Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Day After The Sabbath 80: Goodbye Jane (Aussie rock)

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I have been on the look-out for more Australian heavy-hitters ever since Vol21. It has been a long and enjoyable voyage of discovery and I have found an absolute ton of stuff. What has become very apparent is that after the new rock genre explosions of the 60s to early 70s, they moved with total gusto into the mid-late 70's with a prevailing hard rock / pub rock sound. Compare the number of bands like this to the number of Aussie progressive or psych acts and there is no doubt of it. Maybe the pioneering, farming and blue collar working man ethic of Australia has a lot to do with it, like in Detroit, guys just wanted to get down the pub after work, get drunk and rock out.

Another factor is 'Sharpie Rock', a fashion, attitude and straight-forward punkish sound that arose in the early seventies. A definite influence is of course one classic Australian band in particular which may well be the ultimate good-time, bluesey hard rock band of all time, so it's not too hard to see where the heritage may have started. Since posting this I have had an enlightening comment from a reader called 'proggy' and I just had to add it here: "It wasn't as a romantic picture as you've painted.... all I recall from those times was a sense of bleakness, long hot summers (different to today), little money. A lot of narrow minded squares and dunder-headed blokes with beards,tats and no brains....a bikey pub in the main street, Liverpool speedway, fights and drags between holdens,valiants and fords all the time ..... oh, and almost no appreciation for any music differing from the norm..... Sebastian Hardie grew up near where I live telling stories of being chased out of pubs by irate patrons.... and then come the 80's ....arrgh!!!! lol! - Skyhooks music was a good commentary on the times..."

Track list:

01. Geeza - Too Much Goin' On Here (1977)
       from album 'streetlife'
02. Desert Rat - Need Your Love (1978)
       from album 'home from the front'
03. Fox - Times Come to Change (1974)
       from album 'what the hell is going on'
04. Marcus Hook Roll Band - Goodbye Jane / Ape Man (1973)
       from album 'tales of old grand-daddy'
05. The Stockley See Mason Band - The Last One To Know (1979)
       from album 'beg steal or borrow'
06. Feather - Here With Me (1978)
       from compilation 'canned rock (live at parramatta jail, 1978)'
07. U-Turn - Small Talk (1977)
       from album 'living in the city'
08. Stevie Wright - Black Eyed Bruiser (1975)
       from album 'black eyed bruiser'
09. Finch - Crystal Country Gorge (1976)
       from album 'thunderbird'
10. Taste - Witches Brew (1977)
       from album 'knights of love'
11. Skyhooks - Revolution [US Single Version] (1975)
       from album "living in the 70's"
12. Redhouse - I Got Love (1976)
       from album 'one more squeeze'
13. Bullet - Mover (1975)
14. Contraband - To Drunk To Know (1979)
       from album 'contraband'

essential references

We begin with Geeza, their track is the one on this comp that I came across first, and I guess it laid down the sound that I mostly looked for after deciding what this one was going to be about. They spent their early days driving around Parramatta, a suburb of Sydney, playing where they could on the back of a flatbed truck, AC/DC did a similar thing soon after. The band began life in 1973 and early on were called 'The Geeza Rock'n'Roll Show'. They had an extravagant, glammy stage image which is another similarity to some of AC/DC's earlier exploits, and even played in drag sometimes. By 1977 they had straightened and hardened up somewhat, now called Geeza they recorded their one and only album, 'Street Life'. By 1979 they were no more but have sporadically played in various re-incarnations since.

Desert Rat released one album in 1978. They were made up of Jerome ? (vocals), Denny Stibbard (guitar), John Dee (drums) Ian John Ryan (bass) and John Moon (guitar). Ian John Ryan was previously in two great but short-lived bands, Chook and Melbourne's The Ash, that both appear on my first Australian comp: The Day After The Sabbath 21: Uluru Rock. Also, John Moon and Ian John Ryan were both in Melbourne bloozers 'Buster Brown'. 'Need Your Love' is uplifting, singalong fun!

Fox were Peter Laffy (guitar), Neil Hodgson (bass, keyboards), Michael Upton (vocals) and Les Oldman (drums). There is not much to go on for the band's history; according to Rock On Vinyl, Peter Laffy played in Aussie bands Freeway, Mondo Rock and Jim Keay’s Southern Cross. Their track here 'Times Come To Change' is one of the comp's most ambitious and distinctive; an anthemic acoustic backbone, embelished with electric lead and a few welcome hints of jarring fuzz, it's a shame it's over so soon!

Marcus Hook Roll Band
Track four gives this comp it's name, while it doesn't really count as music from obscure artists, the album remains quite obscure (it was to me at least) but on reflection is probably one of the most important albums in aussie hard rock history. As a teenager, George Young and his family emigrated from Glasgow, Scotland to Sydney in 1963. While stationed in a migrant's hostel he met up with future members of The Easybeats, including Dutch guitarist Harry Vanda [Johannes Vandenburg] and English singer Stevie Wright. None of the Easybeats were natives of Aus, and drawing on the popular sounds of the UK, they quickly became the premier Sydney rock band. After the band's relocation to London and subsequent demise, most members returned to Australia. Young and Vanda worked together on various projects, of which the Marcus Hook Roll Band was one. George's precise staccato rhythm style can be heard on 'Goodbye Jane' as it could earlier on Easybeats tracks like St. Loius, a sound that would also become the signature of George's younger brother Angus, who, along with other Young brother Malcolm, played on the sole Marcus Hook Roll band album 'Tales of Old Grand-Daddy' (1973). The rest is history. I have joined my fave two tracks from the album, the track 'Ape Man' is especially fun, maybe it was a hard rockin' response to The Kinks?

Stockley See Mason Band
Track six is from The Stockley See Mason Band. 'The Last One To Know' is a tour de force of co-operative wailing guitar work, as it is a super group of sorts with three established guitarists. I found some great info posted by Micko in the Midoztouch forum. His whole post can be read here. "'s the SSM Band's album from 1979 "Beg Steal Or Borrow". As would be obvious to those who are into knowing who the musos are in the bands we loved back then, each of these 3 guys already had an amazing pedigree as guitarists, singers & songwriters with some of our best bands when they came together in 1978. Chris Stockley had played in Cam-Pact, Axiom, The Dingoes, Greg Quill's Southern Cross & had tenures with Rock Doctors, Jimmy Barnes & Broderick Smith among many others to come.

Same See had been an early member of Sherbet before making his name with Flying Circus, Fraternity, Greg Quill's Southern Cross & later on John Farnham's band, Goanna, Zarzoff Brothers & again Brod Smith.

Add Glyn Mason's pedigree & it's very apparent what a talented band we have her. Glyn came to Australia from NZ with The Rebels (formerly Larry's Rebels), then quickly found himself part of the Chain line-up that recorded Live & Live Again. After replacing Jeff St John in Copperwine for a short time he formed the groundbreakinbg country rock group Home who recorded 2 albums, then he joined Mike Rudd in Ariel to share vocals & writing duties. He was also a prominent performer at the Andy Durant Memorial Concert."

Canned Rock
In 1979 a live charity album was released, for the benefit of the Australian Children In Need. The hilariously (and rather cynically) entitled record 'Canned Rock' was recorded during specially laid on shows in 1978 for the entertainment of the clientèle of Paramatta Jail. It was released on the Albert label, Ted Albert being the label-owner who worked with the afore-mentioned George Young and Harry Vanda through the 70s.

A number of important artists played, including Kevin Borich, a young Rose Tattoo (huge in Germany; I was lucky enough to see them at Wacken Open Air in 2007) and a Sydney band called Feather, who feature as track 6 here. Feather was a short-lived development from well-regarded hard rock/prog-psychers Blackfeather, who's killer GTK tv show Stones cover appeared back on Vol8. UPDATE: I have recently been reading a great book about Aussie rock history called 'Blood, Sweat & Beers' by Murray Engleheart and I found these comments regarding the Paramatta Jail gig: "Chris Turner [Rose Tattoo]: 'The first thing I remember is that the actual prisoners were telling the screws to fuck off, and the screws did because they [the inmates] were lifers. They dragged us backstage at the concert hall and gave us some home brew, which just knocked my bloody tits off! Made out of potato peelings and stuff in old Fanta and Coke cans and they were smoking dope.'

Angry Anderson of Rose Tattoo
Peter Wells [Bufalo, Rose Tattoo]: 'Potato fucking booze! Have some of this! It was the worst shit! Oh God! It was like Metho and two fucking green potatoes! Got nicely fucked up on all that stuff.'

Chris Turner: 'They were showing us all their tattoos and stuff. When they closed the big gates onto where the lifers are, that was just horrible. You can imagine it: it doesn't matter if you commit one murder or ten murders because there's no future once you're a lifer. That was the scary part that I found. I thought it wouldn't matter if this guy throttled me right here and now. It wouldn't matter to him at all.

Somehow a show at Adelaide's Yatala Prison had been far more intimidating. Chris Turner: 'They didn't laugh, those prisoners. They were serioulsy heavy'.

Angry Anderson [Buster Brown, Rose Tatto]: 'The first time we arrived at Yatala the superintendant said, 'We've got a big surprise waiting for you', and and we walked out and half the audience were bald which meant you had a room full of people who looked just like me - all tattooed and bald - which was quite a frightening experience'."

Halfway through, and time for a U-Turn. I really like the metallic grind of this track 'Small Talk'.  Definitely one of the most obscure bands here and so far all I have found is a few tantalisingly low-res cover scans and some notes at Midoztouch :- "A band from Sydney I can’t tell you much about this one. Until I bought this album I had not heard of them although I was living in Melbourne at the time they were around so it is possible that they were a popular band playing around Sydney.

What I do know is that this appears to be their only album release. It is released on ‘Lazer Records’ and as it is produced by Sherbet producer Richard Lush (which suggests that someone was prepared to throw some money behind them) and the hairstyles were fashioned by a Faces fan. Also special mention is made of Cold Chisel and Angels producer Mark Opitz for ‘all his help’.

Musically U-Turn remind me of 70s UK good-time rock bands and the album does have some catchy tunes such as ‘I Like It’ and  ‘Lady of Light’. Other than guitarist Shane Pacey, who composed or co-composed the album with other band members, the rest of the band do not seem to have gone on to any band of note. Pacey did re-emerged a decade later in the blues band Bondi Cigars."

Stevie Wright
We return to the Easybeats legacy for the eighth track, Stevie Wright's 'Black Eyed Bruiser'. Stephen Carlton Wright was born in Leeds, UK and his family emigrated to Melbourne when he was nine, then moved to Sydney where he joined The Easybeats. After achieving much success and living through that band's international trials and tribulations, 'little' Stevie Wright found himself back in Australia as a solo artist, and his 1975 album 'Black Eyed Bruiser' was the product of one of the incarnations of his self-named band. This track features his old band mates George Young and Harry Vanda so it has that direct, solid-riffing AC/DC sound in spades, and prophetically I find Stevie's vocals sound eerily reminiscent of the current Acccadacca singer Brian Johnson. There is some extensive further reading to be had here on Rock on Vinyl.

Track nine brings us to a band that appear twice on this volume (later as 'Contraband'). Finch began in Sydney as 'Stillwater' in 1973, soon becoming Finch. They produced a few singles and in 1974 contributed five tracks to the cult surfing movie Soundtrack 'Drouyn', which are more in the heavy psych vein and I'll include on the next aussie comp which will return to the psych. In 1976, just before moving to Melbourne, they released the 'Thunderbird' LP and I think the track 'Crystal Country Gorge' can be see as their career masterpiece; it has the riffs of the Accadacca generation but it's a long-ish track that also retains some early 70s psych heaviness and subtlety, making it one of my faves in this set. After some line-up changes, guitarist Bob Spencer exited for Skyhooks (later on this comp), and vocalist Mark Evans joined, having just been ejected from AC/DC. We'll return to these guys for the final track...

Taste - Knights of Love
Taste are up next, another Melbourne band, with Joel Witenberg (drums, vocals), Ken Murdock (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Joey Amenta (guitar, vocals), Michael Tortoni (bass, vocals) and Virgil Donati (drums). They had a histrionic approach, and at times a metallic sound which sets them aside in this collection. Though they are clearly indebted to Queen's melodrama, they were a much younger band than the rest here, so perhaps they were also taking notice of the beginning of the NWOBHM at the time. It's said that Queen liked them and used to play Taste's 'Boys will be Boys' on tour before they went on stage. Taste’s lead singer and songwriter Ken Murdoch said in a recent interview: "I started singing in shitholes when I was 15, By the time I was 17, I was a veteran of pub rock alongside Joey and Michael. We had been booed, spat upon, and ignored until we got it right and that’s something bands don’t have anymore. But once you get it right and that crowd love you something magical happens between the two of you. I don’t see that happen much anymore,". Amenta left to join Redhouse (included later) in 1977, according to Rock on Vinyl's article Taste achieved quite a lot of success with two top-twenty albums, playing to audiences as large as 13,000, so it seems a shame they called it quits early on and I have been unable to find out why as-yet, but they have reformed and gigged quite recently and even made a new ten track album.

Skyhooks are one final band that stand apart from the others here and were unique in their country at the time. Their image and stage antics were considered outrageous in conservative early-70s Australia. They sung observantly about issues that concerned young people at the time (endearing themselves to the student intelligentsia) like buying drugs, suburban sex and the gay scene. Their make-up and flamboyant clothes on stage projected a glam image though their social commentary and sound had more similarity with what would later be called punk, which also was approved of by the sharpies and pub rockers. They sung about people and places in their own country which was a novelty at the time that other bands were more likely to sing about American ideals and locales. The version of Revolution used here is a 1975 US single version that differs from the 1974 album cut.

Nearing the end with track twelve is Redhouse, who were originally from Geelong, Victoria. For a time in the mid-70s they were a very big draw around Victoria with great stage presence and guitar showmanship, though their only album, 1976's 'One More Squeeze' had some good tunes like the one included here, it failed to convey their raw qualities and critics say the production was too commercial-sounding. Interestingly, they started out in life as The Red House Roll Band, with regional success before their album coming from a single that was based on a tune from the UK counter-culture movie 'Oh Lucky Man'. 'I Got Love' is a good-time rocker in the best tradition of innuendo-filled lyrics and some tremendous guitar interplay.

Bullet - Mover
For the thirteenth track I must once again thank Robin Wills at Purepop for unearthing a hell-for-leather stomper of a single. 'Mover' is the b-side of the single 'Rock My Lady' from Bullet, who were previously know as Bullett (extra t). Again we can cheer Robin for a great track that would be lost in the midst of time otherwise. It was released on The Atlantics' own label, a legendary Aussie surf rock band who I will include at some point if I can get a heavy surf rock comp out....

The comp ends on a track from Contraband, who were the final incarnation of Finch. After signing a US record deal they had to change their name, and their final album appeared in 1979. I do like the brilliantly machismo album cover featuring the band, brandishing machine guns, pointlessly stationed around a grounded flying boat, and the tune is another anthem to the thing that Aussies do best. See you at the bar!

Thanks for listening! Rich

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  1. some childhood memories here! skyhooks were one of my first concerts... back in 76

  2. It wasn't as a romantic picture as you've painted.... all I recall from those times was a sense of bleakness, long hot summers (different to today), little money. A lot of narrow minded squares and dunder-headed blokes with beards,tats and no brains....a bikey pub in the main street, Liverpool speedway, fights and drags between holdens,valiants and fords all the time ..... oh, and almost no appreciation for any music differing from the norm..... Sebastian Hardie grew up near where I live telling stories of being chased out of pubs by irate patrons.... and then come the 80's ....arrgh!!!!
    lol! - Skyhooks music was a good commentary on the times...

    1. Wow, thanks for the insights! I may have to add your comments in the post...

    2. And thanks for the hint on Sebastian Hardie, I had never heard of that band...