For a number of reasons, Alan Frew has a great affinity for the music created during the 1980s – particularly the pop music. The primary, and most obvious reason is that he and his bandmates in Glass Tiger were ubiquitous hit makers over the second half of the decade, dominating radio and video airplay with a string of chart busting singles – many of which are still staples of Canadian radio, including Someday, Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone), I’m Still Searching and Animal Heart.
But Frew, the band’s vocalist/songwriter, who has three solo albums to his credit, is also a fan of many of the other songs that came out during that decade – many by acts that he had a chance to meet and even tour with. His most recent album, 80290 Rewind, released in the summer of 2015, features Frew covering a slew of popular 1980s hits, with his own inimitable, powerfully lilting voice.
For his solo shows, much of the repertoire comes from this album, which features songs such as Yes’ Owner of a Lonely Heart, Don’t You Forget About Me by Simple Minds, John Waite’s Missing You and even a revamped version of Glass Tiger’s own Someday. Fans in Belleville, Ontario will get a chance to hear these loving re-interpretations of 1980s pop standards when Frew and his solo band perform at the Empire Theatre on Friday, Nov. 3, at 8 p.m.
“[It’s] a wonderful evening of walking down 1980s ‘memory lane.’ We start with hits, we give you hits in the middle, we end with hits … then if you want an encore we return and give you, you guessed it – more hits. It’s 1980s bliss. My band is killer and we deliver these songs as good, if not better, than the originals: Tears for Fears, Simple Minds, Midnight Oil, INXS, Robert Palmer, Peter Gabriel and many more. I guarantee if you love the 1980s, you will adore this show,” Frew said, as he journeyed to Los Angeles recently, to do some recording for a new Glass Tiger album.
“I am off to L.A. to do a duet with a pal of mine. The new Glass Tiger CD due out in February has a theme of family and friendship, of love and kindness and I have done several duets. Stay tuned for who I am singing with in L.A.”
Getting back to the subject of 1980s pop music and its enduring appeal, Frew believes, as much maligned as it was throughout the 1990s and through the early years of the new millennium, that the music created during the decade is starting to earn much more respect and esteem as time passes.
“I truly believe the 1980s are poised to become a classic era, reminiscent of when I was younger and the 1960s became classic. Why? That’s a good question. I am always fascinated by the fact that so many young people who weren’t around for the actual era, flock out to see our shows. I would take a guess that there is just something uniquely attractive in the tone and texture of these 1980s songs that attracts them away from the barrage of EDM, Rap or metal. I think it’s ‘ear candy’ for them, and of course it’s pretty tough to listen to great 1980s hits and be angry, or frustrated or bummed out. The songs that we all know and love by 1980s bands like U2, Simple Minds, Tears for Fears, The Police etc. are just so melodically and lyrically strong that they stand the test of time so well,” Frew explained.
Glass Tiger had one of its busiest summers in many years, thanks to a booming festival market, and the band seems like it’s had a second wind over the past few years, hence the push for a new album. Frew never stopped writing songs after GT went on hiatus in the early 1990s, issuing his first solo album, Hold On in 2004, followed by Wonderland in 2000. He also co-wrote the hugely popular I Believe, which became the theme song for Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Consortium for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, with Stephan Moccio (Miley Cyrus, Celine Dion, Seal, The Weeknd). He also became an in-demand public speaker, based on the success of his 2007 book, The Action Sandwich: A Six Step Recipe for Success by Doing What You’re Already Doing,
Songwriting became a huge fixture in his career over the past two decades, and Frew has logged many miles between the two big songwriting capitals of North America – Nashville and Los Angeles.
“I have always enjoyed the environment of songwriting in places such as Nashville and L.A. The level of talent is incredible and it raises your game. I have done a lot of writing in both places and in more recent times, with great ‘pop’ songs coming out of Nashville; they have now got pretty much everything in common. Nashville, however, has managed to hang on to its quaintness. It still feels homegrown and small town, but the talent pool of players is staggering. L.A. is enormous and spread out and of course it’s the mecca for writers, so it’s very seldom you actually write with anyone born and raised there,” he said.
Frew’s passion for his craft is as vibrant as it’s ever been – perhaps even more so because of the perspective and appreciation for the fragility of life that he’s gained over the last two years. In the summer of 2015, not long after he played a solo date opening for Tom Cochrane in Belleville, Frew suffered a stroke.
Scary and debilitating, it thrust him – somewhat accidentally – into the public eye for a far different reason than for being a successful rock star. He ended up chronically his healing journey in a very public way and generated a lot of public interest and awareness of stroke, stroke treatment and fundraising.
“I sort of stumbled into it. I was fairly new to Facebook around the time of my stroke and when I was hospitalized it began very privately. That changed, however, when some people, completely unrelated to me, tried to get into the hospital to see me. And on Facebook people were posting messages of support to me and yet I had not gone public about any of this. It dawned on me that some members of the hospital staff must have let the cat out of the bag regarding my stroke and my hospital admission,” Frew said.
“I then, completely naively, thought I would post to my Facebook fans letting them know that I had indeed suffered a stroke, but that I was okay and that I would fight back, not thinking for a second that the reverberations of such an action on my part would hit the media the way that it did. After that happened, I had major television and radio stations requesting interviews and my plight became extremely public. After that happened, it became obvious to me as a communicator that I had an obligation to speak out and let others know that it’s okay to feel broken, it’s okay to mourn what has happened to you, it’s okay to feel lost and broken but eventually you have but one choice. You must pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get moving. The human condition is a fragile one, but it is also a tower of strength. You don’t know how much courage you have until it’s all you have.”
Frew said sharing his experience led to many folks sharing there’s with everyone finding comfort and inspiration from one another.
“Thousands of people have written to me thanking me without realizing that I am also grateful to them. I have read countless stories of courage in the face of adversity: be it a stroke or heart attack, cancer or MS, trauma or loss, the stories of courage are endless. There are stories that make my stroke seem like a ‘walk in the park.’ Compared to what some have gone through. But, for the record, don’t have a stroke – it isn’t a walk in the park,” he said with a laugh.
“[And] I still approach my career as I have always done. What it has done, however, is that it has driven home just how fast the clock of life is ticking and it has reinforced, on a massive scale, the fact that life is to be lived. Go for it! Don’t hold back, don’t be afraid. Want it, but don’t need it. Be passionate and direct and strong and free. Live now because you are indeed a long time dead.”
Frew said he has to take medication, limit his sodium intake and exercises regularly. He still has mobility and strength issues in his right hand and arm saying “they just don’t work like they once did” but otherwise has no permanent physical impact from the stroke, even saying that he feels his voice is as strong as it’s ever been and perhaps has a richness to it now that it didn’t before.
That voice will be on fill display this coming Friday in Belleville. For more information on the show, visit http://theempiretheatre.com/live-events/alan-frew.
For more information on Frew and his various other endeavours, visit http://www.alanfrew.com.
For more information on Glass Tiger, including new album updates, visit http://www.glasstiger.ca.
- Jim Barber is a veteran award-winning journalist and author based in Napanee, ON, who has been writing about music and musicians for a quarter of a century. Besides his journalistic endeavours, he now works as a communications and marketing specialist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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