The Professor: For a while there The Popes side of this got more column inches in Ugly Things magazine than did analysis of the Misunderstood's 1969 stool samples. Funnily though, while mentioned in dispatches on punk and DIY it didn't make the treatise on novelty punk, where it clearly belongs. I appreciate the Bonzo Dog Band moves but feel that it fails to rise to the hyped heights. Imagine my surprise though when the banner at my local newsagent screamed "The Popes Are Jackson Zumdish". There was a name I knew, and it meant they were Australian. It took me awhile to figure it out but it finally clicked that the Jackson Zumdish side had been played on 4ZZZ in Brisbane when I was growing up. After locating a copy of the record one play confirmed it, I was able to pretty much sing along to it.
We're stuck completely in novelty here, not a skerrick of punk to be heard. But the stupe vocals win me over every time.
Dr Who has some history as a punk rock reference point - see the Cybermen, the Daleks, Dalex, and Dalek I Love You, and the Art Attacks' I Am A Dalek for three examples (but not the K-9s). This is probably the only one to side not with the villains but with the good Dr himself. The idea of swanning around in space and time with a sonic screwdriver and a string of comely assistants does sound kind of appealing, at least more than being a shortarse half-flesh/half-machine foot soldier for a Philip Ruddocklookalike.
One last Aussie punk Dr Who tie-in - which Brisbane punk named his son after Adric, one of Dr Who's rare male acolytes?
Jackson Zumdish - (I Wanna Be) Doctor Who
Born To Be Punched: Look, if you pitch a tent at the prospect of Strop fronting a Four Coachmen jam on Empire State Human, then clearly you and The Professor have a lot to talk about, and (I Wanna Be) Doctor Who will be the perfect soundtrack. Yes, Knup In Your Eye has been unequivocally overrated in some quarters. Yes, the back-spooling tape is a cheap gag that must make every studio engineer groan ("Oh wow, what was that you did there? Rewind the tape, you say? Sounds great, let's use it!"). And yes, dialling down the art student whimsy may have given proceedings more of an air of genuine dementia (yeah, we get it, you're referencing Napoleon and laughing maniacally while being taken away to the funny farm. Very clever). But here the band plays like there's at least one descended testicle between them, and on that criterion alone Knup In Your Eye takes the gong. Add to that the fact that the song ends with an explosion - one of my all-timefavourite(non)musical devices - and The Popes get a free pass from me.
As you're putting fan mail on the collection plate at your local church next Sunday, you should probably also say a few Hail Marys and ask the bloke upstairs (or downstairs, doesn't seem to matter to these guys) for some assistance in finding this holy grail of Australian DIY. Musically, Jesus Jones owes a considerable debt to the Krautrock heavies, so perhaps it's fitting to invoke Tangerine Dream in saying the origin of this here supernatural probability is uncertain. Or in the words of another famous Jerry, I know nothing. (Just don't say that within earshot of the backing vocalists).
Here are the fruits of our painstaking research:
Melbourne. Almost certainly Melbourne. Probably.
Don't be fooled by the different A and B labels - this puppy plays the same on both sides, Desperate Bicycles-style.
We reckon the band members used pseudonyms. Pure speculation, though.
Busy week here at Wallaby Beat HQ - barely enough time to wipe my own arse, let alone yours, so that means no mp3s for now (though this post may be resurrected later). Instead, we take great pleasure in teasing you with scans of one of the most God-like home-made sleeves from this part of the world. If anyone's more enlightened than us about this divine mystery, click on the comments link to make your confession.
King Of The Block is no idle boast - our hero has been around it a few times. The magnificently named Rikk Krannium and the Smutorks (try spelling it backwards) is in fact highly regarded Australian country musician/broadcaster Gene Fisk, accompanied by his backing band at the time (the somewhat less imaginatively titled Gene Fisk Band) and some friends. Fisko's discography stretches all the way back to 1959, but the Rikk Krannium single is the last of four 45s released in the mid-'70s during his stint at radio 3BO, Bendigo (the others are worth hearing for those with an interest in slightly odd, pre-punk private pressings; see them here, here, and here).
Recorded live to two-track at the tail end of 1975, King Of The Block is an impressive stab at knuckle-dragging hard rock, with a rawness and energy that presages musical developments up north the following year. Sandwiched between screeching tyres and cop car sirens, the song is propelled by a driving, two-note bassline and some unhinged, wah-infused guitar. The band is nice and loose, the kind of performance that suggests supreme unfamiliarity with the material (in the best possible way), and you'd be hard pressed to guess that country and western was the principals' stock in trade. Only the harmonised vocal inflections at the end of each verse betray any country twang, though I'd be willing to bet that the axe-men are slingin' Telecasters, too.
Then there's the synth. Big, nasty, ballistic analogue synth blurts. For no reason. Great.
Imagine Fisko walking into Bendigo's High On Music and asking the clerk, "Just what do these EH driving long-hairs listen to?" And after internalising Paranoid and Machine Head, you can just see him pen in hand, lightbulb above head, pumping out this piece of genius in ten minutes flat. Thank our old mate Beelzebub (and Gabriel, both name checked) he did.
Fisk left Bendigo for a job at Melbourne's 3UZ shortly after the single's release in 1976. With no band to push the record, it fell off the radar almost immediately. Among country enthusiasts who did get to hear it, King Of The Block was not warmly received - entirely the wrong audience, to be sure. We hope it finds its rightful audience here.
After flirting with the dark side, Fisko then merged it with his first love, touring and recording with outlaw country bands over the next decade, first with the backing of Gunslinger, then reverting to nominal literalism as Gene Bradley Fisk's Outlaws. The Williams family took three generations to cover country, outlaw country and hard rock - let's salute a man who did it in one lifetime.
It's 1980 so now powerpop is allowed to have dismissive attitudes and metallic guitar tones, and why not, when the result is as super as this? A couple of things stand out - the infectious enthusiasm and the great, fluid guitar lines. The guy could play.
A stellar track delivered in a snappy red-on-white design by a short lived Melbourne group. Have a listen to Amateur Hour:
OK - how was that? Pretty good? You might wanna stop reading here because now reality bites.
There's a small but definable genre populated by new wave/oz rock bands that got lucky with one song - Personnel, Moral Support, DV8 and others. We didn't want it to be the case, because Amateur Hour is so great, but it would seem The Inserts also fit into this classification. The flipsides of this record (White Reggae [just imagine] and Bad For Me), and the video linked to below, project a band enamoured of crud like The Police and The Cars (if that smells like inner city snobbery so be it, we prefer it to the whiff of vin ordinaire). And with that perspective, Amateur Hour's ska-like middle eight, complete with mildly poxy octave bassline, seems like the band reverting to type rather than a momentary lapse in taste. To quote the notable scholar David St Hubbins, "too much fucking perspective".
Showing admirable adaptability our lead man went from: oz rock/new wave/pop (Inserts live in 1981); to the odious synthpop of Tin Drum (actually two of the Inserts; Amateur Hour is prophetic for this clip), oh dear; to the non-hair farmer in a latter lineup of heavy metal stars Bengal Tigers (who were pretty good in their day - another missing link between grillfat and LA glam metal?). But hey, the guy could play.
Think you know a lot about Australian records in the punk era? We promise to astonish you with stuff off everybody's radar. We apply quality control so our powerpop has power, our glam has prominent balls, our punk is spiky and our DIY is far, far out there. We'll also do it-never-ends exposés of sleeve variations and inserts you didn't know existed. Strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.