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Tony Lewis: UK singer whose band The Outfield made it big in US, dies

By Mark Savage
BBC music reporter

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image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThe singer and bassist died "suddenly and unexpectedly", according to a statement on his website

Tony Lewis, the lead singer of 1980s power-pop band The Outfield, has died at the age of 62.

The British trio scored a major US hit with the single Your Love in 1986, following it up with radio hits All The Love and Every Time You Cry.

Their debut album, Play Deep, spent 66 weeks on the US chart, selling two million copies and reaching number six.

However, they never found success in the UK, with none of their albums making the top 75.

According to a statement on his website, Lewis died "suddenly and unexpectedly" near London. No cause of death was announced.

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Lewis was born in London's East End in 1957, and first played with his bandmates John Spinks (guitar) and Alan Jackman (drums) in a 1970s power-pop band called Sirius B.

''We rehearsed for about six months,'' Spinks later told the Chicago Tribune. "And as we finished and started doing some gigs, the punk thing exploded in England.

"We became the right band at the wrong time, so we just went our separate ways for a few years.''

'A good little pop song'

Years later, they reformed as The Baseball Boys and signed to Columbia/CBS Records, before choosing another baseball-inspired name, The Outfield.

In 1986, Your Love - a slick pop song about a boy trying to convince a girl to spend the night with him while his girlfriend is away - went into heavy rotation on MTV, sending it into the top 10.

It went on to become a staple of US rock radio and 80s compilation albums, and received a further boost when it was featured on the soundtrack to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City in 2002.

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"The strange thing is that the song was written in 20 minutes in John's flat," Lewis said last year.

"I was sitting there and wrote the lyrics down. I still have the original words written on lined paper. I read them, and we said, 'Yeah that's a good little pop song'. Who knew 33 years later it would still be so huge?"

Although The Outfield never had another hit as big as Your Love, they were a staple of rock radio throughout the 80s, with songs like Since You've Been Gone, Voices of Babylon and For You.

In the UK, however, their polished, widescreen sound was never really in fashion - and, unlike their contemporaries Huey Lewis and Starship, the band failed to secure a crossover hit.

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image captionThe Outfield at the height of their success in 1986 (L-R): Tony Lewis, Alan Jackman and John Spinks

After Jackman left the band in 1988, Lewis and Spinks continued as a duo, before going on hiatus for much of the 90s.

The three original members reunited in 2011 to record Replay, their final studio album.

Spinks died of liver cancer in 2014, after which Lewis took an extended break from music while suffering with depression.

"In the first couple of years after John passed, I didn't even pick up a guitar, let alone thinking about recording music," he later told Classic Rock Revisited.

"But my wife and I were out at the pub one night and she said, 'You're a musician, why aren't you doing anything?'"

With his wife's encouragement, he released Out Of The Darkness, his first solo album, in 2018, which he described as a "journey through love, loss and the beginning of a new chapter".

He subsequently began playing live again for the first time in 14 years and issued a new EP, Unplugged - The Acoustic Sessions, shortly before his death.

Lewis is survived by Carol, his wife of 35 years, his daughters Gemma and Rosie, and three grandchildren.

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