The Payola$ stormed the Canadian music scene from the west coast hotbed of Vancouver, British Columbia. Founded by Paul Hyde (vocals) and Bob Rock (guitars), the duo became friends in high school and shared a passion for punk rock. They hooked up with drummer Taylor Nelson and sax/bass player Gary Middleclass to record their first single “China Boys” released in 1979.
A&M records courted the Payola$ based on their local popularity, and offered them a chance to record a 4-song EP. This collection was released as Introducing Payola$ and inlcuded a rerecorded version of “China Boys,” along with “Jukebox,” “Rose,” and “T.N.T.”
As is the case with many bands, Payola$ went through several line-up changes during the 80’s, with the core members Rock and Hyde as the common denominator. The band’s first full-length LP was produced by Mick Ronson. Titled No Stranger To Danger, the band used its punk roots in combination with reggae, pop, and New Wave to create a fantastic playlist, earning them a Juno and a hit with the single “Eyes of a Stranger.”
Payola$ and Ronson teamed up again in 1983 to release a well-received album called Hammer On A Drum. The band received well-deserved accolades for this sophomore effort, with four songs released as singles: “Where Is This Love,” “I’ll Find Another,” “Never Said I Loved You” (feat. Carole Pope of Rough Trade), and “Christmas Is Coming.” With such outstanding talent and proof of their capabilities, the band remained wildly popular in Canada, yet relatively unknown in the US.
Part of the problem, the story goes, was the name the band had chosen. The “Payola Scandals” in the US music industry during the 60’s was still fresh in the minds of both the musicians it hurt, and the people prosecuted because of it. Another fantastic band, The Comsat Angels from Sheffield, UK, took a major hit here in the states, again because of an unlucky choice of name. That many of us here were denied great music over such a trivial matter really irritates me beyond words.
In 1985, the band decided to re-brand itself as Paul Hyde and the Payolas. They released an album called Here’s The World For Ya, again spawning four solid singles, one of which, “You’re the Only Love,” managed to break into the US top 100.
The band tried one more renaming as Rock and Hyde. Using this moniker, Under the Volcano came to light which proved a great success once again, in Canada. Two hit singles were the result of this effort with one, “Dirty Water,” charting in the US. That is my personal favorite. It is a beautifully sung and orchestrated tune that is somewhat anthem-like and haunting all at the same time. David Marsden plays it occasionally on his show and it really rocks my world.
If you’re not familiar with Payola$, it is well worth the time to look into their brilliant yet criminally underrated music career starting with their punk roots in the late 70’s and throughout all of the 80’s. Redefining and renaming, they struggled hard while attempting to break into the elusive US market. Their loss in not attaining this goal was an even bigger loss for the US.
“China Boys” via YouTube user justmefilm:
“Eyes of a Stranger” via YouTube user ValorOfSoul:
“Where Is This Love” via YouTube user kurdtss:
“Dirty Water” by Rock & Hyde via YouTube user kurdtss:
Introducing Payola$, (four-song EP), Payolas, A&M , 1980
In a Place Like This, Payolas, A&M, 1981
No Stranger To Danger, Payolas, A&M, 1982
Hammer on a Drum, Payolas, A&M, 1983
Here’s the World for Ya, Paul Hyde and the Payolas, A&M, 1985
Under the Volcano, Rock and Hyde, Capitol/EMI, 1987
Langford Part One, (seven-song EP), Payolas, EMI, July 17, 2007