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

May 2019 update


RJP said...

weird. i went to school with Mick Flinn's daughter in the UK & used to go round his house all the time, only ever knew that he was a member of the New Seekers... wish i'd heard the Wild Colonials back then!

Trudi said...

I agree it's a remix (as I'm sure is clearly evident in the contract wot Astor must've had for their use of the EMI master?), not a re-recording, despite wot we said in '45 Revs'. This'll be corrected for the THIRD printing!

bristolboy said...

interesting piece - Nice to find out about the 2 cans 45 (no mention of it in the 1st print of 45 revs)

ray hoskins said...


i was micks other singer in springfielD revival-RAY HOSKINS