1984 in London, England
- John Spinks - Guitar, keyboards, backing vocals, primary songwriter
- Tony Lewis - Lead vocals, bass guitar
- Alan Jackman - Drums
Unfairly labeled at times as a rather bland example of mainstream '80s rock, London-based trio The Outfield actually produced some spirited, melodic guitar-based music that drew from the tradition of power pop as well as the straightforward style of contemporary stars on the other side of the Atlantic. For this reason, perhaps, the group enjoyed far more success in the U.S. than in its homeland, but music fans looking for driving rock with sparkling hooks couldn't have selected a more fitting supplier during the second half of the '80s than The Outfield. Here's a look at the trio's solid, underrated career.
Origins & Early Years:
The Outfield's origins go back to the late '70s, when all three members played briefly together in a band called Sirius B. The trio's melodic power pop sound did not find much favor in the aftermath of punk rock's explosion in England, so the band dissolved almost immediately. However, all three members continued to labor on the London scene until they came back together in 1984 in the city's East End. Despite not fitting particularly well into established genres of the period like new wave and arena rock, the group with the all-American baseball-themed name earned a record deal with Columbia that same year.
Debut Album Home Run:
Keeping with the already established fixation on America's Pastime, The Outfield's debut LP - consistently titled Play Deep - became a smash hit in the U.S. The record ultimately attained triple platinum status in the band's adoptive home away from home, spawning a Top 10 pop hit as well in the undisputed '80s classic "Your Love." Other ultra-catchy tracks "Say It Isn't So" and "All the Love" helped fill out the album with genuine quality, and The Outfield became one of 1985's most surprising but also deserving pop music success stories. Lacking a forceful visual image, the trio kept it all about the music.
Team Effort to Sustain Momentum:
Following a lengthy, successful American tour, The Outfield reconvened to deliver a modest sophomore offering that inevitably paled next to the trio's wildly popular debut. Even so, 1987's Bangin' maintained the group's melodic, no-nonsense approach, exemplified by the anthemic "Since You've Been Gone." 1989's Voices of Babylon didn't fare much better, perhaps because Spinks seemed unable to match his songwriting quality on such obvious display on Play Deep. Nevertheless, the group's three '80s releases helped cement The Outfield as an important pop/rock act of the decade's latter half.
Early '90s Resurgence, Legacy & Reformation:
Undeterred, Spinks and Lewis pressed on without their original drummer, releasing Diamond Days in 1990 for new label MCA. The strong single "For You" helped reestablish the band's signature sound, which led to yet another sports-friendly anthem, 1992's "Winning It All," that successfully bookended The Outfield's initial era. Following a '90s hiatus, fan interest in the group's earlier work helped lead to a 2006 studio LP and then a reunion of the original trio - which produced 2011's Replay. The band's 1985 debut remains impossible to match, but an audience for The Outfield's pleasing rock justifiably persists.