Sunday 11 March 2012

Norman Gunston - I Might Be A Punk (But I Love You Baby) 7" Mushroom K-6766, 1977

We've already covered Tommy Leonetti's major contribution to the Australian punk rock canon, but the ex-pat American club entertainer cum late-night chat show host has another claim to fame, this time in Australia's class of '77. Leonetti was the inspiration for Norman Gunston, the gormless, toilet paper-clad alter-ego of comedian Garry McDonald. Gunston first appeared in 1973 as a minor character in The Aunty Jack Show; however, it wasn't until 1975 and the first season of The Norman Gunston Show that the character really took flight. Interspersed among set pieces (co-written by Bill Harding of The Mavis Bramston Show) and genuine musical acts, the show spoofed the variety format with two elements that would become Gunston trademarks: "ambush" interviews, and demolition jobs on popular songs. Examples of the former abound on Youtube - Gunston's interview with Sally Struthers is often cited as a highlight, but we're more partial to this encounter with Karen Black as an example of the Gunston oeuvre. In addition, it would be remiss of us not to direct you to this amazing confrontation with Keith Moon. Equally amazing but not as side-splitting is the footage of Gunston making a nuisance of himself at The Dismissal, but we'll leave you to explore that on your own.

Australian press.
Gunston's musical hatchet-jobs were compiled on a 1976 LP called The Popular Ballad Animal, but as 1977 dawned the savvy McDonald saw punk rock as ripe for parody, and this single was the result. If I Might Be a Punk (But I Love You Baby) comes across as an old fart's impression of what punk rock sounded like, well, it's because that's largely what it is. The song was penned by '60s refugees David Pepperell and Ross Wilson: Pepperell had been in The Union, and later co-founded the legendary Archie and Jughead's import record store which eventually became Missing Link; Wilson, despite promising counter-culture credentials with the Pink Finks and Sons of the Vegetal Mother, is best known for his tenure in Daddy Cool and Mondo Rock. I Might Be a Punk's decidedly Carlton-sounding musicianship and sluggish pace add to the old-school feel, and Gunston's characteristic vocal and harmonica solo hammer home the novelty punk terrain. But despite all that, we're pleased to report that it has aged pretty well. The middle-eight is particularly strong - it almost sounds...convincing!

New Zealand press.
I Might Be a Punk was released in May 1977 (which, incidentally, makes it the first Australian "punk" record to follow in the wake of The Saints and Radio Birdman); it stayed in the local top 100 for 10 weeks, and reached a peak of #57. Mushroom must have been sufficiently buoyed by that success to decide that a New Zealand release was in order. That pressing was issued sans sleeve, and these days is seldom sighted, at least from our vantage point north of Norman Gunston's home town.

I Might Be A Punk (But I Love You Baby) [Download]

A live version of I Might Be A Punk later appeared on the Nylon Degrees LP (Mushroom L36700, 1978). Though musically inferior, it's worth hearing for Norman's attempts at gobbing and his accompanying commentary: "When I first performed that song, I must admit I felt a bit of a prick - y'know, when I put the pin through my nose".


Anonymous said...

Gunston was a classic. It doesn't show up too well in the photo here, but the packet of Bex hanging around Norman's neck was an inspired touch.

iODyne said...

shoop-shoop The Gong Gong.

pure genius.

DoctorPepperOz said...

I Might Be A Punk was written as a part of a punk-opera I was working on called "Collingwood" which regrettably never was finished - or maybe that was a good thing, take your pick. After Keith Glass and I had a huge hit with Gunston doing "Salute To Abba" on our Lamington label I felt that I had a real chance of another hit here but it was not to be. The film clip was great, it got a fair bit of airplay but it just didn't catch on. I think there was still too much animosity about punk in the mainstream for even a parody to gain any purchase. A big disappointment for Ross and I - we didn't even manage to get it on a TV promoted compilation! I'm still fond of it though and even performed it myself on GTV9's New Faces. The bad luck of the song continued - I didn't win!