´It Ain´t Enough´ – Inside The Music. Words and Music by Corey Hart. Produced by Jon Astley & Phil Chapman. Recorded at Revolution Studios, UK, April 1982.
‘First Offense’ Album 1984. Chart Position #4 (Canada Singles), #17 (USA Billboard Singles).
Summer of 1981. I was driving south from Montreal on the I90 in a Mazda GLC car having just turned19 years old. I was emboldened with energetic youthful enthusiasm but deep down scared shitless of the great unknowns awaiting me. I actually got pulled over by the police outside of Albany. I was speeding so fast with the cassette blasting Nick Lowe´s ´Cruel To Be Kind´ that I had no idea cops had been following me for a while with sirens blaring. Almost got arrested because I didn’t have my Canadian passport with me (just my driver’s license) So no autographs to save my butt in those pre-fame days. 4 hours into the trip and I already had a hefty speeding ticket with a red neck sheriff. So with my heart pounding I drove the rest of the way like a snail.
I was eager to spend that summer in Long Island, NY being afforded a golden opportunity of working with some of the musicians from Billy Joel’s hot band. I recorded several demos over the summer in pursuit of finally landing my first record deal. I had been trying since I was 11 years old. My first night in the studio I met Billy, Lisa Dal Bello and Aldo Nova. Pretty cool eh. Lisa and I became friends.
I played live gigs several weekends in a music club restaurant with some members of the BJ band. On a few Sunday nights, I would also perform in the club alone at the piano. No one really payed me any notice though. After a while, it felt as if I was singing to an empty room, although I could always hear chatter or laughing in the background. A far cry from the scream-fest glory days of my BITB tours to come which I much prefer! Thanks! It also marked the first time that I ever made $ for my musical talents. The club owner would pay me 35$ dollars in cash per Sunday for 1.5 hours of singing. Wow. I was rich! :) I would always slip in a Bee Gee song like ´To Love Somebody¨ or Billy Joel´s ´Honesty´ to try & get the crowd listening. It didn’t help much. It’s interesting how a song that I admired like ‘Honesty’, (perhaps my favourite BJ song) only went as high as #24 on the US Billboard charts. It made no sense to me. Not even Top 20?? I later used this rationale of the crazy music business not ´making any sense´ to try and assuage my disappointment and genuine hurt when songs like¨ In Your Soul´ or ´Everything In My Heart ´peaked in the 30´s on the very same US singles Billboard chart.
My songwriting was prolific in those early days. I would spend all my waking hours at piano ‘chipping away’ melodies and lyrical ideas. When your young you don’t think of time structure in the same orderly fashion we do as adults. At least I didn’t. I only wanted to write, sing, sign my recording contract. It was all the air I needed to breathe. Nothing else mattered. I would often eat meals at the piano cause I didn’t want to interrupt the creative process. I was dating Erika my first true girlfriend but she was back in Montreal. She visited me for 2 weeks in July.
I probably wrote over 50 tunes that summer. Yes. One of them in the mix was called ‘ It Ain’t Enough’. I confess this song is very sentimental for me, one of my favourites. It is Corey straight down to the core.The chord sequence, melody, phrasing, even the pouting in my voice. It was a song that defined me as a young budding songwriter. It represented a big step in my creative evolution when I wrote it at 19.
“I could capture all the love the great romantics had, sing you a song that ain’t half bad, but that ain’t enough, that ain’t enough for you”
I was using alliteration techniques which I found really effective in songs. I later applied the same style in ´Sunglasses At Night’ ‘ ‘ repeating ´so I can, so I can’, but whom was I singing about if I was happy in my relationship with Erika. This may come as a shocker surprise to most of you but it was not for a girl. It was written for all the record labels that kept rejecting me. By late August when I wrote the song several companies in NYC had already passed on my material. I felt rebuffed again. I couldn’t understand why they didn’t like me? What was I doing wrong? What do they freaking want !?
‘It Ain’t Enough, It Ain’t Enough’ Nothing’s enough for you!´.
I took these emotions sculpting them it into a love song of unrequited love. Of never quite matching up to their expectations. Never being good enough. Yep, my friends that´s the truth of where the song origins come from.
¨ I could carry the weight of your sad times dear, give you the strength to face your fears´ “I know ill never be afraid to say I’m here by your side and i’m gonna stay¨.
These lines in the bridge were nascent, seminal lyrical themes I repeated for future compositions like ‘I Am By Your Side’, ‘Always’ and ´Baby When I Call your Name’. These words were for Erika.
¨I could pour you a drink like I pour out my heart, smile when i’m sad and act dumb when i’m smart¨.
Those lines were my attempt at transcending the ‘silly love songs’ I was determined not to write. I always wanted to compose meaningful, intelligent lyrics without being preachy or pedantic. Of course whether I succeeded or not is subjective. I was listening to the Nick Lowe album. I discovered another song I liked on it called ´You Make Me´. A really slow, sparse, simple ballad. It was a love song that inspired me with colours for ´It Ain´t Enough´There is no explanation for musical influences. All musicians are influenced subconsciously or consciously. It is as natural to sunrise as sunset.
I was so fortunate to have two supremely talented, supportive Producers for my debut album Mr.Jon Astley and Mr. Phil Chapman. Jon often told me not to sing ´with plumbs in my mouth´ cause I was garbling my words or pouting too often. But I really wasn’t trying to do anything except sing in bloody key with emotion. But Jon was right. I did swallow my words in a way. I am not picking on my vocals now :) so don´t get in a huff my loyal ‘caravanistas’.
I loved saxophone. I met Andy Hamilton through Jon who hired him for the album. Such a great horn player. We traveled the world together on many tours, future recordings. No one could ever say a bad word about Andy the Scot. His playing on IAE is brilliant.
But without doubt the musician I was closest with was British guitarist Michael Hehir. Mike and I had this quiet musical karma where we could just look at one another & tap into the creative landscape we were trying to paint. I told him in the studio one day that I was ‘going to make it & he was going to be in my band if he wanted too’. Maybe he thought I didn’t really mean it (about being in my band) that I was just being polite. But I did mean it. Mike Hehir plays guitar with the swagger of a Keith Richards, graceful blues of a Knopfler or Gilmour, sensitivity of a Harrison, and the cojones of a Steve Stevens. All of these styles resonating in Mike’s unique musical soul. His solo on ‘Everything in My Heart’ or Mandolin touches with ‘Crossroad Caravan’ still brings a lump to the throat. We had some amazing times together. He will always be my brother.
So there goes another ITM. “It Ain’t Enough” was awarded as a ´Socan Canadian Classic´ song in 1996. I am so grateful for the sincere appreciation and love my fans have given to this song. I will always sing it for you in concert (even if it´s just one more in 2013) It will always make the playlist.
Irony in the words is that you have blessed me with ‘More Than Enough’ for a lifetime. I honour this gift from you, my fans. In closing, I quote from the last lines in the second bridge of IAE:
‘I’m here by your side & I’m gonna stay.. Just a little closer to you’
Well, I mean this one too :)
Corey Hart, March 8, 2012.
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