Lee Aaron Revisits The El Mocambo And Her Metal Queen Roots

By Keith Sharp

Lee Aaron has vivid memories of her first and only concert appearance at Toronto’s legendary El Mocambo Tavern. March 31st, 1984, with a performance which debuted her Metal Queen album.

On Friday, July 22nd, Aaron and her band, comprising of husband/drummer John Cody, guitarist Sean Kelly and bassist Dave Reimer will return to the newly revamped facility after a 29-year absence to promote the band’s latest `Radio On’ release.

Lee Aaron - Duesseldorf 1991 Dec 14 1991 - Photo by Klaus Depenbrock
Lee Aaron – Duesseldorf, December 14, 1991 – Photo by Klaus Depenbrock

“When I heard someone had re-invested in that amazing venue, I told my agent, Bernie Aubin, I just have to play there again,” enthused Aaron from her Vancouver area residence before travelling east to perform at the El Mocambo on Friday and at Kitchener’s Wayback Festival with Trooper and Helix on Saturday.

“When we launched ‘Metal Queen,’ it was at a time when hard rock really exploded, but it was also a very sexist period as far as the portrayal of women, especially visually on video and in print media. It seemed to be okay for women to be used as a form of decoration,” Aaron noted. “So they sandwich me and my Metal Queen video between Motley Crue and Wasp, and it was easy for 14-year-old boys and some women to miss the message behind that song.”

Lee Aaron 1984

“I wasn’t saying `hey I’m the Metal Queen,’ that song is about female empowerment. I was saying we should be treated as equals,” Aaron continued. “In a way, I was an anomaly in that I was the only Canadian female with that hard rock image. Hard rock was such a money-maker at that time that record companies thought, let’s just find some cute girl who could sing, let’s give her some material and then let’s market that image, but that’s not what I was about. I wrote my own material, and I wanted to be in charge of my own direction,”

Aaron remembered that night back in 1984. “We had these huge styrofoam blocks that we decorated the venue to look like a gothic den, we had this big drum riser that was supposed to resemble a spider’s web, and I wore the Metal Queen vest from the album jacket, but I didn’t wear the loin cloth! I wore a full spandex bodysuit – that loin cloth was too skimpy for me!”

Lee Aaron – Metal Queen at the El Mocambo 1984

Aaron says her two children with Cody; Angella and Jett, howl with laughter when they view her Metal Queen video performance, “We look like cartoon characters, but that night at the El Mocambo was very successful in launching that Metal Queen persona.”

Lee Aaron - Metal Queen
Lee Aaron – Album – Metal Queen – 1984

It didn’t hurt that Europe’s top metal music magazine, Kerrang, flew Paul Suter over to catch her performance. A Brit who had an affinity for Canadian music, Suter had come over to Toronto the previous year to check out the likes of Bryan Adams, Corey Hart and Ian Thomas and had stumbled upon Aaron performing at the Queensbury Arms. Suitably impressed, Suter arranged for a centre spread of Aaron in Kerrang and even arranged for her to perform at the prestigious 1983 Reading Festival in the UK.

“They literally flew him in for a club show,” Aaron marvelled. “That exposure really helped me in Europe. I have continued to have a major following over there.”

Lee Aaron - Reading Music Festival 1983
Lee Aaron – Reading Music Festival 1983 – Magazine six-page festival report in colour

The Belleville, Ontario native toured extensively through Europe and Japan between 1984 and 1992, releasing six albums for her Attic Records label plus a few foreign licensing deals before leaving the label to launch her own Hip Chic Records, releasing two more albums. Her 1995 `2 Preciious’ release (recorded with Sons Of Freedom members Don Short and Don Binns) saw Aaron relocate to Vancouver, and it was there that she widened her musical scope to feature jazz and blues before marrying John Cody and taking time off to have her two children.

Fire And Gasoline – Official Video 2016

As she returned to the music scene in 2016, Aaron has proven to be a savvy business person and marketer utilizing the current social media platforms to promote recording four studio albums and two compilation albums, which she markets under her own Big Sister Records label. “We go into a major studio to lay down the basic tracks, and then I come back home, complete the recording on Logic and then we take the tracks back to a major studio to mix the record,” she explained. “No more spending months in a recording studio. Once I figured out how to use Logic, I realized I could do the process myself. Even my daughter Angella is using Logic to work on her own material.”

The third single from Lee Aaron’s new album, ‘Radio On!’ – available worldwide July 23, 2021.

Having developed a solid and faithful fan base, Aaron knows they are eager to buy new records. She can license her material to several foreign outlets to maintain a strong international following. Aaron has already played at the Swedish Rock Festival earlier this year, and in September, her band will play in Hamburg, West Germany and then on to Vouziers, France, in October with a series of casinos and domestic festival dates also scheduled for Canada this summer.

Sean Kelly, John Cody, Lee Aaron, Dave Reimer, off stage at Sweden Rock Festival 2022
Sean Kelly, John Cody, Lee Aaron, Dave Reimer, off stage at Sweden Rock Festival 2022

As far as her El Mocambo date is concerned, fans will hear her hits and plenty of new material. The performance will be recorded for a possible future release. “I am sort of unique in that my fan base encourages and supports new material. They continue to remain loyal.”
And as for “‘Metal Queen,’ It’s a song I can never escape playing,” she laughs. “I realize I will be playing Metal Queen for the rest of my life.”

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