Friday, October 24, 2008

Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream

Please note: this post was originally published on July 12, 2008. The following is as per original text without the original link to a sample MP3 file.

'Break My Stride' was one of the most infectious little pop numbers of the mid 80s. When Matthew Wilder burst onto the U.S. charts with the song in September ‘83, not only did he go on to reach #5 Stateside, the songs appeal spread across the world, striding into the U.K. (#4) and Australian (#6) charts in early ‘84. Most hadn’t heard of Matthew Wilder previous to ‘Break My Stride’ and in truth most probably think that ‘Break My Stride’ was his one moment of glory in the music biz, but Wilder had a past and a future that extended his successful career in music well beyond just one smash hit.

Born in Manhattan, Matthew Wilder began his career as a performer in the early 70s. Whilst still a teenager he formed one half of the folk duo Matthew & Peter (sounds very folkish doesn’t it), regularly playing club venues around Greenwich Village. He moves to Los Angeles in the late 70s, initially making a buck by singing on TV commercials. Then came his big break when he scored gigs as a backing vocalist with both Rickie Lee Jones and Bette Midler.

In 1983 Wilder got his chance to take centre stage as a performer. The talented singer/songwriter released his debut album ‘I Don’t Speak The Language’ which featured ‘Break My Stride’. The huge popularity of ‘Break My Stride’ provided the impetus to push Wilder’s album up the charts also, cracking the top 50 on Billboard’s Top 200 and also making the Australian charts briefly. Unfortunately ‘Break My Stride’ was as good as it got, though ‘The Kid’s American’ was a quality pop song that deserved to chart higher than the #33 it reached in the U.S. in early ‘84.

Wilder had accumulated a lot of material, so much so in fact that a second album was released before the end of 1984. ‘Bouncin Off The Walls’ didn’t manage to bounce very high up the charts, the only hit being a minor one, with the title track reaching #52 on the U.S. charts. It seemed that Matthew Wilder would go the way of many of his 80s pop contemporaries and fade into obscurity.

But Wilder didn’t disappear completely, he just retreated from the spotlight to a position where he could continue to trade his craft as a singer, whilst developing further honing his song writing and production skills. During the remainder of the 80s and into the early 90s Matthew Wilder sang backup to the likes of Judy Collins, Brenda Russell and Vonda Shepard. In 1994 he produced and performed on the soundtrack to the motion picture ‘The Air Up There’.

But in 1995 Wilder was involved in an album project that dwarfed the success of 'Break My Stride'. No Doubt's 'Tragic Kingdom' became a multi-platinum monster of an album across the world. The man behind the production controls on ‘Tragic Kingdom’ was one Matthew Wilder. To my mind there’s more than a hint of ‘Break My Stride’ in the quirky rhythmic pattern of ‘Just A Girl’. He proved a perfect match for the group, hooking up with them again to produce the album ‘Return To Saturn’ in 2000. In between times he was involved in producing several more soundtrack albums, most notably the soundtrack to the 1998 film ‘Mulan’, which featured the U.S. hit ‘True To Your Heart’ by 98 Degrees & Stevie Wonder - the song co-written by Wilder. Wilder has become an oft featured producer on several Disney related albums over the last decade, most recently working with Miley Cyrus on the Hanna Montana related albums - adding engineering, mixing and performing to his production duties.

In the last 15 years Matthew Wilder hasn't broken stride in his prolific work as a record producer, also at the controls on albums by Christina Aguilera, Dana Glover, Coco Lee and Kelly Clarkson. Far from being the one shining light in Wilder’s music career, ‘Break My Stride’ represents but one small chapter.

Dance outfit Unique II had an Australian top 5 hit in early 1997 with their version of ‘Break My Stride’. Below you'll find the cool promo clip to 'The Kid's American'. Enjoy!

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