When Bob Ezrin walked into Nimbus 9 Studio in Yorkville,Toronto one day he had no idea what we was walking into.He was taking some time off after the completion of Pink Floyd's The Wall which had taken more than a year.
He was back home in Toronto and dropped into the studio where he had worked with Alice Cooper and others to hang out and watch some football and see friends like Jack Richardson who still did work out of Nimbus.Little did he know that he would soon be at it again with an unknown band called The Kings.
At this point in time The Kings had already been playing together for more than three years under the name WhistleKing and were trying to work as much original material into their live club shows as possible.The focus was always on writing which had led the band to winning the first ever Home-Grown talent contest in Toronto radio history over more than six hundred other contestants.
The music business in Canada at the time was still in its infancy however and all The Kings got out of their victory was a free lunch!
By the way the name of the song that won that contest was "Turn My Face" which later evolved into "Don't Let Me Know" That radio contest did bring forth more than a couple of people who wanted to help the band and so WhistleKing kept writing while deciding what path to follow.
At this point in time the band had started to grow away from the more complex songs in their repetoire and started thinking about something else; WRITING HITS.
Its not that the boys of WhisleKing were trying to not write hits it was more a case of the bottom falling out of the kind of long involved arrangements they were into.The reason was simple enough and the reason was a thing called punk.
The rise of the punk movement was no big threat to WhistleKing except that the band was trying to be good musicians whereas the whole philosophy behind punk was that rock and roll was about attitude more than ability.But as far as being able to rock out at high volume levels that was old hat for these guys.
Then came the marketing ploy known as "New Wave". Somewhere, somehow the nastiness of punk had to be toned down and made accessable to the record buying public.This brought forth bands that had attitude and hits with a different sound than the disco,prog-rock and country-rock bands of the 70's which was what punk was against in the first place.
So now we have people asking instead of that hard to remember WhistleKing,where are The Kings playing? And so in the spirit of the times the guys all got stage names and started working on what would become The Kings ARE HERE.
The Kings were still doing lots of club shows and did about 50-50 covers and originals. Doing six nighters in one place was good for the band because they could rehearse during the day and play and write at night.The songs got shorter and The Kings got tighter.They had a high energy live show that did well in the clubs and they had lots of gigs.But... they wanted to make a record and they had an albums worth of new songs including two weird ones that they stuck together.
Somehow they found enough money to start recording at Nimbus 9 studio in Toronto.The album was just about done when Bob Ezrin came visiting. He liked what was happening and agreed to mix those two songs that went together called This Beat Goes On/Switchin' to Glide. What he found out as he tore the tracks apart was that although the band was loaded with good ideas they didn't know anything about making records, real records.And he just happened to be the top producer in the world! So he said "look, you have what it takes but we gotta re-do this whole thing because your parts and tempos are all over the place. Let me see what I can do." And just like out of a story book he took the tapes to L.A. and Ken Buttice at Elektra Records loved the tunes and got out the contract. And that is how it started for The Kings.
So what happened next was pretty much a dream come true for a young band,a major label deal in America,a top producer and a budget to do things right.
Remember that Ezrin came in as The Kings were getting near the end of recording that indie album, now they had to re-rehearse and re-record the whole thing! It was a great learning experience for the band.A whole MONTH of rehearsal where every song and part was broken down and revamped. Some songs were re-written. If you heard the original version of This Beat Goes On you would be amazed. One of Ezrin's techniques was to hear the song in a simple form and when he heard something he didn't like he'd yell stop and it was fix it time. That is what happened with This Beat Goes On. It was a simpler chord structure that was not as hooky with lyrics that were not as direct. David Diamond understood what Ezrin was getting at regarding the chords and went and changed the parts so that although more complicated musically, it sounded better and was way more catchy. That is when Zero re-wrote the lyrics to the B-verse which is where all this improvement was taking place so instead of the original "Lots of dusty mentals can be blown at any time..." we now have "I have lots of friends that I can ding at any time..." It's pretty obvious which is better and there was more than just that example. Indeed, the whole thing was worked on with the same attitude, "what can we do to make this better?" Dave and Max would get left in the rehearsal room for hours "drilling",going over and over and over their rhythm section parts until they were rock solid. Finally the recording began and this was done back at Nimbus 9 which was in a lovely part of Toronto called Yorkville. This was great because during the breaks the band could go out and look at all the pretty girls walking around. Some of these were pulled in off the street for the "Party Scene" in the song Partyitis. Some mics were placed in the office part of the studio and the band got some booze and had a party! Ezrin didn't think it was loud enough so in order to get more response he streaked the party! More than once! Six weeks later the songs were ready to mix and Ezrin went to his favorite place for mixing which was Producers Workshop in Hollywood California. The results speak for themselves and everyone was very excited about the future. In The Kings minds This Beat and Switchin' were always supposed to be together as a segue. They were not too happy when Elektra Records decided to release Switchin' on its own. It did get some play but finally after pressure from the band the segue was released and it was only then that radio really picked up on it. Key markets included Chicago and the mid-west, Texas, California and all down the eastern seaboard. The Beat/Switchin' combo stayed on the Billboard chart for twenty six weeks as it broke in different markets.
The Kings were also excited about the second single Don't Let Me Know which Diamond wrote on his own. This was the song that had won a Home-Grown radio contest and finally after being recorded four or five different times was ready to go. If you read the book Hit Men you will get an understanding of what the climate was like in the record business at the time. Although not mentioned by name The Kings were very much a victim of the politics between the indie promotion world and the record companies. As a result Don't Let Me Know did not realize its potential and it was time to start thinking about the next studio album.