Sunday 5 June 2011

Invader - Don't Blame It On Me / Anastasia 7" Machine Gun Rock 13084, 1981

This biker band verges into punk territory with impressive results. One might think that there are lots of similar hard rock/punk crossovers from this period. There aren't.

- sleeve notes from the No One Left To Blame comp LP
For a country with such a strong track record in both kinds of music (punk and hard rock), Australian collisions of the genres were surprisingly rare. Yes, we have our proto-punkers; our pub, glam, and hard rockers who jumped ship; and our teen grillfat so amateurish as to achieve a punky edge. That's not what we mean. We're talking about wilful, artful combinations of punk and hard rock conventions, hybrids that have equal footing in both camps. Songs that can hold their own when viewed through the lens of either tradition. Though the opening quote was penned for Cleveland's Strychnine, it applies equally to anomalous Sydney Westies Invader, and their standing among the early Australian punkers. (It's just a happy accident that both play the Blame game).

In Don't Blame It On Me, the superficial trappings of genre cross-pollination are obvious - the Pistols' Submission re-routed through Marshall stacks. But if there's one characteristic that exemplifies the no-man's-land between punk and hard rock, it's the drumming. (If the mechanics of punk drumming make your eyes glaze over, you might want to skip ahead). Inherited from the likes of Slade, the four-on-the-floor drumbeat - in which every beat in the bar is accented by the kick drum - became a staple of Oz hard rock (check in here at around 1:55, or here at 4:13, or here whenever you damn please). At this tempo, it's usually accompanied by eighth-notes on the hi-hat - that's two hi-hat hits for each thump of the kick drum - propelling the song and, when played slightly behind the beat, making it "swing". Not here. Invader's four-on-the-floor lumbers instead of swings, delivering the sort of heavy-handed quarter-notes reserved by punk drummers for tempos of twice this speed and beyond. Ordinarily, a rhythm stripped of feel and pace is a bit like a gluten-free vegetarian pizza - what's the point? - but here it's perfect. Hey, true art ain't always pretty.

Don't Blame It On Me

For years, Invader was among the coldest of cold cases. Then, in October 2008, this website appeared out of the blue, prompting conniptions among collectors prone to daily Google searching. Suddenly, the mystery unravelled before our eyes. We'll hand over to Invader's Noel Thompson (guitar/vocals) to take us through the who/what/when/where/why:
Invader was a 3 piece outfit, the bass player was Jon Wilson and the drummer was Peter Borg. Jon played both a Rickenbacker and a Fender Precision bass and Peter, from memory played a Ludwig kit. I had a 1975 Gibson SG.

I hadn't played professionally in any band before Invader. I had auditioned for about 5 or 6 bands but none of them played the hard heavy stuff that I was interested in. I decided to form my own band. This was about 1978. I advertised in the newspaper for band members and got a response from Jon first. We both lived in the western suburbs of Sydney and so we joined up and then auditioned drummers and singers. We finally got Peter as the drummer who was an excellent fit for what we wanted to do. Singers were difficult and in the end I decided to take on the singing role myself. So the band eventually got up and going about late 1978, early 1979. We played around the pubs in Sydney and were particularly popular at two biker pubs. The bikers like their music hard and loud.

We recorded the single at Albert Studios in King Street Sydney on the [Australia Day long] weekend of January 24-25 1981. I wrote Don't Blame It On Me in 1979 and Anastasia in 1980. We were playing the songs live long before we hit the studio so we knew them backwards by the time we got to Albert's. The recording was done to try and attract some attention from the higher echelons of the recording industry. The record was a limited pressing of about 100 or 150, I can't recall the exact number. [The confirmed pressing size is 250 - Ed.] It was pressed at EMI. We sent them to many radio stations and music management companies. I have no idea which radio stations actually played the record but did hear that it got some airplay on the BBC in London.

I deliberately set out to write Don't Blame It On Me as a Sex Pistols style song. I really dug the Sex Pistols and all three of us liked our rock hard and heavy. Jon and I particularly liked and were influenced by Black Sabbath. Jon was a Geezer nut and I was an Iommi fan (hence the SG).

Noel Thompson with the SG, c.1979 (more here)


Anonymous said...

Pretty good! I can recall bikers giving the thumbs up to bands doing Pistols covers in western Sydney pubs; Hand Of Law at Greystanes comes to mind


Unknown said...

I sold this for £450 a few years back...just by chancei saw someone from OZ who wanted it..i looked through my odds n sods box of old shite singles and found it..very had been in there for years the thing is im from UK and found it at a super market check out.i looked at the name and maybe a rock single so i bought cost 20p..a lucky find indeed.