Celebrating the very best from British group T’Pau
While the late 80’s and early 90’s saw a huge shift in musical styles, from the bubblegum pop of Stock Aitken Waterman to the heavy club and dance craze that took everyone by surprise in the Summer’s of 87, 88 and 89, there was still a place for decent and hard working pop and rock bands. One of these were Shrewsbury based six piece T’Pau, who took their name from a Vulcan character in the original 1960’s Star Trek TV series. Formed in 1986, they began a four year hold on the singles and album charts from 1987 that would include a five-week chart topping single and a quadruple Platinum debut album. So let’s remember the greatest hits of T’Pau:
1. Heart And Soul
First released in April 1987, T’Pau’s break out song was “Heart And Soul” and it arrived like a breath of fresh air with its complex overlaying verses using talky bits and low vocal singing that leads to the instantly singable chorus. It was in America, strangely, that the song first gained success having been used in a Pepe jeans commercial that propelled it to No.4 there. The group weren’t having that and nothing at home, so the song was re-released in September back in the UK and hey presto, another No.4 smash hit! “Heart And Soul” was also a huge hit globally, most notably in Canada, where it went to No.1 there. “Heart And Soul” saw the arrival of T’Pau in homes and on TV and so naturally is well remembered and well loved in equal measures. So don’t you make me late for work!
2. China In Your Hand
The band released their debut album, “Bridge Of Spies” the same month as “Heart And Soul” and followed this with the bizarrely titled “China In Your Hand”, which is apparently taken from Mary Shelley’s classic horror novel Frankenstein! Two versions of the song exist. The five minute album version, which is raw and almost feels like a demo and the four minute single version, which was re-worked into an elegant and more substantial song. The epic middle-eight saxophone and visions of Carol throwing back her long, red hair as she strides to the front of the stage are simply unforgettable moments of this absolute zenith in T’Pau’s career. Released in November 1987, it’s hardly surprising that this song became and remains, by a million miles, their best known and signature tune. This is the five week chart topper that went on to become one of the biggest sellers of the year and propelled “Bridge of Spies” to the top of the album chart. Oddly, having started off so well Stateside, “China In Your Hand” was something of a disappointment, stalling, as it did, at No.88 there. Hmm…
“Songs for my valentine”. You couldn’t really release a tune like that at any other time of the year really. So in early 1988, T’Pau went for February 14th chart madness with their fourth single. And indeed they succeeded, as that Sunday’s chart actually fell on the day itself! T’Pau were a big climber and entered the UK top ten for a third consecutive time, landing, as they did, at No.9. Although it was the lowest of ‘the big three’, a third top ten hit from an already multi-Platinum album was something of an achievement and one the band could be proud of. Once again, “Valentine” is a very different composition to those that had preceded it and saw huge and smothering guitars spread all over it like thick treacle from its opening solo and Carols’ naked, heartfelt introduction. C’mon, take it away…
4. Sex Talk
T’Pau’s debut single came at the beginning of 1987 and was titled “Intimate Strangers”. It was heard by no none. And perhaps had “Heart And Soul” failed completely, that may of been it. But as we know, that wasn’t the case. Undeterred, T’Pau saw the usefulness in “Intimate Strangers” and re-titled it as the raunchy “Sex Talk” for the album. The song was released in the Spring of 1988 and this time made the UK top 40, albeit halting at No.23. Despite not being as big a hit as ‘the big three’, “Sex Talk” returned T’Pau to a more vibrant, rockier tone that was their fastest paced commercial release to date.
5. I Will Be With You
Four singles is normal for any artist from an album, but in the Summer of 1988, T’Pau released a fifth and one of the most popular tracks of all, “I Will Be With You”. Once again, it’s a slower paced song but it allows Carol to step her voice higher and higher during each line of the chorus. For as the song states “I hear this melody, our tryst in rhapsody” and this accurately sums up the appeal of this gorgeous, overpowering song. “I Will Be With You” found favour chart wise too as it returned the band to the UK top twenty in July, peaking at No.14, once again, quite a feat for a fifth single to come from such a hugely successful album. What would happen next? A sixth, a seventh. We wouldn’t have long to wait…
6. Secret Garden
Now, for most band’s that had spent two years recording then promoting an album and a handful of singles, a well earned break would be in order. Not so T’Pau. No sooner had “I Will Be With You” passed, T’Pau released a completely brand new track in September 1988, “Secret Garden”. Not only that, a second album was being completed for release soon after, a little over a year on from “Bridge Of Spies”! As with “Sex Talk”, “Secret Garden” is much faster moving and more rockier and upbeat that its predecessor that includes a notably long chorus (I’ve timed it as 20 seconds!), something that would become a feature of this new album, which was titled “Rage”. “Secret Garden” is a celebration of being yourself, as Decker later acknowledged, the band had quite a big gay following and so the song represents something of an anthem for everyone, no matter where love lives, while the cover artwork featured the now highly distinctive and memorable T’Pau logo in Moai stone head form. Unfortunately, for a new song and the lead single from a new album, “Secret Garden” didn’t seem to capture the same audience that had been so attracted to the bands two top five hits a year earlier. The song ended up reaching No.18 in the UK, still a top twenty hit, but, “Sex Talk” excepted, their lowest charting single yet.
7. Road To Our Dream
Let’s begin boldly by stating that after “China In Your Hand”, “Road To Our Dream” is the greatest T’Pau song ever! By far the most down tempo single to be released yet, “Road To Our Dream” is as epic as it is subliminal and as magnificent as it is awe-inspiring. The second single to be taken from “Rage” was released in December 1988, the group’s fifth and final of the year and what a way to send us out. The long and sumptuous fade with echoes of a saxophone is one highlight of what is, for me, the standout track of the second album. “Road To Our Dream” SHOULD of been a huge hit. With every box ticked, this was melancholic T’Pau at their absolute best. Sadly, the song wasn’t and stopped just short of the UK top 40. Their first to do so since “Intimate Strangers” nearly two years earlier. So come on, let’s reappraise “Road To Our Dream” and put it up there with ‘the big three’ where it truly deserves to be. Is it as bad as it seems…?(!) Well, it certainly captivates MY every thought, time and time again.
8. Only The Lonely
The third single from “Rage” was delivered in March 1989 and, no it isn’t the old Roy Orbison number, but a new track that returns to the liveliness of “Secret Garden” with yet another long chorus. The single version was beefed up considerably with more guitars injected to give it more chart appeal as well as additional vocals from Carol over the final choruses, which add to the greater spectacle of this awesome song. “Only The Lonely” put T’Pau back in the top 40 and after a few weeks, made its way to No.28. Not mind blowing, but an improvement on “Road To Our Dream” and like both previous singles from “Rage”, the song deserved to go much further. This is pure-power-T’Pau that should be worshipped just as much as ‘the big three’. Viva!
9. Whenever You Need Me
Strangely, for whatever reason, only three singles were lifted from “Rage”. T’Pau then disappeared for a while, perhaps taking that well deserved break, but in 1991, they were back with their third album, “The Promise”. The first single to come from the album was “Whenever You Need Me” and it followed a very familiar pattern. It was as if they had never been away for two years. The song demonstrates Carol’s strength of voice yet again against a soft rock, smooth paced backdrop. T’Pau fans were obviously pleased to see them back as “Whenever You Need Me” made its way to No.16 on the singles chart, their highest placing since “I Will Be With You” three years earlier. “The Promise” went top ten in the UK (their third album to do so) but the two subsequent singles flopped completely. And that was that. “Whenever You Need Me” was something of an Indian summer for T’Pau. One last hoorah before the inevitable.
A best of in 1993 together with a re-release of “Valentine”, this time reaching No.53, followed the band going their separate ways. Carol continued to record under the name of T’Pau, releasing the album “Red” in 1998, together with the singles “With A Little Luck” and “Giving Up The Ghost”. Carol reunited with Ron Rogers in 2007 for twentieth anniversary performances from the “Bridge Of Spies” album and again from 2013, which resulted in a new album, “Pleasure And Pain”, their first together since “The Promise”, twenty four years earlier. T’Pau continue to play live and are a regular at 80’s festivals to the delight of many thousands of fans, who like me, form part of the DNA of life.