The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

RK 50: Robert Palmer

9-2-08 RK 50: Robert Palmer


1975 9 TRKS CD is copyguarded?


1980 3 TRKS no pic sleeve


1980 8 TRKS


1985 9 TRKS


1986 4 TRKS no pic sleeve, promo

An unusual thing for the Ron Kane files – an artist that I like, but do not collect…

Perhaps it was the way that the 70’s Robert Palmer solo albums were marketed, but I figured that I was not their intended audience – In the mid-70’s, I was all about progressive rock…and Palmer seemed to me to be an M.O.R. male vocalist. I knew of his work in the band Vinegar Joe, and I am a big fan of the ’72 debut Vinegar Joe LP on Island (Atco in the US). Rock music by a rock band, on a label I liked.

But it looked like he was being marketed by Island as a light-weight alternative to Bryan Ferry or something – pop vocals. So, until I started seeing his videos in the early 80’s, I never particularly paid any attention. But how could you not notice the 80’s videos by Robert Palmer – the ones with all the models in them? Those models certainly rustled up some interest! Was it true that Palmer never got to touch even one of them, like the story about ZZ Top – and the girls in the “Legs” video?

I remember liking “Riptide” at the time, but I never bought a copy, for whatever reason. When I found an inexpensive Japanese copy of the CD, I went for it. Decent stuff.

I was in Japan when I heard that Mr. Palmer had prematurely passed away. In fact, I think I even read about it in “Stars & Stripes”, the American military newspaper (I was staying in a military ‘hotel’ with an “active-duty” friend of mine). This scenario has happened to me a few times – staying in Japan, and I’ll over-hear something about an artist – one of the Japanese words for ‘death’ is ‘shinu’…I seem to recall hearing of the death of the guy from Chic and maybe even Johnny “Guitar” Watson, while visiting Japan.

And where are those Robert Palmer models twenty years later? Are the Robert Palmer videos still on their ‘middle-aged’ resumes? “And I was one of those girls who pranced around salaciously in a music video for Robert Palmer that was shown on MTV dozens of times. Those videos lead to a lot of other work for me at the time, but…always strutting my stuff” – or thereabouts.

So, R.I.P. Mr. Palmer – I’ll continue to pick up your CD’s when I spot Japanese pressings in the cheapie bin.



Anonymous Jim Donato said...

Like you, I remember his mid-70s material as nothing too special. Every Kind Of People. Bad Case Of Loving You. Neither awful nor exciting.

But 1980's "Clues" had Gary Numan on two numbers and that bore some listening. The eclecticism of that album gave me a much better view of what Robert Palmer did as opposed to his occasional top 40 hit of the 70s. And Johnny & Mary was just a superb track! From that point on I paid attention to his output and was rewarded with the works of a man who wanted to do it all!

R&B! Rock! Funk! Pop! Synthpop! NY Electro! Reggae! Zedeco! Jazz Crooning! Yodeling! Sometimes all on the same song!

As someone with eclectic tastes I really appreciated Palmer. His clipped, mannered delivery was like no one elses, and around the time of Riptide, I began to appreciate his penchant for suave crooning on "Get It Through Your Heart." I began to want more of that material. The videos were tiresome, but I was present at the concert where his live "Early In The Morning" video was shot in Daytona Beach on the Heavy Nova tour. I never got a chance to see it on MTV because it did not feature those !@$% sullen models and thus it was never played.

I was very impressed with Palmer because when Riptide was selling like hotcakes he described mixing heavy metal and bossa nova for his next album and he actually followed through and did it! How many times does that happen?

The last time I saw Palmer was in 1997 when he finally toured with the Power Station behind their ill-starred 2nd album. Palmer was class under glass that night in spite being ill. No one there would have known it. He was the type of guy that made Bryan Ferry look like a homeless person. Dapper as could be and he did not break a sweat!

The last of his albums I have is Don't Explain and I need to catch up with Mr. Palmer's discography a bit more, I think. His "Honey" album features a cover of Devo's "Girl U Want!"

10:11 AM  

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