Owner of a Lonely Heart
Writer(s): Trevor Rabin, Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Trevor Horn (see lyrics here)
Released: October 8, 1983
First Charted: November 5, 1983
Peak: 12 US, 12 CB, 12 GR, 12 RR, 14 AR, 28 UK, 2 CN, 14 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.2 UK
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 46.0 video, 215.28 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
Based on their musical output in the 1970s, who would ever guessed Yes would land a #1 pop hit? They practically defined progressive rock with songs based on classical music pieces infused with space-themed lyrics that took up entire album sides. This was “a band who “where often criticized for being overindulgent and pretentious” FB who made songs “that couldn’t become hits, almost by design.” SG As Stereogum’s Tom Breihan said, “Owner of a Lonely Heart” is “a total betrayal of everything that the band had done before…It also kicks ass.” SG
It didn’t start out as a Yes song. After their 1980 Drama album, it looked the band was done. Bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White hooked up with South African singer/songeriter Trevor Rabin to form a group called Cinema. Interestingly, Rabin had turned down an offer to join Asia – a band which featured Yes members Steve Howe and Geoff Downes. Tony Kaye, who’d formerly been a keyboardist with Yes, also signed on and Trevor Horn, who’d also been with the 1980 version of Yes, was tapped as the producer. When the group invited lead singer Jon Anderson to participate, “it seemed ridiculous to call the band Cinema when they had unintentionally re-formed Yes.” FB
Rabin wrote the song in 1979 while going to the toilet. WK In 1981, the song was included amongst demos he pitched to Arista Records’ Clive Davis WK who said it “was too weird to be a hit in America” SG but Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records insisted it was a hit. SF In 1983, the toilet played a role yet again in bringing “Owner of a Lonely Heart” to fruition. While Rabin was in the bathroom, his demo tape was running and Horn heard it. He pleaded with the band to record it. WK
Rabin’s version already sported the “big synth sounds and its central riff,” SG but had other parts that were later deleted. Other members of the band polished it and made it “sound bigger and weirder.” SG It may be the first rock hit to use a sample. The drum break at the beginning of the song and the horn stab from several times in the song are similar to a bit from 1971’s “Kool Is Back” by Funk, Inc. SF
The lyrics expressed the idea that “it’s OK to be on your own and that you can decide your own destiny rather than putting all your energy into falling in love.” SG It “describes the paradox of loneliness> Once you’ve been hurt, loneliness is better than a broken heart.” SF
While this was #1 in the United States, “Relax” by Frankie and Hollywood topped the charts in the UK. Both songs were produced by Trevor Horn, giving him the distinction of being the only producer to have simultaneous #1 songs on both sides of the pond by different artists. SF
First posted 8/5/2021; last updated 7/13/2023.