Sunday 30 December 2012

U-Bombs - Give Me A Medal 7" Radioactive PRS-2584, 1978

Adelaide's alright if you like saxophones:

For Irving and the U-Bombs, one of Australia's original class of '77, it wasn't always the way. Following an all-too-familiar lightning bolt moment - a chance encounter with the Sex Pistols on TV - Paul Tuxworth (guitar, vocals), Anando "Phil" Bahti (bass, vocals, guitar) and Roy Erzinger (drums, vocals) made the overnight transition from teenage Genesis-obsessed prog rockers to fully-fledged punk rockers. Within weeks, a set of over 20 songs was worked up, consisting mostly of covers with a sprinkling of originals. Soon after, Irving and the U-Bombs debuted at a private party in the Adelaide hills, playing a short, fast and frantic set which was reportedly greeted by dropped jaws and stunned silence. A nine-week residency at the Belair Hotel followed, during which the band cultivated a reputation for fearsome live performances ("Adelaide's premier speed outfit", according to issue #1 of DNA zine).

Within a year, the name was shortened to the U-Bombs and, portentously, the lineup was extended to include Ian Thurnwald on sax and vocals. It was this incarnation which appeared on the Live At The Marryatville cassette, released by Simon Stretton of Black Chrome/Tomorrow Records, which by all accounts still captured the original U-Bombs attack (please drop us a line if you have a copy you'd let go). However, as recorded in the pages of DNA, the addition of sax didn't sit well with many of the band's original fans, who saw it as the beginning of the end. Indeed, the lineup change foreshadowed a move to a more considered, less punky songwriting style and a less frenetic delivery (though the above video shows the occasional flashback to former glories). This era is documented on 1978 and 1979 demos - one released on Tomorrow as 12 Family Favourites From The Golden Years of Protest - and the U-Bombs' only single.

Give Me A Medal has a reputation for being one of the weaker early Australian punk records, and we ourselves have struggled to look past what might have been had the U-Bombs hit the studio just six months earlier. So what is there to appreciate about a record that is, in the words of DNA again, "cleared of the simplistic sludge that is punk"? Give Me A Medal has some interesting lyrics; The New And Improved has tempo on its side (at least to begin with); and (What's) Your Problem? is a pretty good song, plain and simple. The record - with its silk-screened sleeve, poster, stickers and instruction manual inserts - also makes for a nice visual package. Still, we can't help wishing that the instructions for the "groovy 'do-it-yourself badge kit'" (see below) weren't emblematic of the U-Bombs' musical trajectory.

Give Me A Medal [Download]

The New And Improved [Download]

(What's) Your Problem [Download]

Instruction manual.

Far out poster.

Groovy 'do-it-yourself badge kit' / all purpose bumper sticker.

Sunday 23 December 2012

Systems Go! - No More Xmas, Carol 7" no label or matrix number, 1978

First of all:

Now before you think we've gone all god botherin' on you, let us explain. After the fact that the first 18 seconds blows most contemporaneous "prog" out of the water, the first reason for posting Sister Jan's groovy 1973 reading is that Clare Moore of The Sputniks is apocryphally playing the freaky drums on it! That's not quite the case though Clare did learn her craft under the Svengali-like gaze of the good sister.

The second point of Wallaby Beat interest is that playing on and writing songs on Mead's records was a guy called Arnold Strals. He's presumably responsible for that analogue synth on The Lord's Prayer and the funky drumbeat. In fact he copped the songwriting credit, nice work for words nearly 2000 years old!

Fast forward a few years and, like Moore, Strals appeared in the Adelaide underground. The band was Systems Go!, and while clearly not a punk band, the photo in Inner City Sound hints at a David Lynch-ian otherworldliness, with a touch of Pere Ubu thrown in.

The band released a pretty obscure 7" in 1978, along with a track on the 5MMM compilation best known for the Brats in 1980. As well as Strals the band featured Huw Lewis on lead and slide guitar,
Liduina van der Sman on sax and flute, Adrienne Sach on piano and harmonica, Keith Newman on drums, Vonni Rollan on congas and Nigel Sweeting on bass.

Van der Sman later played with ...And The Native Hipsters in London, before closing the circle and playing with Moore and Dave Graney on 1997's The Devil Drives. Newman had been in The Warm Jets who became Terminal Twist, who covered several of Strals' songs, including Common Knowledge on their EP. Strals' songs are also listed as an influence on Terry Bradford from Greasy Pop band July 14th, in his interview in Underground In The City Of Churches.

Rollan and Sweeting then spent time in new wavers Nuvo Bloc before Sweeting hooked up with Strals and Lewis through the early to mid '80s as Speedboat. You can hear a Speedboat track, Sex Without Grunting, on Fast Forward 11.

Which brings us to the 1978 single. The less interesting A-side of the single can be heard on Left Of The Middle. The flipside though, is a lumbering beast of a song, really hitting its straps in the choruses, where Strals' take on Tom Waits' take on Captain Beefheart will sit really well with your fifth glögg/umeshu/Fosters on Tuesday afternoon.

No More Xmas, Carol [Download]

Sunday 16 December 2012

It Never Ends: Voigt/465 - A Secret West 7" Unanimous Weld Enunciations E594, 1978

An extensive history of Voigt/465, authored by keyboard player and vocalist Phil Turnbull, can be found spread across several pages at his No Night Sweats website. A comprehensive firsthand account, it even offers some mild It Never Ends action to entertain us record collector subnormals, via its description of multiple pressings of the Slights Unspoken LP. Rather than parrot those details, we'll focus today on our own minor contribution to the story: welcome to the fascinating world of variations on Voigt/465's A Secret West / State 45.

The single is housed in a great sleeve, the murky, ambiguous imagery complementing the sounds within and reflecting the Voigt/465 mindset - i.e. one eye on the rear-view mirror but always surging forward, even if the final destination isn't clear (or, in Turnbull's words, "Post-Punk Rock, Krautrock and Prog rock combine to form a sound unlike any other"). All copies are hand-numbered in a variety of locations on the back cover, which conveniently allows us to trace how construction of the sleeves (and the accompanying insert) evolved over time. Enlightening in some respects but head-scratching in others - we'll get to that in a moment.

Early copies are assembled in marvelous DIY fashion, being two photocopied sheets, cut and pasted onto blank cardboard sleeves; the dimensions of the artwork are smaller than the blank sleeve, creating a white border. Over time, the glue has tended to become discoloured - even on the most well-preserved of copies - characterising the initial batch with brown-ish stains or "foxing". This version is numbered in black pen on the bottom right-hand side of the back cover:


An insert is included in all copies of the record. Early examples - the first 100 or so - feature lyrics to both songs, a dictionary definition of "Whodunit?" with non sequiturs apparently authored by our mate Fat Lenny, and a statement that there were "500 copies pressed":

"500 copies pressed"

Anyone who has ever assembled and numbered record covers can attest that it is about as tedious as a Puritans B-side. At some point, even counting the number of records dispatched from the pressing plant seems like a preferable activity. Whoops! EMI Custom overshipped the order by 10%. Time to re-do that insert. This version, found in the remainder of the run, retains the layout of the song lyrics but inserts a new batch of nonsense below, with a more precise description of the pressing size:

"One of 547"

The earlier insert was most commonly printed on white paper, and the later version on fluorescent coloured stock, but note that the paper colour isn't convenient shorthand to differentiate them - white and fluoro examples exist for both.

The tedium of record cover assembly inevitably leads to band members hitting the pub, never to return. The remaining copies are circulated naked, dooming OCD-afflicted, pic-sleeve-obsessed record collectors to untold sleepless nights. Some examples have even forced us to install padded walls in our record rooms. Voigt/465, ever-determined to tread their own path, took a different tack. Later copies are housed in a professionally printed sleeve on textured cardstock - a less labour-intesive solution, individual numbering notwithstanding. On this version, the print job is somewhat darker, revealing more detail in the reflection, and the artwork extends to the edges of the sleeve (though a white edge remains on the left side of the back cover, where the number appears, again in black pen). Oddly, this appears to be the less common variation:


That all seems like a cogent story, right? So what are we to make of this tail-ender, a return to the cut-and-paste style? The road ahead must seem especially bleak after assembling 500 record covers. This copy differs from the others in being numbered in blue pen, on the top left of the back cover, and in what the Wallaby Beat forensic handwriting department has concluded is different penmanship.


And so last, but by no means least, we come to the music itself. In turns melodic, arty and aggressive, State delivers on all of the promise of Phil Turnbull's above-quoted description without succumbing to its obvious pitfalls. The sublime descending bass run alone shoots it to the top-tier of Australian art-punk. Voigt/465's subsequent LP is also well worth hearing, but though the band would become artier, they would never be as "punk" (a change in drummer seems the likely culprit). The CD compilation One Faint Deluded Smile is sadly out of print, but can be found archived at Mutant Sounds; individual tracks are also included on the Can't Stop It and Inner City Sound CDs.

State [Download]

Sunday 9 December 2012

The Lonely Boys (and The Breakers)

Two weeks ago we covered the excellent News flexidisc that featured Sweet Dancer Au Go-Go, and many moons ago we looked briefly at Kim Fowley's visit to Australia. Today we tie them together with the tale of Jarryl Circus's flirtation with the animal god of the streets, via the Lonely Boys.

Prior to News' initial breakup, Circus had made his way to the Melbourne Hilton to play some tracks for Fowley. The News website takes up the story:
As Gavin was preparing to vacate Faraday St in December, intelligence reached him that before the band went bust, Jarryl had been setting up (on the sly) a solo career with US producer Kim Fowley. Fowley was then a name, having worked all around the world, successfully often enough, since the early sixties. He was making a well publicised visit to Melbourne and Sydney looking for bands to produce. Among the flow of hopeful artists was Jarryl, who played Fowley some News material. The material went down well and Fowley set Jarryl up with sessions at AAV studios from December into 1979. He recruited a backing band and they were recording as the Lonely Boys.
The backing band was centred around Jim Manzie, who had had considerable local success in the mid-seventies in Ol' 55, a fairly weak fifties revival act.  Manzie played bass and recruited Ol' 55 drummer Geoff Peterkin, kiwi session muso Martin Fisher on keyboards, and Scott Douglas on rhythm guitar. Circus, back under his real name Wirth, sings and plays guitar. The sessions, which Inner City Sound says were actually at Armstrong's, yielded four songs which appeared over the next eighteen months on various Fowley sponsored compilations.

The first tracks to appear were in August 1979 on the Vampires From Outer Space LP (USA Bomp 4005 1979). The LP also had a release in the UK (London SH-Z 8543) and in Germany (Line LLP5013) featuring the garish cover at the top of the post. Fowley raves in the liner notes:
Underworld rumors led me to the Lonely Boys in darkest Melbourne, Australia. The bold diplomat, Jarryl Worth, on "Phantom Poster Man", screams of the new falcons, the subhumans demanding their place in the race. Vegetable Minds who have heard this slice of life decree "It's Got Industrial Action".
Whatever. The tracks, the above mentioned Phantom Poster Man (more likely a tribute to the ubiquitous street poster company) and Ugly Girl, bleat the Oz rock past of the band over anything Wirth might have brought from News. Fowley sneaks a co-writing credit on both.

Phantom Poster Man [Download]

Ugly Girl [Download]

Where Is The Sun was the next to get a guernsey, on the Waves (An Anthology Of New Music Vol 2) LP (USA Bomp 4008, also Germany Line LLP5063,  and Canada Bomb 124) in 1980. This song is a bit better, sounding like it was recorded in the wee early hours of darkest Melbourne. In fact this was recorded the night that the News' Faraday St home/base/recording studio was fire-bombed (January 3, 1979). Once again Fowley's liners are hysterical. Potted highlights include that the band started as an "anti-disco group", "their code is alienation plus radiation, the expectation of desperation. They're in control of their rock 'n' roll, they're not old, and they're not on the dole", "the group plays motorcycle club parties and hospital charity dances. Among their influences are Gary Gilmour, the Trashmen, the Dead Boys, and Octavius Caesar".

Where Is The Sun [Download]

Finally Sweet Dancer A Go Go turned up on the Kim Fowley's Hollywood Confidential LP (USA GNP Crescendo GNPS 2132, also in Greece on MusicBox SMB 40130), later in 1980. Ross Wilson is credited with arranging and he and Keith Glass sing backing vocals. You will recognise the song from the News flexi, though now with more doctrinaire drumming and restrained guitar. Still, a good song is a good song. Although Fowley doesn't cop a credit here, Gavin Quinn did take issue with the Wirth songwriting credit:
It seems that at their meeting, Jarryl claimed that he wrote and arranged what Fowley was hearing. When Gavin heard this much through friends in the business, he was predicably not happy. In the beginning, he had written all Babeez/ News material. He was a skilled and prodigious writer: "Gavin had this pop/punk vision and his rate of churning out songs was really fast" [John Murphy]. But Jarryl began writing with Gavin and compositions were collaborative from then on: "I'd lay down the parameters, he would work out the hard stuff. He had a much better appreciation of key and chordal structure than I did. He knew what I wanted, so between the two of us we managed to perfect it. He wasn't too good with melody, so developed a lot with melody. Towards the end it was all a group effort. Regardless of whose songs they were, the band arranged them and made it happen." [Gavin].
Sweet Dancer A Go Go [Download]

The story doesn't quite end there. The band then rebranded as The Breakers and after supporting the B-52s on their tour released one 7" on Powderworks in 1980. This is pure Countdown new wave, over-produced and over dramatic. The choruses are OK.

When I'm On T.V. [Download]

Lipstick And Leather [Download]

Though apparently publishing and even recording deals were signed for overseas it appears that was it. The band's swansong was a brief appearance in the background half way through the film that popularised the phrase "slack-arsed molls" (chime in at 6:08):

Sunday 2 December 2012

Strutter - Mary Janes Rainbow World 7" EMI Custom PRS-2485, 1976

Once again, we raid our secret stash and invite you to mull over this offering from the wastoids of Newcastle's Kiss Army. By their own admission, Strutter barely set foot out of bed in the morning before hitting the bong, so its a minor miracle that their creative energies were channeled more productively than the foot soldiers down the New England Highway, and with more sincerity than the Section 8 even further south. Unfortunately, motivation ran dry before the important matter of punctuation was dealt with. Perhaps they should have asked to borrow an apostrophe from the So+So's.

Mary Janes Rainbow World celebrates the time honoured tradition of getting baked outta one's gourd with Kiss on the turntable. Hats are doffed to Ace Frehley and his "lead guitar from outer space"; synaesthesia ensues. Yup, Mary Jane - Strutter know a couple of things about her. The riffing's tough and the drumming is simple and pounding, so the lads know a thing or two about rock and roll as well. They're even happy to tell us as much on the flip, but can't help doing so by paraphrasing the title of Kiss' Rock and Roll Over LP.

The Newcastle Bands Database has some basic information about band membership fragmented across a few different pages, some of it contradictory, but hey, it's not like our research has been able to clarify things. However, we can say definitively that this record dates from 1976 rather than the earlier timeframe referenced; 500 were pressed, but we've seen just a single copy over a ten year search.

Mary Janes Rainbow World [Download]

Little Lady [Download]