documentary Channel

Creators of the most outrageous music videos, Doug and the Slugs were trailblazers

Keyboardist Simon Kendall remembers what went on behind the scenes during the making of the videos

Keyboardist Simon Kendall remembers what went on behind the scenes during the making of the videos

Members of the band Doug and the Slugs pose for the camera.
Richard Baker, Simon Kendall, Doug Bennett, Wally Watson, John Burton, Steve Bosley (Hans Sipma 2021)

In 1978, I joined the band Doug and the Slugs, made up of my old high school buddies John Burton, Richard Baker and Wally Watson, plus bassist Steve Bosley and maverick frontman-songwriter-chief schemer Doug Bennett. 

I'm proud to say we created some of the smartest, funniest and most creative music videos of the time. Doug was not only a talented songwriter and showman, but also a skilled director and gifted cartoonist, who used his graphic design skills to storyboard his ideas. 

Our videos — shot all over Vancouver and featuring the Slugs and our family and friends — were among the first to air on MTV, not because anyone knew who we were, but because the videos were full comedic films (compared to the lip-synced performances that were standard at the time). 

Through participating in the documentary Doug and the Slugs and Me, we remastered our entire catalogue, including creating new digital versions of our music videos. Here is my insider's account of how some of them were made.

Too Bad

Storyline: Doug pursues his (uninterested) love interest, played by Nicole Robert. Nicole had been housemates with John and Doug a couple of years earlier and had played the role of both Annette Funicello and the Snow Queen at our notorious theme dances before we were big.

Doug's storyboard included bar rubes, singing waiters, tropical tourists and detectives, so we scraped together outfits for all the roles and cast friends, crew and hapless bystanders. 

Notable crew: Two film students, Rick Martin and Stan Szyczysyn, approached us, offering to shoot one of those crazy new things: a music video!

We paid them a pittance and also covered film, processing and editing costs. The rest of the cast and crew volunteered their time, and everything else was donated, except my London bobby's uniform, which we had to rent. 

Location: We filmed at Cecil Hotel on Granville Street, a favourite haunt of Doug and Wally's. At the time, bars were closed on Sundays, so we showed up at 8 a.m. Sunday and got out of there at about 5 a.m. Monday, exhausted.

Fun facts: Rick Martin is the son of Dick Martin, from the popular '60s comedy sketch series Rowan & Martin's Laugh-in.'

Nicole credits Doug with persuading her to pursue her dream of becoming an actor. She went on to a successful stage career, appearing in countless shows, including the Toronto production of Mamma Mia! and a national tour of Menopause: The Musical.

The video was a hit on the (at the time) brand-new MTV and also got picked up by HBO, which played music videos in the time slots between movies. 

Making It Work

Storyline: Making It Work starred Doug as an insecure porn star with his merry band of sex therapists. For costumes, we stencilled lab coats and used a collection of (ahem) high-tech sex toys, including a feather duster and turkey baster.

In the video, Steve has excellent Albert Einstein hair and is armed with a toilet plunger. I'm wearing nerd glasses and used too much Brylcreem but can't remember what my sex toy was.

After a scary moment viewing the centrefold in Playgirl magazine, Doug has a session with the sex therapists, which leads to a red carpet moment at the premiere of Deep Slug starring Mr. Doug.

Location: The video was shot at the iconic 2400 Motel, which miraculously still exists.

Notable crew: Rick and Stan, who, together, produced four music videos for us.

Fun fact: John's Dr. Strangelove character foreshadowed things to come. Dr. Strangelove was the house band at Vancouver's Roxy nightclub in the early '90s and included three Slugs: John, Richard and Wally.

Day by Day

Storyline: This video was our own fantasy about overcoming rejection and achieving independent success.

I read a record company's termination letter in a robotic voice while Doug looked on poker-faced in a Harris Tweed overcoat. Tour manager Ken Brault played the heavy who serves us our eviction papers, and all our office furniture is repossessed. 

We dropped a derelict piano from the roof of a building so it narrowly missed Doug, who was sitting in the alley reading a book on starting a record company. Then we played a chorus on the fire escape. 

Location: We shot the video at the wonderful Heritage Hall at 15th and Main. It was vacant, so we were able to get all those moody shots of the band scattered on the checkerboard floor. 

Notable crew: Early supporter and friend of the band Michael Steele had spent several years working in the Canadian film industry and pulled favours to get us an excellent pro crew. They shot in 35-mm film, requiring serious lighting, cameras and expense. This was no time to be goofing about as we had in our previous videos. 

Fun facts: In 1983, after three gold albums, our label, RCA Records, dropped us. Once again, we were truly independent and went into Little Mountain Studios to record our fourth record, Popaganda.

Popaganda did become our fourth gold album, but not until after this video was made, so in a sense the Day by Day video predicted the future.

Love Shines

Storyline: Doug was a big fan of the Mad Max movies, so he used that esthetic for a battle scene between the wacky Nordor army and ourselves, the Ritdong Rangers, in yet another preposterous story, featuring time travel.

Notable crew: Having blown the budget on Day by Day, we approached our indefatigable photographer Hans Sipma to step out from behind his still camera and shoot this video. Hans had shot most of our album covers, promo shots and stills, including the stop-frame shots used at the end of Day by Day. He and Doug were an excellent team, and the result is the most creative video in our collection.

Location: We filmed at Hans's studio and the York Theatre on Commercial Drive. The battle scene was shot at the Rocky Mountain Sound (RMS) warehouse. 

Everyone knows masters of the galaxy need headquarters, so Hans cooked up a mountain lair from grey paper, model trees and a hubcap. I recorded an intro on my four-track cassette, a Tascam Portastudio. 

Fun facts: Notable cameos include our tour manager, Ken, as Lord Notune; RMS owner Fred Michael as Fredicus Minimus; our beloved roadie Frank Felder as the kidnapped Jimi Hendrix; and our publicist Denise Donlon as the queen of Nordor. (Denise went on to an illustrious executive career with MuchMusic, Sony Music Canada and CBC Radio.) 

After this, Hans shot all our videos, which qualifies him for his very own lifetime achievement award in my opinion. 

Doug directed not only the Slugs' music videos, but also ones for other musicians, including Trooper, Alfie Zappacosta, Headpins, and Images In Vogue. 

Find more behind-the-scenes stories on the Doug and the Slugs website. Story adapted from Doug and the Slugs official YouTube channel.

Simon Kendall is a Canadian rock musician, film composer and longtime keyboardist for Doug and the Slugs.


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