The wait is over
‘80s hitmaker John Waite goes acoustic for ‘Wooden Heart’ album, tourBy CLAUDETTE KNIERIEM
Special to the Union Leader September 13. 2017 12:54PM
If you go...WHO: John Waite
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
WHERE: The Flying Monkey, 39 Main St., Plymouth
TICKETS: $29 and $39
INFO: flyingmonkeynh.com; 536-2551
Rock ‘n’ roll is the 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,” says singer/songwriter John Waite, who kicks off his 11-show East Coast tour Friday night at the Flying Monkey Moviehouse and Performance Center in Plymouth.
This intimate, acoustic road show celebrates his newly-released album, the second volume in his acoustic “Wooden Heart” anthology. The project features some of Waite’s re-tooled classics and nostalgic fan favorites.
Waite rose to fame as the lead singer and bassist for the ‘70s group The Babys, known for two chart-topping singles, “Isn’t It Time” and “Every Time I Think of You.” In 1980, after five albums and five years together, the group split up, and Waite subsequently launched his solo career. His 1982 debut album, “Ignition,” produced the hit single “Change,” which became a music video staple in the early days of MTV and ended up on the platinum-selling “Vision Quest” movie soundtrack.
“All the music I loved as a kid came from America,” says Waite, whose birthday happens to be the Fourth of July. His humble roots in Lancaster, England, were anchored by a musical family. His cousin, Michael, played guitar with Hank Williams and blues singer Big Bill Broonzy. Waite’s brother, Joe, is a guitarist, his “mum” plays piano, and his dad was a big fan of classical music.
Waite undoubtedly is best known for his smash hit, “Missing You,” the star of his 1984 solo release album, “No Brakes,” which sold over a million copies. The song hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles, gaining Waite international attention and platinum success in the United States.
Was “Missing You” written for anyone in particular?
“I was in LA, my marriage was crumbling, and I was missing New York,” he explains. “The song was about the East Coast, really. It was about distance and denial.”
Waite says his lyrics also were inspired by two of his favorite songs, the band Free’s “Catch a Train” and Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman.”
“If you have a single like ‘Missing You’ once or twice in your life, you’re incredibly lucky,” adds Waite, who recorded the song as a duet with singer Alison Krauss in 2006 and watched it hit the Top 40 on the U.S. country charts.
In the late ‘80s, Waite fronted the super group Bad English, whose ranks included a trio of musicians who also gained fame with the band Journey: Jonathan Cain, Neal Schon and Deen Castronovo. Cain, along with Ricky Phillips, also have ties to The Babys.
Bad English’s No. 1 single, “When I See You Smile,” sparked sold-out concert tours and a succession of Billboard Hot 100 Hits. After two albums, the band called it quits in 1992, and Waite once again resumed his solo career.
A longtime Manhattan resident, Waite now lives in Santa Monica, Calif, where his neighborhood is something of an enclave.
“It’s like a little England,” he said. “I could throw a stone from my condo in any direction, and I’d hit an English person.”
His regular haunts include the Brittania and the Kingshead Pub, which houses his favorite English sweet shop. Despite the warm West Coast sun, Waite says he yearns for the four seasons of the East Coast and the possibility of a little rain.
“New York City is home to me,” says Waite. “I would move back in a heartbeat. If my ship came in, I’d probably get a place to crash in Manhattan, a pied-a-terre.”
Content to spend his days drinking coffee, visiting local pubs, writing, and naturally, listening to music, Waite says R&B singers are his favorite, though he’s also a big fan of country music.
“Country lyrics tell stories, and I love old jazz and Bob Dylan,” he says. “If I’m feeling really low, I’ll turn on some Pink and have a glass of wine.”
At 65, Waite still relishes being on tour, calling it “seeing America through the windshield.” Unlike his early days when tours were a real grind, he’s enjoying the laid-back feel of this “Wooden Heart” gig.
“When you’re young the show is just part of the day, but when you get older,” he laughs, “the show is everything. Now it’s such a joy playing an 8,000-person arena, and then turning around and doing a small, acoustic gig. I live in two worlds.”
Waite and his band have been playing to sell-out crowds, thanks in part to his broad fan base. At the all-ages Flying Monkey show, he’ll be backed by a three-piece band with electric guitar, a bass and a “small” drum kit.
“The shows are packed,” he says. “I look out there, and it’s all ages. My fans are bringing their kids along.”
Waite is happy to be at a point in his career where writing, recording and performing music is more artistry than business.
“I’ve written songs all my life. It’s what I was born to do, and now I get to do it all the time,” he said.