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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Richard Citroen remembers Hamilton's The Loved Ones

The Loved Ones and Me

by Richard Citroen (c)2009 SOCAN

This is my account of my time Hamilton legends, The Loved Ones.
While this account might not be 100% historically accurate, this is how I remember it.....

I guess it all started for me in early 1977, when I, a 17 year old high school student and aspiring drummer, went to the local A&A Records in Burlington looking to buy a new album with my hard won allowance to add to my record collection.

This record collection was in itself a fairly alarming. My earlier interest in early 70's glam rock like T.Rex had somewhere along the way given way to grim horrors like Rush's live album, Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, and other abominations like Yes' Close To The Edge album.

Sure, there was Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti, a couple of Mott The Hoople things, Spark's Kimono My House and some other good things, including some rather good promo albums from my ex-musician/manager/concert promoter/booking agent father's days working for NEMS (The Beatles organization) in the late 60's, but in the main,
it was horrible.

For instance, the only Bowie album I owned at the time wasn't even one of the good ones.
It was the dreaded Young Americans!

So after spending a fair amount of time at the record store, the closest thing to anything that interested me was an album by Foghat. God knows why I bought it, but I did. I got it home and put it on and as their turgid version of "Take Me To The River" filled my suburban rec room, I looked at the alarming number of beards on the album cover and the rest of my sorry record collection and thought to myself, there's got to be something better than....this!

Similarly, I was equally dissatisfied with who I was playing with at the time.

I'd been playing drums since I was 12, and I'd done some fairly dubious things. I'd done the silly KISS army thing with my first band of school pals. We'd done a Halloween gig in a church hall, playing stuff like BTO's "Takin' Care Of Business" and a particularly wretched version of Uriah Heep's "Sunrise" that sounded more like Billy Bragg than the 'Heep. Add to this the fact that we were wearing KISS makeup, and you can imagine how well we went over...

I'd also flirted with "progressive rock", playing with a guy who sometimes wore a kimono, but the attitude of most of the players in that scene (some of whom fancied themselves rotten) got on my nerves, plus my disinterest in replicating the Bill Bruford drumming style with umpteen time changes while singing about Hobbits meant that it really wasn't a fit for me. I mean dressing up like a flower? Oh please....

Eventually I opted for a more straight ahead approach, which suited me better, but after playing with pretty much every "hot" guitar player in town that owned a pair of platform shoes, I realized that I was getting nowhere.

One of the problems for me was that a lot of these guys were merely dabbling. Rich kids with expensive equipment, just killing time before going to law school or wherever, which was something that my father had warned me about. He would say things like "If music is what you really want to do, you shouldn't waste your time with people who are going to run home to their mums when things get tough. This lot wouldn't last 5 minutes in London." etc.

He also tried to tell me, after seeing some of the grizzly combos I would play with, that while it wasn't the be all and end all, it WAS important to get the visual image right and always have at least one or two good looking guys in the band. "That way girls will come come to your shows, and before you know it, the boys will come too, because they know that the girls will be there." Naturally, I thought that this was just old fashioned nonsense, especially since at the time I was playing with 3 guys, two of whom wore glasses and the other a beard, but of course dad turned out to be right...

Another problem for me was, no matter who I was playing with, good or bad (and I'd had plenty of both) was at some point, usually half through the proceedings, we would have a bash at somebody's dreadful "original", which was generally either a ballad or something John Denver would have rejected as being too corny. More importantly, these songs had nothing whatsoever to do with the other rocking songs that had come before it. I would say things like "Oh very nice. That one's got real potential" while groaning inwardly. Obviously I couldn't keep doing this, so I thought to myself, sod this!

I'd done pretty much everything that they tell you that you're supposed to do, and that didn't work, so why not try doing what you're NOT supposed to do?

It was then that I thought of a singer that I vaguely knew, named Simon Leblovic. I first clapped eyes on Simon in 1975, when he was fronting a Stones-y cover band called "Interchange", who had played a lunchtime gig in the cafe/auditorium at Lord Elgin High School, which I was attending at the time.

Simon cut an interesting figure on the day. Think Freddie Mercury doing a Mick Jagger imitation and you've pretty much got it. While I thought he was a bit "over the top", he certainly LOOKED like a singer! The rest of the band weren't very good, so naturally they had to put up with some catcalls from the local wiseacres, but they did have a "Keef" figure in guitarist Roy Furness and they played the Stones' "Starfucker", which impressed me, mostly because I enjoyed the number of time the word "fuck" was shouted over the school p.a system.

Over the next couple of years, Simon and I struck up a nodding acquaintance, mostly running into each other at the Burlington Mall and having a chat at various local "Battle Of The Bands" shows, most of which were usually won by Bill Wood's band "Darwin", which seemed fair enough, as those guys, especially keyboard player Michael Dana, could play rings around most of us, and Bill was a pretty good front man.

Interestingly it was at one of these Battle Of The Bands where I first saw a band called Simply Saucer. They stood out like a sore thumb among this gang of platform shoes and feather cuts and obligatory versions of "Stairway To Heaven" by not only playing their own Velvet Underground meets Hawkwind tunes like "Here Come The Cyborgs", but also wearing Salvation Army clothes and their Lou Reed-style singer/guitarist Edgar Breau wore sunglasses at night, all of which seems nothing now, but was practically unheard of in 1975.

But more on them later...

So here it is, the spring of '77 and I'm thoroughly fed up with playing with the usual tiresome heavy riff merchants, so I call up Simon Leblovic, inquiring what he was up to and did he by any chance needed a drummer? As it turned out, he did.

He told me that he had a band out in Hamilton with a guy who used to be in Teenage Head, (a band I'd actually heard of) and their drummer was leaving, and if I wanted to come down, that would be fine with him. I asked him what sort of stuff they were playing and he mentioned "Sunshine Superman" by Donovan. I thought was an interesting choice and told him so. Simon suggested that I come by the following Sunday, and oh by the way, could I give him a ride into town? I said sure...

So the big day arrives and I meet Simon and the other guys. There I was with my Don Brewer afro, wearing some baggy 70's nightmare jeans, with brown earth shoes and an awful t-shirt with Farrah f**king Fawcett on it (Sorry, but it's true) and looked at my potential new band mates. There was Steve Park with his wild curly red hair looking like a demented Ronald McDonald giving the impression that he carried a knife in his back pocket to the left of me, and Gary Pig dressed like a cast member of Leave It To Beaver to the right, with Simon doing his pouty Freddie Jagger thing in the middle. God knows what they thought of me, but I thought to myself, what have I gotten myself into?

GARY PIG GOLD sez: Personally speaking, as I usually do, I thought Richard was a cool guy, and a very good drummist. But I have to say I much preferred my Beaver look to his not-so-grand-Funk wardrobe.

Well, I needn't have worried, for as we went into the first number, The Kinks' "You Really Got Me", the room exploded!

Given my past experience, I was expecting some sort of grim heavy metal noise to come out of Steve's Marshall amp, but what actually came out was something that sounded so close to the original Dave Davies guitar sound that it made no difference. Amazing!

Next up was The Who's "My Generation", which also sounded great, and again I was amazed when Gary went into all those great bass licks and didn't miss a note! The other thing was without exchanging a word between us, we all instinctively did the "Live At Leeds" arrangement. This was the first example of the musical telepathy that Steve, Gary and myself had. Simon was doing his best to hang on, but it was really the three of us that was where the real action was.

After playing a feedback laden version of Bowie's "Suffragette City" and a couple of other similar numbers in which I managed to break not one, but two drum heads, Steve, without looking at the others simply said, "Would you like to join the band?" Naturally I said yes, for all sorts of reasons really, but one of them was this:

All three of them, Simon, Steve & Gary had started to write their own songs, some of which they played for me, and after hearing them, I realized that while they weren't exactly classics at this point, they at least sounded of a piece with the other material that we were playing. Also they LOOKED like a band. THIS was what I was looking for. Hooray!

BTW: We never did play Sunshine Superman...

Over the next few weeks, it was one revelation after another, as I quickly realized that this was what being in a REAL band was all about. All were passionate and knowledgeable about what they were doing, especially Steve. As a regular reader of Rock Scene magazine, I was naturally aware of people like The Ramones and The Patti Smith Group, and you'd have to have been living under a rock (or perched on a toadstool in a prog rock band) not to know who The Sex Pistols were, but the guys introduced me to the following: Television's Marquee Moon, The Flamin' Groovies' Shake Some Action, Iggy & The Stooges' Raw Power, the amazing first Blondie album, David Bowie's Pin-ups, and the first 3 Roxy Music albums in all their screechy glory. Add Johnny Thunders (Born To Lose/Chinese Rocks was the first 12" single I ever saw) and Eddie & The Hot Rods to this mix, and my reaction to all this new and not so music was basically where have I been???? In a basement in Burlington listening to f**king Foghat, that's where!

So here I was with my new band mates....


Gary was an amazing bass player, probably the best one I ever worked with, but even then he was a bit of a will 'o' the wisp disappearing and reappearing at odd times carrying his guitar in a battered old case filled with fanzines and posters for upcoming gigs for people like The Diodes and The Viletones etc. He also published his own fanzine called The Pig Paper and generally had his fingers in a lot of pies. Gary always reminded me of the Cheshire Cat out of Alice In Wonderland.


Simon had all the usual pretentions that most vocalists seem to have, but I liked him all the same. He had pretty good taste in music (I remember him talking up Cheap Trick, who nobody had even heard of at the time)and seemed to grasp instinctively that during this period, the way to go forward musically was to actually go backward, which was something that I wholeheartedly agreed with. While some of his stage mannerisms were sometimes a bit much, and would have benefitted from a slightly more relaxed approach, he was a pretty good looking guy, and a decent front man.


Steve, his prodigious musical ability aside, was a tough Hamilton boy, and always liked to let you know that you weren't, but despite this, I liked him immensely, as he really was a at heart a nice guy, and his passion for the music was infectious.
He really took me under his wing, basically going, don't listen to that, listen to this. Don't wear that, wear this etc. Needless to say Steve's crash course in cool resulted in 180 degree shift in my musical thinking for which I am eternally grateful, as well as a new attitude towards style and pop culture in general.

It was not to last, of course, as I found over the ensuing years, that what seemed so cutting edge and forward thinking at the time morphed into a backwards looking conservatism that I'm not entirely comfortable with even today, but it certainly was fun while it lasted.

But that was all to come later. Now back to our story...

So the songs came thick and fast and after about 2-3 weeks, the four of us had worked up 3 sets worth of 60's Kinks, Brian Jones-era Stones and Who covers, with a smattering of Stooges, Eddie & The Hot Rods and Patti Smith songs. This is where I discovered that not only was Simon a pretty good harmonica player, he could also do a pretty good impression of Patti Smith and Steve could do Lenny Kaye's guitar licks in his sleep, another bonus, as I reckoned that this was the way forward. Still, everything was going well, and soon it was time to book some gigs.

Enter one Steve Prendergast, who in later years went on to manage both Honeymoon Suite and Brighton Rock, but at this stage was a rookie booking agent who quickly booked us on to the Southern Ontario bar circuit.

I don't know where Steve came from but I didn't much care for him on either a business or personal level, and I'm pretty sure the feeling was mutual.
I suspect that Gary felt the same way about him too, because pretty much the minute Prendergast came on the scene, Gary went a.w.o.l.

GARY: Actually, I just went to my parents’ cottage for a month. Might’ve forgotten to tell you guys of course, but…

Normally this wouldn't have been a problem, but unfortunately we had gigs booked, and the dates were looming up, and with our bass player missing, something had to be done. So the word went out and we auditioned a several replacement bass players but the results were not encouraging.

One guy came by who not only looked like Elliot Gould in M.A.S.H., but was also blind, and played the cello. An interesting guy to be sure, and a pretty good player too, but obviously not what we had in mind. It was then that I thought of a guy I knew named Dru Davy.

I'd known Dru for years. He was the right age and looked pretty good, and while he wasn't the bass monster that Gary was, I reckoned his simple approach might work, so I called him up and arranged an audition for him.

He showed up with his Dan Amstrong Lucite bass guitar and passed the audition, so Steve set to work getting him up to speed, which was no easy task, since there were 3 sets of material to learn and about 2 weeks to do it. Dru really came through for us at short notice, and we hit the road, playing small town Ontario. Places like Port Colborne, Brantford, etc.

I remember arriving at the first gig in Port Colborne, passing the "Coming soon: Myles & Lenny!" posters by the entrance, setting up on a stage that was about the size of a dining room table and doing our sound check, where we launched into our fairly raw version of The Stones' "Live With Me" at top volume.

Simon was wearing a black suit jacket and sunglasses, crooning into the microphone standing stock still while the rest of us created an electrical storm around him. It was great! Perfect in fact.

However the club owner thought we were a bit too "punk" and asked us to tone it down a bit. Of course we ignored him and did what we were going to do anyway, but this was my first inkling that we might be headed for trouble, but I thought no more of it, as there was the music to sort out. And what great music it was!

Our version of Patti Smith's "My Heart's Pumping", a version of "Gloria" that morphed into "Satisfaction" played at breakneck speed, and The Stooges "Search & Destroy" in which I managed to hit practically my whole Premier double kit at once!

Our version of The Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There" and The Stones version of "I Wanna Be Your Man" with Simon's wailing harmonica and Steve getting all kinds of feedback out of his little red Gibson SG and big Marhsall amp was always a highlight, as was our version of The Stones' "Midnight Rambler" and The Who's "My Generation/See Me Feel Me" which we used to close the shows with. With me doing my Keith Moon/Aynsley Dunbar impression and Dru doing his best to hang on, people loved it...it was great!!

Things were going great until we hit Dunnville....

What a nightmare this was!

It would appear that the Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin loving locals weren't too impressed with our various leather pants, eye-liner, ballet slippers and stripey tops. We were greeted with such taunts such as, "Hey girls!" and "Get off the stage queers!".

Nor were they ready for our Stooges covers and generally raw and feedback laden approach to what we considered "Classic Rock".

Well, not only did we go down like a lead balloon, we got fired from the gig by the owner, and were replaced by another band called "Mythral" (whatever that means) that did, you guessed it..... Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin covers.

I remember sitting there drinking with the rest of the guys, looking on in disgust while guys with moustaches and skanky girls who looked like they knew how to fix your car danced to Mythral's rendition of "Walk This Way". The next day people even yelled things like "Go home fags!" at us from passing cars while we waited on the street for our ride home. Can you believe it? I would imagine that the locals in Dunnville are STILL listening to Aerosmith & Zeppelin...have a nice life kids.

So after the Dunnville debacle, we decided it was time for a re-think. It was pretty obvious to us that the cover band bar crowd weren't as interested in The Stooges and Patti Smith as we were, and although it was discussed, we didn't really feel like working up a pile of Peter Frampton and Foreigner covers to play in front of people who didn't give a shit.

Dressing up like novelty acts like Rheingold or The Imps was out of the question, so we decided that since people were calling us "punk" anyway, that we would concentrate on playing our own material and try and become part of the punk/new wave scene that had recently sprung up in both Hamilton and Toronto.

Gary Pig was of course just the man to help make this happen with his connections in both cities, so we called him up, said goodbye to temporary bassist Dru Davey, and Gary came back into the fold, bringing Roy Furness along with him on rhythm guitar.

GARY: Simon, Steve and I had actually been conspiring to get Roy into the band from the get-go, and were just cooling our collective heels til he got home from his final tour with that legendary proto-power-popping Hamilton bar band The Specs.

While I was happy that Gary was back, I viewed the addition of Roy Furness as something of a mixed blessing. For a start I remembered him from Interchange and hadn't been very impressed. Also Roy was already nearly 30, which was good deal older than the rest of us (Steve Park and I were 18, Simon 21) and he had something of a grim workmanlike manner about him, which I didn't think was a good thing.

GARY: Roy only looked thirty. Must’ve been his three-cigarettes-per-song habit.

However he made up for this by being probably the most sophisticated songwriter in the band, although again his obvious Stones fixation was, to me at least, a step in the wrong direction, as I would have liked to have seen us move more in the direction of The Who or The Patti Smith Group, since I thought we did that type of thing better than any of the competition at the time.

Nevertheless, we re-grouped in Steve Park's basement, threw out the old set, and started working on new material such as the fabulous "Let Me (Be The One") which I believe Steve & Simon wrote, that was pitched somewhere between The Vibrators, The Ugly Ducklings and Johnny Thunders, so was basically the perfect sound for 1977.
Add to that Roy's great minor-key Flamin' Groovies style "I Should Have Known" and we all knew we had a couple of winners.

Stylistically we eschewed the rama-lama guitar style that was already starting to sound like a cliche and came up with a sound that pre-dated The Strokes by several decades.

We still covered songs, but they were fairly obscure things such as The Ugly Duckling's "Nothin'', The Flamin' Groovies' "Shake Some Action" (which sounded particularly good with our Gibson/Marshall guitar sound easily trumping the Groovies comparatively weedy sounding Fenders Bassman amps) and taking a leaf out of the Beatles Cavern playbook that said that if the audience doesn't know it, then it's OUR song, we did a cover of The Boomtown Rats "Looking After No.1" which was only available as an import single at the time.

This was a particularly tricky piece of music to play. It was actually more complicated than King Crimson's "Lark's Tongues In Aspic", although you'd never know it to hear it.

As well as continuing to write new and exciting material, we were also working on covering Roy Loney's then current single. While I wouldn't exactly call it a sit-down, my understanding is that apparently either Steve or Gary had a word with either Frank or Gord from Teenage Head, who were also interested in covering the same record. We decided to do the b-side, "Second Cousin" since it was more our style, while they would do the a-side which was more in keeping with what they were doing. This what a little something called "Wild One", which worked out rather well for them!

GARY: Actually, I brought “Second Cousin” to us Loved Ones. It was from a single by The New Legion Rock Spectacular that I was distributing. Had nothing whatsoever to do with Teenage Head …and I doubt Steve especially would have ever been invited to a “sit down” with them guys at that point!

Around this time Gary got us a gig opening up for Simply Saucer. I thought to myself, Simply Saucer???? I remembered them from a couple of years earlier having seen them play in a field. Apparently there had been some changes in the Saucer camp. They had gotten rid of their synthesizer player and were now going for a more stripped down contemporary sound that was very much in keeping with the whole punk/new wave thing.

Anyway, they were doing a show at the YMCA in Hamilton and needed an opening act, and since Gary was pretty much managing them by then, we were in! There was also talk of Toronto gigs in the future as well. Gary even put us on the cover of The Pig Paper, even though we had never even played anywhere!

So there I was thinking to myself, hmm...great band, good songs, cool crowd.
It really felt that we were part of something....

What could go wrong?

Cut to the YMCA in Hamilton with Simply Saucer, and there we were, in our new Salvation Army clothes, having eradicated the last vestiges of the suddenly old-fashioned "glam" look that we had previously sported, and replaced it with a predominately black minimalist look.

Our apprenticeship on the bar circuit was paying off in spades as we bashed through our set like the well-oiled machine that we were. Nothin' and Let Me (Be The One) being particularly well-received by the local scenesters like "Kevin from England". We would have played an encore, but we didn't have any more songs! So I'm figuring that a bright future for our fabulous beat combo beckoned...


Next thing I know, the phone doesn't ring when it's supposed to, so I make some calls, only to be informed that Steve Park, our erstwhile leader has jumped ship to join Simply Saucer!!! Apparently they were pretty impressed with Steve on the night as well...

Well, I was shocked to say the least, as I simply couldn't understand why Steve would want to do such a thing, since I thought The Loved Ones were way more happening than Saucer, being generally younger, with way more teen appeal. To leave us to join Saucer was madness to my way f thinking, as it flew in the face of everything that I knew to be true about pop music.

Maybe Steve wasn't happy with the way things were going? A personality clash perhaps? We were all pretty opinionated and argumentative at times, while Saucer's Edgar Breau was a pretty easy going guy.
Certainly The Saucer were a more avant garde proposition than our comparatively orthodox approach.

Given Steve's love for Television and Roxy Music, that might have been a factor. Maybe he felt marginalized by Roy's increasing influence on the band's overall dynamic? This was certainly a concern of mine at the time, that and the fact that there suddenly seemed to be too many Chiefs and not enough Indians in the band. Who knows? You'll have to ask Steve. Still, there was nothing to be done. Steve was gone...

It was a sad day when I went to pick up my drum kit a couple of weeks later. Steve understandably wasn't there, but he left me a note of apology on the door to the basement. I kept it for years....and have often thought about what The Loved Ones might have gone on to achieve had we not been nipped in the bud. Indeed, years later Edgar told me that if he'd known that poaching Steve for Saucer would have led to the breakup of The Loved Ones, he would have gotten someone else.

Still, it wasn't all bad.

The Loved Ones and our solitary YMCA gig became something of a local legend in Hamilton, and people still ask me about it! In that regard were were a bit like Johnny Moped, who did the one gig/legend thing too, or at a stretch, The Police at The Horseshoe gig that was attended by about 20 people, but over 200 hundred people have claimed they were there!

After Steve jumped ship to Saucer, the rest of us continued to work together on and off in various bar band configurations with different people like Ex-Carboard Brains bassist Paul O'Connell making up the numbers, right up until about 1980, but it wasn't the same. Eventually, Simon went on to join The Start, who had a small hit with "Hey You" and toured all over Canada, and I, after playing briefly with a new version of, irony of ironies, Simply Saucer(!), moved to Toronto, eventually joined The Diodes ("Tired Of Waking Up Tired"), relocating to England with them in 1981.

There were even two bands involving both Gary & Roy that were called "The Loved Ones", but quite frankly, they stunk.

GARY: Richard, are you still mad Roy and I didn’t take you to California with us? Coz that version of The Loved Ones, far from stinking, was actually very, very good. At least Steve Wynn of the Dream Syndicate (who used to get us gigs), Rodney Bingenheimer (who played our demos on his radio show) and Michael Nesmith (whose Pacific Arts Records were courting us) didn’t think we smelled in the least.

Sometimes the other guy is more important than you think he is.

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