Or, the very first 12” mix I ever heard and saw with my own eyes.

My sister brought it home with her from college one Christmas. I was 14, so the idea of stretching a song out for clubs so DJs could seamlessly mix them together was a rather alien concept. Even more alien was the notion that normal proles like myself could purchase these mixes for our home collection, no DJ credentials required. Fascinating.

Robert Palmer gets maligned in certain circles for the whole ‘whiteface girls in black spandex’ thing, but let’s make something abundantly clear: his work for Island, while not the model of consistency, was rarely dull. He would experiment with any style under the sun – witness the island riddims of “Every Kinda People” and the cock rock of “Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)” – and would sing any song he thought was cool, once covering Gary Numan and the Beatles on the same album. Simply put, the man followed his muse, with little regard for where it took him. Until, of course, he got a taste of success with the Power Station, at which point the muse was bound, gagged, and thrown into the trunk for a few years.

In 1983, however, the muse was still in charge, and when Palmer heard a song from the New York R&B duo the System called, fittingly enough, “You Are in My System,” he knew what to do. Armed with a voice significantly stronger than System singer Mic Murphy and an actual human behind an actual drum kit (the drummer did get some help from some synthetic toms), Palmer’s version takes the perky keyboard riff and Kraftwerk-ish percussion and gives it a soul. The 12” mix does not deviate much from the original, simply adding a couple mix-in and mix-out points and a bit involving a bouncing kick drum. But this was 1983; Arthur Baker had not yet turned the 12” mix on its ear by spinning vocal tapes backwards and cutting the rhythm tracks to shreds. Simple was good, and this was very, very good. And dig that brief scat in the instrumental break.

Funny story: I interviewed Babydaddy of the Scissor Sisters, and when I commented on how their song “Paul McCartney” reminded me of Palmer’s “Looking for Clues,” he admitted that that was exactly what they were aiming for, then made a throwaway comment about that song’s groove, saying, “Who knew that Robert Palmer had it in him?”

I sent him “You Are in My System.” I got a one-word reply: “Awesome!”

Robert Palmer – You Are in My System (Extended Version)

About the Author

David Medsker

David Medsker used to be "with it." But then they changed what "it" was. Now what he's "with" isn't "it," and what's "it" seems weird and scary to him. He is available for children's parties.

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