documentary Channel

5 things to know about '80s Canadian party band Doug and the Slugs

Their early Vancouver warehouse parties were wild

Their early Vancouver warehouse parties were wild

Members of the 1980s band Doug and the Slugs hamming for the camera in period clothing.
Doug Bennett, Simon Kendall, John Burton, Wally Watson, Richard Baker, Steve Bosley (Hans Sipma)

Doug and the Slugs are one of the most entertaining Canadian bands of the last 40 years. Formed in Vancouver in 1977, they're known for their upbeat musical style, musicianship and offbeat stage antics.

While directing the documentary Doug and the Slugs and Me, I spent four years uncovering the story of former lead singer Doug Bennett and how the Slugs came so close to international fame. Here are a few nuggets I discovered along the way. 

When Doug and the Slugs started out, they couldn't get booked at clubs, so they held their own wild theme dances

When Bennett and John Burton formed Doug and the Slugs in 1977, they struggled to get booked at local clubs because they insisted on playing original songs instead of covers. 

So they took matters into their own hands, organizing what they called "theme dances" — concerts held at local halls and based on pop culture references — like Secret Agent Man (James Bond spoof), Beach Blanket Bungle (a send-up of the beach party movies of the '60s) and Winter Wonderland (the door prize was a gram of cocaine, handed out by a character called the Snow Queen). 

The band's theme dances became so popular that clubs took note and Doug and the Slugs began booking regular gigs. 

Bennett was pals with Bob Geldof

Before he was Sir Bob Geldof, he was just Bob, a music journalist living in Vancouver in the early 1970s and writing for an underground newspaper called the Georgia Straight. 

It was there that he met a young Bennett and the two became friends, enjoying meals at Bennett's apartment. Both shared a love of music, and Bennett played Geldof some of his early demos. 

Geldof left Vancouver in 1974, returning to Ireland and forming the Boomtown Rats. He organized the Live Aid benefit concert in 1985 and gained international prominence as a musician and activist.

Manager Sam Feldman mortgaged his house to pay for the recording of Cognac and Bologna

By 1979, Doug and the Slugs were a Vancouver sensation, playing packed clubs every night of the week. 

Manager Sam Feldman saw the band's enormous potential, but struggled to get a record deal due to the Slugs' genre-defying sound. So he mortgaged his house to pay for the recording of the band's first album, Cognac and Bologna, in 1980. Later that year, he secured a distribution deal with RCA Records and quickly made good on his investment.

Doug and the Slugs were one of the first bands to have their music videos played on MTV

Bennett had previously worked in marketing and understood how video could help the band reach new audiences.

Instead of filming a lip-synced performance, Bennett wrote and directed elaborate, wacky and smart music videos to showcase the band. Too Bad was one of a few Canadian videos to play on MTV in 1980. Three years later, MTV banned the video for Making It Work due to its raunchy storyline.

Doug and the Slugs continue to perform, though no current band members are named Doug

From 1978 until 1992, Doug and the Slugs enjoyed a successful career in Canada, with gold records, popular music videos and frequent national tours. 

In the early '90s, individual band members began leaving for other opportunities until only Bennett was left, along with a new backing band of neo-Slugs. 

He died in 2004, and five years later, the original Slugs — guitarists Burton and Richard Baker, keyboardist Simon Kendall, bassist Steve Bosley and drummer Wally Watson — regrouped and started playing shows again with Ted Okos on lead vocals. The band continues to play as Doug and the Slugs, although no current band members arenamed Doug. 

Teresa Alfeld is the director of the documentary Doug and the Slugs and Me.

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