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Friday, May 27, 2022

Cream of The Crate: Album # 135 – Various Artists: So You Wanna Be A Rock & Roll Star Volume 1

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It all happened so fast and was over so quick nobody really understood it (Glenn A Baker – liner notes)
One of the few comprehensive various-artists documents of the mid-’60s Australian rock scene.
(AllMusic)
“Without doubt an essential purchase for anyone with a serious interest in Australian music of the ’60s. (Milesago)


The album was first reviewed in the Toorak times in may 2015 and was review number one hundred and thirty five in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and CD albums from my collection. This is a revised review.

The series was called Cream of The Crate and each review represents an album that I believe represents significant musical value, either because of its rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of a music or because there is something unique about the music, the group or the particular production.

The first fifty reviews were based on vinyl albums from my collection, with the following fifty on CD albums from my collection. Links to all these reviews can be found at the bottom of the page. I check out a very interesting double album from my collection this week, featuring an amazing range of Australian Artists from the years 1964 to 1966.

The album has the title So You Wanna Be A Rock and Roll Star Volume 1The Scream Years Of Australian Rock 1964 – 1966. It is a compilation album put out on the Festival label in 1975 and has the code L-45587. It is a double vinyl LP in a gatefold cover and was according to the cover notes, “conceived, researched & compiled by Glenn A.Baker.

The album has 32 tracks, eight per side and covers some of the absolutely best known artists that recorded on the Festival label during the years 1964 – 1966, as well as some rare and unheard of groups.

I would have preferred the sub-title to have been “The Beat Years” rather than “The Scream Years“, but that was Bakers prerogative!

What is very interesting about this set is not just the inclusion of some most excellent groups and artists from this period, generally featured playing one of the tracks they are best known for, but the fact that the second album in this double album set, features eight groups that generally went under the radar. However, their music or their lineup, is memorable for one reason or another.

Of course what it does do now it is just over 40 years since the album’s release and for all intents and purposes 50 years since the tracks were recorded, is to provide a fascinating and well deserved historical record of what was a crucial period in the development of Australian music.


The gatefold nature of the album provides us with the opportunity of being provided a reasonable summation of the groups and the tracks and some historical context.

It may or may not have been seen at the time as being an important historical record of the music of this time, and I can only conclude this because it really deserved . . . no it really demanded, a decent full sized booklet.

While the inside covers do provide reasonable information, more info and certainly pictures of the artists and groups could have accompanied the album if a booklet had been produced. As it is, we have to be happy with a collage of pictures as presented on the rear of the cover.

Track Listing

SIDE ONE
BILLY THORPE & AZTECS – Poison Ivy
RAY BROWN & WHISPERS – Pride
NORMIE ROWE & THE PLAYBOYS – Tell him I’m not home
TONY WORSLEY & BLUEJAYS – Just a little bit
MIKE FURBER & THE BOWERY BOYS- You stole my love
JOHNNY YOUNG & KOMPANY – Step back
JEFF ST. JOHN & THE ID – Lindy Lou
RAY HOFF & THE OFFBEATS – Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go

SIDE TWO
CHRIS HALL & THE TORQUAYS – Don’t ask me why
MARTY RHONE & THE SOUL AGENTS – Thirteen women
GLEN INGRAM & THE HI-FIVE – Skye boat song
VINCE MALONEY SECT – She’s a yum yum
STEVE & THE BOARD – The giggle eyed goo
PURPLE HEARTS – Early in the morning
DELLTONES – Hey girl, don’t bother me
EXECUTIVES – Wander boy

SIDE THREE
AMAZONS – Ain’t that lovin’ you baby
SUNSETS – When I found you
RAJAHS – Kiss me now
BLACK DIAMONDS – See the way
BLUE BEATS – She’s coming home
POGS – The Pog’s theme
MORLOCH – Every night
MYSTRYS – Witch girl

SIDE FOUR
SHOWMEN – Don’t deceive
LIBRETTOS – Kicks
LOST SOULS – This life of mine
THE FIVE – Bright lights, big city
THE A SOUND – Tomorrow I met you
KEVIN BIBLE & THE BOOK – Rockin’ pneumonia & the boogie woogie flu
JIMMY CROCKETT & THE SHANES – Lovin’ touch
BLUES RAGS ‘N’ HOLLERS – I just want to make love to you

As is usually the case when reviewing compilations that have history attached, choosing tracks from what is usually strong line-ups is very difficult.

Side one of album one is a prime example of this with no less than six artists that back in that period that most audiences and certainly the young muso’s I hung around with,  had great respect for.

Two other artists on this album “we” knew were popular but didn’t grab us at the time and it really has taken a period of time and reflection to understand that while their music and presentation did not “grab” us, they certainly were marketed very well and really had a most definite followings.

Those two are Johnny Young and Mike Furber. So that helps me a little and I took the easy way out and simply decided to focus on tracks 1 and 2.

Track number one kicks off with one of Australia’s most revered rockers, if not power rockers, Billy Thorpe, or “Thorpie” as he became affectionately known in later years. We need to understand that in 1964/65 Billy was marketed in the image of the British style of presentation, with suits, ties, long hair, but very neat, and a “beat” style of dress, which was new to us and was instantly accepted.

The choice of Poison Ivy was an interesting one.  Now the track had already been made famous by the Coasters in 1959, in fact reaching number 1 in the R&B charts and number 7 in the Billboard Hot 100 chart of that year.

It was already covered by a number of British groups including the well known version by the Rolling Stones, a slightly lesser known version by the Dave Clark V and in fact even the Hollies had released a version – all before Billy Thorpe. So while there is no doubt that the version released by Billy and the Aztecs was immensely popular, there certainly was an element of risk with so many versions already on the market. Incidentally, it would be covered no less than twenty two times over subsequent years.

The Aztecs, at this time consisting of of drummer Col Baigent, bassist John “Bluey” Watson and guitarists Valentine Jones and Vince Maloney, was formed early in 1963 in Sydney as predominantly a surf instrumental group.

With the sudden surge of everything British hitting the airwaves, they quickly approached local singer Billy Thorpe who joined them. Shortly after Jones left the group to be replaced by Tony Barber. By mid 1964 they had recorded and released Poison Ivy and it quickly shot to the top of the charts giving the group instantaneous national popularity.

So big was the track that it famously kept The Beatles from the No. 1 spot on the Sydney charts which was a major accomplishment, only magnified by the fact that the Beatles were actually touring Australia at the time. So impressed were the Beatles that they invited Thorpe to meet them at their hotel.

It was indeed a massive hit! #1 in Sydney, #1 in Melbourne, #1 in Brisbane, #2 in Adelaide and #1 in Perth.

Baigent, Barber, Thorpe, Maloney & Watson

There is no underestimating the importance of Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs to the development of the music scene in Australia and it is somewhat of an indication of both Thorpe and the Aztecs, that when Thorpe left the group in 1965 and returned in 1969 – he came not only as the lead singer but as lead guitarist and would front the Aztecs though their most brilliant musical period of 1969 to the group disbanded in 1973.

But all that success and adulation really started with this Leiber & Stoller composition – Poison Ivy!

Poison Ivy

Almost 12 months after Poison Ivy was released, a track by the name of Pride (August 1965) was released by Ray Brown and The Whispers. This is track number two and it was the second track released by the group and it charted well across Australia.

The Whispers started out as (yet another) instrumental group called The Impacts and were playing around Sydney in 1961/62. Late in 1962 they evolved into the Nocturnes a more “Shadows” like band consisting of the core members of the future Whispers – John Manners, guitarist Lawrie Barclay and drummer Pat Jeffrey.

Like the Aztecs, for the The Whispers the sudden impact of the British beat music meant that the days of the pure instrumental groups was coming to a rapid end. Now Brown was actually an unknown singer, better known as an amateur footballer, but he connected with the Nocturnes and they then changed their name copying the style of the popular groups from Britain like Gerry & The Pacemakers and Brian Poole & The Tremeloes- to: Ray Brown & The Whispers.

Now Ray certainly didn’t have a “power” voice like Thorpe, or Max Merritt or even someone like Tony Worsley (who is on this album), but he did have a pleasant voice with a decent upper register and his voice was unique enough to stand out in a period when there were many similar bands vying for recognition.

In fact the group had its first five singles chart brilliantly and Pride went to #1 Sydney, #6 Melbourne, #2 Brisbane, #1 Adelaide & #2 Perth. It is generally considered that of all their hits, Pride was the best. It was actually a cover of a rather obscure track that was released by one of those British groups I was talking about earlier – Billy J. Kramer and The Dakota’s – but while it was a non-event for that group, it was a brilliant success for Ray and The Whispers.

In their publication 100 Greatest Australian Singles of the ’60’s, David N Pepperell and Colin Talbot list Pride as one of those singles.

I think it is not inaccurate to describe it as a rollicking track with a good medium tempo push that was very popular on the dance floors.

Pride

There really isn’t a “dud” track on side 1, even the relative “lightweight” Johnny Young deserves his place on this album and I have to say that while the likes of Mike Furber is not in the same league as other artists of the time such as Jeff St. John (and the Id), along with Ray Hoff and Tony Worsley, their inclusion makes this first side a very strong side.

Turning LP number one over to side two, we certainly have lesser known “lights” such as Chris Hall, Glenn Ingram and the Executives.  However all three provide tracks that were enjoyed during this period to one degree or another.

The Delltones must really be considered as absolute “royalty” on this side of the album.  Their personalities and their harmonies have thrilled audiences for years. Yet I passed them by because I have discussed them in several album reviews previously and besides, I couldn’t go passed tracks number five and six.

I chose as my first track, track number five by Steve and The Board.

Now this was an interesting group. Giggle Eyed Goo wasn’t exactly a memorable track and if I hadn’t met the guys and spent some time with them talking about the development of Blues music way back in those days, I would have written them off as light-weights.

Musically in terms of what they released they could appear to be, and I guess they made the choice to stay light-weight rather than draw upon their music knowledge that they certainly had, but the reason escapes me.

Maybe fame?

Steve and The Board

Look, the track may have been a “comedy” track, and dear old dad Nat Kipner, may have paved the way for his son Steve Kipner, the lead singer, to bring his mates in and do some recording when other studios might have rejected them.

You see dear old dad was a shareholder, a director and A&R manager at the Spin label during the period of 1966 – 1967; interestingly the period the boys recorded). I think you can fill in the gaps!

But they have to be remembered for the for-runners of the all time best Aussie “punk” track title, when they recorded (at Spin of course), the track “I Call My Woman Hinges Cause She’s Something To Adore“!

Giggle Eye Goo

The second track was, in card terms, an utter “lay down misere”!

That is to say, it absolutely self-selects as it is so obvious.Track number six is so unlike the previous track by Steve and The Board, in fact it is absolutely a polar opposite.

To start with these guys really were top muso’s. The group was Brisbane’s Purple Hearts. Fronted by the brilliant Mick Hadley the group at the time this track was recorded, comprised of Barry Lyde (known as Lobby Loyde), rhythm guitarist Fred Pickard, bassist Bob Dames, and drummer Adrian ‘Red’ Redmond. Tony Cahill would join not long after, replacing Redmond as the groups drummer.

They are often labeled as Australia’s first Garage band. Rubbish!

This was no “garage band”!  These guys could play and were really admired and respected by all their peers.

If Hadley’s amazing voice wasn’t enough, they had the man who was thought of as our guitar god, as our “Eric Clapton” – Lobby Loyde. Lobby could play like a man possessed, not just speed-wise, but with energy and passion. I remember seeing the group at Melbourne’s Thumping Tum in the late 1960’s, and Lobby, when his cigarette wasn’t hanging out of the side of his mouth, had it stuck on the end of an uncut guitar string.

He was cool personified.

Purple Hearts

The track is Early In The Morning – a “traditional” blues track, whose origins are still disputed.

When the Purple Hearts bought it out, it stunned everyone. The audiences had never heard anything like it before, the radio stations were totally confused and the rest of us knew we were listening to music waaaay ahead of its time. It was heavy, it was kind of blues, it smacked of drugs, it was totally experimental!

Once again, in 100 Greatest Australian Singles of the ’60’s Early In The Morning is listed with Talbot commenting, “Early In The Morning was so very different to anything else in the charts in 1966“.

Even today I listen to this track in utter amazement. Personally, in my mind this is THE track of the entire album!

Early In The Morning

LP one is sub-titled “The Stars“, which simply reflects that these artists were either well known, or had well known “hits”.

LP number 2 is sub-titled “The Punks” – poor choice of description, particularly as the Punk movement didn’t come until the following decade.

It is more appropriate to think of these ten artists as “The Wanna Be’s“.

 As “almost” none of these artists got much airplay or drew big crowds, does it matter which tracks are featured? Sure it does, as there are actually some gems hidden away on the two sides of LP number 2.

You only need to go back to the track listing at the beginning of this review to see who they were, but on side one of album 2, I’m stopping at track numbers one and ten – being the first and the last tracks.

The opening track is by a group called The Amazons and was recorded in 1966. Now the track is credited to “Malone”!

Sorry guys, this is an old Jimmy Reed track, no matter how you disguise it with one of the worse harmonica intro’s I have ever heard recorded.

As the liner notes say. “What do two teenage sons of a lady that runs a booking agency do to pass the time? They form a pop group of course. Mrs Carroll must have been proud of young Chris and Dally as they worked themselves up from a state of unknown to a state of total insignificance.”

OK, that’s hardly a glowing endorsement of the boys and their music. But there are other members of this group, and one of them was Harry Bruce who went on to play with notable groups Copperwine and Blackfeather. As far as I can determine The Amazons was his first group, and while he may have come to regret that they left a legacy of poor blues playing, while another member of the group – Johnny Caves, probably regrets it even more.

The Amazons

Johnny Caves? Oh! You probably know him, or may remember him as William Shakespeare.

What the track does remind us of, is that there were many many “Amazons” all around Australia, young boys with stars in their eyes all trying to become famous. So yes, it is rough and ready, but it was the music that was being listened to in the small halls around the suburbs, while the “Stars“, played in the city venues.

Aint That Loving You Baby

We move past the Sunsets who are mostly memorable for one member – Lindsay Bjerre and who eventually reformatted the group into Tamam Shud.

We overlook The Rajahs who were one of the country’s first full-on Beatles imitators.

Next, The Black Diamonds who actually had two charting tracks, but under two different names.

We then move to the Blue Beats who actually got to play on a Rolling Stones concert, and beats me how!

Track number six brings us to The Pogs, who despite their attempt to look and play “working class”, were actually architecture students from the well to do Sydney area of Mosman. Now these boys had the support of a young man from Britain called Pete Best (yes, THE Pete Best). They were actually were on the edge of success but it just didn’t happen despite having a singer by the name of Rory O’Donghue who did go onto bigger things, including having a number 1 ditty about a “lady” who ripped peoples arms off.

The penultimate group on this side are The Morloch, who were a Sydney group used by a promoter – Mark Royal, to backup his main protege Johnny Fancypants. Unfortunately Fancypants did not become a household name.

Disgusted Royal left the country, so the Morloch sent out press releases saying they were certainly were not disbanding, then to totally confuse everyone, promptly disbanded.

Now at last to track number ten. The group is The Mysterys and the track is Witch Girl.

Having been totally overlooked and completely embracing obscurity in Melbourne, these boys donned hoods to cover their faces and set forth to conquer Sydney. The big problem was that Sydney were choking on clandestine groups in fact, there were at one point four different versions of a group called the Mysterians and another group called The Mystics!

Either Sydney had its fill of masked groups or just became confused as to who was whom. So in disgust the group folded, going their own way probably believing they were way ahead of their time.

I loved Bakers comment, when he writes, “Their identities beg (although the liner notes say ‘bag’) to be revealed, but I really can’t bring myself to do it. They would have wanted it this way.”

I don’t have that problem. They were:

  • Lead Guitarist – Ziggy Zapata
  • Rhythm Guitarist – Kevin Thomas
  • Bass Guitarist – Charlie Bayliss
  • Drummer (first) – Malcolm McPhee
  • Drummer (second) – John Lake

The Mystrys

What about the track? Almost secondary to the story, it’s actually not a bad track for its time (May 1966), it even has some cheesy but neat semi-electronic effects to suggest, to the suggestible, that this is weird “witch” music. It is worth checking out!

Witch Girl

So to side two of LP 2 – and it was surprising and a delight to find some lost gems on this side.

Track one features the Showmen, who for a brief moment really had their “place in the spot-light”. In the first Battle of the bands in Sydney in 1965 they actually leapt onto the stage while one of their 57 competitors were playing and wearing the latest Mersey gear and threw themselves into first place with some half decent playing, a lot of silly antics and won a spot on the touring Dave Clarke 5 tour.

But that still didn’t get them featured in this review.

You see I could not go past track number two which is a New Zealand group by the name of The Librettos that had a very polished sound with the 1966 track – Kicks, that in fact actually has a very infectious lead line throughout the track.

Having taken up residency in Melbourne they quickly gained popularity and Kicks was indeed their 3rd single. Unlike many of the groups on side two of album number 2 – mainly well meaning, hard trying “wanna be’s” – these guys were classy musicians.

First and foremost was Brian Peacock who played bass and had a great voice. The group also had good drummer in Dave Diver, an excellent keyboard player/singer in Lou Parun and had Rod Stone on guitar.

However they couldn’t quite make that final jump into being a top group, and with the band’s spirits somewhat dampened, Peacock and Stone were tempted away with an offer to back Normie Rowe in a re-vamped Playboys line up.

Librettos

Finally Peacock joined Procession and Stone the Groove.

Kicks

The Lost Souls, track 3, were just that. Sure they had the courage to write their own material but the best reason for remembering them was their bass player, who would become an absolute legend of the Australian music scene.

His name – Bill Putt!

Track 4 features a group called The Five and they were from Brisbane and like a lot of “blues based” groups of this period, drew upon the likes of Jimmy Reed. Their contribution to this album is a passable version of Bright Lights Big City.

Track 5 is dedicated to the Sydney group – The A Sound with Tomorrow I Meet You. Fronted by a young Doug Parkinson we might have expected it to have been a successful group – it wasn’t!

The following track is a ripper! Kevin Bible and The Book with Rockin’ Pneumonia.

Now the track was a great rendition of the Huey “Piano” Smith’s track, and should have actually made the hit charts if not for a certain church owned Sydney radio station that had a lot of clout, banned it claiming it was sacrilegious.

In terms of the group membership, only one member is worth mentioning and he went onto bigger things with Khavus Jute and other very good groups. His name? Dennis Wilson.

That leaves the penultimate group for this final side, and that is Jimmy Crocket & The Shanes. I put my hand up as someone who had never heard of this group prior to obtaining this album.

Remember B on this side, The Showmen? Well these guys were runners up to the Showmen in that battle of the bands and walked away with £50.00 and a recording contract. Having released this track, Lovin’ Touch in 1965 and flushed with excitement, they put out a press release that said, “The band has been together for 15 months now but we haven’t given up our day jobs yet!”

I echo Bakers comment – “Just as well.”

The final track is by a very good Adelaide outfit, Blues Rags ‘N” Hollers. These boys had done their blues homework and were apparently a very respected blues based band. I really wish I had heard them live.

 The group consisted of:

David Harrison – lead Vocals, Ted Fry – Bass, John Hilton – Guitar, Mike Patterson – Drums, brian Coughlin – keyboards and Andy Wilkinson – Vocals and harmonica

 

 

The biggest problem these boys faced was that they were in direct competition with groups such as The Twilights and The Masters Apprentices who were not only emulating great music from overseas, but were writing their own material.

The track featured is, I Just Wanna Make Love To You, by Willie Dixon and was covered so brilliantly by the Stones one year prior to their release in 1966.

However, this is a gutsy well played version but they just didn’t have that, that “certain something” and they quickly faded into obscurity. Now 51 years later we get the chance to listen back to a decent suburban Aussie group playing their cover of an even greater blues track.


I Just Wanna Make Love To You

So with any number of Australian music compilations on the market, is it that this one is better than most?

Yes! it is.  This is because it has a set of decent liner notes and has an excellent smattering of top line acts and middle of the road acts. It also has hard working and well meaning but fast disappearing ‘pretenders’, and, as crazy as it may sound, these groups need to be remembered as not only were the basis for many fine groups that followed.

They were typical of the thousands of small groups that formed, broke up, reformed and disappeared as the decade moved on. Sure the album only covers the period 1964 – 1966, but this was a very important period when the Australian music scene was finding its feet and shaping itself for a future that would come.

The album is a nice gatefold double album, and with 40 groups it really was good value for money. It is the vinyl set that is the collectable, and, there are copies around.

Discogs have a few scattered around the world and you can expect to pay around $65.00 plus postage. However for those of you who are not vinyl collectors, this set is available on CD along with the companion Volume, So You Wanna Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star Volume 2 – The Psychedelic Years of Australian Rock 1967 – 1970.

I will review this album next week.

WARNING: Just be aware that there is an American album set with the same title, so if you are shopping around for this Australian album, check carefully what you are buying.


VIDEOS – There are far too many tracks on this album to try and provide a clip of each, and because the artists on album number 2 never “made it”, there are no known clips of them.

So I wanted to provide some clips from album number 1. Then I discovered that very few live clips of the tracks on album number 1 exist, so I have at least provided clips of the artists from the same period. Incidentally, I discovered that Mick Hadley had actually put an original clip of the Purple Hearts doing “Early In The Morning” on Youtube – how could I resist?

Ray Brown and the Whispers – Pride

Normie Rowe – Tell Him I’m Not Home

Mike Furber – You Stole My Love

Jeff St John and The Id – Stupidity

Purple Hearts – Early In The Morning

Rob Greaves
I have been with the Toorak Times since April 2012. I work as Senior Editor of the Toorak Times, but I also think of myself as senior contributor. I've been in the Australian music scene as a musician since 1964, and have worked in radio and TV and newspapers (when they were paper ), serious experience in audio editing, and a lot of video editing experience. Currently I'm working as a radio program producer for a national interview program as well as my work with the Toorak Times