“Canada’s Duran Duran.” That’s what they called Glass Tiger, the young men from Newmarket, Ont., after they became radio and video sensations with “Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone),” the first single off their debut album The Thin Red Line. Co-written by longtime SOCAN board member Jim Vallance, and featuring guest vocals from Bryan Adams – for whom Vallance was a mentor and frequent songwriting partner – it was the launching pad for a great run of pop hits. Glass Tiger singer Alan Frew spoke to SOCAN about his first Canadian Classic.
Is it true you wrote “Don’t Forget Me” on the first day in the studio with Jim?
We wrote “Don’t Forget Me” and “Someday” on the first day!
What was in the water?
Jim picks us up at the airport and asks what we’re listening to these days, then we stopped at the record store to pick up those albums. He made tea. And then we played these CDs. And when Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” came on, Jim went, “Aha! A shuffle beat.” And so we started with a shuffle beat. And I started singing the line, “don’t forget me when I’m gone,” as if it was a verse. Jim said, “That’s a great little statement. Let’s hold that for when we get the chorus.”
How did you get Bryan Adams on there?
We met over the phone. Bryan used to call the studio occasionally, just checking in on Jim. Bryan was in Toronto for the JUNOs and popped into the studio to see us. It turned into a nice little session where we were sitting around talking about music, having a few beers. But Jim’s brain was working. He said, “Why don’t you two go in and sing some stuff?” So Bryan and I, three or four Heinekens in, we said “Sure!” It wasn’t contrived.
Did you know it was a golden song?
I can tell you exactly what clicked for me: when I came up with the idea of putting on the harmony myself. I’ll never forget, it sounded like the Everly Brothers. I remember being on the plane back to Toronto, and I had the finished Thin Red Line in my pocket, on a cassette, and I remember sitting there, thinking, “Please don’t let this plane go down before people get to hear this!”
What was more important to you: hitting No. 1 in Canada, or No. 2 in the U.S.?
There’s absolutely no doubt that “Don’t Forget Me” would have been a No. 1 song in America if they had released it simultaneously with Canada. But someone had this wacky idea that they wanted to release “Thin Red Line” there first. We had a disjointed campaign.
You were nominated for a Grammy for Best New Group in 1987. Did you go?
Yes. That was incredible. Sitting beside Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel. You go for a pee and you’re sharing space with Roger Daltrey. Whitney Houston coming over and saying “hi.” The sad thing was, we had been told by the Americans already, “ You ain’t winning it.” They said they would not give it to the Canadians. That’s O.K. We jumped on a plane to Germany the next morning to start playing with Tina Turner. And nobody remembers who won anyway. (Ed. Note: It was Bruce Hornsby and The Range.)
When you listen back to that original recording, what do you think?
I hear a young guy. I think of a time when we were really green and the world was our oyster. You land in Germany and there are screaming girls waiting for you, and you’re thinking, “How do these people even know us?” But of course they do, because your song is climbing up their charts. I try to encourage young artists to take it all in. Because if I made one mistake it’s that I didn’t stop quite long enough to pat myself on the back.