I’m sure I’ve mentioned in one of these posts that my grandmother was fairly partial to New York City’s local “Lite-FM” adult contemporary radio station (WLTW/105.1). During my high school years, it wasn’t uncommon for me to get home and hear Michael Bolton or The Carpenters blasting from her stereo. I became familiar with Ace’s “How Long” way before knowing the title of the song, the band who sang it, or the fact that I was already familiar with the lead vocalist.
Ace was a British “pub-rock” band from the early ’70s, and “How Long” was their biggest (although not their only hit–they narrowly miss out on being tagged one hit wonders by having a second single reach the lower level of the top 40). It sort of stands dead center in between slightly danceable Philly soul and yacht rock. The chorus is instantly an ear worm (“hoooooow looooong…has this been going on?”) and the singer of Ace was Paul Carrack, who later lent his soulful pipes to songs by Squeeze (“Tempted”) and Mike + The Mechanics (“The Living Years”) as well as his own solo career (see: “Don’t Shed A Tear”.) I’m fairly certain I didn’t become familiar with the Squeeze song until it was resurrected in the mid ’90s thanks to “Reality Bites”, but I was a huge fan of “The Living Years” and don’t think I connected the guy singing that song to the guy singing “How Long” until I was an adult and either read one of those Billboard reference books OR was told by a nerdy record store co-worker.
Given the fact that he recorded and had hits under so many guises, I guess it’s fair to call Carrack a journeyman. But when he hit, he hit. And “How Long”, a song I still call on when I need three minutes of AM Gold goodness, definitely hits.