Friday, October 24, 2008

Johnny B Finds One Way Home - Europe Discovers The Hooters

Please note: this post was originally published on October 2, 2008. The following is part two of two posts on the Hooters - part one is still in its original published date of October 2, 2008. This re-post is the same as the original, without the original link to a sample MP3 (removed on request from Fingers crossed this will be the last occasion I have to republish any posts. Onwards and upwards and forwards and all that jazz!

Expectations were high for the Hooters sophomore album ‘One Way Home’, which was released in mid ‘87. Fran Smith Jr. came on board in place of bassist Andy King for the album. Whilst ‘One Way Home’ didn’t quite reach the heights of its predecessor in the U.S. (#27/OZ#81), it broke the band big time across Europe, with Germany in particular becoming the new hub of the Hooters fan base. The first single ‘Johnny B’ only managed #61 on the U.S. Hot 100 (#3 Mainstream Rock Tracks) and #74 in Australia, but became a major hit in Germany and other European territories. The single was backed by a live version of ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’, a fan favourite of the Hooters live shows and a reflection of Eric Bazilian’s love of all things Beatles. The follow up single ‘Satellite’ saw the Hooters launched into the pop-rock stratosphere across Europe, also becoming their biggest hit in the U.K. (#22), though again the band’s light continued to dim Stateside (#61). The Hooters also performed ‘Satellite’ on the ‘Top Of The Pops’, sharing the shows billing with one of their musical heroes Paul McCartney. The third single ‘Karla With A K’ (UK#81) also consolidated the Hooters new found profile in Europe.

1989's album 'Zig Zag' could only manage #115 in the U.S. and only yielded one minor hit with '500 Miles' (US#97 - #20 Mainstream Rock Tracks), which was a reworking of the traditional folk ballad written by Hedy West, and featured guest harmony vocals from folk legends Peter, Paul And Mary. The album, which reflected a band whose sound had matured beyond melodic pop, fared considerably better across Europe, with Sweden becoming the latest country to succumb to the Hooters sound. Two more singles ‘Brother, Don’t You Walk Away’ and the beautiful ‘Heaven Laughs’ were again big sellers in Europe, though the Hooters presence on U.S. charts had come to an abrupt halt. Consequently their U.S. label Columbia Records agreed to release the band from their contract soon after.

The following year saw the Hooters invited by Roger Waters (see previous post) to participate in the historic staging of ‘The Wall’ concert in Berlin, alongside music legends Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, The Band, and old friend Cyndi Lauper. Soon after the Hooters added multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Mindy Jostyn to the line-up, and signed a new recording deal with MCA. Their next album ‘Out Of Body’, recorded in Memphis, didn't surface until 1993. A feature track was ‘Boys Will Be Boys’, which saw the Hooters collaborate once more with Cyndi Lauper. ‘Out Of Body’ missed the U.S. mainstream charts but again was well received in Europe, prompting yet another world tour. 1994’s album ‘The Hooters Live’ (titled ‘Live In Germany’ for the European market) was released following that tour, but it would be the last new release of Hooters material for some time.

From 1995 the Hooters took a six year hiatus from band duties, with each member embarking on their own projects. Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman continued their song writing partnership, resulting in songwriting contributions to albums from Taj Mahal, Mick Jagger, Carole King, Sophie B. Hawkins and Jon Bon Jovi. Eric Bazilian had also recorded material for a proposed solo album, including a track titled ‘One Of Us’. He suggested the track for friend Joan Osborne’s new album ‘Relish’ (also produced by Rick Chertoff), on which Bazilian and Hyman had written most of the songs and performed most of the instrumental backing. Joan Osborne’s version of ‘One Of Us’ became a worldwide top 5 hit, earning a Grammy Award nomination, and becoming one of the biggest selling singles of 1995/96. Bazilian also co-wrote Robbie Williams' first single 'Old Before I Die' and the Ricky Martin recorded 'Private Emotion' (2000). Both Hyman and Bazilian continued to co-produce, write and perform on albums from artists as diverse as Jonatha Brooke, JC Chasez, Meat Loaf, and the Scorpions. Drummer David Uosikkinen worked with the likes of Patty Smyth, Cyndi Lauper and Rod Stewart. Guitarist Lilley left music altogether for a time, starting his own landscape gardening business, whilst bassist Fran Smith Jr. featured in a number of Broadway shows, including playing the role of Paul McCartney in the production ‘Beatlemania’. In the interim a number of ‘best of’ Hooters’ compilations were released, including 1996’s ‘Hooterization - A Retrospective’.

Following their reforming during 2001, for what was to be a one off performance, the Hooters focused most of their touring energies on Europe from 2003 to 2005, with their fan base still huge in Germany, Switzerland and Sweden in particular. Eventually the band returned to performing live in the U.S. during 2006. In 2007 the Hooters recorded their first studio album in fourteen years with 'Time Stand Still', which featured a great cover of Don Henley's 'Boys Of Summer'. The album was released on the band’s own label, seeing the Hooters return to the independent scene for the first time in almost 25 years. All reviews indicate that the Hooters had not compromised their unique sound, whilst still managing to sound as fresh as ever.

The Hooters line-up of Eric Bazilian, Rob Hyman, John Lilley, Fran Smith Jr., and Dave Uosikkinen is still going strong on the touring front, packing out venues across the U.S. and Europe during 2008. A new double album, featuring acoustic re-workings of their best songs and a live set, is due for release later in 2008.

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