When I'm With You

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  • "When I'm With You" is certainly the most unlikely US #1 hit of the '80s. The song was seven years old, the band had long since broken up, it had no music video, and the album was long out of print and not available on CD. Still, for one magical week in 1989 (February 4), the song reached the top spot.

    Sheriff, a five-member Canadian band, formed in 1979 and released their only album, Sheriff, in 1982. Their first two singles were rockers that went nowhere; the third single was the ballad "When I'm With You," which went all the way to #61 in America in the summer of 1983. It wasn't enough to move the needle, and in 1985 band split up amid some degree of acrimony.

    In the '80s, radio stations would sometimes re-introduce a long-forgotten song in the hopes that it would connect with listeners if given a second chance; it happened with "Into The Night" by Benny Mardones and with "Red Red Wine" by UB40. And it happened again with "When I'm With You."

    According to the Billboard Book Of One-Hit Wonders, it was Jay Taylor, music director at KLUC in Phoenix, that put the song back on the air in 1988. As he hoped, it got a great response from listeners, so they kept it in rotation as if it were a new song. Other stations around the country got wind of it and added it to their playlists, leading Sheriff's old record company, Capitol, to re-release the single.

    This would have been a great time for the band to re-form, but two of the five members wanted nothing to do with it, and that was enough to quash the reunion. Sheriff never got back together, but those two holdouts - lead singer Freddy Curci and guitarist Steve DeMarchi - formed Alias and had a hit in 1990 with "(I Need You Now) More Than Words Can Say."
  • Sheriff's guitarist, Arnold Lanni, wrote this heartfelt ballad as a Valentine's Day gift for a girl he was dating. It worked: She loved the song and they got married two years later. He worked up the song with the band, but they didn't think it would end up on the album. When their producer, Stacy Haydon, asked near the end of the sessions if they had anything else, they played him the song and he decided it should go on the tracklist.
  • When the song went to #1, two members of the group, Arnold Lanni and Wolf Hassel, were in a new band called Frozen Ghost, which had a minor hit in 1987 with "Should I See." Lead singer Freddy Curci was working as a courier, he recalled delivering packages to an office when the song came on. He told the receptionist it was him singing the song, but she didn't believe him.
  • When this hit #1 in America, Sheriff became the first Canadian band since Bachman-Turner Overdrive with "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" in 1974 to reach the top spot.


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