grant. It reached No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100.[5]

Palmer's next album was an artistic departure, concentrating on pure rock.[5] 1979's Secrets produced his second Top 20 single with Moon Martin's "Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)".[5] The No. 14 hit also gave Palmer his first Billboard Hot 100-year end chart hit.

The 1980s saw Palmer find an increasing amount of commercial success. The album Clues, produced by Palmer and featuring Chris Frantz and Gary Numan, generated hits on both sides of the Atlantic, first with the radio-friendly single "Johnny and Mary" and then "Looking for Clues".[5] Catchy music videos matching the synth pop stylings of new wave gave him much needed exposure to a younger audience. The success was repeated with the 1982 EP release of Some Guys Have All the Luck.[5]

In April 1983 Pride was released, which not as commercially successful as Clues did feature the title song and Palmer's cover of The System's "You Are in My System", with The System's David Frank contributing keyboard tracks to the latter song.[5] On 31 May 1983, Palmer's concert at the Hammersmith Palais was recorded and broadcast on BBC Radio 1.[8] On 23 July 1983, Palmer performed at Duran Duran's charity concert at Aston Villa football ground where he struck up friendships with members of Duran Duran which would spawn the supergroup Power Station.

1985–1995: Power Station and MTV success[edit]

Duran Duran went on hiatus, and their guitarist, Andy Taylor, and bassist, John Taylor, joined former Chic drummer, Tony Thompson, and Palmer to form Power Station.[2] Their eponymous album, recorded mainly at the New York recording studio for which the band was named, with overdubs and mixing at Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas, reached the Top 20 in the UK and the Top 10 in the US. It spawned two hit singles with "Some Like It Hot" (US #6) and a cover of the T.Rex song "Get It On (Bang a Gong)", which peaked one position higher than the original at US No. 9. Palmer performed live with the band only once that year, on Saturday Night Live. The band toured, and played Live Aid, with singer Michael Des Barres after Palmer bowed out at the last moment to go back into the recording studio to further his solo career.

With Palmer bailing on the tour, some critics referred to it as "unprofessional behaviour". In Number One magazine he hit back at the claims he joined the band for money: "Firstly, I didn't need the money, and secondly the cash wasn't exactly a long time coming. It wasn't exactly an experience that set me up for retirement."[9] He also was accused of ripping off the Power Station sound for his own records. He snapped: "Listen, I gave The Power Station that sound. They took it from me, not the other way around."[9]

Palmer recorded the album Riptide at Compass Point Studios in 1985, recruiting Thompson and Andy Taylor to play on some tracks plus Power Station record producer Bernard Edwards, who worked with Thompson in Chic, to helm the production. Riptide featured the US No. 1 and UK No. 5 single "Addicted to Love".[10][11] The single was accompanied by a memorable and much-imitated music video, directed by Terence Donovan, in which Palmer is surrounded by a bevy of near-identically clad, heavily made-up (and appropriately pouty) female "musicians," either mimicking or mocking the painting of Patrick Nagel.[5] In September 1986, Palmer performed "Addicted to Love" at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles.[12] In 1987, he won the Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for "Addicted to Love". At the 1987 Brit Awards, Palmer received his first nomination for Best British Male.[3]

It seems he got the idea for the Addicted to Love video clip from an appearance he made on the Australian television show Countdown. According to the book Glad All Over, film director Ted Emery talks of the time Palmer came into the studio to promote the Doctor Doctor single in 1979:

We got so many warnings about him. We were told 'this man is not mainstream, he has a message’. His song was Doctor Doctor so I made the film clip, got all these models in lipstick and swimsuits. He came into the studio and all the dry ice starts flowing out and the models with the guitars start moving. Palmer looks around and the record company guy starts panicking. It hit the fan like you wouldn't believe. We had to pull it all down, change the look of the studio. Years later he used it in a film clip.[13]

Another single from Riptide, his cover of Cherrelle's "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On", also performed well (US#2, UK#9).[5] Another song, "Trick Bag," was written by one of his major influences, New Orleans jazz artist Earl King.

Concerned about the rising crime rate in Nassau, Palmer moved to Lugano, Switzerland, in 1987 and set up his own recording studio.[2] Producing Heavy Nova in 1988, Palmer again returned to experimenting, this time with bossa nova rhythms, heavy rock and white-soul balladeering. He repeated his previous success of "Addicted to Love" with the video of "Simply Irresistible", again with a troupe of female "musicians". The song reached No. 2 in the US and was Palmer's final Top Ten hit there. The ballad "She Makes My Day" also proved to be a hit in the UK, peaking at #6.[5] In 1989, he won a second Grammy for "Simply Irresistible",[14] which would later be featured in the Tony Award winning musical Contact. At the 1989 Brit Awards, Palmer received his second nomination for Best British Male, and "Simply Irresistible" was nominated for Best British Single.[3] Rolling Stone magazine voted Palmer the best-dressed rock star for 1990.

Palmer expanded his range even further for his next album, Don't Explain (1990). It featured two UK top 10 hits with covers of Bob Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" – collaboration with UB40 – and Marvin Gaye's cover "Mercy Mercy Me". Throughout the 1990s, Palmer ventured further into diverse material. The 1992 album Ridin' High was a tribute to the Tin Pan Alley era.[2][5]

In 1994, Palmer released Honey to mixed reviews. While the album failed to produce any hit singles in the US, he did find success in the UK with the release of three modest hit singles "Girl U Want", "Know by Now" and "You Blow Me Away".[5]

In 1995, Palmer released a greatest hits album, which reached number four in the UK.[6] In 1995 he reunited with other members of Power Station to record a second album. Bassist John Taylor eventually backed out of the project, to be replaced by Bernard Edwards. Palmer and the rest of the band completed the album Living in Fear (1996), and had just begun touring when Edwards died from pneumonia.

Literature[edit]

Palmer's favourite author was Jack Vance and he was especially fond of the character Cugel. Jack Vance paid homage to Palmer in his novel Night Lamp, which begins: "Toward the far edge of the Cornu Sector of Ophiuchus, Robert Palmer's star shone brilliant white, its corona flaring with films of blue, red and green colour."

Personal life[edit]

In 1993 Palmer permanently relocated from the Bahamas to Lugano, Switzerland, after he found that the islands were unsafe because of drugs and gun violence. The same year he divorced his wife, Sue.[15]

Later life and death[edit]

Palmer died in a Paris hotel room from a heart attack on 26 September 2003 at the age of 54. He had been in the French capital after recording a television appearance in London for Yorkshire TV, a retrospective titled "My Kinda People".[6][16] He was survived by his parents, his son Jim and daughter Jane, and by his girlfriend Mary Ambrose.[15] Among those who paid tribute were Duran Duran, stating; "He was a very dear friend and a great artist. This is a tragic loss to the British music industry."[6]

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Year Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales thresholds)
UK
[17]
AUS
[18]
FRA
[19]
NLD
[20]
NZ
[21]
SWE
[22]
US
[23]
1974 Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley - - - - - - 107
1975 Pressure Drop
  • Label: Island
- - - - - - 136
1976 Some People Can Do What They Like
  • Label: Island
46 80 - - - - 68
1978 Double Fun
  • Label: Island
- 75 - 10 29 - 45
1979 Secrets
  • Label: Island
54 23 - 42 39 - 19
1980 Clues
  • Label: Island
31 26 3 16 21 1 59
1983 Pride
  • Label: Island
37 89 12 22 27 36 112
1985 Riptide
  • Label: Island
5 17 - 72 13 - 8
1988 Heavy Nova 17 2 - 42 14 47 13
1990 Don't Explain 9 29 - 85 48 48 88
1992 Ridin' High
  • Label: EMI America
32 - - - - - 173
1994 Honey
  • Label: EMI
25 - - 85 - - -
1999 Rhythm & Blues 118[27] - - - - - -
2003 Drive
  • Label: Compendia
- - - - - - -
2012 reissues

On 24 January 2012 Culture Factory an independent label reissued Some People Do What They Like, Double Fun, Secrets and Pride in a miniature replica of the original vinyl packaging and with remastered sound. The reissues also had miniature "obi's" and the label on the CD is a replica of the original label. The reissues did not feature any bonus tracks and there were no new liner notes on the making of the albums included as part of the reissue campaign.

Live albums[edit]

Year Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales thresholds)
UK
[17]
US
[23]
1982 Maybe It's Live
  • Label: Island
32 148
2001 Live at the Apollo
  • Label: Eagle
- -
2010 At the BBC
  • Label: Spectrum
- -

Compilations[edit]

Year Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales thresholds)
UK
[17]
US
[23]
1989 Addictions Volume I
  • Label: Island
7 79
1992 Addictions Volume II
  • Label: Island
12 -
1995 Very Best of Robert Palmer 4 -
1998 Woke Up Laughing
  • Label: Metro Blue
- -
1999 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of Robert Palmer
  • Label: Island
- -
2002 At His Very Best
  • Label: Universal/Island
38 -
2002 Best of Both Worlds: The Robert Palmer Anthology (1974–2001)
  • Label: Island
- -
2005 The Very Best of the Island Years
  • Label: Island
- -
2007 The Silver Collection
  • Label: Universal
- -

With Power Station[edit]

Year Album details Certifications
(sales thresholds)
1985 Power Station
  • Label: Capitol
  • US: Platinum
  • UK: Gold
1996 Living in Fear
  • Label: Capitol

Singles[edit]

Year Title Album Chart positions
UK[1][28] Australia Canada France[29] Germany Ireland NZ[30][31] US
Hot 100
US
MSR
US
Modern Rock
US
US AC
1975 "Get Outside" Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley 105
"Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley"
1976 "Give Me An Inch" Pressure Drop 106
"Which of Us Is The Fool"
"Man Smart, Woman Smarter" Some People Can Do What They Like 63
1978 "Every Kinda People" Double Fun 53 12 6 35 16 22
"Best of Both Worlds" 36
1979 "What's It Take" 9 19
"Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)" Secrets 61 1 9 20 14
"Jealous" 31 106
"Can We Still Be Friends" 52
1980 "Johnny and Mary" Clues 44 32 8 7 12
"Looking for Clues" 33 7 6 3 105
1982 "Some Guys Have All the Luck" Maybe It's Live 16 6 52 49 59
1983 "You Are in My System" Pride 53 52 27 78 33
"You Can Have It (Take My Heart)" 66
"Pride"
1985 The Power Station: "Some Like It Hot" The Power Station 14 9 16 8 6 34
The Power Station: "Get It On (Bang a Gong)" 22 15 37 16 9 19
The Power Station: "Communication" 75 46 34
"Discipline of Love" Riptide 95 82 63
1986 "Riptide" 85
"Addicted to Love" 5 1 4 4 2 1 1
"Hyperactive" 33 21
"I Didn't Mean to Turn You On" 9 13 8 23 2 3
"Discipline of Love" (re-issue) 68
1988 "Sweet Lies" Sweet Lies Motion Picture Soundtrack 58 8 94
"Simply Irresistible" Heavy Nova 44 1 2 10 57 6 2 1
"Early in the Morning" 26 81 19 40
"She Makes My Day" 6 9 6 47
1989 "Tell Me I'm Not Dreaming" 60
"Change His Ways" 28 38 62 21 29
"It Could Happen to You" 71
"Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor Doctor)" (re-issue) Addictions Volume I 80
1990 "Life in Detail" Pretty Woman [Soundtrack] 34 7 14
"I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" (Robert Palmer and UB40) Don't Explain 6 4 58 25 14 6 1 24
"You're Amazing" 14 28 5
1991 "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" / "I Want You" 9 6 7 33 8 33 16 4
"Dreams to Remember" 68
"Happiness" 62
1992 "Every Kinda People" (remix) Addictions Volume II 43 26 8
"Witchcraft" Ridin' High 50
1994 "Girl U Want" Honey 57
"Know by Now" 25 23 5 51
"You Blow Me Away" 38
1995 "Respect Yourself" The Very Best of 45
1996 The Power Station: "She Can Rock It" Living in Fear 63
1999 "True Love" Rhythm and Blues 94
2003 "Addicted to Love" (Remix) (Shake B4 Use vs. Robert Palmer) Addicted to Love (Remix) – single 42

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 415–416. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Roberts, David (1998). Guinness Rockopedia (1st ed.). London: Guinness Publishing Ltd. p. 307. ISBN 0-85112-072-5. 
  3. ^ a b c BRITs Profile: Robert Palmer. Brits.co.uk. Retrieved 14 April 2012
  4. ^ Profile: Robert Palmer. Rock on the Net. Retrieved 14 April 2012
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 2–3. ISBN 1-84195-017-3. 
  6. ^ a b c d Singer Robert Palmer dies BBC. Retrieved 19 April 2012
  7. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 262. CN 5585. 
  8. ^ New Robert Palimer Live BBC Concert CD Your Way To Music. Retrieved 19 April 2012
  9. ^ a b Number One magazine, circa 1986: "Bob's Your Uncle" by Pat Thomas, pp 28–29.
  10. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2006). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. Billboard Books
  11. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums. London: Guinness World Records Limited
  12. ^ 1986 MTV Video Music Awards MTV.com. Retrieved 5 December 2011
  13. ^ Wilmoth, Peter "Glad All Over – The Countdown Years 1974–87", page 169. 1993 McPhee Gribble/Penguin Books ISBN 0-86914-293-3
  14. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 453. CN 5585. 
  15. ^ a b "Obituaries: Robert Palmer". The Telegraph. 27 September 2003. Retrieved 19 December 2013. 
  16. ^ Parales, Jon (27 September 2003). "Robert Palmer, Singer With Image of a Pop Romeo, Dies at 54". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 December 2013. 
  17. ^ a b c "Chart Stats – Robert Palmer". theofficialcharts.com. Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  18. ^ "Discography Robert+Palmer". Australian-Charts.com. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  19. ^ "The World's Music Charts (Album artist 456 – Robert Palmer". 
  20. ^ "Discografie Robert Palmer". DutchCharts.nl. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  21. ^ "Discography Robert Palmer". Charts.ord.nz. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  22. ^ "Discography Robert Palmer". SwedishCharts.com. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  23. ^ a b c "Chart Stats – Robert Palmer". allmusic.com. Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  24. ^ a b c d "Certified Awards Search". Music Canada. Retrieved on 2011-11-22. Note: User needs to enter "Robert Palmer" in the "Search" field, "Artist" in the "Search by" field and click the "Go" button. Select "More info" next to the relevant entry to see full certification history.
  25. ^ a b c d e f "Certified Awards Search". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved on 2011-11-21. Note: User needs to enter "Robert Palmer" in the "Search" field, "Artist" in the "Search by" field and click the "Go" button. Select "More info" next to the relevant entry to see full certification history.
  26. ^ a b c "Searchable Database". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 2011-11-21.  Note: User must define 'Artist' search parameter as "Robert Palmer".
  27. ^ "Chart Log UK: Rodney P. – The Pussycat Dolls". Zobbel.de. Retrieved 2012-04-18. 
  28. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 433. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  29. ^ "The World's Music Charts (Song artist 368 – Robert Palmer)". 
  30. ^ Steffen Hung. "New Zealand charts portal". charts.org.nz. Retrieved 2012-04-03. 
  31. ^ Steffen Hung. "The Power Station – The Power Station". charts.org.nz. Retrieved 2012-04-03. 

External links[edit]