“One of the finest musicians/ songwriters/ producers/ performers that this country has ever produced.” (Mark Gibson – Australian Music History)
“It was really fortunate that I ran into Ross Wilson when I was about twelve . . . Wilson had a great grounding in music . . . So I was lucky I had a grounding in good groove stuff when I was young” (Ross Hannaford)
This was number forty in the series of retro-reviews of Cd albums in my collection.
The series is called, “Cream of The Crate (CD’s)”, and they represent CD albums that I believe are of significant musical value, either because of their rarity, because they represent the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.
The review originally appeared in the Toorak Times.
This double CD is one of Australia’s ever lasting artists from the 1960’s and a man who has contributed so much to the Australian Music Scene – Ross Wilson. The album was released in 2001 on the Shock Label (SMECD022) and contains a total of 30 tracks spanning 35 years.
The Cd has a fold-out booklet/leaflet consisting of five double sided folds, and there is a good summary of Ross’ music history, a good selection of small sepia pics and a track listing track detail. The one thing that I believe the producers missed out on, that is the bane of my life with many historical compilations, is that the tracks should be in order of age. Surely it makes sense to start listening to the Pink Finks, and move through the years to hear the changes of style and skill. But, it isn’t like that, in fact I failed to find any logical order whatsoever as you will see later, when I get to the track listing.
Oh incidentally, it didn’t escape me that Cd #2 does start with the Pink Finks and move through to Party Machine in the right order, but why on Cd #2? and, why start Cd #1 with Daddy Cool, and then move back to Mondo Rock, with a single Ross Wilson track in-between, and finish with Ross Wilson? Messy!
There is already so much posted on Ross Wilson, it’s almost a case of saying anything else is superfluous. However, it is the nature of a music review to assume that not all the readers are au fait with any given artist so here goes.
Ross came from a musical family and who better to start his story than his long-time friend and certainly for many years his music partner, Ross Hannaford. According to Ross H, ”It was really fortunate that I ran into Ross Wilson when I was about twelve. Ross’ folks were music freaks. His mum sang in choir and Ron, his dad was an amateur trumpet player who played jazz.
So Wilson had a great grounding in music. He played me a lot of John Lee Hooker… just good blues really, but the Stones got me into it first. Ross played me the guys that the Stones got it from. So I was lucky I had a grounding in good groove stuff when I was young.” [Interview given to Greg Phillips – 2008]
Born in Melbourne in November of 1947, Ross certainly wears the mantle of “home-grown” fair and square. Getting together with Ross Hannaford as the “Melbourne Music Boom” around 1964/65 was exploding, they formed the Pink Finks. Along with Rick Dalton, who was soon replaced David Cameron when Dalton progressed to the group, Running, Jumping, Standing Still, they drew upon Wilson’s love of the music of Howling Wolf and John Lee Hooker, along with the music of the early Stones.
However, every Melbourne group was drawing on these artists as part of their repertoire but even in those early years Wilson was at least playing around with his own music and words, although this wasn’t reflected in the four releases the Pink Finks.
The group released a number of singles during their brief career; their first, released on their own Mojo label, was a raunchy version of The Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie” and it gave them an early taste of success when it became a local hit (#16) in Melbourne in June 1965. These were followed covers of The Shirelles “Untie Me“, Howlin’ Wolf’s “Back Door Man” and Spencer Davis Group’s “It Hurts Me So“.
I remember visiting both the Ross’s at the Wilson family garage on a few occasions during the period of the Pink Finks, as the group I was in had formed a reasonable relationship with them, and as was the way in those days, there was a genuine camaraderie among many of the “struggling” but fanatical young groups in Melbourne. It was obvious even then that Ross’ knowledge was deep in regard to the history of blues musicians.
Likewise I remember scrawled on the walls in the rooms back-stage at a number of venues around Melbourne, the phrase, “If you think Pink, think Pink Finks“! Even this small piece of “graffiti” showed Ross Wilson’s clever use of words.
But the “Finks” were not destined to last as Ross was looking for greater challenges and in 1967, influenced the genius of Frank Zappa, he formed The Party Machine, which included Hannaford, as well as Mike Rudd (who would go on to form the incredibly popular Spectrum).
Now Wilson was deep in experimenting with his own songs, and in fact the Party Machine released few tracks, and this Cd contains the now impossible to get track “You’ve All Got To Go” (written Wilson & Hannaford), that is always spoken about when there is any serious discussion about Party Machine tracks fans.
However, as commented in any writing on Wilson, it was the notoriety the band gained when Wilson’s published songbook was obtained the then even more notorious vice squad, who had it declared obscene. This songbook included the track I Don’t Believe All Your Kids Should Be Virgins, also on this album.
This was the end of Party Machine and Ross headed off to England to try and help the Aussie band Procession. On returning to Australia in 1970, along with Hannaford and Rudd, he formed the legendary and highly experimental Sons of the Vegetal Mother, headlining venues such as T.F. Much Ballroom. It was an interesting experiment, but Ross bought it to an end late in 1970 when he and Ross H formed the much loved Daddy Cool.
What started out to be a fun-group based on the Doo-Wop music of the 50’s, the group took on a life of its own and spawned one of the all time classic Aussie dance tracks, Eagle Rock.
When Daddy Cool was no longer so cool, in early 1973 (although it can be argued it was late 1972), Ross formed the also short lived Mighty Kong whose members included Hannaford, Russell Smith, Ray Arnott and Tim Partridge. mid 1975 the group had folded and so had the final group that consisted of both the Ross’s.
The next group was Mondo Rock which proved to be one of the most memorable Australian groups of the 1980’s. now Wilson was so accomplished, the group and its music was as polished both on stage as it was on a record. They produced seven fantastic hits. However, with membership constantly changing and Ross finding it harder and harder to write, after a ten year run the group folded and he embarked on a series of solo projects.
About this CD
Time to turn to the Cd, which covers the period that all the group just discussed operated. With thirty tracks spanning 35 years it is unwieldy to try and cover too many of these tracks, yet, I do want to give an idea of how good this work is. So I have concentrated on Ross’ solo work in the video clips, and intend to present one track from the six groups that Ross fronted.
Track Listing – I discovered that Discogs.com not only had the listing of the tracks, but an in-depth analysis of the various track machinations, so credit to them for the following:
1.1 – Daddy Cool : Eagle Rock. Written- – Wilson
1.2 – Daddy Cool : Ba Let Me Bang Your Box. Written- – Wyche*, McRae
1.3 – Daddy Cool : Come Back Again. Written- – R. Wilson
1.4 – Daddy Cool : Hi Honey Ho. Written- – Wilson
1.5 – Daddy Cool : Teenage Blues. Written- – Wilson
1.6 – Daddy Cool : I’ll Never Smile Again. Written- – Lowe
1.7 – Ross Wilson : Living In The Land Of Oz. Written- – Wilson
1.8 – Mondo Rock : The Fugitive Kind. Written- – R. Wilson, T. Slavich
1.9 – Mondo Rock : State Of The Heart. Written- – E. McCusker
1.10 – Mondo Rock : Cool World. Written- – Wilson
1.11 – Mondo Rock : Chemistry. Written- – Eric McCusker, P. Christie
1.12 – Mondo Rock : No Time. Written- – Eric McCusker
1.13 – Mondo Rock : Come Said The Boy. Written- – Eric McCusker
1.14 – Mondo Rock : Primitive Love Rites. Written- – J. J. Hackett, R. Wilson
1.15 – Ross Wilson : Bed Of Nails. Written- – E. O’Brien, J. Pullicino, R. Wilson
1.16 – Ross Wilson : Slave To My Emotions. Written- – E. O’Brien, R. Wilson
1.17 – Ross Wilson : The Same As Me. Written- – R. Wilson, S. Sennett
1.18 – Ross Wilson : A Touch Of Paradise. Written- – G. Smith, R. Wilson
2.1 – The Pink Finks :Louie Louie. Written- – Richard Berry
2.2 – The Pink Finks : You’re Good For Me. Written- – Johnny Chester
2.3 – The Party Machine : You’ve All Got To Go. Written- – R. Hannaford, R. Wilson
2.4 – The Party Machine : The Gentle Art. Written- – Ross Wilson
2.5 – The Party Machine : Virgins. Written- – Ross Wilson
2.6 – The Party Machine : Woman Of The World. Written- – Ross Wilson
2.7 – Sons Of The Vegetal Mother : Love Is The Law. Written- – Ross Wilson
2.8 – Sons Of The Vegetal Mother : Make It Begin. Written- – Ross Wilson
2.9 – Mighty Kong : Hard Drugs. Written- – Ross Wilson
2.10 – Mondo Rock : The Mood (Live). Written- – Ross Wilson
2.11 – Mondo Rock : Love Shock. Written- – P. Laffy, Ross Wilson
2.12 – Mondo Rock : Primal Park. Written- – D. Pepperell, R. Wilson
• Bass – Geoff Ratz (tracks: 2.1, 2.2), John Power (3) (tracks: 1.7), Simon Gyllies (tracks: 1.8, 2.10 to 2.12), Tim Partridge (tracks: 2.9)
• Bass, Backing Vocals – James Gillard (tracks: 1.13, 1.14), Mike Rudd (tracks: 2.3 to 2.8), Paul Christie (tracks: 1.9 to 1.12), Wayne Duncan (2) (tracks: 1.1 to 1.6, 2.7, 2.8)
• Drums – Andy Buchanan* (tracks: 1.10), Gil Matthews (tracks: 1.9), Graham “Buzz” Bidstrup* (tracks: 1.11), Iain McLennan (tracks: 1.8, 2.10 to 2.12), J. J. Hackett (tracks: 1.12 to 1.14), Peter Curtin (tracks: 2.3 to 2.6), Ray Arnott (tracks: 2.9)
• Drums, Backing Vocals – Gary Young (2) (tracks: 1.1 to 1.7, 2.7, 2.8), Richard Franklin (3) (tracks: 2.1, 2.2)
• Guitar – Jeff Burstin (tracks: 1.7), Wayne Burt (tracks: 1.7)
• Guitar [Lead], Backing Vocals – Eric McCusker (tracks: 1.9 to 1.14)
• Guitar [Rhythm] – David Cameron (6) (tracks: 2.1, 2.2)
• Guitar [Solo] – Ian “Willie” Winter* (tracks: 1.5, 1.6)
• Guitar, Backing Vocals – Peter Laffy (tracks: 1.8, 2.10 to 2.12), Ross Hannaford (tracks: 1.1 to 1.7, 2.1 to 2.9), Russell K. Smith* (tracks: 2.9)
• Guitar, Guitar [Slide], Backing Vocals – Randy Bulpin (tracks: 1.8, 2.10 to 2.12)
• Keyboards – Duncan Veall (tracks: 1.14)
• Keyboards, Backing Vocals – James Black (3) (tracks: 1.9 to 1.13)
• Keyboards, Saxophone – Andrew Ross (2) (tracks: 1.14)
• Piano [Electric] – Trevor Griffin (tracks: 2.7, 2.8)
• Piano, Backing Vocals – Tony Slavich (tracks: 1.8, 2.10 to 2.12)
• Piano, Saxophone – Jerry Noone (Kellock)* (tracks: 1.2, 1.4, 2.7, 2.8)
• Producer – Bill Drescher (tracks: 1.14), David McKay (tracks: 2.3, 2.4), Ern Rose (tracks: 1.9), James Ingram (3) (tracks: 1.16), John Fischbach (tracks: 2.9), John Sayers (tracks: 1.13), Johnny Chester (tracks: 2.2), Mark Moffat* (tracks: 1.10, 1.11), Paul Wiltshire (tracks: 1.17, 1.18), Peter McIan (tracks: 1.12), Pink Finks, The (tracks: 2.1), Ricky Fataar (tracks: 1.15), Robie Porter (tracks: 1.1 to 1.6), Ross Wilson (2) (tracks: 1.7, 1.8, 2.5 to 2.8, 2.11, 2.12)
• Saxophone [Alto] – Ian Wallace (6) (tracks: 2.7, 2.8)
• Saxophone [Tenor] – Bruce Woodcock (tracks: 2.7, 2.8)
• Trumpet – Simon Wettenhall (tracks: 2.7, 2.8)
• Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica – Ross Wilson (2)
CD #2 – Track #1: A good place to always start, is at the start. As far as I can recollect Louie Louie was the first charting track for Wilson and the Pink Finks, and I remember it as a crowd favourite at live gigs back in the day. The track was made popular the Kingsmen in 1963, and although never a big hit it, was a great “starter” for the group. Interestingly, it is possibly the world’s most recorded rock song with over 1,600 versions and counting!
Wilson’s own admission it was a “primitive” but raunchy take of the Kingsmen’s original, but it certainly helped gain the group some notoriety and I suspect, a boost to their confidence!
Next track for review is Cd #2 – track # 3, You’ve All Got To Go the Party Machine. As indicated earlier, this track is considered as the rare among the rare aficionado’s, and even though Ross has included it on this Cd (something I’m thankful for), I would suggest to you that if you have an original vinyl copy, then you indeed have something very rare and Special.L-R: Ross Hannaford, Peter Curtain, Ross Wilson, Mike Rudd (rear)With Ross Hannaford on vocals and guitar and Mike Rudd on vocals and bass (1967 – 1969) along with Peter Curtin (drums), Mike Edwards on sax (1967), Joe Gorski on bass (1967), Chris Kinman on bass (1967), it was a series of members and therefore line-ups that should have gone onto bigger and better things.
Cd #2 – Track 7 is Love Is The law, the Sons of the Vegetal Mother. I swear I can recall hearing the group play this live at the T.F Much Ballroom in Melbourne. With many of us really getting into Frank Zappa’s music 1970 – it was great that “we” had a group that was “our own”, not copying Zappa, but playing around with interesting arrangements – definitely in a league of their own.
Of course the problem was, from a commercial point of view, the music was never going to “make-it’, but from a live performance point of view, eSpecially in the “head” venues like T.F Much, it was perfect.
The three key-members (The two Ross’ & Mike)
As the liner notes declare, “The hypnotic ‘Love is the Law’ was based around Aleister Crowley’s dictum ‘to do what thou wilt shall be the whole law.” This was original home-grown progressive rock at its best. If you didn’t get off on it, if you found it too chaotic, then that was tough – I loved it. So being able to re-listen to this ground-breaking track again was indeed a “blast”, both from the past, and because it was brilliantly constructed.
One can hear how Mike Rudd went a step further with the development of the music of the Murcepts. I really hope you enjoy listening either to this again, or even for the first time!
Love Is The Law
In this track Wilson writes of the angst and “pain” that seems to track along with every teenager as the strive to find themselves and strike out on their own. The track kicks off with Hannaford strumming chords to a single kick drum beat, before Wilson and the rest of the band explode into action. If you think the title is going to suggest a ‘blues’ based track – Oh no! This is R&R, a’ la Daddy Cool.
Don’t you push me round I might get mad at you
Mama won’t you leave me alone papa do that too
That’s why – I – got the blues – The Teenage Blues”
Following the breakup of Daddy Cool, and searching for something completely different, Wilson formed Mighty Kong. There is only one Mighty Kong track on this Cd, which is a little strange, given the album Mighty Kong titled “All I Wanna Do Is Rock” is not short of interesting, if not good tracks. The one track included is on CD#2 – Track #9, is Hard Drugs (Are bad For You).Now Mighty Kong consisted of:
Ross Hannaford (guitar, vocals)
Tim Partridge (bass)
Russell Smith (guitar, vocals)
Ray Arnott (drums, vocals)
An interesting but not very successful experiment, the group barely had 12 months in existence. Ian McFarlane, writing in an article called ‘A Slice of Aussie Rock History”, said of the name, Mighty Kong – “Actually, the band name of Mighty Kong was quite evocative in many ways. It fitted both the tough nature of the music and served as a nice ‘instant’ tag for the band. Mighty Kong was ideal because it immediately conjured up a whole range of images. It’s the image of King Kong, the beast of legend, and both the deep jungle where he reigned and from which he was plucked and then the urban jungle which lead to his demise.”
As indicated earlier, the next of the Wilson based groups was Mondo Rock. There are many reasons to remember Mondo Rock, but certainly one of them was the fact that his long-time partner right from those early schoolboy days, Ross Hannaford, would not be party of this group. In some ways Mondo Rock is probably thought of equally as well as Daddy Cool, what it did represent was the development of an even more ‘slick’ Ross Wilson, both on stage and in his compositions.
A very early version of Mondo Rock with – Left to right:
J J Hackett, paul Christie (top), Ross Wilson (bottom),Eric McCusker & James Black
With nearly 100 tracks featuring the name Mondo Rock, and a number charting very well, the group represented a new level of energy for Wilson where he could show that his group excelled in the studio equally as well as on stage.
The problem for him was that although he conceived that Mondo rock would have access to a variety of musicians during its lifetime, there really was a problem with the instability of the group. Mondo Rock actually had an amazing 34 members in its life from 1976 to 1991.
With ten tracks on the Cd to choose from, I moved away from the most played tracks, although most of his music had its fair share of airplay, and I chose Cd#1 – track #8 – the early 1978 track, Fugitive Kind.
It lacked the finesse of later pieces such as State of the Heart and, Chemistry, but I like this track because you can hear a ‘re-born’ Ross Wilson. Mondo Rock did present him with the opportunity of trying new things new ways, and I believe you can hear that fresh energy in his voice, the same energy he had in the early years, that time and effort gradually wore away.
It is undeniable that both in terms of volume of music, quality of groups, quality of music, endless energy and a mighty stage presence, that Ross Wilson has played a critical part in the development of Australian music over a mighty fifty year period. His consistency puts him into a select group of Australian artists and certainly, while his live public performances are now infrequent as he focuses on the “Corporate” scene, we can forgive him in his desire to actually make a decent living after all these years.
As far as compilations go, whole I am certain this is produced to help supplement the incomes of artist and record companies, it IS a worthy addition to any collection. Each track was selected Ross (although some would have been auto-self selections), and given those very early tracks (especially the Pink Finks) would have made a box of rice bubbles sound quiet when it came to the snap, crackle and pops, the production of this Cd is quite masterful.
I would have assumed that the Cd was readily available, and much to my surprise there were no copies on Ebay, I Googled the Cd and found no listings in the on-line stores, and even Shock records doesn’t list it. So I can only conclude that if you have a copy, sit on it – it is rare and will only become rarer!
VIDEOS – I was going to keep away from videos of the groups I have discussed, but have added on track Mondo Rock as I featured an early track in the body of the review, and so have balanced that with a later video track. I have also included a Wilson solo track – Love Shock where the video contains appearances some of his old comrades.
Bed of Nails
Touch of Paradise
Primitive Love Rites