How Robert Palmer Dreamed Up His 1986 Hit ‘Addicted to Love’
In May 1986, Robert Palmer scored his first No. 1 song thanks to an idea that came to him in a dream.
At that point, Palmer had spent roughly 20 years as one of music’s underappreciated journeymen. Early stints singing in bands the Alan Brown Set and Vinegar Joe had yielded only a minor following. Going solo would help Palmer’s star slowly rise.
Between 1975 and 1983, the singer released seven solo LPs, earning small hits with “Every Kinda People” and “Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor).” Still, upper-level success - like a chart-topping single or platinum-selling album - continued to elude him.
A seismic change took place when Palmer teamed up with former Chic drummer Tony Thompson and Duran Duran members John and Andy Taylor to form the Power Station. The band’s 1985 self-titled album was a triumph, scoring two Top 10 hits - “Some Like it Hot” and “Get It On (Bang a Gong)” - and selling more than a million copies. Rather than joining the rest of the band for a tour across the U.S., Palmer opted to focus on his next solo release.
Watch the Power Station's 'Some Like It Hot' Video
Here’s where that dream comes into play. One night, while fast asleep, a riff popped into Palmer’s head. "It woke me up," the rocker revealed in a 1986 interview with People magazine. "I just dreamed the tune.”
Keenly aware that inspiration had struck, he quickly captured the idea on tape. “I woke up and hummed it into my tape recorder. A lot of times when that happens, it's just nonsense. But in the morning I listened to it, and I knew I'd caught one."
Indeed, he had. Still, Palmer’s initial vision of “Addicted to Love” was not exactly how the track turned out. Originally, he imagined the song as a duet and recruited Chaka Khan as a partner. The two recorded the track, with Khan taking the upper harmonies. However, the R&B singer’s record label refused to sign off on the duet, insisting it would steal attention from her upcoming LP. Instead, Palmer would re-record Khan’s parts himself.
Thanks to its distinctive riff and earworm chorus, “Addicted to Love” quickly found an audience. The single was released in January 1986 and steadily rose up the chart. On May 2, it hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Watch Robert Palmer's 'Addicted to Love' Video
Aiding to its success was the song’s iconic music video. The clip, which featured Palmer performing the song backed by an emotionless group of mannequin-like models, became one of the most popular videos on MTV.
“I thought it was totally original,” Julie Pankhurst, one of the video models recalled decades later. “I loved the passion it evoked from many walks of life. It appealed to the male population for obvious reasons, many women felt empowered by it, some musicians resented it and there was an outcry in the feminist camp.”
The phenomenon drew fans toward Palmer in droves, though he did see one drawback from the video. “One thing I get now is a lot of females in my audience dressed up like the ones in the videos,” Palmer explained to GQ in 1988. “And let me tell you, those girls just aren't my speed. I don't know what to say to them - little less makeup, please?"
Spawned by “Addicted to Love,” Palmer’s 1985 LP Riptide became the first platinum-selling release of his solo career. He had finally made it, and, in more ways than one, he was living the dream.