If history had dictated otherwise, Howard Jones would have developed into a bona fide Canadian pop superstar.
Having moved to Ottawa when he was nine years old, Jones sparked a burgeoning music career and by the age of 14 was performing in his own band, Warrior. Unfortunately for Jones, his parents decided to move back to the UK and Canada’s loss became England’s gain.
By 1986, Jones was touted as one of England’s most influential synth-pop stars with two top selling albums; `Human’s Lib’ and ‘Dream Into Action’ and a slew of hit singles like “What Is Love”, “Like To Get To Know You Well”, “No One Is To Blame” and “Things Can Only Get Better” and also performed at the famous Live Aid London concert.
Yet although his record sales had dropped off by the late Eighties, Jones has continued to tour and record under his own D-Tox Record label and now finds himself part of a British Eighties musical resurgence which this year alone sees the likes of Simple Minds, Paul Young, Midge Ure, A Flock Of Seagulls, Culture Club and Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey all performing in the Ontario region.
“I’m not sure I’m part of any resurgence as I’ve always been out there doing my stuff but it’s great that people are interested in seeing all of those bands again,” commented Jones from his London Ontario Delta hotel suite. Jones is set to appear tonight (Thursday) as part of an 80’s Theme Night at London’s Rock The Park four-day music festival on a bill with Cyndi Lauper, Poison’s Bret Michaels, A Flock Of Seagulls, Mr Mister’s Richard Page and Canada’s Platinum Blonde and Kim Mitchell. Jones is also set to perform Friday July 13th at The Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto and Saturday July 14th at the Peterborough Musicfest.
With a three-CD `Best Of’ package recently released and super boxed set packages for ‘Humans Lib’ and ‘Dream Into Action’ about to be released on the Cherry Red label, Jones is thrilled that a younger audience is discovering his classics while an older audience is finally recognizing what he was singing about in the first place.”
“I am seeing a lot of young people in the audience and they are discovering my music for the first time,” Jones observed. “It’s great that my music still has relevance in their current universe of Spotify. I believe that Spotify is helping to show that the history of pop music is full of amazing things.”
Jones acknowledges that originally, his big hits were dismissed by critics who thought his lyrics were trite and none controversial but now claims that people are starting to better understand his material.
“What is happening now is that people are saying, ` I have suddenly realized what that song Is about’. It might have originally gone under the radar what a particular song was about but now they are getting it,” mused Jones. “Songs like “Things Can Only Get Better” are just as relevant today as it was when it was written. I have always been interested in the long game. Sometimes you just have to be patient.”
Despite going through a period following the termination of his Warner Music contract, where he released a series of albums on his own label, Jones never wavered from his desire to play for the crowds and record new material. “It really comes down to what you love doing,” he notes. “I love to be in the studio, writing new music, recording it, working with new gear and then going out live and playing for people and thinking of lyrics that are relevant to them and that’s been my motivation for the past 35 years.
Jones is aware that most people still want to hear the hits although he does like to work new material into his longer sets, but even with his standards, he likes to rework the arrangements. “I work hard to update my stuff to make it sound like I just recorded it,” he boasts. “Although I try not to make the tracks so obscure that no one recognizes them” he laughs.
With only a 40-minute set tonight, Jones will be sticking to the hits but he promises that his 90-minute sets at the Phoenix and Peterborough next week will allow him to stretch out and perform more of his catalogue and some newer material.
With his three-disc `Best Of’ that contains all of his hits along with a third disc containing live acoustic and electronic versions plus two major boxed sets for ‘Human’s Lib” and `Dream Into Action’ which features vinyl recordings plus some rare stuff “which Cherry Red had to persuade me to put out”, set to come out later this year, Jones is also looking towards the future with a new studio record scheduled for an April 2019 release.
As for Jones’ Canadian identity, he allows he came very close to being a Canuck superstar. “We moved to Ottawa when I was nine and I was absolutely heartbroken when my parents decided to move back to the UK when I was 14,” Jones allowed. “I was in a band (Warrior) and went to my first concert here, The Who with The Troggs, 1910 Fruitgum Company and Five Man Electrical Band – all on the same bill – it was just mind blowing. And then my parent decided to move back home – I was just devastated,”