Classic rock music fans will wonder out loud if they have blundered into some kind of `Back To The Future’ time warp when they notice a double bill of The Kings co-featured in a series of Ontario-based concerts in late September alongside stalwarts Honeymoon Suite.
The Kings have just released their first new studio album, `The Longest Story Ever Told’ in over 20 years, Honeymoon Suite are planning to follow suit this Fall with their own new album release and both bands are still featuring a core group of original members. Honeymoon Suite still boasts a lineup comprising of original lead vocalist Johnny Dee, lead guitarist Derry Grehan, bassist Gary Lalonde and drummer Dave Betts while the Kings trio Dave Diamond (lead vocals/bass) and Mister Zero(lead guitar) and Sonny Keyes (keyboards) along with long-time drummer Todd Reynolds complete the live lineup these days,
Forever known for their smash double debut single; “This Beat Goes On/ Switchin To Glide” which initially established the Oakville band in 1980, Diamond and Mister Zero are out to prove that there is more to their legacy than one monster hit when they phoned in to promote their new opus and up-coming tour dates.
It was initially a reunion with ace producer Bob Ezrin which sparked The Kings’ latest release. It’s the stuff of legends how in early 1980, Ezrin (famous for his work with the likes of Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper and Deep Purple) was visiting Nimbus 9 Studios in Toronto when he listened in to the initial segue recording attempts by a local band formerly know as The Whistleking , “This Beat Goes On” with another composition “Switchin To Glide” and he offered to mix their indie album but decided he could do a better job if he produced it himself. Voila, The end result was their debut album “The Kings Are Here” and Ezrin’s clout allowed them to land a U.S deal with Elektra Records, tour with the likes of Bob Seger, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and The Beach Boys and even land a coveted appearance on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand television show.
That double-sided single spent 23 weeks on the U.S Charts, reaching a high of #43 on Billboard and a #9 ranking on Chicago’s influential WLS-AM radio station, pushing the album to gold status stateside The Kings ended 1980 with a headline appearance at the one-day Heatwave festival at Mosport Raceway in Bowmanville Ontario which also featured the likes of Elvis Costello, The Talking Heads, The B-52’s and The Pretenders. SOCAN publishing organization eventually honored the band for achieving over 100,000 radio spins.
But such a massive initial success was virtually impossible to sustain. Their follow-up single “Don’t Let Me Know” was ignored by Elektra, due to the on-going Payola Scandal (read Fredrick Dannen’s Hitmen Book for further revelations), and the label didn’t believe in their follow up `Amazon Beach’ release resulting in the band leaving Elektra and recording an EP for Capitol Canada titled RSVP which contained a track title “This Christmas” which has done well every season. The Kings then releasing two independent albums ‘Unstoppable’ in 1993 and ‘Because Of You’ in 2003 along with a number of Greatest Hit anthologies and repackages.
Yet now, 43 years later, The Kings are back with former co-manager, Joe Bamford, a new record to push and a set of dates to get back into the spotlight. “We’ve never stopped playing and working on our music,” allowed Mister Zero. “We are happy to have Joe (Bamford) back with us, we felt it was time to either do it or not do it when it came to recording a new album and things started to move forward when we got Bob (Ezrin) to mix one new song “Circle Of Friends/Man That I Am”.
Like their ground-breaking “This Beat Goes On/Switchin To Glide” opus, “Circle Of Friends/Man That I Am” was initially a seven-plus minute mash-up of two distinct ideas that Diamond and Mister Zero had been wrestling with.
“We had this segue idea that we sent to Bob (Ezrin) to see if he had any ideas,” Mister Zero explained. “We were doing rough mixes in Toronto, pre-COVID but he said he wanted to finish the final mix in Nashville so me and Dave jumped in the car to do the final mix with him”.
Mister Zero noted that they utilized Ezrin’s final mix of that track, as a template for the rest of the 10 tracks which constitute “The Longest Story Ever Told” “Bob’s mix was a resurrection, the song was good but it was too long (over seven minutes) so we had to get out the scissors and trim it down to like five minutes).”
“A couple of these songs were resurrected from previous demos that we had that never found the light of day, so we took some of those ideas and reworked them into better versions,” Mister Zero allowed. “We are capable of writing, performing, and producing ourselves but we had real guys like Bob (Ezrin), Garth Richardson and Michael V Blum mixing the material, which is something we can’t do ourselves, getting it right in the mix is where you make it sound like a record. Former Harum Scarum lead vocalist Harry Hess did the mastering, he’s the guy who made the whole project sound cohesive. He tied the whole thing together.”
Accompanying the afore mentioned “Circle Of Friends/Man That I Am” are nine other tracks which provide a balanced blend of rockers, ballads and one big-band sounding track “I Know So “which is accompanied by an upbeat dance mashup salute to 50’s Big Band numbers.
Diamond agrees that the album title “The Longest Story Ever Told” carries an autobiographical theme. “That song is all about the satisfaction of us playing together over all of these years,” he noted. “When we started out, we were just a bunch of kids who thought we knew everything. But as the song goes along, we talk about our pitfalls and getting back up again and at the end, we talk about needing a happy ending because lord knows we are due for our share,” he laughs.
The Kings’ first single “Always Off The Deep End” is an appropriate summer song but the duo has no illusions about attaining any significant airplay, Diamond notes. “You put it out to your fanbase and hope they put it out to other people who like the vintage rock stuff,”
As for upcoming dates, Diamond states the band “wants to keep going until we can’t do it physically at all. We have the original guys plus Todd (Reynolds) who has been with us for like 15 years or so, we are a better band now then we were back in the day, we just don’t jump around as much!”
And as for “This Beat Goes On/Switchin To Glide” still being the focal point of their legacy, Mister Zero notes “we are just happy we had a hit in the States, not many Canadian bands get the U.S exposure like we did. If we can use “This Beat Goes On/Switchin To Glide as a future door opener, we are happy to do so, it’s a great calling card.”
September 21 – Belleville, ON @ Empire Theatre w/ Honeymoon Suite
September 22 – Oakville, ON @ Centre For The Arts w/ Honeymoon Suite
September 23 – Owen Sound, ON @ The Roxy w/ Honeymoon Suite
September 24 – Parry Sound, ON @ Stockey Centre w/ Honeymoon Suite
November 3 – Fredericton, NB @ The Playhouse w/ Honeymoon Suite
For further information on The Kings and their upcoming tour dates, please visit thekingsarehere.com