The Quiet Longevity of Patty Smyth

patty smythe

You may have first heard of Patty Smyth (not to be confused with punk legend Patti Smith) and her strong yet sultry voice when her band Scandal released their debut EP in 1982, scoring a hit with “Goodbye to You.” It was accompanied by a video featuring the band playing while Smyth sang, emoted, and danced – and got heavy rotation on a fledgling MTV.

That was followed in 1984 with the LP Warrior, which included the bigger hit and video “The Warrior.” Wrapped in a black tunic, and embroiled in an alien dance-off, she used finger guns to emphasize the lyrics “shooting at the walls of heartache, bang bang” (she admits she was — and still is — mortified by the cheesiness of the video).

Scandal split soon after, but Smyth popped up again eight years later with Eagles drummer Don Henley on their hit “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough.” To the casual listener, there doesn’t seem to be anything else in the Smyth bio, but while she mainly stayed out of the public eye, she continues to find moderate success in the music industry.

As a youngster growing up in Brooklyn, Smyth was arrested for harassing an officer and trying to buy narcotics.  Her mother had performed as a trapeze artist and managed influential rock and roll guitarist Fred Lincoln “Link” Wray (“Rumble”, “Jack the Ripper”).

While supporting herself by working as a waitress, Patty found time to perform at the club Catch a Rising Star and started her first band “Patty and the Planets.” She was noticed by guitarist Zack Smith, who invited her to form what would become Scandal, with bassist Ivan Elias, keyboardist Benjy King, drummer Frankie LaRocka (Bon Jovi, Spin Doctors), and guitarist Keith Mack.  Fun fact: in 1983, Jon Bon Jovi was the guitarist for the band just before he left to form his own group.

Scandal only released two albums. Beyond “Goodbye to You” and “The Warrior,” the band scored minor hits with “Love’s Got a Line On You” (#59), “Hands Tied” (#41), and “Beat of a Heart” (#41).

At the time, actress Valerie Bertinelli was a big fan of Smyth, and dragged her then-husband, Eddie Van Halen, to one of Scandal’s concerts.  Eddie was impressed, so he and Valerie went on the road with Scandal, partying and jamming together along the way.  This led to Eddie asking Patty to replace departed Van Halen lead man David Lee Roth in 1985.  Patty declined due to her pregnancy, not wanting to live in Los Angeles and according to her, the fact that Van Halen spent a lot of time partying, drinking, and arguing.  Eddie asked her to keep the invitation to herself so that Sammy Hagar would believe he’d been the first person considered.

After Scandal, Smyth collaborated with various bands and songwriters, including The Hooters, Don Henley, and Diane Warren.  Her debut solo album Never Enough (1987) was originally intended to be the next Scandal album and in fact, included original member Keith Mack but it was instead released as a solo effort.  The LP includes a cover version of “Downtown Train” which would later become a notable hit for Rod Stewart.

In 1992, she released the self-titled Patty Smyth, which was certified gold and included the Henley collaboration “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough”, “No Mistakes”, and “I Should Be Laughing.”

In 1994 she co-wrote “Look What Love Has Done” for the film Junior. The song was nominated for both a Grammy and an Academy Award.  And she penned the theme song for the movie Armageddon (1998) entitled “Wish I Were You.”

She reunited with Scandal for VH1’s Bands Reunited, replacing two members who had passed away, then went on a popular tour with the group in 2005 and 2006.

Later albums Come on December (2015) and It’s About Time (2020) did not chart, nor have any singles that charted.  She resorted to crowdfunding the production of the former album, with proceeds going to the Headstrong Project, a mental health treatment process.

Smyth has been married to tennis legend John McEnroe since 1997, and they have two children (Anna and Ava). Daughter Ruby is from an earlier marriage to songwriter, bassist, and punk rocker Richard Meyers aka “Richard Hell” (Neon Boys, Richard Hell and the Voidoids) in 1985.  And she helped raise McEnroe’s three children from his marriage to Tatum O’Neal (Kevin, Sean, and Emily).  She attributes their long marriage to keeping a low profile.

Recently the couple has become empty nesters, which afforded Smyth time to work on 2020’s It’s About Time. Despite the lackluster success of that release, Smyth intends to continue writing and releasing music.

-Will Wills

Photo: Patty Smyth, 2008 (David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons)

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Will Wills — a native-born Italian, raised in the US — does a killer impersonation of Mario (“a-letsa-go!”). Generally, you’ll find him frenetically bouncing between software development at a large US firm, leading a local dance/pop band, playing COD and watching MST3K. Yes, he’s sleep deprived, but you can follow his resulting incoherence at @WillrWills or his band at @WillsAndTheWays or his blog, "A Day in a Monkey's Life," if you’re suffering from insomnia, too.

4 comments on “The Quiet Longevity of Patty Smyth

  1. Thanks for the great article on one of my favorite performers from the 80s.

  2. Paul J DeGuiseppi

    Check this out, Patty in a soda pop commercial that ran in the Philadelphia market for the local brand “Franks:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEJJumUq5hI

  3. Walter Serafin

    Unfreakingbelievably Great sing/songwriter and cute as hell!

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