The Iguana were a Melbourne group that formed from the Sands of Time and the Contours in 1967. Members were Gary Sweetman on vocals, Mike McGuire guitar and vocals, Cleve Littlewood guitar, Garry Littlewood guitar, Graham Jones bass and Peter Saunders on drums, later replaced by Russell McGregor.
They had four singles, plus an EP that combined two of their 45s.
I’ve always loved their first single, “Imagine This”. Produced by Pat Aulton on Festival’s four track, it still sounds fantastic! The combination of vocal harmonies with a strong rhythmic backing reminds me of later work by the English group the Action, especially their single “Never Ever” / “Twenty-Fourth Hour”.
Very few have heard the b-side “Dreaming Away to Myself” which is also very good, if not as arresting as “Imagine This”. Garry and Cleve Littlewood wrote both songs, causing some radio station to mark my copy “Aust comp” – I wonder if that helped get them some airplay.
Given the high quality of their first single I think Festival should have encouraged more original songs by the Littlewood brothers. Despite the later reliance on cover songs, I dig their second single, a great version of “California My Way” which I prefer to the original recording by the Committee. I am less enthusiastic with their heavy take on “Ticket to Ride”, the A-side of their third 45.
I still haven’t heard the B-sides to these, “Mary Go Round” and “Sunshine People”, respectively, or their fourth single, “Good News” / “Requiem: 820 Latham”.
Laurie Wade’s Cavaliers started as a surf group, cutting one instrumental single for the Linda Lee label, “Cloudburst” / “The Phantom Guitarist” (written by Laurie Mudge). Hear this first singel on Big Beat’s excellent compilation: Board Boogie: Surf ‘n’ Twang from Down Under).
The Cavaliers included:
Laurie Wade – guitar, vocals Ivan Norman – guitar, vocals Robert Campbell – bass, replaced by Warren Isaacs Chris Rees – drums
Laurie Wade signed to CBS and cut four excellent singles in 1965 and 1966. The style of music changed to beat, but his roots in surf served him well as all the records feature sharp original guitar work. I don’t know the membership of the group, but I assume Laurie played lead guitar, and sang lead on the CBS recordings.
First came the minimal “Say Hey”, backed by a song I haven’t heard, “The Adventurer”. Laurie Wade wrote both.
Warren Isaacs sent in the photo seen here and told me, “Robert Campbell was the bass player on ‘Phantom Guitarist’. I replaced him after that and was on all the CBS records. I was in the group right up to the very end which I think was about 1968.”
The second was an excellent Laurie Wade original, “To Win Your Love”. It’s probably my favorite of their recordings that I’ve heard, with two good guitar breaks, rollicking piano and solid rhythm backing over Laurie’s great vocal. The flip is another Wade original, “Don’t Quit Now”. It’s not a bad song, though I’m mystified by the engineering, as the rhythm guitar starts off too loudly, only to be dimmed along with the rest of the band just six seconds into the song.
In 1966 they cut their most adventurous song, Wade’s “The Colour of Her Eyes”, beginning with a riff like something out of a Sonics song. The rhythm guitarist takes a page out of the surf guitar book, strumming over deadened strings with heavy reverb for a cool background sound. Laurie’s vocals alternate between gloomy and wailing!
I guess CBS didn’t know what to make of this song, as they threw it on the b-side of a cover of “Greensleeves”. The band does an interesting version, with some eerie guitar in the background, but it’s an awkward song and hardly a good choice for them.
I knew Marty Rhone’s raving version of “Every Minute of You”, but I hadn’t heard Laurie Wade’s original recording of it when I first wrote this article. It surprised to hear the band going in a more soulful direction, though it suits Laurie’s voice. Marty Rhone’s release came shortly after.
Although the label credits read just N. Kipner, the notes to Big Beat’s CD Hot Generation! say that “Every Minute of You” was a collaboration between Carl Keats, guitarist for Steve and the Board and Nat Kipner, father of that band’s singer Steve Kipner. For once neither song was a Laurie Wade original. The flip, “Let Me Down Easy” was written by Glasser and Glasser.
Their producer at CBS was Sven Libaek, a staff producer from 1963-1968 whose credits include the Atlantics (including “Bombora”), Lynne Randall, the Jet Set, the Jackson Kings, the D-Men, Kenny Shane and the Pilgrims Five. As far as I know CBS hasn’t bothered to reissue Laurie Wade’s work, which is a shame, I’m sure a remastering from original tapes, if they exist, would sound excellent, and there’s probably some good unreleased songs.
If anyone has more info on the group, please let me know.
Linda Lee LL-008 – Cloudburst / The Phantom Guitarist CBS BA-221215 – Say Hey / The Adventurer (1965) CBS BA-221235 – To Win Your Love (Wade) / Don’t Quit Now CBS BA-221273 – Greensleeves / The Colour of Her Eyes (1966) CBS BA-221357 – Every Minute of You (N. Kipner) / Let Me Down Easy (Glasser – Glasser) (1966)
The Clique came from Perth in the far west of Australia. Shortly after forming they won the western division of Hoadley’s Battle of the Sounds competition in 1966. Though they didn’t win the national final at Festival Hall in Melbourne, they did secure a contract with the Go!! label, and a slot on television’s Go!! Show, notable as Perth bands were usually signed to the Clarion label.
Joe Orifici – vocals, keyboards Lenny Hayworth – guitar Mike Carr – guitar John Tucak – bass Ferdie Ferrante – drums
The band cut their only 45 at Bill Armstrong Sound Recording Studios in South Melbourne. Joe and John were just sixteen at the time, while the others were twenty or twenty-one. The single has two excellent originals, each written by one of their guitarists. Lenny Hayworth’s “Love Me Girl” was the A-side, a driving song with nice tremolo on the guitars and a shouted chorus.
On the flip is the Mike Carr-penned “Stop, Look and Listen”, one of my very favorite songs from Australia in the ’60s. It was certainly catchy enough to be an A-side itself, with a loping rhythm and neat lyrics about how envious folks are of his girlfriend. I like how the backing vocalists shout “They stop” behind the guitar solo.
This was their only recording. They had the option of relocating to Melbourne or Sydney to promote the band through live shows, but they chose instead to return to Perth and break up for college and careers.
This Clique have no relation to the groups of the same name in the U.S. (who did “Superman” as well as a White Whale 45 I’ve seen mistakenly credited to the Australian group: “Soul Mates” / “I’ll Hold Out My Hand”) or the U.K. (“She Ain’t No Good” on Pye, etc).
Sources include: Kommotion!! #2 (thanks to Steve F. for locating that for me).
Isolated geographically in the southern Pacific Ocean, Australian rock musicians may as well have been plying their trade on another planet as far as North American, British and European audiences were concerned. Indeed, in terms of rock music per se, only the Bee Gees (who were primarily pop) and the Easybeats made any headway internationally, and only then once they’d relocated to the mother country.
Yet despite its vast distance from the all-important American and British markets, Australia gave birth to vibrant music scenes that delved deep into beat, R&B, punk and psychedelia. Many of the recordings from this period have found their way on to compilations over the years, most notably Raven Records’ superb Ugly Things aand the noteworthy Sixties Downunder series. Thanks to the dedicated and exhaustive work of respected Australian music archivist Glenn A Baker, mastermind behind Raven Records, these priceless gems have provided a handy introduction to Oz legends like the Missing Links, the Purple Hearts and the Master’s Apprentices.
Less celebrated than many of their Australian contemporaries but arguably more significant in the creative stakes was Melbourne’s Wild Cherries. Where most Oz bands during those halcyon days blatantly wore their influences on their sleeves, the Wild Cherries were uniquely original and uncompromising in their delivery and execution. “Exciting, revolutionary excursions into a musical void with no concessions to commercial demands” is how Australian rock journalist Ian McFarlane describes the band’s music in his superb Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and Pop.
Given that the Wild Cherries contained Australia’s first guitar hero, Lobby Loyde, it’s perhaps not surprising that they are revered by many as such a pivotal band. Apparently a significant influence on such notables as Kurt Cobain, Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus and Henry Rollins, Loyde took the guitar in to uncharted territory on the Australian rock music landscape.
And yet if the truth be told, the Wild Cherries’ real strength lay in the sum of its individual parts, which gave the band an enviable power and kudos. If there’s anyone who deserves credit for being the underlying creative force in the Wild Cherries though, it’s undoubtedly founding member, Les Gilbert (b. 10 January 1946, Melbourne, Australia), today a successful composer and leading exponent of sound and multimedia installations. Perhaps more than anything, it was Gilbert’s interest in sound that enabled the Wild Cherries to delve headlong into their innovative and uncompromising musical excursions.
Having studied classical piano with noted pianist Leslie Miers from the age of six and playing in competitions across the city, Gilbert later became a modern jazz enthusiast, although he never got to play in any bands. Says Gilbert: “I briefly contemplated a career in classical music but became much more interested in art and wanted to become a painter. When I won a scholarship to university I studied architecture because I thought it would further my training as an artist. I dropped out of university after two and a bit years to play in the Wild Cherries as a full-time occupation.”
Gilbert formed the original Wild Cherries sometime in late 1964/early 1965 with several friends from the architecture school at Melbourne University. The founding members of the group comprised John Bastow on vocals and harmonica and Rob Lovett (b. 11 November 1944, Melbourne, Australia) on rhythm guitar and vocals. Interestingly, while he was primarily a pianist, Gilbert initially played bass.
“To start the band, we didn’t really have any equipment,” says Gilbert. “Rob Lovett had his own guitar and a 15-watt Goldentone amplifier. I had made a bass guitar from a broken cello. I had cut the cello down with a saw and glued it back together with a bass guitar neck made by a carpenter friend of my father’s. I found some electric pickups and bass guitar strings in a music shop.”
With the nucleus of the group complete, the musicians started to discuss a suitable moniker for the band. “The name ‘Wild Cherries’ came from an afternoon when we were rehearsing in my bedroom and we were bandying names around,” says Gilbert. “It came from a word game with a corruption of Chuck Berry, which became Buck Cherry, which became Black Cherries, which became Wild Cherries.”
Soon afterwards, Malcolm McGee (b. 1 November 1945, Melbourne, Australia) was added to the line up on lead guitar and vocals. “Malcolm was from the blues scene and had been playing acoustic guitar and singing blues in folk music venues,” says Gilbert. “He made the transition to electric guitar pretty effortlessly. The original drummer came from the medical school at the university, although he didn’t actually make a public performance.”
From the outset, Gilbert was the motivating force in the Wild Cherries and was instrumental in putting together the amplification for the rest of the band. “Another friend of my father’s was a radio engineer and he built me a 30-watt valve amplifier with four input channels,” remembers Gilbert. “I made two speaker boxes, each with a 12” speaker. We somehow found a couple of microphones and we were ready. This one amp with two speakers was for the mics, bass and lead guitar with a speaker box on either side of the stage – and people thought we were loud!”
The Wild Cherries’ debut performance took place at Melbourne’s first discotheque, the Fat Black Pussycat, which was located in Toorak Road, in the South Yarra district. During the ‘50s and early ‘60s, Melbourne had enjoyed a vibrant jazz scene but by early 1965, this scene was in steady decline. Says Gilbert: “The Fat Black Pussycat had been a jazz venue and was run by an American guy called Ali Sugarman – very much along the lines of a New York jazz club. With declining audiences he decided to change the music to stay in business and for some reason I can’t really remember, we were asked to perform the first night of its conversion from jazz to…I struggle with finding a word for what we called our music at the time. We didn’t think of it as ‘rock’ or ‘pop’. We were more serious than that – probably thought of it as ‘electric blues’.”
On the night of the band’s big performance, the musicians turned up only to learn that the drummer was absent. “His mother wouldn’t let him come, so we had to play the whole night without drums,” explains Gilbert. “John Bastow furiously shook maracas and banged a tambourine. Our repertoire came from a mixture of old blues songs, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, etc and we probably knew about a dozen songs we could play – which we just kept repeating for the night. We were the only band. There weren’t many around.”
Despite the drummer’s absence, the evening was a great success and the band was asked to play at the club for five nights a week. In a fortuitous turn of events, the group found a replacement drummer straight away. “Kevin Murphy had been playing in a modern jazz trio which now didn’t have any work and he joined us,” says Gilbert. “He was a big man with an incredibly powerful technique. He sat very low and used huge drumsticks. Totally out of the ordinary at the time, although it soon became the norm. We expanded the repertoire and very often featured extended solos for all of us – straight out of the modern jazz tradition. Songs would involve a lot of improvisation and would last up to 20 minutes – Kevin Murphy’s drum solos would sometimes go on for 20 minutes on their own!”
The new line up soon got the opportunity to record, albeit crudely, when Gilbert’s friend Lloyd Carrick recorded the band’s rendition of Manfred Mann’s “Without You” in his parents’ sitting room on a 1/4” Tandberg recorder! John Bastow was absent on this occasion and it was left to Malcolm McGee to provide the song’s gutsy lead vocal.
As multi-talented as it was however, a group comprised of such disparate personalities and musical tastes was never likely to have much longevity and in October 1965, Rob Lovett accepted an offer to join the newly formed Loved Ones, fronted by the incomparable Gerry Humphreys.
Reduced to a quartet, the Wild Cherries continued to perform regularly at the Fat Black Pussycat. On one occasion, possibly during a rehearsal or after hours, Gilbert can’t remember exactly, three tracks: a cover of J D Loudermilk’s “Tobacco Road” and two blues standards, “Worried Blues” and “You Don’t’ Love Me” were recorded by Carrick. Using only a simple four-channel mixer and a Tandberg reel-to-reel tape deck to record the tracks, the three songs provide a fascinating insight into the early group’s raw energy.
A short while later however, Kevin Murphy also departed for pastures new, later joining Billy Thorpe’s seminal band, the Aztecs; his vacant drum chair filled by Keith Barber (b. 17 April 1947, Kilburn, Middlesex, England).
Barber, whose family had migrated to Melbourne around Christmas, 1958, took up drums at the age of 17 after visiting the Fat Black Pussycat. Inspired by the jazz players, Barber bought a drum kit, urged on by another musician at the printing school where he had begun his apprenticeship. Having learnt the basics, Barber, abetted by the other musician, performed at the printing school’s apprentice of the year award and, to their surprise, the pair were favourably received and both won awards.
As Barber recalls, his entry into the Wild Cherries was largely fortuitous: “I was with my mates who appreciated modern jazz and we had a flat in Chapel Street in Prahran, a Chelsea-type district in Melbourne. Les, Malcolm and John must have been walking past and heard me playing and they came in and asked me if I’d like to join.”
At Barber’s instigation, the group started to become more style conscious and the whole band had double-breasted suits tailored to wear on stage. Around the same time, the Wild Cherries were presented with an opportunity to record a couple of tracks for a prospective single.
The recordings comprised an original composition entitled, “Get out of My Life” coupled with a cover of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Bye Bye Bird”, which had recently appeared on the Moody Blues’ Magnificent Moodies album. For some inexplicable reason, no one picked up on these fine recordings and tracks remained unreleased – until 2007.
On 19 February 1966, the group made its final appearance at the Fat Black Pussycat. Lloyd Carrick was again on hand to record the gig. By now he was using a Nagra recorder with professional quality mics and a mixer. The recording resurfaced in December 2006 and appears on Half A Cow’s CD compilation (more of which later).
By June 1966 however, the original Wild Cherries had pretty much run their natural course. “The group got to play places like the Thumpin’ Tum and the Fat Black Pussycat, which was our dream,” says Barber but “the next thing was it drifted into this sort of half awake sort of life where nothing happened and I think Les got ill. Malcolm moved on to become lead singer in Python Lee Jackson and John, I think, decided to reinvestigate his academic career.”
Adds Gilbert: “I had bought a little Italian electric piano and this led me to have ambitions for a Hammond organ. Somehow I managed to buy one and I now switched instruments.”
The decision to buy a Hammond had coincided with a Bob Dylan concert that Barber and Gilbert had attended back in April. This pivotal event, explains Barber, was to have a significant bearing on the Wild Cherries’ future musical direction. “We were looking up on stage and we saw this Leslie speaker. Les went home and built one and turned up with it at rehearsal four days later. You can actually hear it on the [Festival] recordings. It’s not the full Leslie effect; it doesn’t have the attack. Les Gilbert’s Leslie. We used to call it the ‘fairy floss machine’.”
Having weathered the loss of Bastow and McGee, and keen to re-establish the band with a more contemporary blues-rock approach, Gilbert and Barber began the task of recruiting a new singer. Soon enough they found their perfect front man in former Weird Mob bass player and vocalist Danny Robinson (b. 15 March 1947, Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia).
Blessed with a fabulous soulful voice that displayed tremendous power and drive, Robinson had begun his career in the early ‘60s playing urban blues at folk clubs in Melbourne, where he mixed solo spots with dates that he performed with friends. In the summer of 1966, Robinson accepted an offer to join the final incarnation of the Weird Mob on bass, which is where he befriended lead guitarist, Peter Eddey (b. 11 August 1947, Melbourne, Australia).
Unlike Robinson, Eddey had not been active on the local scene for very long. Even so, he had been playing music for a number of years, having first learnt the piano at the age of eight. Six years later, Eddey took up the guitar and at high school played lead guitar in several bands. His first notable outing however, was the Weird Mob, which he formed with some school friends.
The band had already been through several incarnations by the time Robinson joined and, as Eddey recalls, the singer immediately made his presence felt: “We played the local suburban venues, and with Dan we moved into a kind of Motown, bluesy feel. Dan had a great voice.”
According to Eddey, Robinson was one of a handful of musicians that were approached to audition for the new version of the Wild Cherries. Eddey was next to join the fledging line up, but as he readily admits, his inclusion was guided more by practical considerations. “They didn’t have a bass player in mind, so I went with Dan and played bass for the first time. They really wanted Dan and I happened to be Dan’s friend who could get by on bass – that’s how I came to be in the group.”
The new line up then spent several months rehearsing while looking for a suitable guitar player. In January 1967, the final piece fell into place with the addition of recently departed Purple Hearts guitarist Lobby Loyde (b. John Baslington Lyde, 18 May 1941, Longreach, Queensland, Australia).
Having studied classical piano as a child, Loyde took up the electric guitar during his late teens. Says Loyde: “I guess I had been playing six weeks when I joined Errol Romain and the Remains. I learnt the guitar by ear. I didn’t sit down and learn the damn thing… a la translating what I knew on the piano to the guitar because that’s not what I wanted to play anyway. I wanted to play rock ‘n’ roll and to play rock ‘n’ roll you had to learn on the job because it was a new music.”
From the Remains, Loyde moved onto another instrumental band, Bobby Sharpe and the Stilettos, who, like his previous outfit, were heavily influenced by Cliff Richard and the Shadows. As Loyde points out, however, “I was also playing in other bands at the time. I was playing in the blues clubs playing dobro and acoustic with any blues player I could get my hands on. That’s why I jumped at the chance to the join the Purple Hearts who were then called the Impacts. It was my kind of band. They had a really rich flavour to their blues and went at it from their own angle.”
Like the Bee Gees and the Easybeats, Brisbane’s finest exponents of R&B, the ferocious Purple Hearts were largely comprised of expatriate Brits. Singer Mick Hadley and bass player Bob Dames had both witnessed the burgeoning R&B scene in London before emigrating in the early ‘60s, while latter-day drummer (and future Easybeat) Tony Cahill, had briefly beaten the skins for Screaming Lord Sutch.
Barber, in particular, remembers vividly the devastating impact the Purple Hearts had on the local scene when they first arrived from Brisbane. “When the Purple Hearts came down from Queensland and hit Melbourne practically every band realised, ‘shit, we can’t play, these guys can play’. They were very, very good. They were the real thing, a travelling band.”
The powerhouse in the Purple Hearts, however, was undoubtedly the band’s lone Australian, Lobby Loyde. Loyde’s incisive, incendiary playing propelled such Purple Hearts classics as “Of Hopes and Dreams and Tombstones” and “Early in the Morning”, but by early 1967, Loyde was looking for a more experimental outlet for his increasingly wild and innovative style. “While the Purple Hearts were a great band to play with…when you start to lose that edge and energy thing and… I felt it was time to move on,” says Loyde.
While everyone was obviously in awe of Loyde’s playing, according to Eddey, Loyde was equally knocked out by Danny and Les, and immediately jumped at the chance to complete the line up. The group desperately needed somewhere to rehearse their act and soon stumbled across an old property in south Melbourne that had no power or hot water. “Myself and Lobby had nowhere to live so we lived there,” remembers Barber. “We used to hose each other down in the backyard with an old kitchen oven turned on its side, full of paper, with copper pipes through it, and run the water through that way so that it wasn’t freezing. We lived and rehearsed in that house for three months before we put that version of the band on the road.”
Initially, the Wild Cherries played the blues with a peppering of soul covers (Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Solomon Burke) and then adopted a heavier approach, incorporating Graham Bond and Jimi Hendrix-type material with some psychedelic undercurrents. “We were on the edge I think – well ahead of most other bands at the time,” claims Eddey, “but then we had some seriously good musicians in Les and Lobby.”
Within a month of Loyde’s arrival, the group aroused the interest of Stan Rofe, the local DJ king on 3KZ, one of the city’s radio stations. Impressed by the band’s originality and verve, he approached Festival Records and convinced the label to sign the band to a record deal. As Loyde notes however, despite signing with the label in Melbourne, where there were four-track facilities, Festival insisted that the band should record all of its material in Sydney on mono equipment. (Gilbert remembers things somewhat differently and says that the recording studio in Sydney was four track!)
Before any recordings commenced, the label booked a weeklong stand at Here disco in North Sydney during early February where the group covered for absent local group, Jeff St John & the Id. During their initial foray into the Sydney rock scene, harp player Shayne Duckham joined the group on stage for a couple of shows. Recalls Robinson: “I first ran into Shayne when I began drinking at the local Push pub in Melbourne back in 1963. He was an interesting bohemian character who played very good blues harmonica and was a bit of a guru. He never got into a recording situation, but you’ll find a hell of a lot of musicians out there that would claim to have been steered in the right direction by Shayne. He would arrive on the doorstep and hand you a whole clutch of 45s that you’d never heard of but they would turn out to be totally seminal material. He ended up getting stabbed to death on a prawn boat around 1982.”
Despite their short time together, the Wild Cherries made an instant impression on the local scene. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald in late February, under its Pop Scene section, Craig McGregor raved about the band, which he dubbed “Wild Indian Cherries”. “What makes the group so distinctive is its loose, underivative, free-flowing style, which often seems close to jazz in approach, though the sound is in the usual pop-soul idiom,” remarked McGregor. “Like a good jazz group, the Wild Cherries improvise all the time and they can subtly alter the focus of the music from chorus to chorus; they are one of the few groups which have got something going all the time and retain the capacity to surprise.”
McGregor singled out Loyde’s playing, observing that he had “absorbed more of Indian classical music into his phrasing and melodic ideas than any other pop guitarist I know.” McGregor went on to applaud Loyde’s authenticity, exclaiming: “Loyde seems to have mastered the idiom so well it has become part of his natural style, and on his own, ‘Sitar Blues’ he can take off on a wailing 10-minute improvisation which would make the hair of many a raga-conscious jazz musician stand on end!”
While journalists were knocked out by the band’s performance, Festival really didn’t know what to make of the band. When representatives from the label attended the band’s shows, they were in for a shock, as Loyde recalls: “We went up and played a gig and they came and listened and went, ‘Whoa, Jesus, none of that is recordable’ – they thought it was pretty crazy stuff. We went back to Melbourne and sat down and had a bit of a write around, and next time we went back we had some tunes they could cope with.”
Back home in Melbourne, the group started picking up regular gigs on the local club scene, debuting at the Catcher in mid-February. Later that month, the group appeared at the Biting Eye on 25 February and the following night, appeared at the Thumpin’ Tum.
The group returned to the Catcher on 4 March for a show alongside the Clefs, Mind Excursions and the Chelsea Set. The following week, on 8-9 March, the group held down a two-night stand at Sebastians and then, a few days later, the Wild Cherries returned to the Catcher on 12 March for a show with the Loved Ones, the Chants, the Chelsea Set and the Adderly Smith Blues Band.
Returning to Sydney in April for an extended engagement at Here disco, the group once again drew a positive reception from the press. Teen magazine, Go-Set, published a beaming piece about the group under the intriguing header, “Wild Cherries – Filling the gap left by the Easys?” Claiming that the pop scene was full of surprises, journalist Wal McCall exclaimed, the “…biggest surprise to me, and to anyone who has ever heard the Cherries, is that they’re not the biggest name group in Australia.”
Reviewing the Wild Cherries’ return to Here disco, Go-Set marvelled at their undoubted talent: “…when the new Cherries formed back in February they were more than just very good…But now, only two months later, their progress both musically and as entertainers has to be seen to be believed.”
Comparing Dan Robinson to local singer Jeff St. John, Go-Set praised his singing commenting “[Robinson] is one of the few singers around capable of singing as well as St. John. Their styles in some ways are similar, but Danny, like Jeff, has his own highly personal style of vocal dynamics. His ability to get the best out of good songs marks him down as a member of the magic circle of bluesy singers.”
Like the Sydney Morning Herald, Go-Set also heaped praise on Loyde’s playing, stating: “He’s the type of guitarist that is easily recognised by true blues and R&B fans as outstanding. He plays like Bloomfield and Clapton, but even that’s not completely true – he plays like Lobby Loyde and his long, wailing notes give the Wild Cherries a lot of guts.”
Go-Setwas not the only Sydney publication to recognise the Wild Cherries undoubted potential. In an unaccredited article entitled, “the Wild Cherries – the Id challenged”, the unnamed author describes the band’s performance as “an overpowering experience”, adding, “the Id will certainly need to put on their best to keep up the standard!”
As with other reviews from this period, the piece singles out Robinson and Loyde’s contributions. Particular praise however, is saved for Les Gilbert. “Les plays excellent organ but, unlike a lot of organ players, does not try to dominate the whole group. The group drives all the more because of this.” Concluding, the author says the band should prove to be a great force in the future. “It is not often that, at the finish of a number, the audience just stands and cheers, particularly in Sydney’s more sophisticated licensed discotheques.”
While playing Here disco in April, the Wild Cherries entered Festival’s studios and laid down several tracks for a prospective single. Three completed tracks were nailed in the session, all Lobby Loyde compositions. These comprised the soul-inflected ballads, “Try Me (I’m Not As Bad As You Think)”, and “Everything I Do Is Wrong” (which graced the b-side of the Wild Cherries’ debut 45), and the single’s a-side, the curiously titled “Krome Plated Yabby”, which has a slight Move influence. (In an interesting side note, Barber says the group also recorded a demo of Otis Redding’s “Fa-Fa-Fa” at the first session, but it was never completed.)
Recalling the session, Loyde says: “The engineer that recorded that stuff was dressed in a suit with short back and sides. He kind of looked like a cost clerk for Dunlop rubber; he certainly didn’t expect to go down and sit at the desk and be creative because to be creative wasn’t in this guy’s agenda. He questioned everything. But the producer, Pat Aulton, was interesting because he was a singer, so he kind of got into it. He ended up taking over the engineering himself and threw the engineer out in the end. While some of the records sound a bit hollow at least he was a music enthusiast and at least he tried really hard to capture what we were doing. Because it was mono, we had to record it live and that was a challenge.” (Pat Aulton, incidentally sang harmony on “Everything I Do Is Wrong”.)
Loyde continues: “In those days recording mediums weren’t that portable, so there was very little live material being done in Australia. When everyone in England was using four track we were still in mono and then when everyone in England went on to eight and 16 track we got four track. It was old technology, half the decks were home made and recording was quite primitive. And the Australian recording industry never took itself professionally and never had much respect for the local stuff. It was a very strong live scene but a very poor recording scene.”
While Loyde claims his songwriting was somewhat influenced by the San Francisco acid rock scene, he also maintains that the band was a bit insular and a lot of his ideas stemmed from listening to the group itself. Indeed, with Robinson’s penchant for soul music, the Wild Cherries’ were able to stretch out artistically into several directions. Says Loyde: “As well as a psychedelic edge, we had a sort of poppy psychedelic edge. And as you can tell by the flip side, the lead singer always wanted to be Otis Redding anyway. That’s why I used to write soul songs for him.”
As for the single’s oddly titled a-side that, according to Loyde, was the soundman’s idea. “He was pretty psychedelically enhanced and our producer turned to him and said, ‘What would you call this song?’ and he said, ‘It sounds like a Krome Plated Yabby to me, man!’. We thought, why not?”
Gilbert has a different take on events: “I thought the title came in a free-flowing conversation with our roadie, Mark Allenson – as a deliberate attempt at an ‘Australianisation’ of the Ken Kesey acid scene, but I might be wrong.”
“Krome Plated Yabby” was duly issued in June 1967 but failed to make any headway on the local charts. Considering the single’s advanced nature, this was perhaps not very surprising. As Australian music journalist Paul Culnane, points out: “Driven by Lloyd’s [sic] feedback guitar pyrotechnics and the evil vocal inflections of Robinson, this emotive and dynamic tune sounded like nothing else on the airwaves during ’67…”
That’s undeniably true. Artistically and creatively speaking, the Wild Cherries were incomparable as a live act and this was the underlying problem when it came to achieving commercial success. Everyone in the band was writing material (much of it highly ambitious) and, as Loyde readily admits, it was practical considerations that resulted in his compositions being recorded for potential singles.
“It was a time constraint. We had to go up to Sydney and knock up a couple of singles and I had written some tunes that were purposely written to be singles. The guys played them a few times and we kind of knew it. But if we’d gone on to make an album, we would have heard a whole pile of different flavours. Some of the stuff that went unrecorded was bloody mighty. But there was no way we were going to cut some of the great stuff down from six or seven minutes to a three-minute single.”
Undeterred by “Krome Plated Yabby”’s failure to bother the charts, the Wild Cherries returned to Sydney to record a fresh batch of material in the summer. At the second session, they recorded two more Loyde compositions: the phase-drenched rave up, “That’s Life”, and the soul-flavoured ballad, “Time Killer”.
The recordings complete, the Wild Cherries returned to Melbourne, where they continued to draw a fanatical following, performing regularly at such venues as the Thumpin’ Tum, Sebastians, Berties and the Catcher. “There was so much live music happening in Melbourne,” says Robinson, “that all of the bands that ever had anything going for them pretty much had full-time employment. When we had a record out, we’d do up to five gigs on a Saturday night. We’d do a spot at each of three suburban dances, with perhaps a couple thousand kids at them and then we’d go do a midnight show at the Thumpin’ Tum and then a 3 am show at the Catcher.”
“The music in the underground scene was very, very interesting,” adds Loyde. “People were playing for the right reasons because there was no bucks in it and playing because they loved it. Gigs tended to be long drawn out things. We used to play from eight at night to two in the morning.”
When the band wasn’t gigging incessantly on the local scene, it also managed to travel as far a field as Brisbane and Adelaide to play a few dates. Unfortunately, unlike many of their Australian contemporaries, the Wild Cherries never got the opportunity to do a national tour.
The Wild Cherries’ uncompromising approach to their music did hurt the band in some areas. Although the press had been largely supportive, the group found dealing with the television stations more problematic, particularly as the members were never really interested in miming. “We always insisted on playing live which really pissed off the guys at TV stations, and Lobby can’t put a guitar around his neck without a cigarette in his mouth,” chuckles Barber.
“We did one performance, the excerpt from the ‘Carnival of the Animals’ by Saint-Saens that directly relates to the elephant with Danny playing double bass. Lobby actually had his head in my bass drum with smoke coming out and they told us to cut, and we wouldn’t cut and went into something else, so our TV career was blighted so to speak.”
TV career or no TV career, the Wild Cherries continued to impress artistically. Festival duly issued the band’s second 45, “That’s Life” c/w “Try Me (I’m Not As Bad As You Think)” in November 1967. One of the most adventurous singles to emerge on the Australian charts during the ‘60s, it somewhat surprisingly became a minor hit on the Melbourne chart, peaking at #38.
By the time “That’s Life” appeared however, Peter Eddey had left the band; his place filled by John Phillips from rival Melbourne group, the Running Jumping Standing Still. As Eddey recalls: “I decided to leave and move to Sydney in late 1967. I was very young at the time…had a lot of pressure on me from my family, and got called up for Vietnam. Anyway, I went to university and did not have to go to Nam. I have been in the education business ever since.”
With John Phillips’ arrival, the Wild Cherries undoubtedly stepped up a gear musically. Besides his dexterity on the bass, it also didn’t hurt that the newcomer was working with an Australian amplifier and speaker company during the day.
Throughout December, the new line up played regularly on the Melbourne scene, appearing at the Catcher on 1-2 December with a number of local groups, including the James Taylor Move and the Groove. A few weeks later, the group returned to the club for three all nighter and early morning shows on 15-17 December.
On a more important note, the Wild Cherries participated in the Velodrome concert, held in Melbourne’s Olympic Park with the Twilights, Lynne Randell, the Groop, the Groove, Jeff St John & the Yama and many others on 17 December. Then, early in the new year, the group returned to Sydney to complete a new single and fulfil a handful of local dates.
Coming up with a worthy successor to “That’s Life” was never going to be easy, but the Wild Cherries pulled out all the stops with the marvellous “Gotta Stop Lying” c/w “Time Killer”, issued in April 1968. Propelled by a kick-ass rhythm; ignited by piercing stabs of incendiary guitar, which culminated in a gut wrenching guitar solo, and topped off by Robinson’s intense, pleading vocals, “Gotta Stop Lying” was (as far as this listener is concerned) the Wild Cherries’ finest outing on disc.“Gotta Stop Lying” was also another advance in sound for the Wild Cherries and is notable for a rather unusual drum effect. Says Barber: “What it was, was an intricate bass drum pattern that somehow has got a click on it.”
The flip side, meanwhile, like its predecessors, stood in stark contrast to the a-side and continued the tradition of Wild Cherries singles by treading a soul path. Interestingly, according to Loyde, “Gotta Stop Lying” was the song the band wanted to put out after “Krome Plated Yabby”, but the recording “got screwed” and had to be redone later. “That’s Life”, which was recorded at the same session, was given the nod instead.
Despite its undoubted potential, “Gotta Stop Lying” was a chart failure. Loyde lays most of the blame at the door of the radio stations, which he claims were not interested in promoting the band, although he does maintain that had “Gotta Stop Lying” come out after “Krome Plated Yabby” it may have been given an airing. “We were never the darlings of the music industry,” says Loyde. “We were those loud bastards, we just filled the room with sound.”
Throughout the summer, the group continued to play regularly on the Melbourne scene, appearing, for instance, at the Thumpin’ Tum on 6 June, the Catcher on 7 June (sharing the bill with the Master’s Apprentices and the Chelsea Set) and Berties on 10 June, alongside Max Merritt and the Compulsion.
Eager to progress artistically, the Wild Cherries returned to the studios in the summer to record perhaps their most ambitious material to date. The fruits of the sessions were issued in September on what would become the group’s final single, “I Don’t Care” c/w “Theme for a Merry Go Round”. As a departure in sound from the previous releases, “I Don’t Care” took a “wall of sound” approach, complete with echo effects and an ambitious string arrangement that was charted by Robinson. “Theme for a Merry Go Round” meanwhile, with its jazzy slant, featured another superb Robinson vocal.
“I Don’t Care” may have been the group’s crowning achievement on a creative level, but as the single reached the shops, the group faced a mass exodus. The first to leave was Les Gilbert in late August.
“…After a while I started to lose interest,” admits the keyboard player. “We were working very hard, playing the same songs each night and a lot of the spontaneity of the earlier iterations of the band had gone. It really seemed to me to become a repetition of the same thing night after night and for this and other reasons I finally left. I completely left the scene and went to live in the hills with a wife and new baby (at the ripe old age of 22!).”
While the remaining quartet stuck together to play a few live shows, including one at Berties in early September, Keith Barber, Dan Robinson and John Phillips all departed soon after Gilbert. “As much as I enjoyed the Wild Cherries, I always thought more commitment could have been given to the stage craft,” reflects Barber.
Recalling the events leading up to his exit, Barber remembers travelling to a show in Sydney with New Zealand bands, the La De Das and Max Merritt & the Meteors. “I ended up in the audience with a guy called John ‘Yuk’ Harrison, who was the bass player in Max Merritt’s band. We were sitting there watching the La De Das and he said, ‘what do you think’ and I said, ‘I reckon they’re great’. He nudged me in the side and said, ‘you could be playing drums with that band if you want to’. I didn’t think anything more of it, but went back to the hotel where all the bands were staying in King’s Cross. One morning the La De Das walked in minus their drummer and asked me if I’d like to join. I had a sense that the Cherries were fragmenting and that I wasn’t going to cause the split by leaving… I really admired the La De Das, so I accepted the offer.”
The La De Das travelled to the UK in April 1969, but the trip was an unmitigated disaster. “We got involved with Peter Grant of Led Zeppelin…but he was just ripping us off,” says Barber. “He was taking Led Zeppelin’s equipment that was warehoused and making out that he was helping us out but in fact the La De Das were paying through the teeth [sic] for this equipment.”
The group ended up on Parlophone Records where it recorded a version of the Beatles’ “Come Together”, credited to the La De Da Band. Says Barber: “We were given all of the Abbey Road songs before they were released and told that we could record one of these songs. We listened to the whole album and the only thing we could see the way clear to making a decent single out of was ‘Come Together’. We recorded at Abbey Road and then went on a tour of France.”
“Come Together” failed to dent the charts and shortly afterwards the group unravelled with most members returning to Australia. Barber continued to play with the La De Das until 1975 before dropping out of the music scene.
Robinson meanwhile accepted a job with the vocal trio, the Virgil Brothers, replacing former Wild Cherries and Python Lee Jackson member Malcolm McGee. “The story of my life, at least for my first few years in the rock music industry, was I got offered jobs and I just jumped aboard without thinking about it too much,” says Robinson. “The Cherries had done their dash and even at the time, it wasn’t much of a dash.”
The Virgil Brothers, who featured yet another former Wild Cherry and ex-Loved Ones, Rob Lovett alongside singer Peter Doyle, also moved to England where they worked with Peter Gormley Associates and were managed by Bruce Welch of the Shadows. Robinson subsequently sang on the UK (and re-recorded) version of the Virgil Brothers’ debut Australian single, “Temptation’s About To Get Me”, and its follow up, “When You Walk Away” but found the whole experience a huge disappointment.
From the outset, there was a complete mismatch in terms of what the trio and EMI expected from the project on a musical level. Comprised of “R&B freaks”, the group had little input or say in the material that was recorded; the Eurovision-type songs EMI foisted on the band were chosen by the A&R men and as Robinson concedes, the trio was not passionate about this. It also didn’t help that the whole set up bore an uncomfortably close resemblance to the far more successful Walker Brothers. After passing on an offer to join the New Seekers (Peter Doyle took his place), Robinson returned to Australia in 1970.
Back in Melbourne, Robinson went to university and studied for a Bachelor in Music, majoring in composition. During the ‘70s, he played and recorded with a succession of groups, including Duck, Hit and Run, Champions and Rite on the Nite. Teaching himself wood skills in the ‘80s, Robinson moved to northwest Tasmania where he eventually established his own business as a novel musical instrument maker. He continues to perform occasionally and is currently based in Anakie, Victoria.
In October 1968, Loyde recruited new singer Matt Taylor from local band, the Bay City Union and three former members of Brisbane blues group, Thursday’s Children, but the soul of the group had effectively been ripped out. The following month, Loyde handed in his notice.
He landed on his feet immediately and was instrumental in reviving Billy Thorpe’s career, teaching the Australian rock legend how to play rock ‘n’ roll guitar and becoming an integral member of Thorpe’s highly touted Aztecs between 1968-1970.
The Wild Cherries soldiered on, but effectively it was another group in everything but name. Bedevilled by a succession of personnel changes, the band finally imploded in April 1969. Interestingly, Loyde chose to resurrect the Wild Cherries’ name with new musicians in 1971, but the line up’s lone single, the heavy rock extravaganza, “I Am the Sea”, bore no resemblance to the four classic singles issued between 1967-1968.
Throughout the ‘70s, Loyde pursued a series of intriguing projects. In 1971, he recorded his debut solo album, Plays With George Guitar, which Ian McFarlane describes as “a progressive rock milestone, one of the most remarkable heavy guitar records of the period.” He then recorded three albums with the highly revered Coloured Balls, which was followed by a second solo set, Obsecration, in 1976.
Loyde next travelled to the UK and hung out and sat in on recording sessions with Siouxsie and the Banshees, among others. Returning to Australia in 1979, he joined Rose Tattoo on bass. The group relocated to Los Angeles to record an album, but it was never released. Back in Australia, he moved into production and live sound mixing but occasionally ventured back in to live work, most notably with the bands, Dirt and Fish Tree Mother. In October 2002, he was inducted into the Australian Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.
Of Loyde’s former colleagues, Peter Eddey currently manages postgraduate business programmes at Sydney’s Macquarie University. Despite leaving the music business in the ‘60s, Eddey plays a few gigs a month with a band.
The group’s founder, Les Gilbert, meanwhile, returned to university in 1975 to study music, majoring in composition. He then played on the city’s avant garde music scene until the early ‘80s. “I particularly became interested in making recordings of the natural environment and also in creating multi-media installations,” says Gilbert. “This gradually morphed into the work I do today with my partner, Gillian Chaplin. We have a company called Magian Design Studio and we create media installations for museums and other similar institutions.” Gilbert has created sound and multimedia installations for the Osaka Aquarium in Japan, the National Geographic Society in Washington DC and the Kakadu National Park, among others.
With each of the Wild Cherries forging careers in widely diverse areas, the group’s story could have ended there. However, the legend surrounding the band has grown over the years and for Australia Day 2002, a special one-off reunion show was put on at the Corner Hotel in Richmond, Victoria, featuring Dan Robinson, Lobby Loyde and Keith Barber, abetted by bass player Gavin Carroll and keyboard player John O’Brien. Les Gilbert was unable to make the date, as he was working in Japan.
For the occasion, the Wild Cherries performed all eight of the group’s recordings –not only the first time that all of the band’s recordings had been performed live but also the first time that some of the tracks had been given a public airing. The Cherries’ set was recorded for posterity but despite the stellar performances, Robinson has mixed feelings about the event. “The concert was appallingly marketed, they could have done a lot more. We had a large, very enthusiastic crowd but it could have been huge. It was about as badly managed as the Wild Cherries had been back in their heyday.”
In spite of the warm reception, Robinson also has his doubts regarding any future reunions. “They came up with the notion of doing it again the following year, but Keith decided that doing it once was enough and that if he did anything at all, he’d rather do something new, and I think I went along with that.”
The prospect of any future reunions was dealt a cruel blow when Keith Barber sadly passed away on 30 May 2005. The timing of his death is particularly poignant as Australia collectors’ label Half a Cow Records was in the process of putting together the first ever compilation of the band’s work, which finally emerged in April 2007. Its release coincided with the death of another Wild Cherry, Lobby Loyde on 21 April.
Perhaps if the group had got the opportunity to record an album during its heyday things would have been different but as Robinson points out, “We were considered to be too uncommercial by the record company at the time. We were just totally out of step with the people who ‘called the shots’ commercially.”
Loyde agrees: “It was pretty hard in our day because we were way more experimental and way more psychedelic and we had to condense it down and knock it out on a few singles… I wish we could have recorded it live because it used to go to some really strange places. We could play three or four hours and knock over eight or 10 tunes. It was quite exotic live. It would have just been great to have made an album because people talk about how great it was being there. Trouble is when you are there and it’s happening, you just wish someone had documented it because it was pretty exciting live.”
Robinson, however, remains philosophical about the band’s legendary status. “There seems to be this feeling that we were musically important but at the time we didn’t seem to be a hell of a lot more than just a Melbourne club band. That’s the way I saw it. I never regarded us as being part of a national pop scene. Like all legendary things it’s a lot bigger in retrospect than it was at the time.”
Thanks to the following people for their generous help Keith Barber, Peter Eddey, Les Gilbert, Lobby Loyde, Dan Robinson, Glenn A Baker, Peter Culnane, Ian McFarlane, Mike Paxman and Ben Whitten.
Adelaide group the Hergs recorded one 45 before moving to Melbourne to try their luck. Members at the time of this recording were Eddy McPherson (Robin McPherson) on vocals, Mike Williams on guitar, Laurie Lehman guitar, Peter Luckins on bass, and Barry Sincock on drums. Peter Luckins and Eddy McPherson coined the band’s name, and if there’s a meaning to it, they kept it to themselves.
From 1967, “Style of Love” is a great early punk-meets-psychedelia track, written by Eddy McPherson. The explosive version of “Cadillac” on the flip is not the Bo Diddley song covered by the Kinks and myriad of others, but a cover of Vince Taylor’s “Brand New Cadillac”. To make matters more confusing, the label gives songwriting credit to Chuck Berry, who had no part in either of these songs.
Barry Sincock, the original drummer from The Hergs gave me some info about the group and sent me the great clippings and photos presented here:
The name The Hergs came from bass player Peter Luckins, who said it was a name for Trolls in Northern England. Not sure if this is true or not.
The words of the song “Style Of Love” were written by me, the words came from an article from Life Magazine about the hippies in San Francisco. The song was put together the night before we went into the studio by the whole band.
Q. I suppose there weren’t too many psychedelic substances around Adelaide at that time?
It wasn’t until we got to Melbourne and lived in a rundown mansion with a group of prostitutes that everything changed. Lots of crazy nights thanks to the Masters Apprentices and those crazy girls.
The song “Cadillac” we got from watching Molly Meldrum, miming on Kommotion. We didn’t know who wrote it, so we decided Chuck Berry was a good candidate. Mike did the record. John Thorton joined about eight months before we packed up and moved to Melbourne.
The band went to Melbourne under the management of Darryl Sambell, but he was so busy with John Farnham that he passed us on to Geoff Edelsten.
We went into the studios and put down two tracks with John Farnham and Hans Poulson helping with back up. One of the songs was “Three Jolly Dwarfs” which the Zoot ended up recording due to our problems with Geoff. The songs were never released. The tape was left at Armstrong Studios along with a few other bands when Edelsten wouldn’t pay the studio and went off to make his fortune in medical practices.
I was drafted to Vietnam in 1969. Eddie McPherson went on to the musical Hair, and later moved to Melbourne.
Laurie Lehman played lead guitar, he passed away in December 2008.
After this record John Thornton replaced Mike Williams and David Potter replaced Barry Sincock. Adrian Russell replaced Eddy McPherson by the time of their last live appearance, at the Royal Melbourne Show in September, 1968.
The Marksmen, April 1966: Lyle McLean (lead guitar), Bob Kerr (vocals), Tony Markham (drums), Danny Coutts (rhythm guitar), Neil Porter (bass) – This is the line-up that plays on the But Why/Moonshine recordings. Photo and caption supplied by Ged Fitzsimmons, courtesy of Neil Porter
The Marksmen were a surf band from the town of Wollongong near Sydney, not to be confused with the instrumental group from Melbourne called the Marksmen who released singles on the W & G label in the early ’60s.
Original members were Neil Porter bass, Dan Coutts lead guitar, Lyle McLean guitar and Dave Kirkup on drums. Tony Markham replaced Kirkup, and needing a singer for variety in their live shows, they found first Brian Davitt and later Bobby Kerr of the Chevrons.
In 1966 they released their one self-financed 45 on the Enterprise label. It’s now among the rarest of all Australian garage 45s and truly one of the best. “Moonshine” is pure tough garage, “But Why” more melancholic with its harmonies, driven by the catchy guitar riff.
Anyone interested in the Marksmen should take a look at Terry Stacey’s site on the band, which contains a long history and many photos. Ged Fitzsimmons is compiling a comprehensive look at the Wollongong music scene of the ’60s, hopefully seeing publication soon.
I heard from vocalist Bob Kerr, who stated:
I picked the name Marksmen although the others will probably dispute this. At the time at practise the guys were playing and learning a Shadows song and I was fiddling with a box of slugs used in a slug gun which happened to be named Marksmen so thus the name.
We did sell a lot of copies of the disc in a couple of local music shops, I think somewhere in the vicinity of 10,000 which was pretty good in those days we were the most popular band in town at that time. The guys got a new singer and changed to the name Imagination. They wanted to go into different types of music and anyway I was married with a young son so I didn’t want to turn professional, couldn’t take the risk with a family. As it was it only lasted about a year and no payments for gigs etc so it all folded.
Most recently I interviewed bassist Neil Porter:
“The Marksmen were a surf band from the town of Wollongong near Sydney…”
Neil Porter: I’m fascinated by this because it is not generally known or recognised, but this is the raw basic truth. Deep in my heart, the only real Marksmen were our original surfing instrumental band. All the bands in those days were instrumental bands and, being part of the British Commonwealth, Aussie bands were seriously influenced by The Shadows. They never quite had their deserved success in the USA, although they were huge in Europe, Africa and other places. We had the best of all worlds out here because we also got all the American stuff such as Ventures, Duane Eddy, and so on. For most bands, a singer was a token add-on, somewhat forced onto the band because “You’ve got to have a singer”. We certainly played most of our gigs without one for the first two years. Some places would not book you unless you had a singer, but the singers were generally underworked while the band played instrumentals for most of the night.
The band was originally called “The Tremors”. We were quite influenced by Johnny and the Hurricanes and, even though we had no sax or organ, we adapted many of their tracks to just 2 guitars, bass and drums. Well, initially just 3 guitars! Dan Coutts was a composer of originals from the word go, and was especially creative with instrumentals. He composed a piece called “Tremor” as well another one called “Earthquake”. Check out the names of many of the Hurricanes tracks and you will see why. We decided to call ourselves “The Tremors” after Dan’s tune. We commenced in late 1961 with Dan, myself and Lyle McLean. We managed to obtain a great drummer in Dave Kirkup early in 1962. We practised like it was going out of style and played a few gigs, mostly freebies – weddings, parties, anything – the usual kick-off gigs for new, young bands.
We had initially knocked the doors of all the guys we knew who remotely seemed as though they might be able to sing, but none were interested, and we were more than happy just to play guitar instrumentals. About half-way through 1962 we were able to get a great singer with a great stage charisma, Brian Davitt, and we worked out the year with him, working every week as the resident band at a local dance. This was pretty good, really, as, when we first started, we could hardly play!
Surfing music started to get heaps of Aussie airplay in 1962, initially with the Beach Boys “Surfin’ Safari” but, more importantly for that era, the Chantays with “Pipeline” followed sometime later with “Wipeout” by the Surfaris. And then the Aussie band the Atlantics came out with “Moonman”, later followed by their international #1 hit with “Bombora”. And we were still stuck in the old scene! Overnight, in one fell swoop we adapted many of our already-pounding repertoire into surf tracks and went for a name change. By this time Brian Davitt had an uncomfortable TV appearance and disappeared on us, so we were left alone as a 4-piece instrumental group.
Q. When did the Tremors change their name to the Marksmen?
The Tremors became the Marksmen in about February 1963. A specific memory-trigger reminds me that the name-change came at the end of summer which, in Australia, finishes in February. The latest would have been March. We didn’t work much through the year as Lyle was finishing his last year at school. When school and Uni exams were over in October/November we were raring to go and we did, all though the summer of ’63-”64 – as the Marksmen, a 4-piece surfing instrumental band. And we were likely the first band in Wollongong to sing Beatles songs live, getting on the bandwagon very early. We had always given Brian Davitt vocal backing and harmonies right from the start, and loved the Beatles, as everyone did. So, even without another singer, we sang ourselves. Initially, this was Dan, Dave and myself, although Lyle took a much larger vocal role very soon after.
Nevertheless, in spite of the ‘groups’ scene that emerged from England and swamped the world, the culture still demanded that, “You’ve got to have a singer” so we advertised for one and got Bob. The earliest this could have been would have been February 1964, but it may have even been as late as March or April. Prior to that Bob had been the lead singer of the Chevrons, mates of ours, and we had not been aware that he had left them. This, then, is more than a year after the Marksmen were named.
Dan Coutts was the original lead guitarist until Lyle hit full throttle, then rhythm guitarist, prolific composer, and great singer. Dan and I did most of the vocal harmonies no matter who else was singing lead, as well as taking the lead on many songs as well. Dan and I spent many 100s of hours together practising harmonies and often did duets together, such as those sung by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, especially those songs from several of their earlier albums.
Lyle was lead guitar and, although he doesn’t really know it or understand it, he became a legend in his own time, even to local young ’80s guitarists who never even met him or heard him play.
Lyle’s best friend, Frank Jones, was, on two different occasions, going to be our sax player, but it didn’t eventuate. Nevertheless, he still hung around from to time and, yes, he was at the meeting we held to find a new band name, probably January or February of 1963. It was Frank who was fiddling with a box of Marksmen slugs and suggested the name. I hated it from the start, but Lyle, and I suspect he felt a bit guilty about being in the band while his best mate wasn’t, strongly supported Frank’s name choice and eventually persuaded us to go with it. But not Bob, who didn’t come into the band until over a year later!
Q. Your 45 on Enterprise was self-financed?
This is certainly true. They call them indie releases nowadays, but we didn’t call them anything back then!
Q. The 45 seems to have been popular, but it is very rare now.
Just last Saturday, someone was advertising in a our major Sydney newspaper for a copy of “But Why/Moonshine”. Well, I never!
Q. How many copies were pressed, and how were they distributed – at shows or in shops?
We had no proper distribution and had only 500 copies produced, which we paid for entirely ourselves. Our manager of that time, Larry Lawrence, was completely in charge of this, so I know little of the details. We did a big mailout to all the major radio stations in every state, and this took up a significant number of the copies.
As far as I know they did sell as many as we put into their stores but in spite of our local popularity, we didn’t even chart in our own home town.
Q. So You didn’t sell 10,000 copies?
If we had sold 10,000 copies of “But Why/Moonshine” in the mid-’60s, we would have had, because of the very small population of Australia, quite a huge national hit. This certainly did not happen. In those days, 10,000 sales would have made us local heroes.
Q. It’s truly one of the best…
It is most humbling to find out this also appears to be quite true, as far as ’60s garage fans are concerned. Thanks for the compliment.
Believe it or not, 4ZZZ in Brisbane, Queensland played “Moonshine’ just last week. Apparently they have a regular ’60s nostalgia session. My older married daughter, who lives in Brisbane, heard it while driving home from work, and rang me straight away. “That was my Dad!” she went and told everyone she could! I have no idea what happened to any leftovers, so we must presume they no longer exist. I must confess that I have been astonished at this very belated interest in the record, even as far away as the USA and Denmark, let alone other states in Australia. It’s all a mystery to me! Makes me think that I didn’t entirely waste my youth after all!
Q. Did you write any other original material besides “But Why”?
I always did, as did Dan Coutts. Lyle wrote several songs as well. Bob wrote a few. There were a number of problems. The whole Australian music scene was geared to making money out of cloning USA hits and some British ones. There was always the odd group or singer who broke the mold and recorded original material but, in those days, it was hard to do that. We always included originals in our live sets but we mainly played top-40 covers as did everyone else. Probably our major problem was that ‘they’ were ‘there’ and we were ‘here’. ‘There’ was Sydney or Melbourne and ‘they’ were the bands that lived there and were not always any better than we were, and often not as good. “Here’ was Wollongong, miles away from the big smoke where ‘it’ was always happening, somewhat isolated, and always a little bit behind where ‘it’ was really at. ‘They’ got recording contracts, while we, being ‘here’, had little to no such opportunities. Not entirely though. We had already started to work in Sydney prior to the release of “But Why” and worked there many times afterwards over the next few years. Many fans used to say that there were only two decent bands, The Marksmen from Wollongong and “The — ——-” (insert favourite band name) from Sydney, so it wasn’t all bad, as far as distance and opportunity went.
“But Why” was composed completely by me, although I recall Lyle wanting to change a couple of chords in the middle section. Even though it seems at odds with my love of harmony groups, I really used to love the early ’60s British r’n’b groups such as Animals, Yardbirds, early Kinks and similar. I used to spend hours trying to compose songs in that genre, but I couldn’t play them that well (being ‘only’ the bass player!) and I couldn’t present them as well as I would have liked, not being the ‘real’ lead singer! Thus, I was regularly ignored by the rest of the band. In retrospect, I have wondered how on earth they picked up on “But Why”. The answer is the riff, a genuine Neil Porter original creation! Ha, ha! “But Why”, then, was composed as my attempt at British ’60s r’n’b. I actually think it’s too ‘nice’ to succeed, but others can judge that. Also, in retrospect, I realise that “But Why” has quite a unique structure, with no real verse/chorus/middle patterns and no rhyming lines. Well, I never – how inventive! Ha, ha! I didn’t deliberately do that and certainly didn’t know it at the time.
Q. Terry Stacey writes that you had recorded with Ossie as early as 1964 – what kind of material was that, and do the recordings still exist?
Mainly top-40 covers, but with one original by Dan Coutts, Bob singing lead. I have the only surviving tape at this time, and I am working on digitally remastering it on my computer home-studio. There are also some other lounge-room tapes that scrub up reasonably well. At this time I am working on a fairly large and somewhat long-term recording project and I can’t get back to the Marksmen tapes. I want to soon, though.
These were done in the local Tarrawanna backyard studio of Ossie Byrnes. He recorded most of the local bands of that time. He eventually relocated to Sydney, which is where we recorded “But Why/Moonshine” with him engineering. We effectively had no producer, and just played and sung what we had learned at practices beforehand. Ossie went on to become quite famous as engineering and co-producing the Bee Gees early big hits, notably “Spicks and Specks”, “New York Mining Disaster” and “Massachusetts”.
Q. As for Bobby saying that gigs were unpaid?
Not entirely true. As typical full-time starving musos, Imagination actually got paid very well, and certainly much more than several of the other F/T bands of the time. We did, as you might expect, have our share of rip-offs where we didn’t get paid.
Q. Considering your popularity and original material, why do you think the Marksmen didn’t receive a major label contract [until the formation of Imagination in 1968]?
From 1966 on, there was a major national band competition called The Hoadleys Battle of the Sounds. Some big international acts came out of this, although, to my knowledge, none of then became household names. There were always the city/metropolitan winners and the rest-of-the-state winners (called country finalists, but not to be confused with country music). In 1968, with Bob still as lead singer, we won the NSW country finals singing 3 original songs, 2 of which were written by Dan Coutts even though he had left the band earlier that year due to ill health. Lyle wrote the third. On paper, then, we became one of Australia’s top 12 bands of 1968. The reality, of course, was that many great bands didn’t even bother to enter!
Nevertheless, it was a very exciting and life-changing experience, after which we knew we had to throw in our day jobs and go full-time in music. A number of things quickly became clear. As Bob said, he was married with a son. (Little did I know that I was very soon after to follow suit – in the middle of being F/T!). Also, it had taken us many years to deprogram and detoxify Bob from his Cliff Richard and Elvis addictions and bring him into the new era. He couldn’t properly sing either soul or underground, the two big USA movements of the mid and late ’60s, just prior to the invention of the term ‘heavy’ (excluding political/protest songs, or course, which didn’t go over especially well for our type of band and clientele, so we mainly ignored that genre). So it became time to swap Bob for Alex Stefanovic. This occurred in the vicinity of August 1968. Co-incidentally we had just then acquired a new Sydney-based manager/agent and had commenced working in Sydney several nights a week, as well as Wollongong, and as well as still having full-time ‘real’ jobs.
The next thing was a name change, yes, into Imagination. This was chosen because of the hippy, druggy, fantasy, mystical ‘thing’ that was around at that time. Imagination recorded with Alberts music on the Parlophone label, the same label that released Beatles songs in Australia. Alberts also released the Easybeats and Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, so we felt pretty cool about being signed by them – clearly a major Australian label. We were then compelled to do clones of songs we hated – it’s all about the money! They did, however, allow us to put originals on the b-sides.
Although all the band members names were listed as composers, both songs came about in the same manner. Sitting around idly at practice and trying to be creative, Alex came up with the first line or two, but got stuck right there. I then finished either all or most of the rest of the lyrics. I did this often with Dan, too. i.e. not having a theme to suit myself but expanding on a seed coming from someone else. Lyle’s contribution was mostly with chord patterns and the lead guitar riffs.
Although there were several reasons why Imagination split, a major one for me was that, after getting married directly before going full-time, we had a son in September 1969 and I could not continue to put dreams before hard reality. So, goodbye band, hello family and day job.
[After Imagination] I played in a local band all through the ’70s. I adapted to lead guitar and lead vocal, playing in a trio with keyboards, drums, and myself also doubling on bass. We all sang lead and harmony. Bob even sat in on a couple of songs when we played at his office party one time.
I then went into Christian music via my local church. During this period I always kept my hand in with fill-in spots in the usual secular bands who wanted a bass player or guitarist. In the mid-’80s I also played in a top-40 covers band with guys all 20 years younger than me! At their invitation! Very flattering! In the late ’80s and into the ’90s I went back to playing in the more clubby type bands, and eventually then back to just fill-ins.
In the Christian music scene I lost count of the number of albums I assisted in on bass, lead and rhythm guitar, harmonies and co-production, as well as some engineering. I also wrote numerous songs in that genre, some of which went around the world, but in a somewhat private manner, Christian music hardly being mainstream.
I have always played some of what is new in each decade and have not stuck with, as John Lennon once said, the music of those high school years. As recently as 3 years ago, my daughter, then 19, pulled me out of band music retirement to form yet another wedding-parties-anything band. We used MIDI backing, mostly created by myself, with myself on live lead guitar and my wife, daughter and son all singing. We all sang lead and any harmony. Mainly due to the Beach Boys, the Beatles, and many ’50s vocal groups, I have always loved harmonies more than anything else, and it was a great blessing to have a family who all could sing harmony with minimal effort – they were all gifted! As for me (and Dan, back then) I had to work hard to get them right.
Thank you to Neil Porter for his detailed history of the band in response to my questions.
I just heard of the passing of Gerry Humphreys, lead singer of the Loved Ones, one of the most distinctive bands of the ’60s. They formed in Melbourne and had just one lp.
Other members were Ian Clyne piano, Rob Lovett (ex-Wild Cherries) guitar, Kim Lynch bass, and Terry Knott drums. Before recording, Terry was replaced on drums by Gavin Anderson. After their second 45, “Everlovin’ Man”, Ian Clyne left to be replaced by guitarist Treya Richards.
Several singles are excellent, including “Everlovin’ Man” and “Sad Dark Eyes”, but I think there’s nothing quite like “The Loved One” in all of 60’s garage and pop. It was a big hit in Australia, reaching #2 on the charts. The live tracks from Melbourne, 1966 that appeared on Raven’s reissue of Magic Box are just fantastic.
Rare video of “Sad Dark Eyes”, see it while you can!
Ged Fitzsimmons, a fan of the band, wrote in with some more information about the Loved Ones:
The Loved Ones did not form all of a sudden in 1966. Three members, Ian Clyne, Gerry Humphreys and Kim Lynch, had previously been The Red Onions Jazz Band for quite a few years, and had issued no less than three LP albums under that name.
Their musical skills enabled them to create blues recordings with unusual chord structures, rather than the normal 12-bar three-chord arrangement.
Ian Clyne, apart from singer Gerry Humphreys, was the group’s most important member, as it was he who composed the group’s first two big hits. Because of a democratic agreement, the other band members were listed as co-composers on “The Loved One” and “Everlovin’ Man”.
When Ian Clyne left the group, the band’s original material suffered dramatically.
I saw The Loved Ones in 1966 at Zondrae’s Disco in Keira Street, Wollongong, and they were every bit as good live as they were on record.
The band added a new lead guitarist, Danny De Lacey, who came from Los Angeles, USA.
Unfortunately, they seemed to go downhill rapidly after that. They put out an absolutely abominable and abysmal single called “The Loverly Car”, and it sold about two copies, as it deserved. In mid-1967, the boys went their separate ways. Gerry Humphreys formed a group called Gerry & The Joy Band, but they did not get enough publicity to become successful.
Gerry returned to England, where he spent his latter working days as a nurse in a London psychiatric hospital.
In the 1980s, The Loved Ones had a very brief comeback in Melbourne, but Gerry could not reach those high notes. The producers of a televised “live” appearance actually dubbed in Gerry’s wild verses from the original recording of “Everlovin’ Man” because he sounded woeful in person!
May I add that The Loved Ones, despite their very few recordings, have always meant a lot to me, and I have never been without a copy of their output in the last forty years.
Two LP albums were issued, The Loved Ones’ Magic Box and The Loved Ones Live and they have both been available as budget CDs for many years, still selling well in Australia.
Apart from the hit records, the highlights on their studio album include “Blueberry Hill”, “Shake Rattle & Roll”, and “The Woman I Love”.
Great band from Brisbane who relocated to New Zealand.
They had many fine releases, including some that are more soul and pop than these I’m featuring here. I recommend seeking out the rest of their recordings. Their full story is at the New Zealand Music of the 60’s site.