Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Outfield: Play Deep (1985)

"Josie's on a vacation far away
Come around and talk it over
So many things that I wanna say
You know I like my girls a little bit older
I just wanna use your love tonight
I don't wanna lose your love tonight"
-The Outfield, Play Deep, Your Love-

For a time in the summer of 1986, Play Deep (1985), by The Outfield, was in heavy rotation in our family CD player. How ironic that such an American sounding power rock album with such strong connotations to one of America's greatest pastimes, baseball, would be pop genius of a London-based trio. In fact, truth be told, Spinks had a thing for American baseball and originally selected The Baseball Furies from Walter Hill's wonderful The Warriors (1979) before settling on The Outfield.

Team Outfield was the work of Tony Lewis (vocals/bass), Alan Jackman (drums) and John Spinks (guitar/songwriter). Sadly, Spinks passed away in early July 2014.

Jackman, Spinks, Lewis.

The sound of the band clearly owed a debt of inspiration to Foreigner, Journey and a number of other great American rock bands.

With Play Deep, The Outfield secured a place on radio for a time thanks to a number of Billboard Hot 100 releases peaking with the classic Your Love and that insanely catchy line that Josie was a on a vacation far away as well as the equally euphoric All The Love In The World.

The entirety of the recording was chock full of power rock gems from I Don't Need Her and Everytime You Cry to Say It Isn't So (not to be confused with the equally amazing Hall And Oates classic) and Talk To Me. There really wasn't a weak number in the bunch. Play Deep nearly reaches the heights of pop perfection that marked unforgettable rock classics such as the legendary and classy Hi Infidelity (1980) by REO Speedwagon.

But thanks to Spinks, Lewis and Jackman there was something special enough about the band from England that assured some staying power. Bangin' (1987) followed with a strong follow-up single in Since You've Been Gone. The title track of Voices Of Babylon (1989) sealed the deal that this trio had an ear for a good tune and a catchy hook.

For those looking to play the field a bit, Big Innings: The Best Of The Outfield (1996) is an absolute homerun in running the pop bases, but you won't strikeout with Play Deep, a quintessential great rock recording from 1985.

This nod to the very best of the 1980s is in tribute to Spinks who lost a battle with liver cancer this summer. I was genuinely saddened to hear of his passing because thanks to Spinks and company many great memories were created with their music as the soundtrack to one of my summers. For me, Play Deep remains the epitome of one of the greats from the 1980s and their music, while not Shakespeare, still inspires good feeling. I still listen to The Outfield along with the American greats today. They were bloody good at making pop plays. Batter up anyone.

The Outfield Discography:

Play Deep (1985) */ Bangin (1987)/ Voices Of Babylon (1989)/ Diamond Days (1990)/ Rockeye (1992)/ Big Innings: The Best Of The Outfield (1996) */ It Ain't Over (1998)/ Extra Innings (1999)/ Any Time Now (2006)/ Replay (2011). *essential

Here is a message on the official The Outfield website announcing the passing of John Spinks by his family:

"It is with great sadness to inform you that John passed away at 09.55 on Wednesday 9th July 2014. He was 60 years old. As many of you know, he had been suffering from liver cancer for many years and bravely fought the disease until the very end. We are relieved that his passing was peaceful and painless. John was a loving husband, inspirational father, doting grandfather and gifted songwriter. His musical career started from a very young age and he wanted more than anything for people to listen and enjoy his music. He passed away knowing he achieved his ambition. If it were possible, we know John would have liked to have thanked each and every fan of The Outfield personally. He admired and respected the emails from thousands of loyal followers who commented on his music and enquired about his health. This alone, gave him motivation to battle through the sometimes dark days.

We would like to thank you for 'Your Love' and the continued support you have given John throughout his career. He loved making music and playing his guitar. He found pleasure knowing that his music made people happy and bought them fond memories. He worked hard with many days in pain to finish the Replay album. There were times when he could barely pick up his guitar, but he refused to give up knowing he would disappoint fans. The hardest day for John was when he put his guitar in its case announcing his hands could no longer play.

During the last months of his life, John, Tony and Alan wrote new material. What the future holds for this is unclear at the time of writing.

There is so much more we could say, but for now, we would like to grieve the loss of John."

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