In May of 1987 I graduated from Frankfurt American High School in Frankfurt (West) Germany. My father was in the Army and we were due to be rotated back to the United States. By this time I was seventeen and had gotten used to this -besides, I was headed to college so I was not too concerned about the move. As was typical, the movers showed up about a month before the actual rotation date, so all of my belongings had to be packed and remain unseen for nearly two months. I diligently packed all of my stuff, but did not have the foresight to keep any of my cassettes from being sent away. I needed music! For no apparent reason I kept my Walkman handy, but nothing to play in it. I made a temporary fix by borrowing a few tapes from friends, but those needed to be returned before I left. So there I was faced with six weeks of no music- an impossible position to endure. I begged my father to let me buy three tapes before we went to the airport.
As I quickly grabbed a few tapes to inspect, out of the corner of my eye I see a line drawn cover of a man playing an electric guitar in front of a mountain and the name ANDY TAYLOR.
I did not have much time, so I had to make a quick decision. I was a pretty big fan of Duran Duran and knew that Andy Taylor was the band’s guitarist. I also had the soundtracks to American Anthem (starring gymnast Mitch Gaylord and Janet Jones (Mrs. Wayne Gretzky) and (the second) Miami Vice album which each contained great tracks from Taylor (Take It Easy, Wings of Love, and When the Rain Comes Down). I loved these songs and they left me wanting more. Taylor’s solo work was a big departure from Duran Duran. On his own he rocked! These were guitar driven melodic songs much more in line with the songs he played on with The Power Station. In short, I wanted to hear more from the guitarist who was never really allowed to cut loose with Duran Duran.
I grabbed the tape and Thunder became my soundtrack for that summer and one of the most important pieces of music I ever purchased. The album was not a big hit and the two singles (and videos) received moderate airplay. Billboard lists the album as peaking at #46 while the single I Might Lie reached # 17 and Don’t Let Me Die Young topped out at #36. The importance of this album does not lie in its success but rather in the hole it filled in my life.
I was seventeen years old, living temporarily in Central Missouri, and (im)patiently waiting to head to college in Nebraska and begin my life. I needed something to calm me, help me miss my girlfriend less, and fill the gap of being alone – I refused to make any friends because I was moving on in a few weeks. I always turned to music to “get me through” and this time would be no different, but I only had three choices. I dug into Thunder with enthusiasm and went back again and again and again. Each track struck a different chord within my struggling teenage soul.
All of the songs on this album are great. The opening track starts with engines revving – preparing the listener for the ride; it then bursts into a loud rhythm guitar, surprising those expecting a Duran Duran-esque sound. Pure rock ensues and continues for the duration. Catchy hooks, great rhythms, and screaming guitar solos are all an important part of Andy Taylor’s solo work. The lyrics are far from great, but they are decent and good enough to keep the listener interested.
This album got me through six of the toughest weeks of me teenage existence and still resonates with me today every time I listen to it.
Favorite track: Bringin’ Me Down
Favorite solo: Don’t Let Me Die Young
Favorite lyric: Why don’t you spend some time with me / It’s hard to talk but time to walk into my lonely emptiness / And time to find a place to rest
If you are a fan of 80s music, Duran Duran, or melodic rock, you cannot miss this album. It is not easy to find but well worth your effort.