I was a big fan of Howard Jones from the start. The upbeat “New Song” and its more reflective follow-up, “What Is Love?” in the spring and summer of 84 were among my favorites for the year–I wasn’t buying as many 45s by this time but I had gone out and grabbed both. My friend Mark bought Human’s Lib on cassette, which allowed me to get familiar with other tracks. The following year I got Dream into Action shortly after hearing “Things Can Only Get Better.” My favorite from that one was probably “Like to Get to Know You Well;” I was a little disappointed that it only reached #49 when it was released as Dream’s third single (it was also on the Better Off Dead soundtrack).
Just as “Know You Well” was on the charts, mid-October 85, I saw HJ in concert. I went with college friends (and friends of theirs) on a Friday evening to Morehead, KY, where he was playing the basketball arena on the campus of the regional state university there; we were on the floor, in the middle, maybe twenty rows back. Truth be told, I went as much for the opening act–Marshall Crenshaw!–as for Howard. MC had just released Downtown, my second favorite of his albums. He opened with “Someday, Someway,” a “Remember me? I did this one” moment if ever I heard one. Marshall did great, though; I regret that it’s the only time I’ve seen him live.
After a bit of a wait for the transition, Howard came out. As you’d expect, he played a mix of cuts from his two albums, although (I don’t think this is revisionist) something just seemed a bit off. Maybe he’d had a bad day, maybe the stage set-up wasn’t quite right, maybe the front row was a bit raucous, but HJ was a little snippy. Things came to a head during “Hide and Seek,” a quiet (and clearly personal) piece from Human’s Lib. I guess whoever wouldn’t shut up in the front was too much for him, because he stopped once, re-started, then shut it down a second and final time, letting the audience know both times that he couldn’t play that song with such a nearby disturbance. He moved on and did the rest of the show, but I’m thinking that there was no encore.
At the time, I thought he was being too much the sensitive artist, and it actually had at least some impact on how much I dug his music going forward. On the other hand, I was too far away from the action to know what really happened–maybe I’m the one who overreacted. It’s the only time I’ve seen anything remotely like that happen in a show, though.
A year later, he released One to One; this, debuting here at #39 and peaking at #17, was its only AT40 hit. It’s a nice one, though I’d rank it below his other singles up to that point. He hit the charts a couple more times afterward, into the early 90s. He’s still active, occasionally recording and performing.
I think this post has turned out to be more of a downer than I intended, so let me try to end on a more uplifting note. Listening to this countdown on Saturday afternoon, Casey teased a Long Distance Dedication by saying it was going to be from a woman in Colorado to a British artist whose music had helped her through a tough time. My immediate intuition was that she was talking about HJ, and indeed, the dedication was “Life in One Day,” to him.