In the liner notes to his greatest hits album (which I proudly owned), singer/songwriter Richard Marx claimed that the version of “Endless Summer Nights” that wound up being commercially released-with the exception of a synth bass that was later replaced by the legendary Nathan East-was rejected by multiple record labels while Richard was looking for a deal. It’s hard for me to listen to “Endless Summer Nights” and not hear an obvious hit, but that might also be because I only know it as a hit. Of course, there are hundreds if not thousands of stories about record labels rejecting songs and artists that wound up being huge.
“Endless Summer Nights” does a fantastic job at creating a vibe. The song’s narrator is wistful, reminiscing about hazy days spent in love and hoping to rekindle that summer flame. It’s got a great guitar part, a fantastic sax solo, and Richard’s vocals are right on the mark. What would be a borderline intolerable ballad in another singer’s hands (think Michael Bolton or someone similarly on the melodramatic side) sounds sincere coming from Marx’s boyish tenor. The song gives me all the feels-still- even though I’ve never had a summer romance (this song makes me wish I did, though) and I’ve had more than three decades to get over these feels. “Somehow the city doesn’t look the same” is a wildly evocative line. It just screams melancholy. Great bridge on the song, too.
“Endless Summer Nights” is the archetypal -and perfect- prom ballad or beach montage song for the ’80s. Makes me wonder why there weren’t any beach scenes in the video-which I’m pretty sure I just watched in full for the very first time. No beach scenes-but plenty of Richard’s gargantuan mullet, some over-emotive acting, and a shit ton of acid wash. Glorious. But not as glorious as the song.
I’m actually not sure if there’ll be another Richard Marx song on this list, but it might surprise you that there is even one of his records listed here. ’80s adult contemporary pop is so well-crafted. All of my boxes are checked with “Endless Summer Nights”: fantastic song structure, a knockout vocal, awesome melody. When Richard Marx was good, he was very good. The man had a way with mid-tempos. However, his attempts at rocking (like “Satisfied”, which I strongly dislike) had the tendency to come across as cheesy, and while I liked “Right Here Waiting” a lot back in the day (there’s a very embarrassing story I can tell about that song which I absolutely will not tell), it hasn’t aged greatly. Or at least greatly enough for me to give it five stars.