“In the mid Seventies Skyhooks basically gave the Australian Music Industry the enema it had been needing.” (Peter Green- Skyhooks web site)
“The Skyhooks were one of the Australian music scene’s hidden treasures.” (D. Hartley – reviewer Seattle USA)
This was number forty five in the series of retro-reviews of Cd albums in my collection as originally published in the Toorak Times.
The series was called, “Cream of The Crate (CD’s)”, and they represented CD albums that I believe weree 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.
This album was by Skyhooks. The Cd is titled The Skyhooks Tapes and was released on the Aussie Mushroom label originally in 1977, but I am unsure of the release date of the Cd. It is dated 1977, but given Cd’s were not thought of until 1979, and the first release on a Cd was not until 1982, this is obviously the release date of the original album. The Cd code is D 19223.
The Cd has 14 tracks on it and all represent singles released as either A or B sides with ten tracks featured on the first three albums and the other four tracks being strictly singles releases only. In total they cover the years 1974 – 1977, of which it could rightly be argued, were the groups best years.
Membership of the group is fairly widely known. The best known and most consistent lineup consisted of:
Gregory John Macainsh (Songwriter)
Redmond Symons (Songwriter, TV Villain)
Bob “Bongo” Starkie (Guitarist)
Imants Alfred Strauks AKA “Freddy Kaboodleschnitzer” (Drums)
Graeme “Shirley” Strachan (Vocals) [source: Skyhooks website]
Other members were:
Steve Hill (Joined Skyhooks as Lead Singer in 1973. Departed Feb 1974.)
Peter Ingliss (Joined Skyhooks on guitar in March 1973. Departed July 1973.)
Peter Starkie (Bongo’s older brother joined Skyhooks before him, March 1973. Departed July 1973.)
Bob Spencer (Joined Skyhooks after the departure of Red Symons in February 1977. Part of the lineup till it’s demise in June 1980.)
Tony Williams (Joined Skyhooks after Shirley’s departure in January 1979 and stayed with the band till their demise in June 1980.)
Steve Hill & Greg Macainsh (1973)
The history of the band is told succinctly and obviously with excellent reliability on the skyhooks website. So if you are interested in it, just click history.
In summary they formed in Melbourne in March 1973 when Macainsh and Strauks came together, and were a full unit when joined by Symons and Starkie shortly after. Strachan joined around a year later when it became self-evident to himself, that Steve Hillcould not fill the role of lead singer adequately.
Their 1974 debut album Living In The 70’s was a #1 album. “Red” Symons left Skyhooks in 1977 and was followed by “Shirley” Strachan in 1978. “Shirley” passed away in 2001 as a result of a helicopter accident, and, Steve Hill passed away in 2005 from Liver cancer.
“Shirley” Strachan and Steve Hill
In 1992, Skyhooks were inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame. In 2011, the Skyhooks album Living in the 70s was added to the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia’s Sounds of Australia registry.
Rear Cover – Cd
- All My Friends Are Getting Married
- Party To End All Parties *
- Crazy Heart
- Ego (Is Not A Dirty Word)
- Hot Rod James *
- Million Dollar Riff
- You’re A Broken Gin Bottle Baby
- Let It Rock *
- Blue Jeans
- Living In The 70’s
- You Just Like Me ‘Cos I’m Good In Bed
- Forging Ahead *
- Horror Movie
* Only released on a single
So how do you go about looking at a compilation of releases by possibly the most popular Australian group of the 1970’s? Well one of the benefits of actually writing the review, be it retro or otherwise, is that the writer gets to choose. So I have gone with three tracks that really could be classified as “classic” Hook tracks, and a couple of tracks that were only released as singles – that is, never appeared on any album except for compilations.
So to track #2 – Party To End All Parties. One of the tracks released as a single but not on a studio album which was recorded in 1977. Given the excesses of the 1970’s it’s not surprising that someone would eventually write a song about the parties that became a mainstay of social activities. The track featured Bob Spencer playing guitar, having replaced “Red” Symons who sought a more lucrative, if not longer last career, in television.
There was a rumour on the grapevine
The word had got around
There was a party goin’ on
On the wild side of town
I said to Jody “do you wanna go?”
Now Jody likes to party
And I knew she wouldn’t say no
Well we got the right street
But we got the wrong number
Then like a shot in the dark
We heard that thunder
Of the party to end all parties
Wildest one in the book
Party to end all parties
Step inside and take a look
Party To End All Parties
Track #4 – Ego Is Not A Dirty Word is in my mind, was one of the first tracks to really put Skyhooks into the minds of almost all radio listeners. Penned by Greg Macainsh, it shot to #1 in 1975. It had a mesmerising riff and the chorus of – “Ego – is not a dirty word” was so damn easy to remember, it became a phrase for a while on everyone’s lips. The track was taken from the 1975 album by the same name and released as a single.
The story goes that initially, they were locked out of the recording studio until their manager, Michael Gudinski, sent down the money still owed for recording the first album. The end result was a track that has endured and remains as a Skyhooks fan favourite.
If I did not have an ego
I would not be here tonight
If I did not have an ego
I might not think I was right
And if you did not have an ego you might not care the way you dressed
And if you did not have an ego you’d just be like the rest
Ego – is not a dirty word
Ego – is not a dirty word
Ego – is not a dirty word
Don’t you believe what you’ve seen or you’ve heard
Well if Jesus had an ego he’d still be alive today
And if Nixon had no ego he might not be in decay
And if you did not have an ego you might not care too much who won
And if I did not have an ego
I might just use the gu-u-u-uun
Some people keep their ego in a bottom drawer
A fridge full of Leonard Cohen
Have to get drunk just to walk out the door
Stay drunk to keep on goin’
So if you have an ego
Better keep it in good shape
Exercise it daily
And get it down on tape
Ego Is Not A Dirty Word
Million Dollar Riff – Track # 6. Well some would argue you would have to have a decent sized ego to write a track and call it Million Dollar Riff. With a track so titled you would have to deliver, and they did! As well as being released as a single, where it reached #2. The track was also released on the 1976 album Straight In a Gay Gay World.
Incidentally the title would provide writer Jen Jewel Brown with the title of her book, which was a best seller on the group. Sadly for her, the book company (Dingo Books), went under and like so many groups, she was failed to be paid. oh well, chalk up another “rip-off” in the music world.
Anyway the result, as we all now, is a rockin’ piece of music with some nice subtle wah wah pedal at the beginning with some nice guitar work by Red, and didn’t we like the subtle little reminder of the riff in their big hit Horror Movie – nice touch that one when you are singing about million dollar riffs.
Million Dollar Riff
Talking about interesting riffs, well we were talking about riffs weren’t we? When we come to track #9 – Revolution, which released on the album “Living In The 70’s“, it was called “Whatever Happened To The Revolution” on that album, but reduced to simply Revolution, on this Cd. The riff? Oh that’s right – well it kicks off with a contagious chord sequence that may not exactly be a riff in itself, but was catchy anyway.
“Shirley” and Greg
The track tells the story of young people being conscripted into the army to fight in the Vietnam War, and the protests against that war on the streets. It was topical, but also a nice piece of composition with “Shirleys” singing being beautifully supported by backing voices from the others, and some nice guitar playing from “Red”. So the theme of the lyrics may no longer be so topical, but its still one hell of a great party track!
The final track to lay before you, on what is after all, a pretty damn fine selection of music, is track #14 , the final track – Horror Movie. This is actually one of my all time favourite “Hooks” tracks.
Once again, lifted from the “Living In The 70’s” album it was in fact, the second single taken from that great album. It gave the Skyhooks their first #1 and although it only stayed at #1 for two weeks in March of 1975, it really did cement the group as a top line group.
Written by Macainsh it is often referred to as being one of three signature tracks by the group (along with Woman In Uniform and Ego). It isn’t a complex story line, it reflects the period, although it could be argued its even worse now, when in the 1970’s, it seemed like every time we watched the news, it was akin to watching a horror movie. Yer, somethings never change!
The planes are a-crashin
The cars are a-smashin
The cops are a-bashin – oh yeah
The kids are a-fightin
The fires are a-lightin
The dogs are a-bitin – oh yeah
You think it’s just a movie on silver screen
And they’re all actors and fake old scenes
Maybe you don’t care who’s gonna lose or win
Listen to this and I’ll tell you somethin’
It’s a horror movie right there on my TV
Horror movie right there on my TV
Horror movie and it’s blown a fuse
Horror movie, it’s the six-thirty news
It is often claimed that it is one of the most “misheard” songs, when it came to fans singing the lyrics. It including gems such as, “High moon beam right there on my TV“, “Hold me right there on my tutu, Shocking me right out of my brain” and, “It’s a horror movie, but there are martinis“, and so on.
One thing for certain, it is rightly remembered as one of their greatest tracks, its got power, its got catchy lyrics, its a good composition and its played and sung with passion. Can you ask for more?
One of the things that endeared Skyhooks to music fans in Australia, was that they sang about Australian themes and Australian things. In fact it was a two-edged sword. For while that formula bought them great success in Australia, that parochial approach was what bought them undone in the USA – where audiences simply “didn’t get it”!
However, the music legacy that the band bought has resulted in an indelible memory within the Australian music scene of a flamboyant, fun, and talented group, who certainly had their demons, but by god did they play some amazingly good music.
Sure by todays standards they are not controversial, and some of their pieces would now be deemed a bit simplistic but, when we listen we are taking a trip back over some 40 years!
It can be argued that this Cd does present the best of the group, but what is not up for debate is that it is a fantastic snapshot of the music considered to be their most commercial, hence the tracks released as singles. It is worthy of being on any collectors shelf.
Incidentally, I would like to acknowledge that many of the pictures in this review, were from the Skyhooks web site.
The Cd is not readily available, and indeed the vinyl album is even rarer. If you find it in either format – grab it! You have a piece of memorable Aussie music history. What was curious, was that a few cassettes (you do remember cassettes don’t you?), of this album were available for what was a bargain price. But who the hell has a cassette player?
VIDEO’s – I chose three videos from Youtube that feature live performances by Skyhooks, of tracks from this album, that I haven’t discussed in the body of the review.
All My Friends Are Getting Married
Living In The 70’s