GOLDMINE: I really enjoy Tomorrow Never Comes, but first, let’s celebrate Touch’s 40th anniversary. Mark, in Vasileios Yfantis’ new power ballads book, you discuss your single “Don’t You Know What Love Is” and share the story of its recording. You said, “We were being produced by Tim Friese Green, who also worked with Roy Thomas Baker on records by Queen and others. Tim knew a lot of methods to blend that huge vocal sound. We liked the idea of doing guitar solos following my keyboard solos, which I tried to make very melodic and almost symphonic, with tapestries of the keyboards of the time, which were still a bit limited compared to what is available today.” To me, this early 1980s song fit it perfectly with what we were hearing at the time with Loverboy from Canada, the crispness that Donnie Iris and The Cruisers were achieving with a couple of members from my hometown of Cleveland, and a band from where we were living at the time, Texas, the lesser known Point Blank.
MARK MANGOLD: Oh yes, I remember Point Blank. “Don’t You Know What Love Is” was the last song that we wrote for the album. It sometimes happens that when you are close to finishing an album, you look at the songs and wonder what is missing or what could sum the whole album up, so we created that song and the record company released it as a single. It contained multiple tracks of background vocals. The single took off in a bunch of territories, back when there were regional decisions on what got played. We were No. 1 in St. Louis and some other places.
GM: The flip side of the single, also included on the album, was the softer “There’s a Light,” more in line with what Ambrosia was doing at the time.
MM: Yes, Ambrosia. We touched that sound too. It was an eclectic album and I think the new album is probably even more eclectic.
Flip side: There’s a Light
A side: Don’t You Know What Love Is
Top 100 debut: January 31, 1981
Peak Position: No. 69
GM: Let’s talk about the new reunion album, forty years later, Tomorrow Never Comes. Well, tomorrow has come and what an exciting opening title tune with some high vocal notes. Who is hitting those notes?
CRAIG BROOKS: Ha ha. I am.
MM: He has always done that. That is a high G-sharp, by the way. Very few humans can sing that note, but it is a force of nature with Craig.
CB: Vocals have always been important to me. When I was a kid I was into Crosby, Stills and Nash. With Touch I felt we had something special with the singers in the band and we utilized it to the greatest extent that we could.
GM: Now let’s move on to another of my big new favorites, “Swan Song” with the lines, “we come and go” and “only heaven knows.” It is dramatic, has multiple parts, ELP-type keyboards, the drums jump out, and it keeps on going for almost eight minutes, making it the longest song on the album. I love it.
CB: Thank you. We’re proud of this too.
MM: That’s all of us. I sing the first half of the verse and then Craig comes in, then it’s Doug’s turn, and there are harmonies. It is quite a mix. Craig sings the high stuff and is the hero after Doug and I have crept away enough, making it time to let the real singer come in and sail, so we do that a lot. All the vocals add to the surprise of the song. We grew up on bands with a bunch of singers.
GM: I think about that with The Bee Gees, when I think I am listening to Robin and then, all of a sudden, I realize that Barry is singing lead on the same song. On your catchy new song “Fire and Ice,” the harmonies are prominent, but Craig, so is your powerful guitar.
CB: Growing up I listened to Carlos Santana a lot and I love Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. I also love Steely Dan and the guitarists they have used, like Larry Carlton, who is a huge influence on me. I draw from Jeff Beck, too. “Fire and Ice” is a rock and roll song that allowed everybody to have a lot of fun as we came back together.
GM: How did you two reunite with Glenn and Doug?
CB: We talked about it a couple of times. Mark was working on a couple of songs. He and Doug met up in New York and Doug sent me a couple of photographs. I thought it would be interesting for us all to get together after all this time and see where we all are musically.
MM: Craig drove from Chicago to New York sixteen hours both ways to get together for weekends and did that about four or five times.
CB: Well my wife Denise and I love to travel and like being on the road. It was fun and interesting seeing everybody.
MM: To warm up, one of the first things we did was sing the chorus to “Don’t You Know What Love Is” and it was like immediately going back forty years in a flash. It sounded exactly the same. Everybody was singing as well as they ever were, if not better. Somehow we have managed to preserve our voices throughout all these years.
GM: “Trippin’ Over Shadows” reminds me of Foreigner’s “Waiting for a Girl Like You” with a bit of Whitesnake, on this softer song.
MM: Doug wrote that song with deep lyrics. A lot of these songs are personal. It started out as a piano song and we added to it. The choral part in the bridge has forty tracks of us singing syllables, adding organic humanity to it. There is a lot of work put into the album and we wanted to put in some surprises, too.
GM: Speaking about surprises, I was listening to the album for the first time and all of a sudden, I realized that I knew the song. It was “Glass” which was on your most recent American Tears Deko Entertainment album. What a great version this is.
MM: Thank you. It is another song with all of us singing parts. It is possibly one of the more commercial songs on the album. It is kind of a superstition. When we did the Touch album in the 1980s, we included a new version of “Last Chance for Love” which had previously been on an American Tears album, as American Tears, plus guitar, evolved into Touch. It’s fun.
GM: You have a fun musical finale with “Run for Your Life.” It is guitar driven, reminding me of Boston, Canada’s April Wine and another Canadian band, who is also included in Vasileios Yfantis’ new book, Prism.
CB: It is a really sad song with happy music. During the pandemic I was reminded about when we first started the album and we were actually working together in New York and now we are all isolated and I reminisced about just a couple years ago when we were all younger and the world was a different place. It is about my frustration about the state of affairs.
MM: The cacophony of the sound at the end of the last verse was a lot of fun to produce and record as it turned into mayhem and chaos. Social media has magnified the problems versus the 1970s, when we started, when bad news had less broadcast time. We had war and politics but now it is more in our faces, relentlessly.
CB: Our music can offer an escape. It has been really endearing to hear from people who love the band. I am so glad you like the new album.
MM: Thank you for all the Goldmine coverage of our music. It is always great talking with you.
For more on Deko Entertainment and their work with Touch, Tiffany, Angel, and others, read an interview with the leaders of the Deko team in the new Goldmine June 2021 issue.
PART TWO – Power Ballads and the Stories Behind – Vasileios Yfantis
GOLDMINE: Congratulations on Power Ballads and the Stories Behind. This is the type of music book I enjoy best, when multiple artists and songs are featured for readers to learn about. Of the 56 songs and artists that you featured in the interviews, I think you taught me close to 50 songs and close to that many artists, so thank you. I was pleased to see you include photos and interviews with some of the acts I have also interviewed in recent years, Great White, White Lion, Alliance, Axe, and Canada’s Brighton Rock.
VASILEIOS YFANTIS: Thank you. The scope of the book was to record the history of these power ballads from the composer and musician’s mode of thought.
GM: I was thrilled to see your Canadian content, which I know you had to learn very long distance from England. In my case, growing up in Cleveland, I was able to discover music from many Canadian acts, listening to Canadian AM airwaves across Lake Erie in the 1970s including Prism, who you wrote about.
VY: Canada is considered the heaven of melodic rock, with a plethora of acts coming from that country including Chilliwack, Alias, Aldo Nova and so many more. For those who explore the dark corners of record stores, Prism and the track "Don't Let Him Know" are a hidden treasure. It is, as a fan correctly commented on the video posted on YouTube, “One of the most catchy 1980s AOR rock songs nobody knows about.” Although the track reached both U.S. and Canadian charts in the early 1980s, today the composers of the track, Jim Vallance and Bryan Adams, are more popular than the song itself. The band is still active, but never became as successful as the track’s composers and especially Bryan Adams, who continued recording music by following a pop rock style. "Don't Let Him Know" is a radio friendly power ballad with melodic guitars, beautiful vocal lines and is surrounded by a nostalgia feeling.
The ten artists’ quotes below are from Vasileios Yfantis’ new book.
“Don’t Let Him Know” – Prism
Personnel changes in the early 1980s in Canada’s Prism resulted in a new lead vocalist, Henry Small, for their aptly named album Small Change, which featured a hit single by outside songwriters Jim Vallance and Bryan Adams. The group’s bassist Alan Harlow said, “We were nearing the end of the recording process for Small Change in the early summer of 1981. Bryan came down from Canada to Los Angeles, where we were in the studio, to show us the song. He had a demo recording, but Bryan worked with the band as we played the song in the studio. ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ was a huge hit for Kim Carnes on the radio at that time and we liked the double hand claps on that recording, so we incorporated that sound in our recording of ‘Don’t Let Him Know.’ Afterward, Bryan Adams included the song in his own show for a while.”
“Black Velvet” – Alannah Myles
In the 1970s, Christopher Ward debuted on Canadian radio with “Lost in a Love Song,” followed by “Once in a Long Time,” “Maybe Your Heart,” “Imagine a Song” and “No Time to Cry.” His singles continued throughout the next decade. Regarding fellow Canadian Alannah Myles’ late 1980s Elvis Presley inspired hit “Black Velvet,” she said, “I learned it from its author Christopher Ward who sculptured songs with and for me to sing on my debut album. He wrote something special for me to sing while traveling to Memphis with a bus load of Elvis Presley fans, on their way to tape a special for a tenth year vigil since Elvis’ passing.”
“Can’t Wait for the Night” – Brighton Rock
Like Alannah Myles, another Canadian act who debuted in the 1980s was Brighton Rock, with Gerry McGhee on vocals, who passed away last year, and Greg Fraser on guitar, who is currently in the Niagara Falls, Ontario band Storm Force, who shared, “I had the lyrics for the chorus and the vocal melodies for the song but needed lyrics for the verses. Gerry then took it, finished the lyrics, and did a fantastic job. It was really exciting to make the video because we got to invite our fans to be included in the live footage. It was a lot of fun. The girl in the video, who played a ghost, was Sebastian Bach’s first wife and the mother of their children.”
“The Angel Song” – Great White
In 1989, after reaching the Top 10 with their gold single cover of Ian Hunter’s “Once Bitten Twice Shy,” Great White returned to the Top 40 for a second and final time that year with “The Angel Song.” Their guitarist Mark Kendall said, “I wrote the music for this song on an acoustic guitar. We decided to transpose it to piano, and we liked the way that approach sounded. The song was written about people who move to Hollywood and find out it’s not all about glitter and glamor, but there is a positive message in the lyrics, which is to believe in yourself and your dreams. We shot the video for the song in Hollywood on top of a building, a long time before there were drones, so we used a helicopter.”
“Broken Heart” – White Lion
Mike Tramp shared, “I don’t think that most fans know that ‘Broken Heart’ was recorded twice. It was originally on our first album Fight to Survive in 1985 and then again as a new version on Mane Attraction in 1991. After we filmed our first video in 1985, our bass player, Dave Spitz, left to join Tony Iommi’s Black Sabbath, just ten minutes after we finished shooting the video. That first video never aired on MTV.” What was originally planned to be a solo album for Black Sabbath’s guitarist Tony Iommi ended up becoming Seventh Star by Black Sabbath Featuring Tony Iommi, a group which also included Dave Spitz on bass, Glenn Hughes on vocals, Geoff Nichols on keyboards and Eric Singer on drums.
“Make a Stand” – Alliance
The trio Alliance is comprised of Robert Berry, from 3 and GTR, on vocals and bass, Gary Pihl from Boston and prior to that Sammy Hagar’s band, on guitar and keyboards, and David Lauser, from Sammy Hagar’s band, on drums. Robert said, “The song ‘Make a Stand’ was written for my daughter Alexandra when she was going through a very hard time. She was about seventeen years old and life was throwing her some twists and turns. The good news is that she made it through the hard times. It has become a song that I play often and make sure that people with kids know their struggles are shared by many parents.”
“Battles” – Axe
Axe’s vocalist and guitarist Bobby Barth said, “My family has spent generations in the military. I joined the Navy briefly when I was seventeen. Many of the songs I’ve written have a bent toward soldiers and what they feel. With ‘Battles,’ as with many other songs, I looked at life’s challenges from a vantage point of a warrior.”
“Hold Your Head Up” – Argent
After The Zombies disbanded, keyboardist Rod Argent formed the band Argent and achieved their sole U.S. Top 40 hit single with “Hold Your Head Up,” which reached No. 5. Rod Argent co-wrote the song with former Zombies bassist Chris White. Chris said, “When Argent were in Munich working the band in, they played multiple shows a night and tried numerous variations on their songs. During one performance of a cover of The Zombies’ ‘Time of the Season,’ bassist Jim Rodford and drummer Bob Henrit went into a fascinating rhythm sequence which caught my attention. That became the pulse for the song. I then wrote the guitar part and superimposed a different melody over that. At the time, my wife was pregnant with our first child and was suffering with the pregnancy. That gave me the idea of ‘Hold Your Head Up,’ that it could only get better, which became the message of the song, no matter what problems you face, you can rise above them.”
“Close My Eyes Forever” – Lita Ford with Ozzy Osbourne
In the 1970s, Lita Ford was a singer and guitarist in The Runaways. In the 1980s, she achieved her Top 40 debut with the song “Kiss Me Deadly” from her album Lita. The album’s second single charted even higher, one that she sang with Ozzy Osbourne. Lita said, “The song basically asks if you will forgive me until the day I die, and after I’m dead and gone, for what I have done. Ozzy came into to the recording studio with his wife Sharon to say hello. Both Ozzy and I were managed by her. He ended up staying and Sharon went home and left us to write. This song opened the door for Ozzy to have a Top 10 hit single, which he didn’t achieve with Black Sabbath, as they were too heavy. Having this song on my album, and released as a single, finally gave Ozzy a Top 10 hit.”
“Feel the Heat” – Jean Beauvoir
Jean Beauvoir said, “Sylvester Stallone was editing his film Cobra at Warner Bros. Pictures where my video was being edited by a well known director, Mary Lambert. He walked by the studio, heard the song, reached out to my manager to tell him that they loved the song and wanted to use it for the ads and film, which at the time had the largest advertising promotion budget of any Hollywood film released to date. The film staff took the song exactly as it was and even used portions of an extended remix.”