Corey Hart gets ready for one last show in Montreal

Corey Hart plays his final show at the Bell Centre in Montreal on June 3.

Corey Hart plays his final show at the Bell Centre in Montreal on June 3.

, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:21 PM ET

Eighties heartthrob Corey Hart was forced to surrender his retirement plans for a few days to the Montreal Canadiens.

The man behind the mega-hits Sunglasses at Night and Never Surrender, and who has sold over 16 million albums worldwide, is now set take the stage on June 3 for his final show ever – dubbed One Night: Three Decades of Music – at Montreal's Bell Centre.

The original date, May 31, which coincided with his 52nd birthday, had to be changed in order to accommodate the NHL and a possible Game 7 between the now-eliminated Habs and the New York Rangers.

"I feel completely gutted by what transpired with the concert date change," Hart laments.

"I have experienced incredible milestones over the course of my 30-year career but this unexpected date change ranks up there as one of the roughest of all because I had no control over it."

The hometown gig is an ambitious final curtain. The setlist has now swelled to 38 songs by Hart's count, and he promises the last marathon night – a tribute to his fans – will be one to remember.

"It will be a late one and we shall party like there is no tomorrow," Hart says, speaking from Montreal where he is hunkered down in rehearsals for the big night.

"It's going to be like a festival... Corey-palooza," laughs Hart.

The show is also timed with the 30th anniversary of the release of Sunglasses and his new memoir, Chasing the Sun. The book is a stunning and candid retrospective, with behind-the-scenes tour photos taken by his ex-wife Erika Gagnon.

Hart, who now resides in the Bahamas with his current wife Julie Masse and their four children, talked to QMI Agency about being in the eye of the fame storm all those years ago, his dogged persistence, how Sunglasses almost didn't see the light of day and what he plans to do now that the Habs are out.

Why the decision to retire now?

Truthfully, it feels like I have been retired. I basically disappeared off the musical radar to be a full-time dad. When I started a Facebook page and a website, I began communicating through my fans directly, and I felt that I wanted to do a show for them and thank them for all the dreams that they made come true.

You dropped off cassette tapes of yourself to your idol Billy Joel at the Montreal Forum before you became a star and ended up recording a demo with his band. Was it this persistence that ended up paying off for you?

I think there's no surprise that I wrote a song called Never Surrender (laughs). I think it's a character trait...it's kind of been hammered into me. If there was an opportunity for me to try and get my music heard, I would take it. If it meant driving a thousand miles on a bus to see some guy that may help me get a record deal, I would do it. I would never compromise on the artistic terms that I set for myself which was to be a singer-songwriter, but, yes, I was pretty persistent.

You had to make waves in the U.S. before you made it in Canada. Do you think that still holds true in most cases?

Back in the early '80s there was definitely a climate here where success in America validated what you were doing more. Without success in America it was tougher going in Canada. My first record (First Offense) came out in November of 1983 and it sold around 10,000 copies and Sunglasses at Night didn't even make a top 20 single. By all intents and purposes it wasn't a failure, but it wasn't a success. Had the A&R exec from EMI America in Los Angeles not come to see me perform when I opened up for Culture Club in March of 1984 and decided to sign me, I don't think we'd be having this conversation right now.

I was surprised to learn Sunglasses at Night almost didn't make it on to First Offense. Did you know as soon as you started humming the first phrase that you had something special?

The album had been recorded and the song hadn't been written as yet... it was an eleventh hour addition. I thought that it was something special and I needed to convince the record company to let me record it. They didn't even hear it, but they had faith in me.

You wrote in the book that you were a big fan of Hall & Oates, and when you opened up for them on several dates, they didn't acknowledge your presence. Can you think of any artists that did support you and gave you great advice?

Myles Goodwyn (from April Wine) told me to fasten my seatbelt as we were flying over the Rocky Mountains (laughs). Rick Springfield was always cordial with me, but never gave me heart-to-heart advice. I was a huge Hall & Oates fan and it was a small part of the book under a caption, and I was reticent about adding it because I didn't want to come across as being untoward. When I put myself in their position I just thought they would have said something – once. I was literally on the side of the stage watching them for 30 shows. I was kind of hard to miss. They may have had their reasons for not coming over.

How did you deal with that first onslaught of fame and how would it be different today?

Having the power of social media today and to be able to write something to your fans is a great luxury. I wished I would have had that because it's unfettered and you can communicate directly and your fans know that you are speaking to them, whereas in my time it was only through an interview or a press release through the record company. I had my share of pandemonium where I didn't go through the front door of the hotel or I wouldn't be able to eat at restaurants because fans were chasing me. That was part of the territory with bands like Duran Duran and Wham from my era. We all went through the same thing, but I think it's more intense today with the 24/7 immediacy of it all.

What will you now do on your birthday?

The Bell Centre is mine again, so I plan to quietly walk about the arena wishing myself a subdued "Happy Birthday," knowing the true gift will arrive a few days later when it will be filled with true blue fans who hung tough with me through this crazy ride.

When you look out into the crowd, will it spark a change of heart?

No, sir. It's the last one... but I'll definitely be going out with a bang.

Should people book a vacation day for June 4? Is it going to go late?

Great question (laughs). Yes, sir. Late indeed and party we shall like there is no tomorrow.

Twitter: @johnwillms

john.williams@sunmedia.ca


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