The Devil’s Trill
"Hey, a soul can't be bought, nor can a soul be sold."
, "Shake It Down," Queer
Who could count how many musicians have sold their souls for unearthly talent? The violinist Paganini was rumored to have made such a contract, and the blues guitarist Robert Johnson famously bragged that he had. We’re by no means suggesting that either the British pop band Thompson Twins
or the German soul/electro singer Billie Ray Martin
sold their souls for their exquisite musical abilities. (If we were indeed privy to such diabolical secrets, we’d be all the less likely to whisper them about!) We merely call your attention to the unconventional personage who accompanied each band on stage. Wearing a large hat that obscures his face, this archetypal
figure in black looked nothing like the rest
of the band. Exuding aloofness and confidence, this maverick appeared to be some sort of "puppet master,” pulling the band’s strings even as he manipulated his own bass or steel guitar. In the case of Thompson Twins, the mysterious figure even brazenly shape-shifts, his shadow growing larger and smaller as he performs behind a massive screen. Of course, two different musicians played out the role of the hat-wearing figure in black; while their identities are known, it is the archetype they played out that is in question.
Figure One: the bassist in black (right) looks nothing like the zany members of Thompson Twins in this 1985 Liverpool performance
Figure Two: The bassist looms over the band. Here he is seen in enlarged shadow form.
Figure Three: Another view of the mysterious bassist looming over vocalist Tom Bailey.
Figure Four: Shapeshifting from behind a screen, the enigmatic bassist repeatedly changes size.
Figure Five: Behind Billie Ray Martin sits Mr. X, his face always hidden by his incongruous cowboy hat, in this 1995 performance on the "Later With Jools Holland” television program.
Figure Six: What archetype is this mysterious figure playing out, performing a pedal steel guitar in an electronic dance band?