My introduction to Robert Palmer was through Duran Duran.
I had heard “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley” and “Bad Case of Lovin’ You”, but I never knew who sang those songs till Palmer became the front man for the Power Station. At the age of 13, I started to discover it was guys like Palmer, Sting and Roger Taylor (Duran Duran, not Queen) who were stirring something in me. It wasn’t Madonna or the barely-clad Mary Jane Girls.
The Power Station music videos put him in near profile, and he cut a striking one. I found him handsome. Not hot in the teenaged girl parlance, but attractive all the same.
Of course, that meant I wanted to see him without a shirt.
Some of his previous albums came close. There was Double Fun:
OK. Bare shoulders. Where are the nipples? Perhaps on Secrets?
Thwarted! Cropped right before. What about Pride?
Illustration does not substitute for a photo. Also, the armor is in the way.
Perhaps the most frustrating cover is Riptide. There’s enough bare shoulder in the picture to hint that he may be missing a shirt. The sheet music song book for the album included the edge of said bare shoulder.
Even today, the tease of this cover confounds me. Why, Mr. Palmer, must you hint but not reveal?
Well, it’s because Robert Palmer was a dapper gentleman. He parlayed the success of the Power Station into Riptide, donning on suits in his music videos and garnering accolades as the best dressed man in rock music. If your image hinges on dressing well, there’s little point in undressing in public.
What makes me so eager to see a full-body shot of the Riptide cover stems from where Palmer was at that point in his life. In 1986, he would have been 37, too old to be considered a pop idol but young enough for his prime. The crow’s feet around his eyes lend just enough dignity to make his smile seductive. How is this cover not hot?
Every time I encounter Riptide when I flip through the vinyl bins, I keep thinking, “Dude. You are such a tease.”
Tags: robert palmer
I had completely forgotten I owned this album till I spotted a 12-inch single of “The Dream Team Is in the House” while flipping through the new vinyl arrivals at Everyday Music.
L.A. Dream Team’s Kings of the West Coast signified a time in my life where I tried to get into what was cool instead of what I liked. That’s not to say I didn’t like the album at the time, but I wouldn’t have sought it out if I weren’t guided.
It was 1986, and I was graduating from 8th grade. My classmates made sure I knew how low I stood in the social order, and I was getting sick of being out of sync. So I asked my older sister, who was a lot more skilled in navigating the social minefield of school, what to do. She told me what I should be wearing, how I should be wearing it, what I should listen to and what I should avoid.
So I did what she advised, and during my freshman year in high school, I put in enough effort to appear less clueless than I was. Along with the L.A. Dream Team, my burgeoning music collection made room for Janet Jackson’s Control, Club Nouveau’s Life, Love and Pain and the first two albums by Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam. It worked for a time, but eventually, I got tired of radio hits and my individuality eventually won out.
In junior year, I stopped listening to radio altogether, seeking out classical music and Broadway musicals instead. By senior year, I was deep into college radio. I was forging my own sense of cool, which pretty much meant disregarding the social order of school entirely. You can’t be an outcast if you’re not even trying to be accepted.
My cassette copy of Kings of the West Coast eventually got sold for cash. The sophomore slump hit L.A. Dream Team, and by the end of the decade, they would be eclipsed by Public Enemy and N.W.A.
But the party swagger of Kings of the West Coast felt optimistic and innocent compared to what came after. No calls to fuck the police, no mentions of bitches and hos, no aggrandizing of wealth. Just a lot of great beats and a joke quote thrown in for comic relief. “Pop goes the Dream Team!”
I spotted a vinyl copy of the album at Everyday Music, and my reaction surprised me — it was fondness. My intentions for owning this album were purely calculated, but I ended up enjoying it anyway.
Tags: la dream team, the ones that nearly got away