Back In My Garage With My Bullshit Detector.
Charles Shar Murray wasnt just an ugly face with no mates he talked out of his arse, too. Anyone who ever fell in love with r&r ever knows that the garage is the first place you go to make a racket. Radio Birdman & The Saints knew this just fine. Together they were responsible for inspiring a whole generation of Australian punkers. The seismic shockwaves generated by these two bands alone would reverberate well into the 80s & beyond Australian garage rock was on the map.
The whole damn Antipodean shooting match is captured here on one historical document for the 1st time ever by Australias numero uno independent label; Shock Records. "Do The Pop" (named after the Radio Birdman tune, not the noise an IPC hack makes when he takes his head out of his arse) contains 50 traks worth of garage punk action on 2 CDs over 2.5 hours of music.
Sydneys Radio Birdman were infused with the spirit of late 60s Detroit via their Ann Arbor ex-pat guitarist Deniz Tek. Formed in 1974, they refused to learn how to spell the word compromise & came on like a band of barbarians roaming the streets in search of the next buzz. They were a very closely-knit outfit: sharing rooms, clothes, food & (quite possibly) girlfriends fighting real & imaginary enemies the length & breadth of the land. They didnt rehearse that often, preferring to save their incendiary energy for gigs. Being a member of Radio Birdman was a way of life the looks or the lifestyle was not a question that arose on a regular basis. Their gigs were like shamanistic rituals, their followers like disciples, their rhetoric like a mantra & their music like flying a jet fighter very low over a desert. The MC5 & the Stooges may well have invented the game, but Radio Birdman raised the bar higher than it had ever been before.
The Saints, meanwhile, forged their scuzzed up high energy r&r from an entirely different template; the bones of 50s & 60s rock & r&b with a healthy side order of sweet soul influences. They moved from backwater Brisbane to front line Sydney in early 1977 on the back of their explosive debut 7" 45, "(Im) Stranded". They shared a stand & a stage with Radio Birdman for 2 nights @ the Oxford Funhouse & co-headlined a legendary night at Paddington Town Hall before inter-band tensions took their toll. The Saints departed for the UK, a deal with Harvest Records (a subsidiary of EEEEE, MMMMM, IIIII irony fans) & their place in history. Radio Birdman continued walking their fine line until dissolving in 1978.
The first 2 bands to pick up the gauntlet in Sydney were The Hellcats & The Psycho-Surgeons. They plied their trade at the Funhouse throughout 76/77, alongside hairier scene-sters like The Mangrove Boogie Kings. The Psycho-Surgeons Mark Taylor also ran Sydneys hippest import rekkid store; White Light. Pretty soon other shops like Phantom & The Record Plant began shifting copies of The Stooges "Metallic KO", The Sonics "Explosives" & The Ramones debut LP faster than you could say: r&r is here to stay - fuelling an insurgent Sydney Garage Scene & helping to spawn The Hitmen, The Visitors, The Other Side, The Lipstick Killers & The Passengers. Inner city Sydney was motor city burning as the rest of world went new wave weak at the knees & lame of brain Australia fast became the last outpost of r&r angst.
Converts to this new religion prayed at the alter of The Stooges, the MC5, the New York Dolls, Lou Reed & the Velvets, the early Stones, Alice Cooper & Blue Oyster Cult. Cross-pollination from Lenny Kayes "Nuggets" double LP provided glimpses of The Seeds, The Remains, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Standells & Love (amongst 1000s). Jan & Dean & The Ventures chipped in with a wave of US surf influence. 60s Australian outfits like The Easybeats, The Loved Ones & The Missing Links played their part too, along with the US punk of the Ramones, The Dead Boys, The Dictators & Richard Hell & The Voidoids. The bird was the word & the sound had been found.
As the new decade began, a new breed of kids raised on The Saints, Radio Birdman & their ilk, took up the baton & headed for the tape; new labels like Citadel, new bands like ME262 & Trans Love Energies, new spawning grounds like Brisbane & Perth. Australia was catching on & the rest of the world wasnt far behind. The sounds of the 60s were shagging the sounds of the 70s in the streets & together they gave birth to a whole new generation of Australian r&r. The diversity of the influences were reflected in the noise these new bands made; the time travel garage punk of The Stems, the 70s eats the 60s reversal of The Lime Spiders, the voodoo hubbub of The Scientists & the open heart surgery of The New Christs. The one thing they had in common was ENERGY.
As the US & the UK flailed around in the post-punk doldrums of hardcore & gothic flirtation (ironically, Australians, The Birthday Party, were massive on the UK Goth scene) Australia led the r&r resistance to all things po-faced, boring & dressed in black. By 1985 names like the Hoodoo Gurus, the Celibate Rifles, the Died Pretty, the Screaming Tribesmen & the Hard-Ons were busy paving the way for the good citizens of Seattles future grunge destiny (Kent Steedman of Celibate Rifles would eventually produce an early Mudhoney 45 fact fans). By the late 80s, Australia ruled the globess alt.rock roost; all over the world critics fawned over the above mentioned garage rockers as well as the wide-screened indie-pop shapes of the Triffids & the Go-Betweens (amongst others). This was the golden age of Australian r&r.
As the 90s loomed, an influx of US hardcore punk, grunge & UK fuzzcore pop forced the Australian garage scene underground where, to all intents & purposes, it has remained ever since. 90s Australian garage bands such as The Dirty Lovers, Powder Monkeys & Hoss often faced accusations of retro-ism & of wearing their influences too predominantly on their sleeves. The new millennium, meanwhile, has seen an explosion of garage rock action from a rejuvenated Detroit to a born again r&r NYC & from the distant mountains of New Zealand to the snow capped vistas of Sweeden. All of a sudden, everyone & their mother (fucker) seems to want to back the car out of the garage, strap on a guitar, beat the hell out of some boxes & put 3 microphones through their elder brothers stereo all over again. Needless to say, there would be no Datsuns, Vines or D4 without "Do The Pop" & the groups who fill its disc space so efficiently.
To know where youre going to, its always a good idea to know where youve come from. Sydney, Brisbane & Perth are as worthy of r&r deification as Detroit, NYC, Cleveland or London. Dont let another generations prejudice stand in your way. History is there to learn from so go adapt just make sure you dont make the same mistakes again.
"22 singers, 1 microphone 4 guitar players, 1 guitar BACK IN OUR GARAGELAND."
Guy Debored trakMARX.com June 2002