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Images in Vogue had modest success as a new wave band in Canada in the 1980s, with a synth-based pop sound not unlike Icehouse, Japan, or Depeche Mode. Unlike those bands, Images in Vogue were unable to establish a successful career, despite modest success at college radio and as a live act; rather, their overt commercial aspirations led directly to the departure of their most talented members to form the groundbreaking shock-industrial groups Numb and Skinny Puppy. The name of the group preceded the actual formation of the band, as guitarist Don Gordon and bassist Gary Smith, playing in a local band called the Pinups, discussed forming an electronic band with a cool name: Images in Vogue. In 1981 they advertised in a local music magazine for a keyboardist with his own equipment, listing their influences as Simple Minds, Japan, and Ultravox. The ad was successful, bringing Kevin Crompton (percussion, synthesizers), Joe Vizvary (keyboards, synthesizers), and Glen Nelson (keyboards, synthesizers) together with Gordon, Smith, and Pinups singer Gary Johnson. The members pooled together their resources to buy some new equipment, including a Pro-1 synthesizer and a drum machine, and began writing and recording.
Like many of the groups in the robust independent Vancouver music community, IIV chose to record and release their own initial recordings independently. Releasing a five-song demo in 1981, they played their first live concert at a fashion event, with another emerging new wave band, Moev. Encouraged by the warm response, IIV again entered the studio to record a four-song EP; however, once finished the band decided that singer Gary Johnson was not appropriate for the sound they wanted, and decided to look for both a new singer and management.
A DJ at a local club had been playing their demo tapes and been quite enthusiastic about the band's prospects. Kim Clarke Champniss became the band's manager and immediately proved to be the right choice, organizing a high-profile concert, then quickly firing the unacceptable singer and organizing the search for a replacement.
Dale Martindale was a student at the Emily Carr College of Fine Art and had no experience as a singer or musician but was interested in the job. Referred to Gary because he looked like the drummer for Japan, it became obvious immediately that Martindale, although inexperienced, was the right choice; and from that time Martindale became the voice and most prominent face of the group. Manager Champniss quickly organized a debut show for the new lineup featuring Martindale in a tiny Vancouver nightclub. It generated considerable local publicity and was videotaped for a cable television broadcast. It was also the first meeting of the group with a local music student, Dave Ogilvie, who would become the band's long-time producer and engineer, and go on to be influential in the careers of such artists as Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails. For Martindale's next performance, Champniss scored the opening slot for Depeche Mode's first concert in Vancouver; the generally positive reviews from that cemented Martindale's place in the IIV lineup.
With no record deal yet, the group released Breaking Up, the first single, as a limited-edition pre-release recording. Pressing only 500 copies, it was distributed to Canadian college radio and, added to many playlists, gave the group its first taste of national exposure. A road trip with Glen Nelson as support led to the decision to add him to the group, as guitarist and keyboardist, upsetting the balance of the band and eventually leading to the departure of Don Gordon to form the industrial band Numb.
In 1982 a new EP, Educated Man, was released, featuring the new lineup, and their first video, for the song "Breaking Up," debuted. Champniss realized that the record companies were not going to come to Vancouver and sign the band, and decided that the priority for the next year was to tour to eastern Canada and get a record deal. The strategy worked — interest in the band grew as they performed across the country, and backstage at a concert in Toronto, again supporting Depeche Mode, they were offered a recording contract by WEA Canada. The band accepted on the spot, and Champniss stayed in Toronto to negotiate deal points. The band returned to the West Coast to support Roxy Music in two cities. Those large concert settings exposed the limitations of Martindale's vocals, fuelling some dissent within the group.
Kevin Crompton (cEvin Key) and Don Gordon were of like minds, interested in the music of the European electronic underground like Throbbing Gristle, the Legendary Pink Dots, or Chris & Cosey; and fascinated by the emerging harder industrial sounds of such acts as Portion Control, Einstürzende Neubauten, and Front 242. They were not interested in the commercial "new romantic" approach to electronic music, and as Champniss negotiated with WEA, they began working on side projects and recordings, the most interesting of which was Kevin Crompton and Kevin (aka Nivek Ogre) Ogilvie, laying the foundations for projects such as Skinny Puppy and Hilt.
With the WEA deal finalized, the band recorded and released the Lust for Love EP that fall, the title track of which became the band's Canadian breakthrough hit. WEA financed an expensive video, and they did large-scale tours with Bryan Adams and then Duran Duran. The tour with Duran Duran cemented their image as a pop new wave band, and their underground/experimental side was unnoted. However, the band's relationship with WEA Canada was seriously strained when Duran Duran asked for IIV to be added to their U.S. tour dates and WEA refused tour support. Tensions were exacerbated further when WEA lost the master tape of "Call It Love," the next single scheduled for release, and during the remixing Don Gordon angrily left the group, to be replaced by Ed Shaw of Strange Advance.
IIV then won two Canadian U-Know (people's choice) awards, for Most Promising Band and Most Promising Male Singer. WEA presented a short list of potential producers for their debut album release, and it was decided that former Spooky Tooth keyboardist Gary Wright (who also had his own Top Ten hit in "Dream Weaver") would be appropriate. It turned out to be a terrible choice; Wright had a lackadaisical work ethic compared to the band, and he had no talent for working in the studio with the group's instrumentation. The resulting recordings were more guitar-based then electronic, fitting squarely into the dance-pop milieu, completely overshadowing the band's electronic and experimental aspirations. After it was finished, most of the bandmembers were seriously disappointed, and they asked WEA not to release the album. Meanwhile the members all began to dabble in side projects — Crompton, particularly disgusted with the direction of the band, began enthusiastically working on the first Skinny Puppy EP, while even manager Champniss worked on his own side project, called DanceSpeak.
In late 1984 WEA, trying to recoup some of the money lost on the Gary Wright sessions, decided to release a single and 12" EP entitled Rituals, featuring the single "Rescue Me," to radio. It was a failure, even though some stations did play an alternate track, "Call It Love." The reaction and the dysfunctional
inner tensions in the band left WEA and manager Champniss equally dispirited. Champniss eventually tendered his resignation (going on to be an influential and popular MuchMusic DJ) while Crompton prepared to release the first Skinny Puppy EP on Nettwerk Records.
Despite this, the band did not give up. Dave Ogilvie remixed the song "Call It Love" for a WEA France release, and with a popularity boost from a Canadian-released video culled from a live performance, the band was energized. "Call It Love" was added to a few radio stations across the country, leading WEA to start talking to the group about reconsidering the release of the Gary Wright sessions. IIV re-recorded the keyboard parts and remixed all the songs, and recorded a new song, "King's Service." The resulting album was released as In This House, while "King's Service" would prove to be Crompton's last recording with the group.
The band toured Canada again to coincide with multiple CASBY (People's Choice) award nominations; "Call It Love" went on to be their most successful single yet. The success in eastern Canada lead to the decision for the band to relocate to Toronto, where there would be greater opportunity for them to find new management and a more committed record company. They prepared a new video and single, entitled "Save It"; however, as the date for relocation came closer, Crompton announced he was quitting the group, finding the ambition and vision of Skinny Puppy to be more compelling; he was replaced by Strange Advance's Derrick Gyles.
The band found it very difficult in Toronto. They were in considerable debt from financing the video and recording of "Save It," and without a record deal, they were dependent on live concerts to support themselves. They attracted a new manager, who was able to negotiate the release of a 12" entitled In the House on Quality Records. Produced by Dee Long — a former member of Klaatu and the producer of another Canadian band in IIV's musical territory, Rational Youth — the 12" only had modest sales and airplay. Still, it made an impact with fans, and in 1986 the band was again nominated for CASBY awards, this time winning both Group of the Year and Single of the Year honors. Their decision to move to Toronto to make more contacts paid off. Ray Danniel's SRO Management, best known for providing career direction for Rush, signed the band to a management contract and their Anthem Records label.
Popular music taste was changing, and to distance themselves from the growing public disaffection for synth pop as well as the constant change of their lineup, the band considered changing its name to the Spell. After discovering that name was already being used by an Australian band, they decided to remain as IIV and released the album The Spell in 1988; still, the cover art did not have the name "Images in Vogue" on it. The album, while receiving considerable airplay on MuchMusic, was not successful at radio or with the record-buying public, and left the band in considerable debt and still plagued by internal conflicts and changes. They broke up, then reunited to play a farewell concert in Toronto at the Opera House in 1991. All of the members continued to work in the Canadian music industry, either as performers or producers.
Revived interest in '80s music led to the release of several compilation CDs in 2002 and 2004, compiling various remixes, live songs, and studio recordings; they were well received, leading to a brace of reunion shows in Toronto and Vancouver in 2002 and 2004, respectively. The live shows were warmly received; however, there were no future plans for performance or recording.