“In Australia in the early ’70s, the Dingoes took the lead in the worldwide shift toward the country-influenced rock sparked by the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers, also inspiring the Eagles.“( Ed Nimmervoll)
“It just gets better and better with age”. (This review)
“The Dingoes had become huge in Australia with singles such as Way Out West and Boy On The Run, with their own gritty and evocative home-grown vision that seemed to fairly crackle with the harsh sun and red dust of the Australian landscape.” (The Sydney Morning Herald)
This was album review number one hundred and twenty five in a series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and CD albums from my collection and originally published in the Toorak times in March of 2015.
The series was called “Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album that I believed was of significant musical value, either because of its rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.
The group is the legendary Dingoes, and this album is their 1977 release, Five Times The Sun. Released on the A&M label, it has code L-36,273 and has four tracks on each side.
A total of nine muso’s can claim membership of the Dingoes, but for me it was the line up of John Bois, Kerryn Tolhurst, Broderick Smith, Chris Stockley and John Lee that epitomise the best and most lasting line-up, and in fact is the lineup on this album. There was a comradery already among them before they became the Dingoes, with the guys hanging out together as friends and as members of various groups that formed and broke up during those formative years in the 1960’s.
The one who is credited with starting the Dingoes was singer/songwriter/guitarist Kerryn Tolhurst. A member Melbourne’s Adderly Smith Blues Band in the late 60s, it was then that he met Broderick Smith. John Bois had previously played with the New Dream and had been a denizen of the infamous Greville Street in Prahran, where many of the music fraternity lived or hug out, including Mark Barnes (Campact) and Chris Stockley (also Campact as well as Axiom, among many groups).
The street also provided housing for the notorious rock journo Dr. Pepper, various members of Captain Matchbox, including brothers Mic and Jim Conway – just to name a few. So while music was the common feature, there was very much a social scene interaction before the formation of the Dingoes.
To my recollection (as another who lived in Greville Street in the ’70’s), John Lee wasn’t part of the Greville Street scene but did hang out with Chris Stockley being a close friend, and in fact was the only person with Chris the night he was shot.
John’s was all class and skill as a drummer – in fact he was one of Australia’s foremost drummers, and this made his fit with the Dingoes both easy, and perfect.
John also had stints with Ariel and Sherbet. Sadly he has since passed on.
So there can be no doubting the pedigree of the group and those that played in it, and in may ways they had no peers. Early exponents of what best can be described as “County/Rock”, they stood out from the rest and were very popular with live audiences. Their playing on the now and impossible to buy seminal “Live At The Station Hotel” album, was a classic example of their power and ability to engage the crowd.
The group effectively became the Dingoes in 1973 and struck almost immediate success with the recently formed Mushroom Records which released one of the groups signature tracks – Way Out West. Although the group eventually spilt in 1979 there was a reformation in late 2009 that lasted through to 2010 when the group eventually broke up for once and all.
But there is the old saying, “Never say never”! and over the weekend of December 29th and 30th 2012, the group played a series of three concerts at the Melbourne venue, the Caravan Club, partially in support of the book release by John Bois, called “The Dingoes Lament“.
I was fortunate to gain permission from the group to video one of the shows and that video appears at the end of this review.
So we can consider that the group really operated for six years between 1973 and 1979, and, if we are generous, we can allow one year for the 2009 – 2010 period.
Over that (barely) seven year period the group (with various members coming and going) released a total of six albums, which included two compilations, from the 1974 release of the self-titled “The Dingoes“, through to the 2010 release, “Tracks“.
John and Kerryn 
The album Five Times The Sun was recorded at His Masters Voice studio in San Francisco during the groups stay in the USA, and it was an album the guys really enjoyed making. As Chris Stockley said in an interview given in later years, “There were a lot of musicians there. It’s a fantastic place, beautiful!” Kerryn Tolhurst added, “It was exciting. There we were in san francisco in a studio with a producer we had heard of.” The producer was Elliot Mazer who had worked with Janis Joplin and Neil Young.
There is no doubt that there is some magic in their first album that was always going to be hard to re-create, but there is a certain “American” feel about this album that sits nicely alongside the all Australian sound that was the Dingoes. This surely comes out in the three tracks that were rerecorded for this album, being tracks 1 – 3 on side 2.
The album includes re-recorded versions of three tracks from their first album, those being Way Out West and Smooth Sailing and Boy On The Run.
A1 Smooth Sailing
A2 Shine A Light
A3 Singing Your Song
A4 Starting Today
B1 Come On Down
B2 Way Out West
B3 Boy On The Run
B4 Waiting For The Tide To Turn
Track number one on side one is Smooth Sailing. The track was released just after John Lee had left the group in May of 1974, and while this track does not appearing on their debut album [The Dingoes] it was released as a single in October of that year.
The track is a Kerryn Tolhurst composition and is a classic example of their wonderful ability to produce country-rock, with a real rock edge thanks to the rework. It has always seem to me that the opening lines could easily have been delivered by Bon Scott – seriously Brod’s vocal abilities are mighty indeed, yet he quickly slips from a “hard’ edge in the opening lines, to a more gentle feel.
I think the version on this album sounds far better than the single, and I realise not everyone will agree with me, but the sound while not quite as urgent, is far more the sound of five guys who are really happy with what they are playing. Putting words to the emotions a track can evoke is not always easy, so I leave it to you to decide how this track affects you.
Shine a Light is track number two on side number 1. Written by guitarist Chris Stockley it is really quite an uplifting song. It was originally the B-side to Way Out West and in many ways I think an argument can be mounted to say that the single really had two A-sides! It’s not a track that is usually mentioned when Dingoes fans are discussing Dingoes tracks – and that’s a shame because it is a ripper.
I am reminded of what his long-time friend, and one third of the Aussie group “Stockley, See & Mason” once said about this track. I’m talking about the respected Sam See who at the very last gig at the (in)famous Station Hotel in Melbourne, said as he introduced this track: “It was written by a furry little bastard who was in the Dingoes. The first and best song I ever heard about shining a light. Now every half baked dick-head with a drum-machine writes a song called shine a light and thinks he’s an artist. But this (version) is when people were writing songs and coming up with original concepts, and it’s a Chris Stockley song!”
Shine A Light
Turning the album over we must pause at one of their classic tracks, a hit, a long-standing favourite of audiences and one that is synonymous with Australia, track number two – Way Out West.
The thing about this version is that it is one of the three tracks that had a serious re-work. Now if you have a hit, a track that is so reflective of your style, would it not be dangerous to rework it? Well this is significantly different and it’s not better, and it’s not worse – it IS different.
It is far more lay-back than the original and two muso’s in particular are responsible for a beautiful rendition are bassist John Bois and keyboard aficionado, Nicki Hopkins [who has also sadly passed on]. I would love to know what posses Bois to use a piano accordion, but it was a brilliant idea and along with the old-time/old-style piano playing of Hopkins, this track grooves.
The original version starts with a single guitar line and harp (harmonica), this version starts with snare and cymbal crash, a guitar and the accordion. We know immediately that this is a different version and in this case, different is good.
Way Out West
Finally track number three on this side, which is Boy On The Run. Another track that was previously released as a single, it was the third track on this album to have a major work-over in the USA as the album was being assembled.
The track really stands out afresh with this more acoustic developed version, Brod pulls back a little on the vocal delivery and it works well. Chris’ work on the mandolin is not just workman like, it borders on beautiful it really is the work of a musical artisan.
Whereas some of the tracks on this album could be described as rock oriented Country and Western, this is modern C&W – at its best. Listening when I wrote this review in 2015, and listening again now in 2017 – it stands out even more now, than when I heard it when this album was first released. It just grows better and better with age.
You know, it’s a real shame that somehow the development of storytelling mixed with carefully sculptured music that is made with love and passion seems to becoming fast a thing of the past and listening to this track highlights this sad degradation in musical composition that we have largely, today
When I listened back to this album, I knew this would be the last track that I discussed in full in this retro-review and somehow it rekindled a certain nostalgia to recall those heady days of the Dingoes when we could hear them live and at their peak.
Boy On The Run
It is doubtful that if you have taken the time to read this retro-review that you would be doing so without some knowledge of this great Aussie band, and I would be even more doubtful that you have not listened to some of their music.
Sure they fell apart eventually, but sometimes quality musicianship, passion and excellent songs is not enough. The “gods” need to smile down on you – and when their “mentors”, the band they were so looking forward to touring with in the USA – Lynyrd Skynyrd had their world crushed when the airplane crash in 1977 killed three members, it also caused the start of a conflagration of feelings that would see the demise of the Dingoes.
They were very much a “family in those “heady” days of Greville Street in the 1970’s there is no doubt they were very close – but sometimes a family becomes dysfunctional and that sums up the demise of one of the best Australian Country/Rock outfits to have ever come out of this country.
In August 2009, The Dingoes were inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame and that was truly fitting.
There was one final reunion show in Melbourne held on Sunday 30th December, 2012 – which happened to help support the release of John Bois’ memoir –The Dingoes’ Lament.
Sadly there are too few Dingoes albums – really only three albums while the Dingoes were “howling” on stage together, and three “compilations released after they stop playing together.
So it is easy to say that any Dingoes album is an album worthy of being in a collection. This album is available on Ebay for between $20.00 and $25.00 in the vinyl format, which is a bargain. If you no longer collect vinyl, the CD re-release is also available and it comes with bonus tracks.
VIDEOS – Youtube comes through with the few and valuable live clips of the Dingoes. Here is one from each era. hang in with the short “tape wobble” on “The last Place I Wanna be”, it corrects very quickly.
The last Place
Going Down Again [Aria performance 2010]
The Final performance at Melbourne’s Caravan Club