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The Backstory: Behind Blue Eyes

It all began for me in December of 1978 with the purchase of a record album called ‘Who’s Next’. I had just turned 16, the Who had lost Keith Moon a few months before, and I was continuing my discovery of this band by buying some of its older catalogue. I can’t say now, 34 years later, what it was that drew me to the song ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ except that beyond the stunning melody were powerful lyrcis that stirred the storyteller in me to dare a different dream than wanting to write an even better song. There was a sympathetic quality to the idea of a sad man who thinks of himself as a bad man, and who is fated to telling his lies, and so my young, troubled, and imaginary Ian Harrington was born.

From my love of rock and roll, he became a musician, and from my crush on my hometown and all things English, he would come to Toronto from his native London. Both his transplanted roots as well as his talents with a guitar and a pen would be central to his story. So too would the deep conflicts inside him that I lifted from the anguished lyrics in Pete Townshend’s beautiful song, and the seeds for what would become a 4-part book series were sown.

While I often describe ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ as rock and roll novels, the books are primarily also about enduring love stories. There is the great camaderie of being in a band together, where through thick and thin, members become a family, and the power of young romantic love that endures the many obstacles thrown in its path as the band pursues the roller coaster ride towards fame and fortune.

There is, too, what I call a prolonged love letter to my Toronto of the late 70s and early 80s in the first two books, a special time and place of my own coming of age which I have tried to evoke with its particular sounds, smells and sights as the story of Ian and his band evolves.

Finally, this book is about my neverending love affair with what is now commonly defined as “classic rock”. For those of us who were teenagers and young adults in the late 70s and early 80s, the proliferation of great rock bands to follow like The Who, Queen, Genesis, Supertramp, and Pink Floyd, just to name but a few, were more than just a nostalgic soundtrack to our lives. They were powerful voices of rebellion, of exploration, and of hope, songwriters who had given us pieces whose words and melodies shaped our view of the world, inspired us to greatness, and sometimes saved us. It is with the recollection of that time when the concept album was an art from cover to vinyl that I went back to tell this story of a sad man who, like the rest of us, grew up and made  his way out into the world.

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