John Waite grew up in Lancaster, 70 miles north of Liverpool, in the midst of one of the greatest revolutions mankind has ever witnessed-the birth of rock and roll. Bass guitar was his first instrument and Jimi Hendrix records were early teachers. He started his first band, a jazz rock trio called England, out of art school. After a stint in the US he returned to the UK, where he started The Babys. "We couldn't get arrested," Waite laughs. "We were living a dream, writing songs in a basement, living off bottles of brown ale and cheese sandwiches at the corner pub-Tooley Street, just below the Thames. We were gonna make it big no matter what." They had a succession of inadequate guitar players until the day "this guy called Wally (Stocker)" showed up, Waite explains. Six months later they were signed to Chrysalis. After two years of struggling and sheer dedication, the dream was actually coming true. The Babys first hit, "If You've Got the Time," launched Waite's career in England and America.
Their second album, Broken Heart, entered the Top 40, and with it came the hit, "Isn't It Time." The Babys became a true sensation. "The first time we went to LA we drove down Sunset Strip and there was a billboard with all our faces on it," Waite recalls. "We figured we were doing alright. We were moving." Over the next three years The Babys spent a lot of time on the charts. Hits like "Back on My Feet," "Midnight Rendezvous," and "Head First" kept the wheels rolling. They saw a lot of the world. Five years was the limit for Waite, however. He'd put everything he had into the band. Artistically and otherwise, it was time to move on.
New York City was next--a place to recharge the soul. Waite took a year to write his first solo album, Ignition. The hit "Change" was an MTV darling, but his relationship with Chrysalis was deteriorating. Back in England he married his childhood sweetheart and divorced his longtime label. Waite signed to EMI America and returned to America to record No Brakes, the album that would contain his biggest hit yet, "Missing You." The unstoppable international phenomenon that remains in regular radio rotations to this day, "was the last song I wrote in LA," describes Waite. "I was missing my wife. I was a long way from home and I felt really miserable and I wrote the song about that."
Six years and two solo albums later Waite formed Bad English with former Babys Ricky Phillips on bass and Jonathan Cain on keyboards. Ex-Journey guitarist Neal Schon and drummer Deen Castronovo completed the alchemy, and like King Midas Waite was back on the charts again. This time, though, the magic lasted only through two albums before the muse closed up shop and sent him on his way alone once more. Throughout his travels Waite wrote and sang on several movie and television soundtracks, including the premiere episode of the 1997 season of Melrose Place, and the films About Last Night and True Romance, among others. And as an ongoing testament to the place he'd achieved in the 80s rock pantheon, his songs appeared on countless anthologies and compilations.
With his fifth and sixth solo albums, Temple Bar in 1996 and When You Were Mine in 1997, Waite has achieved a new and unprecedented level of maturity, refinement and depth in his songwriting. Songs such as "Downtown" and "Suicide Life" render the experiences of a lifetime of travelling, searching, and observing the world into living canvases of urban loneliness and despair. There's no holding back in the name of the "hit" anymore. The poet son of those dark, endless winters spent wandering the hills of England and the streets of New York is unleashed. What results are some of the most lyrical and beautiful songs of Waite's career. The requisite love songs are there, of course. This time, however, innocence becomes a memory ("When You Were Mine"), and Waite's lifelong search for love is so tangible and so grown-up it's downright erotic ("Show Me How to Love You). "I'm a raving romantic," he claims. "It's that dark, Northern English soul I've got. It's the Heathcliff thing, it's the moors. That's really what I write about."
Los Angeles 1998