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Coney Hatch: Coney Hatch - Album Of The Week Club review

Coney Hatch's 1982 debut album featured an underlying eccentricity that set them apart from the early 80s hair metal pack

Coney Hatch album artwork
(Image: © Anthem Records)
Coney Hatch - Coney Hatch

Coney Hatch album artwork

(Image credit: Anthem Records)

Devil's Deck
You Ain't Got Me
Stand Up
No Sleep Tonight
Love Poison
We Got the Night
Hey Operator
I'll Do the Talkin'
Victim of Rock
Monkey Bars
Dreamland
Where I Draw the Line
Sin After Sin

With Canadian band Coney Hatch naming themselves after a Victorian asylum in north London (Colney Hatch) you know you’re probably onto a good thing. When you learn that singer-bassist Andy Curran (now a member of Alex Lifeson's new project, Envy Of None) decided to drop the ‘l’ from the name, because “it would confuse the average American”, it's only natural to think you're dealing with professionals.

This Toronto band’s 1982 debut sounded electrifying when it was first came out; remastered and re-released by the specialist Rock Candy label in 2006, it still possesses enough volts to jolt. 

Produced by Kim Mitchell (of quirky fellow Canadians Max Webster) there’s an underlying eccentricity that sets it apart from the early 80s hair metal pack, especially on the jarring and stuttering Stand Up

But Coney Hatch’s unashamed party rock inclinations always shine through, notably on Devil’s Deck (a favourite of Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris), Victim Of Rock and Hey Operator, later covered by fellow Canuck Aldo Nova. 

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Other albums released in May 1982

  • Jinx - Rory Gallagher
  • After the Snow - Modern English
  • Pornography - The Cure
  • Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch - Frank Zappa
  • The Single Factor - Camel
  • Wiped Out - Raven
  • Junkyard - The Birthday Party
  • Combat Rock - The Clash
  • The Eagle Has Landed - Saxon
  • Church of Hawkwind - Hawkwind
  • Hot Space - Queen
  • Sheffield Steel - Joe Cocker
  • The Hunter - Blondie
  • 3rd From The Sun - Chrome
  • I Paralyze - Cher
  • No Fun Aloud - Glenn Frey
  • Avalon - Roxy Music
  • Get It On Credit - Toronto
  • Let Me Rock You - Peter Criss
  • Now and Forever - Air Supply
  • One on One - Cheap Trick
  • The Record - Fear
  • Special Forces - 38 Special
  • Sweets From A Stranger - Squeeze
  • Tuckerized - Marshall Tucker Band
  • Vinyl Confessions - Kansas

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What they said...

"In an era when rock radio thrived on a steady diet of Boston, Journey, and Foreigner (vocalist Carl Dixon drew comparisons to a less strident Lou Gramm, fused with a certain Joe Lynn Turner vibe), the foursome's commercial brand of hard rock seemed like perfect fodder for the airwaves. But forceful rockers like Devil's Deck, You Ain't Got Me, and Victim of Rock never connected with programmers outside their homeland, perhaps because they fit in so well with the current musical climate that it was impossible to distinguish them from the pack." (AllMusic (opens in new tab)

"Coney Hatch's self-titled debut is a solid piece of guitar driven hard rock. Though the band got lumped in with heavy metal (in those days Judas Priest, Scorpions, Blue Oyster Cult, Van Halen, Motörhead, and AC/DC were all collectively know as heavy metal) there's a radio friendly aspect to a couple of songs like You Ain't Got Me and Hey Operator, the latter scoring them a top 20 hit in Canada and getting them on the U.S. airwaves." (MetalMusicArchives (opens in new tab))

"When Canada's Coney Hatch first appeared in the early '80s, I thought for certain the band was destined to take the world (or at least, America) by storm. The group had the catchy guitar hooks, the hummable melodies, the youthful exuberance, and the well-rounded musicianship needed to make a big splash as evidenced on tracks such as Monkey Bars, Hey Operator, We Got the Night, Devil's Deck, and Victim Of Rock." (RateYourMusic (opens in new tab))

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What you said...

Uli Hassinger: Never heard of the band, to be honest. I guess they were not very popular in Europe back then. Couldn't remember them taking part in a festival either. But somehow the cover looks familiar. Maybe a friend back in the days had it in his collection.

When I'm listening now I regret a little bit that I was missing it 1982. It's a brilliant album without any bad songs. It's combining the AOR with the British heavy metal of the era. When Dixon is singing it remembers me partly of Foreigner (You Ain't Got Me, Hey Operator). Not only the voice, also the melodies. On the other hand, with Curran singing it's sounds very British. The combination of both influences makes it special. Very melodic on the one hand, heavy guitar riffs on the other.

My favourites are the straight rocker Devil's Deck, the extraordinary Stand Up, the true metal track Love Poison and the Foreigner-like Hey Operator. On my remastered version are 3 bonus tracks which aren't mere fillers either. Especially Dreamland is a killer.

Thanx for the opportunity to get into touch with Coney Hatch. I will purchase their next two albums as well. 9/10 for me.

Bill Griffin: Competent hard rock but nothing overly special. While I don't remember ever hearing them before, Dixon sure sounds familiar. He must remind me of someone else.

Brian Carr: While I’ve encountered the name Coney Hatch sporadically over the years, I’d never sought out their music. I believe Devil’s Deck came up once or twice on the radio show I listened to for years (and miss a lot).

Coney Hatch’s sound is right up my alley: melodic vocals from Carl Dixon, solid riffs and guitar solos. With a couple of listens, I didn’t like the Andy Curran vocals as much - I wouldn’t call his voice punk by any means, but definitely more snarl than melody. Solid tunes, though, worthy of adding to my Apple Music and I’m ready to check out more from them.

I need to get into the habit of reading about these artists. This album was produced by Kim Mitchell, who was technically the first person I saw in concert as he opened for Bryan Adams in the summer of 1985. Canadian rock artists looking out for each other!

There was also an interesting story about a bad accident that put Dixon in a coma. Curran talked to him on the phone and said Coney Hatch still had some rocking to do and Dixon remembered it after he woke up. Also, future Dream Theater singer James LaBrie was part of an attempted revamped lineup back in the late 80s. I love music trivia!

Gary Claydon: I've long regarded Canada as a veritable treasure trove of little-known (outside their homeland at least) but excellent rock bands. Same with Australia. In both cases, it was the discovery of a new but subsequently legendary bands (Rush and AC/DC) that would prompt me to explore their national scenes in more depth. That's how the brilliant Max Webster came onto my radar. So, when I saw a little snippet in one of the music papers about Kim Mitchell producing the debut album of a bunch of unknown Canucks, it was a no brainer. I got in touch with the record shop I used to buy import stuff and got them to order me a copy.

The reward was a highly satisfying album which still gets regular rotation on my hi-fi to this day. There's nothing you'd regard as groundbreaking here. Just plenty of hooky, accessible hard rock. At times, it leans toward a more commercial, radio-friendly, even AOR feel but without losing it's grittier edge. Part of that is down to the tracks where Andy Curran takes on lead vocal duties. I know there are plenty who didn't like the two vocalist approach and felt the band benefited when they jettisoned it, but I think Curran gives the three tracks here a more angular sound. Still, it's the Dixon-led rockers that I prefer, with the opening one-two on each side of the LP - Devil's Deck'/'You Ain't Got Me, We Got The Night'/'Hey Operator - being the stand-outs for me.

Looking at it objectively, I'd score Coney Hatch a 7.5. However, if I was scoring it on purely the number of times I've found myself humming or singing (aloud or in my head) tracks from this and their subsequent albums, over the past 40 years, then it would be a 10 all day long.

Mike Canoe: Coney Hatch are a solid hard rock album who remind me of what Sammy Hagar or Foreigner were doing around this time. I prefer the four songs where bassist Andy Curran sings lead. He has a nastier, sarcastic edge to his voice on Stand Up and I'll Do the Talkin'. It may be because I want it to be so, but co-writer Steve Shelski's solos sound nastier to me on these songs too. 

The songs sung by Carl Dixon sound more commercial but tracks like We Got The Night and No Sleep Tonight are good cruising tunes. The Curran/Shelski-penned Monkey Bars is another great song in the canon of trying to make it in the music biz, as witnessed by the golden couplet, "We drive for miles and see lots of trees. We get home in time to pay our manager's fees."

Tim Day: Fantastic Album. Fantastic Band. Never rose to the top like they should have but have given us some great music over the years.

Alex Hayes: Last year, one of the most pleasant surprises of the Classic Rock Album Of The Week Club for me was the nomination of Rock & Roll Machine, the second album by Triumph.

Here was a Canadian rock band that I'd never come across before. They were little known here in the UK, yet were really up my street. In fact, ever since then, I've been compelled to give the odd Triumph album a spin every couple of weeks or so. To be frank, I'd hardly rank Rock & Roll Machine as their best album, not even close. At a push, I'd probably opt for Allied Forces.

Not that it really matters. What does matter here is that I'm now conversant with Triumph's entire discography of studio albums, which I burned my way through pretty damn quickly. What also matters is that I doubt that I'd have been fortunate enough to be introduced to Triumph but for the Club, and for that I'm grateful. And now, here we go again.

Coney Hatch's 1982 debut is another winner as far as I'm concerned. Another strong album from a band whose name I'd only ever previously heard in passing. Another quality Canadian rock outfit that would elicit blank stares all round if I was to ever mention them whilst stood at the bar in my local alehouse, even amongst the rockers in my village, and there are quite a few. I've never been naive enough to assume that Canadian heavy rock begins and ends with Rush, but, with this, I'm presented with another set of songs and performances that piques my interest even further.

Do I rate Coney Hatch as highly as Triumph? That's a firm no. Again, not important though,. That doesn't make the group's debut any less satisfying. This is very entertaining early 80s North American rock, and a good showcase for the band. Once again, I'm not satisfied with just the debut here, and will be investigating further.

The band have a British connection too, being named after a lunatic asylum once situated in the North London Borough Of Barnet (the building is still there). It was actually known as Colney Hatch but there you go. The album cover makes a little bit of sense now. Just a little. It's not a great cover to be honest.

Its contents rock though. Thumbs up from me here.

Gus Schultz: Great album. Came along when this type of guitar rock was losing ground to other genres of the time. Bought it at time of release and played the hell out of it and loudly as well, especially loved Devils Deck. You can really hear Kim Mitchell’s influence on this LP. They had the same management and label as Rush and Max Webster, although Max were disbanded by then. I think their lack of success was mainly just the shifting music direction of the times. Still sounds great to me, and besides, where the hell else are you going to hear a great album recorded in Oshawa Ontario?!

Ray Liddard: I've not heard this before but it's a good album. It's not as predictable as some comments would lead you to believe, and I can definitely hear the Kim Mitchell influence throughout. I like it and will play it again for sure.

Neil Wilson: It's good, but I prefer Friction - far superior in sound and song writing. I remember reviewing Friction, thought it was an awesome album. It came out the same year as Bon Jovi's 7800º Fahrenheit, which I thought was OK at best. It seems mainstream people preferred the lesser quality band.

Brett Deighton: First listen of this album and I really enjoyed it. It’s solid from start to finish and I will be giving the other albums a spin. I wonder why they weren’t bigger? I guess if I’m being super critical, as much as I enjoyed the album, there wasn’t that one song that might have stood out and gotten them air play. Not a dud song on here though.

Ron Ostrander: Little known band, but these guys were really good. I remember I was at the record store and I couldn't find nothing so I took a chance on this album. Glad I did. Monkey Bars was my favourite song. Good album from start to finish.

Andrew Bramah: I bought this based on Geoff Barton's top ten albums of the year. He wasn't wrong. Great musicians and a very strong album. The two follow-ups were equally as good. 25 years plus later they released the fourth album which still carried that signature sound. Criminal that their label did little or no promotion. Nowadays they would be a regular at festivals in Europe.

Laurent Biehly: I have their first three records and to me, although the music is good, there is nothing to write home about. There was nothing that really made them stand out from the rest of the bands of the era. I bought their records upon release (still have the LPs) and it is typically a band whose appeal I understand but where I also understand why they did not get bigger. All their records are solid 7 to me

Keith Akow: Coney Hatch are one of my favourite markers in the progression of what I think of as the Canadian sound. While heavy rock from other nations tended to lean more toward blues or prog based, Canada has a rich tradition from the early 70s onward of "pop hooks with loud guitars," which reached its international zenith in the person of Bryan Adams and Loverboy, and later in the 80s with the rebirth of Aerosmith and Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet... produced by Bruce Fairbairn, who IMHO imported the Canadian sound to the rest of the world. 

Coney Hatch, then, were one of our regional favourites here in Ontario... think of maybe a Canadian Thin Lizzy. And arriving as they did in the early 80s they also carried a bit of a punk edge to their sound, ultimately they never broke with big radio airplay. This album is a snapshot to me, but I was 18, when all your music is snapshots. And it's a damn hooky one.

Evan Sanders: Similar to a few other comments, I'll put this in the Good But Not Great category. They remind me of a number of rock bands from that time who had strong local followings, were fun to see live, but never made the next step for a national following. They remind me a little of Judas Priest, if Priest had never done Breakin' The Law or Living After Midnight.

John Davidson: Never heard of this before, but sounds alright. A fairly radio friendly commercial sound but not too lightweight. Maybe just lacking that killer song that hooks you in and elevates the rest once you get to know them. Looking at their other albums I'm enjoying Outa Hand a bit more than their debut.

Greg Schwepe: Nice debut from a decent what I’ll call a “Minor League Canadian Rock Band.” Had heard the name of the band previously probably in an article talking about other bands like them. Had never heard anything of theirs on the radio or anywhere. More about that later in the review.

Quick, down and dirty review; I liked every song. Every single one. No skipping past anything, no boredom with a track… good from start to finish. Good ol’ North of the Border rock; good riff-y guitar sound, vocals, drums and overall instrumentation. Vocals at times a little reminiscent of Mike Reno.

Standout tracks for me were No Sleep Tonight, Love Poison, Stand Up, and Monkey Bars. This is early 80s rock that’s right up my alley. Album I would have bought back in the day after hearing one of those songs on the radio… but I never did (again, more on that!). Or bought the album after seeing them open for someone like a UFO, Rainbow, or B.O.C.

To be fair, while I did like this album, there was no “Wow, where have you been?” factor. Good listen, but nothing Earth shattering; not that that’s a bad thing. But I did check out their follow up album after finishing this one.

So, why had I never heard anything from Coney Hatch previously? Mentioned in the blurb announcing this week's review was a “they should have been huge” comment, also mentioned in a few reviews.

There have been three FM rock stations that I’ve listened to over various periods (one I could get in my hometown, one while away at college, one where I live now). These stations were all clones of each other. But each had a knack for introducing or trying to break some of these “Minor League Canadian Rock Bands” at times. Over the years I was introduced to April Wine, Honeymoon Suite, Max Webster, Glass Tiger, and Loverboy. Now, because of a lot of airplay, Loverboy got elevated to “Major League Canadian Rock Band” status in my books.

Who’s missing from that list above? Coney Hatch. And after listening to this album, that’s exactly the kind of rock band that these stations would promote. But never did in this case. Which is why I’m listening to them for first time now!

So, while I don’t want my review to turn into a whole essay on record label promotion and radio station programming, it sounds like in this case that Coney Hatch got the short end of the stick. At least in the Midwest US where I got my fix of new bands from FM rock stations. Hmm, maybe the lyrics from another Canadian band ring true here; “For the words of the profits were written on the studio wall.”

8 out of 10 for this one and a new fan. Am guessing the album cover designer was a King Crimson fan.

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Final Score: 6.72 (77 votes cast, with a total score of 518)

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