During the past few
years there have been a number of books released which try to deal with
alternative Australian rock. Most of the bands cited in these pages hardly ever
get a mention and when they do it seems to be as a footnote to some other band.
Ah, the prices of fame, no doubt.
Here they are in all their glory (all spelling and grammatical mistakes are as
per the originals but the 'critical' comments are all mine) :
Clinton Walker's 'Stranded - The Secret History of Australian Independent
Music' was the first book to specifically look back at the punk and post-punk
scenes. It starts with Radio Birdman and The Saints and continues onwards to the
early 90's where it peters out due to an increasing lack of interest on Clint's
Voigt/465 get 2 mentions :
The legacy of Radio Birdman loomed large over Sydney, but even bands like the
Thought Criminals, Voigt/465 and Tactics represented an alternative to the
OK, thanks so far Clint - that's all very fair and true...
Partisanship meant that a gaggle of Sydney bands such as Voigt/465, the
Thought Criminals, Tactics, SPK and the Ugly Mirrors were drawn together in
contrast to the post-Birdman push.
Trouble was, this alternative to the established alternative wasn't up to much
either. After the Funhouse closed down in 1977, an anglo punk scene assumed the
ascendency at the old Grand Hotel, opposite Central station. After that closed
down, a "no-one-else'll-touch-us-scene", as Peter Nelson put it in
Roadrunner, developed in such venues as French's, Garibaldi's and Blondie's,
'providing a goldmine of history, events and public rehearsing but not a lot of
music'. Simon Bonney left town to reform Crime and the City Solution in more
By 1979, Voigt/465 had released not just a single but an album off their own
bat. This was bold indeed. But as unique as Voigt's sound was, it hasn't
withstood the test of time. And if Tactics eventually became a great band, in
1979 they were still trying to rise above the Television covers they'd cut their
teeth on in hometown Canberra.
But if the music hasn't lasted, some of the people have. When Voigt/465 toured
Melbourne, I met for the first time Ken West, a young art student who was
helping them out. West would go on eventually to mount the Big Day Out. The
Thought Criminals had a huge catalytic effect not least of all in throwing up
Roger Grierson, who would play a profound role as an all-round alternative sort
of svengali during the eighties. The Ugly Mirrors became Sekret Sekret became
the Cruel Sea. SPK's Graeme Revell is today one of Australia's foremost film
And, once again, all of this is reasonably true. The people he mentions really
were the only ones who continued on with music in some way or another and, in
the form of Ken and Roger, managed to play a major part in determining how
Australian independent music would mutate over the ensuing years.
I'd argue that the Voigt's music has managed to stay relevant over time.
The riposte for that is "I would say that, wouldn't I" but, to tell
the truth, I disliked Voigt's material for many of the last 10 years and it's
only in the past few that I've managed to see it's value again.
But, more importantly, Clint is being slightly disingenuous: he was never really
that interested in the more experimental veins of music. Song-writing was, and
still is, his main passion. It seems to be the thing that draws him back to
music again and again.
And even though I believe that we were writing songs, they were hardly
ever written in the standard manner. More often than not we would jam through
riffs or chord progressions and then try to fit the pieces together somehow.
This was a natural part of the do it yourself, just get up and play aesthetic,
especially when mixed with our non-musician status.
Clint's attitude is shown in all it's glory by his one small mention of M
Squared, to my mind, one of the most important labels and recording studios to
appear at the turn of the 1980's :
Two other labels rose out of the ashes of Doublethink, M Squared and
Grierson's own Green (as in, "It's not easy being..."). M Squared
followed on from the Systematic's Doublethink single 'Pulp Baby' as a fount for
experimental / electronic music...
Yes, it may have been experimental but the vast majority of the music created
there and released by them was rock music pure and simple. It wasn't just
synthesiser's squalling and squabbling. And most of the bands - except for some
small bits on Pel Mel - aren't discussed even in passing.
Although he states at the start of the book that it's a personal history, I'd
hazard a guess and say that there will NEVER be another book written about this
time period - at least in as much detail. So it's a shame that his personal
attitudes and biases have let some great music slip into even more obscurity.
Ian McFarlan's exhaustive "The Encyclopedia of Australian Rock and
Pop" contains so much information that it's amazing how many of the bands
mentioned in these web pages managed to get in. However, of the bands that I was
in, Voigt are mentioned in a short paragraph under Pel Mel and Wild West are
mentioned (with a lot of the other M Squared bands) under Scattered Order. You
can access all of this at the Whammo web
But here's the bit on Voigt/454 :
New bass player Lindsay O'Meara (ex-Voigt/465, Crime and the City Solution)
had taken over from Hill by the time the single came out. Voigt/465 had
comprised O'Meara, Rae Macron Cru (vocals, keyboards), Rod Pobestek (guitar),
Phillip Turnbull (keyboards, vocals) and Mark Boswell (drums). The band recorded
one self financed single, 'Secret West'/'State' (November 1978) and an album Slights
Unbroken (issued posthumously), before splitting.
We always had problems with the name of our stuff - either the band name or the
album title are wrong somewhere.
The latest book on this subject is called "BLUNT - A Biased History of
Australian Rock". It's by Bob Blunt who used to have something to do with
the Petersham Inn amongst other places. It's quite a good read overall -
iconoclastic and a bit d.i.y. Most of the bands were all past my bed time (in
terms of going to a pub to see a band) with the post 1983 crowd getting a
going over. Famous aren't mentioned at all although it really does deal with
their time and place...oh well.
But Tactics DO get a chapter to themselves.
And Voigt are mentioned in a 1998 interview with Dave Studdert...
Blunt: What was the support network like in Sydney when you arrived?
Dave: If it wasn't for Roger Grierson and the Thought Criminals we would
not have survived. Roger was the heart and soul of all that and whatever
happened. Most of it came from his drive and enthusiasm. He started labels and
made all the calls. He really hassled. He really put his neck on the line.
Gradually we were playing a few nights a week. We got this article in
Roadrunner, then Roger started putting on these 3 band blls at the Metropole. It
was us, the Thought Criminals, and this sub-German industrial noise band called
Voigt 425. Voigt were like this very 1960s avant-garde band that hit bits of
metal and called it art.
So, cataloguing this small spiel we get the following :
- I think this is version 50 of the 'Voigt' name . At last we're in the index
- "sub-German industrial noise"? Oh well, there were a couple of noisy
tracks and poor old Dave would have much preferred a nice cup of tea with Dylan
was playing in the background.
- "like this very 1960s avant-garde band" : that sounds pretty right,
in some ways
- "that hit bits of metal and called it art"? I know that we were a
bit pretentious but I'm certain I (for one) never called it art! Art-Rock: now
that's another matter.
- Roger as 'heart and soul' - probably quite true but only for the chosen few.
The article continues and doesn't mention Tactics first single - 'Standing by
the Window' - at all which, to me, is the best thing they ever did. Their first
album 'My Houdini' was OK but their next - 'Glebe' - was downright awful. He
explains that they only had a day in which to mix it but this can't explain how
badly performed it is. I mean, it's even worse than 'Slights Unspoken'!
The first and best book on this whole subject was Clinton Walker's 1982 release
"Inner City Sound". This compiled a slew of photos and text (from
magazines, fanzines, etc) into a definitive statement of the depth and breadth
of the music of the time. Apparently a photocopied bootleg of this long deleted
tome was available in recent times : have a look at an email item in Rocknerd
for more info.
Ron Rude's web site has a page
that replicates a 1980 article by Stuart Coupe that appeared in Rolling Stone
magazine which mentions the Voigt/465 album (never knew about it at the time).