Jones was one of the defining figures of mid-'80s synth-pop. Jones' music
merged the technology-intensive sound of new wave with the cheery optimism
of hippies and late-'60s pop.
Jones racked up a string of hits in the mid-
and late '80s before he retreated into being a cult figure in the '90s.
A native of Southampton, England, Jones learned how to play piano at
the age of seven. By the time he was a teenager, his family had relocated
to Canada, which is where he joined his first band, a progressive-rock
group called Warrior. Eventually, Jones moved back to England, where he
played in a number of different groups. In the mid-'70s, he enrolled in
the Royal Northern College of Music. After he dropped out of college, he
played with a variety of local Southampton jazz and funk bands.
Eventually, Jones began performing as a solo artist. At these solo shows,
Jones performed only with synthesizers and drum machines. For these
one-man concerts, Jones had a mime called Jed Hoile perform. After a few
years of solo performing, Jones attracted the attention of John Peel, who
offered the keyboardist a BBC session. Soon, Jones was opening for new
wave synth-pop acts across England. By 1983, he had signed with WEA in
England and Europe; in America, he signed to Elektra.
Howard Jones released his first single, "New Song," in
England in the fall of 1983 and it became a big hit, peaking at number
three. His second single, "What Is Love," was released a few
months later and it reached number two. Humans Lib, Jones' debut
album, was released in the spring of 1984 and quickly rose to number one
in England. Thanks to repeated exposure on MTV, the album became a
moderate hit in the U.S. Later in 1984, "New Song" and
"What Is Love" became American Top 40 hits, while "Pearl in
the Shell" became his third British Top Ten single.