John Bisaha is the new voice of The Babys
OH BABYS, LOOK WHO’S BACK IN TOWN
Iconic rock band the Babys have reformed a generation after being the springboard for John Waite, Journey’s Jonathan Cain and Styx’s Ricky Phillips — and Metal Sludge has the inside scoop
By: Gerry Gittelson
Metal Sludge Editor at Large
HOLLYWOOD — Legendary in the fact they were so close to making it so many times, British rock band the Babys are back after all these years with original guitarist Wally Stocker and original drummer Tony Brock – but without the great front man John Waite, who would go on to chart-topping solo success with “Missing You” and later with supergroup Bad English’s “When I See You Smile.”
Waite is a hard man to replace, but don’t write off the Babys just yet. The group has a gifted new singer in unknown John Bisaha and a fantastic new song called “Not Ready to Say Goodbye” on youtube HERE.
Like other near-miss bands like Angel, Starz and UFO, the Babys have a special place in the hearts of the fans, an us-against-the-world symbiotic bond that can never be broken no matter how long.
I was still a teen when the Babys made their curtain call, and god I wish I had seen them live because songs like “Isn’t it Time,” “Back on My Feet Again,” “Head First” and “Every Time I Think of You” were the soundtrack of my adolescence as I steeled myself into a man.
I settled for a long-time devotion to Mr. Waite, but like I’ve told the god-voiced singer many times through the years, I’ve always longed for a Babys reunion.
It’s here now. The Babys return on Thursday, July 18 for a show at the Canyon Club north of Los Angeles, and there is a good chance this is going to be fantastic.
The band’s official website is HERE Guitarist J.P Cervoni rounds out four-man lineup with Stocker, Brock and Bisaha plus three backup singer, and a keyboard player should be added soon.Sludge did a story on John Waite HERE that stirred up some shit.
This time, we catch with the reformed Babys for this groundbreaking news. Everyone loves a good comeback story, so let’s hope the Babys are onto something big.
The classic line up of The Babys
SLUDGE: I’ll start with you, John Bisaha, the new singer. John Waite was an incredible singer. You have some huge shoes to fill.
JOHN BISAHA: There has been a wide range of reactions including some people, some hard-core fans, that are bent out of shape about it. That’s happening, and I think we expected it. But you’re right. It’s not an easy job at all. It’s a pretty high standard to live up to, and John Waite is one of my favorite singers. It’s an honor and privilege to be involved because I’m just a huge fan of the Babys, Bad English, and his solo stuff. I saw John Waite play in San Juan Capistrano just a little while ago.
TONY BROCK: Yeah, we’re getting a few of the how-dare-you’s, but I’m telling you, it sounds like the original band. It’s fantastic. With John Bisaha, the thinking was, it’s got to be the right person, I mean, how many singers have tried to step in for Journey? It can’t be just anybody. So John (Bisaha) is going to get some pressure, some who are going to say he’s not as good as John Waite, but all those negatives to come down on him, John (Bisaha) knew that from day one, and we hired him because he’s fantastic. It’s going to be so good. I love his attitude, he sings in tune, and he’s incredible. He’s a winner.
WALLY STOCKER: It’s very exciting. I’m really pleased with the lineup. John Waite has an incredible voice, but John (Bisaha) is good, too. I know he hasn’t played in so many bands, but he’s up the challenge even though it’s tough because he’s going to get his fair share of criticism. I think just his sheer talent will bring it through. John Waite has given his blessing, and that’s a little more comfortable. He knows that John Waite likes the idea, so he feels pretty confident.
SLUDGE: How does it sound? Is going to be great?
STOCKER: It sounds good. It feels good.
BROCK:John Waite did give his blessing, so we’re feeling good about the whole thing. I’m really enjoying it. When Wally and I first got back together, I was wondering about it myself, but that magic is still there to this day. It’s incredible. We’re rehearsing for our first show.
BISAHA: A friend, Mike Hansen, who played with Lynch Mob and Hurricane and Glass Tiger, he first told me someone was looking for a singer, I wasn’t interested because I was working on my own project, trying to get something off the ground because with rock, you know how tough it is to break in with new music nowadays. But my friend was like, “Yeah, it’s an 80s band or something, and they’re looking for a lead singer,” and I was like, who is this band? When he told me it was the Babys, I was like, “You’re kidding right?”
SLUDGE: It’s like taking 10 huge steps forward.
SLUDGE: The interesting thing is a million years ago the Babys were one of the first bands ever to use a music video to get signed. This was back in the 1970s, and now you’re doing it all over again with a new song on youtube, “Not Ready to Say Goodbye.” The song is incredible. It’s unbelievably good. The new Babys have instant credibility because of this new song, the way I see it. It sounds like it could have been a hit from back then.
STOCKER: We did that in Tony’s studio. It’s sort of a cross between “Isn’t it Time” and “Every Time I Think of You” and “Back on My Feet Again.” We wanted it to have that distinguished Babys-style sound with all the elements.
BROCK:“Not Ready to Say Goodbye,” that’s the one we have finished. We worked pretty hard on it, and we’ve got several more. We just haven’t put them down yet. We’re working on getting a record deal, and we have a manager and a lawyer and everything.
SLUDGE: So you’re taking this seriously?
BROCK:Oh yes, very seriously. I never gave up on music, and as far as going out and riding around and doing a summer tour, I think the Babys are the best we can be right now, and our repertoire of songs is enormous. Everyone out there pretty much knows the songs, and we’re happy to go for one more shot and push things to a new level.
SLUDGE: When the Babys first signed with Chrysalis, you arrived from England and moved into Los Angeles, all young cool-looking guys from England. I know you didn’t sell as many as records as you had hoped, but god you must have had a blast.
BROCK: Oh it was incredible. Are you kidding? We came in 1976, got a record deal and never went back to England. America received the Babys very well, and it was so alive because we had a billboard on Sunset Boulevard and all that stuff. I remember most of the good times, I really do, and also a couple of moments where we really didn’t get along too well, and I was usually the guy to sort it all out, to work things out. I was the go-between, and it worked out fine. I have good memories.
STOCKER: Practicing all the songs again, getting on top of them again, that’s sort of brought back a lot of memories for me, even some flashbacks. Like I’ll play a riff and instantly remember the recording studio we recorded it in. The songs bring back all kinds of memories. We came up with some good ideas.
SLUDGE: The keyboardist, Jonathan Cain, he is in Journey now of course. And then there is the old bass player, Ricky Phillips, who is now in Styx.
BROCK: Jon Cain was going to help us. He wants to be part of the writing team and to join us on stage whenever he can. That’s going to be great, too. The same with Ricky, but he’s on tour with Styx every day and every night.
BISAHA:As part of the audition process, it was narrowed down to me and a couple of others, and they did videos of us doing “Isn’t it Time” and “Head First,” and Jon Cain liked my video and said that he’d like to write.
SLUDGE: And your show is July 18 at Canyon Club near Los Angeles – the grand return of the Babys.
BROCK: It’s a benefit for St. Judes Hospital for the kids. We’re going to get our feet wet and do this benefit. It feels good. All the support we can get would be fantastic. Not that we’re desperate, but all the support would be really appreciated.
SLUDGE: Then there is Michael Corby, the original co-guitarist and keyboard player. He’s not involved. I know he’s done some rants on Facebook – I asked him to comment for this story but he “respectfully declined.”
BROCK: At this point, years and years later, I guess he still feels wounded about what happened in 1979. Basically, Michael Corby, with the new Babys, it’s not the right time. His head is not in the right space, but there are no bad feelings. It’s just not right for him to still be part of the Babys even though he is one of the original members, and basically I don’t want to go any deeper than that.
BISAHA: He blasted us on Facebook. A month ago the target was John Waite but now it’s everybody. I don’t know. There’s not much to say about it.
SLUDGE: The Babys had such a great image back in the day. A lot of the bands that come back, they’re older I know, but they don’t try to still look cool. Are you going to dress up sharp?
BROCK: That never went away for me ever since the scarves and nice suits and everything nice. That will always be part of the image.
SLUDGE: I’ve done lots of stories with John Waite. He says you all were getting $200 a week with the Babys, but your suits looked more expensive.
BROCK:Yeah, we were spending more for the tailor, the guy making clothes for us, we had nothing left. (laughs) We’re still aiming for the same thing but we’re not quite there yet. In terms of dressing up, everyone knows we’ve got to look classy, and that’s what the Babys is all about.
SLUDGE: The Babys had such loyal fans – me included – but I guess, looking back, you guys were one big break away. Do you feel now like you should have been bigger?
STOCKER: At times, but we were the kind of band where we could hold our own at any show, no matter who we were playing with. We were fortunate to go on a lot of good tours as opening act. We went out for Alice Cooper for quite a bit, and also Journey and Cheap Trick and AC/DC, so we got to play with a lot of people even though we were only part of the bill. Then again, we’d come back and play our own show at the Whisky, and the place would be packed full of our own fans.
SLUDGE: Are you kidding? You headlined the Santa Monica Civic.
STOCKER:Yeah, we played the Civic a couple of times but going out with major bands, that helped us a lot as far as exposure, doing arenas. Even if you’re playing while people are still filtering in, you’re playing for 8,000 or so.
SLUDGE: Or 20,000.
STOCKER: Yeah. A lot of people sitting on a basketball court there and all around.
SLUDGE: Maybe you’ll do another Babys record.
BROCK: I would love to think we have one more album in us. In Australia, they still play the Babys every day on the radio with “Isn’t it Time” and “Every Time I Think of You.” It’s kind of interesting. A lot of people still hold us in high regard. It’s not like we’re starting a new band, not from scratch. We have a cult following, and every one of us are great players, and we’re still alive after all these years.
BISAHA:I said, I saw John Waite perform at the Coach House, and every time he did a Babys song, the crowd just went wild. I think the possibility of catching on is endless. We’re just getting ripe but it’s great from a nostalgia point of view just to see and hear the Babys again.
Gerry Gittelson can be reached at [email protected]
Bisaha @ WebSite