WRITTEN July 5, 2019 by Chuck Yarborough, The Plain Dealer
Yeah, there’s that Nickelback of the ’80s reputation, but the one thing you’ve got to admire about Loverboy and guitarist Paul Dean, who co-founded the group, is their tenacity.
“A quarter of what we achieved,’’ Dean said in a call from his home in northern Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, asked how the band would’ve defined success in 1979. “It’s unreal what we pulled off.
“Loverboy was my 14th band,’’ he said. “I’m a guy who never gives up. I’m a bulldog, tenacious as hell.”
Dean said that when he teamed with singer Mike Renko, keyboardist Doug Johnson, bassist Scott Smith and drummer Matt Frenette, “it all came together.”
Smith died in a 2000 sailing accident, his place taken by fellow Canadian Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve, but the rest of the original band remains together. Their career as a unit has been interrupted only twice, for a total of less than three years. They’ve been back together, touring constantly, since 1991.
That speaks to the accuracy of Dean’s “tenacious” self-description.
“I’d give a band maybe three years max,’’ he said. “That’s a healthy swath of somebody’s life, especially in this business. But with Loverboy, we had all the ingredients. We had a good band, with a decent image, and we got a great manager who saw the potential and stuck with us.
“We got on the radio right off the bat with the first single, and I KNEW this was how it was supposed to be,’’ Dean said.
Fired from his previous band, Dean had hit what he felt like was the bottom.
“It knocked me down and I almost died,’’ he said. “I fought my way back up from that, from being on the floor in my apartment and trying to get to the phone, and built it up from there. Sometimes, I guess that’s what it takes.’’
Ironically, he said Renko was in a similar position, although not quite as potentially lethal. At least not literally.
“He was having management problems, and that was one of the problems in my previous band, so we had that common thread,’’ Dean said. “They were fairly successful Canadian bands, but we were disillusioned by the business end of it.
“Out of that grew a friendship and a writing partnership,’’ he said.
That partnership got its biggest success courtesy of MTV, as Loverboy was one of the initial darlings of the fledgling music network.
“I was in Wichita, Kansas, when I ran across MTV for the first time,’’ Dean recalled. “I probably stayed on the couch or on my bed in the hotel room watching MTV and thinking, ‘How can we be a part of this?’ ’’
The band was on its first tour, he said, opening for Kansas or ZZ Top — he couldn’t remember for sure which — and he decided Loverboy was going shoot a video and “do our best to get MTV to play it.”
For a while, everything the band did made it into MTV’s rotation. Then came the single for “Love Will Rise Again,” off the Wildside album. It was the first of the band’s albums not to go platinum.
“The tide had changed,’’ Dean said. “It was time for Nirvana and the grunge scene, and all us big-hair rockers were relegated to the back.’’
Not that he’s bitter. Not at all. Dean and his bandmate recognize that music is constantly evolving. If not?
“Otherwise, we’d be listening to Rudy Vallee,’’ he said, laughing.
And they’re still chunking out the hits, like “Turn Me Loose,” “Take Me to the Top,” “Hot Girls in Love” and, of course, “Working for the Weekend,’’ for an appreciative audience.
“I never get sick of playing the tunes,’’ Dean said. “I wish we would could play for four hours.’’
Of course, he acknowledged that might be a bit tough. Reno and Frenette are in their mid-60s, and Dean himself is 73. Sinnaeve was, like Dean, a founding member of the Canadian band Streetheart, and is 64.
“We have 90 minutes and it gives everybody a chance to showcase their stuff,’’ Dean said. “It’s easy for me; I just wiggle my fingers. I’m not beating the (expletive) out of the drums or singing the way Mike does, with 100 percent of his body with every note.
“And another thing, it’s not a concession, but it may be a matter of age or experience, but a lot of our tempos are slower, and the fast ones are down a couple of beats per minute.’’
But that works out, he said, as “they have more slug to them.”
“It’s more channeled now, a lot more subtle,’’ Dean said. “A lot of say, ‘You sound just like you did in the ’80s,’ but I was hoping they’d say, ‘You sound better.’ ’’
Even after all these years, just as good isn’t good enough. Not for someone as tenacious as Paul Dean.
Catch Loverboy with special guest The Tubes at Fraze Pavilion on August 4th, 2020. Tickets $35 to $50 in advance.