The Second Wind of John Waite's "Change"

John Waite
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Lester Cohen/Getty Images

Fresh from his time as frontman of The Babys, British singer John Waite was making big moves as a soloist in 1982. Unfortunately, his deeply underrated first single took several years to make an impact on the charts - after another song had become his biggest hit.

His debut single was "Change," a perfect slice of pop penned by beloved songwriter Holly Knight, who'd spend the decade penning hits for Pat Benatar, Tina Turner, Aerosmith and others. (A short-lived band she was part of called Spider first recorded "Change" along with a future Turner hit, "Better Be Good to Me.") A powerful rocker with evocative lyrics about staying true to yourself amid the challenges of "making it," "Change" was positioned for greatness on Waite's solo debut Ignition, with a crack session band including session guitarist Tim Pierce (who'd played on the chart-topping Rick Springfield classic "Jessie's Girl" the year before) and keyboardist Ivan Kral, a charter member of Patti Smith's band. At the helm as producer: Neil Giraldo, who'd marry Benatar the same year and remains a key contributor to her work.

But even with an eye-catching video that took the lyrics rather literally - up to the moment when Waite and company call "cut" on the story while the cameras keep rolling - "Change" stiffed, missing both the U.S. and U.K. pop charts while reaching a decent No. 16 on Billboard's rock charts. That seemed to be it for the tune - until three years later.

After the pulsing heartbreak song "Missing You" became a U.S. No. 1 in 1984, Waite found his number called again when "Change" was selected for the soundtrack of a romantic teen drama called Vision Quest. Alongside new future hits by Madonna ("Crazy for You," performed by her in the film) and Journey ("Only the Young"), "Change" was selected to be reissued as a single to promote the film and its soundtrack. While it missed the U.S. Top 40, peaking at No. 54, it was enough to establish the track as one of the solid rock radio staples of the decade.

And best of all: Knight maintains that Waite's version is the definitive recording.

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