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


Anonymous said...

Good one.


George said...

Just found a Rockets video in my archives so I uploaded it to my YouTube channel.

Tren said...

George, please make the video available again

Anonymous said...

Not much said about PJ {peter jonhson
He was the Rockets.

Anonymous said...

rockets on youtube, really cool stuff!