I can remember falling for him like it was yesterday. After an early childhood spent swooning over the likes of Olivia Newton-John and Jaclyn Smith, he was my first celebrity guy crush.
I guess you could say I was something a gay late-ish bloomer. It was 1984, and I had just turned 15. The new issue of Billboard magazine arrived in the mail (my mother had bought me a year subscription for Christmas of 1983, and it still ranks as the best gift I’ve ever received), and there he was in a front-page ad promoting his debut single. Coming soon: Corey Hart’s “Sunglasses at Night.”
To be honest, I never cared much for the song, and I still don’t. At the time, it was all about the face staring back at me from the front page of Billboard magazine — the dark, brooding good looks, the pouty lips, the spiky hair. I guess you could say Corey Hart kicked off my thing for 22 year olds!
Like most first loves (and lusts), Corey Hart and I didn’t last. By the end of the ’80s, I had entered my alternative-rock phase, and bad boys and tortured artists were my life. Hart was a relic from a simpler, clean-cut era. My heart belonged to Morrissey.
I probably hadn’t thought about Hart in years until a few days ago, when my iPod landed on “Hold On,” his contribution to 1987’s Beverly Hills Cop II soundtrack, my favorite one from the ’80s — yes, even better than Footloose and Flashdance, thanks to the musical magic of Bob Seger (via “Shakedown,” his only No. 1 hit), George Michael (via “I Want Your Sex,” his first solo hit), the Pointer Sisters, the Jets, Ready for the World and Jermaine Jackson, whose album-closing “All Revved Up” was as bad (in a good way) as anything his brother Michael was doing at the time. Shockingly, “Hold On” is the only Hart song on my iPod.
“Whatever happened to him?” I asked myself. I considered doing a Google search, but I was afraid of coming across a photo of a pudgy middle-aged man. (He turns 50 on May 31.) I wanted to remember Hart the way he was. At least for the next few hours!
I’d forgotten all about him all over again, when that evening, out of the blue, a friend posted a Glass Tiger video on my Facebook timeline and mentioned the band’s fellow Canadian by name. “What was your favorite Corey Hart album?” he wanted to know.
Corey Hart album? Was there even such a thing? Wasn’t Corey Hart all about the singles — and of course, the videos? Like most people, my friend erroneously categorized Hart as more or less being a one-hit wonder, for “Sunglasses At Night,” which hit No. 7 in 1984. I consulted Wikipedia for the lowdown (and came across some recent photos, in which he looked better than I expected him to). Hart’s biggest hit came the following year, when “Never Surrender” went all the way to No. 3. He had two further Top 20 hits, including “I Am By Your Side,” which I adored when it came out in 1986 but probably hadn’t thought about since then, and in total, nine of his singles made it into the U.S. Top 40, which might make him Canada’s biggest male ’80s musical export this side of Bryan Adams.
According to Wikipedia, he wasn’t just a singles act. Two of his albums went gold, and 1985’s Boy in the Box went platinum. Apparently, someone was listening to his albums back then. I just wasn’t one of them. I chose Boy in the Box as my favorite anyway, because it included “Eurasian Eyes” (also heard in 9 1/2 Weeks) and “Boy in the Box,” which I selected as my favorite Hart song. Wikipedia also taught me that Hart wrote and produced “Miles to Go (Before I Sleep)” and “Where Is the Love,” two major highlights on Celine Dion’s 1997 album Let’s Talk About Love. Beauty, brains, talent and staying power, too?
In honor of Corey Hart’s underrated contribution to ’80s pop and to Dion’s best album (and for being the first Canadian guy to turn my head, a tradition recently continued by Ryan Gosling and, occasionally, Ryan Reynolds), here’s a brief video overview of my favorite Hart songs before returning to our regularly scheduled Sunday soundtrack.