Every #1 Single of the Nineties: Mark Chesnutt, “I Just Wanted You to Know”

 

“I Just Wanted You to Know”

Mark Chesnutt

Written by Gary Harrison and Tim Mensy

Billboard

#1 (1 week)

March 5, 1994

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

February 18, 1994

Another winner from Chesnutt’s golden era.

The Road to No. 1

Almost Goodbye produced No. 1 hits with “It Sure is Monday” and the title track, and this single completed the album’s trifecta.

The No. 1

“I Just Wanted You to Know” starts with a nervy electric guitar that suddenly opens up into a pure traditional sound, with heavy emphasis on the fiddle.

It’s a smart way to open a record that continuously upends the listener’s expectations. It starts off as almost a sweet nod to nostalgia for an old relationship, but as the song progresses, the damage that the narrator has done is revealed, despite him not giving a single indication of what he did while he hear only his side of the phone call.

By the bridge, it’s obvious she already did know everything he “just wanted” her to know, and that he’s reopening an old wound and she’s not happy about it:  “Please don’t cry. I’ll say goodbye, and I won’t call you anymore….but I just wanted you to know…”

It’s a masterful piece of songwriting further elevated by Chesnutt’s performance.

The Road From No. 1

A cover of “Woman, Sensuous Woman” was sent to radio next and it became his first MCA single to miss the top ten.  Still, Almost Goodbye became his third platinum album, and the label used his success as a springboard for reviving the Decca imprint, becoming its flagship artist.  His fourth album, released on Decca, was What a Way to Live.  Its lead two singles, “She Dreams” and “Going Through the Big D” –  went top five. He’d return to the top with the third single from that album, which we will cover when we get to 1995.

“I Just Wanted You to Know” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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5 Comments

  1. “Another winner from Chesnutt’s golden era.”

    Exactly. This is a great lyric, well-sung, and Mark Wright’s production doesn’t get in the way of either. A classic.

  2. Look at the songwriters on this one. Although Gary Harrison is the songwriting legend of this pairing, it is Tim Mensy I want to call your attention to. He took his own stab at a recording career in the 1990 with his debut album “Stone by Stone.” He followed up with “This Ole Heart” in 1992.

    I share all this because Mensy was one of significant number of male artists who would find songwriting success despite recording careers that never took flight. I lump Mensy with Shawn Camp, Stacy Dean Campbell, Dean Miller, and Mark Collie ( give me some time and I could add to this list which would include female writers like Matraca Berg, Bobbie Cryner, and Joy Lynn White).

    Nashville has always had this insanely deep talent pool to draw from despite its deserved reputation for too often dropping its bucket only into the wells of the chosen few “it” writers of the day. This scenario certainly recently played out with the over-representation of The Peach Pickers’s compositions (individually or collectively)on so many mainstream albums.

    As for the Mensy co-write here for Mark Chestnut, it is about this same time alt-country will emerge as a genre and “No Depression” magazine will become famous as a champion of non-mainstream musicians and music.

    I guess I am trying to establish that about now, just as Nashville was clamping down hard on what it wanted to promote and sell as country music, creativity within country music was as diverse as it had ever been, and Music City increasingly seemed overwhelmed ( or was it disinterested in?) By how to manage the opportunity.

    That being said, Harrison and Mensy wrote a great song, and Chestnutt is incrementally finding his stride as one of the best traditional vocalists ever. I remember at the time he was often thought of as taking an artistic back seat to Brooks, Black, and Jackson.

    • I was completely oblivious to the “No Depression” movement at the time, feeling completely satiated by what I perceived as mainstream country music. Key to that perception was CMT, which was playing a lot of those acts alongside the radio stars. It’s crazy to think that my first Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson albums were “Cowgirl’s Prayer” and “Spirit.” Radio didn’t touch them, but they were on CMT all of the time.

      I wish I’d been more aware of what was going on in that scene back then, though my tastes trended toward the more commercial sounds until the last decade or so, when the bottom fell out in the quality of mainstream country. (From my perspective, at least.)

  3. This is my favorite of the Almost Goodbye singles. I’ve always loved the melody and neo-traditional arrangement to this one, and the review does a great job pointing out how well written it is, too. And as usual, Chesnutt gives a great emotional performance. I actually used to find the intro with the electric guitar and kick drum a bit jarring, as it kind of sounds like the intro to a more upbeat song. Eventually though, I just accepted it as part of the song. This review perfectly describes it in a way I never thought of before.

    I remember liking this song immediately when I heard it playing on an independent country station we had the car radio tuned to. This was around 2000 or so, and one day my step dad and I were waiting in the car in the driveway for Mom to come out, while this song was playing. I remember thinking it was a great older song from Mark I’d never heard until then. Since it wasn’t on his Greatest Hits album, which was still the only Chesnutt album I owned then, I wondered what album it was on. It was actually one of the things that made me want to explore his catalogue even further and start collecting his earlier albums.

    Peter – I really like your mentioning of Tim Mensy. I’m actually still on the hunt for his 1990 debut album on Epic (I love the title track, “Stone By Stone”) but I actually have his second one on Giant, which is pretty good. To me, he sounds a lot like Clay Walker, who ironically would break out on the same label a year later. It’s too bad that neither of those two albums are on Spotify, still.

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