By John Benson
It was exactly 30 years ago that John Waite released his No. 1 hit single “Missing You.” The former member of The Babys and Bad English said he instantly knew the song, which would ostensibly define his career, was something special.
“I knew exactly when I hit the chorus, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that it was going to be No. 1 and change my life,” said Waite, calling from Santa Monica, Calif. “‘Missing You’ is a landmark song. Free had ‘All Right Now.’ I have ‘Missing You.’ A few years ago I did the song as a duet with Alison Krauss, and it was a hit on the country charts.
“It’s like sometimes if you’re lucky enough, you write one of those. It does overshadow the rest of your work, but it always gets your foot through the door. And it’s a great song. I never get sick of singing it.”
Apparently, such luck continues in Waite’s life as best-selling author Harlan Coben named his latest novel, which will be atop of the New York Times Bestseller List this weekend, after the 1984 hit song.
“Synchronicity is a weird thing,” Waite said. “The book references my song numerous times. And this is all two weeks before my latest live album, which includes a new version of ‘Missing You,’ comes out. It’s like the planets are all lined up. It’s a pretty big deal, and the album itself is an extraordinary record. I think it’s going to do better than anybody thinks.”
The new album is actually a greatest hits of sorts called “Best,” with new harder versions of “Missing You” and The Babys’ hit single “Back on my Feet Again,” as well as a live version of “Everytime I Think of You.”
Waite said the project is “pretty fearless,” but that’s apparently what he’s all about these days considering last year’s release of live album “All Access,” which was well received and covered material from his last studio effort, 2011’s “Rough and Tumble.”
“We were grooving heavy on that with ‘Changes’ and ‘Head First,’ but the rest of it, the band was killing the new songs,” Waite said. “I looked at it and said, ‘I could turn it into a greatest hits, but that’s not what I came for. This is just too good not to release’. I’m very proud of that record.”
That record, “Rough and Tumble,” also produced a surprise hit when the title track went to No. 1 at classic-rock radio. Waite will be playing that tune when he returns to the Youngstown area Saturday for a show at Stambaugh Auditorium.
“It’s the last thing I ever expected,” said Waite, who remembers playing the Youngstown Agora back in the day. “It was the last track on the record I thought would be popular. It was a statement song, a three-piece band with a singer. It sounded like Free. It was very hard-rock, and we went No. 1. So I don’t know. It still mystifies me.”