(Above: Jon Astley’s debut album.)
Jon Astley is a name that many music fans do not know, but probably should. In terms of the pop charts, he qualifies as a “no-hit wonder”: two singles that failed to make the Billboard Top 40. They both got considerable airplay on rock radio, though, which is why the name may sound familiar.
As a record producer, though, Astley’s work is substantial. He co-produced Who Are You with Glyn Johns. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s also worked with Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Van Morrison and Led Zeppelin. Want more modern names? Add Sting, Bono, and Peter Gabriel. What have you done for me lately? How about Nora Jones, and KT Tunstall rounding out an all-star list. With rare exception, though, producers aren’t the first people we think of, unless they do something reprehensible (see “Spector, Phil”).
Even if we simply judge Jon Astley on his solo work, I’d argue that this should have been a hit. It’s quirky and catchy. “Jane’s Getting Serious” did make #7 on the Album Rock chart in 1987 (stalling at #77 on the Hot 100), and also made its way into a Heinz Ketchup commercial starring some guy who later was one of the stars of Friends. The LP, Everyone Loves the Pilot (Except the Crew), ranks right near Faces’ A Nod is As Good As A Wink (To a Blind Horse) among my favorite album titles of all time. (Maybe it’s the parentheticals.)
His follow-up release, an LP called The Compleat Angler, yielded another song that got radio airplay in places not afraid to play it. “Put This Love To the Test” got to #3 on the Modern Rock charts in 1988 but didn’t move the needle in terms of singles sales. When I find myself looking for material for 80s throwback shows, these are two records I usually think of. We certainly played them in college, but you don’t hear ’em too often anymore.
See just how serious Jane is getting by clicking here.