Top John Waite Solo Songs of the '80s

British singer-songwriter John Waite built a consistent, varied and commercially successful music career from the late '70s well into the '90s. Though the bulk of that period consisted of solo pop offerings based in mainstream rock, Waite also served as frontman for two significant arena rock bands - The Babys and Bad English. Still, Waite's solo career probably nets him a majority of his fans, largely thanks to one of the decade's finest pop singles. Here's a look at the best John Waite solo songs of the '80s, presented in chronological order. 

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Album Cover Image Courtesy of Chrysalis

Waite's first notable single of his solo career failed to gain much recognition upon its initial release in 1982 on that year's , but this high-octane, guitar-fueled melodic rocker serves as a perfect showcase for this artist's spirited vocal style. Though not written by Waite (instead composed by unsung '80s artist and songwriter-for-hire Holly Knight), this track deftly blends ample keyboards with a potent guitar attack. The arrangement's inclusion of soulful backing vocals bridges Waite nimbly to his recent Babys past, but it's clear that a solo career was a natural and perhaps inevitable medium through which Waite could thrive. As a single, this song performed slightly better on the pop charts when released in conjunction with 1985's soundtrack. Nevertheless, it remains an underrated '80s rock classic.

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"Going to the Top"

Alternate Album Cover Image Courtesy of Chrysalis

Launching his solo career in 1982, Waite would have likely been quite forgiven had he leaned heavily on the peaking new wave sound for textural ideas for his debut solo record. However, he and producer Neil Giraldo opted instead for a straight-ahead form of mainstream rock that ignored trends in favor of good old-fashioned classic rock timelessness. That decision pays off quite well throughout the album, but particularly on this track, which happened to be plucked as the second and final single from Ignition. The guitar and piano fusion doesn't exactly blaze new trails sonically speaking, but it's hard to argue with the assertion that AOR music of this kind rarely got better than this during the early '80s. Waite's strong vocals have an uncanny ability to make the listener believe that the singer's lovelorn emotions truly matter in the universal scheme of things.

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"Missing You"

Single Cover Image Courtesy of Chrysalis

This lovely, contemplative examination of masculine heartbreak rests its distinctiveness on a central defense mechanism and the protective gauze of denial. As such, it holds a special power as a love song that appeals almost equally to female listeners who respond to its brooding sensitivity as well as male listeners who may be guilty of similarly steely attempts to endure romantic disappointment. Of course, the gender roles can just as easily be reversed in our modern age, but there's a certain traditionalism that serves as a smooth spine for the concise, effective lyric Waite employs here. Ultimately, this tune became a timeless rock classic almost immediately upon release, and it remains a remarkable achievement as stirring today as when it topped the pop charts back in the early fall of 1984.

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"Restless Heart"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of Chrysalis

Waite wisely moves into a roots rock and heartland rock direction for this quality album track from 1984's . The contributions of Gary Myrick on slide guitar and Bruce Brody on keyboards particularly shine in this slightly reshaped version of Waite's core sound. Still, the artist's keen sense of melodic rock payoff remains as assured as ever, helping to elevate what could have been a merely standard album cut into something much more lasting. So while this song doesn't flirt with the level of brilliance demonstrated on "Missing You" or even the best work of The Babys, it does make a strong case for Waite as an above-average, perfectly listenable '80s rock solo artist.

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"Act of Love"

Album Cover Image Courtesy of EMI America

Because Waite's approach has some limitations in terms of variation, some of his perfectly competent tracks have trouble standing out as truly essential recommendations. After all, Waite will always be known best for his one perfect solo single, and everything else in some ways seems at least slightly derivative of that sterling moment. That's why it makes some sense to keep Waite's top '80s songs list on the shorter side. That said, this song from 1987's provides all the best elements of this artist's central gifts: clear tenor vocals, genuine emotion, and a straightforward mainstream rock arrangement heavy on keyboards and foundational guitars. The songs from this list not titled "Missing You" may not be all-time classics, but they're nevertheless utterly solid rock songs from a bygone era.