For all of the 1980s I wrote a weekly music column for the Sun Herald, then the biggest selling newspaper in the country. They gave me crazy freedom to write about whatever I liked. This was my first column for 1982 and a summation of the previous year. It reflects newspaper journalism of the time – short pars that were usually just one sentence. I’ve left it the way it originally appeared and on reflection I’m pretty happy with my opinions – although I was probably a tad too nice to The Mighty Guys and a bit harsh on The Stray Cats!
Although 1981 wasn’t an outstanding year for rock ‘n roll, there were enough memorable records and live shows to convince me that my love affair with the music isn’t over yet. This week’s Rock Beat, the first for the new year, is a random reflection of the highlights of the past 12 months.
The bands I enjoyed most live were Sunny Boys, Church, Riptides, Machinations, Sardine, Laughing Clowns, Tactics, New Race and, recently, The Reels.
Super K, a composite band which only played about six shows, was a delight to see each night with its snappy versions of old bubblegum classics from people like The Archies, 1910 Fruitgum Company, and The Lemon Pipers.
Consistently magnificent was the soulful Flaming Hands which is easily the best band in Sydney not signed to a major record company. It reinforces my feelings about large record companies when I see so many mediocre and dreadful bands being signed and one like Flaming Hands being ignored.
Hunters and Collectors was the most impressive new band to emerge from Melbourne during the year.
Besides this group I spent numerous nights watching Paul Kelly and The Dots, and Broderick Smith’s Big Combo, lamenting the fact that both bands don’t live in Sydney.
The quality of Australian bands becomes even more obvious when compared with the overseas visitors in 1981. There were very few concerts that I felt worth the $12 – $15 ticket price.
The Supremes, Ian Dury and The Blockheads and Smokey Robinson were about the only ones I enjoyed all night and wanted to go back and see again.
It was $12 to see The Stray Cats at The Capitol Theatre. They played for around 75 minutes. Last week I spent the night watching The Mighty Guys at The All Nations Club in Kings Cross. It was free. The band played 70 songs between 9 pm and 1.30 a.m
In one song The Mighty Guys ate The Stray Cats alive in terms of rockabilly spirit, authenticity, sense of history and an ability to bring a smile and dancing feet to everyone in the pub.
Just to make you envious, the finest concerts I saw overseas were Bruce Springsteen, Mink DeVille, James Brown, Ronnie Spector, The Q Tips, Delbert McClinton, and The Searchers.
On the vinyl front, the singles that spent most time on my turntable or caused me to turn up the radio volume were Kim Carnes’ Bette Davis Eyes, Icehouse’s Love In Motion, Pete Shelly’s Homosapian and I Don’t Know What It Is, and The Church’s Double EP.
My overall favourite was Soft Cell’s 12in single that combines Tainted Love and Where Did Our Love Go which all my neighbours heard at least 1,000 times!
As with every year there were dozens of albums I treasured. The magnificent debut from The Sunny Boys stands out as the most enjoyable Australian album release.
I also spent lots of time listening to Broderick Smith’s Big Combo’s debut, The Sports Play Dylan and Donovan, The Saints’ Monkey Puzzle, Paul Kelly and The Dots’ Talk, the Church’s Of Skin and Heart, and Jo Jo Zep and The Falcons’ 10in album.
From overseas I delighted in Elvis Costello’s Blue, Mink DeVille’s Coup De Grace, and Smokey Robinson’s Being With You.
The new English albums I played most were U2’s Boy, Teardrop Explodes Kilimanjaro, and the Au Pairs magnificent Playing With A Different Sex, the first time a band has successfully come to terms with sexuality and rock ‘n’ roll.
Then there was John Cale’s Honi Soit, Tom Verlaine’s Dreamtime, The Rolling Stones’ Tattoo You, Radio Birdman’s Living Eyes, Midnight Oil’s Place Without A Postcard and stacks more.
There were no good rock ‘n’ roll movies shown in Australia although The Clash’s effort had its moments. In America I saw D.O.A. (Dead On Arrival), a depressing, perceptive look at the rise of punk and the Sex Pistols tour of America.
Glenn A. Baker deserves a pat on the back for the dozens of compilation albums he put together during the year. He covered everything from Little Patti to Australian punk rock in the sixties and Marc Bolan.
In the print area there were a number of fine rock ‘re roll books. The most enlightening was Dick Hebdige’s Subculture: The Meaning Of Style, an analysis of the punk and reggae movements in England.
Clinton Walker’s Inner City Sound is an indispensible look at new Australian music over the past five years — from The Saints to The Sunny Boys and everyone in between.
Former New Musical Express writer Tony Parsons gave us Platinum Logic, a cheap trashy blockbuster about the music industry. An excellent read.