Chapter 8 – Unknown Stranger

Unknown Stranger
Unknown Stranger – 1983.

A rejuvenated band left for a two month Canadian tour in March of 1983. With a new album in the can and a new stage show, the recently re-named Unknown Stranger was exhilarated and optimistic. As the dates began to proceed, however, the band found out that the Canadian venues often had smaller stages that wouldn’t accommodate the new rigging. Many of the stages they occupied would barely handle their new drum riser.

Another problem came with the new name. Many of the Canadian dates weren’t promoted and advertised to inform people that the band was “formerly known as Love Affair” and, therefore, attendance at many of the shows was less than stellar.

Thirdly, half way into the tour, the group found out that their management was not setting the industry on fire with regards to getting a major deal for the third LP. It didn’t look as though they’d have any kind of release forthcoming when they did their planned debut/release party in May back home.

Sadly, what had seemed like a sure thing with respect to the third album was turning into anything but. So, when the band did arrive at a concert club called The Breakaway in May of 1983 to play their homecoming gig with a new name and show, the tension was palpable. Basically, the band was in tatters and unsure of how the new songs and staging would all work. And although the concert sold out and the fans accepted everything with rousing approval, the members were now treading on each other’s emotions and their optimism had all but vanished.

Unknown Stranger backstage.
Unknown Stranger backstage in Canada 1983.

Shortly thereafter, manager Otto Neuber began negotiating with RCA/Dream Records for a new release. An extended play dance mix was done on the song “Love Strikes” and it was to be released as a single. The group loved the mix and an EP (basically a three song sampler from the forthcoming LP) was to be readied for release on RCA. It seemed that things would work out after all, so the band decided to just keep working until the record came out.

However, just before another long Canadian trek in summer, Wayne dropped a bomb on the band and announced he was leaving. He told them he was only willing to do part of the upcoming tour and would not give a reason why. Since Wayne handled the finances of the band and interacted with management about the group’s fiscal dealings, the already once stable band was not only going to have to replace a musician, but also have to reassign another member with the fiscal duties.

Although in retrospect these changes don’t seem cataclysmic, they upset the delicate balance that any small organization operates on. However, Unknown Stranger had commitments to uphold and they left for Canada prepared to finish the dates with a substitute bassist. Their first choice for a replacement, bassist Mark Best, wouldn’t be available until after the summer dates.

While on tour that summer, Richard spoke with Otto on the phone and filled him in on the progress of the tour. In a conversation with their manager while the band was in Halifax, another bomb was dropped on the band. “Otto told us that the extended play remix of ‘Love Strikes’ was not right and that the track was too fast and that he slowed it down when they remixed it themselves.” Since the original remix was done in New York by one of the top producers of the era, Richard couldn’t fathom why the song was being changed again. When he found out that it was ostensibly just the management that didn’t like it and they had decided by themselves to remix it, a major shouting match ensued. Finally, Rich agreed to withhold final judgement until he returned from the tour and heard the new mix, but he had to come to terms with the fact that it would already be too late to change anything. The EP was already being readied for mastering and release.

Unfortunately, when the tour was over and Richard did hear the slower re-mix, it was, according to him, “even worse than I imagined. I didn’t even recognize my own voice on the track.”

Unknown Stranger and Otto Neuber
Unknown Stranger with Otto Neuber on the far right – Dream RCA release – summer 1983.

After a new photo shoot for publicity for the record, Richard quietly met with an attorney and discussed proceedings to dissolve the band’s ties with Otto and his Solar Management staff. He felt that too many outsiders were having a say in the affairs of the band and that things were being done without even consulting the band – something that never happened when the band was building its reputation and Otto and the band were always on the same page. When Richard informed the other members about his plans, they concurred and it was decided that they would inform Otto right after the new year.

The remainder of 1983 saw the release of the Unknown Stranger EP and it’s predictably early demise. So, on January 3, 1984 the members of Unknown Stranger/Love Affair notified Otto in a meeting that they were leaving his management company and the booking agency he also owned. It would terminate a better than ten year relationship and Richard still counts it as the “saddest day of my life.” A release was agreed upon after the usual legal threats and accusations subsided. Some final arguments between Richard and Otto about ownership and control of the master tapes from the third album resulted in Richard getting custody of the band’s latest recordings. Since the EP did not do well, RCA/Dream did not pick up their option to release the record and the band became de facto owners of what was to be their final recordings. (Richard maintains a healthy respect for Otto to this day and the two have remained friends.)

With the onset of 1984 (an ominous year for literary reasons as well as for what it held in store for the band), the band found themselves handling their own business.

They elected to make their first order of business a change in their name – back to Love Affair!