There’s no getting around it, John Taylor was a sunken-cheeked, perfectly coiffed dreamboat. There is also little doubt that it was this Duran Duran member, moreso than his diminutive and unrelated counterpart, Andy, who brought his screaming fans with him as he leapt from D-squared into Power Station, the 80’s supergroup that also featured yuppie crooner Robert Palmer and former Chic drummer Tony Thompson. Andy may have directed the band through its guitar-driven arena sound, Palmer guiding its slick packaging, and Thompson providing the funk backbone, but, and maybe this is because I am remembering my sister’s huge crush on him, it was John who stole the show and not only because of his pretty boy good looks, but also because he had to go through a transformation of sorts.
John Taylor wanted to leave his teen-pop image behind as he moved to this side project. Originally, the band was supposed to feature his then girlfriend Bebe Buell (you know, Liv Tyler’s mom) on vocals, singing T. Rex’s classic “Bang a Gong (Get It On).” When the pair broke up (as was inevitable), he soldiered on, finding a replacement in the dapper Palmer. After one song in the studio, the band knew they had their lead singer. John also tried to make himself known for his bass playing. With former Chic bassist Bernard Edwards at the producer’s desk, he had a lot to live up to. But, unfortunately for the newly created band, 1985 was a year of immense change (as I’ve lovingly written about so many times before). Duran Duran was becoming a thing of the past, riding the tails of a relatively unsuccessful live album, and tired of touring. The sound was changing in a big way as the New Romantics gave way to college rock bands such as the Smiths, Echo & the Bunnymen, New Order, and the re-awakening of the Cure. In essence, the bands who liked the glam and the disco were out, bands who liked punk and the Velvet Underground were in.
Maybe this is why it is difficult to look back on The Power Station as hindsight is 20/20. The singles still stack up pretty well and play as hit songs should. “Some Like It Hot” and the cover of “Bang a Gong (Get It On),” while not timeless classics, are at least pop gems that do well with repeated airplay. The videos are somewhat primitive and ridiculous by today’s standards with overt sexual innuendo (including rocket ships, cacti and nippled cartoon ladies) and odd omens (warplanes trailing smoke as they fly around the World Trade Center), and you get all of those videos and interview footage on an extra DVD that comes with the reissued album. Also included are seven bonus tracks for those remix happy 80’s-philes. Other than the two main singles, however, there is not much here to relish. “Go To Zero” is probably the most fully realized song other than the main two, and everything else falls flat as either sounding too Duran-y (“Harvest for the World” and “Still In Your Heart”), too much like other bands (“Lonely Tonight” sounding like Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody”), or just plain cheesy in its sparse keyboard bleats (“Murderess”).
I have to admit, I loved the Power Station. I thought they were much cooler to like than Duran Duran, and I thought they had an edge. Compared to Duran Duran they did, but the sound just doesn’t hold up over twenty years. Ultimately John Taylor did succeed in proving himself as an adept bass player, and even went on to compose a fairly decent song on his own for the 9 and 1/2 Weeks soundtrack. But even John’s pretty face couldn’t keep the band going as he ultimately returned to Duran Duran. Final Verdict: If you’re a fan of Power Station already, you will have no problems or qualms in buying this artifact laden disc. If you’re simply curious, stick to downloading the two singles.
Robert Palmer- Riptide
Duran Duran- Notorious
The Fixx- Reach the Beach