Posts Tagged ‘Mark Easton’

002Over the recent holiday break I took the opportunity to continue on with the seemingly never ending task of digitalising my collection of bootleg audio cassettes. Never ending cos I never seem to finish it – but I will this year – I made it a resolution! Anyway, so in the box are bootleg cassettes. Live recordings of predominantly Sydney bands, recorded from different gigs over a period of several years.  One band whom I bootlegged about a dozen times was the Candy Harlots. For a brief moment there, (in around late 1988, early 89) their star was on the ascent, and as far as their chances of ‘making it’, they were the short priced favourite. Mr Rockbrat and I saw them a stack of times during this period. Fans of the world wide glam / metal scene dug them too, for they were creating distinctive, original heavy rock with melody aplenty. Word on the street spread like wild fire around Sydney and Melbourne and in hard rock circles, they were the name on everyone’s lips as the ones who would go to the next level. History has shown that yes, they did sign to, and release an album with Virgin Records (although this was in 92 when they’d lost all sense of their original Gary Glitter stompisms and tongue in cheek delivery and had morphed into garden variety LA style cock-rock shtick), and the Mark 2 version of the band (sans the original Mark out front) did score a support lot with AC/DC, but that was about it. For mine, they never fully capitalized on the momentum they built early on, particularly from say 6/88 to 6/89 – which really, is when they peaked. Word had it they were offered a deal with Virgin after only their first or second gig – but their astute Manager knocked it on the head with a “Wait boys, if one major label come a knocking, there’003s sure to be more to follow”. That wait was 4 years, and by then, the global glam / hair metal scene was about to change rudder and sail  into a collision course head on with Seattle. Yet anyway, I digress. One cassette I pick up is dated 6 January, 1989, and it’s from Banjos, Gladesville. I listen to it, and it’s pretty good. It sends me down memory lane. So, here is a song for you from that nite, 24 years ago! Sheesh! I have included a gig ad I also found for that gig as well. Interesting to note that the awesome Kings Cross had the support (Hi Jed), and Tommy Emmanuel was on the night before!  Let me tell you, the last two times I’ve seen him have not been in pubs, that’s for sure! The classic line up of the Candy Harlots with Barrett (RIP), De Hugar, Cardinal, Leeno and Easton were, on their day,  as good as any band I’ve seen. Listening to their set reminded me how much of a musical influence Gary Glitter was, particularly with the big thumping drum parts and the lyrical delivery. Anyway, here’s the band playing their debut single ‘Red Hot Rocket”, from Banjos, Gladesville, 24 years ago today!! I’ve also dug up a gig review for this show, which appeared in On The Street magazine, Sydney. Click on it to read it. Enjoy!



...memories from the late 80's

Here is a flier from mid-1989 for the debut single from Sydney’s Candy Harlots. These A4 pink fliers were pasted around the streets of the CBD and it is an interesting time piece. Maybe you have one ! There is a story behind this. I know because I designed it. Do devout fans still make fliers ? I guess, though it ain’t quite the same. With modern technology, every kid seems to know their way around Photoshop so whipping up a flier would be a sinch ! My brother and I were heavily hooked on this band. I wanted them to success. Those shows, especially in 1988 – just after Leeno Dee joined were magic. They coulda been right at home on any big stage, yet here there were – shaking the walls of tiny, stinking, shitty pubs like the Lansdowne in Broadway ! For only a select few, they were a great secret – or “Sydney’s Biggest Live Secret” as was once written.  I can remember making this flier like it was yesterday. The band logo I hand drew and coloured in from their gig adverts I would see in OTS mag. The stars were stickers pasted on, and the letters were those ‘rub off’ kind you could buy at newsagents. A friend of mine knew a cartoonist, whom I supplied with a band photograph. I would later enlist her skills whilst working with Melbourne’s Girl Monstar. I was very happy with her finished sketch. So with my original A4 sheet all glued down, I purchased an amount of ‘glam’ pink paper, then risked my job by keeping the phoocopier hot ! My brother and I walked around   all the record stores, including the 2nd hand ones in the city and handed these fliers out. From memory the band were playing a gig at the Sydney Cove Tavern later that evening, and I recall putting one under the wiper of Easton’s red FJ. My favorite memory from all this is when guitarist Ron Barret gave me some merch later that evening to show their thanks. He was a sweet guy. I interviewed vocalist Mark Easton some time back on Rockbrat Radio where he talks about much of this time period. Great days !!! Great memories !!! There you have it. So if you think the passion for rock n roll runs deep in my veins via this blog, clearly, the signs of rock n roll adoration were pulsating around me long before this !

Marc Lee De Hugar of The Candy Harlots lets it rip.....1988

If the Kardomah Cafe in Kings Cross was the spiritual home for Sydney’s Candy Harlots – then the St. James Tavern in Castlereagh Street must have come a close second. The St. James Tavern had a long flight of stairs at the entrance, and looking back, must surely have been a bit of a fire trap risk. In 1988/89, I saw a stack of bands there, including bands like the Screaming Tribesmen, Psychotic Turnbuckles and Celibate Rifles, and I  must have seen the Candy Harlots there about 10 times – and it was always good. They often were supported by the underrated all girl band the Rum Babas, who had a distinctive and original tribal beat. I remember seeing Angry Anderson there one night – he’s come to check out the Candy Harlots.  Some of the live footage for their ‘Red Hot Rocket’ video was filmed there. In 1988, Mr. Rockbrat and Cowboy Col travelled all over Sydney to see the Candy Harlots, the ‘next biggest thing’, who came so close to inking with a major label it wasn’t funny. In 88, they were the best kept secret on Sydney’s live scene – and had an amazing young guitar player who had fast fingers, flash, and hair as big as Steve Stevens. His name was Marc Lee De Hugar, and he was part of the Candy Harlots line up that I remember most fondly – along with Mark Easton, Tony Cardinal, Leeno Dee and Ron Barratt (RIP). Here’s a photo taken by Mr. Rockbrat of De Hugar in action at the St. James Tavern in July, 1988. Great days my friends…….it only seems like yesterday! (If you have a look at the photo of Mr. Rockbrat at page left, you will see he is wearing a Candy Harlots Tee Shirt – the first ones the band ever made)

Mark Easton has been producing great rock n roll for some years now. In a career that began with the riotous late 70’s Wollongong punk outfit Suice Squad, Easton was then a member of seminal Sydney band The Kelpies. In the early 80’s his band Soggy Porridge were at the forefront of the Australian post-punk movement. He then went on to front Sydney’s notorious Candy Harlots who combined well written rock songs with a wild and outrageous stage show – the likes of which had never been seen before, or since. They should’ve gone on to conquer the world, but it was not to be. For the last ten years Easton has been continually recording and touring, and is well respected in the Australian Blues community. Tune in to hear an exclusive interview that was recorded on 9 December 2010 where Mr Rockbrat covers many aspects of Mark’s career as well as some general rock talk !

When: 10PM AEST          Wednesday 15 December 2010

OK, here’s an old one from 20 years ago now, the 18th of June, 1990 to be precise. At the time of the release of the ‘Danger’ single, the Candy Harlots’ Ron Barrett and Mark Easton were interviewed by Sydney’s Radio station 2MMM. I am not sure if Ron ever did any other radio interviews, but this one was recorded and preserved by the Rockbrat. Now you can enjoy it too. The interviewers are the Angels’ Brent Eccles and some other standard radio jock, but it’s a good interview none-the-less. Enjoy. It runs for about 10 minutes. Listen here.

Ron Barrett was only 26 years old when he passed away.

Ron Barrett at far right with his Candy Harlots band mates

I knew him fairly well via him being a member of the Candy Harlots. The first time I saw him with that outfit was supporting Cheap Trick at The Tivoli in April of 1988. I would go on to see him perform with the band on at least 30 other occasions – maybe more. He was always polite and friendly when I chatted with him, and from all accounts – a decent human being.

Barrett had played with the Glam Savages, which also featured bassist Nick Szentcuti and drummer Peter Ayscough. Vocalist Mark Easton who had been fronting the band – left to form the Candy Harlots, taking Barrett and Szentcuti with him. I never saw the Glam Savages. I saw their name in the gig guide, but never did check them out.

From 1987 until his death in 1990, Ron was rhythm guitarist/songwriter with the Candy Harlots. From that first aforementioned show at the Tivoli, to the Harlots Ball at the Coogee Bay Hotel, Barrett had a great stage presence and with his red gretch, and confederate flag draped around his left cowboy boot, looked every bit the underground rock star.

Barrett, unknown ligger and Mark Easton at an in-store appearance in 1989

One great memory I have of him is from a weekday show at the Kardomah Cafe in Kings Cross where he showed up after work in his suit and tie, and did the gig in business attire. He looked cool and I wish I had’ve taken a photo. I remember when the band’s debut single was released, I was so focused on them obtaining worldwide domination, I’d designed a promo flier – even enlisting the help from a local Hanna Barbera cartoonist (a favour I would call on again when working with Girl Monstar). My brother and I believed in the Candy’s are subsequently covered the Sydney CBD with Candy Harlots fliers (even pinning one in a restaurant unlocked menu cabinet on George Street). Later that night – after a gig at the Sydney Cove Tavern, Barrett comes out, shakes my hand and thanks me for all the hard work. In appreciation he gave me a signed 8×10″ which I’ll always keep, cos it means something.

I think the last time I saw him with the band was at a Gladesville show in late 1989. I had dropped out of that scene somewhat – maybe feeling disgruntled that they hadn’t cracked the bigtime. Fast forward to October 1990 when I get a phone call from a friend asking if I’d seen that day’s paper ? He tells me that Ron Barrett had died. I walked in shock to purchase a newspaper and stood reading in disbelief. Barrett’s girlfriend at that time was well-known Australian actress Virginia Hey (who, according to Wikipedia had also dated Michael Hutchence and Duran Duran’s John Taylor). If not for Hey, Barrett’s passing would’ve made the music street press, and not the mainstream media – which is the way it goes I guess.

Barrett died from an asthma related attack. Ultimately – even though the band went on to be signed to a major label – they never did reach the heights which they justifiably deserved. In my opinion, they would’ve made for a  great opening act during that Guns n Roses tour of December 1988, but that’s ancient history.

Barrett wrote the tune ‘Wrap 2 Arms’ which appeared as the B-Side of their second vinyl single ‘Danger’ which was released on Timberyard Records. When the post-Easton line-up signed with Virgin, their first single was a re-recording of ‘Danger’ which was backed with another Barrett composition called ‘Hot Love Child’. For a time the band were opening their set with this tune and it was a scorcher. I believe his nephew Dane gigs around Sydney in an outfit called The Disadvantaged. Things  go full circle I guess…

26 years old is young, too young to die. I’ve got very fond memories of the Candy Harlots – particularly the 1988 shows, and great memories of their rhythm guitarist named Ron Barrett, who left this earth way before his time. Rock on brother…


image courtesy TV Week 1990

In the late 80’s, the Sydney music scene was being whipped into a frenzy by a notorious bunch of brats calling themselves The Candy Harlots. This article is focusing only on the period of time, when the band were once tagged ‘Sydney’s biggest live secret’, and in the process cut two burning singles. Forming in mid ’87, the band were led by Mark Easton (ex-Suicide Squad, Kelpies, Soggy Porridge) one of the most charismatic, flamboyant and visually exciting performers to ever grace a stage. Pounding the skins was Mark’s old Soggy Porridge band mate – Tony Cardinal. Rhythm guitarist Ron Barrett joined via The Glam Savages, and the lead guitarist was a young guitar maestro – Marc Lee De Hugar. Solid bass player Leeno Dee (ex-Roxx) completed this explosive line-up, joining in August of 1988. Although The Kardomah Cafe in Kings Cross was their regular haunt, they trekked all over the city, emerging from a haze of dry ice and pyro, decked out in leather, cowboy boots and jewellery, and unleashing their unique style of sleaze rock onto unsuspecting audiences. The girls loved ’em though most of their jealous boyfriends didn’t. The front rows of their audiences were made up of scantily clad, adoring women, who fondled their beloved blonde front man, and were in turn, handed roses and lollipops during the show. They boasted a stage show that complimented their pulsating set, and was relished by the inner city crowds, but a real eye opener for those North and West of the Harbour Bridge ! These bad boys of Australian rock broke a lot of new ground, hurling forth their sexually orientated melodic tones to an ever growing audience. With Easton’s often outrageous stage antics, some venues weren’t too keen to have the Candy’s back in a hurry, and the boys were even hauled off stage one night at the Caringbah Inn by the local constabulary. Love ’em or hate ’em – you couldn’t ignore ’em. Supports were numerous: The Cult, Angels, Cheap Trick, Divinyls, Kings Of The Sun, The Sunnyboys and D.A.D among others. Their debut single (released in April 1989 on Melbourne’s Au Go Go label) ‘Red Hot Rocket’ shot straight to the top of the local chart, and the first pressing sold out in under three hours. This limited edition run of 1000 copies were pressed on red vinyl, and included a sticker and came snugly wrapped in a pair of customised knickers (white, green or pink). A second pressing also sold out within four days later. Once all copies disappeared, a picture sleeve issue then appeared. Engineered by TMG drummer Herm Kovac and produced by Mick Cocks from Rose Tattoo, this Easton penned song is indicative of everything the band stood for. A thumping, humorous effort, that captures Easton’s unique vocal style. This guy could sing, and also possessed a frightening scream that made their live shows all the more memorable (hunt down the 1985 Soggy Porridge single ‘Call My Name / Rip This Soul Apart’ and I’m sure you’ll agree with me). Sections of the video for ‘Red Hot Rocket’ were filmed at the ‘Harlots Ball’ – a gala evening held at the Coogee Bay Hotel on 19 November 1988, although the majority was filmed at Sydney’s St James Tavern. The Candy Harlots appeared as cover stars for On The Street mag, and in early June ’89 with word quickly spreading, headed south to set Melbourne’s stages alight. They played two memorable debut shows, the first at Geelong’s Barwon Club (my memory of some local red necks watching Mark Easton with his performing can of foam is a treasured one !) and then the following night, playing to a packed house at Richmond’s Corner Hotel. With major label interest the future appeared bright, and this particular line-up seemed destined for stardom, and it’s a mystery as to why they never attained it. The continual gigging carried on, and the band released their second single ‘Danger’ in 1990 on the Timberyard label, but by now the buzz around town was beginning to fade. This song was penned by Dee, and his songwriting prowess shines through. An incredibly catchy chorus, mixed with some memorable lead guitar work, coil themselves around Easton’s distinctive vocals, and this song manages to capture some of their raw live power. It’s one of my all time favourite singles. This version is far superior to the Aiz Lynch / Virgin backed effort that was to emerge two years later. Ron Barrett’s ‘Wrap 2 Arms’ was a mainstay in their live set, and this crunching effort loses none of it’s bite on disc either (Lee De Hugar’s blitzing solo deserves mention also). Unfortunately ‘Danger’ lacked the hype and promotion of it’s predecessor and was generally ignored. Tragically on 2 October 1990, Ron Barrett passed away – apparantly choking to death after vomiting during an asthma attack. Ron was only 26 years old, and I found him to be one of the nicest people I’ve met in this industry. His love and enthusiasm for his music was felt by all who knew him, and he is still greatly missed. The Candy Harlots soldiered on, with ex-Rags n Riches guitarist Phil Bowley replacing Lee De Hugar, and ex-Flying Tiger Peter Masi replacing Ron Barrett. More gigging ensued, but on Friday 22 March, 1991 at their old stomping ground – The Kardomah Cafe, Mark Easton, after several years on the Sydney circuit – gave his final performance and left the music scene. This line-up of The Candy Harlots etched forever a permant mark, unleashing their unique brand of hot, heavy, sexual, explosive, and pulsating style of rock n roll. They deserve their place in the annals of Australian rock, and I’m sure many hold fond memories of a time when this exciting band were dubbed ‘Sydney’s biggest live secret’.

by Denis Gray

Easton and DeHugar at Dee Why Hotel (photo: Denis Gray)