Saturday, 19 January 2013

T'Pau Back For 25th Anniversary Trek

Listening to the excitement in Carol Decker’s voice as she describes how she will play the Isle of Wight Festival this year, it is easy to understand how that same voice took T’Pau’s third single to number one in 1987, where it stayed for five weeks.

Carol Decker
Still possessing the powerful voice that took her to the top, Decker, 55, is taking T'Pau on its first headline tour in 15 year to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the band’s debut album- the quadruple-platinum ‘Bridge of Spies’. 

 “I thought I would mark our anniversary in some way and come out and sing a few tunes… hopefully some people will come and see me”, she laughs. “Of course I will play hits, but also classic album tracks. I’m thinking of having a little acoustic set in the middle.” 

The unusual name was taken from a Vulcan high-priestess on the TV show 'Star Trek', which Decker happened to be watching at the right time. 

'Bridge of Spies' has sold over five million copies. Decker holds the rare honour of having both an album and single at the number one spot at the same time. Even more impressively, the single, 'China In Your Hand', which was the biggest-selling single of 1987, kept George Harrison off  the number one spot in the UK singles charts. 'Bridge of Spies' kept Paul McCartney from hitting number one on the album charts. 

T'Pau seemed to live on Top of the Pops in the late 80's. Selling out the likes of Wembley Arena, they were one of the hottest tickets in town. Decker was the flame-haired pinup for a decade of teenagers.

'Rage', released in 1988, peaked at number four in the UK and also went platinum. 1991's 'The Promise' also made the UK top 10. Altogether, they have scored eight top 40 singles, including 'Valentine', 'Heart and Soul', 'Secret Garden' and 'Road to Our Dream', and sold over 15 million records worldwide. 

Speaking to Carol over the phone, however, these accomplishments are modestly lived down. Decker describes having a male roadie pose as her to distract the throng of people waiting for her at venues for her own protection as " 15 minutes, as Andy Warhol would say. couldn't get out of the stage door at the Hammersmith Odeon for the fans and press. Our roadie just put on this red wig, leather jacket and shades and jumped into the back of the limo and everybody sped after him. He had better legs than me as I recall!”

It was all steaming along nicely until 1991, when the original lineup of the band disintergrated. "It's the cliched old tale. We had, behind the scenes, been falling out for quite some time. It's ancient history now and I'm friends with several members of the original lineup. We send Christmas cards and keep in touch. 

We were having creative differences. Ronnie (Rogers, the band's rhythm guitarist, and Decker's ex-boyfriend) and I put the band together; Ronnie and I wrote all the songs. The other boys began to find that frustrating, and of course, because we wrote all the hits we started to earn more money than they did. Creative differences... powerful personalities, and a lot of time living in each other's pockets. It's quite sad really, because you go from being like the three musketeers to sort of 'I think you're a complete t***!'

And the music-scene had changed. When we came out with The Promise it was all club music, Stone Roses. It was all groove-orientated stuff, and we couldn't find our place. We lost our footing. Ronnie and I ended up splitting up. In the last year, it all went tits up."

Decker also put the breakup down to the fact that although they were marketed as a band, it was more about her than anyone else, which caused friction. This is evident on the cover of 'Bridge of Spies', as she is in the foreground and the rest of the band are at the back in a blur.

Decker released an album, 'Red', in 1998 under the name of T'Pau, although she was the only member of the original lineup to feature on it. 

In recent years, she has been a regular fixture at 80's nostalgia shows, such as Rewind Festival. These shows  fill the biggest arenas in the country, and their summer festivals can bring up to 40,000 people to see acts like The Bangles, Heather Small, The Human League, and of course, T'Pau. 

These shows consist of the artists playing a handful of their biggest hits as part of a package show with many of the 80's biggest acts on the bill. Carol is thankful for the 80's revival as she does not find herself writing that many songs anymore.
"I have been trying just lately. I've found it incredibly difficult to knuckle down to do it in the last few years. I don't know if that part of my brain has withered on the vine. I'm a very practical person and I'm a very busy mum (Carol has two children with her husband) and I find that takes over.

I am trying. I'm about half way through three or four songs with my keyboard player. I'm just very critical of my ideas. I want them to be special and sometimes I struggle to get that special quality that you do when you're young- everything's alive to you, and you're angry about stuff, passionate about stuff; and that goes, haha." 

The last new material Decker released was 2007's 'Just Dream'- a song released exclusively through iTunes, and sold from her website. It was a collaboration with Ron Rogers, who will be performing with Carol on some of the upcoming UK tour dates. "He can't do the whole tour with me, which is a shame, but he's going to do as many  as he can. He's one of the most talented rhythm guitarists ever."

In 2011, 'The Story Behind the Tracks' was released. A CD/DVD set, it contained a one hour film, which documented Carol and Ronnie's road to stardom, along with a CD of original demos of the 'Bridge of Spies' album, and also unreleased demos, not featured on any other album.

Carol has always maintained that selling out Wembley Arena as a headline act is the highlight of her career so far. "We played it many times with Brian Adams and Prince's Trust stuff, but the lights went down and we heard this roar went up and we went on the stage and people went mental. Thinking about it now, it's like it was yesterday.

This is very generational, but the first time I did the Top of the Pops was incredible. I ticked all the boxes like the old Marquee Club in Soho. Long, long gone, but every band worth their salt played the Marquee, and we played the Marquee." 

Despite being a busy mum, and finding it a little harder to get inspired like she used to, Carol is determined to release a new album, with the possibility of selling an EP of new songs at the shows. "This year I will get an album out. It won't be in time for the tour, but I'm going to get on with it."

By James Nuttall

Tour dates and T'Pau news can be found on the official website.
Follow Carol on her official Facebook site.
The Story Behind the Tracks can be purchased here.
Older albums can be purchased here.

Decker in T'Pau's heyday
Photographs copyright James Nuttall and Carol Decker.