Here you will find Gord's writings about the history of the band.
August 26 2012 - Entry#11 - Black Lights & Glow Sticks
It was time to bring some show back to our live performances and we started to play with some ideas for stage props. It had been a long time since fog machines and flash pots. I'd always been mesmerized by the use of black lights, as I'd seen on the cover of the Genesis Live album when I was younger. I remember Bret and I going to a tiny place in Yorkville called the Electric Gallery, which featured strange and clever works of modern art using various light fixtures and mirrors. We were on a young band's budget, so we ingeniously came up with some very simple ideas of our own.
One idea involved stretching lengths of white yarn between wooden slats. The strings were spaced about six inches apart and the slats cut in various sizes. Anyway, by nailing one slat to the floor and the other to the ceiling (which we could easily do at the Edge and the Hideaway), we stretched the strings tight and lit the whole thing with long black light tubes in boxes we had built. Voila, poor man's lasers. When we had multiples of these on the stage, crisscrossing at different angles, the effect was pretty stunning. And all for about twenty dollars.
As we started to be regulars in the Toronto music scene, building a small following, our fans came to expect a bit of stage production. Our old drummer Peter one day surprised us with an elaborate effect he'd been working on in his basement. Just as ingenious as our cheap lasers, he'd taken cords of Christmas lights and put them into the long, flexible six-inch tubing he'd bought at a hardware store. When he hung them, like robotic tentacles all over the stage and plugged the lights into a small sequencer he'd built from scratch, the result was like a scene from the space ship Nostromo in the Alien movie. Once he got those tubes pulsating it looked like a million bucks.
One effect didn't work out so well. Always searching for something new, we came up with the idea of hanging long tubes of fluorescent fluid by thin wires from the stage ceiling. Lit by the black lights, the effect would be amazing. Just think of the glow sticks you see at concerts and sports events. Half way through a show one night at Larry's Hideaway, we discovered that fluorescent liquid has a funny way of expanding under hot lights. You guessed it, the tubes started exploding one by one, splattering their oily contents all over us. End of that bright idea.
Somewhere during all this experimentation, our first mannequin made her appearance. The guys from Red Shoes Magazine had formed a small record label. The timeline is a little vague, but we had started to bring a female mannequin on stage with us and their label was called Mannequin Records. Not exactly sure which came first, but it was the beginning of an image that would work its way in and out of Spoons marketing throughout the years. The actual mannequin eventually stopped showing up at shows, but the mannequin head image would continue to appear on many of our early gig posters. When she returned in 2010 on our Imperfekt cd cover, it was totally by surprise. No-one had planned it. She just showed up.
Larry's Hideaway poster with mannequin
November 12 2012 - Entry#12 - Nova Heart
I continued writing, searching for something that would take us to that elusive, next level. I was becoming less inspired by the Talking Heads of the world and getting more and more excited about the new British keyboard based bands. One night in 1981 would change everything.
Stick Figure Neighbourhood had gained us some respect at the college radio level, but I always thought we could strive for something a bit more grandiose and sophisticated; more of what Sandy and I had accomplished in our progressive rock days, but with the new wave elements, like the drum machine, thrown in. A band on Martha and the Muffin's label, Virgin records, was playing a small club in Hamilton, an ex strip joint turned new music venue. Some lads from England called Orchestral Maneuvers In The Dark that I'd heard a little about.
Our Daughter's Wedding "Moving Windows"
I remember finding my spot at the rail on the balcony overlooking the small stage, not quite sure what to expect. An electro pop group from the States called Our Daughter's Wedding opened the show, all synths and drum machines. Just an appetizer. Then OMD took the stage and I was held mesmerized for the next hour. Enola Gay, Electricity, so many great songs lodged themselves in my brain. Here was a band that embodied all the elements I envisioned for the Spoons and produced a sound that was as big and grand as I thought we could be. They also combined drum machine with real drums, which I thought worked much better than machines all by themselves. I didn't know it yet, but this would become the model for the next Spoons recordings.
OMD "Architecture and Morality"
I'm not sure how much I slept that night, but early next day I wrote Nova Heart, No Electrons and Blow Away. I can't remember if I already had Rob's old Elka electric piano or if I grabbed it from him that morning, but it seemed the perfect place for me to begin. No guitar for miles. I can still picture myself sitting on the floor with the early day sun streaming through the sheer curtains like a blank slate to compose against, the music just pouring out of me. I had found the direction for the next Spoons record, pretty well over night. When I showed my keyboard ideas for Nova Heart to Rob, he said that they were so simple he would never have thought of them. I would take that as a compliment. Simple but hooky would be my mantra.
The lyrics for Nova Heart were in part inspired by a paperback I'd found in my father's trusty, old library at the cottage. Always keen on science fiction, I was hooked on anything by Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clark. Clark' s best seller Childhood's End played with the idea of a kind of universal oneness we all become part of in the end. It's very spiritual in its concept, with an intergalactic, sic-fi spin on it. I used that idea to lay out all the inventions and creations of our world - the works of all our architects and gentlemen - and show how they are, no matter how noble, just a side show to something much bigger and better. You could still call it a love song if you want, just one that's all encompassing, universal and very big.
Everyone in the band was excited about the new direction. I think even my father commented on the improved sounds emanating from our upstairs rehearsal room. We'd come a long way from Kitti Litter Beach. We quickly recorded a demo of Nova Heart and another song I'd written called Symmetry at a little studio in Oakville, Ontario called Soundpath. The engineer there, Rick Lightheart, would become our go to guy for all our demos there after. Once completed, Carl immediately got to work. There was an urgency about things. We finally had something worth putting our necks on the line for, internationally speaking.
Through Larry Carlton at our distributor Quality Records, the demo would soon catch the ear of British producer John Punter, who'd made some amazing records with Roxy Music and Japan. He just happened to be in Canada for a Nazerath tour and Larry slipped our tape into his pocket. As fate would have it, within the year we'd not only be making records with John, but we'd also be touring with Orchestral Maneuvers, the original catalyst for our new found creativity. A better script couldn't have been written.