The story of Red Rider dates back to ’78 when Ontario natives Tom Cochrane and Ken Greer did local coffeshops as a duo. Greer was a student in classical steel guitar, while Cochrane grew up with the likes of The Beatles and Otis Redding.
Cochrane had already cut his teeth in the studios 4 years earlier when Dafodil Records released HANG ON TO YOUR RESISTANCE. Though it spawned 2 singles, poor marketing had it meet with lacklustre enthusiasm by the public. Critics however had an idea we had someone special. After hooking up with drummer Rob Baker, Jeff Jones (ex of Ocean) on bass and Peter Boynton (ex of Madrigal) on keyboards, Red Rider was signed to Capitol Records and debuted with DON’T FIGHT IT in 1980. Easily one of Canada’s best debut records ever, two singles hit the air-waves, “White Hot” and the title-track and quickly being certified gold.
The group quickly followed up their debut success with a strong contender for Top 10 of all time. AS FAR AS SIAM featured some of the most intricate layering of tracks rarely seen since. Featuring the classics “Lunatic Fringe’ which stayed atop of Billboard for 6 weeks and featured on Miami Vice, “What Have You Got To Do” and “Cowboys In Hong Kong”, the record went platinum in near-record time.
1983 saw their third straight gold or better record in NERUDA. With new keyboardist Steve Sexton, it’s now considered a modern art/rock classic. It contained “Light In The Tunnel/Power”, “Human Race”, “Can’t Turn Back” and easily ’82’s best in “Napolean Sheds His Skin” . Constant touring across the globe helped solidify Red Rider as bona-fide superstars, and already “arrived” in the eyes of their peers as one of Canada’s most musically-creative groups. Sexton’s stay with the group was short-lived and was replaced by John Webster (ex of Stonebolt) when BREAKING CURFEW hit the stores a year later. And although it failed to build on the momentum they still enjoyed from NERUDA, it did contain some of the band’s most under-rated material in the title-track and the rougher-edged “Young Things Wild Dreams” and “Whipping Boy”.Disputes over where the band should be going resulted in Capitol dropping the group later that year.
By the release of their next record on their new label RCA in the spring of ’86, the focus had pretty much shifted completely to Cochrane, evidenced by the title of the album TOM COCHRANE AND RED RIDER (pretty good clue) . . . With Webster now replaced by session keyboardists which included Peter Wolf from The J. Geils Band, and Michael James Jackson, producer of Kiss’ ’84 release CREATURES OF THE NIGHT, and a new focus, the album shifted from pop to consciencious ballads like “Boy Inside The Man”, which received extensive airplay on MuchMusic and MTV, and “The Untouchable One”. Cochrane was also beginning what would become near-legendary exhaustive charity-work in third world countries lending itself naturally into his writing, evidenced by “River of Stone”. The critic’s rave, the record went on to become Cochrane and company’s fifth straight gold record.
VICTORY DAY came out in the fall of ’87 and featured the lead-off single “Big League”. The harder-edged feel about a boy’s dream of playing in the NHL marked a return to Cochrane‘s pop roots, in addition to a return of a more contributing role from Greer. The title-track still showcased Cochrane‘s penchant for writing tight thought-provoking pop ballads, while “Calling America” was heralded as one of his best social commentaries ever put on tape. Capitol issued a compilation of the group’s material with them in the spring of ’88 as part of their “Over 60 Minutes With …” series. Highlighting the group’s four records with the label.
THE SYMPHONY SESSIONS was released in ’89 and showcased the group’s genius live, accompanied by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. The haunting rendition of “Lunatic Fringe” only further proved Tom Cochrane and Red Rider’s stature as superior muscians capable of blending their pop sound with the harmonies of a full-piece orchestra. The band went their separate ways shortly after the album’s release, and each went on to individual projects, most notably Cochrane becoming one of the most decorated solo artists in Canadian music history. A side note is that “Can’t Turn Back” was oen of the very few songs to be used on the Miami Vice sdtk, which also used “Big League” and “Lunatic Fringe” on episodes.