The Kings on festival throne 40 years ago today captured in new video

The Kings promo for 1980 Heatwave Festival

\ By Gary 17, \
With files from Eric Alper

Talk about your very different times.  Today we stand apart two metres or sit in cars to enjoy outdoor festival-style concerts.  Forty years ago on this date, however, old fashioned hippie era grind-in-the-mud/get-high/get-laid-by-a-stranger summer music festivals were still a very real thing, even right here in Ontario, before AIDS and new wave/Punk and the new electro-Pop/Disco came along to change the musical landscape in the 1980s.

The Top Ten hit parade of 1980 demonstrates how stoner/soft-Rock of the ‘70s was gradually giving way into a sharper, crisper sound.  The Number 1 tune was Blondie’s “Call Me,” while others joining it in the Top 20 were Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall,” and “Babe” from Styx, all heralding the emerging new sounds.  But that list also includes tunes like Chris Cross’s “Ride Like The Wind,” Elton John’s “Little Jeannie” and many more reflective of the previous era.

And across this bridge spanning two epochs came, from Oakville, Ontario, The Kings, with a Rock sensibility infused with an electrically charged beat that captured both elements of the times in a monster hit that has over 41 million YouTube views and 2 million plus streams on Spotify —and counting.

“This Beat Goes On/Switch Into Glide” in fact, shot into the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time 40 years ago today, mere months after release of the group’s debut The Kings Are Here album produced by iconic Bob Ezrin, who had just finished work on The Wall.

Although I’ve written many times about this band (including most recently for a small club show they did at the beginning of this year) and how they still rock live and have continued to produce radio-ready hit tunes on several albums released over the past four decades, it’s worth looking back at what started their voyage.

The Kings live in 2013 -GARY 17

“We rehearsed, did club gigs, and wrote lots of songs for more than three years before we went into Nimbus 9 Studio in Toronto to record our first album,” group co-founder Dave Diamond recalled in a recent interview with a music publicist

Bob Ezrin had just done The Wall for Pink Floyd when he dropped in at a TO recording studio and discovered the magic being produced by an obscure local group.

“While we were there recording, Bob dropped by to visit and liked what he heard,” Diamond said.  He agreed to mix the tracks we had done, but soon discovered that the whole thing needed to be re-done. He approached Elektra Records in Los Angeles with our tapes, and we were then signed to a worldwide deal.”

On the day 40 years ago today that their hit first appeared on the Billboard chart they also closed out the now somewhat legendary Heatwave Festival at Mosport Park in Barrie, appearing in front of 50,000 plus fans along with Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, The Pretenders, Nick Lowe and Rockpile, Teenage Head and the B-52’s

They were one of only two bands that agreed to be filmed and miraculously most of their set, the only extant footage from the event, was preserved.  Now it has been “digitally restored frame by frame from its 16mm colour negative, and combined with authentic, remastered sound,” fellow co-founder Mister Zero.

To celebrate the 40-year multiple anniversary of that occasion, as of 8 pm this evening the doc is available as a 30-minute concert movie, “The Kings: Live at Heatwave” posted on YouTube.

It shows a band totally in control of its performance and audience.  The sound was resurrected from 8-track half-inch analog tapes originally recorded on-site by Comfort Sound’s Doug McClement.

Earlier this year the group also released another documentary, “The Kings: Anatomy Of A One-Hit Wonder,” that includes interviews with all four original members and delves into how their monster tune came about and what it took for the band to make the transition from local club act to international touring stars.  It too is posted on YouTube on their TheKingsAreHere channel.

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