Sunday, June 8, 2008

Night Produce A Hot Summer Hit With 'Hot Summer Nights'

Los Angeles based ‘supergroup’ Night came together in 1978, combining the talents of several already well established musicians and session pros of impeccable pedigree. Female vocalist Stevie Lange (AKA Stevie Vann) had worked with the likes of Graham Bonnet, Elton John and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. It was through her association with M.M.E.B. that Lange had also worked with New Zealand born vocalist/guitarist Chris Thompson who had sung vocals on the Earth Band’s biggest hit ‘Blinded By The Light’ (1976). Thompson had also sung on the soundtrack album to Jeff Wayne’s musical ‘War Of The Worlds’ and had also worked with Elton John on John‘s 1978 ‘Single Man‘ LP. Keyboardist Nicky Hopkins was already a veteran of the music biz, having worked with such rock royalty as The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, Jefferson Airplane and John Lennon on the iconic ‘Imagine’ album. The first album lineup was rounded out by Robbie McIntosh (guitar), Billy Kristian (bass) and Pete Baron (drums).

From Night’s eponymous debut album came their first single ‘Hot Summer Nights’. The song had already been recorded by its writer Walter Egan a few months earlier but his version had only climbed to #55 on the U.S. charts in late ‘78 (Egan’s biggest hit was ‘Magnet And Steel’ US#8 in 1978). With a harder edge and featuring the powerful vocals of Stevie Lange, Night’s version of ‘Hot Summer Nights’ performed considerably better around the world. The song reached as high as #18 the U.S. in mid ‘79 and rocketed to #3 in Australia, yet the West Coast rock sound didn’t translate to the British charts. The singles popularity boosted sales for the album, particularly in Australia where it reached #19.

Night’s second and only other major hit single nearly wasn’t credited to the band Night at all. ‘If You Remember Me’ was a touching ballad featuring vocalist Chris Thompson, and early pressings were credited to Thompson alone, but subsequently his then bandmates in Night were given due acknowledgement. So in chart records ‘If You Remember Me’ is credited to Chris Thompson & Night. Those chart records will also show that the song became Night’s highest charting single, reaching #17 in the U.S. during the second half of ‘79. The song was featured at the time in the motion picture ‘The Champ’, and despite being a really sweet ballad, surprisingly didn’t chart well beyond America. (The song didn’t feature on either of Night’s albums)

Night released a second album in late 1980 titled ‘Long Distance’ but failed to build on the promise of their debut effort. The band had also experienced a revamp of its lineup, Hopkins and Baron departing, replaced by Bobby Wright (keyboards) and Bobby Guidotti (drums, ex-Box Tops). The only single lifted from that album to chart was ‘Love On The Airwaves’, which was a minor hit in early 1981 (US #87/OZ#93). By late 1982 the dawn had broken on Night’s career and they disbanded. Outside interests and a failure to capitalise on early successes were the main contributing factors.

Stevie Lange continued to be a much sought after vocalist throughout the 80s/90s and beyond, contributing to work by Wham!, Billy Ocean, Tears For Fears and Blue to name a few. She is also now a much respected vocal coach in the music industry. Nicky Hopkins continued to be a much sought after studio musician until his death in 1984 from chronic health issues. Guitarist Robbie McIntosh was recruited to Pretenders in September ’82 and was later the touring guitarist with Paul McCartney from the late 80s to mid 90s, completing a circle of a kind with Nicky Hopkins in having worked with ex-Beatles.

Rock journeyman Chris Thompson returned to the fold with Manfred Mann’s Earth Band for a time and also recorded a solo album ‘High Cost Of Living’ in 1986. He has continued to be a vocalist in high demand, contributing to albums by Brian May, Alan Parsons Project and even Britney Spears. Thompson has most recently reprised his association with Jeff Wayne’s ‘War Of The Worlds’ through the latest stage production during 2007, and drawing on his younger days experience as a school teacher he wrote a children‘s book entitled ‘Where Is My Home?’.
Though collectively Night were a shining light on the rock scene for all too brief a time, as individual artists the band’s members have contributed a considerable legacy in popular music history.

No comments: