In the early Eighties, Canadian rock band Loverboy seemed poised to take over the world. Their singles “Turn Me Loose,” “Hot Girls In Love,” and of course, “Working For The Weekend” were all over the radio and MTV. But the end of the decade, hair metal started putting a dent into their career – until grunge came along and nearly snuffed it out completely. “As I once said on MTV, Nirvana killed our career,” Loverboy frontman Mike Reno tells Rolling Stone. “You just looked at the charts, and it was all negative lyrics – and people dressed up like they’re lumberjacks. The Seattle grunge thing just took over everything.”
Near the peak of grunge, Loverboy took a year and a half off to reassess their lives – before deciding that they missed being on the road. They haven’t stopped touring since, even though their schedule consists largely of casinos and fairs. “The good news is that I’m still touring the big cities,” Reno says. “Right now I’m in London! Bad news is, it’s London, Ontario.”
About 15 years ago, Reno started putting on some weight. Eventually, he looked twice the size he was in the “Working For The Weekend” video. “I got tired of complaining about my knees being sore,” he says. “So I contacted a doctor and he said, ‘If you stick with me kid, I’ll have you down to your old weight in six months.'” Reno was put on a strict diet and exercise regime. “I eat fruit, vegetables and fish,” he says. “I don’t use any salad dressings. I don’t use much oil. I don’t have butter, sugar or flour. I haven’t had a piece of bread in six months, or piece of cake or anything. That’s been really hard. I put the booze away too.”
Reno has lost 50 pounds, and is still going at a pace of three pounds a week. “I feel lighter on stage,” he says. “I’m dancing around like the old days. I’m singing better. I’m breathing better. I’m not getting tired, so my knees don’t bother me. It’s just a night and day difference. I did it rather quickly over the winter, so it’s funny to see the jaws drop on our longtime fans in the first few rows when I walk onstage.”
Around the time he was shedding the weight, Reno got a call from producer Bob Rock, who engineered their first four albums. “That was right out of the blue,” he says. “He said ‘I want to cut some songs with you guys.’ And this is after working with Metallica, and some of the biggest bands in the world.” He sent the band a couple of tracks, and asked them to add their distinctive touch. Rock liked their ideas, and they recently went into Bryan Adams’ Vancouver studio to finish the tracks.
One of the songs, “Heartbreaker,” is currently streaming on the band’s website – but don’t expect a new Loverboy album anytime soon. “I don’t know if it’s worth it,” Reno says. “I don’t want to spend $400,000 in the studio recording 12 songs, when people only want one or two. I don’t expect to be on the radio anymore. That game can’t be won by anybody. AC/DC put on a new record, and radio just played ‘Back In Black’ and all the old stuff . . . I do want to put out a new song every couple of months. I just think that’s the new way.”
Even without a new record, Reno is noticing an uptick of interest in Loverboy. They recently played “Working For The Weekend” on Fox & Friends, have seen their music used in all sorts of movies and commercials. Last season on 30 Rock, Pete Hornberger revealed that he was in the band for three months. “Something’s in the water,” says Reno. “People are drinking something weird. I go to these concerts expecting there to be 3,000 people, and there’s seven or eight thousand people! And most of them are young! Even kiddies, like 10 years old. They even know all the words. It’s freaking me out.”