At the front of Toronto leading Canada’s entry in the hair metal parade, many of the riders were from outside the perimeter.
Scottish native singer/songwriter Gerry McGhee moved to Niagara as a teen, and was in a number of groups through school and afterwards. By the spring of 1984 he’d come back from an ill-fated trip to England for a project doomed from the start. With nothing to show for it, all that came out of the four month ordeal was a great deal of debt.
Licking his wounds, McGhee then formed Heart Attack, along with Greg Fraser on guitars, bassist Stevie Skreebs, Mark Cavarzan on drums and Martin Victor on keyboards. They placed third in the Q107 Homegrown Contest with their song “Breaking Down The Barricade,” and made it to the station’s compilation album.
They were noticed by Stephen Prendergast, who was managing Honeymoon Suite, also originally from Niagara Falls. He saw the similarities and the doubled potential. An early keyboard driven pop/metal flirtation, he got them to change their name in 1984. Depending on who tells the story, the name either originated from the Queen classic, a character from a Graham Greene novel, or McGhee’s Scottish roots.
They got a deal with the indie label Flying Fist Records for a four-song demo, and in In the spring of 1985 they recorded the tracks with producers Steve Vaughan and Jack Richardson (Guess Who (among many others). The self-titled EP included the now reworked and retitled “Barricade,” “Assault Attack,” and “Young Wild and Free.” It was a Canada-only release that caught on throughout most of Europe’s market as well as at home. The attention drew WEA Canada into the picture, and Bob Roper signed the band to a Canadian deal, while the label’s affiliate Atco picked them up in the US.
“The Fools Waltz” was the only track not to make the cut from the EP to the full album in ’86, YOUNG WILD & FREE. With new keyboardist Johnny Rogers they became darlings to at least half of the audiences. On the backs of the singles “We Came To Rock” and the top 10 “Can’t Wait For The Night,” they stayed busy on the road, and the video for “Can’t Wait” was getting airplay on MuchMusic, MTV, and on British, Japanese, and German programs. By the time they returned from a sold out tour in England, they were starting the new year opening for Triumph, and closing it on tour with Lee Aaron.
Richardson returned for their follow-up, 1988’s TAKE A DEEP BREATH, which Atco neglected to carry Stateside. It featured the lead off single and video for the ballad “One More Try,” shot in Scarborough with local super model Monica Schnarre. It peaked at #16 while the band was on the road, when they released the second single, “Hanging High n Dry.” Due to what they felt was questionable content, MuchMusic kept the tape on the shelf, and the single stalled at #22 at home and failed to chart at all in the US. “Can’t Stop The Earth From Shaking” shook nothing, formula guitar riffs and little girl appeal made it enter and exit the charts without any notice whatsoever. Still, 70,000 copies sold in Canada – good for gold, keeping the band on the road into mid 1990.
Produced by Toby Wright, 1991’s LOVE MACHINE saw them mostly ditch the keyboards, and Rogers along with them. With a harder guitar drive, the record took a drastic turn from merely looking good for cameras and formula sound in the studios. It had a heavier edge, always at the core of the band’s sound but stifled in the studios, which often caused problems for producers and the label reps. In fact, one track that WEA pulled the plug on one was called “Gang Bang,” due to its obviously automatic potential backlash from every women’s group on the planet.
Along with the slick single “Hollywood Shuffle,” the lead off “Bulletproof,” the title track, the cover of “Cocaine,” and “Nightstalker” the album went gold. At least in part helping them shed the glam-rock shtick, they were kept on the road for the rest of the year, in an ensemble that now included McGhee’s former guitarist with The Rockers, Greg Bioleua. They were then nominated for album at the 1992 Juno Awards.
But due in part to a changing musical landscape that kept the band from cracking the American market, they were dropped by WEA in ’93, and they packed it in to do the proverbial outside projects. They reunited a few times and the result was 2002’s A ROOM FOR FIVE, an indie released live album with fourteen of their biggest hits.
They’d again drifted off by the time WEA released a ‘best of’ in their ESSENTIALS series in ’06. Meanwhile everyone had drifted off and on since then, Fraser joined Helix as their guitarist for a few years. McGhee, meanwhile, auditioned for the vacant frontman position in Motley Crue after Vince Neil left.
After a 2008 reunion at the Carl Dixon Benefit show in Toronto, Fraser and Skeebs formed The Fraze Gang, releasing an album in 2008 and an EP a year later.
For the next decade the band re-formed now and again for this or that tour. In August, 2020, McGhee succumbed to his lengthy battle with cancer, at the age of 57.
Second album “Take a deep Breath ” went Gold in Canada ,because of “One More Try ” and ” Hangin’ High and Dry ”