In early 1980, famed record producer Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd, Kiss, Alice Cooper) dropped by Toronto’s Nimbus 9 studio and stumbled across a group of four musicians (Dave Diamond, Mr Zero, Sonny Keyes and Max Styles – collectively known as The Kings, in the process of recording their debut album.
At Ezrin’s suggestion the band combined two songs; “This Beat Goes On” and “Switchin To Glide” into one single opus, he helped them get a U.S recording contract with Elektra Records and the rest, as they say, is history.
Unperturbed by the song’s 5 ½ minutes in length, Elektra pushed the single to #43 on the Billboard charts, created major sales for their `The Kings Are Here’ album debut, which saw them touring with Eric Clapton, Bob Seger, Jeff Beck and The Beach Boys, while generating serious U.S attention by performing “ This Beat Goes On/ Switchin To Glide” on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand television show.
Jump forward 39 years and the band has done it again, joining two songs together “Circle Of Friends/Man That I Am” into one 5 ½ minute track, mixed by Bob Ezrin and edited down to four minutes for radio.
“It’s not a brand new song by any stretch, it’s an old demo we kinda had that was like seven minutes long,” admitted Mr Zero phoning in from his Toronto base. “Dave and I thought it had something to it, so we got out the scissors and with modern technology like pro tools, you can get between the notes and we got a radio version down to four minutes. The end result turned out much better than we planned it.”
The track was recorded in Chris Snow’s basement studio with Diamond (lead vocals/bass), Mr Zero (lead guitar/vocals), Keyes (keyboards) and Todd Reynolds on drums. “We wanted to get someone big to do the mix, someone who could bring the magic and we thought, why not go full circle and bring Bob (Ezrin) back in. So we sent him a rough demo and he said `Yes let’s do it’ and he did a killer job on it.”
Zero is aware that some punters will be surprised that The Kings are still in business but they have managed to keep playing off and on throughout the years, with Honeymoon Suite keyboardist Peter Nunn and drummer Todd Reynolds supplementing Diamond and Zero during their infrequent live appearances.
“We’ve always been ready, willing and able to do as many shows as we can and we are hoping exposure to the new single will get the phones ringing again,” allowed Zero. “Dave gave up smoking a while back and his voice is as now in fine fettle.”
Zero has heard all the barbs about The Kings being one-hit wonders and even named their career documentary “Anatomy Of A One Hit Wonder” as a pre-emptive strike but does not apologize for that track’s success “I think we are really underestimated,” fumed Zero. “We are one of those don’t get respect bands. Yes, we had one big hit record in the United States but how many Canadian bands can claim that!
“This Beat Goes On/Switchin To Glide’s” video gets about 20,000 views per week and the single has received more than 3.3 million video plays in total,” continues Zero. “There are some people who think it’s one of the greatest songs ever recorded by a Canadian band. And we think the new single has a lot of the same hallmarks.”
Warming to the subject, Zero truly believes that The Kings “Are one of the best bands ever to come out of this country. We are right up there with the best of them. I’ll take a backseat to nobody, except maybe Rush and The Guess Who. Our songs are as good as anybodys. Dave, Sonny and myself never get any recognition but that’s all right. We know they’re good.”
What Zero is hoping is that the new track will earn sufficient recognition to get The Kings back in action again and he claims they will be recording a remix of “This Beat Goes On/Switchin To Glide” with the original band members and that they have been inspired to write and record a batch of new material.
More about the Kings
The Kings were formed in Vancouver, British Columbia and Oakville, Ontario, Canada. Original members were David Diamond, lead vocals, bass guitar and songwriter, Sonny Keyes, vocals, keyboards and songwriter, Max Styles, drums, and Mister Zero, guitar and songwriter.
The Kings were originally known as WhistleKing and rehearsed, did club gigs and wrote lots of songs for more than three years before going into Nimbus 9 Studio in Toronto to record their first album.
While recording, world famous producer Bob (Pink Floyd) Ezrin dropped by to visit and checked the band out and liked what he heard. He agreed to mix the tracks The Kings had recorded but soon discovered that the whole thing needed to be re-done. He approached Elektra Records in Los Angeles with The Kings’ tapes and the unknown band was signed to a worldwide deal.
The Kings did re-record the songs and the project was released as “The Kings Are Here”. The first single, ‘Switchin’ To Glide’, was put out and did get noticed but the tune was really two songs in one and the band insisted they be released together.
So when the segue ‘This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ To Glide’ was released radio really picked up on it. Even at over five minutes in length, the segue caught on all over the USA and Canada with huge airplay in every major market and stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 for six months. It was named one of the Top 100 U.S. Radio Programmers Picks of the Decade by Album Network Magazine and The Kings were named most promising group by Cashbox Magazine, and nominated for a Juno Award.
An amazing appearance on Dick Clark’s ‘American Bandstand’ helped spread the word as well. The album ‘The Kings Are Here’ went gold in Canada, and since it was re-released on cd as ‘The Kings Are Here and More’, combined sales have passed platinum status.
The second Ezrin produced Elektra effort ‘Amazon Beach’ did not fare as well and the band left the label and signed with Capitol Canada which released ‘RSVP’ which contains the holiday classic ‘This Christmas’ which gets lots of airplay every yuletide season.
The next studio project was called ‘Unstoppable’ and the title track reached the Top 10 in Canada.
Next came the studio album “Because of You”, which once again showed the depth and versatility of the songwriting from The Kings. After that came other different projects, “Anthology One” which is a collection of rare early unreleased tracks, and what has become The Kings amazing “Live Trilogy”, “The Lost Tapes of a Seventies Bar Band”, “Party Live in ’85”, both audio only, and the DVD “No Covers-Live at O’Tooles Roadhouse”, all of which document the energy of the band in concert. And also the great documentary about the band’s biggest hit: “Anatomy of a One-Hit Wonder” where the guys tell their own story with trademark candour and humour.