John Waite likes to tell the stories behind many of the hit songs he’s had in the past 35 years.
But, sometimes, a song becomes too big for a single story.
“I tried to explain ‘Missing You’ a few times,” Waite said of the smash hit from his second solo album in 1984. It topped Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles, Album Rock Tracks and Adult Contemporary Charts then, and experienced a resurgence in 2006 when Waite sang it as a duet with bluegrass legend Allison Krauss in 2006.
“Now I just say, ‘Here it is,’ ” he said. “The thing was written on the spot. It really only took me 20 minutes to write. It just came out. … I think people really have a huge attachment to it. In their own minds, they’ve got their own movie, so I don’t want to interfere with that.”
Expect to hear that song and the rest of the British-born rock star’s many hits through the years – from his breakout days as bassist and lead vocalist for The Babys in the 1970s to his successful solo albums to his reunion with bandmates in 1987 to form Bad English – as he takes the stage at 8 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake. Tickets start at $39 at www.rauecenter.org or 815-356-9212.
Waite knows what the audience wants to hear. He also knows how to give them more.
“The more history you have, the more interesting the show becomes,” he said.
Drawing generations of fans from literally throughout the world – a New York City concert drew fans from Japan, South America and England – Waite has never stopped songwriting and performing.
He takes pride in performing his chart-topping hits, such as “Isn’t It Time” and “Every Time I Think of You” from The Babys and, of course, Bad English’s monster hit, “When I See You Smile,” in 1989.
But, he said, “The real meat of the performance is the dark stuff. The really heavy stuff is behind the hits.”
He considers his songs “Bluebird Café” from the 1997 album, “When You Were Mine,” “Downtown” from 1995’s “Temple Bar” and “Masterpiece of Loneliness” from 2001’s “Figure in a Landscape” as some of his best work.
“I felt when I wrote those songs, that was as good as I got,” he said. “If I can top that, there will be another record.”
In nearly four decades, Waite’s songs have been heard not only on the radio, but in the soundtracks of several movies.
The 1986 film, “About Last Night,” featured Waite’s single, “If Anybody Had a Heart,” while his single, “These Times are Hard for Lovers,” was in 1987’s “Rover’s Return.” And in 1990, the “Days of Thunder” soundtrack included Waite’s “Deal for Life.”
For Waite, songs and songwriting keep him inspired, living. He’ll never stop, he said in a phone interview as he talked about eyeing a new guitar sitting in the corner. Every time he picks it up, he said, he gets a new song.
He has stacks of notebooks full of lyrics, bits and pieces of albums recorded into his smartphone.
He grew up in the 1950s listening to “cowboy music,” some Americana, folk and the blues. He listened to it all – pop, rock, country. …
“By the time I got old enough to know the difference of anything, it was all one big thing to me,” he said. “It’s all connected, and it all generally lasts for about three minutes. …
“In the end, it’s just really music and the communication between the audience and the artist. It’s like a two-way street happening in the air. They’re coming back to see it again and again.”
The hardest part might just be fitting it all in. Yes, most of the concert is devoted to the hits. But the other third or so? “I can play anything, and we do,” he said. “So far, so good.”
With about 15 songs wheeled in and out, he’s had to limit his sets through the years. “If we put any more in, it’s going to get insane,” he said. “Most people don’t have the career I’ve had.”
It’s a career of substance, above all – the “real deal all the time” and that, Waite said, resonates with people. They get it.
“The older you get, there’s more going on. You understand what life was, is, will be. I used to have a future, but now I’m in it,” he said, reflecting on his next album.
“The next one will be about looking back over my shoulder at what happened. You can’t teach people wisdom. You learn it yourself. You experience it. I think that has enormous promise for a good record, the wisdom of what happens.”
WHEN: 8 to 9:30 p.m. Nov. 17
WHERE: Raue Center for the Arts, 26 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake
COST & INFO: John Waite’s catalogue of hits features some of the most loved songs of the ’80s and ’90s, including the No. 1 worldwide hit, “Missing You,” The Babys’ “Isn’t It Time” and Bad English’s “When I See You Smile.” Tickets start at $39 at www.rauecenter.org or 815-356-9212.