Born in Machester, England in 1950, Carole Ann Pope moved to Scarborough with her family in the late ’50s, amid a melting musical pot that was filled with bustling new sounds that went against the traditionally accepted vein.
She hooked up with keyboardist Kevan Staples, and after their duo on the Yorkville strip called O, and later The Bullwhip Brothers, came to an end, they formed Rough Trade. With her distinctive husky voice, took the struggling local punk scene and melded it with a new wave beat and explicit homoerotic themes and provocative lyrics.
In doing so, they helped define an era of Canadian music throughout the ’80s with songs like “Crimes of Passion,” “All Touch (No Contact),” and their million-seller biggest hit about a naughty principal, “Highschool Confidential.” The song’s underlying co-theme of lesbianism also broke down barriers, one of the first rock songs to openly deal with gay sex, and one of the few to make the charts’ top 10.
Along the way she picked up the 1981 Juno Award for Most Promising Female Vocalist, and for the Best Female Vocalist the following two years, a Genie Award, and also earned four gold and two platinum albums. She also made cameos on The Payolas‘ top ten hit in ’83 called “Never Said I Loved You” and Dalbello‘s “Animal,” and along with Staples, wrote Nona Hendryx’s hit, “Transformation.” Their live shows had become infamous not only for the music, but also for the visualizations which addressed extreme sexualism that included bondage and role playing.
Although the better part of the final two years saw them perform minimally, Rough Trade didn’t officially break up until 1988, by which time Pope had already released her first solo EP, THE SILENCER. Two remixed versions of the single “I’m Not Blind” appeared a year later on her second EP, NOTHING BUT A HEARTACHE, which also contained three versions of the song “Heartache.”
Pope moved to Los Angeles three years later to pursue work in film and TV soundtracks, but also released another EP, RADIATE in ’95, featuring “Love Strikes Hard” and “Twist of the Knife.” Her time in LA also saw her land the role of the schoolteacher in the animated version of “Pippi Longstocking.”
But by 2000 she was spending most of her time back in Toronto. She teamed up with Payola$ founder and friend, Paul Hyde again, to sing the duet “My Brilliant Career” on his solo album, LIVING OFF THE RADAR. That same year, Random House published Pope’s autobiography, “Anti-Diva.” The book dealt with her rise to pop stardom, as well as her social convictions that had fuelled much of her music. It was also her first public acknowledgement that she’d been in a relationship with British singer Dusty Springfield in the early 1980s. She also alleged a brief romance with Andrea Martin of “SCTV” fame, reportedly following the band’s appearance on the program where they talked openly about sex.
The new millennium continued with her landing a role in the Toronto production of “The Vagina Monologues.” She also re-recorded her classic with Rough Trade, “High School Confidential” for the “Queer as Folk” – Season 1 soundtrack in 2001, then moved to New York City to continue writing and recording. In the process, she’d become a regular perfomer at Gay Pride parades and festivals throughout North America, and an active advocate. In between re-releasing both her first two solo EPs as well as the Rough Trade catalogue, she also reunited with Kevan Staples for the odd show now and again.
Pope released her first full album as a solo artist in 2005, TRANSCEND. No singles were released, but critics praised her return in one of the sleeper hits of the year, which featured the erotic undertones of the title track, the social conscience in “Americana” and a remake of the Rough Trade classic “All Touch (No Contact).”
After doing a few live dates to promote the album, she for the most part kept out of the limelight again until returning for the next few years, returning with LANDFALL in 2011. A demo of the first single, “Shining Path” had actually began circulating on the Internet as early as December, 2009. But when the album was finally complete, the explicit lyrics in “Shining Path” in particular had been somewhat sanitized, though the album was still edgey in “Did I Mention,” the commentative “God=Love,” and “Tell Me.”
Recorded in New York and Toronto, the album also featured a star cast in co-writers and cameos from Tim Welch, bassist Rob Preuss, Hawksley Workman and Ray Colbun (Honeymoon Suite, as well as a duet with Rufus Wainwright on the title track.