From the outside looking in the T'Pau story seems to bear all the hallmarks of an overnight success story. The band formed in Shropshire in the UK in 1986 and by mid 1987 they were signed to a major label and recording their debut album with legendary producer Roy Thomas Baker (Queen, The Cars, Journey). Despite the power of a major label and an A-list producer twiddling the knobs initially things were a little slow as ‘Heart and Soul’ failed to chart in the UK. The fortunes of the band would change when the single was featured in an ad for Pepe jeans resulting in a huge hit in the USA. A UK re-release would provide the band with their first hit before ‘China in Your Hand’ would spend five weeks at the top of the UK charts. Oddly the success of ‘China’ was not repeated to the same level in America despite it seemingly having all the prerequisite power ballad credentials to be massive.
From a personal point of view in the mid 80’s my taste in music was fixated on American rock and AOR so T’Pau (oddly named after a Star Trek character) seemed to have some pretty good tunes and just enough guitars to catch my attention. The fact that the music videos for the singles seemed to be on TV every five minutes may have helped.
All of this brings us, finally, to the release of this new edition of ‘Bridge Of Spies’ which was originally rumoured to be happening back in 2012 but these things can take time. A band such as T’Pau and other 80’s acts that have recently received the deluxe style treatment (Belinda Carlisle springs to mind) is that the 1980’s were a maze of releases that kept any fan of the band on their toes. If you wanted to own all the various mixes, live tracks and other oddities you might well need to buy the: 7” single, 12” single, Cd single, 7” Picture Disc, 12” Picture Disc and maybe even a cassette single. In these modern times record companies / big box retailers have invented the Target, Best Buy, ITunes exclusive content…..so maybe times haven’t changed that much.
The new release of ‘Bridge Of Spies’ is a remastered 3 disc set (2 CD / 1 DVD). The first disc featured a remastered version of the album with an additional 8 bonus tracks. This is very much an 80’s album, mainly due to the production choices of the day, the drums have that harsh, crisp electronic sound of the period and the guitars are a little thin (this was a pop record after all) a sound designed by the producers to sound good on American radio. The bonus tracks that round out the first disc include the single versions of their two signature hits, which is great for fans as ‘China in Your Hand’ was re-recorded for single release. Other B-sides from the period include an energetic ‘Sex Talk’ which demonstrates that the band could put on a good show. Unfortunately my one chance to catch the band at their peak in a live setting was foiled when they cancelled their Brighton show as support to Bryan Adams due to ill health if I remember correctly (luckily AOR act Strangeways filled the void and played a great show). The first disc is rounded out with a selection of songs from the period that didn’t make the album including ‘On a Wing’ which benefits from spiky, tremolo guitar parts courtesy of Dean Howard while ‘Giving My Love Away’ is a neat pop song that could have easily fitted into the album running time.
Disc two has a mix of live material from Hammersmith ’88 and a Scottish show from 1987 plus an overdose of ‘Heart and Soul’. No less than 5 more versions of the huge stateside hit are presented here including the US Radio Edit, which seems to have misplaced all of the guitars, and an extended remix which boosts drum and vocal tracks and works pretty well. The other mixes are best avoided by most sane listeners as I’ve always considered the dub mix a plague on good pop songs but I fully understand that might just be me. The exhaustive selection of material on this disc is rounded out by two cover tunes as singer Carol Decker takes a break and guitarist Ronnie Rogers takes lead vocal duties on ‘Walk Away Renee’ which must have been more fun for the band than the listener but then gets us back on side with a guitar driven, fun and frisky ‘I’m A Believer’. The disc concludes with four demo tracks including the first official release of ‘Maggie’ which is a very welcome addition to the set. Unfortunately the DVD wasn't available for review but it does include six promo videos and the long out-of-print VHS live show from Hammersmith Odeon 1988 finally makes it to silver disc.
Universal alongside Carol (who continues to tour as T’Pau) and the band have done a good job of pulling this together. There are bound to be a few moans about what is and isn’t included by fans with a far greater knowledge than I about the band, but as a reviewer with a passing interest I enjoyed it and I’m sure fans of T’Pau will be more than happy with this reissue.
T’Pau – Bride Of Spies (Remastered Expanded Edition) is out now via Universal.