Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on


Richard Marx – ‘Hold On To The Nights’

In a perfect world, I'd have all day everyday to sit around and watch the album "making of" documentaries and videos featuring the "stories behind the songs," but too often, I see something of interest, bookmark it to watch it later and then never get around to it.

But when I saw that Richard Marx had put a video blog online with the story behind "Hold On To The Nights" teasing "a little behind the scenes info you may not have heard before," I had to watch it. One of the things that I love as a music fan, is continuing to learn about the inner workings of an album or an artist, whether it's an album that you got today, or one which has been in your collection for many, many years, which is the case with Richard's self-titled debut, a longtime favorite of mine.

I've touched on the general territory before, writing about "Don't Mean Nothing" a few years ago when I learned that Joe Walsh had played guitar on the song. As I found out, I was apparently the last person to realize that.

"Hold On To The Nights" was my song. One of those that you hear and you just totally identify with it....but how was that possible, considering that I was barely a teenager when I first heard it? It was just so raw and emotionally atmospheric and it was one of the early songs that I had heard which was mostly mid-tempo for the bulk of the song, building to a somewhat unexpected big power ending. Power ballad, indeed. When I heard it for the first time, I of course immediately wanted to hear it again. So there I was, glued to my radio, back when you used to do that kind of thing, waiting for them to play it again.

The radio in my area played what I would come to learn was the live video version of "Hold On To The Nights," which was 200 percent more awesome than the studio version in my opinion. When the band reached that power ending, they really went for it, above and beyond what had been captured on the studio version of the song.

Years later, when I tried to find that video version in audio form, I discovered it was quite an impossibility to track down, because for whatever reason, it had never made it to any of the Marx hits compilations. I finally found it as a bonus track on an import 3" CD single.

The first time I went to see a Richard Marx concert in the late '90s, he didn't play "Hold On To The Nights." Thus began a quest to see a show where it was in the setlist. Finally, after four or five shows over the next few years, I got to see him do it...and he nailed it.

Remembering now that it was his first number one hit, it's kind of curious that he doesn't have it in the setlist as an automatic....what's the story there? I'm not sure, but the story behind the song itself is pretty awesome. Here it is, in Richard's own words...

"Hold On To The Nights" was my first number one pop single and it was the fourth and last single from the first album. I wrote "Hold On To The Nights" in the middle of making the first album, so it wasn't a song that pre-existed. I really only had one real ballad on the record, which was the last song, "Heaven Only Knows" and I felt like I needed another ballad for this first album.

I went into produce "Hold On To The Nights" with my engineer David Cole and we deliberately produced it in such a way....I was listening to the So album by Peter Gabriel non-stop at the time. Because I made this record in 1986 and it came out in 1987. So 1986 was the year of Peter Gabriel's So, so "Sledgehammer," "Don't Give Up," "Red Rain" and all of those amazing tracks from the So album. When I would listen to Peter Gabriel's record, I was so blown away by the space and the atmosphere in those records that he made.

And that's what I wanted to do with "Hold On To The Nights." I didn't want it to be a standard pop ballad. I got a lot of flak from the record company and radio because the drums didn't come in until the very end of the song. There's just a lot of atmosphere and space in the production of "Hold On To The Nights." It's really just about the lyric and my vocal and my piano a little bit. And even that, it's almost produced in a way that it shouldn't have been a hit, because it didn't sound like anything else on the radio. But again, I think that people relate to that lyric and there was just something magical about it that I didn't know at the time.

I built the track up - I played the keyboards on it and Mike Landau's guitar playing had all of this little spacey atmosphere guitar and his solo was amazing. I was lucky enough to get Patrick O'Hearn, the bass player from Missing Persons, to come in and play the fretless bass. Again, not somebody I knew, but I knew a guy who knew him and he was kind enough to come in and help out this young kid making his first record, being me. I had worked a little bit with a drummer named Tris Imboden and Tris, I was a big fan of, because he'd played with Kenny Loggins on the road and had played on a lot of Kenny's albums, so he played drums on "This Is It" and "Keep The Fire" and all of the "High Adventure" album, which I really loved. It was a big album in my life.

I'd become friendly with Tris, so I asked him to come and play drums and all I told him was "hey, when the drums come in at the end, all I know is I want it to be a really dramatic fill, kind of like "In The Air Tonight.'" When Phil Collins' drums come into "In The Air Tonight," everybody goes crazy, because it's so exciting. I kind of wanted that kind of thought. So I think it was really the first take and Tris played that....all of those triplets, it was just so incredible and we were all screaming in the studio. We knew right then and there that we'd made the record that we wanted to make.

I absolutely did not think this was a hit record. I thought it was the opposite of a hit record, but like so many other times, I was wrong, luckily and "Hold On To The Nights" became my first number one single.