If you’re an avid BBC Radio 2 listener you may well have heard the first single in 27 years from Thompson Twin’s Tom Bailey which has been on the playlist for the last couple of weeks. Titled Come So Far, the single marks Bailey’s return to music, except of course that he never really went away, as he continued to write and play music after the break up of iconic 80’s band The Thompson Twins, albeit most of it not in the public eye.
Come So Far could be about many things, not least Bailey’s return to writing and playing pop music and his return a couple of years ago to performing the music of the Thompson Twins at festivals here and around the world but it’s actually about neither of these things. It’s essentially Bailey’s response to the refugee crisis in Europe and he talked more about this when I met him a few weeks ago on a glorious May morning.
The single is being released to raise money for Medecins San Frontiere on a pay what you want download basis but this only came about after Bailey had written the song and played it for friends who immediately said that he must release it. Having decided to release it as a single, the charitable aspect became very important for Bailey and the decision to invite people to pay what they want came about from the desire to as Bailey says “open doors instead of closing them. Others had done it and it seemed like a good idea”.
As well as raising money for Medecins San Frontiere, Come So Far also refocuses the light on a human story that has dropped out of the day to day headlines but hasn’t gone away: the huge amounts of displaced persons / refugees / migrants arriving in Europe over the last months and years. Bailey said that like many of us, he just “saw the headlines and didn’t really hear any individual stories”. That changed when he heard the story of an Afghan teenager who had been sent to London by his mother to avoid being killed or recruited into something dangerous. It took him three years and it was only when he arrived that he had time to look back at where he’d come from. To Bailey, that narrative was “so powerful and poetic that I had to write the song. At the time, it was just one song out of many that I was writing, I had no plans at all to release it”.
As the interview went on, it was clear that Bailey is well informed about the issues at hand having spent a short time visiting the refugee camps at Calais and was quick to point out that none of this is simple or clear cut; there are many facets to the story and not all of them lend themselves to helping charitable causes. This, together with what can be described as a weariness on the part of consumers for yet more charity singles, meant that Bailey initially hesitated about releasing the single. Indeed, Bailey has sympathy for the view that this is not what pop music is for, saying that “pop culture is about escapism, it’s not for reminding people that there’s a world of grim reality out there”. Having said that, Bailey’s pop music hey day comes from a time when Live Aid really did change the way we viewed things and he’s a canny enough musician to write a catchy song that tells a story, well.
He’s also canny enough to know that as the first single from Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey in a long time, the single has rarity value, something he acknowledged when talking about his return to his 80’s music. Having consistently refused to play that music for over twenty years, the time was right when he was approached by fellow 80’s music icon, Howard Jones to take part in an 80’s tour of the USA (Thompson Twins had huge hits on both sides of the Atlantic). Having said yes, Bailey went about rediscovering his own music, re-recording and redesigning along the way, having as he wryly said “earned the right to do that the first time around”. Fans have been wholly receptive to this return and one of the delights for Bailey at the live shows is seeing fans who came to gigs in the 80’s – like Bailey himself, they have obviously worn very well.
Come So Far is released on Cooking Vinyl Records on 17 June.
Thompson Twin’s Tom Bailey is appearing at festivals across the UK this summer.
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