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Biographies: Johnny Hates Jazz

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Reviewer: Greenway88

In April 1987 a pop phenomenon by the name of Johnny Hates Jazz were vaulted to the pinnacle of international success with the release of their debut-single for Virgin Records, "Shattered Dreams".

The single peaked in every continent and reached No. 5 in England and No. 2 in the american Billboard chart for airplay and No. 3 for sales. For the rest of the year the band remained a hit-plateau: by mid-summer "I Don't Want To Be A Hero" consolidated their singles success by reaching a healthy No. 11 in the UK and No. 33 in America, followed that November by "Turn Back The Clock" which hit No. 12. The debut-album "Turn Back The Clock" followed the year after, in January '88, and also topped charts all over the world. It contained all of the bands hitsingles to date (eight of which were penned by Clark) as well as some stunning samples of the band's musical progress. Not unexpectedly, it hit No. 1 on the UK album chart early in the year. Then later in February '88 followed the single "Heart Of Gold" which made the UK Top 20. "Donīt Say Itīs Love" became the band's last single from the album in a radically remixed version of the album track, but only stalled at No. 48.

The group, consisting of englishmen Clark Datchler (vocals, piano) and Calvin Hayes (keyboards) and american Mike Nocito (bass), were longtime friends. They took the rather strange name for a group as they had a friend called Johnny who actually hated jazz. They certainly didn't, all though jazz wasn't their favourite genre. In fact, Clark's father Fred was a well-know jazz-musician, playing in groups like The Stargazers and The Polka Dots.

Calvin Hayes, Clark Datchler and Mike Nocito stormed into the charts in the spring of 1987. The very first Johnny Hates Jazz single was "Me And My Foolish Heart". It was released in 1986 on the RAK Records-label. That was RAK Studio's own label - the studio where Calvin and Mike worked. Calvin is the son of the owner, record producer Mickie Most. During the 1980's, Calvin was working with bands in the studio and building up a net of contacts in the music business.

Mike, an american, was also helping out as engineer at RAK - in addition to working as an A&R-representative at a major record company. Clark had some solo singles before Johnny Hates Jazz, and was working on new songs in Los Angeles at the time when Mike and Calvin asked him to join the group in the beginning of 1986. After the debut-single they shopped around for a major record contract. The route taken by the trio to get that all-important deal was the traditional showcase gig, where the hopeful artist performs before a collection of friends, fans - and most importantly - A&R men and women. In the case of Johnny Hates Jazz, the showcase was acoustic and held - most appropriately - at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in Soho's Frith Street.

At the end of '86 Virgin signed the guys and they cut their second single, "Shattered Dreams". Their collective studio experience proved invaluable; not only did the band write, sing and play all their own material, but they were also able to engineer and produce. It all was a glorious start for a new band who focused on melodies and a clean-cut, nice boy next door-image. They got sudden fame and recognition for their straight to the point-songs, which all were very catchy.

"We'd like to focus on the input of a song, not only on the production" the boys said in one of the many tv-interviews they gave to promote the debut-album.

But the sudden success somehow changed the feelings inside the band. Just as the first year as a coming band ended, in the summer of 1988 frontman Clark Datchler left. The shock-waves hit the band as well as the music business and the bandīs new found millions of fans worldwide. The debut-album had sold 2 million copies by that point - and the scheduled world-tour had to be cancelled.

Clark Datchler two years later said this about what really happened: "It was a marvellous experience but I found myself in a perpetual state of compromise. The three of us had very different opinions. I think I felt that as the writer of the JHJ songs I resented anyone else moulding the songs to their own interpretations. I viewed the whole progression going horribly wrong, and there was nothing I could do to put it right".

When Clark announced he would try to make a solo career, Mike and Calvin decided to continue, but they needed a new vocalist.

"We canīt underestimate the loss of Clark, and we donīt want to. He was a great songwriter, a tremendous guy - and weīd lost him. We donīt blame him for going, but it was a terrible blow" Mike said after the break-up.

The band auditioned dozens of possible replacements - many of them extremely impressive vocalist and musicians - but ultimately they knew they were trying to replace more than just a musician: they were trying to replace a friend. At that point, Clarks successor suddenly seemed obvious; Phil Thornalley - another friend and musician, who also had contributed as engineer on the debut-album and had in fact written the song "Listen" on the album. Phil was associated with RAK Studio as he did quite a lot of engineering and producing there. On his CV, Phil by that point already had The Cure (for a while he was a member of the band), Thompson Twins, Robbie Nevill and Prefab Sprout.

Calvin Hayes, Phil Thornalley and Mike Nocito continued as Johnny Hates Jazz when Clark Datchler left the band in the summer of 1988.

The first sign of life from the "new" Johnny Hates Jazz was the familiar sounding "Turn The Tide", which was released in September 1989. It didnīt get the same attention as the first singles and didnīt chart as high. But the spirits within the band were high.

Phil Thornalley, who was the main person responsible for following up on songwriter Clark Datchlers tunes, said at the time: "This is like coming full circle for me. Before punk came along, Mike and I were both into West Coast sound - Hall & Oates and Todd Rundgren - a style which was tuneful, but had a real attitude about it, too. That, to me, is what Johnny Hates Jazz is all about".

Mike said: "We never had a formula. But we have certain standards and we were more interested in songs than in the treatment of them. You could have knocked out any of the songs from our last album on a rotten piano and they would still have sounded great. I think we have maintained that quality on the new album. The rules havenīt changed, only the personnel".

But the second album didnīt follow the "Turn The Tide"-single immediately. Instead Clark Datchler released his first solo album called "Raindance", in July 1990. An album I personally regard as a Johnny Hates Jazz-album in everything but the name! It has 10 great songs and was a brilliant follow-up to the group's debut-album.

Clark moved to Holland to write the material. The ten songs selected for the album were put together at a variety of studios in London, Milan, Los Angeles and Amsterdam. The production was helmed by Humerto Gatiga, who in the past had worked with Michael Jackson, Chicago and David Foster - to name a few. Some of the top musician contributing were bass player Nathan East, drummer J.R. Robinson, guitarist Paul Jackson and percussionist Paulinho DaCosta.

In the press release following the album, Clark stated: "After JHJ I didnīt want to know about music. Iīd had enough. With "Raindance", it was a very enjoyable time - Iīve been my own boss, creatively, completely free. I think the result is that the collection of songs will make the listener want to play the album from start to finish and still want to play it in years to come".

The first and only single from the album turned out to be "Crown Of Thorns". As the album flopped salewise, no other singles were released to my knowledge.

Then the next chapter in the story of JHJ came the following year. On June 17th 1991 the follow-up to "Turn Back The Clock" was finally ready. "Tall Stories" was the album and the pop-rock-ballad "Let Me Change Your Mind Tonight" the first single. It was followed next year by the second and final single-release from the album, the track "The Last To Know" in a remixed version. Saleswise, I have not details, but the album was to my knowledge not a commercial success.

Under the cryptic name of Medicine Wheel, Clark Datchler in 1992 re-released the song "The Last Emotion" from his solo debut "Raindance". The single was a reworked version, this time produced by the acclaimed Rupert Hine. The single also announced a forthcoming album from Medicine Wheel, called "Fishing For Souls". When it was released, the projectname Medicine Wheel was gone, and Clark Datchler simply named the album after himself.

The album was released to hardly any notice in Europe and is an extremely hard find, whereas in Asia it is easier accesible. The new track "Broken Spirit" became the second single. Child To Be, Fishing For Souls and Widow (originally B-side to the "Crown Of Thorns"-single) was other new tracks on the album. The other five tracks were remixed and re-recorded from the "Raindance"-sessions. They are "State Of Play", "Crown Of Thorns", "The Last Emotion", "Raindance" and "It's Better This Way".

The swan song came with the expected "best of"-album, simply called "The Very Best Of Johnny Hates Jazz". It was released first in Japan, in the spring of 1993, and later that year in Europe. It was packed with 16 tracks, a lot more than they had singles, but for the fans it was a nice treat as the album included some extended remixes and bonus-tracks - previously only available on the CD-singles and B-sides of the vinyl singles. These were mainly instrumental tracks by Mike Nocito and Calvin Hayes.

Since then there has been no sign of life from the two "camps", with one exception. Phil Thornalley has a high profile as songwriter and producer for many current artists like Natalie Imbruglia, for whom he wrote and produced the song "Torn".

Their three studio-albums, counting Clark Datchlers excellent solo-debut, still ranges high on my favourite list of good pop-albums. If ever a band had signified quality over quantity this had been it: brief and bright, Johnny Hates Jazz left a legacy that still delights and still rewards. Surely Clark, as he once stated, the listener will want to play good pop music many times - for years to come.

John Berge, December 1998

(This bio is partly based on press material from Virgin Records, 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1993 and my own knowledge and views. It does not claim to be 100% correct! If any of members of Johnny Hates Jazz reads this short bio, please contact me for additional and/or correctional info on past, current and future projects! All info from any old fans are also very much appreciated!)

SOURCE: Johnny Hates Jazz International Webpage

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