Neil Sheppard

A native of Montreal, Neil Ship’s foray into the entertainment industry began as a teen, when in 1960 he scored a recording deal with Columbia in their New York office.

Under the stage name of Neil Sheppard, he recorded the single “Beyond the Shadow of a Doubt,” and although it failed to go anywhere, he continued working for Columbia for several years, gaining experience in all facets of the business.

In ’68 he was looking for a band to record some songs he’d written, and the logical choice was the remnants of The Scene, one of Montreal’s most promising new groups, which had recently broken up. He’d already written and produced their single a year earlier, “Scenes From Another World” b/w “You’re In A Bad Way,” and had been friends with the band’s frontman Barry Albert for several years. He also helped land them a recording deal for that single with BT Puppy Records label.

Sheppard’s younger brother Michael was brought in on keyboards and vocals, and despite practically no stage time together as an actual playing group, Life spent several months at Montreal’s Stereo Sound Studios, culminating in a couple of singles in the summer of ’69 – a cover of The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Hands Of The Clock.” Although Albert left the group, both singles did well enough to warrant a full album, produced and predominantly written by Sheppard. He also guested on a piano on a couple of tracks, and the album produced another pair of singles over the next six months – Predominantly written by Sheppard, who also served as producer, and with slick production for its time, the lp becane a future cult hit with the fuse guitar enthroned cover of Terry Reid’s “Lovin’ Time”, the haunting “Needing You” complete with strings arrangement, the two-part instrumental “Lifetime,” and a cover of The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Also involved in the making of the album was Andre Perry, later instrumental in John & Yoko’s Montreal ‘Bed In.’

The band capitalized on its success, and played its biggest concert in its short run that summer at the very first Montreal Bi-Cultural Pop Festival, headlined by Steppenwolf. Incidentally, it was the first time a local group played a major show at the Montreal Forum. “Sweet Lovin'” b/w “Desire” was on the airwaves by November, but failed to match the success of its predecessor.

Even so, that didn’t stop Polydor from releasing the album throughout North America and Europe, including Germany. There, “Sweet Lovin’s” sleeve featured Zimmerman’s wife, Lorraine Neid, who’d sang on the reocrdings and by this point had become a full member.

But the band was operating without an official full-time manager, and by this point things were coming apart at the seam, and the end came when Simon moved Stateside. Lauzon followed soon after, both joining gospel rocker Mylon Lefevre. Before long, Simon moved to the UK to work with Brian Eno, Mick Jagger, and Jimmy Page, among others, and also wrote for Celine Dion’s early French career, and became a member of SOCAN’s board of directors. Lauzon bounced around in a few groups before getting out of the business altogether. Zimmerman joined Face To Face, then Vision, then also got out of the business.

After the band’s demise, Sheppard worked in the UK for awhile, before moving to the US, where he worked with a number of artists, including Tim Hardin and The Razors Edge. His songs have also been recorded over the years by the likes of Long John Baldry, Gene Pitney, Herbie Mann, Fatback, The Montanas, The Love Symphony Orchestra, and The Everly Brothers. He also contributed to the Beatles homage album, FLABBY ROAD in the late ’90s, writing and performing “You Can’t Go Far Without A Guitar (Unless You’re Ringo Starr).” He also got into film and TV production work over the years.