Evidence of our ongoing love affair with the music decade that was the 1980s has been clearly seen in the huge crowds that have gathered at Del Crary Park over recent summers.
Since 2016, memories of big hair, fingerless gloves, and shoulder pads have come into clear focus at the park as Peterborough Musicfest presented A Flock of Seagulls, Howard Jones, Starship, The Box, and Platinum Blonde on the Fred Anderson Stage. With electronic drums and synthesized keys added to the mix, the ’80s picture was complete.
On Friday, July 1st at Del Crary Park, the ’80s feel continues in a big way as The Spoons return to the Fred Anderson Stage to open Peterborough Musicfest’s 35th season. As has been the case since July 1987, admission to the 8 p.m. concert is free.
Since The Spoons last headlined Musicfest in August 2016, the quartet has released a new studio album, New Day New World, as well as two compilation albums — Repeatable 1980-2020 and Echoes, with the latter seeing the proceeds benefit musicians and live music technicians struggling with financial loss.
But the band’s history dates back much further to 1979 when, in Burlington, Gordon Deppe (lead vocals/guitar) and Sandy Horne (bass/vocals) hooked up with Brett Wickens (keyboards/synths) and Peter Shepherd (drums). It was while eating alphabet soup at Wickens’ home and mulling over possible band names that a light came one — the band would be named after the utensil that each was holding.
In the mid 1970s, Horne, 14, and Deppe, 16, met while members of the senior band at Nelson High School in Burlington, but it was during a band bus trip to another high school in Arnprior that fate intervened.
VIDEO: “Nova Heart” – The Spoons
In an April 2018 interview with Troy Bridgeman of Guelph News, Horne recounted the planting of the seeds of their now 40 years plus collaboration.
“There were two acoustic guitars on the bus,” recalled Horne, adding “I was playing with the girls at the front and Gord was playing at the back and eventually the guitars came together.”
That encounter led to Deppe asking Horne to play bass for his band Impulse and, later, another band called Tryst. That led to the eventual formation of The Spoons.
The Spoon’s debut album Stick Figure Neighbourhood was released in 1981 but it was 1982’s follow-up album, Arias & Symphonies, that brought the band much attention in the form of three Top 40 hits — “Nova Heart,” “Smiling In Winter,” and the title track. Of local interest, the album was produced and mixed by John Punter, later the longtime co-owner of the now-closed Pig’s Ear Tavern on Brock Street.
In 1983, fresh off a 1983 Juno Award nomination as Most Promising Group of the Year, The Spoons went back the studio with Grammy Award-winning producer Niles Rodgers. The resulting album, Talkback, produced the single “Old Emotions.”
The following year, Deppe wrote, produced and performed the Listen the soundtrack for the drama Listen To The City. Two tracks on that album performed by The Spoons as a whole — “Romantic Traffic” and “Tell No Lies” — charted high and are among their best-known hits.
VIDEO: “Tell No Lies” – The Spoons
“Everyone thought we were from England because we sounded like the British wave,” Deppe told Guelph Today.
“The song Nova Heart was a groundbreaking thing for Canada and Romantic Traffic was on the very first episode of MuchMusic. There were a lot of firsts and having a girl bass player in the band sure helped the image.”
For her part, Horne recalled not being taken seriously during a time when female band members were a bit of a rarity of sorts.
“People that hadn’t seen us play live thought I was just a figure and somebody else was doing the recording,” Horne said. “I started wearing ballet slippers and ballerina outfits. You want me to play this tough instrument, I am going to play it on my tippy toes. One of the funniest lines I heard was in Wasaga Beach. A guy said ‘You know, you’re more than just a tootsie roll. You’re a tootsie roll that plays bass.'”
While the first half of the 1980s marked the band’s high point commercially, The Spoons remained productive. In 1986, the album Bridges Over Waters was released followed by Vertigo Tango two years later. It wasn’t until 2011 that new material was recorded for the album of Static Transmission.
“At the beginning of the 1990s, we kind of laid low and didn’t do a lot of shows because there was a change toward grunge and heavier music,” Deppe said. “For a while we thought, well, I guess it’s over and then by the mid 1990s, it started picking up and we were like ‘What? How did that happen?'”
VIDEO: “Old Emotions” – The Spoons
A number of band members have come and gone over the ensuing years — both Wickens and Shepherd left before The Spoons’ first album was recorded — but Deppe and Horne have been the constant.
Scott MacDonald (keyboards) — who played on The Spoons’ 1988 album Vertigo Tango but departed afterwards — and Chris McNeill (drums) round the out current configuration.
The Spoons’ Canada Day concert at Del Crary Park will be followed by a fireworks display over Little Lake presented by the Rotary Club of Peterborough.
Peterborough Musicfest is presenting 16 free-admission concerts during its milestone 35th anniversary season, each staged Wednesday and Saturday nights at Del Crary Park in downtown Peterborough.
Overseen by general manager Tracey Randall and staff, a board of directors, and numerous volunteers, Peterborough Musicfest’s stated mission remains “to provide diverse, affordable live music to enrich cultural and economic prosperity in our community.”
For more information on this concert or the entire 2022 season, visit www.ptbomusicfest.ca or phone the Peterborough Musicfest office at 705-755-1111.