The Ottawa Citizen - March 14, 1990

Lee Aaron: Her career finally riding high:

If Lee Aaron has a tune in her head these days, it's likely the Who's Won't Get Fooled Again.

The Toronto singer butted her head against the music industry wall for years. At 21, she was stuck with her seductive image as Aaron the Barbarian in a cavegirl bikini for the release of the Metal Queen album in 1983. Chalk it up to experience.

In 1985, it was thought that superstar producer Bob Ezrin could work wonders with Aaron when they hooked up for the Call Of The Wild album. Not this time.

"He tore our songs apart, rewrote lyrics for me that I didn't feel comfortable singing," she said. "The album isn't an honest representation of you as an artist, but you're stuck with playing it live for a year and talking about it in the press."

So for 1987's album, simply titled Lee Aaron, things would be different. The album had more of a pop feel, including a duet with sobster Dan Hill in the quest for a radio single, and landed Aaron a Juno Award nomination as best female vocalist. Luba won the award.

This album was to be the one that broke Aaron into the U.S. market. Atlantic Records -- which subsequently signed Alannah Myles -- was poised to release the record, which would have given Aaron a deal in that lucrative market to go along with her Attic contract in Canada and a deal with Virgin in Europe. It didn't happen.

"Atlantic wanted it badly. But when it got down to dividing up the pie and haggling over points (percentages) it was pretty bad," she said. "They figured I'd end up with 2.5 points, which is pretty ridiculous for an artist to ever sign. I would have been the only one not to make any money."

In 1990, however, the former high school saxophone player seems closer than ever to putting all of the pieces together.

Aaron has control of her image and her sound. She confidently predicts that the latest round of arduous negotiations will put her latest record into U.S. stores, to be followed up by a tour.

Her Bodyrock album is now into its third single, Sweet Talk, and has sold 160,000 copies in Canada and another 100,000 in Europe. It was just released in Japan and Italy.

Aaron, who appears at Barrymore's Thursday and at a campus-only show at Hull's Heritage College Saturday, has been nominated for a second time as best female vocalist in the Junos.

What's more, Aaron recently heard that two songs she co-wrote with Jonathan Cain of Journey in 1988 were covered by Japanese pop singer Minako. Some of the lyrics in the two songs were translated, with the chorus sung in English.

So when she boards a plane in Ottawa Sunday to head to Toronto for the Junos, where she will also present and award, Aaron's spirits will be flying high. Her only pressing problem will be what to wear on the show.

"Sure it would be good to win a Juno. But it's nothing that I would ever count on, or be disappointed in if I didn't win. Having a successful record out now after having to battle so much in the beginning is what's satisfying," she said.

She says her long-standing collaboration with songwriter and guitarist John Albani has been the most consistent and steadying influence of her career. "It's like the Joe Perry-Steve Tyler (of Aerosmith) relationship. John has been like a brother to me. And we get along great, most of the time," she said.

Aaron could write a book on the power of positive thinking. She's taken the fact that she has never had a massive-selling album and turned that into a confidence-building idea.

"It's strange to say, but maybe it's fortunate that I haven't had a record that sold 500,000 copies in Canada. If you have that success on your first or second album, perhaps things you do after that might be considered a failure," she said. "My career has been a slow building process. Each album has done a little better than the last as I've learned a bit more about music and the industry."

So in a way, Aaron empathizes with Myles, who has been nominated for four Junos and is expected to win at least two, now that her debut album has sold 600,000 copies in Canada.

"I'm happy for Alannah. I've known her for a long time, and all she would talk about was this damn record she was going to make," Aaron said. "But it's a scary thing to have that happen to you on your first record. I was 19 when my first album came out. I wouldn't have been able to deal with something like that."

Still, Aaron concedes that Myles's success in the U.S. market -- her Black Velvet single is at No. 2 on the Billboard charts -- may spin off and help her when Bodyrock is released there.

"That's the way the industry works down there. They'll say here comes another female Canadian rock singer, so maybe we should listen to this."

Greg Barr

© Ottawa Citizen