In the aftermath of the initial upheaval in the Canadian music scene, (especially in the Toronto area) caused by the “punk” movement, a number of groups who would be categorized as Canadian New Wave became prominent. Ironically, it was primarily these acts, rather than the punk rock musicians, who would have commercial success and who would reap the benefits of the opportunities the new music styles created.
One of the Canadian groups that rose to prominence in this genre was a darling of the Queen Street West scene, "Boys Brigade". The group was formed in 1981 around Malcolm Burn (vocals and keyboards) and Tony Lester (vocals and guitar). Completing the lineup was bassist Wayne Lorenz, drummer Billie Brock, and David Porter and Jeff Packer as backing vocalists and percussionists. The band hooked up with an enterprising booking agent who not only was successful at getting the band into the usual clubs on Queen Street, but was also able to get them into Queen Street venues such as the Rex Hotel, places that at the time were not known for live music. The band continued working on their sound and on writing original material, and they submitted a song in a competition being held by one of Toronto’s bigger rock FM radio stations. This effort was successful, and the song “Mannequin” was included in the 1981 “Homegrown” compilation album released by Q 107.
The band built upon their success and eventually Geddy Lee of Rush fame agreed to produce their initial self titled album, after having heard them. Interestingly, Malcolm Burn, who would later go on to work extensively with noted Canadian producer Daniel Lanois, and who himself would have great international success as a producer and engineer, said in a 2004 interview that while his wish was for Lanois to produce the band's first album, their manager of the time, along with other band members, were not interested. Of course, Lanois would go onto to working quite successfully with other Canadian New Wave acts of the time such as the Parachute Club and Martha and The Muffins.
In 1983 the band’s self titled debut, “Boys Brigade” was released in Canada on Anthem records (and in the US on Capitol). One of the singles from the album, “Melody” enjoyed chart success, especially in the Toronto market. There was also a video created to support the song, which was great exposure for the band with advent of the MuchMusic video channel. The band would hit the road for a couple of years, but by 1985 had everyone decided to go their separate ways.
“Melody”, with its spoken word verse and keyboard textures serves as a fitting to tribute to one of our lesser known Canadian groups form the early 1980’s.