Finally the last post about Australian classic rock of the 60s and 70s! In this post we are going through the alphabet from Normie Rowe to Zoot.
Without further ado… Let’s go!
Normie Rowe: At the age of 18, Normie Rowe released his first single “It Ain’t Necessarily So”, which peaked at #5. That same year, he got to #1 with the double A-side, covers of “Que Sera Sera”/”Shakin’ All Over”. The following year, he and his band The Playboys went to the UK, touring with The Troggs, Gene Pitney, and Sounds Incorporated.
By the late 60s, Rowe was conscripted into the army. He was shipped off to Vietnam in 1969. This made it difficult for him to keep playing music so his pop career faded away. When he came back to Australia, he felt ostracised by his own fans for having served in Vietnam. By the 70s, he did the hotel and club circuit and in the 80s he made his foray into acting.
Olivia Newton-John: We all know this Cambridge-born singer and actress for playing Sandy in Grease, which they made the character Australian just for her. She is part German on her mother’s side. Her grandfather immigrated to England before WWII to escape from the Nazis. Olivia Newton-John immigrated to Australia with her family when she was 6.
During her teenage years, she liked to sing and formed a girl group with some friends and appeared on TV shows and radio shows. In 1964, she won a talent show on the show Sing Sing Sing, hosted by Johnny O’Keefe. The prize was a trip to England. She was hesitant to go because she would miss her boyfriend (at the time), but her mother encouraged her to take advantage of the opportunity and even came with her to England. Even while she was in England, she tried to book trips back, but her mum found out and cancelled.
In 1966, Olivia Newton-John released her first single through Decca Records, a cover of Jackie DeShannon’s “Till You Say You’ll Be Mine”. This was a one-off single deal and the single didn’t really go anywhere. It’s rare to find original copies of the single.
She started to feel better when her friend, Pat Carroll arrived in the UK. She and her friend Pat Carroll formed a singing duo and toured around Europe. Pat Carroll’s visa eventually expired and she returned to Australia, but Olivia Newton-John stayed in England through the first half of the 70s. In 1968, she got engaged to Bruce Welch of the Shadows, but there was a problem, he was married. This wouldn’t be the last time she was associated with members of the Shadows.
At the end of the 60s, she was casted in the pop group, Toomorrow, which purported to be Britain’s answer to The Monkees. Toomorrow were formed by Don Kirshner, who worked with The Monkees in their early years. Harry Saltzman, who co-produced the James Bond movie series, had a role in forming the group.
A movie by the same name of the group was released in 1970, Nothing became of Toomorrow. After album sales and a short run of the sci-fi/musical film, they quit. A lot of time and money ($1 million, I’m assuming in 1970 dollars) was spent on making this movie, and for nothing. At least the cast were paid well.
Don Kirshner was so ashamed of the project, he left mid-production after arguments with Saltzman and never wanted to see it again in his lifetime. The year after he died, the movie was released on DVD. From what I can see from clips available online, the music’s okay and forgettable. Only watch this if you’re a big Olivia Newton-John fan.
The 70s were a busy and successful time for her. She released her first album in 1971, which was a minor success in the US, with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “If Not for You” reaching #25 in the charts.
Meanwhile in her two countries, the UK and Australia, “Banks of the Ohio” was in the top 10. She also often appeared on Cliff Richard’s weekly TV show. Unfortunately, her fame in America waned, until 1973 when she released a country album called Let Me Be There. Her foray into country music was successful, with her winning the Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocalist. Some country fans being disappointed that she won the Country Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year Award, beating musicians like Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton. She would get multiple hit singles in the mid 70s in the US.
And we finally get to Grease. This movie led to her meteoric rise in popularity. She met the producer, Alan Carr, at her friend Helen Reddy’s dinner party. At first, she was reluctant to star in a movie again because of Toomorrow being a flop, but she accepted the offer. The rest is history: Grease was the #1 movie in 1978, the soundtrack was #1 for 12 weeks. Finally, Olivia Newton-John’s image changed and she went back to pop music and the 80s brought Physical.
Pat Carroll: Friend of Olivia Newton John. She loved to sing and dance since she was a kid. She appeared on Australian television with Olivia Newton-John and met up with her again in the UK and they sang together in clubs. Her visa expired and she went back to Australia. She married John Farrar, who was a member of The Strangers in the 60s and a frequent songwriter for Olivia Newton-John. She had a solo career, but none of the singles she recorded were commercial successes.
The Purple Hearts: This Brisbane rock band formed in 1964 as The Impacts. Like many other rock bands of the era, they started off doing Shadows-style guitar driven rock instrumentals before evolving to a more blended psychedelic and bluesy sound.
There is a British mod revival band of the same name and they obviously have no relation to this one, but the way this band got their name was the same, naming themselves after popular amphetamine pills mods loved to take, you might have heard the name in the movie Quadrophenia.
From 1965-1967 they released a few singles, minor to moderate successes: “Long Legged Baby”, “Of Hopes and Dreams and Tombstones”, “Early in the Morning”, “You Can’t Sit Down”, and “Chicago”. The most successful single was “Early in the Morning”, which peaked at #33 in 1966.
The band split up in January 1967 and went their separate ways. One of the band members, Tony Cahill, joined the Easybeats as a drummer. Mick Hadley joined a Walker Brothers-esque vocal group called the Virgil Brothers before forming Coloured Balls. Barry Lyde (later known as Lobby Loyde) joined the Wild Cherries and their sound changed from a jazz sound to a psychedelic sound and he was influential in changing Billy Thorpe’s image. Bob Dames joined prog blues band Bulldog.
Radio Birdman: This Sydney band was one of the first independent punk bands in Australia and are considered one of the most influential Australian bands. They were formed by Deniz Tek and Rob Younger in Sydney in 1974. The name comes from a misheard lyric from The Stooges’ “1970” – actually “radio burnin’” but misheard as Radio Birdman.
Their first EP, Burn My Eye, was released in 1976 with a low budget. The band were rejected by many labels because of their unconventional sound, but Trafalgar decided to take a chance on them. This short and sweet, 11 minute and 32-second-long EP is worth listening to and songs like “Burned My Eye” and “Smith & Wesson Blues” being great early moments for the band. All the songs are good and worth listening to get a feel for their 70s sound.
In 1977, they released their first album, Radios Appear, also on the Trafalgar record label. The album was distributed via mail order and in person sales from the band members’ station wagons, a real DIY and punk rock approach. The album’s title is a reference to one of their favourite bands, Blue Oyster Cult. Sydney radio station, 2JJ gave this album a lot of radio airplay when other radio stations didn’t. Radios Appear earned critical acclaim and in 2008, The Age listed it as the third best Australian album of all time. My favourite songs on the album are: “Murder City Nights”, “Descent into the Maelstrom”, “Monday Morning Gunk”, and “New Race”.
Also in 1977, the band moved to the UK for better opportunities, but they did not have a record label, tour support, or distribution deal. They played their last show at Oxford University in 1978.It would be a four year wait until their next album, Living Eyes, was released. The songs on that album were recorded in 1978 in Rockfield Studios in Wales. Most of the songs on the album were new, but a few songs: “I-94”, “Smith & Wesson Blues”, and “Burned My Eye” were older songs that were re-recorded. It’s worth a listen.
Rick Springfield: Everyone knows “Jessie’s Girl”, but this time, we’ll be focussing on his career before that and before he was playing a doctor in General Hospital.
He was born Richard Springthorpe in Sydney and because his father was an army officer, he moved around, living in England for part of his childhood. As a teenager in 1964, he saw The Beatles play in Melbourne. In the late 60s, he was in the band Rockhouse, and at the end of his teen years, he toured South Vietnam with them, entertaining the troops. He joined Zoot in 1969 as their new lead guitarist, replacing Roger Hicks.
Rick Springfield embarked on his solo career in 1971, releasing his debut single, the country/pop sounding “Speak to the Sky”.
This song was a hit and an international success, charting in Canada and the US as well as his birth country of Australia. His debut album, Beginnings, was recorded in London and released in 1972. The album isn’t the best production wise and his singing skills clearly have improved since then, but it’s an interesting listen to see how he evolved from there. After that album was released, he decided to move to the States.
Sadly, from there, it was a steady decline and the other singles released did not replicate the success of “Speak to the Sky”. His follow-up album, Comic Book Heroes, was released in 1973, and he was marketed as a teenybopper icon all because of his appearance, even though his sound wasn’t necessarily the most teenybopper. While the album had better production and he sounded more confident, the album was not well received. I liked the songs “I’m Your Superman”, “Why Are You Waiting”, “The Liar”, and “Do You Love Your Children”.
The next album he released was an Australia-only release called Mission Magic, featuring music from a cartoon of the same name he was in. The album artwork is totally 70s teen magazine in aesthetic and the sound is fitting, being more poppy than his last two albums. In all fairness, the songs are catchy and enjoyable. Not everything has to be ground breaking.
Rick Springfield released one last album in 1976, Wait for the Night, before taking a break to focus on acting. There are some solid songs on this album like “Take a Hand”, “Jessica”, “Old Gangsters Never Die”, and “Life is a Celebration.”
His return to music in the 80s was more successful than the first go around, with a string of hit singles.
Rose Tattoo: Hard rock band formed in 1976 in Sydney. The band describe their sound as hard rock combined with blues rock and call themselves rock ‘n’ roll outlaws. Their look was unique with their short hair and tattoos. Rose Tattoo are led by fittingly named “Angry” Anderson. The Rolling Stones, Faces, and Billy Thorpe were their biggest influences. Fellow hard rockers AC/DC recommended the band to their label, Albert Productions and from there, they were signed. George Young and Harry Vanda produced their first four albums.
Their self-titled debut was released in 1978. Highlights from that album include: “Nice Boys”, “One of the Boys”, “TV”, and “Stuck on You”.
Russell Morris: Singer-songwriter from the late 60s and early 70s. He started his career in the Melbourne band, Somebody’s Image. The band got a hit with their version of Joe South’s “Hush”. In their city, they peaked at #2 and nationally they peaked at #15. Later, the band were signed to EMI Records and they got one last top 40 hit with Russell Morris still in the band, “Hide and Seek”.
Russell Morris released his psychedelic debut solo single, “The Real Thing” in 1969. What made it different than other songs released as singles was its length, almost seven minutes long, making it the longest pop single recorded in Australia in the 60s. Many musicians worked on this extravaganza like Johnny Young, The Groop, Sue Brady and Judy Condon of Marcie and the Cookies, and Roger Hicks of Zoot. Despite DJs hesitation to play a song that long, “The Real Thing” was the real deal and topped the charts. Russell Morris followed up with another psychedelic chart topper “Part Three into Paper Walls”. It was the 12th best-selling single of 1969. His success continued throughout the early 70s with singles like “Mr America”, “Sweet Sweet Love”, and “Wings of An Eagle” reaching the top 10.
In the mid 70s he relocated to America to hopefully be heard by more people, but after a couple years he didn’t feel like he was getting anywhere, so he returned to Australia.
The Saints: One of Australia’s biggest punk bands, best known for the punk classic and one of the top 30 Australian songs of all time, “(I’m) Stranded”. The band formed by three school friends: Chris Bailey, Ed Kuepper, and Ivor Hay in Brisbane in the 70s. Lead singer Chris Bailey was born in Kenya and spent his early childhood in Belfast until he and his family moved to Australia when he was 7. Ed Kuepper was born in Bremen, West Germany and came to Australia when he was a kid. The bands biggest influences range from 50s rockers like Little Richard and Elvis Presley (The Saints covered “Kissin’ Cousins” on their deubt album) and 60s protopunk like The Missing Links (on The Saints’ debut album, they cover their song “Wild About You”), The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, and MC5.
The band changed their name from Kid Galahad and the Eternals to The Saints in 1974. By the mid 70s, they found their trademark sound. They’re best known for their fast tempos and buzz saw guitars.
Their first single, “(I’m) Stranded”, was released in 1976. While it is now known as a punk favourite, at the time, the band had trouble finding a distributor so they self-released it and sent copies of the single to various outlets in Australia and the UK. Their persistence paid off because a small UK label, Power Exchange distributed it. Some other highlights on the album include “One Way Street”, “Messin’ With The Kid”, “Erotic Neurotic”, “No Time”, and “Nights in Venice”. By the end of the year, they opened for AC/DC, gaining some exposure.
By 1977, they relocated to Sydney and their debut single was reissued, reaching the Kent Music Report charts, peaking at #98. That same year, “This Perfect Day” was their highest charting hit, at #34 in the UK. The band didn’t chart again until 1984. By this point, their sound was less punk.
SCRA: Also known as Southern Contemporary Rock Assembly, this short-lived jazz rock group were formed in 1971 and released only two albums. The band were made up of lead vocalists Sheryl Black and Mickey Leyton, percussionist Ian Bloxsom, drummer Russell Dunlop, bassist Dave Ellis, trombonist and harmonica player Greg Foster, lead guitarist Jim Kelly, trumpet player Mike Kenny, guitarist Peter Martin, and saxophonist and flautist Don Wright. The band’s members came from not only Australia, but the UK and New Zealand as well.
Their debut album was released in December 1971 with three songs released as singles: a cover of Ma Rainey’s “CC Rider” (, “Roly Poly” (#19 Australia), and “Sydney Born Man”. My favourite of the three is “CC Rider”. Not all the songs on this album can be found on YouTube.
Their second and last album is easier to find online and it’s called The Ship Album. Two songs from that album were released as singles: “Our Ship” and “It’s A Game”.
After the band broke up, many of the band members did session work or joined other bands like Crossfire or Ayers Rock. This blog post has more information on the band.
The Seekers: Pop/folk band founded in Melbourne in 1962. Their lead singer was Judith Durham. Athol Guy played double bass, Keith Potger played guitar and banjo, and Bruce Woodley played guitar and mandolin.
They got major success at home and abroad with multiple top 10 hits. Their first #1 hit in Australia and the UK was “I’ll Never Find Another You” in 1965. From there, they had a string of hits until 1968, when the band broke up.
Their next big hit was “A World of Our Own” (#2 Australia, #19 US, 1 South Africa, #3 UK, #2 Ireland, and #5 Canada). Those two songs were written by Tom Springfield, Dusty Springfield’s older brother.
“The Carnival is Over” is a cover of a Russian folk song from the 1880s and that topped the charts in Australia, the UK, and Ireland, making it their second #1 of 1965 in Australia and the UK.
1966 was a big year for the band with all four singles they released that year being in the top 30 in Australia and the UK. The biggest three were “Someday, One Day”, “Morningtown Ride”, and last, but certainly not least, “Georgy Girl”. Georgy Girl is a 60s pop staple and was the title song for the film of the same name.
The singles released after in 1967 and 1968 were nowhere near as successful as “Georgy Girl”. Still, when they played in Melbourne in March 1967, they had a record breaking turnout at their concert, with 200,000 people in the audience. At the time, it was the largest audience at a concert in the Southern Hemisphere. On Australia Day of 1968, they were named Australians of the Year. The next month, Judith Durham left the band and they broke up.
In the 70s the band had reunion tours without Judith, recruiting singer Louisa Wisseling.
Sherbet: Band formed in Sydney in 1969. Their sound was teen-oriented and poppy. The classic lineup were made up of vocalist Daryl Braithwaite, bassist Tony Mitchell, keyboardist Garth Porter, drummer Alan Sandow, and guitarist Clive Shakespeare. Their inspirations were Motown and rock music.
Their first album, Time Change… A Natural Progression, was released in 1972. The album is mostly pop-rock, but there are some rockabilly influences like in the song “Do It”. Some singles from that album reached the top 40. Their cover of Stephen Stills’ “Love The One You’re With” is enjoyable and I like the organ in it.
Their second album, On With the Show, was released in 1973 and peaked at #6 in the albums charts. Most of the songs on the album were written by the band, except for a cover of Graham Nash’s “Chicago”. “Cassandra” was the only single released on that album and that reached the top 10.
The mid 70s, between 1974-1976, were the peak years for the band charts wise, with songs like “Slipstream”, “Life”, “Only One You”, and “Rock Me Gently” making the top 10. They topped the charts twice. The first time with “Summer Love” in 1975 and once again with “Howzat” in 1976. “Howzat” didn’t only top the charts in Australia, but it also topped the charts in New Zealand. The song title is a reference to cricket. The song was also a chart success in the UK (#4) and the Netherlands (#6) and a minor hit in the US, making the Hot 100.
Skyhooks: Glam rock band formed in Melbourne in 1973. School friends Greg Macainsh and Imants “Freddie” Strauks formed a group in 1966 called Spare Parts that became Sound Pump in 1968. A couple of years later, they became the band Frame, which had Graeme “Shirley” Strachan as lead vocalist. Skyhooks formed in the autumn of 1973 with Steve Hill on vocals, and Peter Ingliss and Peter Starkie on guitar. If you like Slade, The Sweet, and T. Rex, you might like them.
The band’s first single, “Living in the 70s” was released in 1974 and made it to #8. The following year, “Horror Movie” topped the charts. A few other hits like “Ego Is Not a Dirty Word”, “All My Friends Are Getting Married”, and “Million Dollar Riff” nearly topped the charts, making it to #2 on the Kent Music Report charts.
As for their albums, I enjoyed them and I think they’re worth listening to, especially Living in the 70s and Ego is a Dirty Word. The good news is they can both easily be found on YouTube.
They released one album with a cool title that really stood out in the year 1976, Straight in a Gay Gay World. The album was recorded in Sausalito, California after their 1976 US tour. I like the songs “Million Dollar Riff”, “Somewhere in Sydney”, “This Is My City”, and the title track “Straight in a Gay Gay World”. As a bisexual, I love the reference to bisexuality in the lyrics of “I’m Normal”.
Spectrum: Progressive rock band formed in Melbourne in 1969. They got their start playing Traffic, Soft Machine, and Pink Floyd covers. The band were made up of drummer Mark Kennedy, organ player Lee Neale, bassist Bill Putt, and frontman/lead guitarist Mike Rudd. Much like Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd, their live shows had elaborate light displays.
In 1970, they were signed to EMI’s prog rock label, Harvest Records (same label as Pink Floyd). They first recorded “Launching Place Parts I & II” (to promote a festival of the same name) and “I’ll Be Gone”. The latter was spontaneous and it turned out to be a major success for them, topping the charts in early 1971. The year 1970 concluded with them playing at Launching Place, a town with a lot of camping grounds on the Yarra River.
Their first album, Part One was released in 1971. Overall this album is good. The highlights are the songs “Make Your Stash”, “Superbody”, “Drifting”, and the psychedelic single “Launching Place, Pt. 1”.
Their follow-up album, Milesago, was released that same year. It is longer than the previous album and has more longer, more proggy songs, like “Your Friend and Mine”, “The Sideways Saga”, “Fly Without its Wings”, and “Milesago”. Some enjoyable songs on this album are “Love’s My Bag”, “Untitled”, the interestingly titled “What the World Needs (Is a New Pair of Socks)”, and “Fly Without Its Wings”.
Their next album, Warts Up Your Nose, was released under a different name, The Indelible Murtceps, described as a more poppy and pub rock sort of side project. Because of the change in sound, the band got a hit with the single, “Esmeralda”. The songs on this album are a bit quirky, but there is one prog song, “Some Good Advice”. After the following album – a split album with Murtceps and Spectrum songs, Testimonial, was released, the band broke up.
Post breakup, Mike Rudd, Bill Putt, and John Mills joined the band Ariel and Ray Arnott joined The Dingoes.
If you like Procol Harum, Focus, and Rare Bird you might like Spectrum.
The Sports: Rock band formed in Melbourne in 1976. Their sound is a mix of British pub rock and new wave and it’s way more British than Australian. At first The Sports did covers of early rock and roll and R&B songs, and then they started writing their own songs.
Their debut EP, Fair Game, was released independently in early 1977. Thanks to a friend of the band living in London, the record got into the hands of NME journalists, who named it Record of the Week. It is rare with only 500 copies pressed. Most of the songs cannot be found on YouTube, but I found “Twist Señorita”.
Their debut album, Reckless, was released the following year. While I couldn’t find the entire album online, I found some songs enjoyable like “Boys (What Did The Detectives Say)”, “You Ain’t Home Yet”, “When You Walk in the Room”, and “I Put The Light On”. The two singles from that album, “Boys” and “When You Walk in the Room” were minor chart successes charting at #55 and #42 respectively.
In 1979, they released their sophomore album Don’t Throw the Stones. This album sold more than the previous one and the singles “Who Listens to the Radio” and “Don’t Throw Stones” were bigger successes charting at #35 and #26 respectively. This album was ranked #51 in the book 100 Best Australian Albums. Some other good songs on this album are “Suspicious Minds” (not the cover of the Elvis Presley song, this one is power pop), “Live Work & Play” (nicely combines 50s rock and roll with power pop), and “Don’t Throw Stones”. Again, due to the band name, it’s hard to find the songs online and they don’t have anything on Spotify. I’m sure they didn’t anticipate the internet coming and how their name isn’t exactly Google friendly.
Stevie Wright: The frontman of The Easybeats, also known as “Little Stevie” went onto have a solo career after the band broke up. He co-wrote some of the Easybeats’ biggest hits: “She’s So Fine”, “Wedding Ring”, “Come and See Her”, and “Sorry”. In the early 70s he started the Stevie Wright Band and Stevie Wright & The Allstars.
Like all the Easybeats, he was an immigrant. He was born in Leeds and his family moved to Sydney in 1960, when he was a teenager. He met the other members at the Villawood Migrant Hostel, outside Sydney.
His biggest hit was “Evie (Parts 1, 2, and 3)” off the album Hard Road in 1974. Overall the album is good, but there are some great songs like “Hard Road”, “Life Gets Better”, “Didn’t I Take You Higher”, and of course, the star of the show, “Evie”.
“Evie” is one of those super influential songs. It’s a three-parter, with each part having its own sound from blues to piano ballad to pop-rock, and standing for the three steps in the cycle of love songs: wishing to be with someone, being happy that you’re with them, and losing them (in this case, Evie dies after giving birth). In total the song is 11 minutes long and has a similar idea to “A Quick One While He’s Away”, telling a story in less than an album, a concept song, in other words. The song was written for him by the famous Vanda/Young songwriting team. If you have to listen to one Stevie Wright song, pick “Evie”.
The following year he released the album Black Eyed Bruiser. It’s a decent album and my favourite songs on it are “Black Eyed Bruiser”, “Guitar Band”, “The People and the Power”, and “I’ve Got the Power”.
In 1976, Stevie was hospitalised due to his addictions to alcohol and drugs. For a few years, he was on various treatments like methadone and the controversial deep sleep therapy (a mix of shock therapy and drug induced coma).
He took a break from music and returned in the early 80s with Flash & The Pan.
The Strangers: This band formed in Melbourne in the early 60s and were active throughout the decade. At first they liked to play covers of Shadows songs, and funny enough one of the band members, John Farrar went on to join a reformed lineup of The Shadows in the 70s.
Their early songs like “The Cry of the Wild Goose”, “Torlido”, and “Leavin’ Town” have a beat and guitar led rock instrumental sound reminiscent of The Shadows and surf rock bands.
In 1964, they opened for Roy Orbison during his tour of Australia. The Surfaris and The Beach Boys were also on that tour.
In the mid 60s, they had a lineup change and with that came a change in sound to adapt with the times. These songs incorporated vocals since guitar-led rock instrumentals were on their way out. In winter 1965, they got a hit with their version of “If You’re Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody”, reaching #2 in the charts. From there, they worked with a lot of musicians both Australian and international like Russell Morris, Johnny Young, Johnny O’Keefe, The Seekers, Ted Mulry, Lynne Randell, and The Masters Apprentices.
In 1967, the band got a hit with “Western Union”, reaching #30 in the charts.
The band got a hit in 1968 with “Happy Without You” (reached the top 10 in Melbourne and top 20 in Brisbane), . By this point, they had more of a psychedelic pop sound.
The band broke up in 1975, but the band managed to do well in the early half of the decade with singles like “Melanie Makes Me Smile” (#14) and “Mr President”.
Want to go beyond the hits? Check out the songs: “Put Yourself in My Place”, “Fever”, “California Soul”, and their version of The Small Faces’ “If You Think You’re Groovy”.
Tamam Shud: Short history blurb: This Newcastle, NSW psychedelic rock band were named after the famous unsolved mystery of The Somerton Man. In 1948, an unidentified man was found dead on a beach south of Adelaide on 1 December 1948. A scrap of paper torn out of a copy of Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam with the Persian phrase “Tamam Shud” (meaning finished) was found in his pocket. Australian authorities asked the FBI and Scotland Yard for help, but the case remains unsolved even 70 years later. I’m not a true crime blog, so I’ll stop there.
Back to our regular programming. Tamam Shud were formed in 1964 in Newcastle, a city 101 miles north of Sydney and the second largest city in New South Wales. They went through a series of name changes from The (Four) Strangers to the Sunsets and then settled on the cooler sounding Tamam Shud in 1967.
Like a lot of other Australian bands of their generation, the band began as an instrumental/surf rock band in their (Four) Strangers years. They released a couple of singles: a surf rock instrumental called “The Rip” and a garage rock gem, “Sad and Lonely”. Both are gems and enjoyable listens. On Spotify, you’ll find some songs on this era on the remastered bonus tracks edition of Evolution. I like the songs: “You’ll Be Mine”, “When I Found You”, “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”, and “The Hot Generation”.
They released their first album as Tamam Shud in 1969. The album is called Evolution and it is a great prog/psych album. Some highlights on the album are “Evolution”, “Mr Strange”, “Lady Sunshine”, “Feel Free”, “Rock on Top”, and “The Slow One and The Fast One”. If you want to purchase this album and own it on vinyl, you’re in luck because you can buy it on Bandcamp.
The following year, Tamam Shud released their second and last studio album, Goolutionites and the Real People. The album is on The Guardian’s list of strangest records on Spotify. The album is far from commercial and it’s an interesting listen, a prog acid trip. If you want to take a break from your usual prog rock classics, this is a good choice. I like the songs “They’ll Take You Down on the Lot”, “I Love You All”, “Stand in the Sunlight”, and “Goolutionites Theme”.
In 1971, the band released an EP called Bali Waters. They broke up in 1972 and reformed in the mid 90s. There are three tracks on the EP: “I Got a Feeling”, “My Father Told Me”, and “Bali Waters”. “I Got a Feeling” was the last single they released and “Bali Waters” was in the surf movie, Morning of the Earth.
Ted Mulry (Gang): Glam/rock band led by none other than Ted Mulry. Mulry himself was born in Lancashire and was signed to the very famous Sydney record label, Albert Productions. He sang a Vanda & Young composition, “Falling in Love Again” in 1971 and it was a hit, peaking at #7. He didn’t just perform other people’s songs, he even wrote some of his own. He released two solo albums, Falling in Love Again in 1971 and I Won’t Look Back in 1973.
In 1972, he formed his own band and they got signed in 1974 to the same label, Albert Productions. Their sound was more of a harder rock style.
Ted Mulry Gang released their first single in March 1975, “Sunday Evenings”, which peaked at #87, so not too strong. Six months later they released their second single, “Jump in My Car” and it topped the charts and there was a string of hits over the next couple of years like “Darktown Strutters’ Ball”, “Crazy”, “Jamaica Rum”, and “My Little Girl”. On Spotify, there is a live album with a bunch of their hits.
The Throb: Short-lived R&B/rock band from Sydney. They were best known for their 1966 version of Benny Spellman’s “Fortune Teller”, which got to #4 in the charts. It’s worth listening to.
They only released one other single, “Black is the Colour of My True Love’s Hair”, but that was not nearly as successful, just peaking at #42. The band broke up in 1967 and went their separate ways, joining other bands. This song has a sombre, bluesy, and a bit psychedelic sound.
I could find one more of their songs on YouTube, “Believe in Me”. I think it has a nice garage rock kind of sound. It’s really a shame this band did not last long because I would have liked to hear more of their music.
Travis Wellington Hedge: Short lived Adelaide pop rock band, only playing for a little less than a year. Little River Band founding member Graeham Goble was in this band. The band performed on TV 9 times in a period of 10 months.
They competed in Hoadley’s Battle of the Sounds in 1969, representing the state of South Australia in the vocal bands category. They got third place in the nationals.
In the end, the band only released one single, covers of “Hey Bulldog” and “I Put a Spell on You”. You can hear a Moog synthesiser in “Hey Bulldog”.
Tully: Prog rock band from Sydney, active from 1968-1972. They often worked with a collective called Ubu Films that made psychedelic lightshows. All the musicians were experienced and knew how to play multiple instruments. The band often get compared to contemporaries Tamam Shud because of their diverse influences.
In total, the band released three albums. Their self-titled debut was released in 1970. The album has a unique sound, but parts of it remind me of Curved Air, Focus, and Procol Harum. Their sound is not as heavy as Tamam Shud, and you can hear more classical and jazz influences. Interestingly enough, none of the songs are that long.
Their second and third albums, Sea of Joy and Loving is Hard were both released in 1972.
Sea of Joy is a mostly slow album and while it’s mostly not my taste, I liked the Indian influenced sound of “Syndrone”. “Down to the Sea” is another track that stands out.
Loving is Hard was their last album and released the same year as Sea of Joy. Again, this album isn’t my taste, but a couple of songs weren’t bad like “The Real You” and the Latin/Jazzy “Poco a Poco”.
The Twilights: One of the most influential and respected Australian rock groups of the 60s. Singer Glenn Shorrock was in this band before he was in Axiom and Little River Band. Another famous alumnus is Terry Britten, who would later become a successful songwriter and producer.
They formed in a predominantly immigrant town outside Adelaide in 1965. Like many other Australian bands, they started off covering songs by British Invasion bands. The Twilights stood out in a sea of similar bands because they would cover the latest stuff and update their setlists.
They released their first original single in the winter of 1965, “I’ll Be Where You Are”. The song reminds me a bit of The Zombies. “I’ll Be Where You Are” only really made it in their hometown of Adelaide, but it got a little appreciation in Melbourne. Subsequent singles like “Come on Home” and “If She Finds Out” were more successful nationwide.
In 1966, the band moved from Adelaide to Melbourne for better opportunities and it was their biggest year. The band started getting more success and started appearing on TV shows like The Go!! Show. They also competed in Hoadley’s Battle of the Sounds and won a trip to the UK aboard a ferry.
During their time in the UK, they were excited to try on fashions from Carnaby Street, but they didn’t get any major success because there was a saturation of talented bands. They felt that they couldn’t compete, but they did play the Cavern club for a week and they recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios. A nice treat for them was seeing The Beatles record “Penny Lane”. The most tragic thing was as they were on their way back to Australia, they were invited to perform on Top of the Pops. They had to decline because they couldn’t turn the boat back.
The Twilights still had some positives. They got their biggest hit that year, an excellent and fun cover of The Velvelettes’ “Needle in a Haystack”. Their version reached the top 10 in all the big cities in Australia. On the Go-Set charts it beat “Yellow Submarine”, “Sunshine Superman”, and “Summer in the City”.
Sadly, from there, the band’s subsequent singles were not nearly as successful. There is a compilation album with some of their hits. One of my favourites on there is the psychedelic “Comin’ On Down”. There’s some nice sitar on “The Way They Played” and “Cathy Come Home.
“Cathy Come Home”, released in November 1967, was a chart success and the band were offered a chance to have their own sitcom, in a similar vein to The Monkees. Sadly, it never materialised past the pilot because the sponsor pulled out.
Some positivity came out of it because they released their most critically-acclaimed album, Once Upon a Twilight, released in 1968. Famous fans of the album include Linda Ronstadt and The Stone Poneys. The following year, the band broke up.
Unfortunately, their music isn’t accessible on the reliable Spotify, but I did find a nice b-side called “Lotus” on a compilation album.
The Valentines: Pop/rock group formed in Perth, Western Australia. They were made up of members of The Spektors and The Winstons. The most famous member of this band is drummer/singer Bon Scott, who went on to join Fraternity in the early 70s, and of course AC/DC in the mid 70s.
In 1967, The Valentines released their first single, a cover of “Every Day I Have to Cry,” first recorded by Steve Alaimo and written by Arthur Alexander. The b-side was a cover of the Small Faces song “I Can’t Dance With You”.
In 1969, The Valentines’ “My Old Man’s a Groovy Old Man” made it to #23 in Australia, their first top 40 hit. The band broke up the following year.
The Wild Cherries: Rock band founded in Melbourne in 1964 that started off playing R&B and jazz. Their sound evolved over time and became more experimental and psychedelic.
The original members were architecture students from Melbourne University. Their name was inspired by the musician Chuck Berry. Through word association that evolved to Buck Cherry, then Black Cherries, and finally Wild Cherries. Their first performance was at the now closed Fat Black Pussycat, a jazz club turned mod club turned discothèque.
You can find a compilation album, That’s Life, put together after the fact on Spotify. The music from this album is mostly their R&B influenced music, demos and live. I liked their versions of “Tobacco Road”, “Without You”, “I’m Your Kingpin”, and “Baby Please Don’t Go”.
X: Ian Rilen, Steve Lucas, Ian Krahe, and Steve Cafiero founded this punk band in Sydney in 1977. In 1978, guitarist Ian Krahe died after a gig at the Bondi Lifesaver.
They recorded their first album, X-Aspirations, at Trafalgar Studios as a three-piece band in one afternoon in 1979. It was released in 1980. Some songs I enjoyed are “Simulated Lovers”, “Revolution”, “Turn My Head”
Zoot: Popular band from the mid 60s to the early 70s formed in Adelaide. Famous alumni include Beeb Birtles of The Little River Band and Rick Springfield.
They began as a mod cover band called Down the Line (a reference to a Roy Orbison song called “Go Go Go (Down The Line)”) and changed their name to Zoot in 1967 thanks to a recommendation from founding member of The Angels, Doc Neeson, to have a short and punchy name.
In 1968, they moved to Melbourne and signed with EMI Australia. They released their first single, “You’d Better Get Goin’ Now” from the 4 Shades of Pink EP. The song has a psychedelic pop kind of sound, but the pop part of it isn’t a bad thing. They released a second single, “1 X 2 X 3 X 4”, which was significantly more successful than their debut single, reaching the top 30.
Partly because of the marketing campaign behind that EP, they were written off as a teenybopper group, therefore not being taken seriously. In all fairness, the artwork does look a bit teenybopper, clean, and sanitised, not edgy or revolutionary. The band ended up rebelling and they appeared naked in a promotional photo.
The remaining two songs off that EP, “Monty and Me” and “About Time” were released as singles and the former reached the top 40.
In 1970, the band achieved their biggest successes. Just Zoot reached the top 20 in the albums charts and their heavier version of “Eleanor Rigby” peaked at #4 in the singles charts. It’s worth listening to.
Just Zoot has some of the songs from the 4 Shades of Pink EP with some original songs written by Rick Springfield. One song I like they released that year was an original song written by Rick Springfield called “Strange Things”.
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