Luke Morley Interview / How Thunder rose from the ashes of Terraplane – Part One

The old phrase “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” couldn’t have been more apt for Luke Morley, Danny Bowes and Harry James. When their fledgling [pre Thunder] band Terraplane was signed to a big record company, things should have taken off from there. Certainly, their first album, Black And White, got some very positive attention. The band played Reading Festival and some other significant other shows, including an arena tour with Foreigner. 

Sadly, various issues derailed the band, and by the time their second album was released, the wave had crashed onto the shore. 

“I think with Terraplane, we were still finding our feet,” Luke Morley told MetalTalk’s Paul Monkhouse. “We weren’t particularly clear in our minds about where we were going. We knew that we liked rock music, but we also liked all sorts of other music as well. The label Epic, CBS as it was then, didn’t get rock. If you look at the other acts on the label at the time, Wham, Sade, and Paul Young, they were a pop label. It was a very good one, but they didn’t know what to do with us.

“In recording the two albums we did with them, I don’t think we nailed what we were or what we were trying to do because we didn’t have a clear idea ourselves. I think we had to go through that process to realize what we didn’t want to do.”

English rock band Thunder. Photo by Ross Halfin
Thunder will reissue their breakthrough albums Backstreet Symphony, Laughing On Judgement Day and Behind Closed Doors on 28 April 2023. Photo: Ross Halfin

Many may have given up at this point, but with advice from an unexpected source, former Duran Duran guitarist Andy Taylor, they picked themselves up and formed a new outfit: Thunder.

A wise man, industry veteran and a rocker of peerless credentials (check out his album Dangerous for solid gold proof), Taylor had unknowingly encouraged the birth of a band that some consider one of the best hard rock bands this country had seen since the halcyon days of the 1970s. 

“Crucial to that process was meeting Andy Taylor because he nailed it,” Luke says. “He put it in one sentence. He said, ‘Don’t be fucking around. You’re a fucking great blues rock band. Drink more, turn it up, and have fun.’ And that one bit of advice resonated with the kind of songs I was starting to write. I think that when we met Andy, I had already written Dirty Love and a couple of the other tunes that were on the first album.

“So, him coming in was the catalyst that we needed, really. He must take a lot of responsibility and credit for that because we felt like we were going around in a few circles, and what he basically said uncomplicated the whole process. Then out of that came the first album and the 30-year career.”

With a schedule of constant touring of any venue with electricity and an area large enough to squeeze their equipment into, Thunder soon built up a big grassroots reputation as one of THE live acts to see. With the buzz created, the record companies soon showed an interest.

“There was a degree of energy in us because of Terraplane,” Morley says. “It had been quite frustrating, but there was momentum once we realized what it was we were supposed to be doing all along. Then I had a kind of major creative kind of wave, and the songs just came out very quickly. There was a sense of throwing off the shackles, and we were finally musically free. So there’s an energy about it.

The other person who has to take credit is Mike Fraser who recorded and mixed the album. We had wanted to get Fraser for about two years, just as the Terraplane was finishing. Danny and I went to America for a fact-finding mission, and Permanent Vacation [Aerosmith] had just come out. That was all over the radio in America. It was an amazing-sounding record. It sounded like you were sitting in the room with the band.

“As soon as I heard it, I had never heard a record sound this good. A rock band sound. Whoever this guy is, we need him. So we found out where he was, and we sent him some demos. This was before we signed with EMI. We said, ‘We’re out from England. We love what you do. We think if you were with us, we would all really enjoy it.

“Much to our surprise, he came back and went ‘Brilliant. I’m in. I’ll come to England and do it.’ So it was great. So literally, he came off recording Pump with Aerosmith, got on a plane and came to England, and then we made Backstreet Symphony. He made us sound like I’d always heard us sounding in my head if you know what I mean?”

In our four part interview, Luke Morley talks about recording their breakthrough albums Backstreet Symphony, Laughing On Judgement Day and Behind Closed Doors as the band release expanded editions on 28 April 2023 via BMG. These feature rare, deleted, and unreleased bonus live versions of hits from each album and will be available on vinyl for the first time since their initial release.

You can read all Four Parts of the Luke Morley interview here.

Backstreet Symphony will be pressed as a double LP, one gold disc and one silver disc.

Laughing On Judgement Day is a double LP, one white disc and one blue disc.

Laughing On Judgement Day is a double LP, one white disc and one blue disc.

The albums will also be available as a CD Digipak. Visit https://thunderband.lnk.to/bsslojdbcdPR for more details.

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