The Big Beat In The Heart Of The Vinyl Jungle

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Did you ever think about playing yourself?

Oh, I thought about it, but I didn’t have the patience to bloody sit down and learn it, I suppose. I played the piano for six years as a kid, and I got to be relatively good playing classical piano. But I could only read, I wasn’t one of those people who could play by ear. I could play to music really well, and I still can read music from then. I’ve put little effort in since then, but I can still read.

Yeah, I fantasized about it, but I didn’t do anything about it. I was too busy doing other things. And I had all these mates who loved music. Rob and I ended up living together for a while, and I knew a lot of other people who loved music, and few of them really played. So we used to just hang out together and go to gigs and just have fun. And that was enough – it didn’t matter that I didn’t play. So we went to a shitload of early gigs. All those early Australian progressive bands whose lps are worth a ton of money these days, we went to all their gigs. Blackfeather, Cahin, Piranha, Kahvas Jute, Coloured Balls, Carson, Spectrum, Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs….saw them all tons of times…

When the Rats – mmm, was it the Rats? – it was about 1974, so it must have been the Rats – they rehearsed in this old abandoned empty sort of warehouse down in Woolloomooloo. I don’t know how they got it actually, but someone leased it out and they got it for bugger all money. I used to go down with them then. And the only other band that was using it was this band – I remember the other guys saying this other band was going to be down there – and it was this other new band, called AC/DC. So they used to rehearse there as well. It’s pretty amazing – in retrospect. It wasn’t amazing then, because it was just a bunch of Joes. But we got to hear them a few times – you’d arrive early and I remember hanging around waiting and listening to them, that was the original lineup, Angus and Malcolm and three other guys. They were amazing, and we actually liked them quite a lot. A few of us went to their first ever gig – I think it was at Chequers, or Rags it might have been called by then.

Did I answer the first question yet? (much laughter)

Oh, yeah! Now for number two!

Sorry about that!

No, I think it’s always interesting hearing about all these old reminisces.

I could sit around for hours tell you amazing things we did back then. Like there was one gig the Rats did in a place called Portland. It was a cement town out west near Lithgow. And somebody had gotten the gig – I think it was a friend of Rob’s or Warwick’s. I dunno. And Warwick used to have a hearse – a black hearse. It was fucking great. So him and Rob and I went off in this black hearse, and I sat in this little dickie seat in the back – a little seat that folds up next to where the coffin would be. Fuck it was good fun. We drove out there and we didn’t really know what we were heading to. We thought it might be a party thing, and then we thought it might be in a hall or something. So we go there, and it’s just a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, and the party’s gonna be there!

And we go, what, in the lounge room? Because the lounge room is no bigger than my lounge room. So the band set up just against the wall and played, and the wall is like that far away from you (points at his kitchen wall about 8 feet away). So you can get three rows of people in front of you – they played this amazing gig out there. And the accommodation was like, well, yeah, we don’t really have any bedrooms, guys. None of them gave a fuck by that time, at 1:00 in the morning when the band finished playing, and these guys whose house it was were pissed, stoned, whatever and they just went off to sleep in their comfy bedrooms.

So we had nowhere to sleep. And it was freezing – it was snowing outside. And we actually ended up sleeping on the fucking floor like curled around the drum kit and all that sort of stuff. I remember it being one of the coldest nights I ever spent in my life. That was one of the few gigs that the Rats played – they played a few gigs at the Oxford Tavern before it was the Funhouse. I can’t remember where else they used to play.

But the Rats days were very good fun. They played no originals, all cover versions, but great fucking cover versions. And they were such a wild band. We’re talking early 1974 when they started.

Did you see TV Jones much?

Oh, yeah, because TV Jones was the one other band like the Rats that we’d heard of. And Rob put me on to them. No Ron, not Rob. Because Ron knew Deniz. And Deniz and Pip were both in this band, TV Jones. I remember the first time I saw them was at a battle of the bands – it was Hoadley’s Battle Of The Bands. Hoadley’s were a chocolate maker, they made these things called Violet Crumble bars. And TV Jones played at this battle of the bands, and the Stevie Wright Band played as well – the guy from the Easybeats. And a few other bands that were putting records out back then – Finch played. Hard rock bands.

I don’t remember where TV Jones placed, but I remember that it was regarded as some form of conspiracy that happened that they didn’t win (laughs). Or something like that. But I remember how good they were – they were amazing. And Deniz was sort of the main dude there. There was Deniz, Chris Jones, Giles Vanderwerth and I think Gerry Jones on drums. And Deniz would put his guitar down and just do this mad jiving all over the stage. It was awesome. He really was just completely and utterly energetic. They did Alice Cooper songs and a few originals. “Monday Morning Gunk” was originally a TV Jones song. A couple of other early Birdman songs were as well.

Yep, so that’s the answer to that question. I’m good at long answers – you OK with that?

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