Anyone who’s been hanging around these parts with any frequency for the past few months has probably picked up on my unabashed love for pop candy peddlers Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn, responsible for many hits from a number of different artists. I’m sure you know Chapman went on to produce seminal albums by the Knack, Blondie, and more ’80s faves. He also began collaborating with a young songwriter by the name of Holly Knight, churning out smashes like “Love Is a Battlefield” for Pat Benatar and “The Best” for Tina Turner.
But not everything Chapman and Knight touched turned into a gold record. Take for example Real Life’s 1986 single “Babies,” from their U.S. compilation Down Comes the Hammer. A song pretty much forgotten by everyone since it didn’t chart, but I believe we can place the blame for its failure on one man: Michael Des Barres.
Ah, Michael Des Barres. Pop box-office poison. A string of failed bands lie in his wake, including Silverhead, Detective, and Chequered Past. Never heard of ’em? Surprise. Perhaps you remember him playing a punk rocker on WKRP in Cincinnati? Or joining the cast of The New WKRP in Cincinnati? How about his role as Mudoc on MacGyver? Oh, I know how you’ll remember him — he was the guy foolish enough to try and replace Robert Palmer in the Power Station.
Yup, that guy.
So, what’s he got to do with Real Life and “Babies”? Well, Des Barres put his fail-stink all over the song, sharing a cowriting credit with my beloved Holly and Mike. Admittedly, Knight and Des Barres had shared some success writing “Obsession” for Animotion in 1984, but despite remixing it for rock radio — “Babies (Short Rock Mix)” (download) — and the clubs — “Babies (Club Version)” (download) — “Babies” was a big stiff, and Real Life failed to follow up on all the “Send Me an Angel” goodwill they’d earned up to that point. In fact, they wouldn’t score another hit until remixing and rereleasing “Send Me an Angel” three years later on yet another compilation.
Seriously, blame Des Barres. I always do. “You forgot to get milk like I asked you to!” Sorry, Michael Des Barres distracted me. “You forgot to pick me up at the airport!” Sorry, Michael Des Barres came over and wouldn’t leave. “How could you cheat on me?” Sorry, Michael Des Barres made me do it.
See? Works every time.
“Babies” did not chart.
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