Craig Allen says: ‘Meet Ace’
"How Long" by the British band "Ace" is one of "Jersey's Favorite Hits." You've heard the song for years, and yet you probably don't know what its really all about!
Originally known as "Ace Flash & the Dynamos," the band we would know as "Ace" formed in Sheffield, England in December 1972. While their original sound has been described as pop with a funk influence, the band's worldwide hit would cast them into the "soft rock" genre.
Paul Carrack is the standout member of the band, due to his later involvement with several hit-making bands, and his 1980's solo career. More on that in a bit...
While various members of Ace would come and go over the years, the band also consisted of: Terry "Tex" Comer on bass, Phil Harris handling vocals and guitar, Alan "Barn" King on vocals and lead guitar, Steve Witherington on drums, Fran Byrne on drums, Steve Kirby on lead guitar, and Jon Woodhead on guitar.
All member of Ace came from other bands. Carrack and Comer had both played with the British band "Warm Dust."
Before recording their first album, "Five-A-Side" in 1974, Ace was popular on the "pub rock circuit."
Just before entering the recording studio, drummer Fran Byrne replaced Steve Witherington.
"How Long" was a top-20 hit in early 1975 in the band's native England...even more impressive is the fact that the song soared to #3 on the Hot 100 in New Jersey in the spring of 1975.
While many radio listeners over the years (and album and singles buyers in the mid-70's) believed that "How Long" was a love song...it wasn't.
Yes, it dealt with a breakup...or the threat of a breakup...but, of a different kind.
"How Long" is the story of bass player Terry Comer playing with another band. That sort of thing happens...except that Comer didn't tell his Ace bandmates! They weren't thrilled to (eventually) hear that Comer had been playing with "The Sutherland Brothers and Quiver" on the side. In fact, Ace felt "cheated."
In a 2009 BBC interview, Paul Carrack (who wrote the song) reaffirmed that "How Long" was not about a two-timing lover, but rather about another band "trying to nick our bass player."
The good news is that the cheating band member (Comer) returned to Ace in time to join the band on the album, and the hit recording!
Above: an Ace live appearance from January 1977...
"How Long" was released on the Anchor Records label... The B side on the 45 single is "Sniffin' About." The hit's producer is John Anthony.
The followup single, "Rock 'N' Roll Runaway" was not a runaway hit. It could only manage to make it to #71 on the Hot 100 charts after its summer 1975 debut.
The 1975 album "Time For Another" did not result in any hit singles...
Ace eventually moved to the America, and Jon Woodhead replaced Phil Harris on guitar in 1976.
The change of scenery didn't help Ace on their next (last) album. "No Strings," released in 1977 also hit record store bins with little notice.
Ace disbanded later in 1977, as Carrack, Comer and Byrne all joined the Frankie Miller band.
Over the years, several Ace "Best Of" CDs have been released...including the 1987 British issue that I have pictured at the top of this "Meet The Band" article.
See the back cover art, and song list above.
Briefly, if the name Paul Carrack sounds familiar, its not just because I give him credit when I play "How Long" on New Jersey 101.5! Carrack would go on to have a lucrative career singing with other bands, and as a solo artist.
He has played in Eric Clapton's band, and Roger Waters' "The Bleeding Heart Band." He has played on a Roxy Music album, and toured with the band.
Paul Carrack sang with Squeeze in the early 1980's.
His first solo hit, "I Need You" debuted in 1982 (#37/1982).
Carrack also joined "Mike & The Mechanics" in 1985, and stayed with them through 1992.
His biggest solo hit debuted in late 1987..."Don't Shed A Tear" went Top-10, landing at #9 in early 1988.
That's the "Ace Story"...and more!