Lloyd discovered Iggy and The Stooges around 1974, and introduced Raw Power to me in a rather alarming state of barely restrained mania. I didn’t share his rapture at first. The music ventured to extreme territory that I found confusing and nightmarish, and although I recall by second or third listen pronouncing – perhaps extravagantly – Search and Destroy the greatest rock song ever written, the rest of the album was beyond 19-year-old moi initially. A week or two later, Lloyd brought around Funhouse – its power hit me like a tsunami. That was the beginning of a thrilling journey, with the Stooges, MC5, New York Dolls, Dictators and the like lighting the way through the musical gloom of the early 70s.
Lloyd and I radiated an evangelistic fervour for this dangerously hyper-charged brand of rock, and our small community of misfit mates could not avoid being influenced, but until a fortuitous meeting with James Baker in 1976, it seemed that we were essentially alone in our musical tastes in the fair city of Perth – and gloriously so. Then in 1976 came the first Ramones album, and the door was flung wide open to the dizzy possibility of forming a band to play the music that possessed us. Enter The Geeks.
The story of The Geeks is well covered throughout this website (see The Geeks Story) and in Lloyd’s Perth Punk Memoirs below, so no more on that here. Post-Geeks, circa early Cheap Nasties/Victims, Lloyd and I formed another band that was about as punk as punk can get: The Hitler Youth. Not only was the music of the Hitler Youth THE MOST EXTREME of any punk band anywhere at that time, not only did we damn ourselves to commercial and gig oblivion with the choice of band name (which was Lloyd’s contribution on the eve of what turned out to be our only gig…Kim Salmon had approached us in Alberts Tavern about playing at a UWA gig the night before the advertising posters were to be printed, and Lloyd convinced me to go with ‘The Hitler Youth’ before I had a chance to think it through!), not only had we alienated ourselves from the tiny punk fringe by mouthing off and making general arseholes of ourselves, but the members of The Hitler Youth never contacted each other again after our debut gig! Spontaneous implosion on debut – you gotta admit, that’s stylish.
Lloyd does not fully agree, but I contend that The Hitler Youth was his vision, musically. We played the fastest of the songs – mostly Lloyd’s – at such frantic speed that it was virtually physically impossible for any drummer to keep up the pace beyond 30 seconds or so – which was as long as these blasters went. Lloyd’s lyrics ranged from manic one-line chants, such as “wet my bed, wet my bed, oh baby won’t you wet my bed”, to outrageously politically incorrect paeans to epileptic love and cartoonish Nazi battle cries. Whether mine or Lloyd’s, though, the songs of The Hitler Youth had one principal aim – maximum blast. We made but one recording as a band, done on a portable cassette player with an inbuilt mike. Nevertheless, the murderous energy and sheer extremity of the band comes through (this entire Hitler Youth recorded repertoire is included on The Geeks: Burned CD).
When The Hitler Youth imploded, I went on to form The Orphans, but Lloyd’s active participation in the punk rock movement ceased. He continued to attend the gigs through 1978, then disappeared from view. All these years later, his Perth Punk Memoirs (begun in 2004) are essential reading as an historical, humorous, frequently insightful and at times controversial but brutally honest perspective of first-wave punk in Perth. Some might find cause for offence within Lloyd’s memoirs, for he is not hostage to the nostalgic reverence in which this time and its bands are generally held. He tells it as he saw it, and if you don’t like it – well, that’s your problem, innit? Here they are, then, for your delectation – in effect one of the last pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that is Perth first-wave punk history: Lloyd’s Punk Memoirs.
Ross Buncle (Editor)
[Disclaimer: The views expressed in Lloyd’s Perth Punk Memoirs are those of the author, and are not necessarily shared by me. Further, my recollections and Lloyd’s do not always correlate precisely.]
Punk started for me in 1974 when I bought the Stooges’ Raw Power. At the time I was an insatiate record-buyer, spending every cent I could on new albums. On Saturday mornings I would take my latest purchases along to my good mate Ross Buncle’s house and let them rip on his stereo, which had only recently replaced an ancient mono device after Ross had heard how records should REALLY sound on my own slightly more advanced player and had got to work on his parents.
Ross and I had a symbiotic relationship. We both loved music, especially that of The Doors, Neil Young, Can and Roxy Music, but Ross had a somewhat more balanced method of disposing of his disposable income than me, preferring to spend a large proportion on necessities such as drink, dope and entertainment while I was indifferent to such persuasions. Anyway, I provided the records while Ross was happy to listen to the offerings; as a result I was instrumental in helping form a lot of his musical tastes.
However, he wasn’t as impressed by Raw Power as I was. It was the first all-out-rock album that I’d heard that blew me away by its purity, speed and single-mindedness. Most of the loud albums I’d encountered had elephantine rhythms, screeching, overwrought singers, and incipient beer-guts. Raw Power was different; it just blitzed along secure in its sonic universe. It may have sounded a bit idiosyncratic to Ross at first and so it was left to another Stooges album to transform him into a proto-punk.
A couple of weeks later I brought around Funhouse, left it with Ross while I did a few things, and returned to find him raving about it. From then on our musical orientation was different; it centred around Stooges-type material even though at the time it was nearly impossible to find this kind of stuff. We were both avid readers of the NME, which was the first music paper to have “attitude” (although thankfully it wasn’t as self-conscious as it later became) and breathlessly followed all the embryonic flowering of what became the Punk Movement. At the time the New York scene looked the most promising; the New York Dolls came from there (even though neither of us were that impressed by them) and a 1975 article detailed all these fascinating new bands like The Ramones, Television, Talking Heads, Blondie, Tuff Darts and others. Apart from this promising enclave, mid-70’s music was about as dull as it’s possible to be. Even the early-70’s greats like Can and Roxy Music were rapidly going downhill, the Stooges had disbanded, and we spent our time waiting for something to happen…
In 1975 Patti Smith’s Horses came out, I bought it immediately, and both of us were blown away again. In 1976, after months of mouth-watering preliminary reports on the making of the Ramones album (including possibly apocryphal claims that it’d been mixed so hot that it blew out the tweeters of the studio speakers on playback), it too came out. I bought three copies, two for myself and one for some unsuspecting gull in Geraldton (where I was temporarily living) who I’d converted into honorary punkhood – so I introduced punk into Geraldton. Put it on my gravestone somebody…
Even Ross was inspired to shell out money ordinarily destined for drink’n’dope to buy a copy and he didn’t regret it for a moment – a true testimonial of the greatness of that album!!!
Nobody else we knew appeared to share our musical inclinations, although a few friends and acquaintances tentatively followed suit. We just assumed we were unique (and one person apart we probably were…). I remember going to some party with Ross and the boys (we weren’t invited) and replacing all the dullard albums on the party turntable with good stuff. Boy did that go down well!
However, elsewhere the movement started to build. Why, even in staid old England there was a band called The Sex Pistols playing Stooges stuff and acting offensive. When later in the year they released their first single, Anarchy In the UK, we knew that what had been going to happen for the past few years was now happening for real and we decided to start a band. The fact that we could hardly play didn’t matter any more!!
In December 1976 we found our drummer, a guy called Tom who Ross’s sister knew. He worked in a butcher’s shop and we hoped he could transfer his meat-pummelling techniques into some blitzkrieg (hmmm, must be careful of the Nazi references) high-energy drumming. Unfortunately, he left his talents behind in the carvery, but at first we were so knocked out to have a real live drummer playing along with us in the living-room that we didn’t notice his deficiencies.
Tom knew a bassist called Dave Cardwell and suddenly we were a full band. Dave was English, had a shiny new bass guitar and amp and the fact that he was a fan of Neil Diamond didn’t bother us unduly. He was pliable enough to go along with what we wanted and took to the punk thing with a fair degree of ardour once he figured out (rather dimly, it is true) what was going on.
Ross played rudimentary (although high-energy) guitar, I played rudimentary vocals, and the other two were (sort of) along the same lines so at least there wouldn’t be any technical grandstanding and we could concentrate on just playing the songs. We began playing almost exclusively cover-material but as this was all stuff from The Ramones, The Stooges, The Sex Pistols and The Modern Lovers it might as well have been original because the Perth public were still mired in the murk of Elton John, the aforesaid Diamond, and other remnants of a benighted age. Anyway, we didn’t have much in the way of ambition; we (at least Ross and I) were mainly interested in playing songs we loved and for me Punk was a way of combining two of my favourite pursuits – blistering music and being obnoxious.
Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that Tom couldn’t play. He struggled to separate his kick-drum from the main beat so, helpful as ever, I took to coaching him even though I’d never played drums in my life. However, I wasn’t a complete bastard; I never charged Tom a cent for my tutorials! Anyway, Tom rapidly developed a seething hatred towards me. It was an ideal working relationship.
Tom’s great talent (apart from hacking up dead animals) was an idiot-savant-like ability to improvise obscene verse at high speed and without missing a beat even though he appeared close to brain-dead in most other aspects of life. Dave’s major talent was in telling long streams of utterly implausible lies with the appearance of great sincerity and complete obliviousness to our hidden mirth. He was my hero.
After hearing a tape of one of our rehearsals, I decided to quit the band because my singing sounded way too boyish and bland to match the drink and drug-sodden vocal endeavours of my punk heroes. It sounded kinda like The New Seekers but without the tunefulness. So we stuck an ad in the “Reader’s Mart” for a vocalist who “MUST love Iggy, The Ramones, Sex Pistols”. Geezuz were we optimistic! Remember this was Perth in early 1977…
Remarkably we got a response. A guy called James rang to say he was a big Stooges fan and had been in a couple of New York Dolls-style bands in the past. Interestingly, Ross had already had dealings with him: a year before he’d advertised for a copy of the MC5’s Back In The USA (which was then almost impossible to get) and James had let him tape it off his LP. He’d also allowed Ross to tape The Stooges’ bootleg Metallic KO but was then just setting out for Europe, so we didn’t have time to make further acquaintance.
Anyway, he’d just returned in early ’77 after viewing the Punk Explosion firsthand in England (where he’d auditioned for The Clash and made friends with The Vibrators) and was eager to start a punk band back in dear ol’ Perth. Ours was the first sympathetic voice he’d encountered since returning so you can imagine the excitement we had when we realized We Were Not Alone In The Boondocks. The only problem was he was a drummer, not a singer, and of course we already had our mate Tom…
Still we invited him to audition for singer and in the meantime took a trip down to downtown Kenwick to see this interesting phenomenon at first hand. James Baker was an intriguing fella because he seemed to have carved out a distinct personality from completely alien roots. His father worked on the railways and so you’d expect James to be a typical Aussie working-class boy, but he wasn’t having None of that…he’d cultivated a pageboy Brian Jones haircut, a quasi-English accent with not a hint of Aussie in it, and for years had been a devout fan of all the kinds of things good Aussie working class boys would’ve loathed – stuff like glam rock, Punk and Style.
His two early bands had been called Black Sun and The Slick City Boys and James had photos showing what a camp lot they’d been. He proudly recounted the Black Sun gig where they’d only played one song, an endless version of Louie Louie, until they were howled off stage. This was exactly what we wanted to hear even though the mincing and preening of his early bands wasn’t exactly our style. Getting audiences pissed off was, however, and we knew we had to get this guy involved somehow…
Anyway, the audition was set up and on the due date I rolled up at Ross’s place in Scarborough to see how things transpired. When I got out of the car I was assailed by the most godawful caterwauling I’d ever heard. It was James auditioning!!! Christ he was terrible! When I walked inside, however, Interesting Things were starting to happen. Tom (remember him?) had brought along his musical “mentor”, a guy called Zac, to give his expert opinion on the band’s prospects. Tom was completely bewildered by this new-fangled Punk Thang and needed reassurance that it was indeed music of sorts…
Zac was a roadie for a bunch of has-beens called The Mixtures (who’d had an international hit years before with The Pushbike Song) and had a somewhat inflated opinion of his own musical percipience. He watched James’s audition and quickly pronounced that the band were ratshit and would “never make it”. Of course with James doing the vocal chores I could quite understand his reaction, but Ross was incensed enough to tell Zac he was a ***** and a ********; Zac retaliated by branding Ross a **** and a ******** (I can’t recall the precise designations used so have elected to use this indeterminate form for historical accuracy). I was sympathetic to both versions of the matter, but before I could give my assessment of the situation (and any needed counselling) Zac stalked off with Tom in tow. Tom had quit the band!
After wiping away a few tears at Tom’s unexpected demise we realized that a great boon had been done for us. Not only did we have a vacant drum-position but we also had a drummer right there who actually understood what we were trying to do without being bludgeoned into shape; (“Tom, repeat after me…Ramones Good…Stooges Good…Eagles bad…”). It was a Truly Serendipitous Moment…However, we still needed a singer. We auditioned a guy who had an OK conventional-rock voice but unfortunately had no idea what we were after and seemed to be more interested in emoting like Robert Plant or Paul Rodgers so we showed him the door – amicably of course. After a while it became clear we weren’t going to find anybody who understood what punk singing was all about so I moved back into the job.
Meanwhile, James started writing stuff. His first effort was a cute li’l thing called I Like Iggy Pop which consisted of a long list of things that he hated (and James was a VERY comprehensive hater): “I HATE marijuana pendants…I HATE (etc)…” over a one chord buzz finally resolving in the nursery-rhyme chorus – “I Like Iggy Pop”.
Rod Radalj (aka Roddie Rayda) turned up for one of our first rehearsals after reading our ad for a singer. He had a go at James’s song and was enthusiastic but tuneless; little did we know he was going to become a Punk Legend in the years ahead. At the time he just sat there, shut up, and observed (and continued to do so for months afterwards): can we take credit for being his Punk Mentors?
Rod brought a saxophone with him (with which he was less than rudimentary) but we weren’t interested in getting all fancy at the time – guitar, bass and drums were about it for the moment. After the first couple of albums we might start to go arty but in the meantime…
We rehearsed once a week for around two hours, certainly not enough to transform us into the tight outfit we needed to be to make our public debut – I mean to say, we had STANDARDS! Although we started doing all covers James was bringing a new song around every week so we were rapidly becoming a real fergodsake “original” band.
Actually, James’s songs were basically lyrics that were given musical form mainly by Ross with occasional help from me. The problem was James couldn’t play anything besides drums and he had the world’s most tuneless voice, so he couldn’t give us more than an extremely vague conception about what he was looking for with the song. James would bring his lyrics around to Ross’s before the rehearsal and Ross would try to interpret James’s inchoate warblings. When Ross played something that met with James’s approval he (James) would say, “that’s it!” By the time I arrived they had the basic song worked out and we’d go and rehearse it.
This was the way Disco Junkies, I’m Looking For You, High School Girls, TV Freak, I’m In London,* I’m Flipped Out Over You and others were introduced to an indifferent (at first) world. James’s lyrics were fresh and guileless (not really Punk-as-it-was-defined, but we weren’t a regulation punk band) and the music had plenty of verve so we were on our way (or so it seemed)…
We were obsessed with speed at the time (not the drug BTW, which none of us ever touched) – in retrospect, rather to the detriment of the music. Our main criterion was “how fast” rather “how good” so we roared through Blitzkrieg Bop and others at nearly twice the speed of the originals. I actually didn’t have time to enunciate the words; the opening “we’re forming in a straight line” came out as a garbled “formininstraightline”. Ross’s hands were a continual blur as he shot through the chords in supposed imitation of Johnny Ramone, but this vision was shot to hell a few years later when Ross first saw the Ramones live because Johnny did nothing of the sort, playing in a tepid half-arsed manner that didn’t come anywhere near Ross’s fevered conception. Ironically, Ross’s labours were unnecessary because he always played with full-fuzz so that the guitar sound was an undifferentiated blur – anyway it LOOKED good…
As none of us could play particularly well, we kept everything VERY simple: basic full-pelt riffs and chorus-lines, no harmonies, embellishments, or anything at all fancy. James’s songs were either innocent love-songs, paeans to trash-culture, hate-rants, or naive political commentary/nihilist musings. In hindsight, it was quite an original mix because we weren’t QUITE a regulation punk-band. However, we (James aside) lacked self-confidence; we couldn’t believe that anybody would actually want to hear us, let alone pay us for the privilege, until we were really tight and professional-sounding. In reality, if we’d dutifully played the role of Perth’s Very Own Punk Band to the hilt (Hey World! We’re not some cultural backwater populated entirely by inbred cretins! We’re really really up-to-date and with-it! We have our VERY OWN PUNK BAND!) we probably could’ve gotten away with it. James was always badgering us to play in public but Ross and I kept on putting it off; after all, we were only practising a couple of hours a week and surely we’d be booed off stage at any reputable venue. We didn’t realize (until Alas! Too Late!) that we could’ve made a virtue of our amateurism if we’d only courted the right people.
In the meantime, we urgently needed the right name. Band-names had been boring everybody silly for years but the advent of punk had at last made it de rigeur to have an offensively eye-catching name – none of this “Eagles”, “Supertramp” stuff. “The Damned”, “The Sex Pistols”, “The Stranglers” – that was more like it! We were determined to outdo these as weapons of inflammatory nomenclature and so we spent hours coming up with suitable names designed to offend/titillate/shock the Perth public, names that we would’ve been proud to represent and exemplify, but we could never fix on the perfect one. We tried “The Victims”, “The Geeks”, “The Dresden Whores” and numerous others but these were either not offensive enough or too forced (“Hey! Look at us! We’re REALLY BAD MOTHAFUCKAHS!”). The trick was an insouciant offensiveness. James commendably suggested “Lloyd And The Disciples” but I thought I could detect a faint ironical smirk on his face as he said it. I finally came up with “The Hitler Youth” which met with universal approbation until Ross started having visions of Simon Wiesenthal comin’ after us and finally vetoed it. But this only happened months afterwards; I’m getting ahead of the story because we were effectively a band without a name for months to come…
One day we found out to our disgust we weren’t Perth’s only Punk pioneers; there were a band of usurpers around called The Cheap Nasties and they were actually going to play a gig. We hated them for it (this was supposed to be OUR turf); besides, their name was irritating – demonstrating that they either didn’t get it or they were lampooning punk, which was pathetic in itself because punk was already a lampoon and was such an easy target why bother to do it?
Anyway, we rolled up to the Nasties’ debut gig at the Rivervale Hotel in June or July 1977 with a – let’s say – rather negative attitude to the proceedings. And we weren’t disappointed. They were all decked out in regulation punk uniforms – leather jackets, shades, jeans, and sneers – and they played the gig in front of a large drawing of Nana Mouskouri, the Greek singer who was considered the essence of “straight” at the time. Nobody with the slightest vestige of cool would’ve ever admitted to liking ol’ Nana – God! She was great! Anyway, somebody in the Nasties camp had actually gone to the trouble of drawing a picture of her (and Punk was supposedly the opposite of contrived) so that the Nasties could make some lame satirical point. At the “climax” of their show they all took to the portrait and ripped it to shreds. Wow! Sock it to Her, Nasties!
As for the music, it was kind of limp too, betraying strong hints that the band had been originally steeped in dinosaur music of the Bad Company sort and had simply updated it to conform to the latest trends. However, they were much more proficient musically than us (although vastly less energetic) and as they were obviously willing to play the game of being Good Little Punks it was clear they were going to go far…(is that enough bitchiness for now?)
Now maybe we should have joined forces with the Nasties to Advance The Cause Of Punk in Perth And Join Hands with the Punk meritocracy throughout the world, but Ross and I had an entrenched aversion to cliqueness. First of all we weren’t really punks, we hated cosy bonhomie and mutual “respect” between bands, and felt that mutual loathing was a much more stimulating environment in which to kindle creative endeavour. Well, maybe that wasn’t QUITE how we articulated it at the time. I think we expressed it thus: “Those phoney fuckers are as weak as piss…”
An example of this (probably lamentable but hey, nobodeeez perfect…) attitude was furnished by the Nasties’ second gig, which took place at the City Hotel (corner of King and Murray St). We went along not expressly to stir up trouble (although willing to do a fair bit of sneering, which had evolved into our favourite pastime), but unfortunately Satan’s minions were out and about because they placed an old school acquaintance of Ross’s, a guy called Simon, in our path and he was PRIMED for mischief-making. After listening to our not over-friendly assessment of the Nasties he (completely unprompted by us, I must add) began to heckle the band, calling them “Momma’s Boys” and “pathetic” (amongst a host of vituperation). While neither Ross nor I actively joined in, we did (it has to be said) bask in his outbursts with a proprietary “that’s our boy” expression on our faces. And Kim from the Nasties wasn’t happy AT ALL; at the break he confronted us, face suffused with rage, and taunted us with accusations that we were “too gutless” to play in public. Well, perhaps he had a point, but I felt our tardiness was due to a commendable (and public-spirited!) reluctance to inflict musical pain on the paying public before we were ready.
Anyway, we were not popular fellows with the tiny Perth punk clique at this point. The question was: how could we take it further?
Maybe it’s time to demolish a myth. Official History asserts that the Punk movement was a case of the Proletariat finally reclaiming its Rock ‘n’ Roll Heritage from the effete bourgeoisie, which had inveigled rock away from its working-man origins and turned it into such middle-class aberrations as art-rock, progressive rock and generalized blandness.
If Perth was typical, then this is complete BS. The truth is it was an avant-garde affair with a mere handful of prime movers and a few hangers-on. Even at its peak I doubt if there were more than twenty or thirty hardcore punk fans involved. As for the working-classes, they were oblivious to our strivings and were still listening to AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, and driving around in panel vans. I never saw anybody remotely proletarian at any of the gigs: we were all well-brought-up middle-class boys and girls. James may have been nominally sociologically different, but his appearance and manners would have endangered him at any blue-collar public bar at the time. The rest of us were students openly contemptuous of the bovine masses; there was a lot of snobbery and unfortunately it rapidly turned cliquish. Certain things were ordained as cool and others were demonized and one was expected to CONFORM to the canon of punkology.
For example, The Saints weren’t Officially cool even though their album was way better than most of the garbage coming out of the UK. Ross and I were much more influenced by American punk and thought the English bands were lame by comparison. We had long hair, refused to wear anything “punk” or new-wave and had utter disdain for anybody following the dictates of English fashion.
Now why weren’t we nicer to all the boys and girls in their ripped t-shirts and safety-pins? In troth, I know not: inbuilt arseholeness to a large extent, I’d guess, as well as a hatred of trendiness and a penchant for individuality. Anyway, punk wasn’t about Happy Families, was it? So we relished our position as outsiders and curmudgeons.
James, however, dearly wanted to BELONG; he felt fellow-feeling with the groovers and began to cultivate a number of them. Rifts were beginning to appear amongst The Hitler Youth…*
Meanwhile, we continued to rehearse and even added a second guitarist (a guy called Kerry) for a few weeks. He was considerably more skilled than the rest of us but wasn’t into punk, so it wasn’t long before he left to go and play Real Music with other “musos”. I thought the band’s sound peaked while he was there; the two guitars had a lot more power in tandem and this increased dynamics and helped the choruses really take off and fly. I’m Flipped Out Over You fairly ripped along with this lineup.
At the time, Neil and Kim of The Cheap Nasties honoured us with an impromptu visit to one of our rehearsals. I’m not sure if they were invited (James?), but they sat around sneering as we went through our repertoire (did that mean they didn’t like us or was that just an echt-punk way of displaying approval?). Anyway, they showed true dedication to the Punk Ethos by turning up in their punk uniforms as their regular everyday wear. Let’s belatedly give ’em an honorary Sid Vicious Award For Services To Punk Beyond The Call Of Duty…*
Just after Kerry left, James suggested we might consider adding another member, a fellow he’d met on one of his frequent visits to the public-houses of Perth (James was a noted imbiber). Dave Faulkner was then playing in The Beagle Boys, who were a well-known Blooz band at the time and one we hated purely out of principle. However, James assured us that “he’s cool, loves punk, and hates the music he’s playing”. Anyway, he rolled up in leather jacket and freshly-punkified haircut, listened to some of our rehearsal-tapes, and showed a commendable admiration for The Easybeats in a discussion afterwards at the Floreat Hotel, but unfortunately he was a keyboard-player and we weren’t interested at that stage in adding keyboards to the mix. So we didn’t pick him up; if James had told us that he also played guitar it might’ve been different. As it happened, our rejection of “Flick” quickly brought things to a head…*
At our next rehearsal, James asked us if we’d mind making a tape of just ‘his’ songs because he wanted a record of his songwriting efforts so far. We duly did so – completely unsuspecting of James’ Machiavellian intentions. He took his tape away, and a few days later an ireful Ross called to tell me James and Dave Cardwell had just quit the band. James was off to join Dave Faulkner in a new venture and had invited Dave C to be their bass-player. Card was reluctant to leave but Ross was so pissed off with the proceedings he virtually told Dave to clear off.
However, it explained James’s urgency in getting us to record the tape. As he couldn’t play or sing the songs properly himself, he had no other means of communicating them to Flick and so resorted to subterfuge…
What pissed us off was that he obviously considered them HIS songs when his contribution was indeterminate apart from the lyrics. The music was largely Ross’s (and I made a number of contributions as well), but it was difficult to say who wrote what because the songs evolved as we worked on them. James gave us the lyrics and sometimes the musical kernel, Ross articulated it musically, and I helped provide the final melodic line. Left to himself, James certainly wouldn’t have come up with the songs as they were and he shouldn’t have claimed them as entirely his own.
Interestingly, James’ final songs with us had a much greater musical input from him because he’d bought a guitar to help him write and had consequently already come up with the tunes (more or less) before he brought them around to Ross. I never heard “Chooch The Cat” or “Public Servant” but Ross commented at the time how inferior they were to the earlier songs. Unfortunately, James’s musical inspiration didn’t match his often charming lyrics.
Anyway, bastardry aside, he made the right decision. Faulkner was going places and we weren’t…
James and Dave were gone, so Ross and I were in want of a bassist and drummer. Drummers, as ever, were relatively easy to find – basically the rule was if you wanted to play in a band and had no musical talent whatsoever you played drums (so the pool of drummers was VAST) – but bass-players were almost non-existent for a very simple reason. Everyone wants to be a hero and bassists are distinctly and ineradicably non-heroic. I mean, who remembers the bass-player?
Anyway, appropriate ads were placed in the Sunday Times Reader’s Mart and we waited for a deluge – ha! – of replies. As they weren’t forthcoming (punk/new wave had still to penetrate the dim consciousness of the Perth muso community), we had to settle for whatever dribs and drabs were willing – more or less – to participate (i.e. take orders) in our Vision of the Fastest and Most Frenetic Band Ever. Yes, I’m afraid mania had taken over… a mostly drug-free and Christian mania, I have to say, even though Ross was still not averse to the more than occasional joint. In fact, Ross had now firmly established himself as the resident Substance-Abuser of the band, as he also spent at least three nights a week in an alcoholic stupor. Sure, he wasn’t no Keith Richards but he was the best we could do at short notice…
Our most promising drummer candidate was a guy called Hans and so one evening we called around to his place in West Leederville to check him out. Unfortunately he wasn’t in but we were told he’d gone to the City Hotel, the scene of our recent sordid confrontation with The Cheap Nasties. So we were at home.
I’m not sure how we found Hans as we’d never seen him before, but I cannot imagine we went around asking everybody, “Is your name Hans?” Whatever, we found him sitting at the bar in company with a pretty girl wearing a beret (tres bohemienne!!!). And God! he played it all so supercool, listening to our entreaties with an air of prime hauteur, as if this was a regular thing and there were people clamouring night and day for his services. Of course, this was all calculated to impress the babe beside him and it did the trick very nicely indeed. She watched Hans with wide-open eyes (and mouth) and what’s the bet Hans got laid that night? Incidentally, Hans did very well as a Lady’s Man because he came from that Hippy Mecca, Amsterdam, and so he could recount wondrous and probably apocryphal tales of all the varieties of great dope available there. AND he could fake sophistication very well indeed, a commodity in short supply in 70’s Australia…
Despite his Mr Cool demeanour, however, Hans DID eventually consent to audition for us and we found that, away from a rapt female audience, he was actually ridiculously eager to play. And shit, he didn’t care what he played – disco, country, rock, whatever – as long as he was behind the drums it didn’t matter. We could’ve been playing Bulgarian Wedding Music for all he cared. He did pronounce his preference for Funk, which made Ross and I both curl our lips, and once informed us with apparent seriousness that Ram Jam’s Black Betty (at that time on the charts) was a “completely new kind of music”. But a drummer was a drummer – and Hans was a drummer… of sorts. So we let him stay.
Next, we turned our attentions to finding a bass-player. We began with a rigid list of requirements. He HAD to be highly technically proficient and musically talented, have a state-of-the-art instrument and amplification, be able to write and sing with fluency, and be right into punk and energy, as well as – do I need to mention this? – being willing to take orders. After surveying the available pool of talent, however, we amended our requirements to the following:
(1) Must own, or have regular access to, at least sporadically functioning bass guitar and amplifier;
(2) must be willing, and available, to turn up to rehearsals most of the time;
(3) must not break wind in confined rehearsal spaces.
And – Lord be praised! – a taciturn enigma of a cove called Robert auditioned and fitted the bill admirably, although debate still rages until the present day on how fully he complied with (3).
So we were once again a fully functioning unit and we began to rehearse at the Wembley Scout Hall on Sunday arvos. However, we needed songs, the great bulk of the material up to then having been co-written with James, and we were reluctant to play ‘his’ stuff because his new band, The Victims, was bound to be playing them. James, remember, had cunningly got us to record his songs for him a few days before announcing he was leaving. Yes, he was a very Machiavellian fellow and we would’ve greatly admired him for it if he hadn’t done it to US.
Anyway, we contemplated all possible subjects for songs and came up with some old standbys: songs about handicapped people were de rigueur of course (remember this was a pre-PC era and things that would be greeted with horror NOW were fit and worthy subjects of ribald mirth and merriment THEN), and murderers and perverts also appeared suitable recipients for apotheosization in song. Hatred of women furnished another fecund source of inspiration. And of course, we HAD to do songs about Nazis. After all, what good is a band with The Hitler Youth as a name without Nazi songs?
So we set to work. I immediately came up with Epilectic Love which was inspired by a Ross remark about unexpectedly finding out somebody had a disability – “I thought you were normal” (delivered with a hearty chuckle). Give that man a course of sensitivity training!
I thought you were normal,
Now your tongue’s hanging out,
You’re whining and groaning,
Now you’re rolling about.
This is my chance!
I thank the stars above!
The time is ripe for
Ross responded with Charles Beamish, based on a composite character made up of Charles Manson and local legend Darryl Beamish1. If one murderer is good, two is SO much better! The lyrics to this meisterwerke have unfortunately been lost in the mists of time but happily a recording still exists, enabling us to decipher the chorus: “I go MAD!!! I go MAD!!! I go MAD!!!…”. And it was a rather remarkable piece of music, with Nine and Nine Is-style drumming2 and electrifying transitions as well.
1[Disclaimer: Darryl Beamish has since had his murder conviction officially over-turned. This article in no way intends to comment on the matter, or to defame Beamish, who was a convicted felon at the time of reference.]
2Nine and Nine Is is a song off the album Da Capo by the great 60s LA band Love
Nothing daunted by Ross’s masterful attempt to outdo me in depravity, I quickly responded with Aryan Boy, inspired by a remark made in the movie The Mercenaries which had screened as the Midday Movie around this time. In it, Hardy Kruger, who played a murdering fascist, was described as a “good Aryan boy”. So I set to work:
I’m a blonde l’il Aryan boy
And I do what I have to do;
I listened to Der Fuhrer…
Ross, stunned by this foray into hitherto unprecedented tastelessness, could only respond with a meek woman-hating number called Oh Baby (You’re Givin’ Me The Shits). I had triumphed!
Around this time Ross and I had our first philosophical disagreement although, actually, we’d had an argument a few months earlier about the relative merits of Patti Smith’s and Them’s versions of Gloria. The exchange had gone something like this:
Lloyd: Y’know, Ross, I think Them’s version of Gloria is better than Patti’s.
Lloyd: Bullshit! It’s not bullshit!
Ross: It IS bullshit! No way is it better!
Lloyd: Bullshit! It IS…
History does not detail precisely how the preceding argument was resolved…
However, the new source of contention centred on weightier matters. While I was happy to confine our attentions to the completely infantile, Ross was yearning to elevate our oeuvre into the realms of the merely childish. It happened this way: The Cheap Nasties were performing a self-composed number called Johnny Is A Heartbreaker which was their hymn of adoration to Johnny Thunders of The New York Dolls and The Heartbreakers. I suggested to Ross that we do an “answer” song called “Johnny Is a Windbreaker”. Instead of the cries of empathetic support I expected, however, he gave me a look of mingled pity and derision, snorted with laughter, said with incredulity, “that is SO pathetic”, and then snorted again. I realized – to my utter dismay – that Ross had MATURED…
Gone forever were the days when the two of us presented a united front of unabashed immaturity; gone were the days of innocent japes and ridicule of those weaker and less fortunate than ourselves…I looked back with misty-eyed nostalgia to the time, only a few months before, when Ross had proposed a song to be played to school-leavers after the “Leaving” exams called “Ha! Ha! You Failed Your Leaving!” It was all too much…whither had my erstwhile companion in puerility and inanity gone?
Meanwhile, The Victims began to play around town. Most of their early gigs were in tandem with the Nasties at the Governor Broome Hotel on the corner of William and Roe Street, Northbridge. I saw most of these and wasn’t impressed (shit! you don’t say!), but I gave the edge to The Victims overall. At least they seemed more authentic than the Nasties with their dogged obsessiveness, although there was a gratuitous ugliness about the sound I didn’t care for. Flick deliberately played the cheapest and shittiest-sounding guitar he could find and the overall sound was primitive in the worst sense of the word.
The audience for these shows was meagre, with only forty or fifty in the crowd, but it still provided some amusement to us connoisseurs of human foible. One time we spotted three longhaired hippy-types sitting at a table watching the proceedings; the following weekend they were back there at the very same table but this time sporting brand-new punk haircuts and outfits…it’s wonderful to see steadfastness to one’s beliefs… Another time, a tall fellow (later on to emerge as Robbie Porritt of The Manikins) got up alone on the dance-floor to perform a “spontaneous” punk dance by himself – supposedly so drawn-in by the music that he just couldn’t HELP himself. Pity he didn’t notice our smirks of scorn; it might’ve taught him not to make such a prat of himself. Silly fucker! Yes, we were still as lovable as ever!
The Victims’ Governor Broome gigs also provided the opportunity for our old mate, Rockin’ Rod Radalj, to make his long-awaited performing debut. On one number, Rod was Featured Guest Artiste on saxophone and he doggedly let forth a series of squeaks and farting noises to complement The Victims’ roar. Rockin’ Rod was an omnipresent participant in all the multifarious punk to-ings and fro-ings over the next year or two and over the passing years he has continually and ably demonstrated to all how persistence and determination can triumph.
What an inspiration he is!
Meanwhile, the as-yet unnamed Hitler Youth-to-be were rehearsing away quasi-merrily, but in the process a problem was rapidly coming to a head: Robert the bass-player had to go!
It was becoming glaringly obvious that the poor fellow couldn’t play at all. At first he concealed this by faking his efforts under the blazing sonic cover of the rest of the band, but when I asked him to play the basslines alone he couldn’t do so. Ross and I then privately consulted about the best way to sever our ties with him. While we were acutely sensitive to Robert’s sense of self-worth we were also concerned for the integrity of the band’s music. So, after agonizing for some time about the best way to inform Robert of the situation without hurting his feelings, we gently told him to…”Fuck off. You can’t play for shit”. He seemed quite relieved! No more faking!
Which of course left us once again without a bass-player…it was deja vu all over again as you can see…the usual “Reader’s Mart” ad was placed and we rehearsed with Hans in the interim – and it was about this time that we committed ourselves to our first gig.
Now an important historical point arises here: Ross, in his recollections, states that I told Kim Salmon on this occasion that our name was The Hitler Youth, but I recall it differently. I think I’d told Kim previously about the name and that he simply assumed that we were still the HY, unaware of our penchant for incessantly changing identities. I contend that no discussion about names happened that night at Alberts. Which is why we were surprised a few weeks later when the gig posters identified us as The Hitler Youth – finally, irrevocably, and unashamedly. Ross was worried…weren’t there a lot of earnest left-wing types at uni and mightn’t they get a little roused about a band called The Hitler Youth who played songs about blonde lil’ Aryan boys on the warpath with rhymes like gotta preserve the race/gonna kick ’em in the face, and mightn’t they ambush the band before, during, or after the gig and do unpleasant physical things to us before we had a chance to explain that we were puerile apolitical black-humoured punk rock schmucks with an agenda to outrage for the sake of it, or at least be noticed, and all in the cause of fun and blasting rock n roll? Ross didn’t like pain, especially his own.
However, I’m getting ahead of the story. Remember we still had to find a bass-guy! Preparing ourselves wearily for the usual bunch of no-hopers, we were amazed to get a response from a guy called Phil, who only shortly before had been in Suicide Hotel, a band I’d actually seen on TV! They were glam rockers and not a million miles from us stylistically so this was progress! And when we heard Phil play we were dumbstruck! So THIS was how bassists really played! Not that earnest plod we’d had to endure from our earliest beginnings but with fluidity, swing and real precision! The only thing was we couldn’t understand why this pro would want to play with US…we, who’d never played in front of a paying audience. Well, whatever…in retrospect, I think Phil saw how trends were blowing and wanted to be part of the punk thing even while it was still in its embryonic stage in stage in Perth (yeah, we’re slow in Hicksville, y’all!).
This kind of thing was happening all over Australia. I remember seeing The Angels on ABC TV’s “Countdown” at this time performing this very un-punk-like song called You’re A Lady Now. One week they were doing it dressed in regulation 70’s-type rock-muso gear (satin shirts, etc) and haircuts; the next they were in leather jackets and short hair! It was sooo comical! Musos all over the country were in a pickle ‘cos they were in danger of becoming Boring Old Farts at 22! So would they stick with the long hair and the Rockstar outfits or would they make the leap and join the Proletariat? As it turned out, punk/new wave took years before it became mainstream; in ’77 it was still the thinnest of cutting-edges and it could be argued that it never became Basic Household Fare until at least a decade later with Nirvana and the “grunge” movement. So they needn’t have worried. But in ’77 it appeared for the moment that the Old Wave were doomed and it was necessary to make a choice – to sink with the Old Buggers or swim with the new Fascists…
One day there was a panel discussion on TV where around 30 Old-Wave musicians, journalists and managers earnestly discussed the looming threat of Impending Boring Old Fartdom that seemed to be engulfing them. Jon English dismissed it as old hat; he’d seen The Pretty Things and The Stones doing the same stuff over a decade before. But in general, things were looking pretty gloomy for the rock establishment. So it’s not surprising that a few of them tried to get on board with the New Thang…and God bless ’em…every one.
There is something oddly addictive about dismissing somebody from your band, denigrating their musical ability, making them feel worthless and unwanted, and possibly ruining their life. How else do we explain – in a fittingly aesthetic manner – the fact that we booted Hans out of the band only days after we had bid a fond adieu to our beloved bass-player, Robert? The fact is we had committed to our first gig in less than a month – at the UWA along with The Cheap Nasties, The Victims, and Dave Warner’s From the Suburbs – and we had no bass-player and no drummer.
What, after all, was wrong with Hans? He was a proficient drummer, perhaps not perfectly stylistically attuned to our maniacal rush, but beggars can’t be… And we could forgive his enthusiasm for funk music, charitable chaps as we were. He was reliable and perfectly willing to go along with whatever we wanted. In fact, he made some effort to engage himself in our Nazi Chic oeuvre, seizing upon a chance remark I’d made that “Hitler was a punk-rocker” to pen a set of lyrics on said subject, with copious references to Übermenschen, invading Poland, goose-stepping, along with some rib-tickling allusions to Concentration Camp mores. Ah, it was enough to gladden the heart! It was, however, witty, intelligent and erudite – the very thing, in fact, we didn’t want.
Hans, it was true, had a faintly condescending air – when your heart lies in the exalted realm of Funk, how else could you look on people playing at punks? – and his expression constantly wore a “Children! Children!” aspect.
I didn’t mind: we were children – and proud of it. Well, at least I was. Ross, as it turned out, had aspirations to maturity – which eventually led to the breakup of our musical partnership. Of which more later…
But right now – this being a historical document and all – we’re after the reason for Hans’ banishment from the band, and Ross does have an explanation: his story (never proven) is that Hans had lifted a PA we had borrowed to sell for funds to supply his gargantuan appetite for drugs and we got rid of him because we simply couldn’t tolerate illegality. Bad boy, Hans! You can’t play drums in our band no more! We can’t have criminals in The Hitler Youth!*
Ruminating over the affair after the passage of thirty years, I’d have thought that such outlaw activities would’ve cemented his place in the band. After all, we were punks, crazy motherfucking punks….well, weren’t we? Hans had just provided us free of charge (apart from the cost of the PA) with a sorely-needed dose of street cred…..and we kicked him out in response? I don’t believe it! Besides, I don’t remember a thing about it and I usually remember these sorts of things. But then I can’t think of any alternative reason for giving him the boot, apart perhaps from sheer perverseness on our part. So perhaps Ross is right.
But every cloud has a silver lining, as you will see. Giving Robert and Hans the bum’s rush led to our best line-up yet, short-lived though it turned out to be. After Robert’s dismissal, Ross put his customary ad in the “Musician’s Wanted” section of the Sunday Times Reader’s Mart. As usual, it included the phrase “not before 11”. Some explanation is required for this cryptic message: every Saturday night (and, if truth be told, every Friday night as well) Ross passed in a state of being known to the vulgar-minded as “shit-faced”. This condition entailed in turn a Sunday morning free of outside disturbance, spent if possible under the sheets of a comfortable bed, gradually restoring his vital spirits to their full effervescence – in preparation for the Sunday “session”. As a rule, Ross maintained this state of affairs until well after midday but on those occasions when we needed a new bassist or drummer he was willing to grit his teeth and take one for the team. But not before 11!
Ross’s post-11 AM sacrifices on our behalf bore special fruit this time because they resulted in the incorporation of Phil as bassist into our group. We found this flabbergasting because he was not only technically far superior to any of us but he was a professional musician, of the kind that actually expects to get paid for playing – a concept we had trouble grasping with our pristinely amateur conception of ourselves. And he wasn’t a tired, burnt-out over-the-hill muso just looking for a gig but a young, ambitious up-and-comer who’d recently been in a popular glam-rock outfit called Suicide Hotel, who I’d seen on performing on TV. Why the hell did he want to lower himself to play with us, we thought in our innocence?
The answer, I think, was that Phil, with his keen perception of what was hip and (more importantly) what was going to be hip, sensed that the old order of musos was about to be washed away in the coming deluge and that he wanted to be in on the new order of things right from the start. It’s vital for any aspiring musician to be au fait with the pulse of things; musical irrelevance and professional redundancy being the spectre that confronts all musical laggards and Phil, for one, wasn’t going to go down as a Boring Old Fart without a fight! (Important Note: for the uninitiated, “Boring Old Fart” is that stage of life intermediate between “Hip Young Trendsetter” and “Silly Old Bugger”. Though unavoidable, there should ideally be a graceful transition from one stage to the next. Overnight movement from HYT to BOF can be psychologically shattering.)
[Historical Note: Phil was largely right about the fate of pre-1977 musicians après le déluge. Those who failed to adapt (i.e. continued to play long guitar and drum solos, didn’t cut their hair and moustaches, didn’t discard their “rockstar” garb, pulled emotional or solemn faces when “caught up” in the music, didn’t assume a bored and/or angry expression, didn’t name their band by some short combative title, etc) rapidly became the target of unprecedented critical and peer derision. The late 70’s wasn’t a good time to be a Boring Old Fart.]
[Further Historical Note: it’s a sure sign of the decadence of Popular Music over the past couple of decades that the concept of “Boring Old Fart” has now become obsolete. This is unhealthy. It was good for musicians to worry about such a fate: it kept them on their toes. It seems that the BOF ( a Bad Thing) has now been superseded by the “Crusty Old Fart” (a Good Thing). This (almost interchangeable) person is regarded with (largely unwarranted) adulation and reverence and has a secure set of fans willing to swallow every yawn-worthy offering as though it’s nectar from the Gods. The market for the Crusty Old Fart shows no sign of diminishing. The older, the crustier, the more cantankerous, the more authentic, it appears; the old way of showering them with scorn and derision has passed from the earth, I can only observe with regret.]
(TO BE CONTINUED – no, really!)