Named after a friend who really did hate jazz, Johnny Hates Jazz released their first single, "Me and My Foolish Heart," on RAK Records in 1986. After searching for a major record label deal they landed one towards the end of 1986 with Virgin Records after a gig at, ironically enough, a jazz club
The group's debut single for Virgin, "Shattered Dreams", became a big hit in 1987, reaching #5 in the UK and #2 in the U.S. charts. The group's debut album, Turn Back the Clock, also proved successful, reaching #1 on the UK albums chart.
They had many more Top 20 singles in the UK from this album, such as "I Don't Want to Be a Hero" (UK #11, US #31), "Turn Back the Clock" (UK #12), and "Heart of Gold" (UK #19), which was their last hit single.
In the U.S., "Hero" was a top 40 hit on the Hot 100 and went top 20 on the AC and Dance Club Play charts, while "Clock" struck five on the Adult Contemporary chart.
The lead singer and main songwriter, Clark Datchler, left in 1988 and was replaced by the former Cure bass guitarist, Phil Thornalley. A month before the release of their second album, Tall Stories in 1992, the band was involved in a serious car accident which left keyboardist Calvin Hayes in a body cast for over a year. The band lost momentum and eventually split.