The Irony Of Johnny Hates Jazz

Unless you are a fan of particularly smooth songs from the 1980’s like the classic “Shattered Dreams,” it is unlikely that most of you remember the group Johnny Hates Jazz. And while that is easy enough to understand it is a great shame, because although the group is mainly known by mainstream audiences for its one big hit–and it was a good one–the group has at its core a deep irony that is embedded in both its name and its legacy. For, as hard as it may be to believe, Johnny Hates Jazz may be among the most inappropriate band titles in music history.

The lead singer of Johnny Hates Jazz for most of its history has been Clark Datchler, and if he is not well-known by name by most people, both he and his father have a notable place in music history. His father, Fred Datchler, who was a member of the first British group to top the UK charts in the Stargazers and who also sang backup vocals for such artists as Frank Sinatra and Petula Clark [1]. The name of the group comes from a mutual friend of the three original members of the band named Johnny who hated jazz music, and the rather fierce and combative nature of the name is particularly ironic because of a couple of salient facts [2].

The first of these facts is that the group itself was discovered in a jazz club. To say that the group was discovered as if it was a fresh and new group is a bit misleading. The various members of the group had been involved in the music business as members of obscure bands and solo artists and songwriters and producers for the better part of a decade before catching fame together. Be that as it may, they happened to be playing in jazz clubs when they were signed to a label and recorded their debut album with worldwide hits like the aforementioned “Shattered Dreams” as well as other songs like “Turn Back The Clock,” which is a signature song of theirs which was a bit hit around the world if not in the United States, to say nothing of other songs.

The other irony is even more profound. As it happens, Johnny Hates Jazz is one of those rare artists that helps to found an entire genre of music, in this case, smooth jazz. To be sure, the band was not jazz in the traditional sense of challenging and complex musical cords, but the general vibe of the group’s music is certainly something that carries with a sense of sophistication and instrumental prowess, and like many other examples of such sophisticated pop from the 1980’s and later, it was one of the early bands whose work was appreciated as a genre that blended pop accessibility with jazz instrumentations. In that light, it is not surprising that the group was discovered in a jazz club after all, since the band was really creating jazz music of a kind that remains popular to this day, even if when seen in that light the band was saddled with a really unfortunate name unless you are a fan of irony.

[1] See, for example:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Hates_Jazz

[2] https://www.songfacts.com/facts/johnny-hates-jazz/shattered-dreams

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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