MORE SONGS ABOUT HUMPING AND BOOZE.

How am I?

I’m cranky, furious at the number of unmasked people on my trains and constantly exhausted. My heart goes out to those affected by the recent floods, and to frontline City Rail staff who’ve had to deal with the constant stream of bullshit and stupidity that is Sydney commuters. Therefore, I’m going to write about rock and roll, Australian that is. It occasionally plagues me that I lack technical knowledge of music, that I can’t talk about what effects pedal made that sound, or how that drum kit was miked up. But what I can talk about is how it made me feel. Does that solo spark the need to air guitar? Do I remember the disastrous crush that song is linked to? Do I remember how much of an idiot I must have looked playing air guitar at that show? FUCK YES I DO.

Look, it all starts, like so many things do, with AC/DC. There’s something, primal, elemental, about them, something that almost defies description. There’s a an old joke about how they’ve been making the same album for more than 40 years with a few slight variations, and they aren’t wrong. That sort of bone headed stupidity, a commitment to the single entendre that’s almost endearing, even if parts of it are deeply questionable. They also inspired the greatest one sentence album review I think I’ll ever read, that being MORE SONGS ABOUT HUMPING AND BOOZE. I believe that Phil Mitchell, in Sounds Magazine’s 28 July 1979 issue,* wrote a full review of the album Highway to Hell, but with an opening like that, who needs more? The track Who Made Who (From the album of the same name)  was my introduction, swiftly followed by Live and by then I was hooked. I have fond memories of seeing them on the Stiff Upper Lip tour, and of the crowd largely consisting of middle aged mullet wearing men, and their young mullet wearing sons. Incidentally, that haircut seemed to be coming back these days, which has me wondering if it’s 1988 every time I see one in the wild. 

Radio Birdman’s Aloha Steve and Danno changed my life. I’m not kidding. When I got a copy of their first album, the mighty Radios Appear, I listened to nothing but that cassette for a solid month and probably longer. Truth be told, the tape also had Birdman’s Burn My Eye EP (Which had a radio ad for a show at the end of it I’ve not been able to find since) and a chunk of Grunt! by Newcastle ska band The Porkers, who also covered Steve and Danno with Birdman guitarist Christ Masuak assisting. I can’t explain just how much that song hit me – from the anticipation of the crashing waves, the surf drums and Tek’s command to “Hit it Steve.” And the solo, oh gods that solo. I am a man who needs no inducement to rock out on the air guitar, and I have no shame in admitting that. But the way I air guitar to that solo, it feels less adolescent stupidity and more a life or death.

Initially active from 1974 to 78, they only released two albums (The second,1978’s Living Eyes was released posthumously and is an acquired taste, shall we say) but following a reunion on the mid 90’s for the Big Day Out have continued to play sporadically, releasing a new album, Zeno Beach, in 2006. I will forever remember seeing them at the Gaelic Club in Sydney around that time where they opened with Do The Pop, and blew the roof off the place. They may as well have chucked a grenade in the place for what it did to the crowd. Speaking of live stuff, the Live at Paddington Town Hall album is essential listening. Their influence goes on to this day, with members being involved in the likes of The New Christs, the Visitors, The Hitmen and a myriad of other projects.  

Outine’s The Cicada That Ate Five Dock is either a catchy novelty song or an unmade episode of Torchwood. It reminds me a lot of The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets, but we’re keeping things Australian. Painters and Dockers formed to help pay off a mate’s parking fines, which is something wonderfully endearing. They also covered Kill, Kill, Kill, from an episode of Get Smart, and those two facts alone are enough to endear them to me. That their first show involved a local arriving at the venue with a machete to complain about the noise followed by 6 police vans showing up just makes it all the funnier to me. That may have helped explain the song You’re Going Home (In The Back Of A Divvy Van), which for me is inextricably linked to the time ABC’s The Late Show staged a protest about a Sale of the Century hostess being sacked and wound up burning the host in effigy outside Channel 9 Melbourne, at which point they were arrested. I can’t find it online, but it’s on the Best Bits Of DVD set.

Moving to bands that have made me cry, we go to The Sunnyboys. The song Alone With You is in my Top 5 pieces of teen angst, along with I’m 18 and My Pal, about which we’ll talk more later. The longing, sadness and hope in that song hits me pretty damn hard. Their heyday was cut short by overwork and singer Jeremy Oxley’s then undiagnosed schizophrenia, but they happily reunited a few years ago. I got to see them a few years back, with the mighty Celibate Rifles supporting, and I openly wept during this song. i believe my wife has a photo of me doing so.

Speaking of the Rifles, they played Ocean Shore at that show, which fulfilled another dream for me. I hopefully still have somewhere a CD of their Roman Beach Party album recorded off a co-workers vintage LP and hearing the pops and crackles as the song begins makes me so happy I can’t put it into words.

My Pal by God, what can I say? “To be a party head, is something I could never do” is one of the great opening lyrics to anything, to say nothing of the fact that the band were too young to step inside the pubs they were playing in at the time. It’s a perfect song and that’s not a tag I hand out lightly. Though I may as well go ahead and do so again, as God bassist Tim Hemensley’s later band the Powder Monkey’s song The Supernova That Never Quits more then deserves the tag. A sober minded and serious analysis of the track by this humble scribe describes it as a nitrous fuelled full throttle rock and roll assault on the senses and that’s putting it fucking mildly. It’s so good a song it almost put me off seeking out more of their stuff, as could anything possibly hope to match up to it?**

It’s late, and I really should take my brain pills and sleep, so I’ll cut things there. I had planned to talk about the Saints and how Nights in Venice sounds like the band are about to melt, You Am I’s cover of the Victims Television Addict and Tim Roger’s frantic cry of “Just because I watch Prisoner, Cop Shop, Fat Cat, Humphrey fucken B!” or that time the Datsuns turned the normally 6 minute long Freeze Sucker into a 15 minute epic and left me feeling about to collapse, but time is against me.

For those wanting to investigate further, the compilations Do The Pop and Tales from the Australian Underground were an incredible help to young me and well worth your time. Radio Birdman’s Radios Appear is perfect and I will fight any who say otherwise. The Lime Spiders Nine Miles High compilation and Live at the Esplanade are more than worthy, as is The First and the Last from the short lived ‘supergroup’ New Race, comprised of members of Radio Birdman, the Stooges and the MC5. it still amuses me that Spotify has two quasi bootleg albums from the tour, but not the official album. When I think of how easy this stuff is to find these days, it makes me happy. Part of me loves the obscure stuff, that feeling of loving a band that only 5 people and a dog have heard of. But I love getting to share that with, or more accurately, at people these days.

Support your local music scene. After all, the government won’t. May you all have something in your lives that brings you as much joy as music does me.

Be seeing you.

*Isn’t the internet fun?
** A problem I also have with The Jam and their song In the City.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s