RIP Kenny MacLean of Platinum BlondeNovember 25, 2008
Kenny MacLean just died, days after he launched his latest solo CD, Completely. His sister reportedly found him dead in his Toronto home on Monday.
If you aren’t from Canada, I don’t blame you for not knowing who he is. He was a member of Platinum Blonde, a major Canadian pop-rock band from the 1980s. He wasn’t there from the beginning, but took over on bass for the band’s second big album, Alien Shores, so leader Mark Holmes could concentrate on singing. This would have required Kenny to grow a trademark Platinum Blonde bottle-blonde shaggy mop and wear tight leather pants, but he was a good fit, and, as I recall, brought a slightly tougher, rockier sound to the band. Maybe it’s because he was from Scotland.
Platinum Blonde was Canada’s B-grade Duran Duran, one of those bands Canadian teenagers of my generation pretended to not like, but somehow knew all about (Corey Hart, Honeymoon Suite, Strange Advance and Haywire round out that bunch). They wore matching red and white leathers, had really stupid hair and Holmes sang in a bit of a nancy-prancy voice. But the guitarist, a guy named Sergio Galli, could really shred, and had clearly listened to a lot of P-Funk, even if it hadn’t rubbed off.
I saw them in concert on the Alien Shores tour, mostly because my mother gave me the tickets for Christmas. And it really rocked. Hair and makeup aside, and out of the studio, this band kicked ass. Yeah, I pretended to have missed it when my friends asked, but it’s stayed with me all these years, so it had to have been good.
After some personnel changes and an attempt to rock hard as The Blondes (I used to have a ridinkulous photo of the band dressed up in black biker leathers, with fake stubble, trying to look tough), that was it for Platinum Blonde. Every few years you hear about a one-off reunion or something, but really, it’s all been quiet.
So Kenny MacLean, the “new guy” bassist of Platinum Blonde, released a couple of solo discs. I used to have one. It was okay, nothing memorable, but that was less about his musical abilities (and surprisingly strong voice) than the clear and blatant attempt to craft a hit.
Kenny MacLean wasn’t a household name, not anymore. His glory days were long behind him. He died young, a working musician who had a rare turn as a rock star and never gave up making good music, and that isn’t a bad legacy at all.
I was surprised to hear he had a new disc coming out. I’ll probably buy it. While never a favourite of mine, I always respected Kenny and Platinum Blonde as entertainers. And I know that later, when things get quiet, I will put on my copy of their 1987 funk-rocker Contact and play some big fat low-end chunky air bass in Kenny’s memory.
Rest in peace, Kenny MacLean. Thanks for the music.