Last updated: 06/27/2012 12:00:00 PM
Saga has traveled many roads since the time Michael Sadler would drop by Jim Crichton’s house to write songs in between shifts as a Toronto cab driver. Twenty-four years on from those formative afternoons, Saga has toured the globe and has well over 8 million albums in sales.
Saga opened their campaign on the Toronto and district club circuit with an uncompromising brand of original music. For the first live show - on June 13th, 1977 - the band had prepared 20 to 30 original songs. Sadler recalls that evening: “That night, we filled the place with friends. Since most agents were wary of using acts that didn't do cover versions. We didn't care what was fashionable at all. In fact, we quickly realized that fashions could change overnight, so we just stuck to playing what we wanted to play”.
Within six months, Michael Sadler, Jim and Ian Crichton, Steve Negus and Peter Rochon had perfected the material that found its way onto their self-titled debut album. In a move that also articulated their business savvy, the band elected to finance the project on their own. Their first album appeared on Polygram Records in Canada and was soon transferred to their own label. “We believed in what we were doing” says Jim. “We wanted to be able to say: Here's the package, the record, the jacket, the works”.
Saga's debut recording was released in June 1978, then occurred one of those fortunate twists of fate that the music industry is renowned for. A record outlet decided to export a number of records to Germany. Within a few weeks the band’s debut went on to sell 30,000 copies as an import. Then Polygram, not slow to catch on, quickly signed Saga for Continental Europe. By this time, the band had also mapped out the script for a sixteen-song science fiction story, to be split among many albums in a non-sequential order, in fact this recording had only Chapters 5 & 6. This was Saga’s first endeavor at a more cinematic approach to music.
With international feedback gaining momentum, Saga returned to the studio to produce their second LP “Images at Twilight”. It was at this time that keyboard player Peter Rochon was replaced by Gregg Chadd. On their third album, “Silent Knight”, current keyboard player Jim Gilmour replaced Gregg Chadd.
In 1981, Saga would grab their first Juno Award (Canada’s Grammy award), for Most Promising Group. With German interest growing all the time, success in the United States continued to elude them until 1983, when they released the hugely successful “Worlds Apart” album with this recording all ready in the European and Canadian Markets for over a year. From the start of the US release it was straight up hill to the top. Produced by Rupert Hine, the album entered the Billboard Top 10 and included two top 40 singles, most notably “On the Loose” which reached the number 3 mark on the Billboard “Hot 100”. The album itself went on to amass gold and platinum awards in the U.S., Canada and most major European territories. Saga always in the forefront new technology became one of the pioneers of the MTV music video scene.
Saga's achievements in the studio were equaled (and some-might say) eclipsed by their accomplishments on the road. As a first rate live attraction, sell-out tours of Europe and Canada continued. This provided the basis for the group’s fifth album - “In Transit” - the first fully digital CD by a rock band.
The follow-up studio album was also collaboration with Rupert Hine, entitled: “Heads or Tales”. Once again the band enjoyed international success with sales stronger than ever in Europe and Canada. The album went to number one on German charts, and was a top 5 record in most other European territories. It was on St. Valentine's night, 1982, that Saga had the distinction of becoming the first Canadian rock band to perform behind the Iron Curtain, playing before over 10,000 fans at the opening of a new sports arena in Budapest. Saga was also presented with the prestigious German Gold Ticket Award, for being the year’s top selling concert act.
In 1985 Saga released the critically acclaimed album “Behaviour”, but by 1986, after several years of constant touring and recording, the band found them selves wanting a break. It was at this time that founding member Steve Negus and Jim Gilmour decided to exit the group and pursue other musical interests. In 1987, the remaining three members of Saga continued on to record “Wildest Dreams” with the production seat this time taken by Keith Olson, one of the most successful producers in the music industry. The self produced: “The Beginners Guide To Throwing Shapes”, followed two years later, along with the Band’s contribution to the motion picture soundtrack “Johnny B. Good”.
In 1991, after a six-year hiatus, Steve Negus and Jim Gilmour rejoined the Band. After an extensive tour to test the waters the band re-entered the studio in September of 1992 and then in April of 1993, the band released its tenth studio album, the energetic “The Security Of Illusion”. This was positive news to the band’s many loyal fans that had been “demanding” to see the original Saga together in the studio again.
In 1993 with the original line-up in place and with again new horizons to be met the band set up house so to speak in California in Crichton’s Sound Image Studio’s and soon found themselves writing, producing and performing music for the television series “Cobra”, bringing Saga once again into a ground breaking field for bands to follow. It was in 1994, that Saga released “Steel Umbrellas”, a new album from those sessions.
Not slowing down or be a group to sit on their achievements Saga set right back into the studio for their most ambitious effort yet. In 1995 Saga completed the project entitled “Generation 13”, a 25 song “rock-opera” which explores contemporary images of the dysfunctional family and the survival of the planet. This seventy plus minute musical extravaganza includes a new musical direction, custom-made synthesizers, orchestral moments, a pipe organ, and spoken moments. “Generation 13 is a reaffirmation of Saga's artistic vision” says Jim Crichton. “It just has to make you feel something”.
With the release of Generation 13, Saga once again pleased its longtime fans while shocking those with outmoded preconceptions of what the band sounds like. An emotional story, along with peerless musicianship, combine to make this recording, one of their most important accomplishments to date.
In 1995, Saga once again found themselves on the forefront of technology as they produced a unique multimedia retrospective - “The Saga Softworks” - An enhanced CD ROM digital retrospective of Saga - Past, Present, and Beyond.
Currently, the rapid expansion of the Internet has resulted in a gathering place for Saga fans to converse and find out the latest information on the band. To date, there are many different sites maintained by fans. A fan community called Worlds Apart can be found at www.worldsapart.ca.
The next chapter in Saga's career began in 1997 with the release of “ Pleasure and the Pain”. In addition, Saga introduced another innovative way to communicate with their fans. For one week in, a bus full of lucky people from 5 different countries traveled with the band and crew. With 1997 being a milestone year for Saga The Band’s efforts would not pass unrecognized when at a show in Offenbach Germany on June 13 the show was stop and Saga was presented citations from the Prime Minister of Canada and the Premier of Ontario, in celebration of their 20th Anniversary together and as musical ambassadors of Canada.
1998 saw the release of Saga's long awaited second live album “Detours”, a 2 CD set recorded in Germany, Austria and Holland. Released throughout Europe, North America and Japan,, the career retrospective contains: 22 songs, and with Saga once again leading the wave of technology, this offering included one live video on each disc, and a bonus hidden track, making this a 25 song package.
Late 1999 Saga released FULL CIRCLE, which marked the musical return to the very elements of their earlier recordings. “The new songs might as well stem from the time of WORLDS APART or HEADS or TALES” comments Jim Crichton, who Produced FULL CIRCLE. “The material on FULL CIRCLE sounds classic but is certainly neither archaic nor dated”. He’s talking about songs like the opener ´Remember When (Chapter 9)`, which contains all of the important elements of the familiar SAGA sound, ´Night To Remember` with it’s driving groove, and the return of several other signature SAGA traits the first return of the Chapters after long absence, “with only eight of the sixteen chapters told to date it was time to continue the story” says Crichton.
For 2001 the band released their latest and most current recording House of Cards “At the beginning of our career we described our style jokingly as ´medieval funk` but these days we no longer need fantasy terms to define our music. It’s simply Saga.” Listening to ´God Knows`, the opener of the new album, it becomes immediately apparent what Crichton is talking about: it’s hardly possible to imagine a more timeless Saga anthem. After a few minutes House Of Cards proves to be an intense and inventive Saga recording with lots of wonderful songs as well as the continuation of the ´chapters` series.
The single Money talks was quite a success for a 24 year old band with the video breaking the top 5 at Much More Music in Canada up against all of the Boy bands which seem to dominate the video market these days.
As 2001 winds down Saga once again set out to record the next installment in a long fruitful Career. The year 2002 will mark the 25th anniversary of Saga. The year will be marked with a DVD filming in the summer to commemorate this milestone. In February of 2003 the band will release their 15th studio album, in addition to this the band will have there entire 20 CD catalogue re-master and re-released over the year 2002.
The SAGA Continues...