It’s pretty much a given that on any Friday afternoon, some classic rock station somewhere in America (maybe it’s every classic rock station, everywhere) will be playing “Working for the Weekend.” The driving rocker by the Canadian band Loverboy first hit the airwaves in 1981, and immediately became a radio staple. The video of the song was one of the early hits on MTV.
It’s pretty much a given that on any Friday afternoon, some classic rock station somewhere in America (maybe it’s every classic rock station, everywhere) will be playing “Working for the Weekend.”
The driving rocker by the Canadian band Loverboy first hit the airwaves in 1981, and immediately became a radio staple. The video of the song was one of the early hits on MTV.
The band, which formed in 1978, and has a string of gold and platinum albums under its belt, is still going strong, and features most of its original lineup (bass player Scott Smith died in a boating accident in 2000).
Speaking from a recording studio near his home in Vancouver, British Columbia, lead singer Mike Reno, who made a name and an iconic image of himself with a red headband and a voice that could hit insane high notes, said that, yes, he still wears the headband and reaches the high registers.
“I’m one of the freaks that still does it,” he said of those notes. “And I wear the headband, but I’ve always done it to keep the sweat out of my eyes. It never was a fashion statement, but it kind of became a staple, that’s for sure.”
Reno started out as a drummer, buying his first kit from money earned on a paper route in Victoria. He played drums and sang back-up harmony in a band with his older brother, who played guitar. When his brother moved to California, Reno became lead singer, while still drumming and, over the years, worked in a series of bands in Canada.
After leaving the mildly successful group Moxy, he moved to Calgary and had a chance meeting with guitarist Paul Dean, who had just left the group Streetheart. On the night they met, they wrote a song together. By then, Reno had stepped away from the drums and become a stand up singer. Soon after, he and Dean were talking about starting a band.
“We’d both been in bands we weren’t totally happy with, so we thought, let’s take a little time, let’s plan it right,” he said. “So we started looking for musicians to play with. I remember people used to see Paul Dean and Mike Reno come into a club, and they’d go, ‘Oh, God, they’re here to poach some of our musicians.’ ”
Reno laughed at that memory, then said, “And that’s exactly what we were doing.”
As the quintet took shape, Dean and Reno started messing around with names, initially coming up with Coverboy, after noticing their girlfriends were reading copies of Vogue and Cosmopolitan. Dean later suggested Loverboy, with hopes that they wouldn’t get beaten up in the first couple of weeks. They didn’t, and the name stuck.
And the string of hits started: Driving rock, including “Turn me Loose” and “Hot Girls in Love,” anthemic ballads such as “Heaven in Your Eyes,” which got a huge boost as part of the “Top Gun” soundtrack.
“We didn’t have a real life,” said Reno of those fast-moving days. “I didn’t even have a home. I lived in hotels for the longest time. There was this run between ’80 and ’86, where we were so busy we went from one tour to another. When we took five weeks off, we went into the studio and recorded a whole record and then went right back out again. It was ridiculously busy, but they were some of the most fun times of my life. You were always doing something really wild and interesting. It was hard, but it was good hard.”
But just a couple of years later, in 1989, the bottom fell out of their musical world.
“We just stopped playing for a while because the record company didn’t want another record, and the radio stations stopped playing our kind of music,” said Reno. “They changed the format and dropped everybody — us, Foreigner, Journey, Kansas, Cheap Trick. We didn’t have a place to do anything. We felt that they made a big mistake, and we just thought we’d sit it out and wait for them to fix it. We weren’t breaking up, we were just not going out. It was around the time I had a young whippersnapper running around the house, so it was perfect for me.”
But in 1992, a friend fell ill and needed money for some expensive medicine. Loverboy, along with a few groups who happened to be in Vancouver recording — Aerosmith, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi and Bryan Adams, among them — put on a benefit concert.
“We hadn’t performed in a couple of years,” recalled Reno. “We went on and played the show, and people stopped talking and turned around and watched us. They connected with us, we connected with them. It gave us such a buzz, as we were leaving the stage, we said to our manager, ‘Book some shows. It’s time for us. We don’t care about radio or record companies. We’ll go play.’ ”
So it was back on the road. Reno said he seriously considered stopping when Scott Smith died, but he was eventually replaced by Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve, who played bass in Dean’s old band Streetheart.
And they’re still out there, with a full summer schedule already lined up.
“You just get up and do it,” said Reno of hitting the road again. “You work out, train a little bit. The music is natural. The physical parts of it are gonna be tough, no doubt. But we’ll play a show, then relax, no big hurry, hop on the tour bus, let the driver get us to the next place. When he stops the bus, we’ve got a hotel waiting there. We just have to get in the groove of getting on the bus, going back to the bunk, reading some books, watching some movies. I’m taking my golf clubs, and I’ll play golf every morning. Then the show’s at 7. It’ll be hard, but we’ll do it.”
Reno finds it fascinating that the past isn’t letting go. He still regularly gets checks for co-writing “”Working for the Weekend.”
“You bet I do,” he said, laughing. “There are a lot of classic rock stations in this country. It’s nice to walk down to the mailbox every couple of weeks.”
And he still gets a kick out of hearing the song on the radio.
“I was heading home from a show I did last weekend,” he said. “Sirius Satellite comes on and the guy says, ‘Hey, if you’re looking for a shot of Mike Reno, here it is.’ And they played ‘Working for the Weekend’ while I’m driving down the highway. And I cranked it up, baby!”