Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: John Schneider, “You’re the Last Thing I Needed Tonight”

“You’re the Last Thing I Needed Tonight”

John Schneider

Written by Don Pfrimmer and David Wills

Radio & Records

#1 (2 weeks)

August 15 – August 22, 1986


#1 (1 week)

September 13, 1986

John Schneider’s fourth and final No. 1 single finds him pushing up against the limitations of his approach to country music.

Schneider found big success working with Jimmy Bowen, who produced some solid traditional country records for him.  “You’re the Last Thing I Needed Tonight” is just that: a solid traditional country record, sung competently and arranged tastefully.

It’s also remarkably derivative.  Schneider channels eighties Merle Haggard on this track, delivering a facsimile of Haggard’s phrasing that lacks the sophistication of Haggard’s own performances.  Then you have the song itself, which has a chorus melody that borrows heavily from Reba McEntire’s “You’re the First Time I’ve Thought About Leaving,” which is made even more obvious by the very similar titles.

It was all good enough when it was recorded, but now we have Randy Travis and Dwight Yoakam on the radio, and they’re moving the traditional country sound forward with their fresh takes on classic country sounds.

This will be the dilemma of many big radio artists in the next couple of years, many of whom will have promising careers cut short because they were simply overwhelmed by the caliber of artists that are starting to arrive. Nearly all of them would be a marked improvement over nearly all of the singers who have been added to country playlists over the last twenty years.   But you can’t reasonably expect John Schneider to get airplay over Travis or Yoakam, nor some of the phenomenal singers on the way like Ricky Van Shelton and Patty Loveless.

Now according to Bowen’s memoir, the wound was self-inflicted with Schneider.  In Bowen’s retelling, Schneider started dating a girl who wanted him to be a rocker, and he pushed for a harder sound to please her, disappointing country audiences at his concerts and hurting the credibility he’d worked hard to establish with his first three MCA albums.  The bottom fell out quickly with his fourth release for the label, You Ain’t Seen the Last of Me, which featured his final top ten hit: the obnoxiously loud “Love, You Ain’t Seen the Last of Me.”  The album produced one more top forty hit, and with that, his career at country radio was over.

He’s recorded some since then, but has spent most of his time in recent years on film, television, and the Broadway stage, while spending his free time using social media to promote treason.

“You’re the Last Thing I Needed Tonight” gets a B.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. John was a passable singer at a time that a new wave of traditionally-oriented singers was about to disembark onto the scene. His website has quite a few of his recordings available, many of them recast in more acoustic settings. He still can sing but the emphasis is more on pop balladry. If you call, his first recorded endeavor was a pop oriented single “It’s Now or Never”

  2. Schneider shone brightest in the wee small hours of the morning, that liminal space in country music’s history between last night and the coming new day. He was a bridge player, a
    set-up man, who executed his musical duties surprisingly well and professionally in the late eighties.

    He was provide every opportunity to achieve the success he did from having access to material from Nashville’s top songwriters to Jimmy Bowen as a producer. And to his credit, he delivered.

    This song, as derivative as it is, sounds great to my ears. Schneider archives his goal with this recording.

    “A Memory Like You” is still one of my favourite albums from this era. He followed it with “Take the Long Way Home” which was still stacked with excellent songwriting from the likes of Max T. Barnes (“At the Sound of the Tone”), Sharon Rice (“The Broken Promise Land”), and Harlan Howard (“Better Class of Losers”).

    His window of opportunity had closed by the time “You Ain’t Seen the Last of Me” was released in 1987.

    Schneider made worthy recordings even if they were not necessarily hugely significant.

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