Saturday 26 March 2011

Hooker - Smashing Records / Don't Stop 7" X-Change XS-1/2, 1980

Hard not to respect a record that so prominently displays a smashed 45 of the The Seekers' The Carnival Is Over. While we fully endorse that sentiment, it's a shame the same can't be said for Smashing Records, the lead song from this obscure single by Perth's Hooker (PJ Hooker on the label; PJ Hooker Band on the back cover; Hooker Band elsewhere). Quality control prevents us from posting it here, but the curious may want to check out this particularly noxious version, recorded live in 1982 at the Nookenburra Hotel. Be warned that it is 3:05 of your life you will wish you could get back.

Thankfully, the keyboards and new wave affectations which blight the live footage are largely absent from the single. Recorded two years earlier, its B-side is a creditable exercise in powerpop/rock. In fact, as a suburban Oz Rock take on the Marshall-amped powerchords of fellow Perth-ites The Manikins, Don't Stop fits neatly into the accidental powerpop genre discussed here previously. Though the musical terrain overlaps, we hasten to emphasise that the two bands approached it from very different angles. Their respective odes to the commercial radio DJ speak for themselves - compare Smashing Records ("I am a DJ...the greatest hits, the hottest licks", delivered without irony) with Radio World from the first Manikins 45 ("You like the way the DJ speaks but he just gives me the shits"). The artwork accompanying both singles further highlights differences in approach, but for now we'll leave Hooker's back cover to your imagination.

Despite plugging away on the local scene for another few years, there would be no further releases. After calling it quits in 1983, various members turned up in other Perth bands throughout the remainder of the '80s and into the '90s - Phil Foord surfaced briefly as bassist for well-regarded local rock band The Jackals, while at the other end of the spectrum, singer Steve Letch joined the much-maligned Kaper (scan back-issues of Party Fears zine for the headings "The three worst bands I've ever seen" and "Bands I would rather not have suffered"). Guitarist Marcus Sturrock looked further afield, rubbing shoulders with a who's who of Oz Rock out-of-towners, as documented extensively on his website.

Don't Stop

Saturday 19 March 2011

The Press - Fodder For The Critics LP Laser VXL14187, 1979

A theme that runs through a lot of what we're doing here is that 1977 wasn't quite the Year Zero many may have thought. The strands and threads running through punk era Australia can often be followed back to the godawful tapestry of the early '70s, and sometimes back even further to the tattered afghan jackets of the late '60s. Late '70s Sydney punks The Press are another case in point.

Bassist Michel Brouet is sometimes listed in an early Band Of Light lineup, though we think this is some sort of mixup with Norm Roue. Brouet and guitarist Bruce Cumming first stood astride Sydney stages together in Submarine XI in 1975. We don't know anything about them, so let's move quickly on to where they next lobbed up - Southern Cross, one of the many hard rock bands cranking watts '76 grillfat style.

Gene Pierson was an Australian singer who moved to New Zealand when his draft card arrived. He continued his singing career there and became a star. His version of I Ain't No Miracle Worker is highly spoken of by garage aficionados but the phased version of Reach Out is perhaps his finest moment, and the Bandstand video with wild interpretive dancers is well worth checking out - see it at the top of this page. Back in Sydney in the '70s he began managing venues and in particular used one of them, Chequers, to showcase the thriving Sydney hard rock scene (AC/DC debuted there in 1973). Around the same time he started a label called Living Sound, who put out Southern Cross's single Queen Of Rock And Roll / Stormy Lady. Living Sound morphed into the Laser label, which released Southern Cross's rare and well regarded album. Laser scored disco, nostalgia and novelty hits, but still at least paid lip service to hard rock, being home for a while to Geeza and U Turn.

Then along came punk rock, and Cumming and Brouet liked what they heard. Based in the Western Suburbs they had difficulty finding other punk rockers so they chose Steve Kot (vocals) and Rick Doolan (drums) based on “an undeniable wildness in the resultant chemistry”.

Gig poster detail
A set was worked up featuring both originals and covers (Ramones, Dolls, Damned). Gigs took place in late 1977 at the Wiley Park Hotel in Sydney’s West. There they met a mix of enthusiasm and hostility as punk’s visceral effect wasn’t immediately obvious to all of the suburban audience. City and Eastern suburb gigs followed including one at the Bondi Lifesaver where they were asked to leave the stage. At least one country tour also took place.

As far as recordings go, a demo was recorded in 1978 and then this album at Atlantic Studios, Earlwood, in late 1978. It was a year before it appeared, on their old mate Pierson's Laser label, and after a few gigs to promote it the band started to fall apart, Kot was asked to leave and a few final shows as a three piece led to the end of the band in December 1979.

Although a solid LP there's really only two keepers. Had Trapped In The Wreckage and Alcoholic been a single pairing you'd be chasing it hard. As it was, Alcoholic did get a 7" release, which sank like a stone, despite its great opening riff. Trapped In The Wreckage is a particularly strong track with its driving pace and Kot's best vocal performance (though look out for the lyric fluff around 1:50). There's some solid bass playing and guitar elsewhere but the songwriting or vocals seem to let the tracks down. The LP itself is reasonably easy to track down, though if you're a condition nazi just take our advice and give up on ever owning a mint sleeve.

Let’s close with a hit of invective from Cumming’s blog (photos there too), specifically directed at folks like us who push the 'coupla tracks' line. As evidence we've also included the next strongest track - extrapolate downwards at will.
“I will tell you something here, just for posterity. We were not bandwagon jumping onto the punk thing. I was 20 when this was recorded and the punk explosion/phenomena/music/attitude/  etcetera had had a massive impact on me. It was only natural, really. None of this shit - from me or the other three guys - was a put on. We never said we were 'punk'. We played Ramones and New York Dolls and Damned songs coz we dug the music AND we were doing 3 sets a night pub gigs and needed a bigger repertoire than my songwriting could keep up with. Sorry for not being fucking kool enough to fall into one of your little punk, new wave, garage or Detroit niches. We never gave a fuck what you thought of us suburban boys then and I sure as hell don’t give a fuck now."
Memorise the label, you'll be flicking past a lot of Dark Tan, Patterson and Peaches 7"s on it before you see a Geeza or one of these.


Trapped In The Wreckage

Out Of View

Saturday 12 March 2011

Desert Rat - Home From The Front LP Champagne CHA 7002, 1978

An old friend used to engage in a party game designed to test the wits of unsuspecting houseguests: ambush said visitor with a copy of Blue Öyster Cult’s Secret Treaties LP, and request the back-story to the before/after sketches on the front and back cover. Why does the plane's pilot bear a striking resemblance to Skeletor? Who and/or what is Lopez? How did Eric Bloom’s Alsatians meet their demise? And most importantly, how did five BÖCs, four dogs and a skeleton fit into a two-seater jet?

The back cover of Desert Rat’s Home From The Front LP presents a similar vehicular seating conundrum, but the real mystery concerns drummer John Drak. Who slammed his foot in the car door? And why? Perhaps, like most drummers, the guy just had it coming to him.

Though the sepia-tone image on Home From The Front’s inner-sleeve is reminiscent of Secret Treaties (substitute the plane with a tank), that’s where the similarities end. Yes, both bands peddle a brand of ‘70s hard rock, but Desert Rat’s is more leaden and less conceptual. That is to say, it’s kinda plodding and more than a little bit dumb. F’rinstance, Eric Bloom plans to steal your wife, pick your brain and spend your money; in Rock And Roll Lady, Desert Rat’s Jerome Speldewinde has already had his way with your wife, but rock and roll has made him so braindead he can’t even remember her name.

Desert Rat’s members had already been around the block a couple of times by the time of the LP’s release - guitarist John Moon and bass player Ian Ryan had both been in Buster Brown (with a pre-Rose Tattoo Angry Anderson and a pre-AC/DC Phil Rudd), among others. Though not featured in the line-up that recorded Home From The Front, Stephen Lazaros' tenure is also worthy of note. Lazaros had previously played with Wallaby Beat gap-fillers Lois Lane/The Benders, but more significantly, would later be re-christened as Smeer and feature prominently in Melbourne's hardcore punk scene as guitarist for Depression and drummer for Gash.

The level dumbness is fairly uniform across the LP, but there are moments that are less plodding than others, highlighted by side one's closing track, Take Me On. Home From The Front also spawned a single (Need Your Love / Reach For The Sky [Champagne CHS 603, 1978], both on the LP), the A side of which is presented below.

Need Your Love

Take Me On

"This will teach sir not to play 20 minute drum solos". SLAM!

Saturday 5 March 2011

(Mick) Flinn (Band) - Do What You Wanna Do, a.k.a. Two Cans of Fosters and a Packet of Potato Chips

This, as they say, is an odd one.

Let's begin at the beginning. Mick Flinn (a.k.a. Mick Flynn) first rose to prominence as bass player for the Wild Colonials, a tough Melbourne beat group which issued three singles on HMV in the mid-'60s. The last of these, a version of The Pretty Things' Get The Picture, has become something of a classic of Australian '60s punk thanks to its inclusion on the first Ugly Things comp LP. For those unfamiliar, we suggest you get acquainted post-haste. Unfortunately, Flinn's discography over the ensuing decade is likely to present as a bit of a wasteland for those whose tastes run to the more ragged. However, elements are instructive for what was to come, hence the digressions into non-Wallaby Beat territory which follow.

After the demise of the Wild Colonials, Flinn joined the Mixtures in 1967, eventually hitting paydirt in 1970 courtesy of that year's "radio ban" - a dispute over royalty payments between commercial radio and Australia's six largest record labels, which led to radio denying airplay for major UK and Australian pop songs. In this climate, many Australian bands re-recorded songs by UK artists which had been successful overseas, and were able to parlay them into local hits unhindered by competition from the originals. Ron Tudor, owner of Melbourne's small Fable label, suggested the Mixtures re-record Mungo Jerry's recent UK hit, In The Summertime - the song became wildly successful, topping the national charts and staying there for six weeks. The Mixtures' follow-up for Fable, a novelty-tinged tune called The Pushbike Song, eclipsed the success of its predecessor, again reaching #1 locally, and charting in the UK (#2) and US (#44). The importation of a demonstrated UK hit, along with the Australian record buyer's appetite for a novelty tune, were lessons that would not be lost on Mick Flinn.

The Mixtures travelled to the UK in 1971, where Flinn remained after the band's break-up. Subsequent UK projects included Springfield Revival and Pussyfoot, but since we practically dozed off just typing the names, we'll skip forward to 1978 and the first of the two records to be considered here. Flinn, backed by UK musicians, joined his contemporaries in updating his sound to a post-'77 world, issuing Doin' It Right and Do What You Wanna Do as a single under the name Mick Flinn Band. 45 Revolutions describes the record as "a rare and rather enjoyable platter", featuring "two Glam Rock songs, updated with Punk re-touches". We certainly hear the punk, but microscopic examination reveals very little trace residue of glam, at least to our ears. However, we will accede to 45 Revs when it notes that sales of the single were "close-to-zero" - this perhaps explains why demo copies proliferate while stock copies are elusive (but do exist, as seen in the second edition of 45 Revs). 

Mick Flinn Band 7" (EMI 2805 [UK], 1978):

Doin' It Right

Do What You Wanna Do

In 1980, Flinn found himself back in Australia undertaking production work for Mike Brady and his label, Full Moon. As a member of MPD Ltd., Brady travelled in the same Melbourne beat circles as Flinn, and the two were labelmates on Fable in the early '70s. After some solo success, Brady subsequently pursued a career writing advertising jingles. Up There Cazaly - one such jingle, composed as the theme for a television football programme - was issued by Fable in 1979, and became the biggest selling Australian single of its time. (As noted last week, it was also parodied in an unreleased song by the Assassins). Brady used the proceeds to establish Full Moon, and with assistance from Astor records, succeeded in breaking his own Australian sales record with the October 1980 release of Joe Dolce's Shaddap You Face. With these two records under his belt, Brady, like Flinn, came to understand the commercial potential of a well-timed novelty song. (For more, click here).

In June 1980, Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps Please, a punk novelty tune by London's Splodgenessabounds, reached #7 on the UK singles chart. Upon his return to Australia, Flinn brought the song to Brady's attention (though Two Pints... had received an Australian release, it was not a commercial success). In a turn of events recalling those of ten years past, Brady proposed "covering" the UK hit for the Australian market, this time with lyrical adaptations to localise the song. (Brady's suggestion would prove to be ironic - in early 1981, a legal injunction was taken out against Elton John to stymie an unauthorised UK adaptation of Shaddap You Face, fronted by Andrew Sachs [a.k.a. Manuel from Fawlty Towers], and released by John's production company).

The resulting Two Cans Of Fosters And A Packet of Potato Chips recycled Do What You Wanna Do's existing backing, with the addition of a new vocal track "Australianising" the Splodge lyrics. The flip, The Barman's Reply, is just that - with the backing track replicated, playing the two songs simutaneously creates a call-and-response. Though the second edition of 45 Revolutions states that the music was also re-recorded, we maintain that the original backing track was subjected to a radical remix. Reverb was added, and Do What You Wanna Do's acoustic guitar track was dumped, thereby eliminating the endearing slightly-out-of-tune feel of the original. In addition, the master tape was sped up, resulting in the song's key being a full semitone higher (and its length being 10 seconds shorter). The combined effect is a punchier, arguably tougher sound, at the expense of the original's rough edges.

In the wake of Shaddap You Face, Two Cans... was also released by Astor and Full Moon. Coming out in late December 1980 (just in time to take advantage of the novelty tune silly season), the single entered the Australian charts on December 22, where it spent a solitary week at #93. A video was shot which helped Two Cans... plumb the depths of the charts, but Mick Flinn never saw it, and neither have we. (If you're in possession of a copy, you know what to do). Needless to say, this was among Brady's least successful novelty tunes, but it would not be long before he bounced back, reverting to type with Mark "Jacko" Jackson's football novelty, I'm An Individual. Flinn himself promptly returned to the UK and, despite periodically reviving the Mick Flinn Band name, gave Two Cans... little further thought (when originally contacted by Wallaby Beat in early 2007, Flinn had not heard the record since its release).

Finally, in a neat cultural exchange, Splodgenessabounds' next hit in September 1980 was a punked up version of Two Little Boys, made famous in the UK in 1969 by former West Australian swimming champion, Rolf Harris.

As a sidenote, The Professor has been known to deride Two Cans..., publicly declaring it to be "awful". Click here to watch The Prof in action with his preferred musical backing to two cans of Fosters.

Flinn 7" (Astor A 7319, 1980):

Two Cans Of Fosters And A Packet Of Potato Chips

The Barman's Reply

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