“Are you sitting comfortably? …. Then we’ll begin … “
After sending a 7 song demo to David Tickle, of Peter Gabriel and Split Enz fame, the band was told it was basically a ‘now or never situation’ if they wanted to work with him due to his hectic schedule. They met up within a week and after a mere sixteen days, a 6 song self-titled mini-lp was released to the radio market in the fall of ’83. “Doesn’t Really Matter” and “Standing In The Dark” became instant radio staples, riding the wave of the young, free-wheeling new-wave sound of the time. Despite originally being tagged as a teeny-bopper band, the talent was clear. Four more songs were added and STANDING IN THE DARK, their official debut album, instantly went gold when it hit the shelves in 1984. Their finely polished keyboards-oriented sound, marked by “Sad Sad Rain” and “Not In Love” helped cement SITD as one of Canadian pop’s biggest-selling debut albums of all-time, going triple platinum. The tour that ensued took them to all four corners of the globe, and saw the hiring of Scottish-born keyboardist Kenny McLean, formerly of The Suspects, The Next, and most recently The Deserters.
Part of the group’s magnetism came from the slick work done on their videos, helping them enjoy what almost sometimes seemed like endless plugs on Much Music, as well as fitting in nicely in the rotations with Mtv and the European video stations, summed up best with “Video Disease”. Quick to capitalize on their upstart success, the group released ALIEN SHORES in the summer of ’85, just as “Not In Love” was fading off the charts. The addition of McLean on keyboards and relief bass duties allowed Holmes the time to expand his direct input into the band direction, leading to his co-production of the new album with Eddy Offord. The ‘elbow room’ also helped expand the band’s sound, including the lead-off single, “Situation Critical”.
“Crying Over You”, “Hungry Eyes”, and “Somebody Somewhere” helped put to rest the thought the band was a one-album wonder like so many of their contemporaries of the day. Gali’s guitar-work became more predominant on stage, while still maintaing the slick sound in the studios, practically owning the AM market again. With guest appearances by Alex Lifeson of Rush and Lisa Dalbello, Platinum Blonde instantly earned the respect of some of the industry’s biggest names, all the while selling 400,000 copies.
CONTACT was released early in 1987 and it was immediately evident the band was trying to get away from the cutesy monicor. A harder edge was felt on such songs as “If You Go This Time”, the title-track, “Connect Me”. The band also payed tribute to their roots with the remake of The Ohio Players’ “Fire”, complimented by guest appearances by some of the members of the band themselves. CONTACT also saw the departure of drummer Steffler, who was replaced by Tony Thompson of Power Station fame. Again an all-star supporting cast was assembled, including Peter Fredette of Kim Mitchell fame and Eddie Martinez.
Unfortunately conflicts between the band and the execs at CBS caused the breakup of the band in ’88. Holmes and company resurfaced two years later after changing their name to simply The Blondes. The new album, YEAH YEAH YEAH, released on the independant Justin Records Label, felt the full force of the fickle radio audiences. The maturity shown in such songs as the title track failed to catch on with the same audience they’d previously been tailored to, while also finding out the hard way the same people that listened before were now tuned into a grungier sound.
The band folded in 1992 but BEST OF LIVE, a … you guessed it … live retrospective … captured the group’s stage presence and showed another side of one of Canada’s most dynamic, although be it short lived groups. A resurgance in the group’s popularity, brought on by the ‘growing up’ of the same teeny-boppers, ushered in SEVEN YEAR ITCH in ’99. A collection of hits over their three record career, the album clearly marks Platinum Blonde as not only one of the country’s finest upstart talents, but legitimate world-class acts whose videos, records and live shows not only helped cement their mark in the annals of Canadian rock, but made a definite dent on the world scene as well.
Continued interest caused Holmes to reform a version of the band at the turn of the year. They hit the road again, playing to crowds the world-over again as they ride the current ’80s revival trend. Over the next decade or so, they continued regrouping for small tours and the outdoor festival circuit while continuing to do their own projects.
In 2009, Maclean died after suffering a heart attack.