JAIMIE VERNON – BOOM GO THE ‘80s

Jaimie Vernon_Viletones In a previous incarnation my label, Bullseye, was focusing on 1960s and 1970s Canadian re-issues but in the time that has elapsed since I folded the label (2010) and now, the pop culture zeitgeist has shifted. Classic Rock radio was put into suspended animation in 2014 by the major radio players (at least in Canada) and 1980s radio has picked up the ball. Oh, the 1970s is still getting a fair amount of airplay, but it’s mostly been ghettoized into bite-sized “The 70s at 7 !!!” type radio programming.

 BOOM 97.3 has been leading the charge on the FM dial in Toronto and with their YouTube annex “Behind the Vinyl” series of interview segments which has really put a nice little ribbon around a new, growing, interest in music from 30 to 35 years ago.
I went to get in front of that train with material that, in two or three years, will have turned 30 and will find a home back on radio. The late 1980s – post-Top40 radio – has 182047c3-994d-42f8-8701-c6278aa2487fbeen much overlooked and much maligned. The corporate music industry was eating its own tail with slicker, more vacuous videos that were often bigger billboards for fashion than the music contained within and vinyl was being phased out and CDs were being shit out like silver dollars in a Vegas one-armed bandit. For the first time fans had to decide to purchase in one of 3 formats – only one of which you could put in your car stereo (the cassette). That meant audiophile chauvinism between analog and digital play for home use.

The vinyl from this period is now on the endangered species list. Where millions of copies were being pressed in the 1970s and early 1980s, labels were judicious in 6652cb47-b152-4214-9b82-07dd936ea58epressing sometimes less than 5,000 copies of a title in the late 1980s unless there was a massive music name attached like Michael Jackson, Madonna or Paul McCartney. That pushed consumers over to the CD and cassette market and little of that survives now either as tapes generally wore out and/or were lost while CDs got scratched and abused (under that urban marketing myth that they were indestructible) which people ultimately sent to the dust bin.
And because so much was lost and forgotten by the consumer, the labels have been slow to get on the re-issue bandwagon. The presumption is these titles sold poorly because no one wanted the music. The truth is 104ba980-d99c-46de-95f4-7d059939bd4dthat no one was able to get the music through all these slap-dash distribution methods. I can’t even image the nightmare for retailers of having to stock THREE different formats – you’d need one department for each…and then file everything by genre. The mishandling of the late 1980s and early 1990s music catalogs was, to be perfectly blunt, a cluster fuck for music lovers.

As announced two weeks ago, my revived record label Bullseye will soon be releasing titles it has licensed from Gerry Young’s Current Records. The release schedule through distributor Conveyor Canada/UMG will begin with two late 1980s re-issues: Alta Moda’s 1987 self-titled debut and Strange Advance’s 1988 third album “The Distance Between”. Here’s a Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia synopsis of who these acts were and the releases we’re putting out…

ALTA MODA

Alta Moda Alta Moda (an Italian word meaning “high style”) was formed by chanteuse Molly Johnson (who had placed second in Toronto radio station Q107 FM’s 1st Homegrown album contest) and guitarist Norman Orenstein (Michaele Jordana, Toby Lark) in 1979 after Orenstein saw Johnson performing in a Toronto club. Ex-Nails drummer Steven Gelineau was added in 1982 and bassist Etric Lyons (Liberty Silver) in 1983.

bffd18de-f207-41a7-876a-953d2f8556d4They performed for six years and held off record company suitors for three of those years. An independent cassette was the attraction and landed one of their songs, “American Chaser”, in the film ‘Popeye Doyle’.

The band would sign with Gerry Young’s Current Management (Parachute Club, M + M) after Johnson decided to break away from her career as a jazz/lounge singer (with Aaron Davis of Manteca and David Pilch of the Holly Cole Trio) and escape – as she put it – from “jazz hell”.

367259e7-c2e0-4501-9ef1-8dcb6b0e4c2dTheir self-titled album was produced by Colin Thurston (Duran Duran, Human League, David Bowie, Magazine) in 1987 and the album’s first single “Julian” (a song written about the son of the owner of Toronto’s Cameron House) was released in mid-October that year. The song would peak on the RPM100 Singles Chart at No. 54 on Boxing Day in Canada.

By this time the album itself had been released on Current Records through Epic/CBS and was followed by immediate media backlash as being ‘generic American funk’. Some f4c3f3a9-9312-4254-838a-97e18423c636radio stations even went as far as refusing to play the material because it sounded ‘too black’. The group decided to decline a JUNO Award nomination for the song “Julian” in the R & B category in early 1988 because they felt it stereotyped what they were trying to accomplish.

Current Records continued to push the act with “Cool Love” as a 12″ dance single with radio receiving the rock ballad oriented “Notown (In Particular)” in July of 1988. The track managed to reach #37 on bccf328f-68ce-4cbc-884b-3b950c98aed8the RPM Canadian Content Singles chart while a third, and final single in the fall of 1988, “Train”, failed to chart.

While Current debated releasing a second album, other labels were once again showing interest and Young wished the band well allowing them to move over to Miles Copeland’s IRS Records where they would change their name to The Infidels and release one album under that name in 1991.


STRANGE ADVANCE

37fa2cc4-3d48-4bdd-9106-ef49b732f8ad

Darryl Kromm and Drew Arnott played together from 1974 to 1977 in a group called Slan. Later, while writing original music together, Kromm played in the band Remote Control. While touring with Bryan Adams, Kromm gave him a demo tape of the tunes he and Arnott were working on. Adams liked what he heard and passed it on to producer Bruce Fairbairn. Fairbairn also liked what he heard, did a quick remix then played it for Deane Cameron, who was the Canadian A&R rep for Capitol Records L.A. The band, originally known as Metropolis, were then signed to Capitol Records in Los Angeles.

worlds-away-strange-advanceFairbairn had just finished up work with Prism and Loverboy and decided to produce the band’s debut album, ‘Worlds Away‘, which was released in February 1983. Within a week of the release of the first single, “She Controls Me”, and the title track, Canadian radio stations were all over Strange Advance. A dance mix of “Love Games” became a club hit in England and “Kiss In The Dark” became single #4. The album went gold (50,000 copies) and the band was nominated for a ‘Most Promising Group’ JUNO Award. The album featured guest appearances by Bryan Adams, Bob Rock and Paul Dean (Loverboy).

In 1984 Strange Advance worked with famed soundtrack producer Michael Kamen on the follow-up album but the results weren’t satisfactory and the band returned to 90278573-0331-4826-8827-7f6de9165e39Canada to start fresh by recording in Toronto. Arnott would produce the second album, ‘2WO‘, with the addition of one of Kamen’s tracks, “Nor Crystal Tears”. The album boasted a name-dropping roster of special guest talent including Spider Sinnaeve (bass) of Streetheart, John Jones (piano) of Bond , Gerald O’Brien and Steve Sexton of Exchange, Howard Ayee (bass) of Rough Trade/The Arrows, and world renowned session drummer Andy Newmark  of Roxy Music, plus guitarists Earl Slick (Stray Cats, David Bowie), Keith Scott (Bryan Adams) and Domenic Troiano (Mandala, James Gang).

93658092The first single “We Run” became an AOR radio hit weeks before the album was released followed by the reggae flavoured “The Second That I Saw You”. In 1985 Strange Advance became a 6-piece for their first Canadian tour which including two sold-out nights at Ontario Place in Toronto. The album eventually went gold in Canada and Strange Advance was again nominated for a JUNO Award (Best Group).

For album #3 Strange Advance switched to Gerry Young’s independent label, Current Records, for 1988’s ‘The Distance Between’ though they would maintain distribution f8873689-3d0e-478c-b01a-c5822277afbfthrough Capitol-EMI Canada. The album was produced by Arnott, Howard Ayee and Joe Primeau with musical assistance from Owen Tennyson (Rational Youth, Blue Peter), Greg Critchley (FM), Randy Bachman, Jim Hubay, Ian Cameron, Howard Ayee, Ken Greer (Red Rider), Mathew Gerrard (Regatta), Peter Fredette (Kim Mitchell Band), Simon Brierley (FM, Lee Aaron), Ed Shaw (Images In Vogue), and Allan Holdsworth (Soft Machine, UK) and Drew Arnott’s father Andy Arnott playing sax on “This Island Earth.”

The lead off single/video was “Love Becomes Electric” peaking at No.20 on the RPM100 Singles Chart the week of April 30, 1988 which lasted a total of 22 weeks on the chart and eventually reaching #2 on the RPM Cancon Singles chart. The video managed to break the Top10 on MuchMusic.

The second single/video “Till The Stars Fall” was released in July 1988 and peaked at #23 on the RPM Cancon Singles chart. Constant touring and the release of a third track, “Hold You”, in August 1988 helped the album itself reach #46 on the RPM100 Albums Chart.

Both the Alta Moda and Strange Advance re-issues should be out before summer on CD and on digital download and streaming platforms like iTunes and Spotify through Bullseye/Conveyor. Check our website often for updates. http://www.bullseyecanada.com
Send your CDs for review to this NEW address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 CANADA

=JV=

Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

dbawis-button7Jaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 33 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 16 years. He is also the author of the recently released Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ is now available at Amazon.com http://gwntertainment.wix.com/jaimievernon

3 Responses to “JAIMIE VERNON – BOOM GO THE ‘80s”

  1. wow, that ain’t the music i was listening to in the late 80s. all them hair bands, fru-fru like. 80s music as far as sales and radio was pretty awful. but alternative came along and saved the day. it was only heard on college radio but it edged alonside the mainstream there a bit by the end of the decade as many of the bands and acts got signed to majors. replacements, meat puppets, robyn hitchcock, husker du, rain parade, bangles, long ryders. those bands were how i remember the 80s. it all began around 81 or something when benoit dufresne on CHOM-FM in montreal had a i think sunday night show where he played imports and such, i heard Felt, something from an album called Crumbling The Antiseptic Beauty. that was it, there was hope! from then on came the SST bands, the minnesota and boston bands, the paisley underground, the brit guitar bands, it was petering out by the end of the decade but it had made its mark. and it saved what otherwise for me was the nadir of all pop decades.

  2. canadian bands? Parts Found In Sea, Teenage Head, Doughboys, Nils, Art Bergman, NoMeansNo, SNFU, Rheostatics, not a huge list and i’ve probably forgotten some…

  3. Rich isaacs Says:

    Any chance you can tell me which of those guitarists on the Strange Advance “2wo” album played that incredible solo on “Home of the Brave”?

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