One of Vancouver’s most prolific new wave groups, Images In Vogue was formed in the spring of 1981 by Don Gordon (guitar, synthesizers) and Gary Smith (bass, guitar, synthesizers). Feeling their present group Pin-ups had run its course after not getting any bites from some demos they’d shopped around, they decided to pursue a more electronic synthesized sound. Gary Johnson, Pin-ups frontman was initially the singer while they began developing their sound.
Kevin Crompton (acoustic & electronic percussion and later going by the name of Kevin Cey), ex of the punk band Illegal Youth, answered an ad they’d placed looking for like-minded musicians, and was soon joined by Joe Vizvary, an ex- UBC grad who was toiling in several bands including NV) on synthesizers. They rehearsed and wrote material while keeping their day jobs, pooled their resources, bought some gear, and paid for studio time at Bullfrog Studios in Vancouver.
“Anxiety Reaction,” a Pin-ups song reworked to suit the new sound, and “Politics of Sound” (written while Vizvary was with NV) were released to club DJs around Vancouver, and that September, they recorded five more tracks that also received good reviews when the demos were released.
With good buzz about the band running around town, they made their live debut that September at The Viking Hall with Moev, also making performing in front of an audience for the first time. Playing only their own music, the event was as much a fashion show as it was a concert, an opportunity for everyone to help develop Vancouver’s new post-punk era underground scene.
With a few saved dollars and even more that were borrowed, they laid down some tracks a month later at Water Street Studios with its manager, Christopher-John Davy. Soon after they also had their first manager, a DJ from Luv-a-Fair, one of the hottest clubs in town, named Kim Champniss. By January ’82 new singer Dale Martindale, a native of Chilliwack and Emily Carr School of Art student, was on board and at Mushroom Studios to add the vocal tracks to the demos they’d already recorded. A six song demo turned into a full album that was shopped around while the band was opening for Depeche Mode on their first North American tour.
Unable to land a deal they liked, the band released an independent three track EP that spring simply dubbed PRE-RELEASE. “Breaking Up” became the first single, and although only 500 copies were pressed, it turned out to be good strategy to send it to college radio stations across Canada and the US, where word of mouth helped spread the band’s message. They embarked on their first actual tour in August ’82, which spanned from Cache Creek, BC to Edmonton, where they opened for Long John Baldry. Soon after, Glen Nelson was added to the line-up on guitars and keyboards.
While working on new material that fall, they released the five-track EDUCATED MAN EP, featuring a new version of “Breaking Up.” A live version recorded shortly afterwards on the “Vancouver” TV show became the band’s first official video.
They spent the first four months of 1983 touring across Canada, and as they made their way east, record companies took notice of the raving live reviews they were getting while opening for Depeche Mode again. They signed with WEA Canada and were opening for Roxy Music on a second tour of the country later that year that saw them jump from playing in front of a few hundred people to playing the coliseiums in Vancouver and Edmonton. But while everything looked positive inside the band’s ranks, the reality was that tensions with musical directions were tearing the band apart, forcing members to vent creative steam in outside projects. One of those was Crompton’s side project, Skinny Puppy.
The band was back at Mushroom that September recording their first EP for WEA. A self-titled EP produced “Lust For Love” as their first top 40 hit on Canadian radio. This in turn quickly prompted label execs to take advantage of their visual style and produce a video for the song, produced by Doug & The Slugs‘ Doug Bennett, which got good airplay on MuchMusic. Another Canadian tour ensued, this in time opening for Duran Duran. Around the same time “Just For You” became the second single from the EP. But with tensions continually growing, Don Gordon left after the single’s release. He eventually formed a new group called Numb and was replaced with Ed Shaw. Later that year, they were on the short list at CFNY Toronto’s U-Know Awards, taking home a pair of trophies for Most Promising Group and Most Promising Male Singer.
On WEA execs’ insistance, their next trip to the studio was with Gary Wright (“Dream Weaver”) in Los Angeles, since he was a pioneer of all-keyboard music. But as production plodded along much slower than the band was used to and a week or two stretched into nearly five full months, members got antsy and returned home, with only Vizvary staying ’til the end. By now Crompton was working on a Skinny Puppy album and Shaw and Nelson were getting Danspeak off the ground. Unable to gain consensus on whether or not the sessions with Wright were good enough, they asked WEA to not release the tentative album.
The label decided to recoup some of the recording costs by releasing a single, “Rescue Me” from those sessions, unbeknownst to the band and against their wishes. In retaliation, they re-recorded some of the material and convinced the label to release four of their own picks as the extended b-side of a 12″. Although it wasn’t an official single, “Call It Love” became a top 10 hit in Vancouver and made the top 40 in several other pockets across the country, better than “Rescue Me.” The RITUALS EP, featuring both those tracks, was released in November ’84.
But by the time 1985 was underway there were serious problems between the band and WEA, who opted not to promote RITUALS, and within the band itself. Everyone was off doing their own projects, and Champniss was also getting frustrated managing the group, who were fired from a gig in Victoria that spring for taking up too much space, before the doors were even opened, and even though they didn’t even have a stage to play on. Champniss quit his managerial role and although WEA’s arm in France wanted to release a 12″ of “Call It Love,” the label still wouldn’t finance an official video, so some live footage of the group on a Victoria TV show sufficed, against the band’s wishes.
With members paying for remixing themselves, the bulk of the Gary Wright sessions was finally released as the IN YOUR HOUSE album in ’86, which also featured one new song, “King’s Service.” The subsequent tour lasted for four months, climaxed by a live appearance at CFNY Toronto’s CASBY Awards (previously the U-Know Awards), and then a month later back in Vancouver for an Aid for Ethiopia concert with Grapes of Wrath.
But when WEA again refused to finance a video that summer for the next single, “Save It,” the band parted company with them, and decided a change of pace was in order, so they moved to Toronto. Outside projects were again taking precedence and Crompton, who suggested the move to Toronto, stayed behind to concentrate on Skinny Puppy full-time. He was replaced by Shaw’s old bandmate from The Instructions and Strange Advance, Derrick Gyles.
1986 carried on with sporadic but sold-out shows on their own and with Strange Advance and a Juno nomination for Most Promising Group followed, despite now being without a major label deal or an official manager. To make matters worse, the road crew had only agreed to go to Toronto for a month or so, and now it was going on three. Still, they continued touring around the GTA, and after signing with Quality Records, began preparations to record a new album with Dee Long of Klaatu.
But Quality cancelled the deal only a few months later, and when Long backed out after only a couple of sessions due to other commitments, they enlisted the services of producers Kerry Crawford and Jonathon Goldsmith, after label brass was unhappy with the work John Switzer was doing. It took four recording sessions over the next seven months to finish. The result was THE SPELL (which they considered changing their name to until finding out an Australian band was already using it), released in February of ’88, which produced the single and video for “So Careful.” Other noteable tracks included “One Hand Cleanses” – referring to the band’s annoyance at how the focus of the album shifted from their vision to the label’s every time they were in the studio, “Like a Fool,” and “I Saw The Man.”
Following some short tours around Canada, founding member Gary Smith left, and again the band’s future remained uncertain. They carried on part-time over the next couple of years while everyone also kept themselves busy with other projects. Their final concert was at Toronto’s Opera House in November 1991.
In ’94 they intended to release an album of extended versions of their hits and rarities, called COLLECTION. But Anthem added ‘BEST OF’ to the title, even though the single versions of “Call It Love,” “In The House,” Save It,” and “Educated Man” weren’t included. It did however include “Nothing Stays” from the Dee Long sessions, as well as “Grapevine” – scrapped from the band’s first trips to the recording studio in 1982.
In ’02 the band reunited in Toronto for a gig at The Opera House, and again at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom two years later. That show was in part to celebrate the release of their second compilation album, called COLLECTION VERSION 2.0 – CHRONOLOGY. Nineteen tracks in all, it featured several previously unreleased gems from various stages of their tenure – “Travel,” “Quiet Room,” “Look Me In The Eye,” “Someday,” and “Piece of Your Heart.”
A third compilation two years later saw even more rarities come to light, with COLLECTION VERSION 3 – EVOLUTION. Again previously unreleased tracks highlighted the album, including “Victimize,” “Flashing Back,” “S & M,” and “Worlds of Noise,” as well as an alternate version of “Talking To Myself” and the video versions of “In The House” and “So Careful.”
Feeling the buying public hadn’t had enough rarities and remixes yet, they released PROTOTYPES in 2010. Along with “Masks” (recorded live at the PNE Coliseum in Vancouver) and “Anxiety Reaction (recorded at the Luv-a-fair in Vancouver), it featured demos and original recordings that never made it off the cutting room floor of some of their biggest hits, including “Strangers,” “Promised Land,” and “Holiday.”