It’s a far cry from his heady days as the lead guitarist of Lipstik – a Montreal hair metal band that knew modest success in the late 1980s and early ’90s. Vaccaro thought his rock ’n’ roll days were behind him, but a fateful encounter on Facebook in the fall of 2014 has changed all that. “I was at home working one day and I heard the familiar Facebook ‘ping.’ Someone from Italy wanted to be friends with me. I didn’t recognize the guy but I thought maybe I had met him and forgot,” recalls Vaccaro. “Before I even had a chance to answer him, I get another friend request from Italy. It was weird, but I accepted their friendship. And they immediately messaged me asking, in broken English, if I was really the guitarist from Lipstik.”
"The hard rock music scene in Italy is experiencing a sort of renaissance,
and Lipstik, a band of long-haired Italian-Canadian guys from east-end Montreal, is part of it"
It turns out the band was in regular rotation on Radio City Trieste – a popular web radio station in Italy. Vaccaro’s two new Italian Facebook friends had just hit the jackpot by finding and friending Charles V. Rox – Vaccaro’s stage name. “They were freaking out because they thought they had discovered this big rock star,” laughs Vaccaro. “And I was freaking out because I had no idea our music was being played in Italy.” Not only is Lipstik’s music being played, Vaccaro was shocked to learn that a four-song demo CD the band had put out in 1990 was trading for about $800 among collectors. Denis Abello is the founder of MelodicRock.it, a webzine focusing on the hard rock music scene in Italy. He says there has been a recent resurgence in the popularity of retro hair metal bands in the bel paese.
“There’s a hardcore group of music fans in Italy who are passionate collectors of hair metal music from the 1980s and ’90s – the golden age for this type of music,” explains Abello, 36. “Lipstik started getting attention after some collectors got their hands on a demo CD and started playing it. When these fans found Charles V. Rox on Facebook, the band’s music started getting even more airplay.” Although it’s a niche market, Abello says the hard rock music scene in Italy is experiencing a sort of renaissance, and Lipstik, a band of long-haired Italian-Canadian guys from east-end Montreal, is part of it.
A picture of the band in 1989, from left to right: Gianni De Fazio (Lucky Lee), Paolo Galati (Paul Gala), Charles Vaccaro (V. Rox) Elio (El) Cicora
“It was a real surprise to find Charles on Facebook,” says Abello. “It’s amazing how social media is giving new life to bands like Lipstik and giving fans a chance to have a direct connection with the band.” Lipstik was born in 1986 in the garage of Vaccaro’s parents’ St-Leonard home. Four guys from the neighbourhood – Elio Cicora, Gianni De Fazio, Paolo Galati and Vaccaro – started growing their hair and getting serious about playing rock music.
“It’s amazing how social media is giving new life to bands like Lipstik and
giving fans a chance to have a direct connection with the band”
“That was really fun for my dad,” laughs Vaccaro. “He had a bunch of kids playing loud music in the garage and he thought we all looked like girls with our long hair. He didn’t really get the whole idea of being an artist. He would’ve been happier if I had gone to college and studied accounting.” The band members wrote their own music, played at local bars and were finalists in the Vanier Battle of the Bands in 1987. Their big break came when Wade Perry, Whitney Houston’s tour director, took notice of Lipstik and signed them to the songstress’ company, Nippy Inc.
A picture of the band in 1991, from left to right: Paolo Galati (Paul Gala), Ange E. Curio, Michael Amico, Charles (V. Rox) Vaccaro
“We thought we had made it,” says Vaccaro. “But, unfortunately, things didn’t work out.” Vaccaro says a combination of factors, including Houston’s personal troubles and the decrease in popularity of hair metal music, led to the end of Lipstik. The band members went their separate ways and lost touch, and Vaccaro says he eventually cut his hair and got a ‘real’ job.
It wasn’t until five years ago that Vaccaro picked up his guitar and started writing music again. He says connecting with Lipstik fans on Facebook after nearly 30 years has given his dreams of rock stardom a second wind. The universe seems to be supporting Vaccaro’s dreams as well; Quebec singer Angelike Falbo, a finalist on the TV show La Voix, has taken an interest in Vaccaro’s songs and is recording one of his tunes for an upcoming album to be released this Spring. “I think this is a sign that I should maybe pursue this and see where it takes me,” says Vaccaro. “I’m enjoying every second of it.”