Sunday 24 June 2012

It Never Ends: The Last Words - Animal World

Last Words' Animal World mask from the Wizard Records press kit
If you want something done properly, do it yourself. Living in the West of Sydney in 1977, Scottish emigree Malcolm Baxter and Irish transplant Andy Groome took such sage advice to heart. Having arrived in Australia in 1968 and 1969 respectively, they met at the Cabramatta Hostel at which their families first lived. They started playing music together in 1972 and went through a few school bands before some pivotal musical exposures focused their attention. 

The Two Malcolms, 1980.
Malcolm Baxter: "We first saw what was going on in the NME and Melody Maker. We got them every time they came out, so we first saw the punk stuff there. Then Andy went to see Radio Birdman and came back saying to me, 'You've got to come and see this band!'. So I did, at Sydney Uni. That night we met the Saints and started hanging out with them in North Sydney. We had seen the five second clip of the Sex Pistols and we were buying The Ramones records and Clash records and just eating this all up. But we had started writing songs that had that flavour anyway!"

The first Last Words lineup included ex-Brisbanite, Saints acolyte Jeff Wegener on drums and Mike Smith on bass. As recorded in Pulp fanzine (and reproduced in Inner City Sound), "the band were getting desperate. They've been considering all sorts of attention getting stunts, like: advertising themselves in Ram magazine; beating up journalists, a la Sid Vicious; playing illegally on the Sydney streets; moving to Melbourne; recording a single (even though they can't afford it); or, at worst, breaking up". A single it was to be though, and a novel funding arrangement was brokered. Before the recording Wegener left to Melbourne and the Young Charlatans, and Smith was jettisoned.

Malcolm Baxter: "We wrote Animal World in Andy's bedroom in Miller [a suburb in Liverpool, Western Sydney]. Then a few months later my father went guarantor and we got a loan out to record and press the records. We thought no one would ever put this out, so we will. The Last Words then was myself and Andy - I played the drums and sang, Andy played the guitar and bass. It was recorded on an 8 track at Axent Studios in Kogarah in the winter of 1977".

The record was released on the band's own Remand label in October 1977, with flip side Wondering Why. A few copies sported a stamped die-cut sleeve:

The loan the band took out also extended to a few roneographed posters which were included in copies sent to record shops. Not many of these have survived (well, one that we know of).

The record was well received by those in the know, and why not? It's a truly great record. But was it enough to get our boys out of the Western suburbs?

L-R: Malcolm Baxter and Andy Groome
outside Axent Studios, 1977.
Malcolm Baxter: "Being in Liverpool was like being at an AC/DC gig every day of your life. It was a backwater and people did not get punk, we needed to come into the city for that sort of stuff. But we did not know where this was happening, we just got on with writing and making the single and then we went around to a few inner city record shops and asked them to sell it. Then we sent a copy to Wizard in November 1977, and a few weeks later they got in contact with us and said they would like to do something. But nothing happened until February 1978 as the whole country shut up shop for Christmas in those days, so we started to explore the music more and moved into Berrie St North Sydney after the Saints went to the UK, and we played a few gigs there and hung out in the scene that was starting up. We started doing gigs at a place called Blondie's in Bondi, and the Boys Next Door supported us there - it was all a bit strange in those days. Then me and Andy moved to South Dowling Street in Darlinghurst and we started playing at the Grand Hotel and recorded Animal World again for Wizard".

Wizard paid for the June, 1978 recording of six songs with a name producer, Les Karsky, who had worked with Midnight Oil and Boys Next Door. For this phase Baxter and Groome were joined again by Wegener on drums. Rounding out the band was bassist Rique Lee Kendall. Kendall was born in Melbourne in 1958 but had lived in Canada for six years where he had played in legendary Vancouver punk band the Skulls. On his return to Australia he'd played bass as Matt Black on the Thought Criminals' Hilton Bomber EP.

The Wizard issue (ZS-196) was released on 6 November 1978, this time with Every School Boys Dream on the B-side. All copies are on blue vinyl and the period appropriate company sleeve is the Phonogram one above - Wizard switched distribution to RCA sometime around 1979 (around the ZS-300 series of 7"s). We've put the complete press kit put together by Wizard on a separate page, it's well worth a visit. There was a fucking great video too, which if you haven't seen yet, well, do yourself a favour:

L-R: Baxter and Kendall
at the Grand Hotel.
Malcolm Baxter: "When we did Animal World [for Wizard] we recorded 6 songs but the master tape has never been found. We have the songs we recorded on a live tape from our last gig at the Grand Hotel in 1979, but that [Wizard] recording of the songs looks like it has gone forever.

"We went to the UK because this was not the music history that Australia wanted. Molly Meldrum banned the Last Words from Count Down and he had never even seen us. The only reason we got to release Animal World on Rough Trade was a friend of ours from Virgin records nicked the 1/4 inch tape of four of the songs from Wizard and brought them to London for us. And with Rough Trade, we got to London and we started work, but Andy and me thought 'We did not come here for this', so we got up one morning and took the blue vinyl Animal World to the BBC and gave it to the John Peel show. Then we went to Rough Trade and gave them a copy. By the time we got home, Rough Trade wanted to sign us and John Peel was playing Animal World and asking who was this band called the Last Words! When the record came out it sold something like 5,000 copies in the first few days and we went to number 8 in the NME alternative charts. The first pressing did not have Wizard on the labels, it was only after Wizard forced Rough Trade to put it on that they did and that was the second pressing".

The third release of Animal World uses the Wizard recording and came out in the UK in 1979 on Rough Trade (RT 022). As detailed by Malcolm, there were two pressings; and despite internet wisdom, Malcolm has set us straight on which came first:

The London era band was Baxter, Groome, Kendall (now Leigh Kendall) and a local, John Gunn (born Hammersmith London, 9 April 1962) on drums. A Rough Trade hype sheet of the time details goings on: "They were quick to pick up followings in places as Chelmsford and Coventry. Derby made them No 8 in the alternative charts. They also have a strong following in Germany and hope to follow it up by playing there in March [1980]". The band played on for a few more years releasing two more 7"s and an LP - selected highlights can be heard on the Retro CD. But, what about those Germans?

Malcolm Baxter: "We were playing with a band called the Swell Maps in London in 1979 and a bunch of Germans turn up and Eric [Hysteric] was one of them. They were fans of the Last Words and we got talking after the gig, and they would come to the gigs and hang out with us. Andy, Leigh and John had more to do with them. When my father died I came back to Australia and they did some recording with Eric".

The recordings with Eric we'll cover another time, but it segues into today's piece of teeth-gnashery - the fabled, legendary, almost completely unknown German sleeve. At some stage Hysteric got a bunch of copies of the first Remand pressing sent to Germany and constructed a crude photocopy sleeve to help sell them. The back of the sleeve has a postcard of Sydney at night and an indication that it may date from 1984. The German address for Wasted Vinyl listed on the back, and the general thrown together style of the sleeve, fits with Hysteric's releases from WASTE 6 on. The earlier records on the label have an English address and more professionally constructed sleeves. All up, a 1984 date is not an unreasonable guess.

Animal World (Remand) [Download]

Wondering Why [Download]

Animal World (Wizard/Rough Trade) [Download]

Every School Boys Dream [Download]

No Music In The World Today [Download]


Anonymous said...

Great single[s]. I found a pile of the Remand singles in a Leichhardt op-shop in about 1980. I only bought one copy, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

I have two copies of the Rough Trade single.
One says "Rough Trade" on the "Animal world" side and "Rough Trade & Wizard" on the "No music" side.
The second have "Animal world" printed on both sides but the b-side do play "No music". "Rough Trade" on the a-side, "Rough Trade & Wizard" on the b-side.
As you say, it never ends!!

Anonymous said...

I thought that all Wizard releases have been distributed by RCA from day one??
You said that some of them have distributed by Phonogram, could you please let me know which ones?

Wallaby Beat said...

The Wizard label listing in The Australian Music Directory (1981) indicates distribution by RCA and Phonogram, as well as the likes of Tempo (presumably earlier releases) and EMI (presumably later ones). The Last Words bio strongly implies that this is a Phonogram-related release, and in our experience the single is usually paired with the company sleeve pictured. Wizard singles with near-adjacent catalogue numbers (e.g. Sham 69 - Angels... 7", ZS-194) sit in our collections with Phonogram sleeves, also. The company sleeve was something we discussed at length when compiling this post, as copies have been known to turn up with RCA sleeves on occasion - perhaps residual unsold stock when distro changed, though that's only a supposition. Equally likely is that those sleeves were swapped by collectors wrongly believing the RCA sleeve to by the correct one.

Wallaby Beat said...

More info here (end of the second PDF):

Anonymous said...

Thanks alot for your reply & link, both very useful.

tony hogarth ! said...

I was the ceo of wizard Until i had a legal dispute with my partners and left just after the release of animal world !! Unfortunately i was not in a position to contact any of the artists and anyway was very busy starting my new project called Leo ! and then purchased 7 records and changed the name to Powderworks ! Now 30 years later i am left with all my collection of things from the seventies ! Mainly about 10k vinyl records and Cds and cassettes Plus Master tapes acetates test pressings etc ! I guess i need to set the record straight about many things you may have any misunderstanding on ! so i am writing a book called the wizard of Aus ! please cont
act me at my gallery in Koroit or the F.B page as The Hogarth Collection !!

DJones said...

"(...) but it segues into today's piece of teeth-gnashery - the fabled, legendary, almost completely unknown German sleeve."

the insanely expensive German sleeve:

dimitroy said...

Can anyone confirm that the band "The Last Words" made a concert at the London, ULU (between 9 and 18 Dec. 1979) with the band Killing Joke ?

DJones said...

Yes, the Last Words played at the University of London as support act of Killing Joke, but not in December 79. It must have been at the beginning of March 80.

Eric Hysteric recorded the (from the sounddesk) with a two-track tape machine, but the tape is lost.

Unknown said...

I have their self titled album in my collection, not that i'm a punk or especially a 'the last words' fan, but just because Adrian Sherwood is the producer of this record. I've always wondered how Adrian is related to this record. For this is one of the few records which is produced by him in which i miss his 'signature'. Only in the Grace Slik cover (White Rabbit) I hear some Adrian Sherwood involvement (echo-o-o). So can anyone tell the story about Adrian Sherwood and The Last Words.
BTW. Another anomaly on this record is the guest appearance of Steve Beresford. So if that story can be told too i would be delighted.