Sunday 26 February 2012

Proles - Police / Underaged 7" no label SF-328, 1979

Orwell probably held more currency as a reference for punk rock when 1984 was in the headlights rather than a speck in the rear view mirror. It has certainly been a while since we observed a Rewrite Squad or an O'Brien and the Newspeak Dictionaries on a gig flier, but we can't really blame the kids for not relating to a dystopian future set ten years before they were born. Or, as Severed Heads/Terse Tapes main man Tom Ellard observed recently at the Sydney Festival, in the age of Facebook perhaps everyone's cool with Big Brother now. It wasn't always the way. The Thought Criminals of course excelled at deft Orwellian references - besides the obvious, the band pilfered Nineteen Eighty-Four for its label name, production credits, song titles and cover imagery. Similarly inspired but less comprehensive - and, Bloodstains Across Australia notwithstanding, less widely heard - are Melbourne's Proles.

Proles was a popular choice of moniker for punk bands of the late '70s and early '80s, and fittingly, the Melbourne version sounds a tad less distinctive than their like-minds-in-thought-crimes north of the border. Taken under the collective wing of News (a big brother band, so to speak), their influence is obvious not only musically and lyrically, but also in the packaging of the Proles' one and only single - screen printed sleeve and label blanks, albeit with a less ambitious design than News' Chop Chop Chop/Fuck Fuck Fuck 45. Police is our pick of the two tracks, following the News template of driving punk with neatly melodic guitar lines. Though not blessed with a guitar player as inventive as News' Jarryl Wirth, nor with Wirth's speaker-shredding fuzz, Police still packs plenty of power and is remarkably catchy to boot. It is paired with Underaged, essentially Banned From The Pubs as written by 15 year olds, and set to a more subdued (but still cool) musical backing.

On this single, the Proles were: Mark Chrisfield (vocals); Paul Greuders (bass, backing vocals); and brothers Darren (guitar, backing vocals) and Wayne Smith (drums). Alas, no Winstons. The band existed from September 1977 to February 1979, and though the single was recorded in the months prior the band's break-up, it was only released posthumously at the turn of the decade. Copies in circulation at that time have the sleeve/label construction mentioned and pictured above, while those from a later quantity find lack the screen printed sleeve (some come with a recent photocopy) and have a printed and pasted on label design (below). Darren Smith would later surface in the Zorros, whose single on Au-Go-Go we will revisit in due course.

Police [Download]

Underaged [Download]

Copies sold in the '90s had stickers pasted on the labels.

Insert, included in all copies.

Sunday 19 February 2012

It Never Ends: The Innocents - Sooner Or Later 7" RCA 103591, 1980

Kim Fowley visited Australia and New Zealand in 1979, via "British" Samoa: "All I found was a two track studio and someone reciting poetry in Polynesian, no hit records." That was in Samoa, not Auckland. He set up shop in the Melbourne Hilton and took out a full page ad in the local rock press announcing his arrival and calling on local unsigned bands to kneel before him. One of two bands he most took under his wing was Beathoven. Formerly Tasmania's top pop group, they had moved to Melbourne and had made hay on the high school lunchtime concert circuit. They had in fact broken up and only returned from Tasmania when summonsed by Fowley. He "ran out of adjectives describing them," Glenn Baker later reported. Two of the demos he recorded with them appear on the Here We Come LP (Raven, 1984). Princess In Disguise is pretty dull, but Rock'n'Roll Tonight is much better, even allowing for the cringeworthy ocker to-and-froing between band members; "Hey Wombat, where's the sheilas?" Unfortunately Fowley couldn't convince the local labels of his their genius - (Hilton) bummer.

Nonetheless in 1980, after a name change to The Innocents, this single lobbed up on Australian RCA. Theoretically there's a lot to dislike on this record: a disco bassline, a debt to the Beatles, an even bigger debt to the Four Seasons (thanks to the i-94 reviewer for picking that up). However the glorious chorus lifts it above and by the end you've forgotten the inauspicious opening verse. A good record, for sure, but you have to think Fowley would have shat his leather trews had Branded not already moved from Melbourne to Sydney.

The Raven LP is kinda tough to find these days but you should be able to pick up the comprehensive double CD No Hit Wonders From Down-Under fairly easily. Between the band's website and various other bloggings there's hours of reading for anyone who wants to delve further. Which brings us to our little addition to the story - the formerly apocryphal Japanese pressing.

A 1990s article on the band in an Australian collectors magazine mentioned a rumoured Japanese issue but was quite sure it didn't exist. The precursor to the band's website linked to above used to have a discography which wasn't certain either. Rest assured it exists, and rest even more assured we have it for you. Still on RCA, it's a 1982 release, making it two years later than the Australian issue. We first pulled it from the fertile stacks at Sydney store Ashwoods some time in the '90s. Since then we've only seen two other copies show up, and we have been looking. Which, when put in our equations, and factoring in the rise of the internet, makes it "quite rare". Despite the handsome seaside skateboarder sleeve (is that Shogo Kubo?), it seems Inosentsu were even less successful up there than down here.

Read all about them.

March 2020 update But wait.... somebody noticed. A local variety show performed a song and dance number to a version of the song.

Sooner Or Later [Download]

The "B" Side [Download]

We had variety shows too.

Sunday 12 February 2012

DJK Band - Venus Flytrap 7" Glo Audio GLO-1, 1978

DJK stands for Dave Scotland (guitar, vocals), Joe Lee (bass), and Ken Wylie (drums), three-fifths of Canberra's Baby Grande. The Baby Grande story makes for an interesting read - we encourage you to do so at the relentlessly centre-aligned Canberra Musicians website. The gist is that the band formed in 1974, first in a pre-Scotland incarnation as the infinitely preferable Far-Q-2, then as Baby Grande in 1975 when the line-up was finalised. Oh, the other members? Their names may be familiar: Steve Kilbey (vocals, bass, synth), and Peter Koppes (guitar).

Initially an intellectual take on glam rock, Baby Grande evolved as the summer of hate dawned in the UK; Koppes quit, and at Kilbey's behest, the band amped up the guitars and pursued a direction more aligned with the Pistols and the Dolls (note that Kilbey's take on "daggy" local guitarists in the Canberra Musos piece is consistent with our own). Through connections and coincidence - notably, EMI Australia being wrongfooted by the UK parent company's directive to sign the Saints - Baby Grande found themselves under contract with EMI, and in January 1977, five songs were recorded with (I'm) Stranded producer Rod Coe. Unfortunately, the session was rejected by EMI for lacking commercial appeal, and the recordings remain unissued to this day. Dejected, Scotland, Lee and Wylie jumped ship.

Kilbey's post-Baby Grande trajectory is a matter of public record - after a dalliance with Tactics, a realignment with Koppes led to The Church and worldwide acclaim. The remaining Baby Grandes quickly regrouped as DJK Band, and issued this self-financed single in an edition of "about 500" copies (note the sly nod to former glories on the label). It's a worthwhile record, and one that gets better with each listen, but absent Kilbey's stewardship it lacks any trace of punk; instead, Venus Flytrap evinces a regression to inventive grillfat with glammy overtones. It's a description that applies equally to the lyrics - we'll leave you to listen for yourself, but let's just say that "a venus flytrap in a bed of daisies" is Canberran for "dude looks like a lady".

Venus Flytrap [Download]

Sunday 5 February 2012

Meccalissa - Kill The Warden 7" Angelwood HALO-000 NC2, 1979

How could you go wrong with a song called Kill The Warden? That's what we thought when we first picked this up in a Newcastle op shop in the 1990s. It's a tasty grillfat tale of prison murder, with blood and guts and oh, a hooky chorus!

Meccalissa existed from 1974 until around the time of this release in 1979, when they became DV8. In fact, some copies of this have DV8 stamped on the labels (see below). From what we've heard of the DV8 records, you don't need to hear them (Dead Baby from the Stab In The Dark live LP is OK, but not as good as this).

Band photos here.

Kill The Warden