6307208

Halcyon days for rock: Sydney, 1979

I was reading a recent communiqué by Dennis Val, guitar player with one of Sydney’s better rock bands, Love Child, in which he was talking about the lack of Australian artists on radio, and how hard it is to get original Australian guitar rock heard on the airwaves nowadays. It got me thinking not just about that issue, but about the state of the music industry in general – and I’ve come to the conclusion that there needs to be a significant shift, otherwise there exists the very real possibility that there could be no ‘next’ generation of rock fans in this country, and ours could be the last. There was an article in the Daily Review last year that identified the decline of live music in Australia as an art form, and its also a valid read.

Before I go further though, let me exalt the praises of Love Child, a Sydney guitar band who play original rock, heavy on the melody, catchy with pop overtones and a ton of hooks. These guys craft great songs, use multi layered harmonies and in a just world – SHOULD be on commercial radio AND playing to sold out venues.  As a comparison – in the 1970’s, a band like Stars were not too dissimilar. Difference is – Stars were playing ‘the circuit’, and would have had Premier or Harbour or some other agency behind them who assured them paid bookings and regular crowds. Fast forward 40 years. Where are the rock crowds in the pubs to support original Australian rock bands ? Where are the young rock fans ? Where are the pubs for these bands to play in ? Where are the radio stations playing original Oz rock music ? I go see and see a lot of bands and the venues are more often than not, never full.

A band like Black Label are another good example of a band who should have hit the heights with their distinctive brand of heavy rock. As I wrote elsewhere, their ‘Blood Money’ CD should have been massive, and seen them on countless festivals across Europe. Love Child  have a contemporary, AOR sound that is super radio friendly, and would do significantly better and be more appreciated in the US, in Nashville, in Vegas. Owen Campbell is another, as are Leadfinger. There’s many examples I could name, these are just a couple that come to mind. A guy like Mitch Grainger (who spent years with The Bondi Cigars) exhausted the same traps around Australia and now bases himself in Nashville to work the West Coast. I’m not saying Australian rock audiences are passé – you be your own judge of that.

indexSince we were kids, seeing live music is and always has been one of Rockbrat and my favourite activities. Its a hobby that as taken us round the world. I loved the big concert experience of the stadiums and arenas, yet I preferred to see bands in pubs.  I couldn’t wait till I was old enough to get in the pubs.  With older siblings into rock n roll, (in the mid 70s they saw Cooper and Quatro and Sweet and Abba to name but a few) I hung on their words about the bands they saw and what venues they went to. I rifled through their records and stared at the album covers – and it was a natural progression that the generational influence continued. Yet objectively, I’m not so sure if the younger generation share the same ethos. Sure, there’s kids into rock, but I mean EN MASSE.  Yes, their are younger people into rock n roll, but in many ways, they are an anomaly amongst their peers.

When I was growing up, in Sydney in the 1970s, (a time before digital technology was around, and aeons before it became the dominant distraction and enter/infotainment 2sm_w320.jpgthat it has become),  there were fewer entertainment options for kids/teens. We were into two things largely – rugby league and rock n roll, (and cricket in the Summer). Except for going to the movies, rock n roll was it. You’d hear an AUSTRALIAN band on an AUSTRALIAN radio station, or you’d see them on Countdown or similar, or you’d read about them in RAM or Juke, you’d go buy the record, you’d go see them in some pub. The clout of Countdown or these other media forms meant that the band may have generated enough interest to see them then play regional and rural towns. Agents /promoters would also be checking the sales figures generated from airplay on the local /regional radio stations. EVERYONE followed the same  mediums – rock shows on TV, music newspapers, rock radio – it was all pretty straight forward. As is commonly known – the advent of technology has seen that there are way more entertainment choices for people. I know some young people in their early 20’s who can’t even name for me all the Rolling Stones for crying out loud! It’s not important to them – the way it was for me and generations before me. Young people head along to Festivals like Groovin The Moo, but the bands are largely incidental to their experiencing of the event. 10 000 people watching some DJ I just simply do not get. The drugs must make it bearable I guess.

Yet you don’t have to have 20/20 vision to see that the halcyon days of Oz rock are now in the history books. That’s a fact. Nostalgia and youth-reliving ensures that the current generation of middle aged people get along to see the bands they grew up with – The Angels, Midnight Oil, Mental As Anything, Dragon, Richard Clapton  etc.  Yet the next generation ? Having an ease of home entertainment options (digital technology again), coupled with a sedentary lifestyle/work options means that more often than not, in the main, people can’t be shifted from their living rooms and sofas – and certainly not to venture out to a pub to see a band playing original music.

The  hypocrisies and double standards that exist in the mainstream media are never more obvious. They couldn’t give a rats arse about certain Australian bands, (TMG for example), but they never fail to sing the virtues of others (Paul Kelly for example. Even Shannon Noll gets press. Why ? He paid NO DUES). Why the distinction ? BOTH Kelly and TMG have made a significant contribution, cultural or otherwise, and are deserving of equal media time. Part of the problem lies in the fact that there are few legitimate music journalists anymore in the mainstream press who have any concept of, or place significance on Australia’s rock past – their memories extend as far back as Killing Heidi, The Living End and Grinspoon. Incidentally, it was much easier in the days when there was ONE music newspaper/gig guide for each city. The absence of those said publications has made it increasingly difficult for people to know when gigs are on – particularly for those who don’t use the internet.  How many web sites does one need to subscribe to in order to stay aware of upcoming gigs nowadays? Yes – I know there’s also a shortage of venues prepared to give original music a go and that is also a well-known issue best left for another time.

Rockbrat and The Australian Rock Show are the two main platforms that my brother and I use to write about, interview and promote Australian rock n roll – past and present.  For over 30 years we have more than embraced the entire DIY ethos in support of the bands and rock n roll we love – with the fundamental goal of getting people to hear rock n roll they haven’t before. Thousands of hours and thousands of dollars thrown in to any number of projects – from our own record label to fanzines, to management and all points in between.  It’s a labour of love that is a constant in our lives  – yet some context here. We were FANS, we are not journalists. It’s always a struggle to get your stuff heard – as people like Craig Regan and his I-94 Bar Records for example will attest. It’s a slog. Yet what’s the alternative? Who else gives a voice to guitar based rock n roll ? I ask you, where are the journalists coming through writing about Australian rock ‘n’ roll? Why does the mainstream media not get behind rock artists on the rise anymore, or give due press to guitar rock bands in general?  Recent example: Dan Baird and Homemade Sin tour Australia. A guy who had a top ten hit in America. NOT ONE write up in any mainstream media publication to support the tour. Why ? Are the music journalists too young to remember ? Guitar based rock not hip anymore? You tell me cos’ then we will both know.  I guess Lady GaGa and the dubiously talented  Jay-Z are more worthy of the attention.

YouTube is in many ways a double edged sword. Same goes for Facebook. These platforms provide a presence for artists – yet just cos someone gives an artist a ‘like’ or ‘thumbs up’ does not equate to people through the turnstiles and the ching of the cash register. I’m wholly aware that a rock scene exists on the internet without people actually leaving their houses. You can be a rock fan and even a ‘friend’ of an artist – without ever purchasing their music or venturing out to see them live.

18275145_1744005725614996_7130304688573351947_n

Four By Fate: Arena rock to 40 people. Not good enough Canberra.  

Earlier this week I saw a show by Four By Fate – a high profiled American band with the collective band members possessing a pedigree as long as your arm.  The bass player spent several years with Peter Frampton, Billy Idol and Ace Frehley (amongst others), the drummer was with Skid Row when they were at their peak, the singer, Todd Howarth – spent years with Ace Frehley and as a sideman with Cheap Trick. Howarth has that rock star edge – a great front man with a fine rock voice who in many ways could have been as big as Robin Zander had destiny played a different hand – he even resembles Zander. These guys are a slick, professional outfit, who have a new album out of all original material. 25-30 years ago – these guys would have been playing stadiums, arenas or to thousands of people. Yet wait – after their set, Bruce Kulick (a guy who spent years with Meatloaf, KISS, Grand Funk Railroad etc), comes out and does a set of KISS tunes. Staggeringly, there are approximately 40 people in attendance to witness this event!  I feel for the promoter who has invested to bring artists of this calibre to Australia – to an audience whose size is nothing short of pathetic.

It disheartens me to see artists on Facebook drumming up their upcoming events – to have only 40 or 50 people turn up. I grew up when people like Todd Howarth were stars – not your sensitive Ed Sheeran’s of the world.  And please don’t tell me that all this has more to do with the type of rock ‘n’ roll that I dig as not being popular anymore – as I won’t buy it. Dinosaur rock, fossil rock, Dad rock – whatever. Guns N Roses still sell out right? As do AC/DC, Metallica etc. Yet others are destined to play the clubs.

In summary – there are more questions than answers. I sincerely hope that my generation is not the last rock generation – yet over my shoulder, I do not see the next wave of rock fans coming up behind me.  What I do know is that doing small things make a difference. Here’s three things that everyone can do to help.

1) BUY music from artists, be they Australian or not, be it digital, CD or whatever. Buy it – don’t take it, just because you can.

2) Get off your sofas, put the damn phone down, and go and see original live music in a pub. Support venue operators, promoters etc by turning up to gigs. Tell your friends about it- spread the word. Your positivity can influence them to also attend a gig.

3) The band selling merchandise at their gig ? Buy it too. The money goes directly into the pockets of the artist.  

Share this article as a starting point. It might resonate with some and raise the consciousness of others.

95fe6f0398f636700de230dfa5a98cb4.jpg

Ed Sheeran: The new McCartney? Not even on the same playing field

We live in a strange time. YouTube can lift the profile of certain artists (PsY, Ed Sheeran) into the stratosphere. I fail to comprehend, even slightly, the frenzy associated with Ed Sheeran, irrespective of whether his music resonates with me or not. Six billion YouTube views, 70 million online followers. His 2018 Australian Tour is fast shaping up to be one of the biggest in Australasian touring history. A 14 date run. This announcement sees Sheeran becoming the joint title-holder of the most stadium shows on a single Australian and New Zealand tour, sharing the record with AC/DC’s 2010 tour. Whilst Tour Promoter Michael Gudinski is rubbing his hands with glee and can hear the deafening ‘ca ching’ of the cash register, the fact that Sheeran is breaking box office records set by Australia’s much loved rock icons leaves me somewhat bewildered.

In June 2015, Forbes Magazine listed Sheeran’s earnings at $57 million for the previous 12 months, and ranked him the 27th-highest-earning celebrity in the world.  On 19 October 2015, Sheeran received an honorary degree from the University Campus Suffolk in Ipswich for his “outstanding contribution to music”. Really ? Is he really THAT talented to warrant such astronomical success and associated accolades ? Let’s look at that question a bit further.

Ed Sheeran is who kids dig nowadays. One reviewer called him the ‘Paul McCartney of his generation’. Really? The Beatles aside, do people forget how big Wings were ? Or McCartney’s solo career?

Here is my take on why he is so big. The frenzy has more to do with social media overload than quality of the material. The hype surrounding this guy is like an avalanche. People get swept up along the way. People think they are missing out on something if they don’t follow along. Have you not considered that Sheeran could be nothing more than the result of a social media tsunami that has concertedly pushed him along at a unprecedented rate, and elevated him to a level that does not in any way equate to his talent? He is really, in many ways, one of the handful of crossovers who have transcended social media (YouTube/Facebook/Spotify) to mainstream traditional forms of media (radio, TV) and then into stadiums/arenas. If he had of come up before YouTube, it is arguable that he would have had the same amount of success. Objectively, chew on that thought for a while.

His appearance also draws people. With his average kid next door looks – red hair, freckles, cherubic – he’s a composite of Ginger Meggs and Ron Weasley, the antithesis of the predictable chisel-jawed stereotypes of Ricky Martin or Robbie Williams etc. The everyday look has broad appeal. Susan Boyle is a good example of this.

I’ve listened to the songs, ‘Thinking Out Loud, The A Team’. Is this a good representation of the guy’s work? They are OK. Listenable even. But they ain’t classics in the sense of ‘Hey Jude’, ‘You’ve’ Got A Friend’, ‘Heart Of Gold’ or ‘Rocket Man’ even. He sings clean pop with quirky lyrics, broken hearted themes, but my God, McCartney he ain’t.  Time will tell if he will be around for as long as McCartney, and have as big an impact on the western world’s social culture as McCartney has.

Episode 70 – Larry Attard Interview

Posted: May 8, 2017 by rockbrat in Uncategorized

For over four decades, Larry Attard has been a mainstay on the Australian hard rock scene – firstly, with his outfit Snake, then later with the internationally acclaimed AC/DC tribute show Acca Dacca. Tune in to episode 70 of The Australian Rock Show when we chat with Larry about his life of loud rock n roll – his love of AC/DC and much more. Rock n roll ain’t no sin – let the music begin !

Check out this episode!

images.jpgPlastered is more than a labour of love – this publication is in many ways an archival piece that opens a window to Australia’s cultural and rock ‘n’ roll past. There are certain people/organisations in Australia who recognise the significance of antipodean rock ‘n’ roll history and undertake activities/projects that unearth and re-present these works to a new audience. Festival Records are a good example of this, as they continue to reissue great Australian rock from the 60s to the 80s that would otherwise be lost and left to the memory bank. Ian McFarlane and Chris Spencer are two others whose tireless work over decades in researching and printing (often self-published) books/fanzines dedicated to Australian rock ‘n’ roll also deserve a mention.  Who remembers From The Vault Magazine in the late 80s ? Or the short lived Australian Record Collector magazine?  With respect to Glenn A, there are many other ‘rock historians’ in this country, unofficial or otherwise, who haven’t been afforded the same recognition as the former OL ’55 Manager but they probably should have. More often than not, labours of love don’t translate into dollars, yet do go a long way to raising awareness and also preserving Oz rock.  And if I can be a little pretentious, perhaps even some of the output my brother and I have completed over the years across any number of projects (view some of these here) has also made a contribution in some way. I’ve lost count of the number of album reviews, gig reviews, articles and interviews we’ve done. And whilst none of the albums/singles released on our old label Vicious Kitten Records didn’t damage the charts – it did make a contribution and I know people still dig the records. Which brings me in a roundabout way back to today’s topic – Plastered.  Plastered takes the reader on a chronological journey through popular music poster art – the jazz, rock and roll, pop and punk scenes in Australia. The book contains more than five hundred posters from the past five decades, all lovingly reproduced, and most are from the collection of avid archivist Nick Vukovic. As an archivist, the role that Nick has played in both collecting and preserving Australian rock posters is significant. Not too dissimilar in fact to the way that an art gallery or museum preserves and then presents pieces of work with cultural significance for others to enjoy.  In the 60s and 70s, Nick was a collector of art, porcelain dolls, antique gold watches and postcards. Yet his obsession for Oz music posters only came in the early 90s, when he was driving through a Melbourne underpass and noticed all the music posters attached

1429971320273.jpg

Nick Vukovic with some of his 40,000 music posters. Photo: Simon O’Dwyer

to the walls. He found out who the printer was and encouraged the printer to donate the posters to libraries and universities in return for tax deductions. There were always extras, and Nick began to hunt them down. 25 odd years later, Nick is doubtlessly Australia’s biggest collector of music posters with a conservative estimate of 40 000 posters! Many of Nick’s posters have been borrowed for TV shows and films such as Packed to the Rafters and Chopper. He has contributed posters that were published in books by Paul Kelly and also Michael Gudinski – (a book celebrating the Frontier Touring Company’s 30th birthday). By the way, listen to an interview with Gudinski author Stuart Coupe here).  The story goes that Gudinski was so impressed with Nick’s collection that he offered to buy the lot!  While the first three pressings of Plastered have sold out, and occasionally turn up on eBay etc, the good news is that Nick is on the hunt for more posters and a new publisher to get another new book out. If you have some posters , Nick would like to hear from you. Go and get yourself Plastered.

Episode 69 – Bruce Kulick Interview

Posted: April 27, 2017 by rockbrat in Uncategorized

Former Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick returns to Australia soon for a run of dates in May. Kulick’s musical journey has seen him do time with Blackjack, Meatloaf, The Good Rats, Billy Squier, Michael Bolton, Kiss, Grand Funk Railroad and many others. On episide 69 of The Australian Rock Show we chat with Bruce about his time in Kiss, his upcoming tour downunder and lots more ! Play this one loud ? right between the eyes !

Music by:

Bruce Kulick, The Sharp, Blackjack 

Check out this episode!

7379552.jpegUp on the stage, it’s as hot as Hades. Homemade Sin are working hard – and sweating buckets. ‘Can we turn on the Night Ranger?’ asks Dan Baird, referring to the big fan in the corner that if turned on will give the band the big hair look of Jack Blades & co. “I’ll end up with Bon Jovi hair”, chuckles Warner Hodges. The band are in a good mood and the crowd are into it. The temperature is cooled, but its gonna take more than an exhaust fan to cool rock ‘n’ roll this hot. Welcome to the world of Dan Baird rock ‘n’ roll.

Having lived in the Balmain area in the late 1980s, I’d seen some good gigs in a number of pubs in this area- but tonight’s show trumps ‘em all. From the Gladesville Tavern to the now derelict eye-sore that is Balmain Leagues and of course, the Bridge Hotel, which over a period of years now has become of bit of a torch bearer for real rock ‘n’ roll. Arriving at the venue in time to catch Sydney up and comers, Release The Hounds, there are a hard-core of fans in tow to eat up their brand of blue collared/no frills rock n roll.  Reference points are AC/DC & Rose Tattoo, and with a set of catchy, original hard rocking tunes, these guys are on the rise and one band to look out for.

1493042895231By the time Dan Baird & Homemade Sin hit the stage at 9.45 pm, the room has filled with a moderate but enthusiastic crowd keen to witness a couple of hours of unapologetic rock ‘n’ roll.  Let’s also call it real rock n roll for unreal times. I’m at the bar charging my glass when Dan launches into the first chords of ‘Licka Sense’. I make my way to the front of the stage and position myself bang smack in front of the great Warner E Hodges. I never get tired of watching this cat play guitar, he is just so good, a showman and entertainer to boot. Speaking of boots – I notice he is wearing his distinct green cowboy boots and spurs. Like I’ve said on previous occasions, Hodges is cooler than Fonzie.

Dan Baird & Homemade Sin have been working with a set list for a month and a half- yet tonight, no set list. Dan is selecting the songs as he goes. It’s gonna be a fun night! There is an enthusiastic crowd response and the band feed off it. These guys consistently deliver the goods show after show – and set a high benchmark for themselves to deliver the best show they can. Tonight is no exception. Go search for any of their performances on youtube – you won’t find any dud performances their friends. Top shelf. Always.

From a 110 minute set there’s many highpoints – with a mix of new songs and old given an airing. Aside from ‘Licka Sense’, there are a bunch of tunes performed from the new album, ‘Rollercoaster’, and all sound hot. There’s ‘Love Gone Wong’, a rollicking ‘Shake It Til Its Sore’, the big hitting swagger of ‘Knocked Out Cold’, and the Zeppelinesque/Bad Company cross that is ‘Can You Hear Me Now’. Hodges is let loose on this one and is a joy to behold – and hear. What a tune. Shredding with feel – like no one else on the planet.

1493040499496.jpegThere is an absolute ball busting take of the epic ‘Crooked Smile’, from 2008’s debut ‘Homemade Sin’ album. This song is an out-and-out monster and reminds me of Neil Young jamming with Crazy Horse in the early 70s.  The song belongs to Warner Hodges – and is quite possibly the best 10 minutes of rock n roll that you are ever likely to see. In this brief period he finesses, shreds, bends, motors, taps and still finds time to throw his Les Paul over his shoulder! If you want to know why Hodges is so good – go watch this on youtube.  The rapturous response from the crowd tells me what I already knew – they got to see something just that little bit special. Why don’t more people know this song ? Go listen. It’s beyond superlatives.

‘Two For Tuesday’ is another highlight – oozing Fogertyisms and complete with a few bars of ‘Proud Mary’ thrown in for legitimacy. This tune has hit single all over it and like many things Baird has penned, is a melodic sing along, catchy and memorable.

1493042899515.jpegKeeping in mind that the band are without a set list, Hodges shows genuine delight when Dan launches into the first chords of ‘On My Way’, a deep cut off the superb Buffalo Nickel album. A technical issue sees him fixing his guitar rig mid song, yet the band never drop a note. An AC/DC devotee, Hodges tells the audience how Angus Young turned up at a Scorchers gig during their 1988 Australian tour and presented Warner with a wireless unit – which could have come in handy tonight!  The band then launch into ‘Julie & Lucky’ and ‘I Love You Period’, both from 1992’s ‘Love Songs’ LP, the latter charting in Australia. Not to be outdone by Hodges, drummer Mauro Magellan performs running repairs on his hi-hat mid song – without missing a beat! The guys a pro – a monster drummer, and quite the artist too.

‘Movin’ Right Along’, another should have been classic from the ‘Get Loud’ album sounds 1493040504449.jpeggreat to my ears and gets the girls up and grooving. As does ‘Keep Your Hands To Yourself’, a song no doubt many punters came to hear, and who instead left hearing a truckload of other lesser known Baird classics as well. ‘Hands’ climbed all the way to Number Two on the Billboard Hot 100, and was denied the top spot by Bon Jovi’s ‘Living On A Prayer’. Turn that  Night Ranger fan up to full!

The Satellites material sounds timeless – testament to the song writing. Its great to hear ‘Mon Cherie’ and ‘Hard Luck Boy’, both rippin’ tunes with Micke Nilsson thumping hard on bass and laying down the groove. He’s a bad-ass bass player, who continues to hold his own amongst his more illustrious and seasoned band mates.

Dan dedicates ‘Sheila’, to an old bandmate, Ginny Whittaker whom he played with in The Rabbits back in 1980. Only a couple days before, in an interview with The Australian Rock Show, Dan talked about aging and death, and how every day you open Facebook to hear of a notable passing. The moment is not lost on me.

The ultimate tribute/commentary to Carny folk, ‘Fairground People’ scores two thumbs up, before a punishing version of ‘Railroad Steel’ ends proceedings. What a killer set. For those that were there, this was 110 minutes of the best rock n roll you are ever likely to see. For those that weren’t, be sure to see the band on tour soon. The best rock n roll band in the world – without a shadow of a doubt – Dan Baird & Homemade Sin.

Listen to an interview with Dan Baird on The Australian Rock Show from April 2017 here

Read Cowboy Col’s review of ‘Rollercoaster’, the 2017 album of the year.

Read why Cowboy Col considers Dan Baird & Homemade Sin to be the best band in the world.

all images (c) Colin Gray/Cowboy Col.

1493040478245

Episode 68 – Dan Baird Interview

Posted: April 21, 2017 by rockbrat in Rockbrat News Flash:

Dan Baird and Homemade Sin are currently in the middle of an Australian tour and on episode 68 of The Australian Rock Show, we sit down with Dan for a detailed interview. We look over their current album ‘Rollercoaster’, Dan’s recent record ‘SoLow’ and much more. Dan Baird and Homemade Sin are indeed the genuine article ? the real rock n roll deal and quite possibly – the best band alive today. This is an interview you don’t wanna miss. Play loud !

Music by:

Dan Baird and Homemade Sin, Dan Baird, The Church

Check out this episode!