Sunday 25 December 2011

John Vincent - 'Ow Ya Goin' Santa Claus 7" RCA 101885, 1969

Since most of you are SSL speakers, that's Strine as a Second Lingo, you'd be forgiven for missing the small ocker revival amongst tastemakers in recent years. The original Ocker was a character in the '60s TV show The Mavis Bramston Show, codifying the broad speaking, straight talking, piss taking, clever but smartarse bloke Aussies seemed to love to love. The genre never really went away, but it did start to seem less attractive as it morphed into the garden variety yob by the 1980s. Perhaps starting with the reissues of the Bazza McKenzie fillums, crate diggers started pulling a few old ocker classics out of bins country wide and proselytising their worth.

John Vincent was a South Australian DJ who put out many ocker novelty records, both under his own name and as the 'Ken Oath Ockerstra. We like this one in particular because of its links back to a cool earlier version from 1967. We'll get to that in a minute, but for now enjoy a bit of seasonal stupidity, with Thin Vin's approximate vocals taking centre stage.

’Ow Ya Goin’ Santa Claus [Download]

The song has its roots in an earlier song, in fact Vincent's debut record, recorded with legendary Australian '60s band The In-Sect, whose I Can See My Love is rightly regarded as a classic of Australian '60s punk. As told by guitarist Frank Sebastyn to Ian Marks in the great recent book Wild About You, the In-Sect were the regular house band at the Arkaba Hotel in Adelaide, where they played six nights a week and an all day Saturday beer garden gig to 1200-1300 people.

I arranged that for John. He used to keep hanging 'round the Arkaba saying, 'Can I sing a song, mister?' And after weeks of telling him to piss off, we let him up on stage, and he did this song called 'Ow Ya Goin' which knocked 'em out. So I spoke to Ron Gillespie [from W&G] and he agreed to record him, too.
It goes on to tantalisingly say Ow Ya Goin' was "allegedly recorded in the lavatory at the Adelaide Railway station" with no further details!

Detailing the three stages of a standard piss up, the lyrics in total are:

'Ow ya goin'? Alright!
Crack a coldie. You beaut!
See ya later. Hoo roo!

Again for our SSL friends a few translation hints are in order: crack a coldie is "open yourself a cold beer from the esky"; you beaut is an exclamation of pleasure equating to "you little bloody ripper"; hoo roo they say is an archaic Australian farewell, but I've been hearing it all this weekend as I've done the rounds of family and friends. It's all helped along by a sterling performance by the In-Sect with loud drums, organ and some great guitar by Sebastyn.

’Ow Ya Goin’ [1967] [Download]

Vincent and the In-Sect combined twice more, first on the Madge's Charity Badges / Choko Brandy 7" (RCA 101860, December 1968), then on the Ballad Of Andy Capp 7" on Adelaide label Gamba. Dean Mittelhauser said of the RCA record, "this was another of Vincent's terrible novelty songs, but the band's raunchiness is undiminished, particularly on the A-side where there is a truly fab guitar solo. It's absolutely boss, and makes Vincent's bad lyrics and even worse vocals almost bearable". It's a cool record and has been comped on the Australian psych CD, Datura Dreamtime.

Vincent revisited 'Ow Ya Goin' in 1973 on his only album. Without the In-Sect, and without '60s enthusiasm, it's reduced down to a pretty standard 12 bar blues workout. We include it for completeness. If you absolutely have to dig further into Vinnie's back catalogue we can perhaps suggest this approximation to Heads Down No Nonsense Mindless Boogie style satire from 1975, and again with a Ramones tribute band.

’Ow Ya Goin’ [1973] [Download]

The album

Sunday 18 December 2011

Rockets - Mean Mistress / Little Donna 7" White Rider WAS 1, 1980

"Three cheers for Perth - hip hip...BOOO!"

So quipped Gus Chambers one night at the White Sands tavern, shortly after a disgruntled publican pulled the plug on his band. Such was Gus's rage, he momentarily forgot how to count - you can hear the results on Rupture's Sex, Drugs and Rupture CD. Antipathy to the ol' Dullsville is something of a Perth punk tradition, the most well-known example of course being The Victims' Perth Is A Culture Shock. However, the Perth kiss-off we really wanna hear seems to have remained unrecorded.

Paul Keating famously described Australia as "the arse end of the world"; Arsehole Of The Universe – a song variously attributed to the Exterminators or its short-lived offshoot, Sad Sack and the Bags – narrows down the anatomy and ups the cosmological denominator in laying waste to late-'70s Perth. Readers who have internalised Harry Butler's Perth punk family trees in B-Side #6 and DNA #34 will know that the Exterminators existed from May to November 1977. The band's core – Rod Radalj (guitar) and Boris Sudjovic (bass) - morphed into the Invaders (no relation) in December 1977 when Kim Salmon (guitar/vocals) joined the fold, the band in turn becoming the Scientists in May 1978 when James Baker, fresh from the recently disbanded Victims, occupied the kit. Readers who have internalised the Scientists' Wikipedia page could probably tell you much the same thing.

Sudjovic didn't last long in this line-up of the Scientists, exiting prior to the recording of the classic Frantic Romantic / Shake Together Tonight 45; Radalj played on the single's A-side, and left the band soon afterwards. The pair soon teamed up again in April 1979 as the Rockets, and along with Allan Stewart (vocals), Peter Johnson (guitar), and Johnny Cole (drums), supplemented a set of Heartbreakers and Ramones songs with high-energy originals. Accounts from folks in the know have the band pegged as a shit-hot live proposition, reportedly Perth's closest approximation to the Detroit-via-Sydney rock of Radio Birdman.

Unfortunately, the Rockets' sole single (released in May 1980 by import record shop White Rider) doesn't quite capture that attack. Mean Mistress is fine punky rock and roll, somewhat hobbled by bog-standard riffing and typically "Perth" production (hard to put a finger on the defining characteristics, but to paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart, we know it when we hear it). That said, we have found ourselves coming back to Mean Mistress again and again over the years, surprised each time by the energy of the performance. The flipside, Little Donna, is slower and wimpier, alternating between a singular pedestrian riff and a truly cringe-inducing middle-eight. 'Nuff said. Five hundred copies of the single were pressed, housed in a silver cardstock sleeve overlaid with either a black or white screen print. In our experience, there's no discernable difference in rarity between the two sleeve colours, though white seems to have surfaced more frequently in recent times.

Sudjovic has reflected that the Rockets "lasted much longer than they should have, two months would have been about right". By the middle of 1981, he and Radalj's disdain for Perth and disaffection with the band had reached critical mass, with the pair leaving both the Rockets and the city for the perineum of the universe, Sydney. There, Radalj teamed up with two ex-Victims to form Le Hoodoo Gurus, and Sudjovic rejoined the Scientists to spearhead the band's swamp-rock phase. The pair would eventually regroup in 1986 as the Adorable Ones, a.k.a. the Dubrovniks. Back in Perth, the Rockets continued with line-up changes to fill the Croatian-sized void, and pursued a less interesting hard rock-tinged sound. This direction can be heard on Automatic, the revamped Rockets' contribution to the West compilation LP (96fm/Polygram MX198965/6, 1981), where somewhat confusingly they sit back-to-back with the Invaders, an unrelated band led by ex-Bakery vocalist John Worrall. A cassette from 1983 showcased more of the same with flourishes of the old punk and roll sound, but the band would fold with no further vinyl releases.

Mean Mistress [Download]

White and silver sleeve

Sunday 11 December 2011

Nasty Nigel and The Teenage Hellcats - Jonestown Suicide 7" Criminal PRS-2708, 1979

If you told me blind we'd be championing a white reggae single where the singer actually attempts a Jamaican accent, and there's a proggy guitar solo, I'd cock my eye and suggest you were mistaken. Nevertheless, here we are in that exact situation.

Nigel Lawrence was a shortarse Yorkshireman who landed in Adelaide and joined a band called The Bank Of France. The band did mostly satirical, novelty stuff like It's Still Billy Joel To Me and Please Let Me Be On Countdown. It is suspected the A-side song featured today is supposed to be humourous punk novelty.

So, what lifts Jonestown Suicide out of the kids' pool of punky reggae novelty and into the deep end of the punk pool? Great songwriting and a truly superb vocal delivery by the remonikered Nasty Nigel.

Starting with ominous keyboards, a reggae beat sounding more fuelled by GBH than THC fades in. The chanted Jonestown Suicide refrain builds to our man Nasty taking over.

Jonestown suicide
Jonestown suicide
Thousand people take their lives
Lemonade and cyanide

Brilliant in its simplicity, and delivered with a really, well, nasty tone. The fade in, verse, verse, verse, solo, verse, repeat first verse, fade out structure is interesting - the kind of thing attempted only by inspired amateurs or gifted professionals. Then there's that solo, and the staccato rimshot outro. Together with the subject matter, tough production and perfect song length it all conspires to make this something of a classic. We don't even cringe when he goes all yardie accent in the verse starting "Enigmatic mystery man".

Did we mention the clean, simple cover art? It's nice to see a band get everything right for once - leaving the band name completely off the sleeve is a plus, isn't it?

The song was well played on the alternative radio stations at the time - 2JJJ, 4ZZZ, 3RRR, 5MMM etc. and was something of an underground hit, not unlike the Brats sole vinyl appearance. At least one of the song's writers, Greg Champion went on to make a living out of songwriting, though his main money spinner (and general oeuvre) was a return to daggy, novelty stuff like I Made A 100 In The Backyard At Mum's. Lawrence and Champion and some of the Teenage Hellcats got their earlier wish and appeared on Countdown in their next guise as happy-go-lucky pop band Young Homebuyers.

The flipside, A.K.A., sees Lawrence again carry the song with another great vocal performance. The wonky instrumentation, jaunty rhythm and the little slip into French shows him in the thrall of Wreckless Eric and Ian Dury and the Blockheads. It ain't Stiff, but it's still worth a fuck.

Jonestown Suicide [Download]

A.K.A. [Download]

Sunday 4 December 2011

Matchbox - Slightly Troppo LP Festival L 36579, 1978

Fifteen reasons why Never Mind The Scallops by Matchbox/Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band remains an Australian novelty punk unknown:
  1. Kazoo
  2. Ukelele
  3. Harmonica
  4. Tenor sax
  5. Washboard
  6. Jug
  7. Alto sax
  8. Vibes
  9. Mandolin
  10. Hawaiian steel guitar
  11. Joe Camilleri
  12. Baritone sax
  13. "Mood sympathiser"
  14. Natural steel guitar
  15. This

Never Mind The Scallops [Download]

Enlarge to reveal the full horror.