Monday, February 9, 2009

Johnny Hates Jazz Celebrate Shattered Dreams

During the period that historical documents would later refer to as, the mid to late 80s, they came sweeping across the water to once more invade the U.S. music charts. Who were ‘they’ you say? ‘They’ were, of course, the British! Oh, in certain cases ‘they’ may have looked just a little bit American, and may have sounded likewise, but these pop-rock entities were unmistakably British, by stock, perhaps nearby a lock, and within shouting distance of a barrel or two. These well disciplined units, or bands if you will, went under various and sundry aliases - The Outfield, Breathe, The Kane Gang, The Blow Monkeys, Danny Wilson, Hipsway, Living In A Box, The Promise, Cutting Crew, Swing Out Sister, Boys Don’t Cry, Wang Chung, The Fixx (see previous official Retro Universe records), Curiosity Killed The Cat, Go West, Hue & Cry, Wet Wet Wet (see future accounts) - but all achieved (at least to some degree) their common goals, to conquer the U.S. airwaves, and triumph over American chart territory. Today Retro Universe will reveal the truth, with a possibility of mild fictional embellishment, behind one such musical collective. Though individual passports revealed their given names to be Clark Datchler, Calvin Hayes and Mike Nocito, this pop-soul trio became better known to the world as Johnny Hates Jazz.

The band adopted their name in reference to a friend who actually did hate jazz. It’s unclear how Johnny Hates Jazz themselves felt about the musical style, though vocalist Clark Datchler was reported as saying his jazz-musician father Fred’s music sometimes drove him mad . Datchler actually had quite a history as a professional musician prior to his tenure with Johnny Hates Jazz. By the time he’d left school at the age of sixteen, the multi-instrumentalist and singer already had designs on being a pop star. Just a year later Datchler released his debut single ‘You Fooled Him Once Again’, a R&B styled track, via Blue Inc. Records, but it stalled at #101 on the charts. Warner Bros. recognised Datchler’s potential, though as a songwriter not artist, and signed him up as a staff writer later in 1981. Over the next couple of years he worked in Los Angeles, penning songs for the likes of The Drifters, and Martha Reeves, none of which propelled the name Clark Datchler into the wider consciousness of popular music patrons.

By 1983, Datchler was ready to return to Britain, and eager to return to the performance side of things. He responded to an advertisement placed in Melody Maker to join a new band called Hot Club, as a replacement vocalist. The band featured the already eclectic line-up of ex-Sex Pistols bassist Glenn Matlock, ex-Generation X guitarist James Stephenson, and a young drummer by the name of Calvin Hayes, whose father just happened to be producer extraordinaire Mickie Most. Though assigned to the drum skins with Hot Club, Hayes had a formal education in music theory, before forming a punk band called The Outrage in the mid 70s. Soon after, Hayes found himself working as a session player with his father Mickie Most’s RAK label, backing the likes of Suzi Quatro and Hot Chocolate (see Jan. ’09 post). During 1980 he was the touring drummer for Kim Wilde (see previous 08 post), alongside James Stephenson, and thereafter formed Hot Club with Matlock, and original vocalist Steve Allen (not of the legendary variety show

The quartet Hot Club only released one single, with 1983’s ‘It Ain’t Me Girl’, before closing the club doors, with Datchler not surprisingly citing ‘musical differences’ as a reason. Datchler was quickly signed up by Mickie Most to RAK as a solo artist, and Most produced Datchler’s 1984 single ‘I Don’t Want You!’. The follow up single, ‘Things Can’t Get Any Worse’, was co-produced by Datchler and Mike Nocito. Nocito was on staff at RAK as an engineer, and would be producer. German born, American ex-pat Nocito, had worked as engineer on numerous projects by Duran Duran, Thompson Twins, The Cure, Chris Rea and The Police, often working with producer Phil Thornalley, who would play a key role in the Johnny Hates Jazz story.

Clark Hayes (keyboards) and Mike Nocito (bass) had been working on a song titled ‘Me And My Foolish Heart’, initially recording it with producer and friend Phil Thornalley on vocals. They were encouraged by the results, but Thornalley was already swamped with production duties, so Hayes and Nocito invited Datchler to take up vocal duties. ‘Me And My Foolish Heart’ was released on the RAK label in April ‘86, and despite missing the charts, it garnered solid airplay and positive reviews. Johnny Hates Jazz decided to search for a label stable beyond RAK records, and took the option of performing a showcase gig (something Cutting Crew also did - see Dec. post), ironically held at a jazz venue called Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, in London’s Soho district. Among the songs played by Johnny Hates Jazz, which earned them a deal with Virgin Records, would be their next single, and biggest career hit.

The Clark Datchler penned ‘Shattered Dreams’ was first released in April 1987, and was, not surprisingly, produced by the trio themselves. The slick sounding synth-pop track burst into the British charts soon after, and shattered most of the competition, eventually peaking at #5. The smooth soul-edged pop, and stylish, clean cut image of Johnny Hates Jazz, naturally elicited comparisons to the likes of pop contemporaries Breathe, The Blow Monkeys, Danny Wilson, and Wet Wet Wet. The bittersweet ‘Shattered Dreams’ soon climbed to #22 on the Australian charts, but its U.S. release would be delayed for some time. In the interim Johnny Hates Jazz consolidated their new found high profile, with the singles ‘I Don’t Want To Be A Hero’ (an anti-war dance pop track), which peaked at #11 in Britain (OZ#76), and ‘Turn Back The Clock’ (UK#12), which featured old friend Kim Wilde on backing vocals.

With three hit singles already in the bank, it was a fair bet that Johnny Hates Jazz’s debut album would hit the charts running, and that it did, exploding at #1 on the British charts in its debut week (US#56/OZ#72). Virgin had no choice but to both the album and associated singles on the U.S. market. ‘Shattered Dreams’ debuted on the U.S. charts during February ‘88, and eventually peaked at #2, whilst ‘I Don’t Want To Be A Hero’ (US#31) helped Johnny Hates Jazz avoid the ‘one hit wonder’ tag Stateside. At the same time ‘Shattered Dreams’ was rocketing up the U.S. charts, the album’s fourth single ‘Heart Of Gold’ made a steady climb to #19 in the U.K. (OZ#87) - it was also the fourth Johnny Hates Jazz single I had purchased on vinyl 45. All in all, Johnny Hates Jazz had defied any doubters, with an immaculately produced and performed album, featuring a strong, and substantive mix of catchy synth-pop numbers. Their poster boy image, belied a trio of talented musicians, who had blown away much of the competition with four top twenty singles, and a double platinum #1 album.

Clark Datchler then dropped a bombshell by announcing he was departing Johnny Hates Jazz to once more pursue a solo career (he was reportedly unhappy with the band’s reworking of some of his songs). Virgin Records backed Datchler’s first solo single ‘Crown Of Thorns’, lifted from his 1990 album ‘Raindance’, helmed by producer Humberto Gatica. Neither album, nor single, gave Datchler the key to solo success on the charts. In 1992, he released the previously recorded song ‘The Last Emotion’ under the moniker of Medicine Wheel, but both the single, and a proposed album of new material titled ‘Fishing For Souls’ (co-produced by Rupert Hine - see earlier post), were pulled from release by Virgin. Datchler and Virgin parted ways soon after, and subsequent to that the singer spent most of the 90s broadening his musical horizons, and recording music under the pseudonym Night Foxx (released an album in 2006 titled ‘Tomorrow’).

Following Datchler’s departure from the ranks of Johnny Hates Jazz, Hayes and Nocito turned to old friend, established producer, and one-time potential vocalist, Phil Thornalley. Thornalley’s first official release with Johnny Hates Jazz came via the 1989 single ‘Turn The Tide’. In June 1991 the lead out single ‘Let Me Change Your Mind Tonight’ had just been released, and the sophomore album for Johnny Hates Jazz, ‘Tall Stories’, was about to be released, when fate dealt the band a cruel blow. Phil Thornalley and Calvin Hayes were both involved in a serious car accident en route to a radio interview, which resulted in Hayes being confined to a body cast for over a year. The band’s comeback plans ground to an abrupt halt, with touring and promotional appearances impossible. A final single, ‘The Last To Know’, was released, but with all momentum lost, Johnny Hates Jazz called it a day soon after.

After a lengthy recovery process, Calvin Hayes was eventually able to return to music, working primarily as a songwriter and producer of the ensuing fifteen years. Mike Nocito worked extensively as a producer with Katrina & The Waves (see earlier post), and managed the English girl group Hepburn in the late 90s. The prolific Phil Thornalley resumed production duties, overseeing work by Bryan Adams, Ronan Keating and Natalie Imbruglia, to name a few. In 2007 Hayes and Nocito hooked up with vocalist Danny Saxon to perform a series of shows under the Johnny Hates Jazz banner.

For a more comprehensive view of all things Johnny Hates Jazz, check out the following website:

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