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Bad English were never cool. I mean, look at them. A supergroup of sorts formed from bits of Journey and bits of The Babys, most significantly with Neal Schon on guitar and Lancasterian, John Waite on vocals, their 1989 debut album is one of my long-time guilty pleasures. It's not cutting edge, it's full of big power ballads, those frosty 80s keyboard stabs and a massive snare sound. Even Schon's guitar feels like it's been polished with an industrial cleaner. I shouldn't really like it. It's a bit cheesy and you might say it's over-produced, but John Waite's voice gets me in the heart and soul.
The videos are hugely entertaining. Essentially, most of them end up with a chunky, be-permed Schon playing the guitar in the rain, usually holding said instrument at an unlikely angle whilst pulling an unlikely face, as our man Johnny tosses his lovely hair around and points at the camera, looking earnest. In one he's on the back of a truck being driven around LA, for no apparent reason. In another, a sultry woman keeps threatening to take her jeans off, lolls around the furniture a bit and ends up rolling around on a bed with Waitey. He gets married in another, putting the ring on his gloved hand, as you do.
There are lots of singer rolling-around-the-back-of-guitarist moments, long black jackets, kicking, big stages and the aforementioned downpours, sometimes in a car park, sometimes in what looks like a shopping centre. All very odd. Schon looks like middleweight boxer and Jonathan Cain stands behind those 80s keyboard stands and appears to be doing the ironing. In all of them the drummer Deen Castronovo does the throw-stick-in-air-and-catch-it-on-the-beat trick and appears to be using drumming as some sort of body building routine, beating them in giant swings of his huge arms.
There were five hits on the record, two of them were huge, 'When I see You Smile' and 'Price of Love'. The former is the kind of ballads that Waite has knocked out since his days in The Babys, who were an excellent band and also in his solo days too - I Aint Missing You' being his big hit. Written by Diane Warren 'When I See You Smile' went to number 1 in America and top 10 in UK. It still gives me the shivers. I think I just basically believe in Waite. He sounds like he means it.
There are some serious rock moments too. Rockin' Horse is the heaviest track, given the full balls-to-the-wall honey and glass treatment by Waite.
The reason I've always gone back to it so often for so long is because the vocals are so brilliant and are both raw and tender. The riffs are huge and the sound powerful and pristine. One of our best ever singers, Waite has largely been overlooked and has rarely, apart from the 2 years in Bad English had major recognition.
By 1991 Bad English had split and the follow-up record Backlash is a bit limp, with the exception of the superb 'Straight To Your Heart' which could have been on the first record.
Some called it corporate rock, and indeed, Waite later said he felt it was all going a bit that way, but you can't not like something which makes you grin like an idiot and want to punch the air ... and Bad English have been doing that to me for over 25 years. No, they're not cool. But they are an absolute joy.