Posts Tagged ‘Billy Thorpe’

143814-L-LO.jpgFestival Records thankfully continue to reissue/repackage and reinvigorate great Australian rock ‘n’ roll that would otherwise be lost to time. ‘When Sharpies Ruled’ is a 23 track compilation CD with exhaustive liners notes, a superb photo book and a wealth of first hand insight – not just into the music – but the whole Sharpie sub-culture as well. Vicious Sloth Collectables from Melbourne ably assisted in this compilation – with head Sloth Glen Terry providing insightful liner notes. Sharpies, or Sharps, were members of suburban youth gangs in Australia, most significantly from the 1960s and 1970s who were particularly prominent in Melbourne, but were also found in Sydney and Perth to lesser extents. The name comes from their focus on looking and dressing “sharp”. Sharpies would often congregate in large numbers, regularly attending live bands at town hall and high school dances and early discos. They were identified by their distinctive close cropped haircuts and attire of Lee or Levi jeans, cardigans, jumpers, and T-shirts.

The most well-known of all ‘Sharp’ bands— were the Coloured Balls, and they are well represented here with three songs, ‘Time Shapes,’ ‘Flash’ and ‘Love You Babe’.  The Coloured Balls had the ‘sharp’ look, right down to the haircuts, and were the most identifiable of all sharp bands – and arguably the sub-cultures musical embodiment. Their hard rocking boogie sound was due to the distinctive guitar of Lobby Loyde, a player who still hasn’t got his dues for pioneering influence on Oz guitar rock.  From the Brisbane days of Purple Hearts right though to Rose Tattoo and even latter day material he recorded with Fish Tree Mother – his impact cannot be overstated. And let’s not forget the hand he played as a producer on many of Australia’s punk and post punk bands including X and the Sunnyboys.  Dig deep into his musical history – the Coloured Balls is a good place to start, and on this comp you get 3 top notch Balls tunes. Dig the solo on ‘Time Shapes’ and you will get a glimpse of why he is revered by so many – but not enough in my books.

Thorpie is also included here with ‘Let’s Have A Party’, a deep live cut from Sunbury ’74, as are Buster Brown with ‘Roll Over Beethoven. If you have never heard Angry pre-Rose Tattoo, this is a good starting point. As is well known, Buster Brown included future members of AC/DC and Tattoo in their ranks. The inclusion of Skyhooks, another of Melbourne’s early 70’s cutting edge outfits is noteworthy, as Greg Macainsh, as an art student, had put together a film on the Sharps called ‘Sharpies’ in 1974. Macainsh’s liner notes and photo stills from his film add greater authenticity to the CD as a whole. One of, if not the, song writer of his generation.

Finch are remembered most for having hot shot young guitar player Bob Spencer in their ranks, yet one listen to ‘Out Of Control’ or the glam punk hit ‘Hey Spunky’ reminds the listener that charismatic front man Owen Orford had a great set of pipes and were a great band who wrote great hard rock hits with melody aplenty. Yet its Orford’s stout vocal delivery that lifted the Finch material. I still think that ‘Hey Spunky’ sounds like ‘Bad Boy For Love’, at least on the verses. Hey Spunky sounds great given the digital treatment.  Finch were killer, as were there reincarnation, Contraband.

Rose Tattoo’s blistering ‘Remedy’ fits with the album’s theme, and sounds superb. The song belongs to Mick Cocks, the man with the fastest right hand. The precision, the guitar tone – it never sounded better than on ‘Remedy’. A song that almost 40 odd years later would still blow most others away for sheer power and intensity.

Timeline is important. Whilst sharps weren’t purely a Melbourne based sub-culture, this is where they were most prominent.  In today’s homogenised society, people forget that their once existed a Sydney Melbourne rivalry. The whole Speedwell Malvern Star thing. Melbourne had trams, they played VFL, Sydney was a rugby league town where Tooths or Reschs were the brewers of choice.  You remember the scene in ‘They’re A Weird Mob’ where the Sydney cab driver tells Graham Kennedy to get back to Melbourne? Lines were drawn –and this also extended, to a lesser extent, to rock n roll. Whilst bands like Hush, TMG and Newcastle’s Rabbit never sported any crew cuts, musically, they had broad appeal that attracted the sharp crowd – in the same way that a band like Slade did, with their infectious glam boogie stomp. The great blues player Kevin Borich also gets a couple of tunes on the CD, one with the La De Das and also with the KB Express. ‘I’m Goin’ Somewhere’ in particular is a lesser known Oz hard rock/blues classic and reason enough for you to buy this CD. Great tune.

Other prominent Melbourne bands to get a guernsey on the CD are Taste with ‘Tickle Your Fancy’, the title track from their debut album – and also La Femme, with the ’79 punk classic ‘Chelsea Kids’. La Femme may have sounded like they came out of Bromley, but they in fact had Sharp bloodlines, and included ex Sharpie gang members in their ranks. ‘Chelsea Kids’ is a classic. Fact. If you thought the Sharpie influence on music/fashion/culture had died out by the late 70s, you were mistaken. Some may recall Tracy Mann’s character ‘Samantha’ in the 1980 movie ‘Hard Knocks’. I digress.

As a fan of Oz rock, what makes this an essential purchase is the inclusion of three songs by Fat Daddy, Bullet and Fatty Lumpkin. The singles by these three bands are near impossible to find, yet have been dusted off, digitalised and made available to all – and this is where Festival Records excel. No other Australian label has the dedication, devotion nor commitment to long lost Oz rock quite like the good folk at Festival – and they do it very well.

Fat Daddy released a great slice of boogie back in ’76 with their single, ‘Roll Daddy Roll’ on Brian Cadd’s Bootleg label. Its inclusion here is important as Fat Daddy were popular with the sharps. On a side note, Fat Daddy morphed into another great Melbourne hard rock band called Texas. (I interviewed Ken Murdoch of Taste/Texas a couple of years back and we talked about these bands and this time period in Melbourne rock. Listen to that interview free here). Perth’s Fatty Lumpkin released four singles in their four year existence yet never an album. ‘Movin’ from 1976  is great, original hard rock with John Meyer’s distinctive fret work prominent. Meyer later turned up in Perth HM band Saracen and then Rose Tattoo. The inclusion of ‘Movin’ on this CD is gold – a nugget that deserves to be heard.

The inclusion of the glam-edged ‘Rock My Lady’ from long forgotten mid 70’s Sydney hard rockers Bullet is further reason to pick up the album. Bullet only released one single on the Atlantics label, Chicago Records. Man this rocker has groove with a capital G and sounds revitalized given the digital treatment. Festival could also have gone with ‘Mover’ the equally rockin B side, and lost no slack. 23 tracks in total – and no filler in sight. I must also mention the artwork and packaging that accompanies this CD. Festival have really gone to town with this one. Nice slip case and two booklets laden with information, reminiscences, facts, musings and a stack more. One booklet is 28 pages, the other a whopping 60 page photo book stacked with original images provided by sharpies from the period. All in all – a no risk ten out of ten from Cowboy Col. Available where all good CD’s are sold, including here. Thoroughly recommended.  

Fans of genuine Aussie rock (Angels, Tatts, AC/DC)  take note. BITZER are for you. Forget about Airbourne for one second and the carbon copied style of oz rock they play. They are good at what they do, they nod approvingly to the past, but they lack the legitimacy, the authenticity, that a band like BITZER have to offer. This is Oz rock the way it should be played. It’s fun, it’s loud, proud, and kicks ass.  Bitzer is a new group featuring many familiar faces.  Experienced troupers from the halcyon days of OZ rock, we should be thankful that they are still treading the boards in 2013. Their collective experience includes stints in  Rose Tattoo, Dragon, Ted Mulry Gang, Kevin Borich, Billy Thorpe, The Pete Wells Band, Black Label and the Damn Fine Band to name a few. Bitzer are Steve Edmonds, Lucy Desoto, Steve Mulry, Steve King, Mick O’Shea and Mick Arnold – and they have just released their debut, self titled six track EP that pays tribute to some of this country’s finest hard rock bands and the glory days of Oz pub rock.  The EP opens with a supremely bitchin’, full tilt cover of AC/DC’s classic ‘Riff Raff’, with Steve Edmonds not only shredding on guitar, but belting out a vocal that would bring a smile to Bon’s face.  Edmonds is a great player, and deserves greater recognition. Go check out the Steve Edmonds Band if you get a chance. Next up, Lucy De Soto gives ‘Bad Boy For Love’ the sultry, low down jazz treatment.  I’ve seen Lucy enough times over the years to know that as a jazz/blues singer, she can compete with the best of ‘em, and on ‘Bad Boy’ her vocal is lush and deeply rich, highlighting the stripped back arrangement that gives a fresh, diverse appeal to Ian Rilen’s classic. Speaking of Rilen, Lucy again takes lead vocal on a menacing cover of his tune, ‘401’, originally from the Hell To Pay album ‘Steal It’. I like this a lot.  I also like Black Label a lot – with Steve Mulry out front. Black Label are the best band in Australia – fact (search through this blog for reviews of their recent albums) and in Mulry, they have a front man with a distinctive, strong and appealing voice that reeks of authenticity. Mulry tackles a cover of the Angels ‘Marseilles’ that is as every bit as raw and rockin’ as the original. If you want evidence of his vocal versatility and ability, listen to his super strong delivery on ‘No Times For Games’. The Midnight Oil classic never sounded this good! Listening to this killer tune reminds me that Pete should return to rock ‘n’ roll. MP stands for microphone please! Steve Edmonds again takes lead vocal on a tasty cover of Kevin Borich’s ‘Gonna See My Baby Tonight’ that is catchy with a capital C.  If you wanna taste of the glory days of Oz rock in 2013 –  Bitzer deliver the goods in no uncertain terms. 10 out of 10. At only 9 bucks, you have no excuse for not buying a copy of Oz Rock Six Pack. Buy it here.

Here are a couple of items from the last Billy Thorpe gig I attended. Friday 24 August, 2001 was the date, the venue was the Yallah Woolshed, in Yallah (not far from Albion Park) in the Illawarra. I have a few memories  of the night, though not as many as I can recall. If I had of known it would be the last time I saw Thorpie, I would have savoured every moment. Alas, hindsight again. I do recall that Screaming Jets bass player Paul Woseen was in his band, as was Pig Morgan on keyboards. Thorpie was blazing away, as you’d expect, on lead guitar. At the end of the gig, I managed to have a quick word to Thorpie, who also signed a CD for me (see photo). Unfortunately I accidentally smudged the signature by shoving it into my jacket pocket before it has dried, but it says, “To Col, Keep Rockin’, Billy Thorpe”. Pretty cool sentiment from the great man. I still think so. I gave him a CD copy of the first volume of ‘Rock n Roll War’ released on my old label Vicious Kitten Records, and spoke briefly about Pete Wells, who was on the album. Great night, great memories, now over ten years ago. Keep Rockin Thorpie…..

"To Col, Keep Rockin, Billy Thorpe"

Greg Clarke, the former tour manager for Billy Thorpe and current tour manager for Rose Tattoo has died in Sydney from a suspected heart attack. He had only just turned 50 in April.  Greg worked with Billy Thorpe from 1995 to 2007 and has been tour manager and Front of House Engineer for Rose Tattoo since January 2006. He also worked with Chugg Entertainment as the company IT manager, tour manager and, as he called it, “computer geek and email fixer-upperer”. Greg also once worked for The Angels and on the Long Way To The Top tour. Rest in peace.

Mick Cocks in 1988

For a long time there, particularly during the late 80s and early 90’s, Michael Thomas Cocks looked ageless, like he’d been drinking heartily from the fountain of youth. Yet he we are, the 22nd of December, 2010 and Cocksy has been gone for a year already. Sure there was benefit concert for him in July, 2009 at the Enmore whilst he was still alive, but one year after his death, with no sign of any tribute gig  – spare a thought for Mick, one of rock’s finest. Since his death, Murray Engleheart’s excellent book  ‘Blood Sweat & Beers’ has been released, and that book certainly pays tribute to the man and his music – and it will hopefully serve as a long standing reference for kids to go read and discover the guy who really wrote the blue print for Guns ‘n’ Roses and all those other wannabes. Cocks was the real deal – fact.  His ‘stutter gun’ method of right hand playing gave him an original sound and style that heavily influenced bands like Guns ‘n’ Roses, who despite all their bravado, never even came close (although apparently they did ask Cocks to replace Izzy Stradlin). If you wanna hear what I’m talking about with the term ‘stutter gun’, go listen to the riffing in ‘Nice Boys’ or ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Outlaw’ or better yet, ‘Manzil Madness’. I never saw him with Heaven, although I do have a couple of bootlegs from shows in LA they did in 84 when they were based there. As a rock disciple and a student of rock history, I knew how significant a band the Tatts were, so when I saw a lot of Cocksy playing around the traps in Sydney in the late 80’s I lapped it all up. To see Cocksy and Wellsy playing together in Heart Attack was indeed something special.  Many venues, many dates – most of which escape me. He was great with the Headhunters, he was great with the Wild Colonial Boys (click here to read a review of the Wild Colonial Boys and hear a Mick Cocks guitar solo from 1988). In 93 I saw a bunch of the reformed Tatts shows and Mick was great, as you’d expect.  I even saw him in 1992 in Canberra playing rhythm guitar with TMG and a few Tatts shows in 98.  I never saw him in Doomfoxx but I have their album and its killer. Even after seeing him live all those times I never once bothered to get a photo with him, or to get him to sign something, cos I thought that these guys would last forever and would always be around. I do remember chatting to him at the Gladesville Hotel in 1990 though where I saw him lead a version of Heart Attack minus Pete Wells. (I think I have that show on cassette somewhere). Mick was only 54 when he died. Far too young, and like many others, I will always remember him fondly.

Heart Attack 1990 (Mick Strutt, Pete Wells, Lucy De Soto, Paul Demarco, Mick Cocks)

And you know something? If you look skyward and you hear a thunderous sound emanating from the heavens, fear not. It’s just the house band – Digger Royal on drums, Ian Rilen on bass, Wellsy and Cocksy on guitars, and Thorpie out front – playing loud, very very loud. If you listen real close, you can still hear that ‘stutter gun’ blazing away. RIP Mick Cocks. Never forgotten.

Check out a Mick Cocks interview from 1988 that talks about the Wild Colonial Boys project here.

Dork alert - it's Short Stack

Last Sunday evening I found myself channel surfing, and with no rugby league, baseball or decent historical documentary to watch – I landed on the industry backslapping night of nights known as the ARIA (or Australian Recording Industry Association) Awards. Powderfinger were on, and the kids were lapping it up. Powderfinger are a great example of musical mediocrity being thrust to the top of the Oz industry when there’s really little else by way of competition. Did you read the ARIA hype about Powderfinger ? “In a fitting finale to their phenomenal music career,” and “One of the most beloved bands in Australian history”. Who wrote this tripe ? Phenomenal ? Please, spare me.  If you hang around for 15 or so years, people start to heap the ‘legendary’ or ‘phenomenal’  tag on you that was once only reserved for such acts as Chisel, Easybeats, Skyhooks,  Divinyls, Angels and the like. I saw Powderfinger very early on in their career in 1995 at the Manly Vale Hotel. They were OK. Middle of the road, certainly not deserved of all this lavish praise that’s bestowed upon them. How much overseas success did they have by the way ? Yup, there you go. They were named after a Neil Young tune, so points for that. As the night wore on, I found myself squirming as each act was announced, each more and more derivative. As far as I’m concerned, the best days of Australian rock ‘n’ roll are gone. The music lives on – but with no Billy Thorpe, Peter Wells, Ian Rilen, Lobby Loyde and the like, it’s pretty much over.  I saw all those guys, so why would I get excited over a band like Temper Trap ? Shortstack ? Sure, I know, they ain’t pitching at my demographic, but with the funny haircuts and the lightweight guitar pop sounds derivative of everything that came before them, I’m sorry kids, but these dudes ain’t the saviours of rock n roll.  Whilst I’m at it – bands like For Our Hero (any name will do nowadays for a band) and Shortstack have the cute factor that may appeal to the 14 year old girls (and maybe some confused boys too, as the image they portray looks pretty bloody feminine to me), but no musical integrity at all. Are these kids the future of rock n roll ? If so, count me out. Yet back to the ARIAs, still they came. Washington, The Temper Trap, Operator Please, Birds Of Tokyo – still I could see no Aussie rock torch bearers amongst this lot. The night wore on with ‘MOST POPULAR INTERNATIONAL ARTIST’ going to London quartet MUMFORD AND SONS. Of these banjo playing geeks, Aria write “With a gutsy, old-time sound that marries the magic of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young with the might of Kings of Leon, their incredible energy has drawn Australian music fans in to their circle of songs, to the warmth of their stories, and to their magical community of misty-eyed men.” Who wrote this crap? Why is the Australian recording industry acknowledging a NON AUSTRALIAN band, particularly a bunch of limeys? Do you think in the UK they have a category for ‘best Australian Band’? I think not.  The night was hosted by eternal hipster but still irrelevant DYLAN LEWIS. Predictably, every Mum’s favourite GUY SEBASTIAN performed live, as did the tie died friends of Bob Brown JOHN BUTLER TRIO. Who else made an appearance? Yep, the same old faces were trotted out – Timmy Rogers, the ever so funny ‘Chaser Boys’, Kasey Chambers and the absolutely awful Jessica Mauboy. The only highlight of the night was the appearance of the always smoking hot Carmen Elektra (whoops, Electra).  The amazingly talented stalwart James Morrison (who as a musician was head and shoulders above all others there) won the award for best Jazz album but where was he ? Why didn’t he perform ? He has a funny haircut too. AUTHENTIC bands like Black Label have been around for a long long time and are completely ignored by ARIA – so it shows you just relevant the association is. Who will save Australian rock n roll ? After watching this garbage, I’m buggered if I know. You tell me  – then we’ll both know.

Blood, Sweat and Beers: Oz Rock from the Aztecs to Rose Tattoo’ looks like one hellava great book ! Leading Australian rock journalist Murray Engleheart has been working on this title for some time and it will hit the shelves of Australian stores soon – (1st November is the release date). I personally cannot wait to read this one. If you are a fan of Thorpie, the Rosie Tatts, Angels – or Australian Rock in general – this book is one you must add to your collection. Will add an updated post with a book review soon !

Further info here