Monday, 20 August 2012

Kevin McLaughlin and the Murrumbidgee Orchestra - Whole Wide World 7" River Records SMX-46873/4, 1978

Whenever we feel that the occasion requires an '80s movie namedrop, This Is Spinal Tap usually covers the essentials. Today, however, we're reminded of a more unlikely reference - Ivan Reitman's sheissewerk about the lighter side of eugenics, Twins. You plead ignorance? Allow us to give a synopsis. Arnold Schwartzenegger and Danny Devito play - you guessed it - twins; separated at birth, they go on to lead very different lives. A grey-haired plot device informs us that this is because first-born Arnie is a genetically engineered ├╝bermensch, whereas Devito was an unexpected side-effect, a by-product of the leftover turd genes. The film ends with Arnie being sent back from the future to infiltrate the Kennedy gene pool; meanwhile his short, fat scumbag twin makes a living as a taxi dispatcher before going on to co-host American Pickers. Uh, or something like that.

In June 1978, employees at the Festival Records plant pressed the Victims' TV Freak 7" (SMX-46871/2) before changing the plates and using the leftover vinyl to press a little-known single by Kevin McLaughlin and the Murrumbidgee Orchestra. As the afterbirth to the monstrous Victims EP, this punk-era curiosity has remained virtually unheard beyond Canberra music aficionados and hardcore Wreckless Eric freaks. Its B-side is a relatively faithful, contemporaneous cover of Eric's Whole Wide World, some additional keyboard being the main point of difference. Hard to go wrong with a song this good, but it's still just a cover, and perhaps less than essential listening for anyone with the original filed away. The A-side needs to be heard by no one, ever.

For us, the single's main interest lies in its backstory, told in full over at the Canberra Musicians website. There you'll find a band enamoured with the Oz Rock tradition accidentally stumbling across the "new music". We've seen before how non-punk "punk" records emerged prior to many genuine Australian punk bands releasing records of their own. Though not as early in the game, the Murrumbidgee Orchestra is yet another example:
"When George [Bennett, vocals] came back from Britain he brought with him some new music called 'punk'. One song stood out, Wreckless Eric's Whole Wide World. George and Willie [Ian Winter, guitar] had another original called Thunder on the Mountain. We recorded them out at Airsound in Fyshwick and had it pressed in about a week. We sat back and waited for our first single to go roaring up the charts, bringing us fame, fortune and home delivered pizza. We are still waiting, but early days".
Whole Wide World [Download]

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