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Platinum Blonde's debut
album Standing In The Dark
went triple platinum. Produced
by David Tickle (Peter Gabriel,
Split Enz) at Mississauga’s
MetalWorks Studio, their 1983
full-length album was one of the biggest-selling debuts in the annals of Canadian rock.
|story Mike Beggs
photography Steve Uhraney
Shot on location at Roc'n Doc's in Port Credit.
In the quarter century since his band Platinum Blonde frequented the top of the nation’s radio and video charts, he has evolved into a successful (Mississauga-based) custom home design/builder. But now he’s dusting off his six-string again, the group poised for a full reunion tour and new original CD release in 2012.
“Not bad for a guitar player, eh?” Sergio Galli laughs.
The seed took root in March of 2010 when Galli and co-founding members Mark Holmes (vocals, bass) and Chris Steffler (drums) got back together for a March 2010 show, tied to their induction into the Canadian Music and Broadcast Industry Hall of Fame.
Last summer, they played to crowds of 15,000 on a three-date swing out West. It seems while their glam blonde locks may be ancient history, their synth-driven grooves, and New Romantic hooks like Crying Over You, It Doesn’t Really Matter, and Somebody Somewhere still resonate with many forty and fiftysomethings.
“Basically, we’re back at it,” says Galli, who has put a solo major label release on the back burner.
“It doesn’t feel any different. It doesn’t sound any different. The band sounds good. The response was great (last summer). I didn’t expect it after all this time. Every song we perform is a well-known song, and we never did anything for the longest time.”
That said, lead singer Mark Holmes was adamant this wasn’t going to be simply an exercise in nostalgia—like so many reunion tours.
“I said I will do it on one condition. We must be current. I will not tour without an album. We tour because we’re putting out material or we don’t tour. We do this for the right reasons.” he says.
Having dabbled in commercial studies, and hair styling, the British-bred Holmes was fronting a Police cover band when he first crossed paths with Galli (who had his own band).
“Mark was a client of mine. I used to rent a p.a. to him,” muses Sergio at Roc‘n Doc’s for the Port Credit photo shoot. He’s naturally still fashionable in upscale casual black, long hair tousled and highlighted blonde, along with dark shades.
Arriving at the height of the New Wave era – coinciding with the rise of the MuchMusic video channel, Platinum Blonde broke out of the gate like Secretariat. Produced by the well-respected David Tickle (Peter Gabriel, Split Enz) at Mississauga’s MetalWorks Studio, their 1983 full-length debut Standing In The Dark was one of the biggest-selling debuts in the annals of Canadian rock. It went triple platinum (moving 300,000 albums), featured four hits, earned two JUNO Award nominations, and catapulted them from the club to stadium circuit (supporting Bryan Adams, and Billy Idol on cross-country tours). The band sparked a riot in the summer of ’83, when 25,000 fans overcrowded a Nathan Phillips Square show with girls fainting and sent to hospital.
“For one brief shining moment in time, we knew what it was like to be The Beatles,” Holmes says in the liner notes to their compilation CD, Seven Year Itch: 1982-1989.
For their 1985 follow-up Alien Shores, they added a fourth member in bassist Kenny MacLean (who passed away suddenly at his Toronto apartment recording studio on November 24, 2008, a “devastating” loss).
Produced by Eddy Offord (Yes, 10 CC), it further raised the stakes, going quadruple platinum, resulting in several more hits (including their first U.S. hit Somebody Somewhere).
Their third album Contact went double platinum in Canada, but was a commercial letdown in the U.S. Amidst management and label hassles (including the cancellation of a major tour), the band called it quits in 1989.
“If it was up to me, I would have never broke up,” Sergio told their archivist Ralph Alphonso. “We just needed to do some touring.“ Mark said. The management was learning, unfortunately. We experienced a lot of success around the world—especially in Japan and the U.S. It was just that, basically, we were kids at the time.”
At that juncture, Galli hoped to resume his studies in architecture at the University of Toronto, but saw his application rejected. Unfazed, he struck out on his own, and soon enough found himself designing palatial, multi-million-dollar homes. Recently, he joined forces with the local Serena Group to bring luxury options to the mass market.
“Whether it’s music or designing houses, I’m a creative person,” he offers. “I love the creativity of designing somebody’s dream home.”
“I’ve been sort of unconventional, I think. I’ve always been the one to do things I want to do.” says Galli.
Holmes has also forged a fortuitous path forward as an established night club deejay, songwriter, producer, and partner in Toronto’s Mod Club, known internationally for showcasing such breaking acts as Amy Winehouse, The Killers, Keane, and Muse.
He has produced remixes for the likes of Bloc Party, and Crystal Castles (whose electronic dance version of Platinum Blonde’s Not In Love—featuring The Cure’s Robert Smith on lead vocals —went to No. 1 on indie radio stations around the world).
He has retained a healthy rock ‘n roll attitude. “My audience (as a deejay) is 19 to 26-year-olds who don’t even know I played in a band,” he relates. “I’ve noticed over the last four or five years so many bands are revisiting the ‘80s music, and some of the instrumentation is similar to what we were doing. It sort of came full circle. So, it seemed like a perfect time (to do this).”
Co-produced by Holmes and their new bassist Rob Laidlaw (Kim Mitchell, Honeymoon Suite, Figgy Duff and more), the new record is done. The first single is tentatively earmarked for a Valentine’s week release.
Platinum Blonde’s first GTA gig is on February 17 in Whitby and they have casino dates coming up “all over” including Winnipeg (January 13), Halifax, and Calgary. Beyond that they’re keeping it, “hush, hush.”
“We’ve got people working it, the plans are big. It’s being treated like we never went away,” Mark adds. “The curiosity level is really high, however, the expectation level is quite low. It’s a perfect portal to insert a great record and I believe this is one of the best we’ve ever done.”
The new lineup is rounded out by drummer Dan Todd, who has played with Fludd, Alannah Myles, and Honeymoon Suite.
Given Galli’s large fanbase in Mississauga, hopefully the album tour will feature a stop at a local venue like the LAC. Meanwhile GoodLife will be sure to let you know as soon as we learn the release date of their album. GL
| ABOVE (from left to right) Dan Todd, Sergio Galli, Mark Holmes and Rob Laidlaw.
Mark Holmes - Lead Vocals
(original founding member)
Sergio Galli - Guitar
(original founding member)
Rob Laidlaw - Bass
Dan Todd - Drums
On the roof at Roc'n Doc's