When you aggregate the many high points from the recorded body of work of John Waite over the last three decades of popular music, his well-known world class singing voice is readily on display, but what emerges is a dedicated, well-read, mature songwriting craftsman who has maintained the highest standards over a lengthy career. Whether with the woulda-coulda-shoulda-been UK band The Babys ( “Isn’t It Time”,”Head First”,”Back on My Feet Again”,”Midnight Rendezvous” ), the late Eighties supergroup Bad English (#1 song “When I See You Smile”,” Straight to Your Heart” ), or solo ( “Change”, “Missing You” #1 again; “Encircled”,”Downtown”, “New York City Girl”,”If You Ever Get Lonely”, which is also a Country hit covered by Love and Theft), John Waite never underestimates the power of a song to tattoo indelibly a memory on your heart forever. – Redbeard
British singer John Waite to rock Tiffin
For years, a friend kept telling John Waite to work with Matchbox Twenty guitarist Kyle Cook.
“I had been burned working with people I didn’t know, and I just said I wasn’t going to do it anymore,” the songwriter said.
Then Waite heard Cook’s solo material — and liked it.
“We met cold in Nashville and hit it off immediately. We wrote something as we said hello, really,” Waite said.
The two penned four of the songs on Waite’s disc, “Rough and Tumble,” which was released in February.
“Working with Kyle Cook was pretty stimulating because he’s really fast on his feet, as I am,” said the former front man of The Babys and Bad English. “So it was like finding out you can run really fast again.”
They collaborated on the single, “If You Ever Get Lonely.” Waite’s manager found the ballad, but the singer wasn’t sold on it as written.
“The original was about some girl going to Hollywood and some guy more or less saying he’d wait until she got back,” Waite said. “I wouldn’t do that; I thought it was more interesting having sort of an emotional outburst and then trying to be cool.”
The rocker “Rough and Tumble” opens the disc.
“My manager was in the bathroom of the Russian Tea Room in New York City with Keith Richards, and Keith learned over and said, ‘All we’ve got to do is stick together.’ That was about the music business. And my manager told me that story and I was home thinking about that,” Waite said.
“And I thought how that thing about sticking together stuck in my mind and what life is, and how rough and tumble life is. And I thought that was a great title for what was happening in my life; I thought it was a cool title for the album.”
With those piercing eyes and that scowl, the native of Lancaster, England, helped define “cool” in the early days of the video age.
“The Babys got signed for making a video. We were the first band ever on the planet to do that; we haven’t gotten credit for it, but we were the first band ever to get signed for making a video,” Waite said.
From 1977 until its breakup in 1980, The Babys had a string of hits: “Isn’t It Time,” “Every Time I Think of You,” “Head First,” “Back on My Feet Again,” “Midnight Rendezvous” and “Turn and Walk Away.”
Waite’s solo career took off thanks to MTV. Some may remember him from the videos for “Change” when he played a reporter or for “Missing You” when he smashed that pay phone.
“When MTV came along, the two things were just made for each other: me and them,” he said. “It kicked in with ‘Change’ in heavy rotation; it was huge because they only had so many videos they could play. I think they only had 12, so I’m on six or seven times a day.
“By the time ‘Missing You’ got there a year and a half later, the song had as much punch as the video, which was great.”
The songwriter recorded a new version of “Missing You” with Alison Krauss for 2007’s “Downtown: Journey of a Heart.”
“I approached her, and I got a ‘yes’ in about 24 hours,” Waite said. “I’ve always loved country, and it was nice to meet a lot of the country greats through Alison and hang out backstage at the Ryman [Auditorium].”
Waite will be at the Ritz Theatre in Tiffin for a 7:30 p.m. show Aug. 20. Tickets range from $5 to $35.