#360: Diamond Sun by Glass Tiger
Discovered in the summer of 1984 when a band from Newmarket, Ontario called Tokyo spent two evenings performing before capacity crowds at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens opening for Boy George and Culture Club. Their dynamic original sound captured the moment, and the race to sign them was on. Tokyo, which had become a major force in suburban high schools and the Ontario club circuit, officially became Glass Tiger early the following year when a record deal was finally signed with Capitol Records. The band consisted of Alan Frew on vocals and guitar, Sam Reid on keyboards, Al Connelly on guitar, Wayne Parker on bass and Michael Hanson on drums.
After being introduced to Jim Vallance, who had previously produced albums for Prism and Bryan Adams, Glass Tiger was off to the recording studio to work on their first album. The Thin Red Line set a record for being the fastest selling debut recording in Canadian history, going gold within weeks of its release. To date, this album has received four Platinum records in Canada and earned Gold status in the USA. One of Glass Tiger’s many hit singles “Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone)” climbed all the way to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, followed by “Someday” which peaked on the US charts at #5. Both songs were written by Jim Vallance and made Canadian history when Glass Tiger won successive Juno’s a year apart for Single of the Year from the same album. Additional singles from their debut album were “Thin Red Line” and “You’re What I Look For“. Both peaked in the Top Ten in Vancouver.
On July 25, 1986, Glass Tiger performed in concert at the Expo Theatre at Expo ’86.
With five Juno awards and a Grammy nomination under their belt, Glass Tiger was invited as concert openers for Tina Turner’s 1987 European tour. Glass Tiger’s second release Diamond Sun, established Glass Tiger’s reputation as being one of Canada’s better recording artists at crafting a song. Diamond Sun ended up charting four singles into the Canadian RPM Top 30 singles chart. The first of these was “I’m Still Searching”. The second album release was the title track “Diamond Sun”.
Alan Frew wrote “Diamond Sun”. He told the Chicago Tribune that ”Diamond Sun” addresses itself in part to the fate of smaller cultures that suffer at the hands of larger or more powerful cultures. ”Vanishing Tribes” dealt with that topic on the first album, and the title song deals with it on ”Diamond Sun.” A video for ”Diamond Sun” consists largely of images of North American Indians, although Frew hastens to point out that the song is not about Indian culture and history alone. ”That whole feeling of people who through monetary power or physical power just impose themselves on others. . . . It really does disgust me.”
At the end of “Diamond Sun” Glass Tiger predicts that those in the dominant culture will “hear the heartbeat of a nation’s unrest.” The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was in place from 2008 to 2015. It was established by the Canadian Government with the purpose of documenting the history and lasting impacts of the Canadian Indian Residential School System on Indigenous students and their families. It provided residential school survivors with an opportunity to testify to their experiences during public and private meetings held across the country. At the conclusion of its term in 2015, the TRC issued 94 “calls to action” regarding reconciliation between Canadians and Indigenous peoples. The TRC report in December 2015 stated that the treatment of Indigenous peoples in Canada in the residential school system represented “cultural genocide.”
An example of cultural genocide cited in the TRC report was Language and Culture. First Nations children in residential schools were not allowed to speak their native languages or practice their culture. According to UNESCO, 36% of Canada’s Indigenous languages are listed as being critically endangered. The calls to action in the TRC report request increased funding, from governmental and educational institutions, for educating children in Indigenous languages and also request that post-secondary institutions provide degrees and diplomas in Indigenous languages.
Starting in 2016 the Canadian government has gave the CBC an additional yearly budget of $75 million to enable it to support reconciliation through its programming.
“Diamond Sun” peaked at #4 in Vancouver (BC) and Calgary (AB), and #12 in Hamilton (ON). Internationally, the single peaked at #3 in Port Saint Johns in Transkei, South Africa.
Subsequently, Glass Tiger released more singles from their album: “My Song”, and “Watching (Worlds Crumble)”. The album was awarded Double Platinum status based on its sales.
After Diamond Sun was released drummer Michael Hansen left the band. While Glass Tiger didn’t replace him with a drummer until Chris McNeill in 2000, they had studio musicians who were drummers hired for subsequent album productions.
After the Simple Mission album Glass Tiger went dormant, but reformed and began to tour again ten years later in 2003. On January 20, 2006, Glass Tiger performed at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver.
Keyboard player Sam Reid founded his own production company called Willow Music. Alan Frew wrote the 2010 Olympic Broadcast theme song “I Believe”. Guitarist Al Connelly has continued producing and writing new material, as well as performing. And Chris McNeil has been a drummer with Randy Bachman, Honeymoon Suite and Platinum Blonde. As well, McNeil has been a producer. On September 12, 2012, Glass Tiger appeared in concert at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, with Roxette the opening act. Two years later Glass Tiger returned to Vancouver to appear at the PNE Summer Nights Concert series on September 1, 2014.
In 2015 Alan Frew suffered a stroke and was partially paralyzed for awhile. In 2018 Glass Tiger released their fourth studio album 31. In June 2019 they went on tour with Corey Hart, performing at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver on June 25th. They also released their fifth studio album titled 33. As of October 2019, Glass Tiger had 12 upcoming concert dates between October 2019 and early March 2020.
January 22, 2021
“Glass Tiger bio,” glasstiger.ca.
“Interview with Alan Frew, Lead Singer of Glass Tiger,” Rediscoverthe80s.com, May 8, 2020.
Karen Bliss, “Glass Tiger Frontman Recovering After Stroke Paralyzes His Right Side,” Billboard, August 26, 2015.
Sue Sadzak Herbert, “Seems Like Yesterday” – An Interview With Sam Reid From Glass Tiger,” Music Life Magazine, April 9, 2015.
Tom Popson, “Life, Death, Love, Hate and the Glass Tiger Guys,” Chicago Tribune, August 12, 1988.
“Beyond 94: Truth and Reconciliation in Canada,” CBC, December 14, 2020.
For more song reviews visit the Countdown.