Scott Smith memorial
The band’s roots stem back to 1979 when guitarist Paul Dean, originally from Calgary, and Edmonton-native drummer Matt Frennette left Streetheart and moved to the west coast. After a brief stint with a band Brian MacLeod was putting together as a sideline to Chilliwack (The Headpins) – Frennette’s path crossed with Dean’s again, when they met up with singer Mike Reno (real name Mike Rynoski) – ex Moxy singer, in Vancouver – and Loverboy was born.
Along with Doug Johnson on keyboards (fresh off a stint with Fosterchild) and bassist Scott Smith they began doing the BC circuit and were signed to Columbia Records later that year. They released their self-titled debut in the summer of 1980. The timing couldn’t have been better for a simple yet slick approach to radio-friendly pop to have been on the scene. Dismissed by some as soft-core punk, others blasted them for being nothing more than teeny-bopper pleasers dressed in tight leather pants. Like them or not, if you lived in Canada in the ’80’s, you knew Loverboy. Backed by the singles “The Kid Is Hot Tonight” (co-written by Headpins‘ drummer Bernie Aubin) and “Turn Me Loose”, and the “much more than filler” “Lady of the ’80’s” and”DOA”, the album quickly went gold – then double platinum.
GET LUCKY came out a year later and further cemented their name in the foundations of Canadian pop. “Working For The Weekend”, “Lucky Ones” and “Jump” showed the sheer force of Dean‘s fret-work while tight ballads like “When It’s Over” demonstrated the group’s ability to shift gears and churn out well-written ballads. The combination quickly made it two gold records in a row. By this time Loverboy was being heard coast to coast and was getting some exposure in the US as well. Regional gigs had long since been turned in for national tours.
KEEP IT UP hit the shelves in ’83. Backed by the singles “Queen Of The Broken Hearts” and “Hot Girls In Love”, it had a solid core of well-written tracks that again gave Loverboy gold. More constant touring saw them in Europe and Japan as well as every corner of North America. By now the group’s brand of radio punk-pop was well-known and well-received by the masses, but still didn’t make much of an impression on the critics.
LOVIN’ EVERY MINUTE OF IT was released in early ’85 and contained some of the group’s heaviest riffs. Backed by the title track written by Mutt Lange (best known world-wide as the producer of such platinum successes as AC/DC’s BACK IN BLACK and Def Leppard’s HYSTERIA, but simply known in Canada as the lucky bastard that snagged Shania), the record also drove home the heavier than usual message with “Steal The Thunder”. Their maturity in the studio shone with “This Could Be The Night”. Co-written by Johnathon Cain of Journey, it was their oblligatory radio I love you-the sky is blue ballad. “Dangerous”, written by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance was the third single released. Though the band was still touring constantly and the album was their fourth straight gold record, the public’s perception of them was beginning to change. In short, Loverboy’s audience was outgrowing them.
The group took some time off after the subsequent world tour and by the release of WILDSIDE in 1987, they realized they were caught on the downhill slide of a music revolution, finding themselves squeezed out of the market by more sophisticated elder statesmen and hungrier young acts. Behind the controls for the fifth straight time was Bruce Fairbairn. Supported by the hit “Notorious” co-written by Richie Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi, “Walkin’ On Fire” and “Don’t Keep Me in The Dark”, the record was pushed gold. After a final gig in London with Def Leppard that summer, Loverboy took what they thought at the time would be a brief hiatus.
The group didn’t appear together again until 1989 when they reunited for a Brian “Too Loud” MacLeod benefit show in BC. The reception given them, plus CBS’ release of BIG ONES, a cheezy best of package with two new tracks, “Too Hot” and “Ain’t Looking For Love”, prompted them to hit the road again and toured most of western Canada.
Outside interests tho soon found the members again going their seperate ways. The time off afforded Dean the opportunity to cut his first solo record, HARDCORE. Backed by the Paul Stanley/Bruce Kulick “Sword and Stone” and the remake of Streetheart‘s “Action”, it too went gold.Reno went into the studios as well at the beginning of the decade. After recording a number of tracks in LA with a plethora of guest artists which included David Foster, the album was shelved at the last minute by industry politics.
1995 saw Dean release his second solo effort MACHINE, the same year that Reno put out his first solo record, JUST IF I. Except for the occasional benefit show, Loverboy wouldn’t resurface until ’96, with the release of VI. Johnson left the group midway and was replaced by Richie Sera, who’d worked before with Kim Mitchell, Tom Cochrane and Sue Medley. Re-tooled and ready for a second run at the top, the new sound showed maturity in the writing, adding new dimensions with a strong contingent of cellos in “Secrets”, and acoustics with “Maybe Someday”. “Tortured” and “Big Picture” were also noteable cuts, as was “Hair Of The Dog”, and a reworking of “Bitch You” from Dean’s solo lp, MACHINE.
Originally only available at the band’s concerts and thru a 1-800 number, VI is now available internationally in the stores. The group started out doing fairs and small gigs but worked their way up in support of the new record opening in arenas for the likes of ZZ Top. Dean released his third solo record in ’97, with BLACKSTONE, which featured cameos by, among others, Reno. Reno’s original solo attempt found its way on to the shelves in ’03 on an independent label when RENOVATION was released.
On December 2, 2000, the rock world was saddened with the announced death of Scott Smith following a tragic boating accident off the coast of California. The band picked up the pieces the next spring when they hired Spider Sinnaeve, who Dean and Frennette had both played with in Streetheart.