Sunday, 24 April 2011

Guest Stars - Don't Wait For The Album 7" One Hit Wonder PRS-2892, 1980

We are of the general opinion that band interviews are as boring as bat shit. (More boring, if anything. Can you make gunpowder from 90 gsm offset?). That being the case, we're not inclined to make the Q&A a regular feature. However, we are fond of this back-and-forth between the Guest Stars' David Guest (guitar) and Tony "AJC" Cahill (vocals), mostly because its tone so closely matches that of their record, a seldom-seen three-tracker pressed through EMI Custom in 1980. Just like the single, the duo's conversation is peppered with in-jokes (which, on our watch as sub-editors, will stay as such) and literary references ("I was rereading Miller's Sexus the other day and noticed the lyrics to Come On Everybody transcribed on the back page"). Even more prominent is the same self-deprecation which produced a record called Don't Wait For The Album on One Hit Wonder Records.

Following up his summation that the Guest Stars "sucked", David Guest notes that "I still think there is some merit in the songs and real musicians may have been able to do something with them". Real musicians did do something with the Pynchon rip that year, but with a running time of 78 seconds (and a guitar with just the right amount of out-of-tuneness), Bean Bag Charmers wins out as a mixtape staple for your attention-span-challenged correspondents. Those who share our aversion to band interviews can scroll down to assess its merit for themselves.


David Guest (DG): Our first public appearance was entirely unpremeditated and unrehearsed and occurred at an intervarsity dance in Melbourne in approximately 1979. I just happened to know the chords for Wild Thing and She's So Fine and I wrote out the lyrics for AJC ten minutes before we then had the gall to front the band that was playing, borrowed a guitar and their bass player and drummer and proceeded to bring the house down. Naturally we should have quit then but we didn't and paid the price.

Tony Cahill (AJC): I remember you telling me that The Clash couldn't play an instrument which seemed a good enough reason to start a band. I had no musical pedigree prior to the Guest Stars. My musical education and interest in new wave music came from listening to your records when we were living in the flat at Randwick (Sex Pistols, the New York Dolls, New Rose, the Ramones!). Our routine was to listen to "What's On" on Triple J as we were driving back from Hensley Athletic Field late on a Saturday afternoon and decide who we would see that Saturday night. Ian Rilen's band X was a favourite. When out and about you wanted to be careful of the punks, not that we were afraid of them but you never knew when an ashtray might come whizzing about your ears. They were very much into uniform and looking surly, though I would have thought there wasn't much about life in Sydney in the Seventies that could genuinely create angst and anger in a young man. Our interest was in indie bands but we did see the bigger bands; Skyhooks when they played at the University, AC/DC at the Lifesaver etc.

DG: My memory and AJC's don't always converge but what is not in dispute is that AJC and I were the band such as it was and we variously used bass players and drummers as required.

AJC: Warren Hansford bought a drum kit on the cheap and you and I used to go to his garage to rehearse. His level of ineptitude on the drums was quite staggering and he didn't last long.

DG: We scratched around a bit over the next year or so without enduring too much humiliation but then came the infamous Law Ball at the Hilton Hotel.

AJC: We were sabotaged by your mates, the Lonely Hearts.

DG: Contrary to AJC's self-serving assertion the Lonely Hearts did not sabotage us, we (known then as Ray Rice and the Bubbles) were woeful enough to do that ourselves. After that train crash AJC and I emerged as the Guest Stars with a couple of new musicians and played at the Manly Vale where we actually supported the Lonely Hearts and the Farris Brothers, soon to become INXS. My abiding memory of that night was (sorry to speak ill of the dead) that prize prat Michael Hutchinson [sic] dripping in to the dressing room and asking Mick Rooney of the Lonely Hearts "had we seen their axes?", to which Mick of course responded, "No axes man but there are some guitars over there that aren't ours"...AJC then put up the money and we recorded the single. That was about it for the Guest Stars - we now had incontrovertible evidence that we sucked.

AJC: I don't know why we made the record. I had left University and was punting and must have come into some money. Life was all a bit random in those days, if something seemed like a good idea I would do it. Maybe 500 copies pressed? Not many copies sold, I would give copies away rather than ask people for money. I don't remember much about the recording session. We didn't record any other songs than those on the record. I have done nothing musical since.

DG: The lyrics to Bean Bag Charmers are a mish mash of thoughts inspired by Gravity's Rainbow but Thomas Pynchon pulled the right rein when he wrote liner notes for Lotion and not us. I generously granted a song writing credit to AJC...from memory I think he contributed the word "snowstorm". [After the Guest Stars] I dallied with the Lonely Hearts and the Lime Spiders, again, without ever really learning to play an instrument...amazing what you can get away with.

Bean Bag Charmers [Download]

Come On, Everybody [Download]

Success [Download]

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Black Chrome - Australia's God / We Are Tomorrow 7" Tomorrow MA7202, 1978

When we get our time machine working, Adelaide 1977 is pretty far down our list of destinations to visit. Despite being home in the '60s to a vibrant beat scene, Adelaide seemed to have well and truly shot its load by the time punk reared its ugly head (in contrast to Brisbane whose relatively moribund '60s and early '70s scene gave way to a thriving 1977). Hopped up on goofballs in Rundle Street in 1977, and wanting to avoid hippie, folk and boogie rubbish, you didn't have a lot to choose from. Maybe Phantom, a lively pub rock band led by an AWOL American Vietnam deserter, Irving and the U-Bombs, or... Black Chrome.

It must be said that of all the original 1977 Aussie bands Black Chrome are the one most shrouded in mystery. The single remains unheard, uncomped (but not unloved) and the facts we can report are scant. The original lineup was Simon Stretton on vocals, Simon Dillon on bass and Andrew Griffiths on drums. By 1978 it was Mike Flash on bass, Tony Techno on drums and Simon Stretton on vocals. No guitarist is credited anywhere. Stretton resurfaced in Ungrateful Children around 1980 (one track on the 5MMM compilation). And, um, that's it.

So to the record, perhaps the most singular sounding of the first generation Australian punk records with its restrained fuzz, and strange (moaning?) backing vocals. It's in the lyrics where the punch is packed - cut out the lyric sheets below and sing along.

Tomorrow also released the Bohdan X 7" of course. Black Chrome and Bohdan (in JAB) shared stages in Adelaide in 1977. Of note were the Bijou concerts, a movie of which was shown at the 2010 Adelaide Fringe Festival - you can see a tantalisingly brief glimpse of Black Chrome at 00:40 at this promo clip. A DVD of the movie is available from Patrick O'Grady at PO Box 336, North Adelaide, SA 5006.

Australia's God

We Are Tomorrow

30 April update:
Thanks to an anonymous commenter for this video. Fantastic Black Chrome footage and interview, and an interesting insight into some radio's resistance to punk in Australia in 1977. When we wrote this post we were gonna link the phrase "boogie rubbish" to the great original clip of the 1976 Angels (who were from Adelaide). Note the slight similarity between the Australia's God intro and bridge (around 2:05-2:15 of the mp3) and the bedrock riff of Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again (around 0:10-0:20). Now notice the alarming similarity between the Black Chrome singer's collar and Doc Neeson's raised jacket collar!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Henry Vyhnal - Punk Power 7" Corporate CHS 607, 1979

One micro-genre we're gonna cop to not knowing everything about is Melbourne pub rock. Too many pairs of ill-fitting jeans for us, not enough stomp or belligerence. All is not lost though - borntobepunched recently started his PhD on unstudied Wallaby Beat and the literature search has unearthed three or four pretty good tracks out of the scene which we intend to spotlight later this year. For now though here's a track from one of its protagonists who did cross over and put out a pretty fine pop punk record.

Henry Vyhnal (real name, it's Czech) learnt violin from his classical musician father. You can read his full CV in the insert reproduced below, but in short he played the traps in the Sharks, the Pelaco Brothers and Millionaires, where he performed as Jimi Tomorrow.
Jimi Tomorrow was a character I invented just for the band. Captain Sensible did a similar thing in The Damned. In my mind, Jimi was a futuristic young punk...never a part of the status quo because he was in another time zone (the immediate future). He knew what was going to happen but nobody else did - and that was his alienation. The sort of 'punk' that Jimi was based on was more the James Dean/Marlon Brando sort of punk rather than Johnny Rotten. To me at the time punk was an attitude not a sort of music of costume.
Fast forward to 1977 (Jimi was already there) and a new kind of punk was everywhere. Henry could be found playing guitar and violin in the Babeez, on the Boys Next Door's Door, Door LP and Shivers single, and even (uncredited) on the Desert Rat LP.

The Babeez gig, as detailed at the link above, went for a while through 1977 and 1978. Vyhnal's interest in punk was sincere.
I wanted to see the movement happen. I saw it as a way of being involved in the scene and helping it along the way.
During this time (the Babeez pages say early 1977 - see Extracurricular work), he recorded his own 7", backed by Jarryl Wirth from Babeez/News on guitar, and Ash Wednesday and Johnny Crash (Janis Freidenfelds), both from JAB, on bass/synth and drums respectively. The single wasn't released until mid 1979.

Leaving aside the ballad A-side, Punk Power is an infectious, energetic piece of poppy punk, driven along by some great News-esque guitar. The song was actually written while in the Millionaires, and performed by them:
Punk Power was Jimi's attempt to tell people living in the present what was going to happen next. As it happened, it was a song about punk that predated its introduction into the mainstream.
Henry/Jimi is glorifying youth, while also warning the know-it-all punk kids that life gets hard as "hair falling out, teeth falling out, friends falling out" take their toll. Giving the kids guns is duly noted as a good idea. There is an intentional nod to the new punks with "we really mean it, man" a direct reference to God Save The Queen. This gives us another clue to when it was recorded, the Sex Pistols track coming out in May 1977.

Punk Power

Eagle eyed readers of the Desert Rat post may notice that the label and catalogue number look familiar. The single was intended to come out on Champagne but that label went into liquidation so a little rejigging of the label design was in order.

An insert came with some copies.

Jesus Jones aside, we don't endorse much krautrocky activity from Australia (and no prog with saxes), but we thought you should see this suitably mad Cybotron video from the mid '70s. Henry Vyhnal also played on some sessions with the band (or more precisely drummer Steven Maxwell van Braund) but not on this.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Credits - It's You / Fazed Dazed 7" Thunder FV001, 1979

The Survivors were one of the surprisingly few Australian sixties powerpop bands plying their trade in 1977. We're talking about bands paying homage to their sixties forebears via covers, equipment and approach. We'll leave their full tale for another day, but in 1979 bassist Jim Dickson had decided to try his luck in Sydney (ending up playing in the Passengers), so guitarist Greg Williamson and drummer Bruce Anthon spent that year playing around Brisbane as The Credits.

Their only 7" presents as a nice mix of sixties lyrics and sound with a punky energy. Hanging around in the corner is a dash of that striped sunlight sound; that mix of shyness and brashness, innocence and knowing that permeates Brisbane records.

It's You is a cover of an Aussie 60s rave-up by Terry Dean, originally realeased on the Go!! label from Melbourne in 1965. Here the Credits credit it to Unknown. Mr or Ms Unknown was certainly prolific in the Brisbane punk scene - you might remember them from such songs as Wild About You on The Saints' (I'm) Stranded LP, or from the great (Mystery-Unknown) credit for the Bodysnatchers' Mystery (Solve It).

Apart from Anthon and Williamson, the record sees the recording debut of Tony Robinson, who you may know better as Tony Robertson from the 31st, the Hitmen, the first New Christs line-up, etc. "***" who is credited with vocals is actually Bruce Anthon too. Then there's "Spider" on lead guitar. Thirty years later the Brisbane mafia isn't letting on who this is, so we'll posit a theory. The address on the back is the original Adelaide Street address of Rocking Horse Records, where Anthon worked for many years. The Rocking Horse crew always had a strange fascination with Spider Sabich, shot by Claudine Longet in 1976. Maybe it's an in-joke; maybe it was someone else from Rocking Horse; maybe Williamson overdubs; maybe even Bruce himself, again.

We're not sure of the significance of the Yves Montand card from 1970 French flick L'Aveu, displayed on the cover. It's a film about imprisonment under a totalitarian regime. But these are songs about girls, not Task Force - perhaps it's the tyranny of love. Our comments are open if you can help.

It's You

Fazed Dazed

Update April 23: L'omerta has been broken and Peter Mengede has been fingered as Spider. Mengede, then working at Rocking Horse, where he was known as The Dude, reached fame in Helmet ten years later. This makes for a more auspicious recording debut for him than the usually quoted Watusi Now.