Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey on the story behind ‘Hold Me Now’

The lead singer of the 80s new wave outfit talks the most important argument he ever had, and how it led to his most successful single

The course of musical history is paved with heartbreak, whether it be lamenting the loss of someone, or longing for the touch of another. But a less trodden path is the notion of patching things up again. Rather than looking upon the ache of conflict, focussing instead on the ability to mend and move forwards. When looking at The Beatles back catalogue, ‘We Can Work It Out’ is something of an anomaly. 

It’s this theme that gives Thompson Twins’ hit 1983 single ‘Hold Me Now’ such resonance, and allows for it to have created such a unique and unwavering connection with the band’s loyal support. According to Tom Bailey, the songwriter and lead vocalist of the new wave outfit, it’s the authenticity derived from a real-life situation with Alannah Currie, his ex-wife and former member of the band, that has given the song such longevity. 

“It’s one of the things that sets this song apart – that it was about a real, emotional event,” begins Bailey, remembering back to the time he shared a rented farmhouse outside London, in what would have then been the early 80s. “Alannah and I had a big disagreement; an emotional battle that we argued out and, eventually, as you do, we resolved it and made friends again. Then we immediately sat down and wrote this song. There was an emotional strength which led the writing. I think I had some of the musical ideas already, and Alannah was contributing lyrics and it just kind of flowed into the song that we know now.”

Thompson Twins - Hold Me Now

‘Hold Me Now’ eventually became the first single on the band’s fourth studio album, Into the Gap, and was their biggest selling track to date – coming in at No.4 in the UK charts, making it their first ever top five hit. Bailey admits, however, that they had a strong idea of the song’s potential success before it even got that far.

“There are moments in a song-writing career when you think, ‘wow, we’re onto something here’, and I think in this case we knew we were onto something good,” he smiles. “So much so, we went ahead and rush-recorded it, even without our producer. We knew we had to just make the record and get it out there.”

It’s not a song you want to rush-record, either. ‘Hold Me Now’ represented something of a change of pace for the band, a more melodic, ballad of sorts, and one that came with such varied instrumentation. There’s even an xylophone in there somewhere. 

“It was the largest multitrack recording I had ever done to that day,” says Bailey. “I was on my own producing it as well. It was serious stuff and I had to get it right.”

It’s fair to say the Yorkshire-born frontman pulled it out the bag, though with great success came great pressure – especially considering the song was written and put together before the rest of the album had taken shape. 

“It led to a rather unusual position for us, because ‘Hold Me Now’ was released and was climbing up the charts in the UK and in America, while we were making the rest of the album. While it was very exciting and it raised the bar, it put this enormous pressure on us to really make a great album.

“But it felt as though the three of us had reached an emotional maturity in our song-writing, so we knew we could take on more difficult subjects. Suddenly there was a substance and a weight to what we did, and that turned out to be a good thing.”

When it came to recording the rest of the album – hopefully with their producer now present – the band set off to the Caribbean, and it was here they first learned of the success of ‘Hold Me Now’. 

“We were in the Bahamas recording the rest of the album, and we were getting phone calls from managers in London and record companies and executives in the US saying ‘it’s going crazy’, all while we were on a little island making a record. It was a little bit weird.”

The initial buzz of a hit record then, over time, takes on a different sort of meaning. Now, for Bailey, it’s appreciating where ‘Hold Me Now’ still sits in musical history; to appreciate that it’s still so widely regarded, and now part of the fabric of the British music scene. 

“It happens all the time,” he said, on hearing the song while just out and about. “I’m in New Zealand at the moment and sometimes I go to the local supermarket and one of my records comes on. I have to turn my collar up and sneak out before it becomes embarrassing.

“But when you do hear your work in very public situations like that, unexpectedly and not part of the reason that you’re there, then it’s a sign that you’ve reached deep into a culture,” he adds. “I remember the first time it happened. We were going through an airport and we heard it being played and we thought, ‘wow, we really have gone looking for trouble – and found it’.”

Tom Bailey performs ' Hold Me Now ' Manchester December 2021

Bailey is still able to feel the love for this song via live performances, with a track he knows is something that continues to connect so greatly with fans in the crowd. 

“It never fails to get some kind of special emotional response, and these days we don’t even bother finishing the song, we just let the audience finish it for us. I just wallow in the fact that it recreates that emotional connection.

It underlines the fact that it’s not really about music and it’s not really about celebrity and success and all of those things – it’s about the emotional connection that you make with people, ultimately,” says Bailey, now looking ahead to his own solo UK tour in May. “Back in the day we had a crazy idea that, in some sense, rock ‘n roll had this ability to change the world, to make it a better place. I think maybe in today’s music business we’ve lost that idea a little bit, but certainly it was one of the motivations for even forming the band in the first place. You felt like – how can we make a difference to our life and to other people’s lives? It’s one of the big motivations that drives us on. So, when a song like that connects, you think – yes, we’ve done it.” 

Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey starts his UK tour this May. Find tickets here

Photo credit: Paul Natkin/Getty Images