Posts Tagged ‘festival records’

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.  

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165194-L-LOIf you need a reminder of why Australian rock n roll of the 1970 and 80s was the best in the world – then ‘The Glory Days Of Aussie Pub Rock’ is for you. Festival Records have done a superb job in capturing the best bands of that period, with a whopping 4 CD, 90 song set that has something for everyone. The obvious guitar heavyweights of the pub rock period are represented – with songs by Cold Chisel, The Angels, Divinyls and Rose Tattoo – yet what makes this comp a standout from others, is that the good folks at Festival have given some thought and insight when putting the project together. For example: Unlike other previous comps, where the ‘obvious’ hit was the choice to represent the band – on this CD, it’s not the case. The Angels tune is not the somewhat tired sounding ‘Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again’, but the Birdman influenced ‘Shadow Boxer’. The Rose Tattoo tune is ‘One Of The Boys’ which probably should have been released as a single. By taking this approach – it means that the CD set will appeal to seasoned punters who were actually there during these halcyon days – as well as those who weren’t. Smart move. The Skyhooks tune is even a non-Shirley tune – with the often overlooked ‘Over The Border’ sounding vital and relevant. Superb, McCainsh lyrical wit as you’d expect.

 It’s good to hear pub rock stalwarts The Radiators, a band that probably should have had success overseas in the early 80s, as well as Spy V Spy – both bands I saw in countless Sydney pubs in the 1980s.  My favourite Spy’s tune is ‘Sally Ann’, but ‘Hard Times’ reminds you why this band were pub rock kingpins in the mid 80s. Rose Tattoo’s Pete Wells ‘Between The Saddle and The Ground’ is one of the other highlights. Plaintive, Dylanesqe vocal delivery – outlaw country – melodic, memorable riff – a tune that should have been bigger that what it was.

 It’s good that the OL’55 tune is ‘C’mon Let’s Do It’ and not the go-to tune ‘On The Prowl’.  Ol ’55 had a lot more going on musically than just being a revival outfit, and this tune reminds you of that. Ol 55’s key songwriter Jim Manzie had a lot of pop sensibility, and once free of the restrictions of being in a 50’s revival band, (both a blessing and a curse no doubt ), he began to really explore his pop song writing chops. His work with post OL ’55 outfits The Breakers and The Fives is often overlooked. The long out of print Breakers tune ‘When I’m On TV’ is included on this comp and it sounds great. Superb hard edge pop with a stack of melody and catchy chorus.  Almost worth the price of the CD for that tune alone! Who else remembers seeing this on Countdown?

From the early 70s period that are tunes by Buster Brown, Jim Keays, Thorpie, Daddy Cool, and Fraternity.  From the mid 70s there are tunes by Taste, Hush, Dallimore and Supernaut (with one of their brilliant post punk tunes ‘Unemployed’). TMG are also here too with ‘Gonna Be Somebody’, a disregarded hard rocking single lifted off their 1978 ‘Disturbing The Peace’ album. This tune sounds killer – given the digital treatment. From the 1980s – there is more great Oz pub rock fare with the Baby Animals, Screaming Jets, Kings Of The Sun, Noiseworks, Nick Barker, Hoodoo Gurus, The Church and the Saints. There are so many great bands here – you’d be hard pressed not to find something to your liking. There’s also Kevin Borich, Stars, Richard Clapton, Moving Pictures, the Hitmen, Dingoes, the Ferrets and the Sports.

Painters & Dockers get a guernsey with ‘Die Yuppie Die’ whilst the Flowers tune ‘Sister’ is a good alternate choice to ‘We Can Get Together’.  I forgot how good Heroes were, and ‘I Can’t Go On’ sounds fresh. Who else remembers The Motivators, The Aliens, Flaming Hands, Young Modern and the Johnnys? That’s right – they are also represented here.

Whilst Russell Morris is getting all the accolades (justly so) for his recent blues albums, people often forget his great work in the late 70s / early 80s. My favourite album is ‘Foot In The Door’ and how can you go past ‘Running Jumping Standing Still’ as an example of an iconic tune – Australian or otherwise? This CD contains one of his tunes with The Rubes, ‘Walk Don’t Run’, which is melodic and catchy hard edged pop from a guy who has a truckload of great songs to his name. Forget about ‘The Real Thing’ and ‘Wings Of An Eagle’ – dig into his late 70s period!  ‘Walk Don’t Run’ will get your started.  

I hadn’t heard The Spaniards tune ‘I Want To Live In A House’ since I saw Starstruck at the movies back in 1982, and it’s also good to hear Mike Rudd & The Heaters – another guy whose extensive body of musical work post Spectrum/Arial is often overlooked. One of Adelaide’s great pub rock bands The Boys are here with ‘Weoh Weoh Weoh‘, and the fantastic Numbers also with Four Letter Word’. Annalise Morrow certainly had it going on, and The Numbers were just about guitar-pop perfection.

Another pleasant surprise was the female fronted Melbourne outfit The Kevins, whose single ‘Romeo Romeo’ was originally released in 1982 on the White Label. I’d forgotten what a great tune this was and it’s good to hear it unearthed and given a new lease of life. Nice deep that stacks up well against bands with a larger profile.

Mi-Sex were one of the best bands of the pub rock glory days, and ‘Graffiti Crimes’ sounds fantastic to my ears in 2017. In fact Mi-Sex’s music sounds better as time goes on. Testament to the songwriting.  The album winds up with Swanee out front of The Alan Lancaster/John Brewster version of the Party Boys – and ‘High Voltage’ is a nice recap of what I told you at the start – Australian rock n roll is the best there is. 

A couple of surprises on the album were the Cockroaches tune ‘Hey What Now’ which is close to hard rock (on the verses anyway) and a long way from the Anthony Field Wiggles era –and the Warumpi Band’s ‘Stompin Ground’ which is indeed hard rock. Good tune too.

This is not a hastily thrown together comp. Like other recent Festival compilations, (Boogie!, When Sharpies Ruled, Silver Road etc), the bands and songs that represent them have been well considered – with a finished product that serves as a great audio document of a wonderful period of Australian music history. The package contains an excellent booklet with exhaustive liner notes, band info and cool images – including front page covers of many old issues of RAM!

Note that this is volume 2. Volume 1 also contains a monstrous 90 odd tracks and is equally worthy of your attention. Good work Festival. Keep up the good work Dog! 9 out of 10. Available everywhere.