The origins of Boys Brigade began in Toronto in 1981, when singer/keyboardist Malcolm Burn hooked up with Tony Lester, who’d left the punk band Arson a year earlier after one single and a couple of years of struggling to make it.
New wave was all the rage at the time, and deciding to go in that direction, they assembled the band with bassist Wayne Lorenze, David Porter and Jeff Packer percussion, and Billie Brock on drums. In their beginning, Raymond Perkins, one of the most ambitious booking agents around, began getting them gigs in all the underground clubs and drop-in centres on Queen Street, many of which weren’t known for live music at the time, including The Rex and The Drake hotels, which eventually did became known for their live entertainment.
They entered Q107’s annual “Homegrown” contest, leading to their song “Mannequin” making it to the radio station’s 1981 compilation album. They continued to develop their sound while working the circuit and writing some material, when Howard Ungerleider, who was working as Rush‘s light designer at the time, agreed to manage them. That agreement was eventually signed over to SRO’s Ray Danniels, but still helped them get a deal with their label, Anthem Records a year later. Bassist Geddy Lee was so impressed with the band that he also agreed to produce their self-titled debut album in ’83. The recording sessions however had to be stretched out to over six months to accomodate Rush’s touring schedule at the time.
With Burn and Lester responsible for the bulk of the writing, the album spawned a pair of singles, “Melody” which hovered inside the top 40 in most markets and peaked at #15 in Toronto (staying in the top 20 for 9 weeks), and “Passion of Love,” which also saw a 12″ dance mix make the rounds of the dance clubs, breaking them nationwide. Both songs had accompanying videos produced, which also introduced them to the burgeoning MuchMusic audience. A third song, “Into The Flow,” also found its way on to the soundtrack of the 1984 Canadian independent film, “Heavenly Bodies,” starring Cynthia Dale. A re-worked version of “Mannequin” was also included on the album.
All the attention they were getting led to a national tour, as well as tours of the US eastern seaboard, resulting in their Poughkeepsie, New York concert taped for The King Biscuit Flower Hour. But when the dust had settled by ’85, the inherent problems of having a six-piece band were causing enough problems that they broke up and everyone went their seperate ways.
Burn would go on to a solo career, releasing the album REDEMPTION in 1988. From there he moved to New Orleans to work with and study under Daniel Lanois, leading to him producing and engineering several artists’ projects, including Blue Rodeo, Bob Dylan, Junkhouse, The Neville Brothers, Midnight Oil, Crash Vegas, and Patti Smith, among many others. His accolades during this time peaked with a Grammy Award in 2001 for his work on Emmylou Harris’ RED DIRT GIRL album.
Lester also worked with other artists and did some session work, then released his debut solo album in 2005. Porter became an engineer at Red Rock Studios, and Brock became a session player until starting his own project in the early ’00s called Lemmings Go Here.
BOYS BRIGADE (1983)
The Passion Of Love
The Cut-Up (Breaking Glass)
Into The Flow
Anger (The Hunter)