Hit-Songwriter Albums from the Lost and Found (Part 5): Where to Now

by Jeff Fiedler

Albums from the Lost & Found is a regular feature on thegreatalbums.com in which contributor Jeff Fiedler reviews and helps us rediscover great pop albums that seem to have been lost to time.

Like Eddie Schwartz, British singer-songwriter Charlie Dore has the distinction of being a one-hit-wonder in the U.S., but that’s really only if you count her discography as a performer.

Discovered and offered a solo deal by Island Records head Chris Blackwell in the late ‘70s, Dore would record her debut disc in Nashville (with a backing band that included the legendary Sonny Curtis, an alumnus of Buddy Holly and the Crickets who had gone on to write the Everly Brothers’ “Walk Right Back,” the Bobby Fuller Four’s “I Fought the Law,” and the Mary Tyler Moore theme song “Love Is All Around.”)

But, like Eddie Schwartz, Dore’s solo career as a performer would get off to a false start, Island rejecting the final product as being too country-flavored and bringing in Bruce Welch (a Shadows alumnus best known in America for writing the hit “Please Mr. Please” for former fiancée Olivia Newton- John and co-producing her breakthrough hit “Let Me Be There”) and Alan Tarney (later to produce a-ha and The Dream Academy and best known at this point for writing and producing several Cliff Richard hits, including “Dreaming” and “A Little in Love”) to produce a new set of sessions. The best of the Nashville-recorded cuts were combined with the best Welch-Tarney productions to create 1979’s Where to Now.  

The tom-tom-heavy country-pop grooves of the catchy “Fear of Flying” – one of Dore’s finest compositions – plays like a fusion of the Eagles’ “New Kid in Town” with Juice Newton’s equally infectious and percussive “Sweet, Sweet Smile,” while the appealingly funky “Falling” effectively straddles the line between the pop of Nicolette Larson of “Lotta Love” fame with the edgier bite of Nick Lowe’s disco-rock excursion “(I Love the Sound of) Breaking Glass.” The quirkier “Sad Old World” fuses the wistful and jazzy sound of Joni Mitchell circa Court and Spark with an insistent staggered drum line reminiscent of the Zombies’ “Time of the Season” and a generous heap of clever lines worthy of Elvis Costello. [Standout lines include “How come no one ever told you that it’s bad for you to be so good?” and “Don’t read the headlines – it’s bad for your eyes.”] The haunting “Wise Owl” begins on a more introspective, stark note before unexpectedly plunging into full rock mode on its punchy, unexpectedly hooky chorus.

But the most enduring cut on Where to Now would have to be “Pilot of the Airwaves,” which would be a major hit with American record buyers, climbing all the way to #13 on the Hot 100, while the song’s radio theme – the title is a slang expression for a disc jockey – would also make it a favorite within the radio world, the legendary Radio Caroline famously using the song to close out their final broadcast as an unlicensed station.  

Following the success of Where to Now, Dore would team up with legendary Monty Python comedian Eric Idle to write and sing the Harry Nilsson tribute “Harry,” which would be included on Nilsson’s next album, Flash Harry. Dore would subsequently leave the Island fold and sign with Chrysalis. Her label debut, Listen, helmed by Stewart Levine (best known for producing the Culture Club albums) and featuring a backing band largely comprised of members of Toto, would fail to do much on either side of the Atlantic, however, although the song “You Should Hear How She Talks About You” (penned by Tom Snow – the co-writer of countless hits from the Pointer Sisters’ “He’s So Shy” and Newton-John’s “Make a Move on Me” to Linda Ronstadt’s “Don’t Know Much” and Bonnie Raitt’s “Love Sneakin’ Up on You” – and Dean Pitchford, the writer of the Irene Cara hit “Fame” and both the screenplay and soundtrack for Footloose) would later go on to be a massive Top Five hit for Melissa Manchester.

Dore would consequently turn her attention to writing for other artists, getting her songs covered by artists as diverse as Celine Dion (who recorded “Refuse to Dance” and “Rain, Tax (It’s Inevitable”) and Tina Turner (whose album Twenty Four Seven featured a title cut co-written by Dore.) But most prominently of all, she’d be responsible for writing what is arguably the greatest single Sheena Easton ever made, the punchy, brass-heavy, defiant anti-sexism anthem “Strut,” which made it all the way to #7 on the U.S. charts and became one of Easton’s trademark numbers.