By Carl Begai
If you grew up in Canada during the ‘80s hair band cock rock era you were well aware of BRIGHTON ROCK. They were a fixture on MuchMusic and video shows as of 1986 with their Michael Wagener-produced full length debut Young, Wild And Free and first single ‘We Came To Rock’; the same year POISON blew their wad all over Los Angeles, thus making mega-glam ultra-cool in North America. Unlike Bret Michaels and his ‘Talk Dirty To Me’ crew, however, the big push behind Brighton Rock was focused on the band’s lighter side. Second single ‘Can’t Wait For The Night’ and ‘One More Try’ from the 1988 follow-up Take A Deep Breath were massive hits that ultimately came to define the band. It was a travesty for those of us that truly knew Brighton Rock in that there was nothing prim or proper or fluffy – read: stereotypical Canadian rock – about the vast majority of their material. And anyone who saw Brighton Rock perform live will argue (successfully) that the band stood toe-to-toe with any of their glammed-up L.A.-based peers… when they didn’t crush them entirely.
And for the record, the title of this story is ripped off the back of a Brighton Rock tour shirt… that I so foolishly didn’t buy when I had the chance some 24 years ago.
“That was the piss-off of being Canadian,” says frontman Gerry McGhee, the head honcho at Canadian music distributor Isotope for over 10 years now. “They always wanted to stick us in that box of fluff. I remember one time we were on tour and we did ‘Unleash The Rage’ at a soundcheck; we came off stage and some guy says ‘Are these the same guys that do ‘One More Try’?’ That was one song on the record, man (laughs). I love the tunes, don’t get me wrong, but if I had my way it would have all been the heavy stuff like ‘Unleash The Rage’, ‘Bulletproof’, ‘Nightstalker’ put out there because that’s what the band was all about. We kind of captured that on (third album, from 1991) Love Machine because it was close to that raw sound, but it was the label pressure that put us in that ballad box. That would have been fine if they’d at least released some of the rockers. I got in shit on MuchMusic once because I said ‘The new album doesn’t come wrapped in a condom, so open up and say aaah.’”
Brighton Rock called it quits in 1991 and reunited in 2002. It’s a partnership that’s remained intact ever since, albeit for doing shows once in a while if the mood or the situation calls for it. There’s always been a healthy amount of babble amongst the fans pushing for a full blown album / tour return, but since the birth of FRAZE GANG – featuring guitarist Greg Fraser and bassist Stevie Skreebs – and the band’s appearance at Carl Dixon’s benefit show in Toronto in October 2008 it’s become an insistent pounding on the door. Their recent performance at Firefest 2012 dumped more fuel on the fire.
“I think what’s really brought it to the forefront are things like Facebook and YouTube,” McGhee says of the push to get back to business. “That’s kind of rejuvenated a lot of it, because a lot of people that maybe never saw us or only read about us are getting into it. Somebody posted a home made lyric video for ‘Still The One’ and one lyric was wrong, so I just sent a post telling them that, and they told me they got the lyrics off the band’s website. I asked, ‘Where are you?’ and they told me ‘Mexico City.’ (laughs). We never played Mexico City – I don’t even know if we were released in Mexico – but that’s the thing that has rejuvenated it. But, because I deal with labels every day, I know that on a large scale the foundations of the days of building artists up are gone. They’re never coming back.”
“Labels won’t put their support behind bands anymore. A lot of the new stuff that’s out there, none of these guys play lead guitar and half of them can’t sing. If I take my kids, who are in their mid-20s now, to see KISS I tell them that this is what a show is, this is what it was all about in the ’80s. There was melody in the songs. I think a lot of people my age who were involved in that era realize now when they sit back that although it got slagged so bad, the ’80s was probably the fucking music industry at it’s peak.”
McGhee has since confirmed that Brighton Rock is in the process of writing songs for a new album. Some folks will roll their eyes in dismay, taking up the mantra that hair metal is dead, but the number of unique hits bands like MÖTLEY CRÜE, W.A.S.P., POISON or RATT get on daily BW&BK news posts – which is only one example – says different. There’s still a core audience that gives a damn, even if they do have families and mortgages to worry about.
“You look at guys like Mötley Crüe and Poison and TESLA and all those guys that are still doing it,” he points out. “Twenty-five years later and they’re out there playing stadiums. They’re not selling records the way they used to, but nobody is unless it’s a pop hit or one hit wonder thing that goes away. I think as we get older the kids will start to… they live in such a digital reuse / reduce / recycle world that I think there’s more of an attraction to nostalgia. I think the ’70s was a big nostalgia clip for the ’50s, and I think you’re going to see it with the ’80s judging by what I see from my kids and their friends. They hear METALLICA’s coming to town and they lose their lid.”
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Fan-filmed video of Brighton Rock performing at the sold out Firefest 2012 - which took place October 19th – 21st at Rock City in Nottingham, UK - has surfaced on YouTube and is available below: