If you only know Robert Palmer because of the promo for “Addicted to Love,” you’re missing out. It may be a great song, but there was always more to the man and his music than a sharp suit and an (admittedly iconic) pop video. Over the course of 4 decades, Palmer produced 14 studio albums and some incredibly fine songs. His career may have been over far too soon (Palmer died of a heart attack in 2003 at the age of just 54), but it gave us plenty to savor. Here, we look at the 10 best Robert Palmer songs of all time.
10. Mama Talk To Your Daughter
As classicrockhistory.com points out, anyone whose experience of Palmer begins and ends with his mid-1980s MTV fame wouldn’t recognize “Mama Talk To Your Daughter” as coming from the same man. And that was always kind of the point of Robert Palmer. His incredibly eclectic approach to music gave us more surprises than most of his contemporaries combined: no sooner had he found a groove, he took a left turn out of there. But there were always a couple of things that remained constant: namely, his incredible vocals and his unsurpassed delivery. Both are on fine display on this bluesy, hard-driving little number taken from his last ever album, “Drive.”
9. Looking for Clues
After starting his career as a rocker, Palmer switched riffs for synths in 1980 with the New Wave-inspired “Clues.” Produced in collaboration with synth-pop pioneer Gary Newman, the album gave Palmer some of his biggest hits till that point. The radio-friendly “Looking for Clues” was one of them. The track itself is good enough to justify a place on our list, but its most lasting legacy is its promo, which was one of the first-ever videos played on MTV.
8. Simply Irresistible
Taken from the 1988 album “Heavy Nova,” Simply Irresistible” was almost identical to “Addicted to Love,” right down to the lipsticked models in the accompanying promo. But there are worse songs to copy, as its record sales (it reached number one on the U.S. Billboard Rock Tracks and number two on the Billboard Hot 100) clearly attest.
7. One Last Look
If Bryan Ferry ever had any competion in the suave rocker department, Robert Palmer was it. As classicrockhistory.com says, the image of him playing strip poker with Playboy Playmate Denise Michele on the cover of his 1976 album “Some People Can Do What They Like” probably inspired a thousand would-be rock and rollers to shapen their ties and swap their leathers for suits. “One Last Look” is as smooth and sophisticated as you’d expect.
The hits may have started drying up for Palmer at the end of the 1980s, but he was still capable of delivering the goods right up to the end. “Lucky” from the 2003 album “Drive” is a creative slice of pure pop magic, with a slinky guitar riff and a raucous percussion that’s guaranteed to get you bopping. It might be a world away from the smooth sounds of his earlier days, but it’s none the worse for it.
5. Addicted to Love
As scotchwhisky.com writes, Palmer’s radio-friendly rock singles of the 1980s were perfectly suited to the pop video age. In 1986, he cemented his status as the darling of MTV with the release of “Addicted to Love.” The song went on to become his biggest ever commercial and critical success, bagging both a number one spot on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and a Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal performance. The video was iconic enough, but it’s Palmer’s smooth delivery that really impresses.
4. Casting a Spell
When Palmer scored his biggest ever hit with “Addicted to Love,” he created a problem for himself. How could he live up to such a massive success? For a man who’d always been known for his musical departures more than anything else, trying to replicate more of the same couldn’t have been easy. But still, he tried. The 1988 album “Heavy Nova” mostly comprises of the same slick sounds as its predecessor – but Palmer being Palmer, he still manages to fit in a few surprises, including the very eclectic, stunningly hard-rocking “Casting a Spell.”
3. Spanish Moon
Robert Palmer may have been able to write a fine lyric, but he wasn’t averse to using other peoples when the occasion called. One of the bands he most favored was Little Feat – in addition to working alongside them on numerous occasions in the studio, he also covered a good selection of their songs. “Spanish Moon,” which was originally released on the band’s 1974 album ‘Feats Don’t Fail Me Now,’ is one of the finest, featuring impeccable vocals and a deeply funky guitar riff.
2. Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)
A highlight of the 1979 album “Secrets,” “Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)” gave us Robert Palmer doing what Robert Palmer did best. The lyrics were the kind that stuck in your head; the chorus was the kind you couldn’t resist singing along to, and the vocals were as impressive as ever. It may be an obvious choice, and drunken karaoke versions may have tainted its legacy over the years, but this is still a very fine song from one of the finest periods in Palmer’s career.
1. How Much Fun
In at number one is “How Much Fun.” Taken from the 1974 album “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley,” the song was recorded before Palmer hit the big time with tracks like “Addicted to Love” and “Simply Irresistible.” While it’s not as well known as his later efforts, it has an appeal all of its own, with a joyful arrangement, soulful vocals, and a very distinctive artistic identity that’s all the more incredible when you realize this was one of Palmer’s first-ever recordings as a solo artist. Few musicians arrive on the scene fully formed and ready for business; as this gorgeous track more than demonstrates, Palmer was the exception.