The British band, The Babys had their first US hit single with Isn’t It Time and hit the Top 15 in late 1977. The original 4-man lineup was fronted by John Waite, who would go to rack up #1s solo and with the group, Bad English. But this one by far is his most engaging vocal performance of all his songs and by far, my favorite.
The Babys generally wrote their own material but this tune was written by Jack Conrad & Ray Kennedy. [Ray actually recorded his own version of Isn’t It Time on his 1980 solo debut.] But John sings it like he knows it inside out. Starting with a soft piano intro and building into a climaxing chorus of crunching guitar, swirling strings and horn stabs, it was welcome break from the mellow ballads and disco rock ripoffs clogging the charts. More than that, it was a prog-rock Tootsie pop with a soft R&B center.
As much as the built an audience from it, I’m not sure those fans knew what to call them: pop, rock, new wave? John Waite looked like Aladdin Sane’s younger brother and the rest of the group could have moonlighted for either Player or Blue Oyster Cult, save for the chorus of Babettes. Yes, the chorus of 3 women telling John that falling in love could be (his) your mistake were called the Babettes. Should have been call the Suck-Ups. They don’t help John at all. When John is unsure of his relationship, they agree saying, ‘yeah she’s a mistake’. Then when he realizes that he’s an idiot for even questioning someone who makes him feel warm and encompasses his dream girl, they change their tune – ‘I mean, losing her is a mistake.’ Not exactly your traditional Greek chorus, more like a bunch of dons laughing at bad jokes from capo. But I digress…
This is one of those songs that takes me back to when I was hanging out with my sister. There weren’t many of those times when I was a kid and judging by the tunes I remember them by and when they were popular, most of the time must have been the last 4 months of 1977. Coincidentally the next I saw my sister, she was telling me about this song she was really into…Missing You by John Waite. Maybe she was a secret Babette….