Tag Archives: Thompson Twins

Screamer of the Week: Thompson Twins: Sister of Mercy: This Week in 1984

Unless you are/were a die-hard album buying, b-side listening, concert attending Thompson Twins fan you may not know or remember the song, “Sister of Mercy”. Thompson Twins’ 1984 album, Into the Gap, produced three international hit singles, “Doctor Doctor,” “You Take Me Up“, and of course,  “Hold Me Now.”

Thompson-Twins-Sister-Of-Mercy-358260But it seems my favorite radio station, WLIR wasn’t content playing only those three songs from the album. Each of those singles were nominated for, and won, the station’s Screamer of the Week competition (each week listeners voted for the best new song of the week) in the winter of 1984. In the first week of March, “The Gap” became the fourth song from the album to win Screamer of the Week. And finally, “Sister of Mercy” won the competition in the second week of June. I’ll need verification from a Screamer of the Week scholar – but I’m pretty sure 5 Screamers from one album has to be some type of record. i don’t think R.E.M. or Depeche Mode or OMD or U2 ever came close to that achievement.

So what caused Thompson Twins to dominate the modern rock and pop airwaves in 1984 ? I think my answer may come in one word – their songs were incredibly, “CATCHY”.  I fear some may think that calling a song a catchy is a back handed compliment – but I use the phrase as major praise. “Yellow Submarine” is catchy. “Beat It” is catchy. “Ode to Joy” is catchy. So when I say that Into the Gap is filled with some of the catchiest tunes of the year, maybe I’m coming close to calling it a perfect album. Maybe.

I always interpreted “Sister of Mercy” as the band’s attempt at gravitas. It falls within what is a surprisingly large category of pop songs written about domestic violence. 10,000 Maniacs’ “What’s the Matter Here,” Janet Jackson’s “This Time”, The Pretenders and Annie Lennox’s respective covers of “Thin Line Between Love & Hate” are some of my favorites in that genre.

Thompson Twins were such a positive band – I always thought they might record a sequel to the song in which the female character is released from prison and goes on to counsel other women who have suffered a similar fate. Or maybe she sees the Thompson Twins video for “You Take Me Up” and, inspired, engineers a prison break.

I like a happy ending.

Additional Screamer of the Week posts:

The Psychedelic Furs – Heaven

The Thompson Twins – You Take Me Up

Prince and the Revolution – When Doves Cry

R.E.M. – Pretty Persuasion

 

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Screamer of the Week: You Take Me Up by Thompson Twins. This Week in 1984

During the third week of April, 1984, Thompson Twins won the Screamer of the Week with “You Take Me Up,” the third single from Into the Gap.  This song is the band at its most earnest – and its best. They seem to be taking a stab at something close to Blue Grass – and it works. The harmonica, the call and response, the lack of synthesizers (are those real cowbell I hear?).  And most importantly, the song answers the musical question: ‘what’s the solution to being caught up in an oppressive post-industrial economic system that depends on forced labor?’ The answer? Love, of course!

The video takes that idea even further. ‘What do you do when you are wrongly convicted of a crime and placed on a chain gang?’ Why, you sing about love and magically free yourself (even more effective than DNA testing)!

My favorite moment comes 2:00 in when Tom Bailey belts out the lyric

I believe in TODAY!

(believe boy, believe boy)

It’s better that way when you work through the night.

That’s a pretty good lyric, isn’t it. I’ll admit that when I worked in news and found myself on the night shift I’d sing that line to myself every once in awhile. I may have secretly hoped Tom, Joe, and Allanah would bust me out of my corporate media chain gang and allow me to bounce off into the sunset with them. I’ll also admit I may still be waiting.

Additional Screamer of the Week posts:

The Psychedelic Furs – Heaven

Prince and the Revolution – When Doves Cry

R.E.M. – Pretty Persuasion