"Never Enough": Baby Grand vs. Patty Smyth

The Philadelphia band known as the Hooters achieved their widest fame in 1985, when they opened the Live Aid benefit concert in their hometown, and when their double-platinum major-label debut album Nervous Night spawned three Top 40 hit singles (“Day By Day”, “And We Danced”, “Where Do The Children Go”). The band’s founders, Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian, have also had a hand in writing hit songs for others. Most notably, Hyman co-wrote Cyndi Lauper’s 1984 #1 hit “Time After Time” (on which he also sang the harmony vocal), and Bazilian penned Joan Osborne’s 1995 #4 hit “One Of Us”.

Another common thread that runs through all of the songs mentioned above is their producer, Rick Chertoff. The long friendship between Chertoff and the Hooters founders dates back to the ‘70’s, when Hyman and Bazilian formed an earlier band with vocalist Dave Kagan called Baby Grand. (Hyman, Chertoff, and Kagan also had previously played together in an unsigned early-‘70’s Philly band called Wax). The self-titled 1977 debut album by Baby Grand was produced by Chertoff, and it contained the original version of “Never Enough”, a Hyman co-composition which became a Chertoff-produced hit for Patty Smyth in 1987. The inner sleeve for the Baby Grand album made it look as if Chertoff was a member of the band – which record producers sometimes virtually are.

The song “Never Enough” underwent a major rewrite when it was performed by Patty Smyth, ten years after Baby Grand recorded the original. The songwriting credits are telling: the Baby Grand version of the song from 1977 was credited only to Hyman and Kagan; the Smyth version from ’87 also credits Smyth, Chertoff, and Bazilian. Comparing the two versions shows a strong contrast between ‘70’s sensitivity and ‘80’s slickness. On the Baby Grand version, the lyrics are sung from the point of view of an insecure young man who feels he is never able to please the people he loves, because he is never able to please himself. It has a mellow late-‘70’s pop-rock sound; Kagan’s slightly androgynous vocals and Hyman’s proto-Hooters keyboards make us feel sympathy for the protagonist. The Patty Smyth version is lyrically an entirely different song, about a failed relationship that did not live up to its promise. The rewritten lyrics are more poetic, alluding to titles and characters from movies, while the more bombastic ‘80’s production makes the song sound like it belongs on a movie soundtrack. Even the keyboard sound – possibly provided again by the credited Hyman – shows the difference in fashion between the two decades. Smyth’s dynamic vocals give her a stronger presence than Kagan had on the Baby Grand original. Personal taste will determine which version you prefer, but in both of its forms the song is a moving expression of a lack of personal fulfillment.

Both recordings of the song also served as good opening tracks on their respective albums. It would be nice to report that those two albums are all-around long-lost treasures, but that’s not exactly true in either case.

What you get on the self-titled 1977 Baby Grand debut album is an overdose of the aforementioned ‘70’s sensitivity. Most of the writing was done by Hyman and Kagan, and more than half of the songs (including “Shinin’ In The Spotlight”, the album’s other standout track) tell tales involving stage performers. Unfortunately, the album was caught up in the soft-rock trends of its time period. Kagan’s sensitive-pop-singer vocals become quite cloying over the course of the album; even when he sings about a stripper in “Lady Of My Dreams”, he sounds overly precious. Hyman’s keyboards often add another layer of mush, especially on “Bring Me Your Broken Heart”. Bazilian’s guitar gives a welcome lift to “Can’t Keep It Inside” and “Alligator Drive”. The low point: the seven-minute “Down, Down” sounds like a bad Elton John imitation. Any listener who hopes to hear early signs of the Hooters’ reggae and Celtic influences will be disappointed.

The second and final Baby Grand album, Ancient Medicine, basically contains a bad batch. (Like its predecessor, the album has cover art with the type of creative ugliness that often graced the covers of the era’s progressive rock albums). For this album, Baby Grand were billed as a quintet instead of a trio, with the additions of bassist Carmine Rojas (who later played with David Bowie, Rod Stewart, and Joe Bonamassa) and drummer David Prater (who later found a career as a record producer). Chertoff shared the production duties with Hyman this time around. Prater’s drumming gives this album a harder rock foundation than the debut had, but it doesn’t necessarily improve the situation. The lyrics have less substance on this album; in fact, two tracks (“Weekend In New Jersey”, “It’s Not A Figure Salon”) are instrumentals, and not particularly impressive ones. Bazilian’s guitar once again saves two of the Hyman/Kagan compositions (“Right Here, Right Now”, “Flame In The Wind”), but the ill-advised rock rendition of the Left Banke classic “Walk Away Renée” was simply a mistake. With the exception of Kagan, who left the music business after this record, the members of Baby Grand found better things to move on to during the next decade.

And speaking of the next decade, the reconstructed “Never Enough” was the lead-off title track from Patty Smyth’s 1987 album Never Enough. This album, co-produced by Chertoff and William Wittman, was the debut solo album from the former Scandal singer. The album was a slickly engineered pop-rock vehicle for Smyth’s vocal abilities. Smyth had been the guest vocalist on the Hooters’ 1985 hit song “Where Do The Children Go”; Hyman and Bazilian returned the favor by participating on this album as both musicians and songwriters. Besides the title track, the album’s closing anthem “Heartache Heard Round The World” was co-written by Hyman, Bazilian, Chertoff, and Smyth. Aside from co-writing those first and last songs, Smyth did no other credited songwriting for the album. Although her singing was impressive throughout, only about half of the other songs were good fits for her: the Rob Hyman/Dave Hagan composition “Give It Time”, the Nick Gilder-penned power pop song “Tough Love”, and the Steinberg/Kelly ballad “The River Cried”. Tom Waits’ “Downtown Train” was a good selection for her, but her version now pales in comparison to Rod Stewart’s 1989 #1 hit rendition. The ballad “Call To Heaven” now sounds like something of a precursor to Smyth’s 1992 smash single “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough”, her chart-topping duet with Don Henley. Never Enough amounts to a just-over-half-full glass. Still, it’s ironic that such a gifted vocalist has had such a sporadic recording career; Smyth's recent 2020 release It’s About Time (which features a classy do-over of “Downtown Train”) is only her fourth album in 35 years.

Baby Grand - Baby Grand

Baby Grand “Baby Grand” (Arista AB 4148) 1977

Track Listing:

1. Never Enough
2. Can’t Keep It Inside
3. Bring Me Your Broken Heart
4. Lady Of My Dreams
5. Down, Down
6. Alligator Drive
7. Shinin’ In The Spotlight
8. Boy In The Band

Baby Grand - Ancient Medicine

Baby Grand “Ancient Medicine” (Arista AB 4200) 1978

Track Listing:

1. All Night Long
2. Much Too Much
3. Weekend In New Jersey
4. Runner In The Rain
5. Walk Away Renée
6. Right Here, Right Now
7. Flame In The Wind
8. It’s Not A Figure Salon

Patty Smyth - Never Enough

Patty Smyth “Never Enough” (Columbia FC 40182) 1987

Track Listing:

1. Never Enough
2. Downtown Train
3. Give It Time
4. Call To Heaven
5. The River Cried
6. Isn’t It Enough
7. Sue Lee
8. Tough Love
9. Heartache Heard Round The World