Richard Marx is the eponymous debut album by singer/songwriter and record producer/arranger, Richard Marx, released in June 1987.
Richard became the first male solo artist (and second solo artist overall – the first being Whitney Houston) in recording history to reach the top three of the Billboard Hot 100 with four singles from a debut album, including his first number one Pop single “Hold On to the Nights” in mid-1988. The album’s first single, “Don’t Mean Nothing”, hit #1 on Billboard’s Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart on July 4, 1987.
In his early 20s, Richard Marx had started his music career in Los Angeles as a background singer and songwriter for other artists. Marx was determined to become a solo artist, stating that “I didn’t want to give my best songs away. “Should’ve Known Better”, for instance, was written three years ago, and whenever I’d play it for an artist I’d get a real good response. It was the song I could’ve placed the easiest, but I knew that I should be the one to do it. When the deal with Manhattan Records came through early in ’86, I put everything else on hold – I saw this album as a challenge to show what I could really do.”
Marx’s relationship with the label was positive, with Marx stating that “Manhattan Records was behind my writing and my voice… that’s all they needed. I wasn’t told to go into the studio and write hits; I was told to make an album I believed in. Through trial and error, I came up with a record that feels right and that’s me.”
The album was co-produced by David Cole, whom Marx enjoyed working with. Cole had previously produced singer-songwriter Bob Seger’s album Like a Rock which Marx stated that it “…sounded great. David and I worked closely together on the production to insure that the record had that kind of sound.”
Another advantage for Marx was the roster of musicians who played on the album. Marx’s manager convinced Eagles’ guitarist Joe Walsh to play on the track “Don’t Mean Nothing”. Two other members of the Eagles, Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmit also sang background vocals on that track. Marx was subsequently nominated for a Grammy Award for “Best Rock Vocal Performance – Solo” for “Don’t Mean Nothing” in 1988.
Marx wrote the lyrics for all of the songs on his debut, with the exception of “Lonely Heart” and “Remember Manhattan” which were written by Fee Waybill from The Tubes. Marx cowrote the music for the album with Bruce Gaitsch, Jim Lang, and Michael Omartian. In the liner notes, Marx dedicated the album to his parents, Ruth and the late Dick Marx.