Zon

Zon was a Canadian symphonic/hard-rock band that released two albums on Epic in 1978 and 1979, followed by a third album on Falcon in 1980.

Members: Roddi Chappell (guitar), Howard Helm (keyboards, vocals), Kim Hunt (drums, percussion), Pat McQuire (drums), Brian Miller (guitar, vocals), Jim Samson (bass), Denton Young (lead vocals, cello, percussion)


Background

Zon emerged from Act III, an unsigned Ontarian symphonic-rock band with singer Denton Young and guitarist–singer Rik Emmett. When Emmett formed Triumph, Young assembled Zon with four Toronto musicians, including bassist Rod Chappell, guitarist Louis Mucilli, and keyboardist Howard Helm.

Zon built a local audience with a set that gradually emphasized originals, including Young–Helm co-writes with input by Chappell (“Astral Projector”) and Mucilli (“Hollywood”). The two soon cleared for bassist Jim Samson and guitarist Brian Miller, a friend of Helm. Drummer Kim Hunt (ex-Island and Bond) stabilized the five-piece Zon, which impressed CBS A&R Bob Gallo, who signed them to Epic and linked them with veteran producer Don Lorusso.


Astral Projector

Zon released their debut album, Astral Projector, in 1978 on Epic (Canada, UK).

 

The Don V. Lorusso produced ‘Astral Projector’, released on blue vinyl, became an FM radio staple in the late ’70’s. The album garnered the band a ‘Best New Group’ Juno nomination. The band would find themselves opening up gigs for the likes of The Tubes at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens, and Styx at CNE Stadium getting opening slot encores on both occasions!

1979’s ‘Back Down To Earth’ was produced by Don V. Lorusso and the late Vancouver keyboard whiz Dale Jacobs. The band played Toronto as headliners where a hometown crowd swelled to 17,800 people. A reporter for the Globe & Mail, who had only stayed to see the opening act, wrote a scathing review thinking he had seen Zon. The negative review was the headline of the entertainment page, nationally in Canada. CBS demanded compensation for the impact on Zon’s popularity but neither the band, nor the label, ever recovered.

Zon was dropped from CBS after a thorough corporate housecleaning of the A & R Department despite Zon already having their contract picked up for a third album.

The ensuing legal battle took much of the heart out of the band, but they did manage one more album for Falcon Records called ‘I’m Worried About The Boys’ produced by then former CBS A & R man Bob Gallo. The record featured a cover version of the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane”.
The band split up in 1981.

 

They signed with Epic Records with distribution from CBS, getting the attention of CBS A&R man Bob Gallo. He took them to Phase One Studios in Toronto and hired Don Lorusso to produce them.

ASTRAL PROJECTOR was released in ’78 on blue vinyl as an added gimmick. Miller and Mucilli had co-written much of the material during their short tenures in the band, and backed by the single, “Melody,” the lead-off “Put On The Show,” “Man In The Mirror,” and the title track, the album became a staple of FM album rock stations across Ontario and in pockets throughout the country. This led to the band tagging along with some of the biggest concerts of the summer, including opening slots with Styx and The Tubes. The album gained them a Juno nomination for Best New Group.

Along with Dale Jacobs, Lorusso was brought back in as producer as the band returned to Phase One and released BACK DOWN TO EARTH in ’79. The lead single was “Gods And Kings,” and along with other cuts like the b-side “Take It From Me,” the lead-off “Circus” (which also made it to a 1979 CBS compilation album called CHOCOLATE HITS), the title track, “Lifeline,” and “Suicide,” they again found themselves as supporting cast on some major tours, including Foreigner and again with Styx.

They returned home to Toronto where they headlined their own show at Maple Leaf Gardens in front of 18,000 people. But a Globe and Mail reporter blasted the band and their show, which made headlines nationwide. As it turned out, he reportedly never saw Zon, only the opening act, a local band called Lipps. As is always the case, negative press goes a long way, and the band never recovered. Although CBS demanded retribution for the impact on the band’s growing popularity, not a penny was ever seen.

CBS exercised their options to a third Zon lp, just before doing a major overhaul at headquarters. Among many others, Gallo was now gone and the label sent the band packing, as it did many other Canadian groups. The subsequent legal battle took the wind out of the band’s sails, but signed with Falcon Records in the spring of 1980. They recruited Gallo as producer and I’M WORRIED ABOUT THE BOYS hit the shelves later that year, which featured a live version of Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane,” backed with “Takin’ The Easy Way Out” as the first single.

Two more singles followed – “For You” and “Better Get Up.” Though still progressive in nature, the album showed a maturity in the writing and leaned a little more to the more palatable pop side.

In support of the album, they latched on to the Alice Cooper tour, but when Cooper was unable to perform at Toronto’s CNE Stadium due to a reported throat infection, it was Young who was given the unpleasant task of breaking the news to the packed house following their opening show. A riot ensued, police were called in, and Zon barely got away unscathed. The band broke up shortly after that, despite the single “For You” reaching #2 on CKOC in Hamilton, their highest charting ever.

Digipak released ASTRAL PROJECTOR and I’M WORRIED ABOUT THE BOYS as a double album in 2005. By then, all the members had gone on to other projects. Young would appear on several other artists’ albums, including former Act Three bandmate Rik Emmett. Hunt joined Hanover Fist and then Urgent for one album each, then Moxy, where Samson also stayed for awhile.

Hunt and Miller would later both also work for music equipment companies in Toronto. Helm joined Fury, which evolved into Refugee, then took a road job with Mick Ronson and Ian Hunter, and eventually opened a music production company in Tampa, Florida, writing music for films, commercials, and television.


Discography:

  • Astral Projector (1978)
  • Back Down to Earth (1979)
  • I’m Worried About the Boys (1980)

Sources:

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