I was 18 or so when I started playing in our band. We liked lots of different kinds of music, disco, jazz, pop, funk and groups like Chic, Parliament, Public Image, The Pop Group, A Certain Ratio, and Pere Ubu. Our sound was a messy and amateurish attempt at making our own music given these influences. We needed a drummer, so I put an ad in an import record store in the city. We arranged a rehearsal with the only person who answered the ad at a grubby little room behind the Oxford Hotel in Darlinghurst. He was quite professional and played loudly and aggressively, which frightened us and completely drowned out our weedy guitar playing. After a short while he asked us 'Can you guys actually play?' He then left and told us that he was going to look for a country and western band to join. One of us had also been playing drums and switched over to them from guitar. After seeing Australian Crawl with what seemed like dozens of guitars on Countdown, we thought it was best to try and be as different from that as possible and to limit out guitar quotient to the maximum of one.
We had been practising together for a little while when we were supposedly offered a
Snakefinger support at one of his Sydney shows. As it turned out, I think he had a heart attack before the event ever happened. Sometime after that, we did play our first gig at the big practise room above the garage on Cleveland St. I remember being nervous and the actual time spent playing passing very quickly. I think that I almost deafened anyone who was at the
sound check when I decided to test a whistle I played into the microphone. I'm not really sure who else played that night, possibly our friends Wild West, but I'm pretty sure that I didn't stay the whole night as I probably had to be up for school the next morning.
Next time we played was a hall in Liverpool St, Darlinghurst, known at the time as Side FX, I think. We played with other 'little bands', The Tame O'Mearas, The Goat that Went Om, Wild West, and possibly Hope Is A New Coat. I can't remember the exact or entire line-up, but there would usually be 5 or 6 bands at these gigs. Beforehand we played, I remember hearing Bow Wow Wow's 'C30 C60 C90 GO!' over the PA system and thinking how good it sounded compared to what we were about to play.
We practised at a few different rooms, most of them dingy and unpleasant, but I really loved one that was underneath a large antique store that was down the bottom of Glenmore Rd, Paddington. I remember the summer we practised there and how it was so nice to walk amongst the cool and expensive dark wood furniture and down to the relatively clean and spacious practise room. I'm not sure what any of the customers would have thought of what they might have heard drifting up through the store.
We also played at Brownies in the Paddington Green Hotel, possibly with Wild West and Out of Nowhere, from Brisbane. We spotted Robert Smith and one of the guitarists from the Cure, at the bar. They were both surprisingly big.
I feel that I was lucky to have been part of the little band scene and to meet people who have become lifelong friends. It was a very close group, incestuous even, with band members living and playing music together. There was a lot of diversity in people's experience and musical tastes, but it all seemed to co-exist quite naturally. I remember one particular lazy sunny afternoon in the Surry Hills terrace house that I shared with five friends, all of whom played in little bands. Everyone had stereos of some description in their own room, and on this one afternoon, John Coltrane, Josef K, and Fela Kuti played simultaneously. It was a great time for myself and many others and it has given me a real appreciation of how creative, and especially musical, activity can grow as part of a community, however small or unlikely.