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In Those Days, You Had To Wait: Toronto’s Debut Album

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Younger readers of this site will be unable to comprehend what I’m about to say: there was a time when you might hear a song, really want a copy of it, but be unable to get it and have to wait for – on occasion – weeks before you could acquire it.

It was a delightful phenomenon of the old-fashioned record industry.  When a band was established, its latest album would sometimes “ship platinum” – that is, the record company would, on spec, press zillions of copies and send them to record stores confident that they would sell out.  (That didn’t always happen: do a search for “Casablanca Records” to see the unfortunate adverse consequences of this practice.)  But sometimes a record by an unknown band would become a surprise hit, and it would quite literally sell out: no unsold copies of that record would exist in the world!  So if you wanted it, you had to wait till the record company sussed out the situation, pressed more copies, and got them into stores.  The wait could seem interminable.  That’s what happened with Lookin’ for Trouble, the debut album by Toronto, in 1980.  Once its first single, “Even the Score,” hit the radio, the record vanished from store shelves.

Then What?

Toronto had a string of hits in the early eighties, good hard-rock and later hard-pop songs with terrific singing by Holly Woods.  I suppose it didn’t hurt that she and guitarist Sheron Alton dressed in very – very – tight leather.  But honestly, her voice was one to be ranked alongside that of Pat Benatar (and, oddly, Toronto’s debut album covered “You Better Run,” the 1966 Young Rascals’ hit, in the same year Benatar herself had a hit with it on her second album).  Later hits included “Silver Screen” and “Get it On Credit” – fine, fine hard-rock songs, replete with melody and energetic performances by the band.

Later Days

One of my minor favourite albums remains the 1984 album Assault &Flattery, credited to “Holly Woods and Toronto” and featuring only one other of the band’s original members (Scott Kreyer, on keyboards).  It’s a typical mid-eighties Mike Flicker production – very glossy, sounding just gorgeous – and it features “Cats and Dogs (Stealin’),”on which Woods duets with fellow Canadian rock goddess Darby Mills from The Headpins.  You won’t hear much better singing than you get on that song by those two amazing women.  Check out Toronto in whatever incarnation – that’s what rock-and-roll should sound like.


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