Posts Tagged ‘Rum Babas’

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)


Episode #1 of Rockbrat Radio was successfully launched – and aired aired live on the internet on 31 August 2010.

The debut show was titled ‘long lost all-girl bands’ and featured acts such as Girl Monstar, Dragster Barbie, Mystery City, Leathur Panteez, Trinymph and Rum Babas

Listen out for new shows in the coming weeks !

Show #1 can be downloaded or streamed here

20 years ago, four wild looking girls from Sydney were blending cleverly written pop songs, pulsating drum rhythms and loud guitars. The results were amazing. The band was called the Rum Babas – a truly great rock band who never failed to nail it live. The Rockbrat always had a good time when he saw them perform. The Rum Babas had a truly authentic sound all of their own and yet again, I can only wonder why they never cracked the big time. Vocalist and Percussionist Sandi Novak is currently performing with the outfit Pretty Bionic. Time For A Rockbrat Chat ! (interview conducted 23-Aug-2010)


Rockbrat: How did Sandi Novak get into rock n roll ?
Sandi Novak:
Well…in High School, (my sister) Janelle and myself formed a kinda post-punk band called The Johso’s, and we played all these punk nursery rhymes like ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’. Because we were pretty much broke, I had an old Pearl drum kit and Janelle got her first old bass guitar. It was an Fender copy (big heavy thing) – her boyfriend sprayed it pink and white. She still has that bass.  

RB: What was the first record you bought ?
SN: The first record I remember buying was a Skyhooks 45, called ‘All My Friends Are Getting Married’. I found a dollar note on the street and went and bought it. I think I was about 9 or 10.  

RB: What was the first concert you attended ?
The first music gig I ever went to was a covers band at our High School called The Edge (what a bunch of spunks) My friends were in love with the singer. I was in love with the drum kit !  

RB: I am yet to see another band perform live with a lead singer/percussionist. Did you have a drumming background ?
SN: Yeah – I started drumming when I was 12. I also had a pair of bongos, but when I started hitting them with drum sticks Mum got me a kit.  

RB: I remember first seeing the band in early 1988, from memory, at the Revesby Roundhouse supporting the Candy Harlots. When did the band form and where was the first gig ?
The Rum Babas formed in 1988, but when we started Mishelle Ker and I both played a full kit and we had 5 other members. Janelle was on bass too. I didn’t start singing til we decided to get serious and Mish, Janelle and myself broke away from the others. I never really intended to be a singer in a band. It just kinda worked out that way, cause we auditioned heaps of girls, but no one gelled.  

RB: I recall that the band changed its name to Jezebelle for a while there in 1989, and that Fiona Horne was in the band on second guitar. Why the change of name and how long was Fiona in the band ?
SN: We were told to change our name by Michael Gudinski (Mushroom Records) who came to see the Rum Babas one night at the Kardomah….he also suggested ‘Blush’, ‘Champagne’,’ Scarlet’, or ‘Jezebelle’. He thought that a more commercial name would be more appealing to Mushroom. I remember that we were really pissed at our manager for making us do that. It confused our fan base. Fiona was in the band for about a year from memory. She replaced an American girl by the name of Dircy. Gudinski also suggested that we get a blonde in the band – (from memory he also suggested that she have big breasts ! lol !  

RB: I remember listening to the ‘New Noise’ segment on JJJ in 1989, a live to air radio session you guys did with Tony Biggs. Did you do any other radio sessions ?
We did a lot of radio interviews at Triple J and at 2SER (college). We also did a lot of interviews in Melbourne whilst on tour – and a couple in Brisbane too.  

RB: The band supported Concrete Blonde in 1990 correct ? Were there any other big name supports ?
I guess we supported a lot of big name bands at the time as we were with The Harbour Agency –  so we were fortunate to play with people like Richard Clapton, Celibate Rifles and Dragon on a weekly basis. I remember playing with David Essex once, and also The Animals. We were massive Concrete Blonde fans so that support was kool.  

RB: The Rum Babas often used to support the Candy Harlots. Does any one specific memory for you stand out from those days and the Candys in particular ?
My fave memories of playing with the Candy’s (most of it’s a blur), was when I would go behind the curtain backstage at gigs and sit right behind (drummer) Tony Cardinal and watch him play up close. Cause I knew all the songs like the back of my hand, it felt like I was playing along. Tony’s a great guy, he was kool – they were kinda like our big brothers, cause we shared the same manager. Fun days.  

RB: The band had a wealth of great songs, heavy on percussions, and to my ears, your sound had great appeal and offered something different to the mainstream guitar rock bands that were so common back then. I was sure that you guys would make it. Were you disappointed that you didn’t get signed to a big label ?
We were strangely, not that focused on getting a record deal. We had offers from Virgin and Polygram, but our manager at that time was really cagey about letting us sign and we were all so naive, we found out later after speaking with certain people, that the labels wanted the band – but not the manager. In all reality, I think the Babas were probably a victim of mis-management,and a lack of direction. We were gigging 3 to 4 times a week, had a four-man road crew, and a manger and an agency, so we never saw any money. We worked our buts off. But it was fun and an excellent way to cut our teeth in the business. A real education !  

RB: Other than the ‘3 Good reasons’ EP, and the appearance on the ‘Rockin Bethlehem’ compilation LP, was there any other official releases ?
No more releases were made. We spent some time in the studio recording stuff for an album for release in Germany on a label called ‘Normal’, but the band split soon after.  

RB: I always thought that a pulsing ‘Feel The Beat Of The Drum’ after the Japanese intro-tape ‘Sakura’ was a great way to begin the set – was that your idea ?
I think we had a string of intro-tapes over the years, but Mish and I loved opening with drums, cause it announced to the audience that we were there…and to wake the f%#k up!  

RB: Quality wise – tracks like ‘Trash Baby’ and ‘Heartbeat’ still sound fresh and in the Rockbrat’s opinion, rival ANY underground classic to come out of Australia.….what are your favourite Rum Babas tracks ?
My fave tracks were ‘Heartbeat’ and all the percussion stuff, like ‘Rescue Me’, and ‘Beat Of The Drum’. But I think my very favourite song was ‘Windscreen Hazy’. That song was written about a friend that died in a car accident when we were all 16. She was my brother’s girlfriend and Janelle and I were never the same.  

RB: Did the band play outside of Sydney ?
We toured interstate to Melbourne and Brisbane and also the A.C.T.  

RB: When and why did the Rum Babas call it a day?
: We ended the band eventually due to direction disagreements. Janelle and Mish and myself went on to form a trash/sleaze rock band called Honey Slammer. Kathryn didn’t want to play rock music anymore, she was sort of heading in the funk direction and we wanted to rock hard, cause we were listening to Skid Row and Sku Siskin. Kathryn was (at that time engaged to my older brother and it all got a bit much). We were together for a few years and we really grew up together. They are all still my sisters and we still hook up every now and then. In fact we are doing a reformation gig at the Sando in Newtown on the 20th October.  

RB: There was a one off reunion in the early 2000s right ?
The last re-union gig we did was in 2004. We did one back in 2000 as well.  

RB: Can you tell me about your most recent outfit Pretty Bionic ?
Pretty Bionic (thanx for asking) is a pop band. Keyboard based. The line-up is myself on keys and drums/percussion, Pru Grimson on lead vox, and KJ on keys and MCing. We play originals and I write the songs,…and DONT SING! I love it. I can relax and do what I love. We just finished recording an album and have been talking to some New York labels, so we are excited and keen to head overseas.  

RB: Where does 2010 find the other ex-members of the Rum Babas ?
The other girls are all doing their thing today. Janelle lives down in Melbourne and has two children. She and her husband run a successful homewares business. Mish plays in a country band called Spurs For Jesus and also runs her own art business. She is an amazing and talented artist. Kath lives up at the Central Coast now with her husband Nick and she writes for various Sydney regional newspapers. I’m always at her to play her guitar and never lose that amazing skill she possesses. She laughs at me. Fiona lives in Los Angeles and writes books on witchcraft. She spends her days skydiving and is in a happy healthy place. I am a song writer/vet nurse/animal welfare advocate. I currently live in Sydney and am really happy in my current band. I’m not sure where Dircy is these days, I’ve often tried to find her on facebook, but no luck. I could have sworn that she walked past me at The Cult concert recently at the Big Top. She was from Boston in the States, so maybe she’s living happily over in America.  

RB: There is a Rum Babas Re-union this November. You must be looking forward to it !
We can’t wait to hook up in November to play again. It should be pretty kool.  

RB: What excites you musically these days ? Who have you been listening to ?
These days I listen to the same stuff I’ve always listened to – Joan Jett, Sheila E (who I jammed with recently) – I’ve been getting into old 70’s funk and I really like some new bands like the Galvatrons and Red Ink. I love the marriage of hard guitars and keys. So I have a real passion for 70’s rock like 10CC, Pablo Cruise and The Babys. My fave new artist is Ladyhawke.  

RB: Name your five ‘Desert Island Discs’ ?
My ‘Desert Island Discs’ would be Lou Reed’s ‘Rock and Roll Animal’, Ricki Lee Jones – ‘Pirates’, any Tori Amos album, AC/DC – Back In Black’ and the New Radicals one and only album ‘Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too’. Oh God……can I please take my i-Pod ?!

When: Saturday 20 November 2010  – 7:30pm

Where: Sandringham Hotel – 387 King Street – Newtown

One of Australia’s finest all-girl outfits the Rum-Babas will do a one-off re-union show soon in Sydney as support to the also re-formed Vanilla Chainsaws.  Newcastle outfit The Dragstrippers will kick off the evening. I really should alter that photo at left to read ‘2010’ but it’s a cool image to accompany this news piece. Be there !

Kardomah flier and match book

The Kardomah, the KD . In the late 80’s, this was THE rock place to be at. It was where all the wannabes and posers strutted around, thinking they were Sunset Strip material (when in all likelihood they were just suburban boys, as Dave Warner once wrote). I suppose it was the closest thing that Sydney had to LA’s Cathouse, NYC’s Limelight or London’s Marquee. Indeed, any Sydney muso worth his salt just had to be seen at the KD, and many punters invariably ended up at 22 Bayswater Road after seeing a gig earlier that evening somewhere else in the city or suburbs. That’s right, it was one of those venues where the headliner came on fashionably late, ie: 3 am. So it was that the Rockbrat saw many a Kings Cross sunrise after ending up back at the KD. The Kardomah was without a doubt the spiritual home of Sydney’s Candy Harlots, and we saw the band there many a time. I remember that the venue was always way too dark, which I suppose was fashionably cool at that time, and I could ! never bloody see where I was going. I can’t remember every band I saw, but I do remember seeing the Candy Harlots, Screaming Tribesmen, The Bombers, Rum Babas, Mudhoney, Hitmen DTK and the Flying Tigers. I certainly recall seeing Mark Easton’s last show here with the Candy Harlots in 1991. (There is a video of this performance and you can see the Rockbrat jump up on stage with Easton). Anyway, here is an old flyer an matchbook from the Kardomah. I noticed a few years ago that this venue was trading under the name of ‘Candies Apartment’. The irony of that may have been lost on others, but not the Rockbrat. Great days my friends.

The kind folk at Wikipedia pulled down my article on the Rum Babas as I ‘couldn’t prove the authenticity of my subject’. They also continually delete my photographs as I cannot prove I am the owner – but that’s another story for another time ! Well here on the Rockbrat blog I’ll write what I damn well want ! It really is a wonder Wikipedia have any contributors at all with the way they carry on. Anyway – let’s talk about The Rum Babas ! Info on this fine Sydney all-girl outfit is scarce, so how’s about we rectify that !!

The Rum Babas were an all female rock band from Sydney, Australia (1987-1993). The Rum Babas hailed from Sydney’s southern suburbs, and they were formed in 1987. They first came to my attention sometime in 1988 when they supported the Candy Harlots – whom they would support numerous times. This was no 2nd rate opening act ! Rather, the Rum Babas were a great live band who wrote great pop rock songs. Their sound was a blend of pulsating guitar rock with a flashy percussion beat. They gigged at many of Sydney’s live venues and would also support The Divinyls and also Concrete Blonde. Sandi had a unique voice which was a key element to their sound, as was the pounding percussion which she would perform – usually standing up front whilst singing ! It was a great visual aspect which I’m yet to see performed by another band.Great songs like ‘Feel The Beat Of the Drum’, ‘Heartbeat’ and ‘Windscreen Hazy’ were are killer live cuts and it’s a shame they remain largely unknown.

The band appeared on Triple J’s New Noise program on 27 April, 1989. In search of success, The Rum Babas changed their name briefly to Jezebelle, before reverting back to their original moniker. They appeared on the Timberyard Records compilation album ‘Rockin Bethlehem – The Second Coming’ in 1990, recording the song ‘Hearts On The Table’. In 1991 they released a 10″ vinyl EP titled ‘3 Good Reasons’ which was produced by Kevin ‘Caveman’ Shirley (who would later find international fame with Slayer, Iron Maiden, Aerosmith etc) and was nominated for an ARIA award for best independent release. Released on Sydney’s Timberyad Records it, if nothing else – preserved their distinct sound for all time, but their live sound wasn’t at all captured.

Many people do not know that Fiona Horne – now famous as one of Australia’s premier witch, (also of Def FX fame) was once a member of Jezebelle. True. I saw her playing second guitar with Jezebelle at Coogee Bay Hotel. From memory the band did a one-off re-union in the mid-90’s at Newtown. Michelle Kerr currently drums for Spurs For Jesus under the pseudonym Miss Dirt Track Daisy. Sandi Novak is currently a member of Pretty Bionic. Looking back this band had so much going for them with some dynamite songs – it’s a shame they never made it. I am glad to say I was there and saw them many times. Good memories my friends…
 Band Members
* Sandi Novak – lead vocals, percussion
* Janelle Novak – bass
* Michelle Kerr – drums
* Kathryn Cann – guitar
* Katherine TulichDiscography  

* 3 Good Reasons EP (1991)  

Compilation Appearances  

* ‘Rockin Bethlehem – The Second Coming’ (1990) 







  Two very rare live recording are known to exist Rum Babas ‘Feel The Beat Of The Cross’ (live at Kardomah Cafe, Kings Cross 27.4.89) which also includes the band’s Triple J appearance, and Jezebelle ‘More Good Reasons’ live at Banjo’s, Gladesville 29.6.89 – covert art from both CD’s below


  (set list from a gig at St James Tavern, Sydney – 15 December 1988)