‘Clues’: Robert Palmer Takes Soul Into The New Wave

Introduced by the single ‘Johnny and Mary,’ Palmer’s sixth solo album had a rockier, more new wave feel than what had gone before.

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Robert Palmer 'Clues' artwork - Courtesy: UMG
Robert Palmer 'Clues' artwork - Courtesy: UMG

The sixth solo album by Robert Palmer, Clues, was a record with a rockier, more new wave feel than what had gone before. The Island artist was striving to find the formula for solo success that had, if not quite eluded him so far, been in limited supply.

Clues is one of Palmer’s strongest and most consistent albums, even if it only runs for 31 minutes. When it came out, preceded a week earlier by the lead single “Johnny and Mary,” the public felt so too, and both single and album entered the UK charts on September 6. It hit Billboard‘s US album bestsellers on October 11.

Helping Palmer on the album was the former Free bass player Andy Fraser, who had written Robert’s breakthrough single, “Every Kinda People.” He lends his bass playing skills to two tracks, while new wave and electro icon Gary Numan appears on one, his own composition “I Dream Of Wires,” on which he plays keyboards. Numan also wrote “Found You Now” with Palmer, who played percussion on Talking Heads’ Remain in Light. That band’s drummer, Chris Frantz, plays drums on Clues.

An expanding audience

The second single to be taken from the album, “Looking For Clues,” peaked at No.33 in the UK in December 1980, while “Johnny and Mary” had made No.44 a couple of months earlier. Clues peaked at No.59 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart and No.31 in the UK in 1980, the best performing of his LPs to date there. The album also made No.1 in Sweden, No.3 in France, No.15 in the Netherlands and No.42 in Italy.

Listen to the best of Robert Palmer on Apple Music and Spotify.

The video for “Looking for Clues” aired on MTV’s first day of broadcasting, on August 1, 1981. The video broadcaster would, of course, go on to help Palmer’s American career in a massive way later in the decade, with “Addicted To Love” and subsequent hits.

Buy or stream Clues.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Post-Punk Monk

    October 11, 2018 at 9:52 pm

    This was a radical shift to a New Wave sound from Palmer, who got me to buy this one after a few years of indifference from me, so it worked. The “Secrets” album that preceded this one was far more mainstream. Decades later, I like all of his albums. The only one I heard that doesn’t work for me was the second Power Station album. in the years before his untimely death, I had grown to be quite a fan of the eclectic Palmer. He had no fear of venturing anywhere he wanted to go musically.

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