Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Robert Palmer’s “Addicted To Love” helped define the MTV era

In We’re No. 1The A.V. Club examines an album or single that went to No. 1 on the charts to get to the heart of what it means to be popular in pop music, and how that has changed over the years. In this installment, we cover Robert Palmer’s “Addicted To Love,” which hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on May 3, 1986.
Robert Palmer’s iconic video for his biggest single, “Addicted To Love,” celebrates its 30th anniversary this coming January. Paying homage to American art deco legend Patrick Nagel, for the video the singer substituted the seasoned session men who helped him record his breakthrough 1985 LP Riptide and replaced them with quintet of high fashion models. 
“I remember feeling an acute sense of embarrassment when I first saw how sexy the video was,” “bassist” Mak Gilchrist said to Q Magazine in 2009. With Palmer out front dressed to the nines in a white shirt and tie, the video created an imagery that has come to define MTV during its ’80s heyday as prominently as any other single of its time. Nobody in the Top 40 carried themselves like Palmer back then: Standing in a crowd among his peers, he looked like Don Draper on the set of The Goldbergs
“People talk about the way he dressed in the videos, but that was the way he dressed all the time,” renowned studio guitarist Eddie Martinez tells The A.V. Club.Martinez, along with Duran Duran guitarist Andy Taylor—Palmer’s associate in the short-lived supergroup The Power Station in ’85—gave the song its feral hard-rock edge. “And there was no pretense; he was very comfortable in his own skin. He’d come to the studio dialed in his double-breasted suit and proper tie, and he wore it well. I always respected that.”
However, it was the strength of the song itself that propelled “Addicted To Love” to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 the week of May 3 in 1986. The success of that single and the Riptide album served as a serious turning point in Palmer’s established career, which dated all the way back to his work in the early ’70s English R&B group Vinegar Joe. That effort led to a long relationship with Island Records, yielding such choice solo work as 1974’s Sneaking Sally Through The Alley, 1975’s Pressure Drop, and 1980’s Clues. With Riptide, however, the singer updated his approach, coupling the white-hot mid-’80s R&B climate with the equally in vogue hard-rock scene to create a sound entirely his own. Palmer was helped by Chic bassist Bernard Edwards behind the production desk and a crew of great musicians that included Taylor, Martinez (the man behind the guitar riffs on the Run DMC hits “Rock Box” and “King Of Rock”), drummer Tony Thompson, keyboardists Wally Badarou and Jeff Bova, and bassist Guy Pratt, among others. 
“Robert had this plan for a while,” Pratt explains to The A.V. Club. “He wanted to do a rock album, with Jeff Beck originally, using disco technology. No one had really done that yet, and Riptide was a very influential album in terms of the shaping of that ’80s sound. You know, that big guitar and really bright techno stuff, all of which had nothing to do with the vast amounts of cocaine being used by people at the time [Laughs.] Originally when Robert wrote ‘Addicted,’ it was basically a ZZ Top song. It was Bernard who came up with that bass line, which takes the song to a whole other place because it came from the man who created ‘Good Times.’”
“For the ’80s, the song had something very modern to it,” adds Martinez. “When I listen to Riptide now, and particularly that track, there’s something to it that still holds up to this day in a really good way. There are other albums I was on during that time that didn’t hold up as well. But I think the way it was recorded and the way it was performed really still rings true. The whole thing was done digitally, too.” 
“Addicted” was originally intended to be a duet with Chaka Khan, but her then-manager refused to sign off on its release in fear of her overexposure, as she was enjoying her own success with her 1984 LP I Feel For You. A demo version of the song with Khan, however, is said to be in existence. Palmer gave her credit for vocal arrangements. Khan posted a picture of her and Palmer performing “Addicted” at Wembley Stadium on her website, shortly before Palmer died of a heart attack in September 2003. She wrote, “I arranged the vocals for his #1 hit ‘Addicted To Love’ but unfortunately, the vocals I recorded didn’t make the final version. I was still pretty stoked to have been involved in this project!”
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