top of page

What You Don't Know About Robert Palmer (Probably a Lot)

A young Robert Palmer

June 14, 2017 | by Andrew K. Lau

While originally known for this blue-eyed soul material, Palmer was in the possession of a sharp artistic mind that was in constant search of new sounds. Right off the bat, Palmer set the creative bar rather high for himself with his 1974 debut LP, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, by using not just Little Feat and The Meters as his backing band, but pulling New Orleans R&B legend Allen Toussaint into the project as well. The soul continued with Pressure Drop and Double Fun (with added reggae and disco elements) while 1976’s Some People Can Do What They Like stretches the boundaries a bit by concluding with a wonderfully strange penny whistle and harp instrumental “Off The Bone,” which dissolves into the swaggering funk of the title track. His 1979 record, Secrets, was a study on harder rock ‘n roll and the 1980 LP, Clues, is a darker, synth-heavy work with contributions from both Gary Numan and Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz (Palmer contributed percussion to the Talking Heads landmark album, Remain in Light, around that same time). Add to this his smoky voice sliding easily between tenor and baritone and the package is more than complete.

All in all, Palmer was a constantly absorbing new elements which, put in this perspective, makes his radio hits of the mid/late 1980’s more understandable. Those irritatingly overplayed songs such as “Addicted to Love,” and whatever the other one was called, were just another facet of this gentleman’s interesting and varied career.

This song here, a cracking live version of “Every Kinda People” written by former Free bassist, Andy Fraser, and recorded live for the Midnight Special television program with a white-hot backing band. This performance is a perfect example of the ease in which Robert Palmer could sing soul and how comfortable he was in front of an audience. So comfortable, in fact, after viewing this footage one gets the feeling this guy would be fun to sit down with for a drink or two.

Now, I wouldn’t go as far as to suggest Mr. Palmer’s work has been forgotten since his untimely death in 2003, perhaps he was taken for granted after a time, but his first seven albums are just packed with interesting material. Allow this clip to be a starting point or a reminder of his talents.

Weekly Stuff


bottom of page