Like to get to know you well
November 14, 2011 8:36 PM   Subscribe

Howard Jones has posted scans of the music books for his first 4 albums (Human's Lib, Dream Into Action, One To One and Cross That Line) and two early EPs (Action Replay and Like To Get To Know You Well) for free .pdf format download. He asks that a donation be made to the Red Cross if you do decide to download.

Those wanting to explore Howard Jones' music in other ways might be interested to hear about ReWork Howard Jones, an online crowdsourcing project which allows anyone interested to download stems from his songs and remix them. So far he has put up the parts for Automaton and I've Said Too Much.

This post inspired by this comment, which made me just have to go look around a bit.
posted by hippybear (27 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I'm just glad to see he's not weeping.

Although some of his songs were among the most virulent earworms of the 80s, ("I want an everlasting love, wait for it, wait for it...") which makes this just seem like the musical equivalent of the Chicken Pox club...
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:43 PM on November 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

Howard Jones is to Thomas Dolby what Cory Hart is to Billy Idol...

posted by Mike Mongo at 9:01 PM on November 14, 2011

I will start preparing the David Sylvian FPP post-haste.
posted by modernserf at 9:05 PM on November 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Bring it, modernserf. One of the real joys of the blue for me is the excellent 80s music posts. (hat tip to hippybear for this one.)
posted by immlass at 9:27 PM on November 14, 2011

Boy, Howard Jones. I was such a fan for a while as a teen, but a lot of his catalog didn't age well for me aside from the nostalgia factor. Also one of first artists I'd had some enthusiasm for whose fame I'd realized was quite ephemeral -- four or five years after I'd graduated from high school I realized talking to a group of kids still there that none of them had any idea who he was.

There's still some of hist stuff that I both respect and love going back and listening to, though. This at the top of the list.
posted by weston at 9:39 PM on November 14, 2011

Wow, there's an artist I don't think about often. I had this video on a 6-hour VHS of music videos I taped off tv. And yeah, one of the earworm kings (in a good way: Things can only get better; not so good: No one is to blame). I don't know how many mixed tapes "What is Love" got put on. A lot.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:09 PM on November 14, 2011

Howard Jones is really an odd case for me. His first two albums, Human's Lib and Dream Into Action, are nearly perfect, if entirely different from each other. Exemplary 80s synthpop, with lyrics much much deeper than one would expect. With One To One, I could feel something slipping between me and his music, and with Cross That Line, it was obvious to me that he was going off in a direction which I wasn't going to follow. I've sampled his work since then on and off across the decades, and there's still never been anything he's done which really connected with me like those first two albums.

Still, those first two... Damn. Is there a bad track on Human's Lib? I can't think of one. Hide And Seek was a minor obsession of mine for more than a short time way back when.

And Dream Into Action remains one of the strongest statements of philosophical synthpop I have ever encountered. Again, no weak tracks, and like all good albums, the sum is as important as any of its individual parts.

If there's one thing Jones has done consistently across the years, even on the albums by him I haven't taken to, it's express deep concepts in a pop song format. I respect him for that. And I know people are still quite taken with him, even if he's not making big hits these days.

Yeah, he was good with writing hooks. But weren't most of the famous synth artists in the 80s? Erasure, Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode... They all gained our attention because they managed to catch our ear. Perhaps that is what went awry with Jones' career -- he stopped writing the earworms and went into a deeper, less immediately appealing kind of music.

Still, Hide And Seek remains a minor obsession with me, even all these years later. Atmosphere abounds.
posted by hippybear at 10:37 PM on November 14, 2011 [5 favorites]

Howard Jones is awesome. I saw him earlier this year at a show where he performed the Human's Lib and Dream Into Action albums (the good ones, as hippybear points out) in their entirety. One of the best shows I've seen in years.
posted by mmoncur at 1:19 AM on November 15, 2011

"Hide and Seek" is really a wonderful song. I wasn't a fan at the time; it was a few years later that it earwormed its way into my brain.
posted by litlnemo at 1:48 AM on November 15, 2011

Howard Jones is to Thomas Dolby what Cory Hart is to Billy Idol...

More like Thomas Dolby's number of hits to HoJo's hit count is as Cory Hart's hit count is to Billy Idol. Love 'em or hate him, HoJo had a buttload of hits. Dolby, one.
posted by readyfreddy at 4:35 AM on November 15, 2011

HoJo had a buttload of hits. Dolby, one.

er, not true (well in the tiny cultural desert that's the UK anyway).
posted by peterkins at 5:12 AM on November 15, 2011

Oooh, I begged my parents to let me go see Howard Jones, but they weren't ready to let a 12 year old go to a "rock concert". Boo. And the album cut of "No One Is to Blame" is so much better than the single, it's not even funny.
posted by rikschell at 5:18 AM on November 15, 2011

thanks hippybear. Howard Jones is awesome. IIRC he got into music by buying his first keyboard set at an adult age after coming into some cash; prior to that he was some species of paper pusher, and in interviews he always said he had to work hardest at voice training (I don't think it does the guy a disservice to note that he's very obviously not a natural vocal talent). He might not be a great talent like Bowie et. al., but man did he write some seriously awesome earwormy 80s stuff with great philosophical backbone.

That and he once claimed on a live WOXY interview that he loved the area surrounding Oxford, Ohio so much he'd considered moving there. He might have just been being nice to the local deejay, but to a young teenaged fan who felt alienated in a sea of roots-rock and country music at that time, hearing that from a popular New Wave artist made me think maybe my little enclave in Ohio wasn't the biggest uncool dead end hellhole to grow up in ever.
posted by lonefrontranger at 5:58 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Dolby, one.

"Hyperactive" wasn't as big a hit as "She Blinded Me with Science," but I think it still counts. (Maybe it depends how you're defining "hit.")
posted by aught at 6:47 AM on November 15, 2011

I saw Howard Jones open for the Eurythmics at Forest Hills back in the day. I had never heard of him and neither, apparently, had anyone else in the crowd. He had that dancer guy--I think his name was Jed--with him, two guys alone on the stage. When the first synthesizer notes cut through the evening air the atmosphere was instantly charged. What a rush.

So many opening acts have to tough out audience abuse; that night the crowd were clearly surprised and taken up by the guy's synth-pop energy. People were dancing--not something I've often seen happen for opening acts.

True, many of Jones' tracks haven't aged well, but Human's Lib is still a very listenable album.

Thanks for this. Keep those great '80s music posts coming, MeFites!
posted by kinnakeet at 6:58 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was such a fan for a while as a teen, but a lot of his catalog didn't age well for me aside from the nostalgia factor.

Well, what's wrong with the nostalgia factor? I mean, I have him on my iTunes and I don't listen to him for any deep reasons -- I just immensely enjoy his music, which hasn't "aged well" (whatever that means) but is a perfect expression of obsessively detailed mid-80s synth-pop. There's a lot of mid-80s synth-pop that's aged a lot worse, and I can hear "Equality" or "Pearl in the Shell" or "What Is Love?" or "You Know I Love You ... Don't You?" and instantly be transported back to more carefree times. That's kind of what good pop music does (or is supposed to do) 25 years later.
posted by blucevalo at 8:11 AM on November 15, 2011

I think I was 11 or 12 when I heard on (probably) American Top 40 that Howard Jones said he would never perform any song with lyrics that he didn't really believe. If I heard that now (about anyone) I would probably think, "well, duh," but at the time that felt so impressive to me--shaped my view of artistic honesty.

(And I'm sad to see how many "No One Is to Blame" haters are out there. That was always my favorite.)
posted by dlugoczaj at 8:53 AM on November 15, 2011

Stems? That's way cool baby, but ya know, I needs the raw goods to woik the old magic.

I've never heard of Howard. Today I did. Guess that works.
posted by Twang at 9:50 AM on November 15, 2011

which hasn't "aged well" (whatever that means)

For me (and like I said with that statement, this is "for me") it means that a lot of it doesn't seem quite as great to me as it did once. I think I had every pre-1990 release on cassette (plus some bootleg remixes and a symphonic Hide and Seek) and I just about wore most of them out. The first pop concert I ever attended was a Howard Jones show. I'd bring his lyrics into English class for discussion. I think it's fair to say for a while he was my favorite artist, so there was a lofty internal position for him to fall from. :)

Now... I don't know. Some of the lyrics seem awkward, maybe over expository and didactic, and out of sync with the rest of the songcraft to me. This could be a matter of personal taste -- I think some of the expository and didactic elements are probably a conscious choice by Jones, and these elements in the service of the buddhist/introspective themes might have actually been part of why I had so much enthusiasm or his work at first, even though they don't do the same thing for me now.

So, yeah. That's what I mean. And no, there's nothing wrong with the nostalgia factor... at least, until you try to play the music for somebody who has no way of sharing it. Still, nothing wrong with enjoying it yourself and those who can.
posted by weston at 9:54 AM on November 15, 2011

What a cool thing to do. And I still love the fretless bass growl on "No One is to Blame".
posted by Songdog at 12:58 PM on November 15, 2011

That is a cool thing to do. And I popped back just to say that I'm now on a bit of a mental Howard Jones revival and it's goin' on my mp3 player for the next few weeks at least. Cheers.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:25 PM on November 15, 2011

It's a seriously cool thing to do. Howard could have just allowed these music books to languish in out-of-print status. Instead, he provided (admittedly not the highest quality) scans and is sharing them with the world. Since they comprise the best-known part of his catalog (and probably the only part of his catalog which was popular enough to warrant music books being made of them in the first place), he's performing a real service to all his fans and to those who want to study his particular form of songwriting.

Just the fact that the book for Cross That Line has actual sheet music for the piano solo which was linked to upthread makes it all worth a donation to the Red Cross. That'd be worthy of inclusion in any modern recital. Anything beyond that is truly icing on the 80s synthpop cake.

Plus, the books seem to include guitar chords, so it's not just for keyboard players. And some of the scores are actually scores and not just piano reductions. That makes them that much more interesting and valuable.

AND... actual lyrics. They weren't always included with the CDs, and sometimes could be a bit opaque at times.
posted by hippybear at 8:17 PM on November 15, 2011

sometimes... at times...

Yes, I got high marks in my writing classes. why do you ask?
posted by hippybear at 8:19 PM on November 15, 2011

Oops, I should have said earlier that Dolby only had one (maybe two) hits in the United States. Howard Jones had three hits in one year… with only one album. And more to come later. That said, I'm a synth dude, and there's no mistaking that Dolby is the synth artist and HoJo is the synth pop star. Didn't mean to step on the toes of Dolby fans. I'm one too.
posted by readyfreddy at 1:22 AM on November 16, 2011

I'm the only one I know who ever listened to Howard Jones beyond the singles. I have Dream Into Action and Action Replay on my mp3 player, but I just popped over to YouTube to watch some of the old videos, so thanks hippybear.
posted by i feel possessed at 1:35 AM on November 16, 2011

HJ played a one-hour gig as a Fringe show in Edinburgh a few years back for 25 days in a row. Just him and a piano in a room with space for 50 people. That was pretty good.

I genuinely never realised Thomas Dolby wasn't American until I just looked him up, although putting Magnus Pike on a record should have been a bigger hint. In Dolby's corner you have his producer credit on "Steve McQueen", which for my money remains one of the best albums of that entire decade.

But the first 7" single I remember buying with my own money was one of Howard Jones's. Things Can Only Get Better, I think. The one with the yellow sleeve, I should add, not one of the other several versions in different sizes and mixes that came out the same week.
posted by genghis at 9:02 AM on November 16, 2011

They weren't always included with the CDs, and sometimes could be a bit opaque at times.

Speaking of opaque and Automaton... has anybody ever been able to parse the lyrics to this one?

I see a couple of possibilities:

1) It's just a snippet of a sci fi story in song form.
2) It's an examination of what comes after death
3) Or maybe of the idea that the socially constructed self may be unreal and calculated
posted by weston at 2:43 PM on November 16, 2011

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