Still working

Loverboy founding member Paul Dean says he's 'happy to be playing.'

 

June 26, 2019

Photo courtesy of Wolfson Entertainment Inc.

Though formed in the 1970s and known for churning out hits in the '80s, rock group Loverboy still performs and packs in fans of varying ages.

There they were, Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley, in what was to become an instant Saturday Night Live classic.

According to the sketch's premise, they were competing for a spot in the famous Chippendale's dance troupe. And as each danced his heart out, Loverboy's song "Working for the Weekend" blared, a tune more than high-energy enough for dancing competitors to strut their stuff with abandon.

The skit debuted live in October 1990 when the song was already nine years old. And that song, along with the band that created it, still endure today. Sadly, longer than both Farley and Swayze - who passed away in 1997 and 2009, respectively.

Alive and well and bound for Clovis is Loverboy, almost certainly with their signature song in tow, to headline the Draggin' Main Music Festival. They'll hit the Marshall Auditorium stage on Friday night.

"I love it. It's fantastic. I'm happy to be playing," Loverboy founding member Paul Dean said of performing at Draggin' Main in a telephone interview Monday afternoon. "It blows my mind that people still want to hear the music, and we're more than willing to play it."


Loverboy still packs in fans - be it concert halls, outdoor venues, casinos or cruises. They are fans who owned the original vinyl records and remember the SNL sketch, or fans who hit up Loverboy music on Spotify and have only watched the Chippendale's skit on YouTube.

That's cutting quite a generational swath, impressive because Loverboy is a band that formed in the 1970s and hit the stratosphere in the '80s with "Working For The Weekend," "Turn Me Loose," "Hot Girls In Love," "Lovin' Every Minute of It," and other tunes.

Yet, like so many who find stardom, it began for Loverboy amidst modest surroundings. For Dean specifically, it was between two mountains near Calgary, growing up at a resort owned by his parents. Dean's father was a traveling salesman who grew tired of life on the road, so he and his wife pieced together the down payment for the resort and moved there in 1953.

"Musically it was pretty barren," Dean recalled. "There were like three musicians in a 40-mile radius."

The area did offer plenty of sailing and waterskiing at and around the resort during warm-weather months. "But in the wintertime it was like, 'Oh, shoot me now,'" Dean said. "Pretty boring."

But Dean's heart was soon to skip a few beats. He was around 13 when he met his true love - the electric guitar.

The instrument was part of a group to which his older sister belonged. She was a piano player for the band that also included an accordion. Dean had never heard a live electric guitar before.

"I was blown away," he said. "That was it. I ordered a guitar in a Sears catalog because there were no stores around; we were in the boonies. In probably about six weeks it arrived. Yeah, I was hooked then and there and I have been ever since. It's been an ongoing infatuation for probably almost 60 years. That's pretty scary."


There were times when Dean plugged his guitar into an amp and became so lost in the instrument that he was late for his schoolbus. But he was only too happy for an excuse not to run and catch the bus in temperatures that could plunge to 55 below.

In a few years it was time for Dean to head off to Vancouver. "I wanted to get into the big city and get into the music scene," he said. "I went to college in Vancouver, and the first day I got into a band, my second band. Who's counting, right?"

The seedlings of Loverboy were planted in 1974 when Dean first met drummer Matt Frenette and some other musicians in a band called Great Canadian River Race.

"I auditioned them and they auditioned me," Dean said. "I guess everybody passed the audition. I was blown away by Matt's drumming."

Dean spent time doing covers and eventually found his way into a band called Streetheart. "It was a very magical thing for a couple of years," he said.

Eventually, though, Dean was fired from the group over differences with management. "I went back to Calgary licking my wounds," he said, "and that's when I met Mike Reno."

As it happened, Reno was a man without a band, too. "He had left on his own accord," Dean said. "But it was (because of) the same kind of problems with management that we found ourselves unemployed at the time, as luck would have it."

And the seedlings grew. Slowly.

"It took me a while to get my head straight because Streetheart, like Loverboy, was my life," Dean said. "I was going to do the solo thing, so I started working on that and then I met Mike. He came down to my writing/rehearsal room that a friend was lending me. I heard him sing and I was blown away. So I thought if Mike was into it, I was going to approach Mike and see if he was into a partnership."


Frenette remained in Streetheart for roughly a year more while the group auditioned several drummers. Eventually he did rejoin the band.

That band still needed to find its perfect name, one of the things that would help make it immortal.

"We had the Dean-Reno band, we were floating that around and that got zero response from anyone we told," Dean said. "And I said, 'We need a better name.'"

It came from the back of a magazine his wife had been reading. Dean saw a Covergirl makeup ad and the wheels started turning as he changed the word's gender. "'Coverboy, that's a pretty cool name for a band,'" he remembers thinking.

But he decided it needed another slight tweak - to Loverboy.

"My mom used to call me that all the time. 'Hey, loverboy,' just teasing me," Dean said. "So that was that. We decided we were going to be called Loverboy for better and for worse."

Obviously, it was the former. Especially after they started being managed by Bruce Allen and moved to Vancouver.

They had a drummer named Brian MacLeod, who decided he wanted to play guitar in another band. That's when they convinced Frenette to return, which led to what was considered their founding lineup - Dean, Reno, Frenette, Doug Johnson (keyboards) and Scott Smith (bass).

Loverboy was born.

They opened for Kiss at Vancouver's Pacific Coliseum in late 1979. They were on their way, but it wasn't all peaches and cream just yet. Dean says fans would often hurl quarters, ice cubes, lipstick tubes and other objects at the bandmembers.

"We'd be playing on stage and we'd be ducking," Dean said. "Back in our early days we were opening for ZZ Top and we'd be getting pelted."

One time in Cape Cod, Dean wore a batting helmet for protection.

"We were inundated with stuff (being thrown)," Dean said. "That night we did four songs and we just left the stage and said, 'This is out of hand.' ... It was quite a night. We had a few shows like that. But it's rock 'n' roll."

Their eponymously named first album - which included the single "Turn Me Loose" - was recorded in 1980, and during the summer sold over 1 million copies in their native Canada. It was released in the United States that November and went double platinum in the U.S.

A big turning point came in a Hollywood restaurant with a conversation between Loverboy's manager and Dick Clark, who agreed to listen to their tape and then booked them on American Bandstand, Clark's iconic Saturday music showcase that a young Dean had watched in Canada on one of the few channels his family received in the western Canadian hinterlands.

"To be on American Bandstand which I grew up with," Dean said. "To me that was, 'Wow, this is the big time.' It's kind of like how I'd imagine it would unfold, but you never know. Just to meet Dick Clark in the green room. He came in and was very charming and chatted us up, just to relax us. And we did some on-air interviews; that was a real thrill."

Their second album "Get Lucky," would go on to become their best-selling, reaching quadruple-platinum status. It may have been helped by the success of its best-known single. You guessed it, "Working for the Weekend."

The inspiration came when Dean was walking through his neighborhood in Vancouver one Wednesday. It was normally packed with tourists and beachgoers, but empty this particular day.

"'Where is everybody? Everybody is probably waiting for the weekend,'" Dean remembers thinking.

He was always workshopping ideas in his head, trying to come up with songs. That one stuck and he took the bones of the idea to Reno.

"Mike said, 'How about working for the weekend?'" Dean recalled.

But that was just the beginning. While some songs are written in a few days, Dean says "Working for the Weekend" was a labor of love that took about six months. They quickly had the "wah-wah-wah-wah-wah-wah" part down, as in "You want a piece of my heart, wah-wah-wah-wah-wah-wah ..." The rest of it, though, came together bit by bit. Computers and multi-tracking had not yet arrived, so Dean worked on the song in the studio over his garage using a boom box and a metronome.

"We still didn't have the lyrics," he said. "Lyrics are pretty critical. You try to make them true or at least make sense. The lyrics are fiction, but at least you try to make them cohesive."

The band eventually worked it out, with Frenette even writing one line. "Whatever it takes," Dean said. "You need a little teamwork. A lot went into it."

All the sweat paid off after the song was released in October 1981. It reached No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock chart and No. 29 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart in early 1982.

Though "Working for the Weekend" is probably Loverboy's best-remembered single, "Hot Girls In Love" was their most successful, hitting No. 11 in the U.S. "Lovin' Every Minute of It," another hit single for the group, was released in 1985.

In 1990, the band's creativity pierced pop culture yet again with the Swayze/Farley SNL sketch.

"What an amazing honor. That's incredible," Dean said. "We've had so many views for that on YouTube. Multi-millions I'm sure, I haven't checked. Some people might take it as a put-down. For us, for one thing, it was hilarious. But it was an amazing honor for them to pick our song. We look at that only in a positive light."

"Working for the Weekend" was also recently featured in a trailer for the upcoming movie "Stuber." The song is like a monument or statue that seems like it will live on for centuries, well past those who constructed it.

"That'll probably be true," Dean said. "I know we just passed 50 million plays on Spotify. Who would've thunk back when we started playing that it would reach that level on Spotify. I don't know about Apple Music or anything; I'm a Spotify guy and I've been watching. When it passed that 50 million level, I thought, 'Man, really cool.'"

The band, like the song, has survived decades, even overcoming Smith's death in a November 2000 boating accident. At concerts, audience members still sing along to their music at the top of their lungs. And other musicians have paid their respects, too.

"There are a lot of Loverboy cover bands out there," Dean said. "A lot of bands doing 'Working for the Weekend' and 'Turn Me Loose.' Like I've always said, why should we have all the fun?"

 
 

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