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Alex Cooper

Katrina and the Waves | United Kingdom

Together with fellow Cambridge graduate, Kimberley Rew, Alex formed the first incarnation of The Waves just as they left the university. The Waves carved out a reputation as the Power Pop trio without rival in the surrounding area. There was no money of course and record deals remained elusive. To make ends meet Alex spent three months a year working as a tour guide taking American tourists around Europe whilst Kimberley worked sporadically at the Post Office. After just over a couple of years Kimberley joined The Soft Boys and so The Waves disbanded and Alex started a period working freelance both at Spaceward Studios and with local bands. In 1979 Alex hooked up with two younger US military ‘brats’ from the nearby USAF bases, Katrina Leskanich and Vince de la Cruz and formed ‘Mama's Cookin'. Mama's Cookin' gigged steadily across England over the next two years, developing their chops on the US military bases circuit, where their trademark covers of classic American Sixties R&B, Motown and Spector-helmed hits and Seventies rock went down particularly well and served their arrangement skills well for the future.

After the demise of the Soft Boys in 1981, Rew renewed relations with Cooper, who convinced Rew to join Mama's Cookin', which was shortly re-named the Waves after the pair's original combo. In 1982 The Waves released debut single Nightmare with B-side Hey, War Pig! Both tracks were collected later that year on Rew's The Bible Of Bop solo album; the latter cited by Velvet Crush's Ric Menc as "the greatest protest song ever" followed by the Waves' debut Shock Horror EP. And then in a crucial development Jakins quit, de la Cruz moved to bass guitar and the band renamed themselves Katrina and the Waves.

In early 1983, the band pooled their meager resources to fund the recording of an album's worth of original material- all songs written by Rew and, bar two, sung by Leskanich- intended to be sold at gigs. Numerous labels on both sides of the Atlantic were approached, but only Ralph Alonso at Canadian indie Attic Records, which had previously released recordings by the Soft Boys, responded with an offer. Consequently, Katrina And The Waves' debut album Walking On Sunshine was released only in Canada, despite the band being based in the UK. The resulting critical praise and, more importantly, radio play, for the title track in particular, afforded a Canadian tour, and due to their well-honed live skills, their fan base grew steadily. 1984 saw a follow-up album, Katrina And The Waves 2, again only in Canada, but de la Cruz's contribution included the Canadian airplay hit Mexico, the excellent Do You Want Crying and One Woman.

The band's reputation was growing, fuelled by months of travelling and gigging and the added mystique of their releases being on import in the UK and USA, but, as is often the case, it was the kind of lucky break that money can't buy which helped to put them on the music industry map. Los Angeles-based female four-piece the Bangles (nee the Supersonic Bangs) chose to cover one of Rew's songs on All Over The Place, their second album, but first for new label Columbia Records. Their version of Going Down To Liverpool, originally on K&TW's debut album, was released at the end of 1984 and, with the help of an odd-ball video starring Leonard Nimoy, became a minor MTV and radio playlist hit and, drawing the attention of a certain Prince Rogers Nelson who wrote Manic Monday, the Bangles' next single and first hit. This pricked up the ears of various labels (at last) and the band was quickly snapped up worldwide by Capitol Records.

1985 saw the first fruits of this new relationship- single Walking on Sunshine, re-worked with additional horns, was an instant radio-friendly smash, a Top 10 hit in the UK, the USA, Canada and Australia among other places. More recently, the song was covered by Aly & AJ for Walt Disney's 2005 movie Herbie: Fully Loaded, starring Lindsay Lohan. It was followed a month later by their eponymous third album, comprising re-recorded versions of the best songs from the previous two, which went Top 30 in both the UK and US. Second single Do You Want Crying went Top 40 in America and the band was nominated for a "Best New Artist" Grammy.

Fourth album Waves failed to generate the same critical response nor massive commercial success and many pointed to the fact that Rew composed only two of the ten songs on this collection, although the Rew-penned Is That It received radio play and the de la Cruz-written Sun Street was a UK Top 30 hit. Capitol Record didn't help matters much by dropping the band.

The band re-grouped and by 1989 had a new deal with SBK Records, which released the more rock-oriented Break Of Hearts album. Despite catchy singles Rock'n'Roll Girl and That's The Way- the latter a US Top 20 Leskanich/Rew co-write- it was their only album for the label. "That was our big hair period," Leskanich laughs now. "SBK told us that they could see us as a stadium band, Bryan Adams style, and Kim was coming up with this stuff that was perfect for rock radio." "We've never been successful enough to be immune from the influences of producers and marketing men," concedes Rew. "The more we fell for those 80s trademarks, the more we diluted the band."

The band re-focused east of the Atlantic, releasing three albums- 1991's Pet The Tiger on Virgin Records (the title track a co-write with Liam Sternberg, composer of The Bangles' hit Walk Like An Egyptian), 1993' Edge Of The Land (which featured cracking compositions I'm In Deep and The Beauty Myth from producer Phil Thornalley) and 1995's Turn Around, both on Polydor Records in the UK, mainland Europe and Canada.

Unashamedly grabbing the chance to represent the UK in the 1997 Eurovision Song Contest two days after Labour's general election triumph, Katrina And The Waves' stunning song Love Shine A Light destroyed the kitsch competition, winning by a record points margin and making them the most credible victors since ABBA's Waterloo. A new deal with Warners saw Love Shine A Light also become their highest charting UK single, reaching #3- mystifyingly, it was never released in the USA- and ninth album Walk On Water followed quickly. On the back of this second bite of the cherry, EMI Records issued Walking On Sunshine: The Best Of Katrina And The Waves, an excellent compilation of their Capitol/EMI songs from 1985 to 1991.

Sadly, within a year, Leskanich quit the band. After playing several shows with Lynda Hayes, one of the UK's top studio singers, Kimberley, Vince and Alex agreed to put the band on hold, leaving themselves free to pursue other musical avenues. They focused on running Kyboside Ltd, incorporates their highly successful publishing company, three private but fully professional studios (two in Cambridge, one in Florida) and all that pertains to the name and legacy of Katrina and the Waves. As a drummer Al can never retire. It is what he does, what he is defined by. He gigs constantly with friends and acquaintances he´s made over 30 years drumming. His influences started with Buddy Rich, then there was Brian Bennett, Ringo, Keith Moon, Mick Fleetwood, Dave Mattacks…the list goes on and on.

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