John Waite | The Hard Way – Film Review


It’s no secret the pandemic and the lockdown established in its wake caused a major disruption to many lives. For musicians who tour for a living, it was a death knell to their careers. It’s hard enough for up-and-coming artists to make it these days: it’s even more of a challenge for veterans who have had to make some significant adjustments to even survive. For singer John Waite, who found success in the 20th century as a member of the Babys and Bad English, as well as a solo artist, it’s more about the choice of taking the road less traveled, in pursuit of a more modest path instead of participation in the machine. Casual and hardcore fans, really anyone with a curiosity of how certain pop culture figures cope with modern times, can witness Waite contemplating his past, present and future in the documentary, John Waite – The Hard Way.

Focusing on Waite’s day-to-day lifestyle during the pandemic with glimpses of his past, John Waite – The Hard Way is as unpretentious as its subject matter, with little to no flash to boost the singer’s credibility, which stands well enough on its own. Aside from producer Ron Nevison, songwriter Diane Warren, and guitarist Neil Giraldo, the commentary from contemporaries is on the light side (Waite has a rather unkind opinion about producer Bob Ezrin, who probably wasn’t offered the chanced to respond). The film takes a narrow, somewhat melodramatic view of Waite’s fierce independence, even when he was in the throes of stardom. The story of the Babys would make an intriguing doc on its own; for Waite, the band’s trajectory started to stray the course after he and guitarist Mike Corby got into a scuffle. More hits came, but once Jonathan Cain left to join Journey, The Babys were over for John Waite.

His solo career, particularly the number one hit “Missing You,” is central to the film. The song’s initial impact and its subsequent rejuvenation in 2007 as a duet with Alison Krauss reaffirm its place in Waite’s journey. Since then, it’s been self-produced albums, touring here and there, and a low-key lifestyle with girlfriend Joni Allen in Santa Monica. Waite’s opinion of the music business surfaces throughout, though he plays the game and accepts his fate. He looks back on his career with a mix of appreciation and derision, but little regret. Fortunately, substance abuse and difficulty playing with others don’t really figure into the equation. John Waite – The Hard Way is more about self-examination, distraction and life in a post-pandemic world. In the scheme of things, you get the feeling John Waite is going to be alright.

~ Shawn Perry

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