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


Anonymous said...

I remember seeing a mint copy of this album in an op shop in Sydney not long after it came it. I didn't buy it. But now you've convinced me to buy a copy with a grubby cover. To be fair, if I had bought it back in the day, it probably would have had a grubby cover pretty soon after, considering the sorts of places I lived in at the time


Anonymous said...

Got the record yesterday and gave it a few spins. I'd rate the first two tracks on side 1 as far better than Out Of View. There are a couple of tracks which are not very punk-like at all, but the whole album is quite enjoyable.


Clinton said...

The Press gig poster would have made a far superior sleeve for the LP, or a great picture sleeve for the 7".
I love it.

Michel Brouet said...

The so called gig poster was in fact just a handbill, around A5 size, and I like the way the designer (who was never paid for it) made me and Bruce left handers. We quickly thought the design a bit twee.

I gotta say you know a lot about us - were you there at the time? The reason I get put into Band Of Light was because I did in fact work with Phil Key for a very short while as part of a backing band for Mark Holden who was being managed by Kate Wentworth at the time. We did some out of town gigs as Band Of Light.

Submarine X1 was formed by ex Buffalo guitarist John Baxter and vocalist Allan Milano; this band morphed into Southern Cross when Baxter left to later form Boy Racer. The song Harris Street, on Southern Cross's album, is about the rehearsal studio each of these bands used (as a matter of useless information).

The Fodder For The Critics cover design was down to me. It was meant to be printed with a 65 line screen - as in newspaper reproduction of the time - but the knobs wouldn't do that so it looks wrong - to me, anyway. It's also a matte paper, which gets grubby really quickly.

There was quite a bit of violence and drugs in and around the Press, and Kot was kicked out of the band after he beat me up on stage in an amphetamine rage at a gig in Bondi Junction. We got the singer from World War IV for a couple of gigs, but Doolan wanted Kot back, so we limped along for a while with Kot back again, but the fire had gone out and we moved on.

Bruce Cumming said...

Yeah. That handbill looks/looked like crap. Michel's cover was excellent and stirred up just the right amount of shit. I recall Michel and I were invited to the home of then ultra cool music journo Stuart Coupe. He grilled us about the use of the word "Fodder" and said he believed it implied that critics like him were animals. Well, who gave a fuck what you inferred from our shit, dude? Why the fuck he even bothered with us when he could've spent those hours hangin' out with the clique idk.

He was such a self important scenester like every other cunt who never understood that we were just four guys playing in a band and hoping to make it big for all the usual reasons.

All these pussies who are 'legends' now - we played at the Kings Cross Rex with The Psycho Surgeons one night and while we were onstage these punk rock stars are throwing schooner glasses at us. In those days they were actually fuckin' glass. The Late Rick Doolan and one or two of his (also late) friends took that problem outside after we finished the set.

I recall the night in Bondi that Michel refers to. That was at a place called Blondies. The entire block of buildings is gone now. Steve Kott goes apeshit. I got away with just one punch to the head outside on the road. Jesus. For a couple of months this is the cool place to be. There wasn't much cool happening that night.

What a groovy couple of years that was. People in the suburbs kick us offstage coz we're 'punks'. People in the city throw shit at us coz we're not.

I probably come across as bitter, but this is just me. I had a ball. What a thing to be doing when you're that age - how could I ever regret that I was playing in a loud, hard and fast rock band that actually pissed the right people off just by being what we were?

Fluff said...

Great Record!! I haven't heard it for 30 years!!I loved that record...need to hear it again...What a great time in Oz rock...a pity so many of those pubs are gone!

Peta said...

Just great to hear stories from people who knew Rick Doolan . He was a good friend of mine , and he was proud as punch when his record came out ! I ended up getting him a job with me at Mascot airport and we all used to shower and change at the depot and drive straight into Chequers , taking about 15 courier drivers with us for the night . Great , but deadly , days . lol