Saturday 14 August 2010

Rikk Krannium & The Smutorks! - King Of The Block 7" Yankee Kandee FPS-447/8, 1976

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.

King Of The Block


Robin Wills said...

Wow...great find. Sterling work guys -Thanks!

rikk said...

its nice to have my punk rocker remembered...I recall the song was born after watching Bendigo young fellas hooning around the Mall block...thanks for the mention ...Rikk