Tapps was a Canadian dance group best known for their 1983 Hi-NRG hit single, My Forbidden Lover. Vince DeGiorgio who signed them to his Power Records label writes about their history.
Tapps biography and profile: The evolution of international Hi-NRG dance music can be traced from elements of the remnants of the eclectic energy of what was the end of the fashioned disco craze and the need to take the next music step. Dance music's history, so often bashed by its critics for a lack of knowledge and a lack of passion, rose from the ashes to once again to write another chapter. With its "hands-in-the-air" exemment and a driving spirit clocking 130 beats per minute, a new genre was born.
Surrounded by the influences of the late and very great Patrick Cowley, Spanish fusionists, Azul Y Negro, and a variety of producers with bravado and hooks to match like New York's, Bobby Orlando and England's, Ian Anthony Stephens, Allan Coelho took a page from their book. Fusing his enthusiasm as a part-time DJ and a constant clubber, he wanted to take his weekend pop dreams playing in local bands and go to a different stage. "At first", Coelho recalls, "we just wanted to be popular in our own community. The world stage is a dream. I don't know if we really shot for the moon that early in the game."
The community he speaks of consisted of thousands of young Portuguese immigrants who came to the Toronto area, searching for a new life as a part of the thriving industrial and cultural metropolis that Canada had become. Almost a half decade later, the West End of downtown Toronto remains a foundation where social clubs rule and church festivals are amongst the highlight of the calendar year. It is here where Coelho, school mates Tony DaCosta and Paul Silva became French Kiss, at that time a wedding and event band. When change came to them musically, they decided a name change was in order. Taking the first letter of each of their given names, Tony, Allan and Paul, pluralized them and became Tapps.
Andree Emond, a lighting magician and part time DJ, heard of the dreams of the Tapps trio and introduced them to local record producer Bob Rudd. With a background in music in the Montreal area and a father who was a prominent jazz musician, Rudd's original attraction to the group was a drum machine. "Somehow, we ended up getting together with Bob to start laying a track and getting music together. Then, we had a setback that I thought was going to be the end of the group."
Original member Paul Silva was suddenly struck with a serious medical condition. "It's really heartbreaking because Paul was there in the beginning and we wanted him there with us. We're friends, you know", remembers Coelho. Because of this, and with Paul's blessing, the group's name didn't change and their vision had determination added to it. During the late months of 1982, work began in the producer Rudd's apartment on what was to be the group's first single.
Coelho: "We didn't have a vocalist, so we started auditioning people and many of them came to us from a poster that Bob put in Star Sound, a record store on Yonge Street in downtown Toronto. A club kid, Steve Bolton was actually the original lead singer of the band. But somehow it didn't work out. Steve wrote an original song that was kind of strange and I think we all knew that even though the energy was there musically, but the total package really didn't work."
Taking Bolton's original lyric context about a forbidden sexual encounter, club DJ Vincent Degiorgio had started a label called Power Records. "I lived in Le Tube, the club where Vince was spinning and I mean, I really lived there. Tony was Vince's light man for a while and when he played, people stayed" recalls Allan. "I don't think I ever left the club before 7 a.m. on the weekends." Years later, when Coelho became a club-owner for a day, he never forgot those wild days where Sylvester, Bobby O and Patrick Cowley ruled the clubs. On the last day Le Tube was opened in 1984, he invited Vince DeGiorgio to close the club and play the last day it was opened.
Rewind back to 1982: Degiorgio, as an aspiring lyricist, jumped into the fray by taking the original lyric and twisting the concept. Using the inspiration of Chic's hit of a year before, Bolton's concept was given a vision: My Forbidden Lover. Producer Rudd found a vocalist through a newspaper ad. The search brought Irish-Canadian blondina Barbara Doust to the fold. "Barbara really gave life to the song in a way that I think we were looking for, and Tony and Barbara hammered out the melody with a bridge in mind and it just took off. We knew we had something."
During the time that My Forbidden Lover was to be released, one mix was done on the track and the sessions weren't exactly a walk in the park. "Allan wanted to quit the night we were mixing it at Kensington Sound" says DeGiorgio, who signed the record to his fledgling label. "There was no love lost in a matter of weeks in the production, with the headstrong Rudd making certain production decisions that were making the band crazy". An unknown fact is that De Giorgio's room mate at the time, DJ Chris Klaodatos called Degiorgio and summoned him to the studio. "I can still remember Chris saying 'Get the hell down here or there will be no record' and at the time I didn't drive. So here I was taking a taxi to find that we were minutes away from finishing a record and suddenly the producer wanted the chorus to be instrumental !"
Cooler heads prevailed and the song was mixed and printed. The label pressed up the first 500 copies and they didn't sell, they flew out of the shops. While working at a local dance retailer, Degiorgio started to see a buzz. "We knew that the reaction was legitimate and then international territories started calling". Soon after the 12" vinyl was released in Canada, exports to Mexico, the United States and Holland had a local band go from wanting to hit their community to having one of the most successful dance records in Canadian history, charting at # 1 for ten weeks with TOPA, Canada's most influential record pool. When dance label Friends Records called from Holland, it wasn't just for that territory, but for all of Europe. "My Forbidden Lover" became one of the biggest Hi-NRG records worldwide, garnering a # 2 single in Holland on the dance chart, only to be blocked out of the penthouse by Herbie Hancock's "Rockit". Subsequent releases in Spain, Germany, the U.S and Mexico solidified the group as an act to watch. A tour of Holland ensued, and was coupled with a riotous tour of Mexico. "I thought we were the Beatles, remembers Coelho, because it was absolute insanity. At one gig I didn't think we were going to get out of there alive. It was absolute madness". The group, who did very few gigs in Canada despite its success, performed for over 100,000 people at one event. Its memories intact, enjoined on tours by Candy Berthiaume as its lead vocalist for duration of the group's recording, it was not without its problems.
Success came with a price. And the price was paid during what was to be the fabled first album of the group to follow. After a remix for the UK was refused when their debut reached the UK HiNRG top 10 as an import by their producer, the group went into Studio 306 to record their debut album. Dipping into their past performances, the group took an original folklore track "Madiera Dance", their first attempt at a ballad with "Keep Me In My Mind" (co-written with Doust) and a variety of other tracks that remain unreleased. The only song to emerge from these sessions was a song called "Burning With Fire."
Riveting synths and glittering arpeggios highlighted Burning, (as Coelho has always called it) and the song almost didn't make it to a release. When given an original cassette (there were no CDs back in the day!), DeGiorgio went to work furiously to attempt to find the right lyric for it. Originally titled "Call Me", producer Rudd wasn't happy about the combination or lyric and gave the original to Doust to re-interpret. Under intense pressure, Barbara's re-write and delivery became, Burning With Fire. Today, it stands as one of her great performances, with the DaCosta/Coelho combination delivering the magic once again. It would be the last collaboration between Tapps and producer Bob Rudd. Driven by the pressure of the experience, Doust departed the act without ever performing with them. On the European cover, which features Allan and Tony, they were fronted by a model who was not a vocalist. The pictures was taken in the Eglinton Street subway station to the chagrin of the supervisors of Toronto Transit Commission.
Despite another top ten single in Holland in the clubs and another chart hit to boot, Burning With Fire became more of a cult classic than the success reached by the band with its debut single. For a moment, each of the creative principles went their separate ways. DaCosta, the quiet and determined counterpart to Coelho's "left hand high and right hand playing the hook" energy, piloted and co-produced Take Me Now, written with clubgoer Terry Lottman, who was one of the group's most ardent supporters. In collaboration with Barbara Doust, their collaboration generated some international attention as well. Grittier and more emotive than his work with his partner, Tony's urgent more dramatic intensity has made the song an underground classic.
Coelho's bright and poppy interpretation was the perfect ebb and flow bookend to DaCosta. Sung and co-written by ex-Harlow lead vocalist Yohanna van der Kley (best known for their song, Take Off),
Starstruck Lover almost mirrored the success of Take Me Now. Released in Canada as was the aforementioned on Power, "Starstruck Lover" was steeped in true disco fashion by its melodies, and Coelho's stabs and uplifting music track made it another hi-NRG hit. Not only did it strike a chord as a pathway for Allan as a producer in the future, it also marked the beginning of a long and enduring friendship with the late Toronto disco legend, Peter Frost.
As a former buyer and enthusiast, Peter Frost was to the knowledge of disco what Freud was to philosophy. A giant of a man in size, Peter's well-developed ear endeared him to Allan's intense need for a fulfilling record. "I was pretty burned out after the first album we did never got released. It was disappointing..., I mean, you want people to hear your music and I feel we could have done more. Peter didn't ask for anything but to be involved. So I gave it a shot on "Starstruck" and I felt comfortable. He was more of an advisor than a full-on producer. And I think that's what Tony and I wanted to do on whatever record we did next. No egos, just passion. Bob did great things with the first record, so you have to give credit where credit is due. But this time, we wanted to call the shots".
And call them they did. Using the same formula, DaCosta and Coelho collaborated once more, and the earlier stages of the track's performance leaned a little bit heavier on the synth side. When recorded on a four track, it had a different flavour. When the synth arpeggios were removed, Tapps essentially went pop. Driving to the distribution office where Power was, Allan brought his trademark enthusiasm to the office. "Where's Vinny ?", he asked the people in the building. After locating Degiorgio, who's Power label was now releasing singles in quantity with some level of success and huge acclaim in the Hi-NRG market, they sat at the review table of Power's distribution company. "I have the next one" was the first thing Coelho said. It was quickly followed by "and I have to leave in 15 minutes!"
"Allan has proven time and time again that he almost stands alone when he feels what has done" says DeGiorgio, who has gone on to sign groups such as NSync, Sweetbox, and was responsible for breaking Real McCoy and La Bouche in North America. "I will always believe that if we didn't have one of his infamous 'songs on the clock' sessions, it never would have sounded this way". During the first run through of the song, Allan started sing a hook in the chorus. "I was just trying to feel the song. It was beautiful and primitive as it was only a rough mixdown of about six tracks. Then Allan sang 'Runaway Runaway..la la la"..and 15 minutes later, a story based on unrequited love from a personal experience DeGiorgio had years before landed on tape. Degiorgio: Runaway (With My Love) is probably the best song Allan, Tony and I ever collaborated on. Today, it stands as something that you can play, and the result is instantaneous. Another hit for Tapps, another international release for Power and another step up the ladder of success.
While no one has ever taken credit for it, and some are afraid to, the picture sleeve for Runaway (With My Love) was actually shot on the outside deck of Toronto's famed CN Tower. In a recent conversation, Coelho couldn't stop laughing about the fateful night when the wind was blowing 600 miles an hour (his words) and the group was dressed in alternating black and Candy in white. "I wasn't sure if we were supposed to sing or serve dinner" Coelho recalled. In the end, it was another connection that would soon bear fruit, where the stylist would become a lyricist.
The winds of change blew even more at the start of 1986. In a market such as Canada, the promises of bigger and better things had Tapps close their chapter as an act on the Power label. "While it was always a question of the group wanting to do an album, the truth is that Tapps was actually never a direct signing to my label", stated Degiorgio, "and for that reason, most of the records were independently made and then sold to us. So, unlike the majors, we as a dance label never saw the artist development angle in the state of our musical youth as a company, so actually the artist was free to go. Personally, I know I was disappointed, however, I also knew that no matter what, Power had retained a great part of the Tapps legacy. They made us, and we made them."
The group didn't have to venture much further, as the company that distributed Power actually started the label was in the same building, calling itself "Boulevard." Coelho recalled:
The funny thing about leaving Vince's label as that to this day, I'm not sure why we did. As crazy as that sounds, we were growing together. Maybe it was that we felt we had grown as much as we could with Power and had to do something new, with a fresh perspective.
That "something new" became a collaboration between the group and Fairlight programmer/producer John Forbes. Working in his studio in North Toronto, the group embarked on a new sound that would have them enjoy new hits that ended up as classics as a part of Turn It On, the group's eventual debut album. Unlike previous recordings, the DaCosta/Coelho/DeGiorgio troika, save for a cover version of My Forbidden Lover was nowhere to be found. "Tapps was more than my involvement in the group as a writer and A&R person" said Degiorgio. "Even though you're bitter when success moves on, it was going to be an adventure to see where the group would end up creatively."
One thing that was evident was the fact that the tight, snappy and synthetic sound with a collage of percussion on the tracks was replaced by the largesse of the Fairlight. The CMI music computer was revolutionary in its day, and Forbes' collaboration with Tony and Allan gave Tapps a sound that took them to a musical crossroads. Eliminating the simplicity of the Roland instruments such as the SH-5, TR-808 drum machine, and the infamous JX-3P, the sampled drum sound gave Tapps a rockier edge.
Launched by the multi-mixed Hurricane (complete with the Arthur Baker-esque "You Knock Me" vocal edits in the intro of the extended mix), their Boulevard debut was the continued musical extension of their Power material mated with new technology. Complete with a new image and hipper styling, the group launched the album that went numerous singles deep. The album attempted to give Tapps a broad, pop sound to add to their dance base, but in many ways, the fans were always drawn back to what was the true sound of the group.
"Don't Pretend To Know" is a classic example of where the fans went and what the fans wanted. Driven by Coelho's trademark, driving lead line, the unmistakable counter melodies,electronic tension from and a strong lyric from John Savage, "Don't Pretend" became the group's fifth consecutive dance charting single and many hardcore fans, especially in the U.S. consider this to be the band's most sterling moment. Sung with urgency by Berthiaume, various remixes littered the market and it stands out as the elite selection from Tapps' only album. The Prince flavoured "Goodbyes Are Hard To Say" (co-written by "Runaway" stylist Suzanne Francis), is a dedication for Allan's grandfather, who had recently passed away. It remains an uncut diamond on the record. In the Asia Pacific, the group's Motown cover "Sugar Pie Honey Bunch" led to extrordinary sales and a decade and a half later is their most in-demand track.
While the relationship with Boulevard spawned the album, Power actually merged with the company in 1987. "It is almost surreal to think about it fifteen years later" says Vince DeGiorgio. "In many ways, I think the worst thing about the Turn It On experience for me is that I felt I missed the creative growth of the group. Part of me truly wishes they would have stayed, but I'm not sure if it would have made a difference. Growth comes from the challenges that are out there."
While Tony decided to keep his solo production career at one classic underground single, Allan thought otherwise. With his passion in production, Allan produced innumerable dance singles with his trademark sound such as "The Main Attraction" by Yoh-Yo (on some labels misprinted as "The Main Event"), a 2nd collaboration with remixer Kevin Unger who worked on Tapps in the form of "Humpty Dumpty" on the Tamah label and works for the likes of Story Structure and Click. While the musical magic never eluded Allan, his sense of humour didn't either. He called his own foray into the record label business "Feed The Cat Productions", hoping one of his records would sell enough to at least Feed The Cat.
When it came back to Tapps following up their first and only album, they left the John Forbes-produced experience to produce themselves. Ironically, recorded for Boulevard with the band having complete and total control, "You're The One" is actually DeGiorgio's favourite all-time Tapps single. Written by Tony, Allan and Candy on the lyrics, they also switched equipment, shedding the big sound of the Fairlight for the Emulator II. It also included their first experiment with horns on record, something that would foreshadow Allan's work in the South American market with latin sounds.
While the song never captured the charts like their previous recordings, Degiorgio always felt that this song's 'deeper' chorus and tremendous pre-chorus sections were the essence of the group. "I've always been of the opinion that this, followed by Runaway, are the true soul of Tapps. This by far, is the best thing they've ever done."
While Coelho went on to produce a few dance covers of his favourite classics such as Roni Griffith's "Desire" with Yoh-Yo and a hyper-kinetic version of "La Bamba", he also bookended those recordings with "Jackin'" by the Homewreckers. The latter was the only non-NRG record Allan produced (with Hernani Raposo), and a U.S. remix of the track by Richie Jones made it a huge hit in England. Today, Jones is one of the chief producer/programmers for Ric Wake, and has worked with the likes of Celine Dion and Jennifer Lopez.
For DaCosta, the time had come to put a close on the proceedings in 1988. Six years of studio, writing and assorted production work had reached its peak for Allan's one time partner in musical crime. One further Tapps recording Crazy For You, written with Al Kussin and Coelho was quietly released on a Tapps re-issue Greatest Hits album. After this recording, it also spelled the end for the band that had big dreams and a lot of great ideas.
Two months from the group's 20th anniversary of their debut record, Coelho remembers the group's tenure fondly. "I remember how great it felt to have our first record and how we struggled. It was never easy. Canada wouldn't play a record like this on the radio, so we actually were a lot more popular outside of Canada than we were at home. You'd be amazed how many people ask about when we will do a new record. I am happy that we've touched someone with our music. It's really all we originally set out to do. I guess it worked."
Together with the 20th anniversary of Tapps' comes a similar one for Power Records. "My record label was founded on about $200.00 from a DJing gig, and to this day, I still can't believe that Tapps was the first domestic act we attempted and it sold. I won't forget the day we got that international call that changed the lives of everyone. Today, the music stands up as a testament of what passion for music does and how it lives" says Degiorgio. While the label would go on to spawn three new labels, international hits and a reign of terror for its president as a producer on the NRG charts around the world, one undeniable point remains.
The words Power and Tapps are together. Forever.
The above text is copyrighted © 2004 by Vince DeGiorgio of Power Records and appears on DiscoMusic.com with his kind permission.