Almost 22 years after his first chart single, Robert John hit the top with Sad Eyes in October 1979, somehow kicking My Sharona from the #1 spot. Not bad for a guy who was only 33 at the time. So how does all this math add up?
Well, as 12 year-old Bobby Pedrick, R.J. hit the Hot 100 in 1958 with White Bucks and Saddle Shoes. Then, nothing for another 10 years, until he hit #49 in 1968 with If You Don’t Want My Love. Another 4 years would go by before Roberts’ first Top 40 hit, a cover of the Tokens’ The Lion Sleeps Tonight, would peak at #3. He wouldn’t have any success again for another 7 years and no one could predict that a tune Robert wrote himself and was rejected by tons of record companies would ever hit #1.
In fact, Robert was working in construction in 1978 to pay the bills, not necessarily retired from the music industry, but really making any bucks off of it. Imagine laying foundation bricks next to a guy who starts singing Wimoweh and it giving you chills of deja vu. You might turn to him and say, Hey, that sounds pretty good. You should be a singer.”, unaware of the fact that the guy currently had spot on in a bin at Record World. Producer George Tobin was about to change all that. Having already worked with Robert and looking for new material, he was inspired by hearing Toby Beau’s My Angel Baby on the radio, insisting that Robert should be singing those kinds of ballads. With his soft yet soaring falsetto voice, how could he lose?
So George contacted Robert about his idea and had him write a song. Robert did, but like most things in his recording career, nothing happened fast. It took almost a year of record label rejection for EMI to say yes and release the 45. And then, it took almost 5 months, once hit the Hot 100 to steadily reach the summit, which tied a record with Nick Gilder’s Hot Child In The City.
For me Sad Eyes reminds of me of that time in my life where I made the first big move to a new house, a new school and new friends. It stuck out on the radio at that time, mostly because it was being crowded with disco pop and new wave rock. A sweet tender ballad about breaking off an affair, molded in the style of Kiss & Say Goodbye or Me & Mrs. Jones, all of which were #1s. We love those cheating songs, don’t we? Or maybe we like to feel good about admitting our mistakes, although with Sad Eyes, it feels like Robert used this chic. I know he says he didn’t, but he keeps telling her while he cares about her, it’s her own fault for falling harder than she should for him. She should have known it would end, which it does now, cause his wife is coming home today. Guess she was on a business trip or something. Hopefully she wasn’t visiting a dying relative. That would be creepy.
At least she can console herself with the magic they shared. Yeah that should make her feel better. Maybe she can just huddle up in a fetal position and warm herself with Robert’s pitch-defying vamping at the end of the song.