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As a solo artist and as the lead singer of the Babys and Bad English, John Waite was a fixture of album-oriented rock radio stations during the ’70s and ’80s.
Waite had a talent for power ballads and driving arena rock, occasionally touching on new wave-styled power pop as well. Though he didn’t consistently have hits, several of his songs — including “Missing You,” the Babys’“Isn’t It Time,” and Bad English’s “When I See You Smile”— became radio staples. John Waite formed the Babys in London, England in 1976 with Wally Stocker (guitar), Mike Corby (vocals, keyboards), and Tony Brock (drums).
Initially conceived as a teen pop band, the Babys earned a record contract based on the strength of a video demo they constructed with producer Mike Mansfield. Chrysalis pushed the band heavily, resulting in “Isn’t It Time” becoming a hit in the U.S. and U.K. in 1977. As their career progressed, the Babys began to experiment with synthesized, new wave-inspired power pop, which resulted in a handful of minor hits.
Jonathan Cain became the band’s keyboardist in 1978, and he and Waite developed a close relationship. When Cain left the Babys to join Journey in 1981, the group disbanded. Waite began his solo career the following year, releasing Ignition on Chrysalis. While the album generated the minor hit “Change,” his second album, 1984’s No Brakes, became a genuine Top Ten hit on the strength of the number one single “Missing You.” While “Missing You” was an international smash, eventually becoming one of the best-remembered songs of the early MTV era, No Brakes produced only one other hit, the Top 40 “Tears.” Its failure to produce another blockbuster was indicative of how Waite’s solo career would proceed.
Mask of Smiles (1985) barely managed a Top 40 entry (“Every Step of the Way”), but Rover’s Return (1987) produced no hits, bringing Waite’s career to a standstill. With his career stalled, Waite formed the supergroup Bad English with former Babys Jonathan Cain and Ricky Phillips (bass), ex-Journey guitarist Neal Schon, and drummer Deen Castronovo. The group’s eponymous debut, released in 1989 on Epic Records, became a platinum success after the power ballad “When I See You Smile” became a number one hit. “Price of Love” was a Top Ten hit in the wake of “When I See You Smile,” but their 1991 follow-up, Backlash, suffered from the lack of one.