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Johnny Hates Jazz

Britain's Johnny Hates Jazz are known for their glossy, sophisticated pop, combining electronic and new romantic influences with subtle R&B flourishes. The group broke through with 1987's omnipresent "Shattered Dreams," which was a Top Ten hit in six countries, including the U.S. Turn Back the Clock, the accompanying multi-platinum-selling 1988 album, enjoyed sustained success across Europe, topping the charts in the U.K., Norway, Sweden, and Finland. However, following their sophomore album, 1991's Tall Stories, the group lay dormant until reuniting for 2013's Magnetized. This led to a series of ongoing live appearances and their eventual return to the studio for 2020's '70s-inspired Wide Awake. Formed in 1985, Johnny Hates Jazz originally featured Clark Datchler (vocals, piano), Calvin Hayes (keyboards), and Mike Nocito (bass). With family backgrounds deeply rooted in music, it would have been surprising if any member had opted for a different career. Not only had Datchler's father, Fred, been in the Stargazers -- a vocal group who in 1953 became the first British act to have a U.K. number one single -- but he also sang backing vocals with the Polka Dots on two late-period Beatles classics. In turn, Hayes was the son of famed impresario and producer Mickie Most, while German-born Nocito's American mother was part of the Cactus Kids, a group who entertained U.S. troops based in Europe. As a result, they each achieved musical milestones prior to Johnny Hates Jazz. In 1981, Datchler recorded an indie soul single for London's Blue Inc. label backed by members of Aswad, before being signed as a songwriter to Warner Bros. Nocito carved out a career as an engineer for the likes of Pink Floyd and the Police, working for a time at London's RAK Studios. The pair met there in 1982 when Datchler was recording with Hot Club, a group that featured Hayes alongside punk stalwarts Glen Matlock and James Stevenson. Datchler was soon signed as a solo artist by RAK boss Most, a move that saw him work closely in the studio with Nocito for the next four years. The project eventually morphed into Johnny Hates Jazz, named after a friend who despised the genre. Hayes joined the band and was the primary writer of their debut single, 1986's "Me and My Foolish Heart." The track wasn't a commercial success but led to a showcase, ironically at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, that ultimately saw them signed to Virgin. For the next couple of years, the singles from Turn Back the Clock were almost inescapable on mainstream European radio. In the U.K. alone, the band scored four Top 20 hits in a row from the record: "Shattered Dreams," "I Don't Want to Be a Hero," "Turn Back the Clock," and "Heart of Gold." Each were Datchler's compositions, but he left at the height of their fame, reputedly unhappy with the production and arrangement styles being offered by his bandmembers. Hayes and Nocito chose to replace him with the latter's childhood friend, Phil Thornalley, a former Cure touring bassist and producer who already had two songwriting credits on the group's debut. The resultant Tall Stories failed to catch fire in a post-Madchester world, and so they soon disbanded. The intervening years saw Datchler complete three solo albums, the latter of which -- 2007's Tomorrow -- was recorded at Peter Gabriel's Real World, a studio that he worked at for much of the '90s. Nocito continued to write and record material for the likes of Hepburn and Orson, as well as Katrina & the Waves, for whom he penned the 1997 Eurovision Song Contest winner, "Love Shine a Light." After the original trio re-formed in 2009, Hayes soon left for personal reasons following a handful of live dates. The remaining pair recorded 2013's Magnetized but were unable to promote it properly when Datchler was diagnosed with cancer soon after its release. Following his recovery, Johnny Hates Jazz continued primarily as a live act, but May 2020 brought a classic soul-inspired single, "Spirit of Love," before the release of their fourth album, Wide Awake.
© James Wilkinson & Michael Sutton /TiVo


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