The top 10 songs from the Spoons first take a look into the discography of a Canadian new wave rock group that was founded in Burlington, Ontario in 1979. During the height of the band’s career, it scored several hits with “Nova Heart,” “Old Emotions,” “Romantic Traffic,” and “Tell No Lies” as their most popular. So what about the other six songs from the Spoons that have earned a place on this top ten list? From 1982 until 1989, the Spoons made its mark on the Canadian rock charts. After taking a few breaks during the span of their career, the Spoons continue to perform together today.
The founders of the Spoons were Gordon Deppe, Sandy Horne, Brett Wickens, and Peter Shepherd. Deppe was the frontman as lead vocalist and guitarist while Horne performed vocals and bass. Wickens was the keyboardist while Shepherd was the drummer. The history of Deppe, Horne, and Wickens began in high school as classmates, as well as fellow band members. As for coming up with the band’s name, this came about when all three started at their spoons at the same time while eating soup. As if this unusual twist of fate determined the Spoons as a band name for them, the trio realized there was no going back as soon as the decision was made to go with it.
At first, the Spoons performed music that used the European musical influence similar to the styles of Genesis. When it was realized this wasn’t winning the group a captivated audience, the bandmates opted to go with something bouncier. Already heavily influenced by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, it was their music that would trigger Wickens to come up with the synthesizer sounds that would become a Spoons trademark. Now performing as a synth-pop band, the Spoons were finally able to win over a fan base that would stick. It would be at this time drummer Peter Shepherd opted out of the Spoons and would be replaced by Derrick Ross. After this, the Spoons recorded and released its first single, “After the Institution.” It was an independent release with Mannequin Records. Shepherd was the producer.
After making their 1980 debut as a recording artist, the Spoons would say farewell to Wickens as he left to record and release an electronica-style album as the second half of Ceramic Hello. He later became a graphic designer that would design album covers for several recording artists, including Peter Gabriel. He was replaced by fifteen-year-old Rob Preuss as the band’s new keyboardist. It was this combo the Spoons would release its debut album in 1981. Stick Figure Neighbourhood became a popular record on the university charts across Canada, especially among the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. After touring with Martha and the Muffins in those two provinces, Carl Finkle left his group to manage the Spoons. Finkle’s partnership with the Spoons at this time played led the group to achieve the height of its fame which would lead to a 1983 Juno Award for Most Promising Group of the Year.
Released in 1982, Arias & Symphonies became the breakthrough album Spoons needed to be recognized across Canada on its official music charts. It produced the first three top forty hits in the nation, starting with “Nova Heart.” It, along with the album’s title track and “Smiling in Winter” became popular dance-style new wave hits that would put the group on top as Canadian fan favorites. Arias & Symphonies became certified gold by Music Canada after selling more than fifty thousand copies.
This new claim to fame earned the Spoons opportunities to serve as the opening acts for groups such as Culture Club. It also paved the way for 1983’s Talkback as their second studio album, which also became certified gold not long after its release. At the time, producer Nile Rodgers was first approached to produce for Culture Club. However, he didn’t care for their concert performance. Instead, he was impressed by the Spoons and opted to work with them instead.
In 1984, the Spoons worked with Rodgers again for the two-sided release of a record that featured “Tell No Lies” and “Romantic Traffic.” Both singles became big hits for the Spoons. It was also during this time the Spoons performed musical commercials for companies such as Maxell and Pepsi. The Canadian-based Thrifty’s Clothing Stores used music from the Spoons in their ad campaigns that were featured on radio, television, and print advertisements. Also in 1984, Listen to the City was a dramatic Canadian film that featured “Tell No Lies” and “Romantic Traffic” as part of its soundtrack. The album itself was credited to Gordon Deppe as the rest of the musical score on it mostly came from his instrumental work.
In 1985, the Spoons moved to a new record label, Ready Records. This was a short-lived union as the label failed to secure international releases for the band before it went out of business. This led the group to sign up with Anthem Records with the hope to produce more rock-oriented music. According to manager Bob Muir at the time, the Spoons’ decision to work with Thrifty’s Clothing Stores was a mistake that cost the band’s credibility with its fan base. Going into 1986, “Bridges Over Borders” and “Rodeo” saw the Spoons dive deeper into harder rock sounds instead of sticking to the synth-pop formula that made them household names among Canadian music fans. As an album, Bridges Over Borders proved to be a commercial flop. The released singles also failed to make a chart impression.
Vertigo Tango would be a 1988 album release that would have some reunited members of the Spoons attempt to redeem themselves as a credible new wave rock group. Although this recording saw an improvement when it came to chart recognition and sales among Canadian fans, it didn’t quite measure up to the same luster the group experienced with Arias & Symphonies, and Talkback. From 1990 until 1994, the Spoons took a break so each band member could focus on other pursuits.
It wouldn’t be until 2011 that Deppe and Horne would bring the lineup of the Spoons at that time to produce the group’s sixth studio album, Static in Transmission. In the meantime, Deppe and Horne continued to perform as the Spoons in concert and other gigs. There were also compilation albums released during this time as well. 1994’s Collectible Spoons was the first as it featured the group’s most popular songs and hits. Released in 2007, Unexpected Guest at a Cancelled Party featured musical material that was recorded between 1982 and 1985. This was followed by 2008’s Limited Edition as a greatest hits album to replace Collectible Spoons as soon as it was out of print.
In 2019, New Day New World became the seventh studio album released by the Spoons. In 2021, Repeatable 1980–2020 and Echos became two more compilation albums that would be added to the roster of albums credited to one of Canada’s most endearing new-wave rock groups in history. The recent years of the Spoons as recording artists and performers have included a more direct connection with the fans that put platforms such as iTunes and Spotify to good use. While the Spoons still perform together today, Gordon Deppe also performs with A Flock of Seagulls. He has been doing this since 2018. He and Sandy Horne remain as founding members of the Spoons while Chris McNeill currently serves as the group’s drummer while Scott MacDonald is the keyboardist.
While the Spoons may not have scored any top ten hits on official music charts, this was a very popular group among fans who were into the dance club scene and new wave music. Where this band lacked in chart-topping hits they made up for as one of the most impressive performers in concert. It had no trouble winning over big-name producers such as Nil Rodgers in the 80s and it still has no trouble winning over fans who love its brand of music worldwide. When it comes to dishing out a loving spoonful of great music, the Spoons continue to cater as the world-class act they are.
Top 10 Songs from the Spoons
#10 – Smiling in Winter
Released in 1982, “Smiling in Winter” became the third single produced by the gold-certified album, Arias & Symphonies. On the Canadian Singles Chart, it peaked as high as number thirty. If there was a song that best describes the harshness of Canadian winters well while being romantic about it at the same time, “Smiling in Winter” was it. What made this song a standout favorite among fans was the rise-above-fear approach to colder climates that can be taken literally and metaphorically. Winters have been noted as the coldest season that’s applied to more than just the time of year. It’s also applied to the stages of a person’s life. The dramatic synth-heavy opening first sets the potential of harsh weather conditions before lyricist Gordon Deppe described the scenery from the view of his apartment.
#9 – Arias & Symphonies
“Arias & Symphonies” became the highest-charted single for the Spoons after it was released as a single in 1982. On the Canadian Singles Chart, it peaked as high as number eighteen. The album was recognized by Canada’s The Chart Magazine as one of the 20 Most Influential Albums of the 1980s. The single featured the Spoons capitalize on the production expertise of producer John Punter. The British-born producer inspired Gordon Deppe and his bandmates to develop lusher music material that would become dance hall favorites.
“Arias & Symphonies” was a song loaded with heavy Europe’s new wave influence that cemented the Spoons as an international club scene favorite throughout the course of the 1980s. “Arias & Symphonies” was energetic, as a great dance song should be. It was also a new wave classic that dictated the Canadian music scene as the surge of dance clubs competed against each other to crowd up their floor space.
#8 – All the Wrong Things (In the Right Places)
“All the Wrong Things (In the Right Places)” was the second single released from the Spoons’ seventh studio album, New Day New World. The final cut of this song featured the vocal talent of fans who submitted a recording of themselves as they performed the song’s chorus. It was a contest introduced in 2019 by the Spoons, which also produced an award-winning music video.
Of the fifteen video festivals it was entered into around the world, “All the Wrong Things (In the Right Places)” won six of them. This song served as a bridge between “For the First and Last Time” and “Beautiful Trap” as part of a three-video presentation produced by Peter Sacco. What made “All the Wrong Things” great was the mix of maturity that influenced today’s lineup of the Spoons and the synth-style sounds that sculpted their career going into the 1980s.
#7 – For the First and Last Time
2017 marked the first year the Spoons recorded original musical material together since 2011. “For the First and Last Time” came from New Day New World where both the song and its music video quickly became a global fan favorite. It was designed as the first of three songs laid out for a three-video presentation that included “All the Wrong Things (In the Right Places)” as the second, then “Beautiful Trap” intended as the third. Of the thirty-five global film festivals “For the First and Last Time” was selected for, it won ten. As a single, “Beautiful Trap” was released first in 2017, then “For the First and Last Time in 2019.”
The music video for “For the First and Last Time” featured lead vocalist Gordon Deppe acting as an investigator of the paranormal as he toured what he thought was an empty castle. Backing vocalist Sandy Horne played the role of the ghostly spirit. This was directed by Peter Sacco, the same infamous ghost hunter from Paranormal Profilers. “For the First and Last Time” was a favorite at the Cannes Short Film Festival, the Indo Global Film Festival, and Virgin Spring Cinefest.
#6 – Waterline
“Waterline” was the final single released by the Spoons that would become a hit. Released from the album Vertigo Tango in 1989, it peaked as high as number forty-four on the Canadian Singles Chart which made quite an impression on the group’s fans. It faired better than the 1988 single release of “When Time Turns Around,” which became a number sixty-eight hit on the same music chart. “Waterline” was about a woman struggling with emotional baggage that weighed her down like an anchor.
Gordon Deppe’s lyrics portrayed the image of turbulent water surrounding her that made it difficult for someone to get close enough to help her with the healing process. While the water is calm, all is well. When the waves begin to crash, riding them out became a challenge. “Waterline” was also a great song that displayed the maturity of the Spoons after experiencing the innocent-like rise to fame they experienced in 1982. Unlike the faster-paced numbers the Spoons have been known for, “Waterline” was reflective as a somber song that worked as something slower to dance to.
#5 – Tell No Lies
“Tell No Lies” was released as a single in 1984 as a fast-paced pop favorite that the Spoons were best known for by their fans. The music video shot for it featured the band traveling about in a misadventure that included a cameo appearance by Nash the Slash. The vocal performance by Gordon Deppe came as a disgruntled victim of betrayed trust after learning not everybody tells the truth all the time. When this was released as a single, it became a number thirty-four hit on the Canadian Singles Chart.
The song was lined up for the 1984 Canadian movie and soundtrack, Listen to the City. In addition to learning lessons about lying as a victim, Deppe also admitted he learned how to dish out the same treatment he received. “Tell No Lies” featured the familiar spinning record sounds that were found in so many songs throughout much of the 1980s. The solos performed during the bridge of the song highlighted the talent pool of the Spoons that earned them a loyal fan base around the world.
#4 – Symmetry
“Symmetry” was a dance single that came from the album, Arias & Symphonies. Although its 1982 release saw very little airtime on Canadian radio stations, it was extremely popular in dance clubs. Among venues that cater to 1980s retro, “Symmetry” continues to stay in the roster of fan favorites in Canada, as well as the rest of the world. Both this song and the album featured the production work of John Punter from Roxy Music. It was he who helped The Spoons develop a more sophisticated sound as a band. The dynamics of “Symmetry’ was lush as the bass, guitar, keyboards, and drums beautifully worked off each other to make the song a danceable favorite.
Interestingly enough, when The Spoons first became a recognized name in Canada and the US, it was assumed the band members came from Britain. This is where Punter came from and it was his influence that inspired “Symmetry” and Arias & Symphonies to become one of the classic new wave recordings during the 1980s. The beauty behind “Symmetry” was the balance between every up and down people experience as they go about their daily lives. As a song, it was simply fun to dance to. The remixed single version released on the B-side of the record that featured “Nova Heart” was the version that won over so many fans around the world who frequented dance clubs at the time.
#3 – Old Emotions
“Old Emotions” was a single that was strictly a Canadian release, which came from the Spoons’ second studio album, Talkback. This came as a disappointment for the group, especially since all the tracks on the album were produced by Nile Rodgers. He was a highly recognized producer that worked with the band after he was impressed by its live concert performance in 1982. “Old Emotions” was a playful, yet bittersweet song that featured lead vocalist Gordon Deppe taking a trip down memory lane as he remembered an old flame.
On the Canadian Singles Chart, “Old Emotions” peaked as high as number twenty-eight. Between the keyboard performance and the somber vocals, “Old Emotions” became one of The Spoons’ signature songs that charmed its way to a worldwide fan base, especially among those who could relate to the story of lost loves and the innocence that went with it.
#2 – Romantic Traffic
The most popular hit by the Spoons was “Romantic Traffic.” This, along with “Tell No Lies,” would be featured in the 1984 soundtrack to the movie, Listen to the City. The opening bass riff performed by Sandy Horne was a recommendation made by famed producer Nile Rodgers. His suggestion played a key role in the start of what became one of the signature songs that won the Spoons a worldwide fan base. As for the “doot-doot” quips featured in the chorus, this was an accidental filler as lead vocalist Gordon Deppe was literally at a loss for words as he tried to perform the song.
It was enough for Deppe, Rodgers, and the rest of the Spoons roster to realize the “doot-doots” was necessary to turn “Romantic Traffic” into the group’s most recognizable hit. “Romantic Traffic” was intentionally written for the Listen to the City soundtrack. While the song itself was credited to the Spoons, the album was credited strictly to Gordon Deppe.
“Romantic Traffic” was a song that described the fate of two people. The first half was about a man who found a new love interest, leaving his current one behind, as he embarked on a new romantic journey. The breakup suggested it came without warning, much like a vehicle switching lanes without signaling in the middle of rush hour traffic. The second half was about a woman finding new love through an accidental encounter with someone who failed to brake on time to avoid the collision. While the song itself didn’t have much for words, it still spoke volumes as a mid-tempo ballad that looked into the ups and downs of romance between two people as if caught in a mesmerizing traffic circle.
#1 – Nova Heart
Released in 1982, “Nova Heart” was the first single released from the Spoons’ debut album, Arias & Symphonies. It became a number forty hit on the Canadian Singles Chart but was even more popular in the dance clubs. “Nova Heart” was among the first songs written by Gordon Deppe while he was still in university. After reading Childhood’s End, a science fiction book written by Arthur C. Clark, he was inspired to write a song about overcoming certain challenges that may seem as extraordinary as an exploding star. “Nova Heart” was first composed on a keyboard before the rest of the song’s composition fell into place.
The synths and the drums performed together turned “Nova Heart” into a song that was meant to be on the B-side of the group’s upcoming record but wound up on the A-side instead. The Spoons knew “Nova Heart” was hit single material. Immediately after it was released, that’s exactly what it became. In the dance club, “Nova Heart” was a consistent favorite, especially in the US. Of all the songs performed by the Spoons, “Nova Heart” remains on top as a timeless classic. According to some music critics, “Nova Heart” earned its place as one of the Top 100 Canadian Singles of all time.
Feature Photo: Tabercil, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Top 10 Songs From The Spoons article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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