Reminiscences of a member of:
Slugfuckers, The Goat That Went Om, etc
The colour is black, black; and the sound is like standing on the deck of an aircraft carrier as its fighter planes are being launched one by one. Yes, punk has hit Sydney at last. A year of this is enough to see off the last of the hippies and the butt-end of their ridiculous music, thank Christ. But now what? Time to add a few brushstrokes of scarlet and indigo to all that black, and take on the fighters rather than let them take off again and again and again, as exhilarating as this is. Your mother knew Bob Dylan? Well, mine knew John Lydon.
For me, the outstanding post-punk bands in Sydney were Voigt 465, JMM/Scapa Flow, and the Slugfuckers. Not so much because of their talent, mind you, but because they were foolishly brave, though in different ways. Voigt's weird angularity was as confronting and as beautiful as George Grosz's. JMM/Scapa Flow made the appalling faux pas night after night of reminding everyone that the world outside the privileged kindergarten we'd built for ourselves in inner-city Sydney was a pretty nasty one. And the Slugfuckers swamped their audience in the same pea-green nausea you might feel sharing a train seat with an alzheimic, incontinent grandmother who's escaped from her nursing home.
I joined the Slugfuckers, along with Gordon Renouf, after watching them perform at the Grand Hotel where, as one journalist put it, punk had crawled to die. They had the temerity to look like hippies and to sound like nothing else. Terri Blake, the singer, was dressed in pyjamas, dressing gown and bandages. Some prat in black decided to vomit on Terri because, well, that's what real punks did in London, and Terri looked like the kind of guy who'd take it lying down. A can of beer drunk quickly produced an adequate though
unspectacular result, mostly a pale puddle at the singer's feet. Terri's response was what the Marxists of the day might have described as the correct one -he literally took it lying down, rolling in the puddle as he kept on singing, or rather yelling into the microphone. There was no question about it; I had to join the band. My only regret is that when I did I prettied up their music, and in a bumbling way, and never really understood it.
What did I learn from post-punk in Sydney? That the best songs never become hits, that's for sure. That the truly original - some local equivalent of Syd Barrett, say - hardly ever prosper, and far more likely burn out. That confidence and simplicity, and maybe an inclination to caricaturize the music of your milieu rather than extend it, are necessary for real success. And that the most obvious obstacle to my creative fulfillment was the least obvious one to me - that I had no talent, merely a combination of sensibility, naivete, and ambition. But God I had a good time.