Bad English On Unknown Sundays 2024


‘When I See You Smile’ I can face the world, and that they did for a brief stint.  The incredibly led American/British not-so hard rock supergroup, Bad English, by John Waite at the vocal front along with bandmates from Journey; keyboardist Jonathan Cain, Neal Schon and drummer Deen Castronovo, along with bassist, Ricky Phillips of Styx (as well as later with Coverdale-Page and Ted Nugent).  So basically, we’ve got Journey mostly, with a proven singles winning solo artist delivering the lyrics, and a pretty cool bassist.  Let’s do this and see where it goes because separately, at the time, none of them were gathering too much momentum on their own.  Will it work?  Did it work?  Let’s learn us some Bad English on Unknown Sundays.

How ever did they come up with that band name (one might ask)?  We already assumed it was a mistaken English to English translation among the band members of the two ‘English’ speaking countries.  Yes, but it’s a bit funnier than all of that.  They were playing pool in a bar together, and when John Waite missed a shot, Jonathan Cain made a comment on how bad his “english” was (referring to the spin a player puts on the cue ball) was off, and the band decided to use that in the naming of their band.  So, really, it’s all about the spin their putting on hard rock maybe?  In 1989, well most people were certainly digging it!  Even the first single, which was actually ‘Forget Me Not,’ only got to 40 on the charts.  I know that was not my point of entry on the band, but getting that far on the first single must have been encouraging, so they were hitting perfectly what was going on at the time (radio for sure).  Later, though, following the trend would be the end, but let’s enjoy the ride for now.

Music releases can be like a game of Texas Hold’em, depending on the flop you might not go all in.  You hold back, see where you’re at, suck them slightly in, and then when you know how strong your hand is, you bring it out.  This includes reading the table, even though you don’t know what they have.  Let’s just take a look at the charts, songs and bands at the time, so your know the table.  Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation, Paula Abdul’s Forever Your Girl, Phil Collins’ …But Seriously, Richard Marx’s Repeat Offender, and hot moving singles from Madonna, Tone Loc, Mike and the Mechanics, so the competition is fierce on all sides, and the table is full.  Bad English had this back pocket card to play, and the record label and band were wise to hold it, despite not being the song-writers of it (in fact written by one of the greatest female songwriters of all time, Diane Warren).  The contemporary (at the time) rock ballad, ‘When I See You Smile,’ would be the perfect radio hit in August of that year, and with John Waite’s voice and the talents of the band (keyboard rock experience from Journey) it went to number one, giving Bad English a soaring presence in a very competitive environment, even off their debut album.

This was my entry into the band.  At the time, it fit in the wheelhouse of my collections and taste.  My girlfriend at the time, really liked the track, and it was different enough in vocal, and same enough to fit into our playlists no matter where we were and what we were doing at the time.  It also worked well for our metal friends, due to the look of the band, and the ability for me to play the more hard rock hits, too.  So, our summer before Senior Year was in full blast, and that girl friend and I (now my wife of nearly 30 years, panelist Suzie Q) were digging what Bad English had put down as a debut!  From the rockers like ‘Best of What I Got,’ and ‘Rockin’ Horse,’ to the ballads ‘Possession’ and ‘Price of Love’ there was a direct contract to the relationships and the female audience.  Not to mention their look of the time (holy hair rock) was somehow enticing, putting them in a crossover category (not that I ever paid attention to that in music selection).

So what happened?  Well, if you do listen to the album, you already know.  They want a harder sound, and that’s not what the record company wants, and I’m sure John Waite is a victim of both (as his voice can do whatever is needed).  So in comes Backlash with a slight harder opening, but that pop-hard rock blend is still there, hedging the ballads, and utilizing the very good musicianship and talents of the band in the studio to make it fit, but if you — the performer — don’t connect with the material it will make playing hard.  And, they had toured on the first record with Whitesnake, so they knew the balance of the blues hard rock and ballad fan-loving connections.  Torn by it all, the band would not even survive past the recording studio.

At the time of listening to Backlash I thought it did a great job of joining the hard blues rock and pop-ballad, utilizing John Waite’s vocals to soar and attract.  But, when I look back at it now, I see where the hard rock side is pretty much even in less existence than the debut.  It had the same style with some great production and song choices like the blues bangers ‘Dancing Off the Edge of the World,’ and ‘Rebel Say A Prayer,’ but it’s ballad dominated even in while the tempo’s attempt to hold the hard rock.  It makes sense that it already wasn’t working within, even though it sounded great, was delivered well, and produced to the teeth.

They played a fabulous game at the table from 1989 to 1991, attempting to out ballad and connect amongst some the greatest pop/ballad singer songwriters of a generation, as well as the changing times, and utterly insane influx in variety that had probably ever happened in quite some time (maybe even ever).  So, at the game of Texas Hold’em, Bad English managed to stay at the table a little while, win some money, some respect, and continue their careers.  Not a bad spin they put on for that time frame.  Not bad at all.  No, it’s “not bad” it’s Bad English.

The Bad English Albums In My Collection:
  • Bad English (1989)
  • Blacklash  (1991)

Other bands to check out, in this line, as stated in our video presentation of this Unknown Sunday are;

  • Honeymoon Suite (in fact they have a new album that just released)
  • Aldo Nova
  • Hardline (which was the next project for Neal Schon and Deen Castronovo after Bad English)