“Songs, and songwriting keeps me inspired, moving forward. I tend to scribble down notes, lyrics or just random thoughts on pieces of paper, backs of cigarette packs, sometimes on my shirt cuff. Rock n’ roll is closest thing I’ve got to a spiritual power. It’s been the higher voice in my life and it’s never let me down.”
The ride began when Waite was tapped as bassist and lead vocalist for the Baby’s who rocketed to Top 20 chart positions with a pair of infections hits, “Isn’t it Time” from the band’s sophomore LP, Broken Heart in 1977 and the monster ballad, “Every Time I Think of You” off 1978’s Head First.
After John Lennon’s assassination, December 9, 1980, a bizarre thing happened during one of those furious Baby’s performances when John was pulled from the stage by an overzealous fan during an encore. The freak event seriously injured his knee and the group disbanded shortly thereafter. From the ashes of the Baby’s, however, rose an abundant and prodigious solo career, ignited by the well-received release, Ignition, that featured the single, “Change,” which rode the AOR charts for weeks in 1982, the year a new cable channel that would alter the course of popular media culture called MTV launched. At the forefront of its early play list was the video for the Holly Knight-penned track that in 1985, was included on the platinum-selling Vision Quest soundtrack.
John’s next solo effort, 1984’s No Brakes, did exactly what the title inferred, barreling at runaway train speed to international acclaim and U.S. platinum success thanks to the smash hit, “Missing You,” which did not stop until it reached Number 1 on the Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles, Album Rock Tracks and Adult Contemporary charts. The following up single, “Tears” was a top 10 hit on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts.
A long and prodigious career often combines composition and interpretation, like in 1990 when John recorded the Martin Page and Bernie Taupin-penned track, “Deal for Life” for the Days of Thunder soundtrack. But two years prior to that cinematic adventure, superbly performing another songwriter’s work led to one of the biggest hits on John Waite’s illustrious resume. In 1988, a reunion with former Baby’s band mates along with uber-guitarist Neal Schon from Journey and drummer Deen Castronovo –resulted in the John Waite fronted supergroup, Bad English. And in 1989, the group’s ballad, “When I See You Smile,” – penned by Grammy-winning songwriter, Diane Warren – went to Number 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and was certified Gold. The album reached Top Five and sold more than two million units in the U.S. alone. Bad English released two albums before breaking up in 1992.
The story is far from over for the Lancaster, England-born rock star/balladeer/storyteller.
The legacy of John Waite is a beautiful monster of sound and vision, the chronicle of an authentic artist, a superstar, a seeker of truth and a soother of hearts. He walks and rocks among us. Hopefully for many more years to come.