Sunday, 7 October 2012

Funhouse - Conspicious Consumption 7" EMI Custom 13634, 1984

When Adelaide band Gun Control moved to Sydney in 1984 they changed their name to Funhouse. Being an Adelaide band we revert to our modus operandum and pull out the DNA fanzine stack from the shelf. For balance's sake we'll note that this is our only source as the Wallaby Beat tape deck is out of commission and we couldn't listen to their interview on Public Eye cassette fanzine from 1983.

Singer Rip Savage started in 1979 as a roadie and sometimes vocalist for No Action, a Sex Pistols and Buzzcocks cover band completely lost to history but being the starting point for Ian List (Dagoes, Assassins, Falling Spikes) and Tim O'Connor (of Frente). Rip next moved onto Dead Image with Justin Flint (ex The Victims (no, not those Victims)) on guitar, Phil Perm (né McTaggart) on bass, and Paul Loughhead on drums. They played mostly parties. Flint moved to Perth (still not those Victims) and was replaced by Kelly Hewson from Agent Orange (no, not that Agent Orange, or the other one) and the band rebranded as Gun Control.

The band's first mention in DNA is in May 1980 as bottom of the bill at the Dead Azzaria (sic) & the Dingo Dance, "bring a toy doll and get in 1/2 price", which got cancelled due to adverse publicity in the norm press. Over their first year they developed a set consisting of equal parts punk standards (Sex Pistols - Satellite and Did You No Wrong, Damned - Liar, Ruts - H-Eyes, Dead Boys - Ain't Nothin' To Do, UK Subs - Warhead, Clash - Cheat and White Man, Buzzcocks - Autonomy, Lou Reed - Sweet Jane, Iggy - Funtime) and originals (Political Crimes, Why Are You?, Ignorance, Soldier, Asylum, No Tactics, Clee Chay, Death In An Overcoat). Writing styles were summarised as:
  • Kelly - non-sensical sort of stuff;
  • Phil - political (he's Irish);
  • Rip - about people he knows and their attitudes or various neuroses. 
Herein lies the story of the band as laid out over the next twenty odd issues of the magazine, disparate personalities, disparate tastes, disparate interests, and yet a band which stuck together for four years, trying to get the mix right over and over again.

September 1981 sees them recording their first tape, cutting down the number of covers in their set, and aiming for some of the bigger venues (the Tivoli and the Arkaba). In a live review Harry Butler says "they should be producing a wall-of-noise type sound like Never Mind the Bollocks, instead they're pumping out something like the first Clash album (really thin)"; the mix of political punk, guitar hero soloing and metallic influences seemingly proving difficult to combine. They kept working at it and in a review of a New Year's Eve show Butler says the wall-of-sound is coming along.

In the July 1982 issue, over various gig reviews, Butler notes too many metal moves from Hewson ("he claims it's a piss take but it looks bloody real"), at the next gig "a good show but still too many covers" and by a third gig there is only one cover, and good new songs, but "slow, dirgey metal tunes" are spoiling the set. Rip Savage is noted as developing into a great frontman. Seemingly aware of their faults, the band is able to self-correct, a good sign.

In mid-'82 the band recorded a four song tape with No Tactics / Give Me Security / The Boss / Wooden Doll, which DNA reviewed as "coming across like Generation X backed by a semi-hard rock band". In October another four tracks were recorded, Fly The Flag / Mr Callan / She Belongs To Me / Wake Up. Greasy Pop was to release them as an EP but the band deemed them "too commercial". Doug Thomas recalled in Underground In A City of Churches that it was "no great, lost classic", but "four good songs that should have been released". Two of the tracks did turn up on the A Greasy Selection tape in 1985.

DNA records a gig or two each month over the next year, occasionally reporting on the same lines - a mixture of sparks of energy and slabs of turgid dirge. By late 1983 a move to Sydney was deemed necessary. The band recorded two originals in December, Conspicuous Consumption and Retaliation, ditched the turgid originals and covers (but strangely started doing Interzone by Joy Division (and Search And Destroy (oh dear))).  Their last three local gigs received good reviews in DNA - being described as tighter, more focussed, and a "non-stop blitzkrieg". In February 1984 they headed for Grong Grong and on to Sydney.

Sydney was somewhat successful, they made progress and got good gigs. They changed their name to Funhouse after being asked too many times in interviews about their existing name (sounds like this time the rock 'n' roll arm of the band won the clash with the political arm). The two tracks came out as a single around September. However, one night after a gig most of their gear was stolen. They got by borrowing gear for a while but couldn't rehearse, and they broke up. One more time on their return to Adelaide for final shows, Butler described them as "punk flavoured hard rock".

Savage next landed in Mushroom Planet, Loughhead as Paul Larsen for two long stints in the Celibate Rifles, and Hewson in any number of Adelaide punk and hardcore bands through the '80s - Skunks, Hot Tomatoes, Raw Power (not that one) and Grunter amongst them. The Too Drunk To Funhouse 12" was by an unrelated Melbourne band from later in the '80s.

While there's a metally guitar tone and solos on the record we really just hear the stronger influences of the Dead Kennedys and the Ruts coming through, and oddly with both tracks being credited to Hewson they are both definitely political, not "non-sensical".

Conspicuous Consumption [Download]

Retaliation [Download]


Anonymous said...

So they played in Sydney as Gun Control and then changed the name to Funhouse? I seem to remember both names.
Anyway, have you seen this?

Gun Control live at the Funhouse, Tivoli Hotel, 1984 [videorecording] / filmed by George K Video/DVD
Gun Control (Musical group)
Norwood, S. Aust. : Dominator Records & Tapes, [1987]

LOCATION Call No. Status
SA Videos (Use copies) SAV 35 ASK AT DESK
S Australiana Videos ZV 35 NOT FOR USE
More Details
Description/Quantity 1 videocassette (VHS) (30 min.) : sd., col. ; 1/2 in
Subject Gun Control (Musical group)
Rock music -- South Australia -- 1981-1990
Add Author K., George
Dominator Records and Tapes

Wallaby Beat said...

Hi Steve, that's right - they changed names mid-stream. Nah we haven't seen the video either.

Clint Chapman said...

I have a Gun Control demo somewhere. I much prefer tapes(written as I'm listening to iTunes).

FuseRed said...

enjoying this - did they release anything else?


Unknown said...

Wow, I just found this gold.... Great read thanks.
Paul also played regularly with many other outfits in Sydney and internationally. Radio Birdman, Rob Younger for instance. He also appeared on ABC TV with "Kiss my poodle's donkey" and afaik still sessions regularly.
Phil has been producing/engineering for a while now in addition to playing.
Rip may have relocated to Melbourne(?) and regularly appears onstage with various ensembles.
Haven't seen Kelly for a while, so someone else could update?