Named after a lunatic asylum outside London, England, Coney Hatch was formed in Toronto in 1980 by singer/bassist Andy Curran, Ed Godlewski on guitars and drummer Dave Ketchum. By the time guitarist Carl Dixon left Firefly to join them in February of ’81, Steve Shelski had replaced Godlewski and the band was already on their way to becoming a staple of the southern Ontario bar circuit.
The band’s turning point came later that year when they were seen in a local club by Pye Dubois, who’d made his mark as Max Webster‘s lyricist. Liking what he heard, he introduced them to Kim Mitchell, who in turn helped the group work out a deal with his and Rush‘s label, Anthem Records.
On a small budget and with Mitchell producing the sessions at Quest Studios in Oshawa, their debut came out in the summer of ’82 and immediately shook the roofs off the FM radio stations. Studio-legend Jack Richardson (The Guess Who, White Wolf, Bob Seger, and Alice Cooper to name but a few) also worked on “You Ain’t Got Me.”
The group’s first radio single was a last-minute addition, but “Hey Operator” showed Dixon’s penchant for writing tight, smooth metal-ballads, and was covered a year later by Aldo Nova. The video for the second single “Devil’s Deck” launched them onto MTV and made them media darlings of the hair metal age. Along with the pounding backbeat of their swan song “Monkey Bars,” a twisted tale of life on the road, the album was a hit.
But it was tracks like the keyboard-laden “Stand Up” that showed their uncommon versatility for such a blatantly heavy rock act. On its way to gold status, the record helped support the group’s tours outside the province and before long most of Canada knew Coney Hatch – then the world, backing up the likes of Judas Priest and Triumph for the next year.
They practically went from the airport following the last concert straight to the studios, where they brought in new producer Max Norman, specializing in heavy metal acts (Ozzy, Y&T, Megadeth, and Loudness, among others). OUTA HAND was released in ’83, and made from the same ingredients as its predecessor, it served up the healthy dose of blazing guitar riffs and tight harmonies. “First Time For Everything” was the first single and showed Norman’s refined approach to metal, which also produced another natural hit video. This in turn also helped get them enough added exposure that they toured south of the border. The acoustic “To Feel the Feeling Again,” though a departure from the all-out rockers like “Don’t Say Make Me” and “Too Far Gone,” again showcased the band’s refusal to be pegged in just the ‘heavy metal’ genre, and was another critic’s fave.
Norman returned for their third album FRICTION in the summer of ’85. Featuring new drummer Barry Connors (ex of Toronto), it was another guitar-driven record but had also taken on more of a keyboard-friendly feel. From the lead off track “This Ain’t Love” to the power-ballad rhythms of “The Girl From Last Night’s Dream,” the album showed a sense of maturity that made it another hit with both the critics and the fans. Other noteable tracks included “Fantasy”, “He’s A Champion” and “Fuel For The Fire”.
Although it sold less copies than the first two albums, FRICTION sold three to four times as much as either of them overseas. But unfortunately Anthem couldn’t seem to promote them properly and dropped the band from its roster. They carried on doing the live shows that they’d gained a reputation for, when Dixon left and was replaced briefly by Midland Ontario’s James Labrie (going by the name of Kevin). But within a year of being without a deal, the band called it quits in 1986.
Dixon and Curran both released solo records – Curran in 1990 with NO TATTOOS and Dixon with his self-titled debut in ’93. Connors went on to play with Lee Aaron for a few years. Labrie meanwhile became the lead singer of Dream Theatre.
The group got back together for a series of gigs in ’92 to promote the release of the anthology, CONEY HATCH – BEST OF THREE, which also contained “Where I Draw The Line” (dropped from the debut album) and “Fuel For The Fire,” which didn’t make the initial cut when FRICTION was released, but appeared in ’85 as a bonus track on a British-only 12″ single. But before long the band then drifted apart to other projects again.
The ’90s also saw Dixon tour as part of April Wine, then join a version of The Guess Who in ’97. That gig lasted until May 2000, during which he released his third solo album. Curran meanwhile had kept busy in production work around the Toronto area including hockey radio jingles with Greg Godovitz & Rik Emmett. Steve Shelski meanwhile scored the soundtrack to the Omar Sharif film “Heaven Before I Die,” which incidentally featured several Dixon-penned tracks.
Shelski meanwhile joined a new version of Goddo for a couple of years. After Dixon had suffered an automobile accident while in Australia, several benefit concerts were held in Toronto until 2010. This in part led to a reunion of the original Coney Hatch that summer, playing at the Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto, although Shelski also sidelined by joining a touring version of Toronto with Holly Woods in 2012.
With the original lineup of Dixon, Curran, Shelski, and Ketchum in tact, an album of all new material was released by both European based Frontiers Records and Mexican label Scarecrow. The lead-off “Blown Away” became the band’s first video and single in 28 years. Then Cyprus based Klondike Records, a label that focuses on releasing old concerts, put out LIVE IN QUEBEC ’83 in 2016.