Sunday 25 December 2011

John Vincent - 'Ow Ya Goin' Santa Claus 7" RCA 101885, 1969

Since most of you are SSL speakers, that's Strine as a Second Lingo, you'd be forgiven for missing the small ocker revival amongst tastemakers in recent years. The original Ocker was a character in the '60s TV show The Mavis Bramston Show, codifying the broad speaking, straight talking, piss taking, clever but smartarse bloke Aussies seemed to love to love. The genre never really went away, but it did start to seem less attractive as it morphed into the garden variety yob by the 1980s. Perhaps starting with the reissues of the Bazza McKenzie fillums, crate diggers started pulling a few old ocker classics out of bins country wide and proselytising their worth.

John Vincent was a South Australian DJ who put out many ocker novelty records, both under his own name and as the 'Ken Oath Ockerstra. We like this one in particular because of its links back to a cool earlier version from 1967. We'll get to that in a minute, but for now enjoy a bit of seasonal stupidity, with Thin Vin's approximate vocals taking centre stage.

’Ow Ya Goin’ Santa Claus [Download]

The song has its roots in an earlier song, in fact Vincent's debut record, recorded with legendary Australian '60s band The In-Sect, whose I Can See My Love is rightly regarded as a classic of Australian '60s punk. As told by guitarist Frank Sebastyn to Ian Marks in the great recent book Wild About You, the In-Sect were the regular house band at the Arkaba Hotel in Adelaide, where they played six nights a week and an all day Saturday beer garden gig to 1200-1300 people.

I arranged that for John. He used to keep hanging 'round the Arkaba saying, 'Can I sing a song, mister?' And after weeks of telling him to piss off, we let him up on stage, and he did this song called 'Ow Ya Goin' which knocked 'em out. So I spoke to Ron Gillespie [from W&G] and he agreed to record him, too.
It goes on to tantalisingly say Ow Ya Goin' was "allegedly recorded in the lavatory at the Adelaide Railway station" with no further details!

Detailing the three stages of a standard piss up, the lyrics in total are:

'Ow ya goin'? Alright!
Crack a coldie. You beaut!
See ya later. Hoo roo!

Again for our SSL friends a few translation hints are in order: crack a coldie is "open yourself a cold beer from the esky"; you beaut is an exclamation of pleasure equating to "you little bloody ripper"; hoo roo they say is an archaic Australian farewell, but I've been hearing it all this weekend as I've done the rounds of family and friends. It's all helped along by a sterling performance by the In-Sect with loud drums, organ and some great guitar by Sebastyn.

’Ow Ya Goin’ [1967] [Download]

Vincent and the In-Sect combined twice more, first on the Madge's Charity Badges / Choko Brandy 7" (RCA 101860, December 1968), then on the Ballad Of Andy Capp 7" on Adelaide label Gamba. Dean Mittelhauser said of the RCA record, "this was another of Vincent's terrible novelty songs, but the band's raunchiness is undiminished, particularly on the A-side where there is a truly fab guitar solo. It's absolutely boss, and makes Vincent's bad lyrics and even worse vocals almost bearable". It's a cool record and has been comped on the Australian psych CD, Datura Dreamtime.

Vincent revisited 'Ow Ya Goin' in 1973 on his only album. Without the In-Sect, and without '60s enthusiasm, it's reduced down to a pretty standard 12 bar blues workout. We include it for completeness. If you absolutely have to dig further into Vinnie's back catalogue we can perhaps suggest this approximation to Heads Down No Nonsense Mindless Boogie style satire from 1975, and again with a Ramones tribute band.

’Ow Ya Goin’ [1973] [Download]

The album

Sunday 18 December 2011

Rockets - Mean Mistress / Little Donna 7" White Rider WAS 1, 1980

"Three cheers for Perth - hip hip...BOOO!"

So quipped Gus Chambers one night at the White Sands tavern, shortly after a disgruntled publican pulled the plug on his band. Such was Gus's rage, he momentarily forgot how to count - you can hear the results on Rupture's Sex, Drugs and Rupture CD. Antipathy to the ol' Dullsville is something of a Perth punk tradition, the most well-known example of course being The Victims' Perth Is A Culture Shock. However, the Perth kiss-off we really wanna hear seems to have remained unrecorded.

Paul Keating famously described Australia as "the arse end of the world"; Arsehole Of The Universe – a song variously attributed to the Exterminators or its short-lived offshoot, Sad Sack and the Bags – narrows down the anatomy and ups the cosmological denominator in laying waste to late-'70s Perth. Readers who have internalised Harry Butler's Perth punk family trees in B-Side #6 and DNA #34 will know that the Exterminators existed from May to November 1977. The band's core – Rod Radalj (guitar) and Boris Sudjovic (bass) - morphed into the Invaders (no relation) in December 1977 when Kim Salmon (guitar/vocals) joined the fold, the band in turn becoming the Scientists in May 1978 when James Baker, fresh from the recently disbanded Victims, occupied the kit. Readers who have internalised the Scientists' Wikipedia page could probably tell you much the same thing.

Sudjovic didn't last long in this line-up of the Scientists, exiting prior to the recording of the classic Frantic Romantic / Shake Together Tonight 45; Radalj played on the single's A-side, and left the band soon afterwards. The pair soon teamed up again in April 1979 as the Rockets, and along with Allan Stewart (vocals), Peter Johnson (guitar), and Johnny Cole (drums), supplemented a set of Heartbreakers and Ramones songs with high-energy originals. Accounts from folks in the know have the band pegged as a shit-hot live proposition, reportedly Perth's closest approximation to the Detroit-via-Sydney rock of Radio Birdman.

Unfortunately, the Rockets' sole single (released in May 1980 by import record shop White Rider) doesn't quite capture that attack. Mean Mistress is fine punky rock and roll, somewhat hobbled by bog-standard riffing and typically "Perth" production (hard to put a finger on the defining characteristics, but to paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart, we know it when we hear it). That said, we have found ourselves coming back to Mean Mistress again and again over the years, surprised each time by the energy of the performance. The flipside, Little Donna, is slower and wimpier, alternating between a singular pedestrian riff and a truly cringe-inducing middle-eight. 'Nuff said. Five hundred copies of the single were pressed, housed in a silver cardstock sleeve overlaid with either a black or white screen print. In our experience, there's no discernable difference in rarity between the two sleeve colours, though white seems to have surfaced more frequently in recent times.

Sudjovic has reflected that the Rockets "lasted much longer than they should have, two months would have been about right". By the middle of 1981, he and Radalj's disdain for Perth and disaffection with the band had reached critical mass, with the pair leaving both the Rockets and the city for the perineum of the universe, Sydney. There, Radalj teamed up with two ex-Victims to form Le Hoodoo Gurus, and Sudjovic rejoined the Scientists to spearhead the band's swamp-rock phase. The pair would eventually regroup in 1986 as the Adorable Ones, a.k.a. the Dubrovniks. Back in Perth, the Rockets continued with line-up changes to fill the Croatian-sized void, and pursued a less interesting hard rock-tinged sound. This direction can be heard on Automatic, the revamped Rockets' contribution to the West compilation LP (96fm/Polygram MX198965/6, 1981), where somewhat confusingly they sit back-to-back with the Invaders, an unrelated band led by ex-Bakery vocalist John Worrall. A cassette from 1983 showcased more of the same with flourishes of the old punk and roll sound, but the band would fold with no further vinyl releases.

Mean Mistress [Download]

White and silver sleeve

Sunday 11 December 2011

Nasty Nigel and The Teenage Hellcats - Jonestown Suicide 7" Criminal PRS-2708, 1979

If you told me blind we'd be championing a white reggae single where the singer actually attempts a Jamaican accent, and there's a proggy guitar solo, I'd cock my eye and suggest you were mistaken. Nevertheless, here we are in that exact situation.

Nigel Lawrence was a shortarse Yorkshireman who landed in Adelaide and joined a band called The Bank Of France. The band did mostly satirical, novelty stuff like It's Still Billy Joel To Me and Please Let Me Be On Countdown. It is suspected the A-side song featured today is supposed to be humourous punk novelty.

So, what lifts Jonestown Suicide out of the kids' pool of punky reggae novelty and into the deep end of the punk pool? Great songwriting and a truly superb vocal delivery by the remonikered Nasty Nigel.

Starting with ominous keyboards, a reggae beat sounding more fuelled by GBH than THC fades in. The chanted Jonestown Suicide refrain builds to our man Nasty taking over.

Jonestown suicide
Jonestown suicide
Thousand people take their lives
Lemonade and cyanide

Brilliant in its simplicity, and delivered with a really, well, nasty tone. The fade in, verse, verse, verse, solo, verse, repeat first verse, fade out structure is interesting - the kind of thing attempted only by inspired amateurs or gifted professionals. Then there's that solo, and the staccato rimshot outro. Together with the subject matter, tough production and perfect song length it all conspires to make this something of a classic. We don't even cringe when he goes all yardie accent in the verse starting "Enigmatic mystery man".

Did we mention the clean, simple cover art? It's nice to see a band get everything right for once - leaving the band name completely off the sleeve is a plus, isn't it?

The song was well played on the alternative radio stations at the time - 2JJJ, 4ZZZ, 3RRR, 5MMM etc. and was something of an underground hit, not unlike the Brats sole vinyl appearance. At least one of the song's writers, Greg Champion went on to make a living out of songwriting, though his main money spinner (and general oeuvre) was a return to daggy, novelty stuff like I Made A 100 In The Backyard At Mum's. Lawrence and Champion and some of the Teenage Hellcats got their earlier wish and appeared on Countdown in their next guise as happy-go-lucky pop band Young Homebuyers.

The flipside, A.K.A., sees Lawrence again carry the song with another great vocal performance. The wonky instrumentation, jaunty rhythm and the little slip into French shows him in the thrall of Wreckless Eric and Ian Dury and the Blockheads. It ain't Stiff, but it's still worth a fuck.

Jonestown Suicide [Download]

A.K.A. [Download]

Sunday 4 December 2011

Matchbox - Slightly Troppo LP Festival L 36579, 1978

Fifteen reasons why Never Mind The Scallops by Matchbox/Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band remains an Australian novelty punk unknown:
  1. Kazoo
  2. Ukelele
  3. Harmonica
  4. Tenor sax
  5. Washboard
  6. Jug
  7. Alto sax
  8. Vibes
  9. Mandolin
  10. Hawaiian steel guitar
  11. Joe Camilleri
  12. Baritone sax
  13. "Mood sympathiser"
  14. Natural steel guitar
  15. This

Never Mind The Scallops [Download]

Enlarge to reveal the full horror.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Quintrex Bop - Effigies 7" EMI Custom 13005, 1980

Another "graphic design clusterfuck"
Ever wanted to reach into your gramophone, grab the guitar player by the scruff, and dare them to play a downstroke? We mentioned before what seems to be a Canberran tendency to not want to put in on the six string. There are exceptions, but unfortunately today's featured record ain't one of them.

Quintrex Bop were part of the small punk scene in the nation's capital in 1980. The band members were Eddie Evils (vocals), Glen Grattan (guitar), Rod Nonstop (bass) and Mark Fraser (drums). They recorded a four track 7" at Grool Sound in 1980, and that was it.

So, half-hearted guitar slinging aside, what does the Quintrex Bop EP offer? We feature the best two tracks today and you'll see what makes it vaguely attractive is a bit of mean-spiritied nastiness in the lyrics. On Judith the target of the singer's ire is the eponymous lady friend. "Judith is a fatty and a liar and a cheat", it starts, and the impression given of the poor lass doesn't improve. "Judith, I'll whip you with barbed wire, c'mon Judith, and set yourself on fire" and "Judith, you're the girl I hate, woah-oh Judith, you're overweight". O...K..., shots on target, but when paired with decidedly nancy drumming and non-committal guitar wavering I'm unsure of whose side I'm on. Think I'll go with Judith, she sounds like a whole lotta Rosie.

So, onto Royalty Sucks where again the lyrics are fairly forthright, if a little confused: casual anti-semitism ("she never wears the same clothes twice, she ain't no filthy jew") in the verse followed by a nice use of Yiddish in the chorus - "The king and queen are full of shmuck". Yeah, it didn't make sense to me at first either. I thought it was a minced oath for "full of shit", but then they rhyme it with "but I don't give two fucks", so that theory dies. We all know shmuck is slang for dickhead, but the lyric still doesn't make sense. It turns out in Yiddish, a shmuck is the foreskin removed in circumcision, now making the line a decent insult.

All in all it reads like it was whipped up on the back of a school pad in a few minutes. Nothing wrong with that, but it helps if your band is providing an absolutely raging backing track to distract from any obvious shortcomings. The vocal delivery is fine, but, like the guitarist's stayed hand, we can't commit to the whole thing with much enthusiasm. As an anti-monarchy song it's more Corgi Crap than I Hate The Bloody Queen.

The other two tracks, Effigy In Plastic and Household Garbage, despite the promising names, aren't going to excite anyone. As always though, track 'em down and make up your own mind.

Judith [Download]

Royalty Sucks [Download]

Eddie Evils also sang in Glass, from Ripchord fanzine, 1980.

Sunday 20 November 2011

Jackson Zumdish - Flyblown 7" Agro Fish 13081, 1981

"Relentless art school mirth", or RASM for short - it's what led Johan Kugelberg to reserve a place for Jackson Zumdish in not only the Worldwide Punk Top 100, but in his Top 100 DIY list as well. RASM is also the reason we dealt with Jackson Zumdish so flippantly back in August 2010. Truth be told, we're quite partial to the odd piece of RASM - the first Avant Gardener 45 is a personal favourite, and it might be the quintessential RASM record - and in retrospect, perhaps our dismissive tone didn't do justice to JZ's first single. Which is not to say that we don't have our reservations - we do - but if we can treat pissweak singles like PJ Hooker with some dignity, then Jackson Zumdish deserves at least the same level of respect.

The full Jackson Zumdish story is revealed by the Kuge's interview in Ugly Things #22, combined with a dig around various sections of the band's website (which is like a Tardis journey back to 1994). In short, the band began in late-'70s Adelaide as a high school recording project for Antony Kimber (a.k.a Kimber Dean), Baden Smith, Michael Spargo and Andrew Bayfield. Musical inspiration is cited as the Sex Pistols, Bonzo Dog Band and the Tubes, a triad that manifested perfectly in the recordings which followed. After a couple of low-key cassettes, now compiled on an equally low-key CD, the band released the (I Wanna Be) Dr Who/Knup in Your Eye 7" in 1980, for which they have become best known. Less widely recognised is the second Jackson Zumdish single, the Flyblown EP, released in an edition of either 650 (according to the JZ website) or 500 copies (see below) in 1981.

In the Ugly Things piece, Kimber described Jackson Zumdish's lyrics as "an expression of anarchy and madness", but here is where our reservations kick in. Like Alain de Botton doing a karaoke rendition of Paralyzed, what comes through is an intellectual play at being unhinged, rather than any semblance of the real deal. That feeling is exemplified here by Internal Organs, a song interpreted by some as a pisstake on the morbid fascinations of Throbbing Gristle et al., but which sounds to us like something that might have been heard at the 1980 Adelaide Uni Med School Revue. However, what makes the song a success is that its skewed take on "It's what's on the inside that counts" is genuinely, laugh-out-loud funny. We're particularly fond of the redundancy in "Pancreatic juices come from the pancreas" - the "Tonight I'm gonna rock you tonight" of Adelaide DIY - but the kidneys and the appendix turn out to be connected to the funny bone, too. Unfortunately, the joke wears thin over five minutes, especially in the later spoken section, and a Just Urbain-like edit would have given things more punch.

Internal Organs [Download]

The real sleeper on the EP has turned out to be the title track. Initially overshadowed in its whimsy by the sledgehammer approach of Internal Organs, Flyblown has revealed itself over time to be the record's highlight. We're compelled to slot its entomological vocalisations between those of I'm A Bug and Human Fly, but the real insight into the band's inspiration comes from the alto sax solo which references Flight of the Bumble Bee (we recommend headphone listening for maximum bug-like effect). And unlike its subject matter, at a relatively economical three-and-a-half minutes it doesn't outstay its welcome.

Flyblown [Download]

The record is also notable for the inclusion of two early JZ compositions, dating back to 1978. The House Detective wins points for the use of cardboard boxes instead of drums (something of an Adelaide DIY tradition, but we'll get to that later); and marriage to a potted plant, as detailed on Plant Phase, is duly noted as being fraught with pitfalls. Musically, though, these songs are less impressive - readers are invited to track down the EP to make up their own minds.

Lastly, this record has added a useful term to the Wallaby Beat lexicon. The state of being flyblown - in which flesh becomes infested with blowfly maggots - is an apt description for vinyl housed inside a PVC sleeve for 30+ years. Flyblown's cover, an elaborately printed plastic wallet, is prone to inducing the same "clouding" effect as that caused by the bane of every record collector's existence, the thick plastic protective sleeve. The hissing you hear in the sound files above is from our particularly flyblown copy.

"The music is nonsense, but the approach is no-nonsense": from the Adelaide Advertiser, 1981.

Sunday 13 November 2011

It Never Ends: Everybody Loves Just Urbain 7" Shake SM4 (PRS-2815), 1980

Here's another it-never-ends which is guaranteed to send OCD collectors polishing doorknobs in their record cribs over, and over, and over again. Actually we toyed with starting a new tag, it-never-starts, for this one because just finding a copy, let alone one with a sleeve, any sleeve, is a conviction-challenging conundrum facing many an Aussie completist. What we're looking at today is the second record by Briso punks Just Urbain. Released in 1980 as part of the second batch of Savage/Shake 7"s, it appeared in a mind-bending brace with the also amazing second Young Identities 7", New Trends.

This is a great record and one well worth the time and effort to track down. One thing that sets it apart is Rod McLeod's filthy guitar sound running through all three tracks. A feature which has only really hit us recently is John K's belting piano on The End - probably the same set of crazy 88s used on the Fun Things EP, which was recorded at the same North Coast hinterland studio. Singer Peter Miller's lyrics are always interesting - sometimes reflecting on darker topics (here, failed suicide (on Hospital Bed), and capital punishment on the first Just Urbain record), and other times adolescent railing against the trend following Brisbane music scene (Everybody Loves).

What you see up above is how we think the first batch of copies appeared: naked, no band name. The front silk screened picture is glued to the inner bag as is the classic JU symbol rear sleeve (right), thus making a standard, two-sided, pocket picture sleeve inside which the record sits. Remember you can click on any of our pictures for full size versions.

Hand-numbered inserts should appear in all copies. As it says on the insert - 200 copies. The CD reissue says 300 and we've never got a straight answer on the actual amount.

Insert, "Your number" is in pen on originals.

We've had a few copies of this record cross the Wallaby Beat desk over the years and noticed there was a batch of copies with a somewhat differently constructed set up. These ones start by having the EP name (and thus band name) written on the front sleeve in highlighter pen. Highlighter pens had been around since 1963 but got a kick along in 1978 when fluorescent inks were introduced. There's a fluorescent yellow variation to a Victims sleeve, but, uh, we'll get to that. Anyway, we think these are later versions as they answer the question obviously worrying the Savage/Shake executives - how do you sell a record with no band name anywhere?

This time the front part of the sleeve stands alone as a one-piece, single sided print. These copies also have the insert pictured above (albeit with higher numbers), but also have another mini-insert repeating some of the information. Again, this mini-insert helpfully has the name of the EP and the track titles, thus ensuring mega-sales around Brisbane, and the world, or not. Here's how the rest of the sleeve works - the red and black silk screened JU symbol sheet sits inside the die cut inner sleeve so the JU appears through the die cut label hole. Then the little mini-insert slides in horizontally below the hole. Clever! Here's how it should look:

Phew, landed both of those variations. Mission accomplished. Then things like this appear in the mailbox, with penwork (allegedly) by Peter Miller:

The tracks on Everybody Loves can these days be heard in two places. First track down the Shakedown CD released by Dropkick (BEHIND022). This compiles the entire output of Savage/Shake and also features two great sets of liner notes by Rod McLeod and drummer Dave Holliday. A slightly different version of Dave's piece can be found at the essential Break My Face Just Urbain page. Secondly, 540 Records from Austin, TX, is reissuing all the Shake/Savage gear on 7"s, with awesome photos inside the gatefold sleeves and nice, clean mastering from the CD versions. Everybody Loves is available as we speak, late 2011.

Which brings us to today's track. As told to us over the years some kind of mistake was made when the tapes were sent down to EMI Custom in Sydney and an unedited version of Everybody Loves (the song) made it on to the original EP. The wailing guitar goes on for nearly a full four minutes and the song unnecessarily repeats a verse towards the end. The Dropkick and 540 releases have a 2 minute 40 second version which is how the band would have liked it to originally appear. We're not arguing with the band's preference for the shorter version but thought you'd like to hear it all:

Everybody Loves (1980 edit) [Download]

Everybody loves.... hunting thylacines.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Armchairs - Party Time LP Reverse/Missing Link MLB002, 1980

As noted previously, Melbourne pub rock (a.k.a. the Carlton scene) has never been our bag. It was well before our time, but firsthand accounts from a punk perspective range from the dismissive ("flawed" and "an outgrowth of hippiedom" - Inner City Sound), to the antagonistic ("We were the exact opposites of the Carlton scene" - Ash Wednesday). But, all cultural prejudices aside, our main gripe has always been the music itself. The Prof summed it up best: "not enough stomp or belligerence". Still, re-evaluation of the Carlton bands has begun, albeit in a minor way, and in that spirit we too have started to dabble. We're not yet at the point of subjecting ourselves to Jo Jo Zep, but as time marches on, some of the scene's major players have begun to make more sense to us. Where Skyhooks once seemed wildly incongruous on the UK pressing of the New Wave LP (tellingly, a second Flamin' Groovies track was subbed in on the local version), they now seem only mildly incongruous; as we have aged to appreciate small doses of Elvis Costello and Graham Parker, a fresh listen to the Sports reveals that they may not have been so shitful after all. Even that first Dots single - a record that has perennially teetered on the edge of the "purge" pile - is starting to sound listenable. Come 2015, we may even upgrade it to "not bad".

Still, we cannot claim to speak with any authority on this scene. Indeed, the exact relationship of today's subject to Melbourne pub rock isn't entirely clear to us; however, given Inner City Sound's explicit exclusion of "the Carlton School", and the Armchairs' absence from that book, that's where they have been filed in the Wallaby decimal system. That said, as an example of Melbourne pub rock, the band does seem to represent a tangent with definite inclinations toward the new wave. At the Armchairs' core were Ian Stephen and Johnny Topper, with a revolving door of Melbourne musos fleshing out the band. Stephen will be known to readers of this blog as the vocalist on Marriage Is A Splendid Thing and Family Fun Parlour, the latter being one of the standout songs from the second Fred Cass and the Cassettes 45 (Fred/Lee Cass was also an early Armchair). On that record, Stephen mingles with the who's who of Carlton scenesters comprising Cass's band. Johnny Topper, on the other hand, should be familiar from his recurring role on the Fast Forward cassettes, the jokiness of which is carried through to much of the Armchairs' output. Both Stephen and Topper had previously released singles under their own names which the highly motivated may wish to seek out, but frankly, we'd advise against it.

The Armchairs' "new music" leanings are evident in the venue at which they debuted in 1979 (the Crystal Ballroom), and in the lyrics on their first single which rail against "that turgid crap that you hear on the radio" (the Ski Lo Lo 7", released on Stephen's own Reverse label, can be found here). The single is lightweight and light hearted, and much of the follow-up Party Time LP, originally written for a musical theatre production called The Zig Zag Follies, follows suit. Various internet sources tell us that the version of La Bamba which populates most of its B-side is either 17 or 20 minutes long, but we value 17 or 20 minutes of our lives too highly to settle that discrepancy. Among it all lie two songs of merit: the catchy if overly-long pub rock of Can You Guess? (with vocals by Graham Barker [sic]!); and Into The '80s, which has a certain punky attack in the drumming and guitars, and is our track of choice. It ain't The Now, but then again, not much is.

More detail about Ian Stephen's subsequent work (most notably with the Slaughtermen) can be found at his website. Allegedly, his latest release is a CD entitled This Is Really Gay, on International Art Wankers records. Johnny Topper can be heard each Wednesday as presenter of New & Groovy on Melbourne community radio station RRR.

Into The '80s [Download]

Sunday 30 October 2011

Differentials - Thriving Metropolis 7" EMI Custom 13061, 1981

Record collector dreams, part 317. What if there was another Brisbane punk record? Maybe one from the fallow period between the giants of the late 70s and that short second period around 1982-3 (Public Execution, Mystery Of Sixes, Vampire Lovers). Wake up, daydreamer! Here it is.

The Differentials were a punk band who played around Ipswich and Brisbane from 1978 to 1983. Ted Elliott explains:
The Who's Who Of Australian Rock described us as Radio Birdman influenced. Not true. We played a couple of Ramones covers and very early Cure (10:15 Saturday Night) but mostly were a kind of pop punk outfit that eventually sounded like the Sunnyboys.
In 1981 the band recorded an EP and sent it off to EMI Custom for pressing. In a Spin̈al Tap-esque mix-up, when it came back from the plant the band's name failed to appear on the labels. Rather than print picture sleeves the band took the path of least resistance.
It was meant to be the name of the EP! 'Thriving Metropolis' by The Differentials. So the band changed their name to Thriving Metropolis for a couple of years.
While not an out-and-out classic, the record's a good'un, and a grower. The pick of the tracks is probably the Oi!-ish Think For Yourself with She's Nothing Special not far behind. All three tracks have a slow instrumental build before kicking in. Good, simple choruses all around though it must be said - some of the worst guitar solos you'll hear, and not in a good way. There are more Differentials recordings out there that it would be cool to hear some time.
I've got the (never-released) follow up EP on tape somewhere. I played a gig once with The Kremlin and a guy came up afterwards and told me he had heard a 'live' recording of us on 4ZZZ. I didn't know anything existed and, of course, I've heard nothing since.
This is the third record we've featured from Ipswich, all of them previously unknown and unheralded. We leave Ted with the last word on this small but happening scene.
Ipswich had a real band scene in those days and I always find it amazing that Gailes and Goodna alone produced The Upsets, The Differentials, Dumb Show, Limited Life, Resistance, The Fits/La Fetts and The Kremlin.

She’s Nothing Special [Download]

Don't Leave [Download]

Think For Yourself [Download]

Sunday 23 October 2011

Finch - Stay / Roses 7" Eagle ES1001, 1976

In theory, Rose Tattoo and Lobby Loyde jamming out a tribute to the Hippie Love Weed* should be a stoner's wet dream. The reality is somewhat different; Realise Legalise's go-nowhere noodling is all leaf and stem, and - much like being dared to drink the bongwater - it'll leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. Fortunately, primo stoner grillfat is out there and findable if you have the right connections. Today, we open our secret stash.

Finch was active from 1973 to 1979, initially as Stillwater, then later as Contraband to avoid confusion with a similar ornithologically-inclined Dutch band. A number of releases document each phase throughout the '70s, but our focus here is on Finch's mid-period, a relatively brief window when three records were released on the band's own Eagle label. A debut LP, the well-regarded Thunderbird, appeared in May 1976, and was ushered in a month prior by a 45 with an album track as its A-side. Stay is not a bad song, highlighting the proggy tendencies noted elsewhere, but for Wallaby Beat purposes it's the non-LP B-side which delivers the goods.

Roses, an excellent sub-Quo dotted-rhythm crunch, first appeared in 1974 as one of three Finch contributions to the Drouyn soundtrack LP. The rawness of the original is appealing, but the re-recording showcases a more forceful performance from a band in its prime, captured perfectly by crisp and heavy production. Of course it's the lyrics, with their singular preoccupation and paranoia about the fuzz, which are the icing on the hash cookie. We can't vouch for the horticultural accuracy of the chorus, but there's no arguing the catchiness of its hook. And thankfully, the original's pre-solo declaration - one of grillfat's cooler exclamations this side of "Stick this in your fuse box" - is retained from the Drouyn version. Download it, pack it in your iCone, and get real, real gone for a change.

Roses (1976) [Download]

Roses (1974) [Download]

A second single from Finch's self-released era followed in December 1976 (Short Changed Again / One Nighter, Eagle ES 1002). Regular readers will know that we're as partial to the odd piece of long-haired misogyny as the next bogan, provided selves are not taken too seriously and sick riffage abounds. Alas, Short Changed Again falls at the first hurdle. Don't these dorks know that they'll keep getting cock-blocked until they learn to stop tripping over their own knuckles? As for the riffing, the song presages Finch's descent into mersh hard rock - decent enough, but proceedings would benefit greatly from knuckles and musical balls occupying adjacent real estate. Compared with Roses, you will certainly feel like you got less than you bargained for. A live version of the song, featured alongside AC/DC and Radio Birdman on 2JJ's Long Live The Evolution LP (AA9042, 1977), is included here for educational purposes only.

Short Changed Again [Download]

Short Changed Again (live) [Download]

After the release of Short Changed Again, Finch moved south to Melbourne and embarked on a tour with Supernaut. Line-up reshuffles ensued, including guitarist Bob Spencer exiting for Skyhooks (and, eventually, the Angels), and Mark Evans, freshly ejected from AC/DC, joining the fold. The new-look Finch released the major label Nothing To Hide LP in 1978, along with a number of singles. There are a handful of passable songs on the LP (Nothing To Hide, Leave The Killing To You; both issued as 45s), but on the whole it's characterised by a lack of inspiration and tepid production. 1979 saw more rotations in the line-up, the name change to Contraband and a final LP which continued the downward trajectory. Grillfat ultra-nerds can keep themselves entertained with pressing variations on these records, but that's a level of It-Never-Ends mania beyond even us. We'll leave the grilling to you.

* With thanks to The Mummies.

Form an orderly queue, ladies.

Saturday 15 October 2011

Seven Ballerinas - Sometimes I Feel 7" Jump 13176, 1982

Last week's piece of Joy Division worship reminded us of another one from a more unlikely location - Queensland's Gold Coast, home of Surfers Paradise. The rock'n'roll history of this strip is short and uneventful. It didn't become much more than a holiday destination for Brisbanites until the '50s and its first dent in the collective consciousness of rock fans is when the Creatures, of Ugly Thing fame, set up shop there for a few months in the mid '60s. The locale is perhaps best known to readers here as the scene for the photo on the back of the Riptides' 77 Sunset Strip sleeve. Miami was also the home of the Magic Castle immortalised in a song on that 7".

Homegrown talent from the area is pretty thin on the ground. In the late '70s it was cover band hell, and although the OC hardcore sound and look took hold amongst the surf grommets in the early '80s, any punk bands that did form unfortunately never released anything, at least until Asylum in the mid '80s. There are only four (and a half) records from the Gold Coast from the era we cover, and only two we'd consider documenting. Apologies to the Ballistics, Sigh Of Relief and Squadron Leader. This 'un sees a band straddling Joy Division's transition into New Order. The vocals and guitar echoing the former, with the latter being represented by the strong rhythm section and the synth. "Hey, press that button that makes a sound like steam escaping again". We take the piss, but note that this one has survived the cull pile here on several occasions over the last few decades. Something keeps drawing us back. Needless to say it's not the further transition into new romantic horse shit evident on YouTube.

Sometimes I Feel [Download]

Sunday 9 October 2011

Nervous System - Pied Piper 7" no label 13195, 1981

Readers with well-worn copies of Inner City Sound will know Nervous System from the tantalising description "raw, arty neo-punk", accompanied by artwork resembling a rejected SPK single sleeve. "Neo-punk" is evocative but, 30 years after the fact, a little ambiguous. The translation in the Who's Who of Australian Rock - "hard-edged new wave" - is more specific, but misses the mark somewhat. We prefer the summary of an anonymous 2JJ announcer: "More Joy Division than Joy Division".

Nervous System's core members - Anthony (vocals, guitar), Emmanuel (bass), and two Jameses on synth and sax, respectively - were arts students attending the same Sydney college in the late '70s. A year or so after the band's formation, drummer David completed the line-up. Throughout 1980 and 1981, Nervous System played a total of 13 shows in Sydney and Newcastle, supporting the likes of the Laughing Clowns and the Go-Betweens, as well as the usual M-Squared suspects at that label's residency at Brownies (the Paddington Green Hotel). The band recorded the three songs comprising their single at the M-Squared studio (see recent entries on the Sheiks and Seems Twice), prior to playing a final show supporting Models at the Trade Union Club. The 45 - an EMI Custom pressing - was released posthumously in December 1981.

Saxophobes should not be deterred by that instrument's appearance in the line-up, the honking being limited to just three notes on one of the tracks (the best one at that: Rendition). The Joy Division influence is pervasive - Rendition, for example, has overtones of Transmission, but elements of Unknown Pleasures are present throughout. Small touches, like the use of tremolo on the guitars, and indeed the sax, add some necessary points of differentiation.

Worthy of note is the single's excellent sleeve, a screen printed oversized envelope, with the band's name hand-written on the front and a contact address stamped on the reverse. It's a cover almost guaranteed to confound the condition-OCD afflicted collector - not only is it subject to the tattiness common to oversized sleeves, condition is further compromised by the envelope being sealed with the record inside. The precision with which original owners cracked the seal varies considerably.

After Nervous System disbanded, various members played in Idiom Flesh, 3 Musketeers and the Loop Orchestra. A 1985 Nervous System single (Stranded / Islanders, on Art & Graft Records) is the work of an entirely different Melbourne band.

Pied Piper [Download]

Last Avenue [Download]

Rendition [Download]

Sunday 2 October 2011

Cartoons - Feel My Heart-beat 7" Ready Steady RSVP001, 1980

If you've ever sat and listened to us for long you'll know we require powerpop to have at least an inkling of power. Nasty Facts, Numbers/Riptides first, and similar are our reference points. Occasionally though we'll drop our guard and let something twee, sappy and lovelorn through our defences.

The Cartoons were an all-but-forgotten Sydney mod/pop band. We've never seen a record of them ever playing live. Neil Sheridan, Bruce Parker and John Voulgarakis popped into Basilisk Studio in 1980 to record their only 7". Of the two sides Watchout! Beware! is the weaker, the TVPs style vocals offset by some almost jazzy guitar playing.  Feel My Heart-beat is much stronger - a few cool melodic ideas and the counterpoint backing vocals under the chorus revealing a songwriter willing to try a few things. Perhaps his efforts are only let down by the song's length, proceedings going on a tad too long. Remember, aspiring pop song writers, to take a tip from the strippers' handbook - leave 'em wanting more.

Feel My Heart-beat [Download]

Sunday 25 September 2011

Seems Twice - Non-plussed 7" Doublethink DTDT 12, 1980

In the spirit of today's subject, we'll keep things short and to the point. Salient features:

  1. Average song length = 25 seconds.
  2. There are more building blocks on the front cover than are used in the construction of each song.
  3. Like the Sheiks single, excellent production comes courtesy of Scattered Order and the M-Squared studio.
  4. Heavy influence is drawn from Wire, whose 106 Beats That was covered live. 
  5. Conversely, approximations of the D-beat found in Salient Feature and Warhol are less a direct influence than a shared response to a technical limitation (viz. independent coordination of right hand and right foot).
  6. Check out that guitar sound - monstrous, like nuclear stockpiles; enormous, like a door slamming in the depths of hell. Grown record collectors are said to weep at the guitar sound on certain DIY records. As we drop the needle on side 1, we laugh at those crybabies and proceed to trash our living rooms when the descending riff kicks in.
  7. A live cassette was released on the 2 Tapes label from Wollongong. To maintain the self-contained conceptual integrity of the 7", don't click here
  8. Play loud.

Salient Feature [Download]

Wish It Is [Download]

Non-Plussed [Download]

Side Effects [Download]

Column One [Download]

Warhol [Download]

No Clear Ideas (Absorption Retention) [Download]

Real Arafat [Download]

Metropolitan Recluse [Download]

Look At It [Download]

Abrupt Alteration [Download]

Anglican War [Download]