Chain “… and the night man walked on the moon*” Part 3

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Chain “… And The Night Man Walked On The Moon*” Part 3
Chain 1970s

Chain “… And The Night Man Walked On The Moon*” Part 3CHAIN 1971

(Photo courtesy of Philip Morris)

At age sixteen, Matt Taylor would frequent a fish shop near his house in Springhill, Brisbane. The fish shop was the kind of place bikers used to hang out in too.  The bikers liked Matt.  When Matt was in the shop, people would start abusing him about his really-long hair.  He’d mostly be called ‘poofta’ and the bikers would front them

Then one day this guy walks in and it’s only a month or so since Matt had been taken down to the police station for having long hair.  This guy had black and yellow check trousers [“black and yellow check trousers”?]  and he’s got long curly hair.  Matt goes up to him and says “G’day, cos there weren’t that many long hairs around so whenever we saw each other we’d make an acquaintance.”   Turns out he had great knowledge about the blues and Matt said “look I’ve probably got the best blues collection in Brisbane at the moment, because I’ve just come back from Melbourne.  So anytime you want to hear great stuff come to my place and I’m going to start a traditional blues band.    The stranger says; “I’m already in a band, yeah we’re going to start a blues band, why don’t you try out with us”

Turns out this guy is Paul Johnson leader of The Bay City Union (BCU)

Paul Johnson was a great artist really, again died very young.  He would have suited the punk era more than the 60s era they lived in, he would have just fitted in. In 1966 he had a T-Shirt with “Get Fucked!” written on it.  Now you’d get arrested for having a T-Shirt like that in 1966 you know, no free speech in those days and he worked at a place called “Queensland Druggists.”  So, every Friday night the hand would go in the amphetamine bottle, the Purple Heart bottle and the little white pills “I’ve never figured out what they are” bottle.  All the guys in the band would be just dropping them because it was pretty much done now.

For the Brisbane boys, in those days, their mentors were in many ways The Purple Hearts [with Lobby Loyde] who were the biggest band in town

The paradox of some in the Australian police force of the 1960s, was that these very people who were paid by the government to protect us were treating honest people, particularly teenage boys, as the enemy of the state.  Brisbane in the 1960s was the worst example.  In a bizarre world, “the corrupt Police Commissioner Frank Bischof oversaw a campaign to stamp out rock ’n’ roll culture in the ‘60s'”

[I witnessed this oppression in Sydney too.  It seemed to me, at the time, that the police were trying to provoke teenage boys to become tomorrow’s criminals.  I suggest that the Australian Government, still today, condones these attitudes in the Australian Police Force, particularly against Aboriginal boys]

The public were caught up with this bizarre mindset to the extent that Matt’s English teacher believed the Beatles to be a “communist plot”

At age 14 and 15, Matt is really deeply into the blues.  In Brisbane, aged 16, he’d virtually exhausted all the blues records you can get and some friends went down to Melbourne and said “Matt if you’re into blues come down here they’ve got Discuria and all these great record stores”

Matt was in Melbourne for about three months.  He bought blues records, you know like John Lee Hooker and all the EXCELLO stuff with Lazy Lester and Lightning Slim and Slim Harpo, he adored all of these guys.  He also bought some nice shirts and a pair of boots.  “You couldn’t even buy a decent pair of boots in Brisbane, really nice fashionable mod kind of boots”.  He checked out a lot of bands and there were some great bands in Melbourne but nothing as good as The Purple Hearts

Video:  Matt trouble with police

Matt was reading through the latest copy of “Fabulous” [magazine] He saw a photo of a band that “looks exactly the way I feel”, he just looked at it and thought “O my god who are they?”  They were the Rolling Stones. Without hearing one note of music Matt was an instant fan.  He found out that they had an album coming out in a few days or weeks or something.

Matt loved all the Chuck Berry and Little Richard songs. The article on the Rolling Stones, said that they did a couple of Chuck Berry songs.  He bought the album the very first day it came out.   He ran home put it on his sister’s radio gram.  His dad walked in, stood with his arms crossed in front of the radio gram, “Matty what’s that shit?”  Dad was not impressed at all and the thing that knocked Matt out is that his dad was a harmonica player!  They had harmonicas all over the house.  To Matt, who never looked at them, that was old man music

All of a sudden …  harmonicas started to have an incredible attraction.  Matt gets every harmonica in the house and tries to play along with the music but he could not work it out.  In “Fabulous” [magazine] there’s an interview with Keith Relf from The Yardbirds.  A really good harmonica player and he gives all the instructions about cross-harp and how if you’ve got a ‘C’ harmonica the band plays in ‘G’.  Matt found out that his dad had twenty different harmonicas but there wasn’t one that you could play blues on.  He bought an Echo Super Vampa. It was the only one you could bend notes on and if you didn’t bend notes then it was no use playing it.  At the time, it was the cheapest harmonica you could buy.  Matt showed it to his dad, “Matty that’s just a toy”

******

Matt said [to Paul Johnson] “I’m only going to play traditional blues I’m not going to play any of the pop stuff … you know… we go back to the originators and learn the songs from them.”

“O look Matt, if you’ve got the albums, we’ll go along with that.”

Matt had been playing harmonica for about two years when he went to the first practice with Bay City Union.  Matt played rhythm guitar and they do a couple of Jimmy Reed. They did a few other things and Matt could see the guys in the band thinking “Oh well he can play a bit of guitar” and then Paul says play “Got love if you want it” and Matt will play harmonica

“Soon as I played harmonica the guys just looked at me and said you’re in.”

Monday 14th February 1966, two things happened.  One – Australia changed to decimal currency but more importantly Bay City Union had their first gig

BCU had been together for about two weeks when Jimmy Brelsford’s dad, Sid, gets them a gig (Jimmy plays slide guitar on Moose Malone “House of Blue Light”).  But they had only been together two weeks and only knew nine songs.  Sid had the answer, “Just play ‘em twice.”

The gig was right out in the suburbs, some kind of weird dance they had out there. They also did the Opening of the “In Shop” at Myers. You couldn’t stop BCU.  The Purple Hearts had just gone down to Melbourne.  Matt always thought, on his recommendation, but they said “No Matt, we were going anyway”

The best little blues club in Brisbane was called the Saint George Club and it was in a church hall and it was run by a fella named Glen Wheatley, [yes, that Glen Wheatley].  Glen needs the band and he’s got a little band “The Vacant Lot” but they’re not good enough to take the place of the Purple Hearts. Nor was the Bay City Union but they did it anyway.  For a few months, they played at the Saint George Club.  Glen’s band would go on first and by this stage, BCU knew about twenty-four songs they got through a night quite easily

They always knew that the St. George Club would come to an end.  The gig was in a church hall and on a Saturday night.  The poor old parishioners every Sunday morning had to wade through beer bottles.  Remember there’s no drinking and these aren’t pubs.  These are little clubs that sell soft drink but everyone’s coming in with beer and booze and going outside and drinking it.  You know, there’d be beer bottles, cans, drink of a little bit of whiskey here ‘n’ there, Vodka (the girls liked Vodka a lot).   This is basically, you know, Matt only 17 or 18 at the time and the audience was probably from 14 to 19 or something, incredibly young.  It was just the greatest vibe

The Church’s Minister just said, “No we can’t do it anymore.  One of the parishioners found a used condom.”  That was the end of the Saint George Club and luckily for the Bay City Union, the biggest club in town was run by a fellow named Ivan Damon, who was Normy Rowe’s Manager.  When John Hannay, the Manager of one of the biggest clubs, saw that they were pulling a lot of people away from their main big club.  He said “look I like the band. I want you to play here Friday, Saturday and Sunday and I’ll pay you ten pounds each” that’s twenty dollars each. [Basically, a week’s wages was $40] BCU had only been playing for money for about four months

After about two months, Matt and Paul started to write a few songs together and we looked at each other and said “Let’s go professional” and Matt’s been a professional musician ever since

Glenn Wheatley joined Bay City Union in Brisbane 1966.  The line-up in Brisbane was Paul Johnson – vocals; Matt Taylor – Rhythm Guitar and Harmonica; Trevor Bagwall played Bass; Jimmy Brelsford played lead guitar; Peter Miles – drummer. Then they went to Sydney and Melbourne

*****

In Melbourne, Bay City Union would play at 10th Avenue in Bourke Street every afternoon. Cafes were the lunch time scene. The scene in Melbourne in the 60s wasn’t as nearly as sophisticated as the scene in Sydney.  In Melbourne you played non-alcohol venues, whereas in Sydney you played alcohol allowed.  It was thanks to Con at 10th Avenue who told Phil to apply for the guitarist’s position.     After two weeks Phil fitted right in and it was even better than it had been before.   Then the bass player left and Glenn Wheatley took over the bass.  After 9 or 10 months, working every night, BCU got to standard of blues bands Matt admired like the “Unknown Blues Band”

Bay City Union recorded Mo’reen  – Paul Butterfield style – but it was not accepted by Blues society.  Towards the end of BCU Matt was writing with Phil Manning

Video: The Bay City Union – “Mo’reen”

 

“I connected on a deep level when I heard the blues I understood it, I understood that suffering.  I understood also the good times part of it.  There’s a wonderful song, I do a little bit of it every now and then, by John Lee Hooker it was actually written the year I was born in 1948 and it’s his big hit called “Boogie Chillen’”  and what Boogie Chillen’ is about; it’s a young boy trying to get into the clubs so that he could hear the music and drink booze.  I thought gee that wasn’t going to happen much in the next fifty years after that, was it? – young kids trying to get into the clubs – that’s what its about. So that’s why I love the blues and that’s why I say the blues is the truth.”  Matt Taylor December 2017

 Chain “… And The Night Man Walked On The Moon*” Part 3

 (photo courtesy of Peter Maloney)

Chain recorded Black and Blue in Sydney at Festival in November 1970 on the way back to Melbourne from Brisbane.  With Jiva and three roadies singing “We’re groaning” [the chorus] and they wanted a chain gang sound

The main radio station was 3XY in Melbourne, they loved it because they were now the top radio station for playing Australian music.  “I’ll Be Gone” by Spectrum. That was number one for seven weeks. Black and Blue eventually knocks “I’ll Be Gone” off the top of the charts and it’s number one for eighteen weeks and it takes a little song called Eagle Rock by Daddy Cool to knock Black and Blue off the top

Matt walked into one of the radio interviews and shook the DJs hand and said “thanks very much for playing our song” and he looked at Matt and said “I wouldn’t play this shit! It’s just that it’s in the Top Ten and I have to do it.”

Chain recorded Towards The Blues in 1971.  According to Steve Fraser, webmaster@milesago.com “released to great (and enduring) critical acclaim in September”.  Although, at this stage, they had not seen a black blues band and they’d never seen where the music came from

Phil would say “got a new riff” on their way to a gig and Matt would say “what key is it in?”  “O its in ‘G’ o great we’ll do it third song”.  So Phil would start this riff off, none of us had ever heard it – we’re at a gig – and we’d just make it up that’s how good that band was.  The music was a really natural arrangement. They never thought about it but if any other person came in to play, they learned just how intricate Chain’s music was.   Chain were never aware of the intricacies because they’d just blow on it every night and it would change slightly every night until they had a beautiful perfect song.   The single of Judgement with Blow in D on the back is the perfect example.   Blow in D was about six minutes long.  They are two songs that Chain still are asked to play all the time

Video: Chain Blow In D 1971

“Listen to Judgement,” Matt never sat down with Phil or anything to write Judgement. “We just played it on stage and Big Goose or someone would say, “Phil you know that blow we’ve been havin’, try doing it this way and we’ll stop here”  They’d be arranging blows in the van on the way to the gig.  So when they’d have that blow, Matt would say look I’ve changed the words, it’s now called Judgement.  “OK… well… when we play Judgement do it this way” and that’s why the arrangements, in that particular Chain, are so effortless

After doing the photography on Toward The Blues, Jiva was the first to leave to go to work as an Editor of the Daily Planet

Little Goose, who was more avant-garde, left because of musical differences.   Jiva said Little Goose “lost the plot” and Roger said Little Goose wanted to play more jazz.   Not long after, Big Goose left and they both went back to Brisbane where they were successful session musicians

On Saturday 17th July 1971, Go-Set magazine published an interview with Phil and Matt, where they spoke about the stress of music on family life.  The article stated that “Things were unsettled”, Phil said Little Goose left because he wanted to play more Jazz.  But they were still a family

Phil always said that cricket ruined Chain.  When they went down to Melbourne they were performing so much.  It was virtually five nights a week and they didn’t get to practice.   Matt and the Gooses played cricket on their days off.    Matt said to Phil “Phil we were just playing so much we just needed a break.  The last thing I wanted to do was practice playing music on a day off”.  So instead of practicing or writing new songs they’d just do ’em on stage.   The problem was that because they were on the road incessantly, everyone started playing cricket but because of his poor eyesight, Phil couldn’t see the ball

After the Gooses left, Phil got jack of it too and went off to do solo.  Matt tried to keep it together for another year but soon, joined by Jiva, left to join Fred Robinson’s commune in Beechworth

Little Goose from Chain Live CD liner notes:

It was original Australian music,

 I really believe that Chain was the first band to be completely honest,

 you know,

 to be there just for the music

‘Judgement’ in this video, filmed in September 1971, the bass player is Charlie Tamahai, the drummer is Kevin Murphy and guitarist Lindsay Wells

Video: Chain – perform Judgement ’71 Live on GTK

Thanks to Phil Manning, Matt Taylor, Linda Bester, Roger Taylor, Clive ‘Jiva’ Lawler, Peter Maloney, Ron and Jeff King, Philip Morris and Stuart Coupe.  I am very grateful for their generosity.

Dedicated to Greg Fisher 14/7/1954 – 9/5/2020 

2017 – Greg Fisher of Melbourne Blues Appreciation Society inspired me to research Chain when he interviewed me on his program Blues Illustrated about “Yblues? A Tribute to Dutch Tilders” film.  Greg said “What about Chain?”  so I promised myself I would follow this up.  Thank you Greg xxx   

 

REFERENCES:

  • Burrows, T & Riseborough, P (2009) I Remember When I Was Young: The Matt Taylor Story The Hilliard Press Nedlands Western Australia
  • Field, Kim (2000) Harmonicas, Harps, and Heavy Breathers: The Evolution of the People’s Instrument First Cooper Square Press Edition New York
  • Jones, LeRoi (Amiri Baraka) (1963/2002) Blues People: Negro Music in White America Harper Collins New York
  • Lomax, Alan (1993) The Land Where The Blues Began The New Press. New York. NY
  • *McFarlane, Ian (2010) Chain Live liner notes from CHAIN LIVE CD
  • Oakes, L (1997) Prophetic Charisma: The Psychology of Revolutionary Religious Personalities Syracuse University Press. New York.
  • Palmer, Robert (1982)  Deep Blues: A Musical and Cultural History, from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago’s South Side to the World  Penguin Books USA
  • Webmaster@milesago.com “CHAIN HISTORY”
  • Weissman, Dick (2005)  Blues: The Basics Routledge Press New York

 © Amanda Dweck 2017