Sunday, January 20, 2019

"A Good Heart" by Feargal Sharkey

Song#:  2654
Date:  03/15/1986
Debut:  94
Peak:  74
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Sharkey first came to prominence as the lead singer of the Irish pop punk band The Undertones. The group had solid success in the UK from 1979 to 1983 issuing four albums that generated several charting singles. In the US, the band had trouble finding an audience and was unable to rise above cult status. Facing label pressures and internal struggles, the band broke up in 1983. Sharkey decided to step out on his own and pursue a solo career. He released two singles that made the UK Top 30 before working in collaboration with Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics fame) for a formal debut album. The LP saw Sharkey setting aside some of his punk roots for a more commercial friendly pop/rock sound and this first single announced the change. It was greeted with open arms in the UK where the song bolted to the #1 spot. With little name recognition in the US, the challenge to break through was more difficult and indeed the song couldn't get a leg up and stalled near the bottom quarter of the Pop chart. It would end up being Sharkey's only single to reach a US chart. Back home, his follow-up single, "You Little Thief," would be a #5 hit. Sharkey would release two more albums with varying results before leaving the spotlight for work on the business side of music.

ReduxReview:  Sharkey's debut LP was one that I bought on a whim. He had an odd name, the cover was interesting, he was produced by Dave Stewart, and although I hadn't heard it, I knew this song had topped the UK chart. To get ahead of the curve, I went ahead and purchased the album. At the time I didn't care for it all that much. I thought there were a couple of good songs including this one, but that was about it. I then set it aside and didn't think much about it until many years later when I happened to hear Maria McKee (see below) perform the song on a live album. In her dialog before playing the song she mentioned it was her biggest hit. I recognized the song immediately and then it all came together in my mind. I hadn't hooked into McKee yet when I bought Sharkey's album so I never realized she wrote this song. I became a big fan of McKee's later and that led me to this rediscovery. I then went back and listened to Sharkey's album again. To my surprise, I really enjoyed it. Of course, this song is a highlight. Sadly, it was one of those that just didn't connect with US listeners. It was a major hit in many countries (even Canada took it to #4), yet folks in the US ignored it. Perhaps listeners didn't care for Sharkey's vibrato-laced warble or just didn't like the tune. Whatever it was, it's a shame it didn't get further up the chart.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This song was written by American singer/songwriter Maria McKee, who was having some success at the time with her band Lone Justice. Around the time the band recorded their debut album, McKee began a brief affair with Benmont Tench (keyboardist for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers). Tench was lending his skills to the album and even co-wrote a couple of tunes for it with McKee. Their short-lived relationship came to an end and McKee then decided to channel her feelings into music and wrote "A Good Heart." Eurythmics' Dave Stewart knew Tench because Stewart had produced a few tracks for Petty's Southern Accents album and that connection most likely led to "A Good Heart" getting to Feargal Sharkey. However, along with McKee's song Tench sent Sharkey a song he had written called "You Little Thief." The story goes that Tench wrote the tune about McKee in response to "A Good Heart." Smartly, Sharkey recorded both songs, put them back-to-back on his album, and then released them as consecutive singles. Both songs hit the UK Top 10 and the song/response battle between two ex's became a juicy music legend. However, many years later in the days of social media, someone brought this story back up and Tench chimed in via Twitter to debunk the story. He said that they story was a myth and that his song was never about McKee. Perhaps that is the truth, but it is certainly late in coming (and it's much more fun to believe the legend).


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