November 29, 2004

SJP


Artist: Prism




1977 Line-up
Ron Tabak (lead vocals)
Lindsay Mitchell (guitar, vocals)
John Hall (keys)
Rodney Higgs [aka Jim Vallance] (drums)
Ab Bryant (bass)
Tom Lavin (guitars, vocals)

1978 Line-up
Ron Tabak (lead vocals)
Lindsay Mitchell (guitar, vocals)
John Hall (keys)
Rodney Higgs [aka Jim Vallance] (drums)
Allen (Hawirko) Harlow (bass)

1979 Line-up
Ron Tabak (lead vocals)
Lindsay Mitchell (guitar, vocals)
John Hall (keys)
Rocket Norton (drums)
Allen (Hawirko) Harlow (bass)

1981 Line-up
Henry Small (keyboards, vocals)
Lindsay Mitchell (guitars, vocals)
Rocket Norton (drums)
Allen (Hawirko) Harlow (bass)
Jimmy Phillips (keyboards)

1983 Line-up
Henry Small (keyboards, vocals)
Dennis Bellfield (bass)
Paul Warren (guitars)
Mike Baird (drums)
Jimmy Phillips (keyboards)

1993 Line-up
Darcy Deutsch (lead vocals)
Andy Lorimer (keyboards, vocals)

The idea of Prism got its start in the early 1970's when Jim Vallance and Bruce Fairbairn met at the University of British Columbia in the school's music program; they decided to join forces and formed a project called Sunshyne. The band initially played horn-band standards, highbrow jazz and funk, and some originals which were jazz oriented. While known as Sunshyne, Fairbairn got a government grant to perform street concerts, so they doubled as a clown band playing parks and city streets.

The members became well known in Vancouver over the next few years and got lots of collective and individual studio work. In the local industry Vallance became known for writing and arranging commercials, and eventually Sunshyne disbanded. Fairbairn and Vallance contacted guitarist Lindsay Mitchell, of local band Seeds Of Time, and he agreed to work with them on a new project. He also brought in Tom Lavin, and suggested Ron Tabak from another local band.

Fairbairn took the musicians into the studio and they recorded some of Vallance's songs that Vallance had demoed at home. They called themselves Under Construction and did some dates around town (and Vallance changed his stage name to Rodney Higgs so that his friends and family wouldn't know he was playing in a pop group), then changed the name to Prism and went back in to the studio. This time they did seven songs of Vallance's and Fairbairn produced. Fairbairn got Bruce Allen to manage based on the material they did and the two together got the band signed in 1976 with GRT/Capitol in Canada and Ariola/Capitol in the US; theirs was the most lucrative record deal a Canadian band had ever signed up to that time in Canadian music history. While recording the first album, Prism did some dates down west coast of North America and Lavin left during this time. John Hall and Al Harlow joined and continued the work in the studio as well as live. Vallance finally left during this time because he disliked touring and Rocket Norton joined. However, Vallance ended up playing drums, bass, keys, and some guitar on final sessions for the first album.

Their eponymous debut was released in 1977 and became an instant Canadian hit. The first single, "Spaceship Superstar", became an enormous hit in Canada and the band toured across the country, earning themselves a reputation for being exceptionally strong live. By the time the album was released, though, Vallance had disassociated himself with the band due to creative and business differences between them. Apparently two of his songs appeared on their second album without his permission but he had reconciled himself with them by the third lp and went on to write more songs for them over the years with his then-new songwriting partner, Bryan Adams.

Over the next three years, Prism released an album a year and toured extensively across Canada. Their popularity in their native country grew with every record, but working constantly finally took its toll. Besides suffering from what today is known as stress and burnout but back then had no label and undefined, the group was consistenly having trouble with Tabak. He was shy because of a speech impediment and didn't write any of the songs, and he also kept running into trouble with the law. Finally, the rest of the group decided to fire him, and Allen helped them bring in singer Henry Small (Small Wonder, Scrubaloe Cain).

Almost immediately there was trouble. Small had his own vision of where Prism should be headed and it didn't mesh with the rest of the band. Within months of recording their 1981 album, 'Small Change', band members were leaving in droves. By the end of the tour to support the album, the only remaining member was Norton. Prism as an entity recorded one more album in 1983 and then split up altogether. The various members went their separate ways - Norton put a band together for Vancouver's CKVU television, wrote music for TV, produced some TV specials, and played in bands on weekends; Harlow lectured on the history of contemporary music at Capilano College and put together an R&B house band for Expo '86; Mitchell joined singer Billy Cowsill (Cowsills, Blue Northern) in a local band and did some television production work, editing the Powder Blues' "Live At Montreaux" concert for the CBC; Tabak and Hall joined local bands and maintained profiles on the Vancouver club scene - until discussion began in 1984 about a possible Prism reunion. Those talks ended abruptly when Tabak was involved in a bicycle accident and died of a brain hemorrhage while in police custody. The other members of the band decided that continuing to pursue a Prism reunion at that point would have been in bad taste and dropped the idea.

That lasted until 1987 when coincidences and events pointed towards the band getting back together - Harlow kept hearing their old music on the radio, and kept having students ask him about their old hits; Norton and Mitchell both managed baseball teams in the same area Little League. They started talking and a few weeks later the three of them were once again discussing the Prism reunion possibilities. Although guarded about the idea and without a lead singer, the problems seemed to resolve themselves a few weeks later when Mitchell happened to catch local Vancouver club band Simon Kaos doing Spaceship Superstar as their encore. Mitchell approached lead singer Darcy Deutsch that evening about singing for Prism, but then found out that Simon Kaos were shopping a demo and promptly dismissed the idea. Deutsch, however, did not and called Mitchell up, explaining that he had quit Kaos and could include his keyboard player Andy Lorimer in the deal if Prism still wanted him.

They did, and the quintet went into the studio to record two new songs for a Capitol Records best of called "Over Sixty Minutes With...", one of which was a Vallance/Adams song, "Good To Be Back". The band toured constantly on the west coast between 1988 and 1993, and finally released a new album in 1993 called Jericho. Reviews were mixed at best but the band toured across Canada in late 1993/early 1994. They received virtually no airplay with the new material, including a video for "Good To Be Back", but the album did well in parts of Europe and the group planned a European tour in 1994 to capitalize on those positive reviews.

Fairbairn was found dead in his Vancouver home on May 17, 1999; Al Harlow teaches in North Vancouver at Capilano College; Rocket Norton is a concert promoter in Vancouver; Lindsay Mitchell recieved his B.A. from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 1999 and graduated with his Master's Degree in Adult Education from UBC in 2001.; Tom Lavin is the owner of Blue Wave Recording Studios; Jim Vallance still produces and writes and has been a guest performer on the "Bluebird North" showcase presentations by the Songwriters' Association of Canada; Small went on to write material for Eddie Money and was a member of Who bassist John Entwhisle's band The Rock. In 2000 Small was the morning radio voice for CIFM in Kamloops and was playing in a band called The Shift who released a CD entitled 'Out Of The Darkness' in 1999. A proper Henry Small solo album called 'Time' was released in the spring of 2002. In recent years Small launched an advertising/jingle company with Gary Fridell called Small World Studios.

A 2000 edition of Prism also recently toured in the Western provinces on a triple bill with Helix and The Headpins. In 2006 Al Harlow launched a new version of Prism and released a brand new album in 2008 called 'Big Black Sky'.

with notes from Kate Polsky, R. Brownlee, Nick Popravsky, John Reynolds, Greg Simpson, Bruce Atkinson, and Sue Markowski.


Singles
1977 Spaceship Superstar/Julie (GRT) 1230-138
1978 Take Me To The Kaptin/I Ain't Lookin' Anymore (GRT) 1230-141
1978 It's Over/Julie (GRT) 1230-146
1978 Flyin'/Just Like Me (GRT) 1230-156
1978 Take Me Away/Crime Wave (GRT) 1230-157
1978 You're Like The Wind/Hello (GRT) 1230-165
1978 See Forever Eyes/You're My Reason (GRT) 1230-174
1979 Armageddon (Edit)/Take It Or Leave It (Magnum/GRT) 1242-8802
1979 Virginia/Mirror Man (GRT) 1242-8804
1979 Night To Remember/N-N-N-No! (Capitol-EMI) 72822
1979 You Walked Away Again/N-N-N-No! (Capitol-EMI/UK) Cl-16132
1980 Young And Restless/Deception (Capitol-EMI) 72829
1980 American Music/Hideaway (Capitol-EMI) 72834
1980 Cover Girl/Another World (Capitol-EMI) 72840
1981 Don't Let Him Know/Hole In Paradise (Capitol-EMI) 72867
1981 Don't Let Him Know/Wings Of Your Love (Capitol-EMI - US) B-5082
1981 Turn On Your Radar/When Love Goes Wrong (Capitol-EMI) B-5106
1981 Rain/Hole In Paradise (Capitol-EMI) B-5137
1983 Beat Street/Blue Collar (Capitol-EMI) B-5244
1983 Is He Better Than Me?/State Of The Heart (Capitol-EMI) B-5266
1983 Modern Times (Capitol-EMI)
1988 Good To Be Back (KMB) KMB-1002

Albums
1977 Prism (GRT) 9230-1068
1978 See Forever Eyes (GRT) 9230-1075
1978 Prism [re-issue] (Capitol-EMI) SN-16246
1978 See Forever Eyes [re-issue] (Capitol) SN-16247
1978 Live Tonite! [blue vinyl] (Ariola - US) PRO-50034
1979 Armageddon (Capitol-EMI) ST-6466
1980 Young And Restless (Capitol-EMI) ST-12072
1980 All The Best Of Prism (Capitol-EMI) ST-6477
1981 Small Change (Capitol-EMI) ST-12184
1983 Beat Street [ala Hotel] (Capitol-EMI) ST-12266
1988 Over 60 Minutes With...(Capitol-EMI) C79117321
1993 Jericho (Spinner) SPJC0-612-2
1995 Best Of Prism (Renaissance - US)
1997 From The Vaults (Renaissance - US)
2008 Big Black Sky (independent)
Video
1993 Good To Be Back

Compilation Tracks






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