ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON MARCH 3, 1989
By Steve Newton
Having Bruce Allen’s office all to yourself is quite the experience. While waiting to interview Loverboy guitarist turned solo artist Paul Dean I’m momentarily left to scour the big-time rock manager’s hallowed chamber, where no doubt many a make-or-break deal has gone down.
The fruits of Allen’s labour are obvious: trophies, plaques, and gold (make that platinum) albums fill the walls, or sit propped up on the floor, waiting to be mounted. Three framed Georgia Straight covers take up one corner–two featuring Allen himself, one his boxing charge Dale Waters.
On the other side of the room dangles a body-sized punching bag, with two pairs of gloves nearby. But the most conspicuous object in sight is the huge painting that hangs behind Allen’s desk, a close-up rendering of heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner’s sweat-soaked face–the same one that graces the cover of Dean’s new album, Hard Core. Wepner’s gleaming black eye seems to follow me everywhere–like a heavy-duty Mona Lisa–and suddenly the frivolous idea of scooting over and gleefully rearranging the items on Allen’s desk doesn’t seem so bright. Another glance at the punching bag and the thought is totally vanquished.
Soon Paul Dean enters the office, and explains that the painting of Wepner has been there for several years, but that he and Allen–while trying to come up with an image for the Hard Core cover–suddenly realized that the Terrance Fogarty artwork would be perfect. As for the actual idea of doing his own album, Dean says that that’s been in the works for ages.
“I first thought about it when Scrubbaloe Caine [his first well-known band] was breaking up, but I couldn’t get a deal together then. Plus I didn’t really have any songs–I wasn’t really writing in those days. And then when I got booted out of Streetheart I seriously considered it, but then I met Mike [Reno], and I put it on the shelf. Now’s the perfect time.”
Now Paul Dean has his own band, and a tour lined up in the States opening for Bad Company. The group includes guitarist Geraldo Dominelli, bassist Dave Watson, and Loverboy drummer Matt Frenette. As for the other Loverboys, singer Mike Reno is making his own album, keyboardist Doug Johnson is working with George Criston from Kick Axe, and bassist Scott Smith–after a brief stint as a late-night CFOX DJ–is taking some time off.
According to Dean, Loverboy has not necessarily broken up for good. “We may get back together and do another album,” explains the curly-haired rocker. “We just didn’t want to do the Rolling Stones/Who thing, where they say they’ve broken up and then come crawling back in a year saying, ‘Please, will you accept us again?’
“So it’s just on hold. We decided the writing was on the wall; that people had had enough of Loverboy for a while. So we thought we’d give ’em a break and go out and do our own thing and maybe do another Loverboy thing later. I don’t know when, but we might. It’s like what ZZ Top did–they took three years off and they came back with a great album, Deguello.”
Dean realizes that by calling themselves Loverboy back when they founded the group in 1980, the band was limiting itself somewhat with its youth-oriented image. The guitarist recently celebrated his 43rd birthday. “I think we outgrew the image,” he says, “but I hope we can transcend the image. It’s like when the Beatles came out–what a ridiculous name for a band, you know. But pretty soon you forget about the name itself and just think about the music.”
Dean is also willing these days to talk about the “compromises” that he had to deal with as a member of Loverboy. His main beef was with the way the songs themselves were arranged.
“The main compromise was just the fact that since we had a keyboard player, we had to do everything around the keyboards. I got sick of the sound of Loverboy being dominated by them. But now I can do a tour with all guitarists if I choose, or all keyboards. At least I’m not stuck to a formula, doing every song with the same instruments. That’s the cool thing about being a solo artist.
“And also Loverboy’s lyrics, too, were somewhat of a compromise, because Mike doesn’t like to sing stuff like ‘Sword and Stone’ and ‘Politics’.”
“Politics” is a song from the Hard Core album, written by Dean, Jim Foster, and the LP’s co-producer, Brian “Way Too Loud” MacLeod. In that tune, Dean sings “Don’t give me no politics/It don’t mix with rock music/Don’t give me no politics/Unless you mean it.”
“That song is just about people goin’ on the radio after they’ve written a political album and saying, ‘Oh, I’m really just a party guy.’ You’re supposed to stand up like Bruce Cockburn of Midnight Oil or Little Steven. I believe they really mean it, and I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys. I”m not into that personally–it’s just not my style of writing–but I respect them for doin’ it, for carrying the torch.”
“Sword and Stone” is the first single off Hard Core, a track written by Paul Stanley and Bruce Kulick of Kiss, along with today’s hottest hard-rock hitmaker Desmond Child (the man behind most of Bon Jovi and Aerosmith‘s recent chart-toppers). Child gave Dean the idea of recording the song when they got together with the Bon Jovi clan to write Loverboy’s “Notorious”.
“He sang me the song,” says Dean, “and I said, ‘What t a great song.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, it’s great, but unfortunately it’s a Kiss tune.’ I never will understand why he sang me the song when he knew it was unavailable!
“But it turned out that Kiss didn’t want to use it, so I tried it myself and it turned out real well. Desmond’s got a real knack for somethin’. He gets right to the heart of it.”
From a critical standpoint, yours truly feels that Dean’s “Down in the Bottom” and the Bryan Adams/Jim Vallance tune “Draw the Line” (also recorded by Ted Nugent and Fast Forward) are two of Hard Core‘s best tracks. The other one is “Action”, a Streetheart song from back in ’78.
“I needed another song on the album,” says Dean, “and it just came to mind that that’s never been released anywhere else but Canada. I figured what a great opportunity, to share a great song with the world.”
It was while Paul Dean was a member of the seminal Canadian rock act Streetheart that he first came across co-producer MacLeod, who also played drums, keyboard, and keyboard-bass on Hard Core.
“Just before I got the axe from Streetheart, we did a tour with Chilliwack around B.C., and we had a gig in Kamloops that got canceled. We went out that night to the David Thompson Pub, and just had a great jam. Spider [Sinnaeve] was playin’ bass, Brian was playin’ drums, I was playin’ guitar–and I think [Bill] Henderson was playin’ guitar too. I was singin’ lead and the crowd really ate it up. That was actually one of the inspirations for me doing a solo album. I figured that if I can do that live and pull it off and get people goin’ like that, I should really consider it as a career.
“So I always remembered how great it was to play with Brian that night. Plus we’ve been playing around the bars for years since then, just going out and jamming with the Knobs or whoever.”
Although all but three of Hard Core‘s tracks were mixed by local engineering whiz Bob Rock, Dean says he had no desire to seek out the production talents of Vancouver’s other studio giant, Bruce Fairbairn.
“That’s the last thing I want is another producer, ” says Dean., “’cause I like to produce myself. But we had fun doing it with Brian–he’s a good producer too. Bruce’s ideas are valid, and so are mine, so I might as well use mine.”
Rock fans in Vancouver–not to mention all over the world–know what Loverboy sounds like. But not so many are aware of what Paul Dean’s latest music is all about. “I think if you took all the heavy tunes from Loverboy over the years and put ’em together you’d have the Hard Core album. There’s no ballad and there’s no light pop, far as I’m concerned. That’s where the name comes from.”
Paul Dean has been rockin’ and rollin’ for the better part of his natural-born life; he claims that he played in no less than 12 bands before his days with Streetheart. And all along he kept his dream of rock stardom alive.
“I was expecting it from the day I started playing guitar, when I was 14. I was totally naive, just figuring, ‘Sure, it’s gonna happen someday.’ It was a pipe dream, but I never thought for a minute that it wouldn’t come true, so it was just a natural drive for me to keep goin’ and just keep hangin’ in there.
‘And when it finally did happen it was like, ‘Yeah, this is how I always imagined it would happen.’ You’d go on American Bandstand and the album would come out and you’d get airplay, and then you’d start doing warm-up tours, and eventually you’d be headlining. It was like magic. It just happened like clockwork.”
Loverboy’s huge successes have made Paul Dean a wealthy man, no doubt about it. But it’s also obvious that anyone who sticks with the rock ‘n’ roll life as long as he has is in it for more than the money. Before the big bucks started flowing, Dean had his fair share of lean days.
“My parents could never understand it,” he says. “They’d go, ‘Jeez, you’ve got no car, you’ve got no TV, you’ve got nothing–no stereo in your house. You don’t even have a house! How do you manage?’ And I’d say, ‘I don’t give a shit. I’m just happy doin’ what I’m doing.
“I mean money’s one thing, but it’s getting up on stage and being in the studio and all that–I mean I’d rather do that than do anything else. I’d do that for nuthin.”