Saturday 12 February 2011

Red Peril - Give Frazer The Razor 7" NCP.216, 1976

Australia has a proud tradition of spontaneous, crowd-generated epithets, ranging from the vague (see Blood, Sweat and Beers for consideration of "No way, get fucked, fuck off", including its origins and dissemination), to the highly personal (and hilarious: "Wally/Hadlee's a wanker"). When Malcolm Fraser's Liberal opposition blocked supply, leading to the dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975, it not only marked a pivotal event in Australian history, but also popularised our most acerbic political rallying cry: "Give Fraser the razor".

Chanted by demonstrators at protests in Sydney and Melbourne the day after the Dismissal, in the coming years the phrase would also provide fodder for placards, posters, and graffiti (the internet tells us an example may still be extant on a rail underpass in Wagga Wagga). Inevitably, the slogan was set to music, courtesy of Adelaide's Red Peril - a band formed, appropriately enough, by members of the Communist Party.

Give Frazer [sic] The Razor is not our favourite Australian Gloria rip-off of 1976, but what it lacks in musical grunt it more than compensates for with lyrical bile - not all of which is reserved for the Libs (the former Labor government is damned with faint praise). Notably, in between stock standard pinko invective about bosses and multinationals ("Organise, brothers and sisters!"), Red Peril was ahead of the curve in sinking in the boot/blade to Rupert Murdoch (Murdoch's earliest newspaper and television holdings were in Adelaide, and his News Corp was based there until the mid-2000s). Rumour has it that the lyrics were perceived to be so controversial, no Australian plant would press the record, thus its eventual manufacture in Singapore. The story has an air of the apocryphal, but given the unique look of the vinyl and labels relative to other Australian singles of the era, we don't doubt that it was pressed overseas.

Musically, past comparisons with Jefferson Airplane are not entirely off base inasmuch as they relate to the Grace Slick-like vocals, but instrumentally Surrealistic Pillow is ballsier than this (even at its most acoustic) and is far more creative. The b-side? Well, let's just say we're saving it for our compendium of banjo-led anti-Fraser DIY, due here sometime after 2020.

Interestingly, razors-as-metaphor marked not just the start of the Fraser era, but the middle and end as well. "Razor gangs", originally Sydney criminal gangs of the 1920s, became the designation applied to parliamentary committees charged with reducing government expenditure in the early '80s (the term was also appropriated as a moniker by numerous bands around the country, only one of which made it to vinyl). And one can only imagine the chuckles at Adelaide Communist Party HQ when, after the Liberal Party's election defeat in 1983, future PM Paul Keating described a dejected Fraser as "looking like an Easter Island statue with an arse full of razor blades".

Give Frazer The Razor

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This happens to be on ebay as I write. It's worth owning for its historical value I suppose. I've also got that Schiemer single as well. I have no idea how I ended up with that as I have had it for years.