“From the opening guitar riff of ‘Ocean Pearl’, or the unforgettable baritone hook of ‘I Go Blind’, if you grew up in Canada in the 90’s, 54•40 was the soundtrack to your childhood, whether you knew it or not. For many more seasoned fans, they were the post-punk icons that leapt from the early 80’s Vancouver dive-bar scene and landed confidently on the international stadium stage. With over a million records sold worldwide, a career spanning 30 years and a catalogue of hits that occupy the airways to this day, singer-songwriter-front man Neil Osborne still finds himself with a restless soul.
“Songs are stories – hit songs are classic stories – and we’ve retold these classics and hopefully enhancing their appeal”…Neil Osborne
The search for new musical frontiers can often lead to unexpected places. In 2014 Neil and the band found themselves striking gold and beginning to develop an idea unlike anything they had ever attempted. These were the early stages of a double album that spans decades and finds the band rediscovering their roots while pushing their sound to a very new place.
The first album La Difference: A History Unplugged, available on January 8th from eOne Entertainment, is an intimate and unplugged reimagining of 5440’s greatest hits recorded as you’ve never heard them before. Featuring original arrangements of violin, guitar, banjo, mandolin and more by Daniel Lapp, History gives new context and spirit to 10 classic songs fans all know and love. Re-approaching songs from the past is something the band had never thought they would do. “
54•40 is from Tsawwassen, British Columbia and takes their name from the slogan Fifty-Four Forty or Fight!, coined to express the unsuccessful expansionist agenda of James K. Polk’s presidency, intent upon controlling a contested U.S.-Canada border area in the Oregon boundary dispute. That’s how it starts. Formed in 1981 they were first a trio consisting of Brad Merritt (bass), Ian Franey (drums), and Neil Osborne (vocals/guitar). They made their recording debut that same year, with four tracks on the independent compilation LP Things Are Still Coming Ashore, which also featured music by Vancouver bands Animal Slaves and Junco Run. The following year, the band issued the EP Selection. In 1983, Phil Comparelli was added on guitar, trumpet and vocals and Franey was replaced by Darryl Neudorf. Neudorf subsequently was replaced by drummer Matt Johnson in 1986.
The band’s self-titled second album, released in 1986, began to attract attention from radio and record buyers across Canada, with the single “Baby Ran” gaining significant college radio airplay. Musician Dave Osborne (keyboards, harmonica), toured and recorded with the band from 1987 to 1993. The band’s third album, Show Me, became their commercial breakthrough in Canada, with the hits “One Day in Your Life” and “One Gun”.
Although the band were popular on college radio in the United States, they never had a commercial breakthrough — 1992’s Dear Dear was their first album not to have a U.S. release. It was, however, their best-selling album in Canada up to that time, leading to a new U.S. contract for the follow-up, Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret, which had a significant hit in “Ocean Pearl”. The band’s song “I Go Blind” was covered in the mid-1990s by American band Hootie & the Blowfish, and was featured on the first soundtrack to the TV series Friends. The song also appears on two compilations released by the band: 2000’s Scattered, Smothered and Covered and 2003’s The Best of Hootie & the Blowfish (1993 Thru 2003). Royalties from the Hootie and the Blowfish cover enabled the band to build their own recording studio in Vancouver. The band announced in March 2005 that long-time member Comparelli had officially passed on guitar duties to Dave Genn, formerly of Matthew Good Band.
In 2010, to celebrate the band’s 30 years together and almost 25 years since their first commercial album “The Green Album”, the band went on a promotional concert tour with a two set act. The first set was “The Green Album” from start to finish. The second set was one song from every album since, with the exception of Dear Dear where they played two songs. 54-40 also performed a new song from their upcoming record, “Lost In The City” which was released on June 14, 2011. The Green tour was during the first few months of 2010.
5 years later54-40 releases 54-40 – La Difference: History Unplugged 30 years of hit song writing. Always ones to embrace the ever-changing landscape of the music industry, 54•40 have long been innovators and explorers when it comes to the technology of creating, distributing, and marketing their music. This time around is no exception, and the group has decided to take a different approach to the album making process – by inviting fans across the globe to become a part of Future History through a unique crowd-funding campaign.