This song came at a very emotional time for Waite, who lays down his burdens in his sentimental lyrics and passionate vocal performance. In our interview with John Waite, he explained that the song was about a phone call.
Waite got married in his native England before moving to New York, where he recorded his first solo album, Ignition, which was released in 1984. The album was a disappointment, and after some squabbles with his record company (Chrysalis), he returned to England and settled into married life. After extricating from his contract, he signed a new deal with EMI and returned to New York, leaving his wife behind while he made his second album, No Brakes.
"My wife was a long way away," Waite told us. "There were quite a few women in my life at the time, and it all came sort of floating to the top."
Waite's feelings poured out of him in the song - on one level, he missed his wife dearly, but on a more superficial plane he didn't miss her at all, which is what he sang on the refrain: "I ain't missing you at all."
The song encapsulates the disconsolation that comes with long distance love. Waite and his wife would later divorce.
The songwriters Mark Leonard and Charles Sandford wrote the music for this song. Sandford also wrote the Stevie Nicks hit "Talk To Me" and co-wrote "What Kind Of Man Would I Be?" for Chicago. Leonard wrote the music for the 1986 movie Back To School, and also co-wrote "Let Me Be The One," which was recorded by Terri Nunn.
One of the more memorable parts of this song happened spontaneously. Says Waite: "I had no idea I was going to sing, 'Missing you, since you've been gone away, I ain't missing you no matter what my friends say.' I had no idea I was going to sing that, and when it came out, it floored me. I stood back from the mic, and I thought, 'F--k it. Number 1.' I just knew. I just knew in my heart that it was that good."
Tina Turner took this song to #12 in the UK when she recorded it on her 1996 album Wildest Dreams
. Around the same time, the soul singer Millie Jackson
also recorded the song, but Turner released her version first. Jackson told us: "I recorded 'Missing You' And I was all excited about it, it was gonna be my next single, and the guys at Muscle Shoals said, 'Boy you got the song out quick! I heard it at a truck stop.' And I'm trying to figure out how in the world did they hear my song at a truck stop when it won't be out for two weeks. And of course it was Tina Turner and we had to pull the single and come back with a different one."
John Waite was the lead singer of a group called the Babys, whose 1978 song "Every Time I Think Of You" reached #13 in the US. Waite cribbed a lyric from that song (which was written by the songwriters Jack Conrad and Ray Kennedy) to get him started on "Missing You." Compare the opening lyrics to these songs:
"Every Time I Think Of You" - "Every time I think of you, it always turns out good."
"Missing You" - "Every time I think of you, I always catch my breath."
Once he had the first line, the rest of the lyrics flowed downhill, and the rest of it was written in about 10 minutes. Waite told us: "I sang the whole first verse, bridge, and chorus without stopping. Then I had to stop, I was so overwhelmed. I stood back from the mic and I couldn't speak. Then I just rolled the tape again and got on with it."
Some of the symbolism in this song was inspired by Glen Campbell's "Wichita Lineman
" and Free's "Catch A Train." Both songs depict lonely scenarios far from a loved one.
The song was a last-minute addition to the album, but Waite had no trouble convincing his crew that it needed to be on the tracklist. "I took the tape down to the guys in the studio who were mixing, thinking the record was finished, and I knew it wasn't, since we didn't have 'Missing You,' he told us. "I played it in the control room and everybody stopped talking. It had that effect on people from the word go. It was one of those songs that defined a decade, really. It was one of the biggest. I think it's been played about 9, 10 million times on American radio - it's a huge thing."
The video was in hot rotation on MTV, which helped the song climb to #1 in the US. In the clip, Waite gives a tortured performance, but what he was feeling at the time was more anxiety than heartbreak. "You can tell how shy I was at the time," he told us. "I'm trying to sing this song and sort of look at the camera and then not look at the camera. I'm embarrassed, you know. I mean, it's okay being on stage, because you're in some sort of persona. But being filmed was a new experience for me on that level. I suppose it was kind of charming. But there was a million places I would rather be than being filmed at that point in my life."
Kort Falkenberg III, who also did Waite's video for "Change
," directed the clip. It was shot in downtown Los Angeles near Pershing Square. "The biggest thing I remember about 'Missing You' is that the night before I went down to Let It Rock, which was a clothes store on Melrose Avenue," said Waite. "I bought a Johnson suit, this black two-piece suit from London that was a beautiful suit. Tiny. I was very thin at the time. And then I went and had all my hair shaved off. I thought, 'If I'm going to do this, I'm going to go in whole hog, you know. I'm just going to do it flat out European.'
I showed up with a black suit and a crew cut, and it worked. I do everything on instinct, basically, and half of the time it's a bullseye."
Waite performed this on the short-lived ABC TV series Paper Dolls in 1984.