Riding the crest of the Canadian new wave movement in the early 1980s, The Spoons came from Burlington, Ontario. The original group was formed in ’79 while they attended Aldershot High School by singer/guitarist Gordon Deppe, bassist Sandy Horne, and Brett Wickens on keyboards, adding friend Peter Shepherd on drums shortly thereafter.
Paul Abrahams agreed to be their manager, but within only a few months Shepherd left and was replaced on drums by Derek Ross. They recorded their first single “After The Institution” and its b-side “My Job,” and released only 1,000 copies on Mannequin Records, a label Abrahams had set up with Wickens. Although the single made no impact on the charts and only slightly more of an impression with radio execs, the band became a mainstay on the Toronto area circuit, and gained the attention of reps from several record labels.
They settled on a deal with Ready Records, but while getting ready to record their debut album, Wickens left to form the short-lived Ceramic Hello in 1981, and then worked with other groups on his and Abrahams’ Mannequin label, including Kinetic Ideals. After selling his half of the company, Wickens eventually became a graphic designer for a San Fransisco firm, working on several album covers.
With new keyboardist Rob Preuss (only 15 at the time and a fan of the group), STICK FIGURE NEIGHBOURHOOD was on the shelves later that year, which garnered alot of attention from AM and college radio stations, despite not having an actual single. The title track, the lead-off “Conventional Beliefs,” “Capitol Hill,” and “Friends In The Media” all had the danceable new wave sound down to a ‘t’ and helped land them the opening slot on some of the hottest concert tickets across Canada, including The Police, Simple Minds, and Orchestral Manoevres in the Dark. The album is also notable for being one of the earliest new wave albums engineered by Daniel Lanois.
They landed a distribution deal with A&M, and flew to London to work with producer John Punter at Air Studios for their follow-up, with additional recording at Toronto’s Sounds Interchange Studio. They released ARIAS AND SYMPHONIES in the fall of ’82, which contained their break-out single and first video, “Nova Heart,” and the b-side “Symmetry,” which wasn’t on the lp. “Nova Heart” cracked the Canadian top 40, and was followed by the title track reaching #18, and then “Smiling in Winter,” which peaked at #30. Three gold singles helped get the band onto the opening slots on tours with Culture Club, Simple Minds, and The Police. Although they could have extended the nearly year on the road, they chose instead to limit the live appearances, and signed an advertising campaign with Thrifty’s clothing store chain instead.
Production legend Nile Rodgers (David Bowie, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Diana Ross, Duran Duran, and a million others) saw the band playing in New York in the spring of ’83, and after meeting them, agreed to work with them on their next album. On the shelves later that year, TALK BACK produced a pair of single that charted, with “Old Emotions” and “The Rhythm” both making the top 30 at home. The title track was released in early ’84, but to the record label’s disappointment, there was still no breakthrough on the American or international charts.
They recorded the soundtrack to the movie, “Listen To The City,” which partially used established Spoons material, as well as some new songs written specifically for the movie. Horne also landed a supporting role in the film. Ready Records meanwhile released the singles, “Tell No Lies,” b/w “White Lies.” Within a few months those two songs were released as an EP along with “Romantic Traffic,” which became the band’s second video. That song was then released again as a 45 with “Theme For A City,” from the “Listen To The City” soundtrack. These tracks showed an evolution in the band’s song, complimented by the addition of a horn section that featured Phil Poppa and Tony Carlucci on saxophone and trumpet respectively.
But the label was in financial trouble, and closed its doors before the end of the year, leaving the band in hiatus. Ross left to become an accountant, which eventually led to the co-president position of Flood Ross Enterprises. Preuss meanwhile went on to work with several acts, including TBA, Perfect World, and Honeymoon Suite, and eventually got into the musical theatre field, taking a job in Toronto, then in New York as a musical director for the Wintergarden Theater.
They teamed up with new manager Ray Danniels (SRO Management), and got a new deal with Anthem Records. They recruited new drummer Steve Kendry and Scott MacDonald took over on keyboards, and went into Toronto’s Phase One Studio with new producer Tom Treumeth. Shedding the horn section, they released BRIDGES OVER BORDERS in the spring of ’85, with music that had matured and evolved. The synthesized new wave now leaned more to guitar/keyboard oriented pop, and the title track was released as the first single, followed by “Be Alone Tonight,” “Rodeo,” and the title track. Most of the songs had been written a couple of years earlier and road tested, and the title track had actually morphed from more than one earlier song, “In The Hands Of Money,” and “Cool Life.” Colin Cripps was brought on as second guitar and sax to round out the live sound, and also appeared in the video for “Rodeo.”
For VERTIGO TANGO in 1988, they travelled to Wales, and reunited with producer John Punter, who, to some degree, gave the band its edgiest album to date. It was a hit with the critics as well as the fans, and three singles were released – “When Time Turns Around,” “Waterline,” and “Sooner Or Later.” But only “Waterline,” an introspective ballad, made it into the top 50.
With sales faltering, the band took a break for awhile to allow Horne, now married, to raise a family, and for the members to go off and do other projects. Deppe formed several short-lived groups over the next few years, including Punch House, Thread, and Beyond 7. Horne also was a musical chamelon, forming a classic rock cover band called The Big Chill to keep herself busy, as well as recording albums with Amaris and Dog Won’t Bite. They reunited several times over the next decade with various ensemble casts, while MCA issued the compilation album COLLECTIBLE SPOONS in ’94.
By the mid ’00s, Deppe and Horne had officially reformed the band part-time, and in 2006 MuchMusic released the DVD called SPOONS LIVE IN CONCERT, filmed in Toronto in 1982 and Montreal in 1984. Less than a year later the band released UNEXPECTED GUEST AT A CANCELLED PARTY, a collection of previously nreleased material recorded between ’82 and ’85. Incidentally, the album also got its name from the instrumental b-side to “Talk Back” nearly a quarter of a century earlier. In 2008 Ready Records was resurrected, putting out a new greatest hits package, LIMITED EDITION in 2008, in essence replacing MCA’s 1994 compilation that had been discontinued.
In 2010, Deppe and Horne, along with keyboardist Stephen Sweeney and Chris McNeill on drums, released a special two-song CD at a special concert in Toronto. “Imperfekt” and “Breaking” was limited to only 100 copies, and was the first new material from the two in over two decades. Produced by Jeff Carter, the full album STATIC IN TRANSMISSION was released in March 2011, with the first single “You Light Up” following shortly thereafter.
To keep themselves busy, Deppe became a music programmer for Galaxie, specializing in the ’80s, and also started up a pair of sideline bands, Five Star Fall and The Lost Boys. Horne meanwhile began performing and touring with First Nations artist Shannon Thunderbird. Scott Macdonald eventually got out of music all together, and became a teacher in Hamilton from ’98 to 2001, then moved to Asia where he continued teaching. Derrick Ross got into the business side of music, where he eventually became the VP of EMI Music Canada.