“With one Adelaide and one Tasmanian exception, this album is virtually a “Melbourne’s Greatest Hits”.”(Glenn A. Baker – Album liner notes)
“The 1960s were a time of great social change in Australian Society.(Australian History in the 1960’s – Wikibooks)
“It’s a great representation of a great period of Australian music.” (This review)
This was album review number one hundred and thirty in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and CD albums from my collection as originally published in the Toorak Times in April of 2015.
The series was called Cream of The Crate and each review represents an album that I believe represented a significant musical value, either because of its rarity or because it represented the best of a style or styles of a music or because there is something unique about the music, the group or the particular production.
The album is called Australian Rock Heritage Volume 1. It covers a range of artists and was released in 1981 on the Astor label with the code ALPS 1063. It has ten tracks per side and covers the period 1961 through to 1968. This is the period that I believe was when the Australian music scene, recorded and live, was really born and this album provides the listener with a taste of the known and the relative unknown artists.
Certainly our music scene in the early 1960’s had been stumbling around trying to emulate the American music scene, often with little success except for a few talented artists like Johnny O’Keefe. Then, was suddenly faced with one almighty explosion of music from Britain.
This “music explosion” was often referred to as the British Beat music which was a misnomer, as the music of that time also included British Folk, and Blues, and very soon it would include a new sound called the Liverpool Sound,which was shortly to joined by the Mersey Sound and others all of which reflected the growing music from those geographic areas.
Another such example was the development of music in Surrey – particularly around Richmond, where the Rolling Stones came from. It was all soon to be known under the banner of the “British Invasion“!
We love labels and using them freely and without much thought was encouraged by the music magazines of the day and certainly the radio D.J’s of the time, so we accepted without challenge all these labels of music styles.
What is certain is that our artists, both the already established acts and the new “long-haired” groups, embraced with fervor that British music sound.
By the early to mid 1960’s there was an explosion of live music in Town Halls around the country, and in the greater Melbourne area places in Kew, Dandenong, Springvale, Mordialloc, Preston, Coburg and many others, all hosted venues representing the now evolving local music scene.
Now just prior to all this, there was the short-lived period of the “Surf Music” phenomena. It had a small passionate following in Melbourne but its dominance was more in and around Sydney. But it was that music coming from England – the rise of the sounds of the developing British artists from 1963 onward, that really kick started the new round of live music and an explosion in venues.
With the realization by many young would be musicians of, ‘we can play this’, it became a ‘chicken and egg’ scenario of whether the number of bands was driving the increase in venues, or the increase in the number of venues was encouraging more bands. What is obvious is that with audience numbers constantly on the increase it would have been evident to both promoters, and would be promoters, that new venues needed to be found to cash in on the growing live music scene.
First of these ‘new form’ venues that moved out of Town halls was the Thumping Tum!
The Thumping Tum WAS Melbourne’s premier music venue from the mid 1960’s through to the early 1970’s. Every great band played there and many got their start at the Tum, only to go onto becoming iconic groups in the Australian music scene.
The Tum was at the forefront of a whole new wave of inner city venues, taking up abandoned and unused premises and warehouses all around Melbourne. You wanted live music in the mid to early 70’s, you had The Tum, Sebastian’s, The Biting Eye, Catcher, Berties, Chicago, Traffic, Garrison, Tenth Avenue, and the Mad Hatter, to name just some of the most popular.
So it was with the expansion of live gig venues in Melbourne especially, but also in Sydney, Adelaide and around Brisbane, it all simply encouraged more and more bands to form, often imploding not long after forming, only to reform in new lineups even stronger than those formative groups the artists came from.
There was also a myriad of music shows that seemed to grow as the influence of the Baby Boomers was being felt and the live music scene was growing.
Chief among them was Bandstand [1958 – 1972]; Sing Sing Sing [1962 – 1965]; the Go Show and Kommotion [1964 – 1967}, although the Go Show was seen only in Melbourne. Of course most regional stations had their own shows, but the overriding issue was that it provided the opportunity for groups and artists to be seen throughout Australia. Promoters and managers also saw this opportunity to promote bands and their music.
Melbourne has always claimed during the 1960’s and through the 1970’s, that is was the music capital of Australia.
Some scribes go further and claim that Melbourne was at one time among the top capitals of the music world.
And so it is that this album is formulated around groups that played in this formative period with many being significant acts in Melbourne. However,in reality their influence and their following was most certainly a national one.
the album It does not claim, and nor could it ona single volume, to have featured all those groups that should appear. Incidentally, I have been unable to verify if there ever was a Volume 2 to this series, which would seem logical given this one is labelled Vol. 1 – but search high and low I have been unable to track a copy down or indeed find any reference to a Volume 2.
Australian Rock Heritage Volume 1 has some might fine artists from the various genres and periods between 1961 and 1968.
We can identify seven artists on Side 1 – as being artists who either cut their teeth either in the 1950’s or were strongly influenced by the 1950’s American rock scene.
While on side 2 we find some of the most popular groups of the 60’s such as the the Rondells (who were great in their own right as well as for backing Bobby & Laurie) Cherokees, MPD Ltd, The Loved One’s, Somebody’s Image & The Town Criers, along with a group that gave rise to fantastic bands in the future – the 18th Century Quartet.
To top it off there’s a sprinkling of groups that rose and fell, leaving a varying degree of impact on the scene despite their short lived existence.
1. The Thunderbirds – Wild Weekend 
2. Betty McQuade – Midnight Bus 
3. Johnny Chester – Teeny [ 1964]
4. The Chessmen – Wild Little Willie 
5. The Phantoms – I Want You 
6. Merv Benton & The Tamlas – No temptation 
7. Colin Cook – Heebie Jeebies 
8. Terry Dean – It’s You 
9. Billy Adams – Slow Down Sandy 
10. Peter Doyle – Plastic Dreams & Toy Balloons [ 1967]
1. The Cherokees – Minnie The Moocher 
2. The Henchmen – Rockin’ Robin 
3. The Rondells – Talkin’ Bout You 
4. Johnny Broome & The Handles – Dos & Dont’s 
5. The Kravats – It Must be Jelly 
6. MPD Ltd – Little Boy Sad
7. The Loved Ones – Ever Lovin’ Man 
8. The 18th Century Quartet – Rachel 
9. Somebody’s Image – Hush 
10. The Town Criers – Everlasting Love 
Now this is a period I am very familiar with. Having been born in 1946, living in Melbourne, I formed my own first group in 1963. So I was both familiar with many of the bands that were developing during those early years in and around Melbourne and certainly became friends with members of many of those bands and on occasions shared the same stages.
I absolutely frequented every major dance venue in Melbourne, sometimes with my band, but sometimes simply in the audience. So I feel as though I can fairly put together some personal information along with that which has been documented over time.
However, that (somewhat self proclaimed) Rock-wiz, Glenn.A Baker has kindly provided me with decent liner notes, so I am going to refer to them, and supplement them with my own observations.
What is interesting is that almost all the artists as I indicated earlier on side 1, represent artists who either came up through the 1950’s or their music was based very much on the 1950’s rock style. There are two obvious exceptions, the first being Billy Adams who emerged from the Go Show in 1965.
Mind you the track by Adams was the same track somewhat popularised by Eddie Quinteros (Eddie who? – yes, a one “hit” wonder himself), anyway although Eddie recorded it in 1960 it was 1950’s music all the way.
The other exception which stands out far more clearly is Peter Doyle, who admittedly started singing in 1958 at the age of 9, and who became a regular at Melbourne’s Festival Hall at the ripe old age of 14! But Doyle, despite claims he was a “Rocker”, really had more in his arsenal than straight rock. His two biggest hits in Melbourne were a Solomon Burke song – Stupidity, and the Small Faces song – Watcha Gonna Do About It.
So, we move to track 1 on side 1 – The Thunderbirds and Wild Weekend. Let’s not muck around, not only were the Thunderbirds immensely popular they were the champion instrumental band, certainly in Melbourne and I could argue I think successfully, at that time across Australia.
Forming in 1957, Drummer Harold Frith formed the first line-up of The Thunderbirds in September of that year but it was short lived. Early 1958, Frith and Bell re-formed The Thunderbirds with Murray Robertson (piano) and Peter Robinson (bass). Colin Cook (ex-Sapphires) then joined on sax.
Graham Lyall (sax, flute; ex-Sapphires) joined towards the end of 1958. By that stage, The Thunderbirds had also had Murray Robertson on piano & incorporated three featured vocalists into the line-up, Billy Owen, Billy O’Rourke and Judy Cannon. Then in 1960 they disbanded once again.
Peter Robinson, Harold Frith, Colin Cook, Billy O’Rourke, Billy Owen, Murray Robertson
They reformed in 1961 to undertake some work for dance promoter Kevin McLellan. Firth and Robertson recruited top sax player Henry Bource, Charlie Gould on guitar and Gordon Onley on Bass. The track Wild Weekend was suggested by legendary DJ Stan Rofe, and was recorded on the W&G label, soaring into the Top 20.
It is a great rocking’ track to remind us of the power of the Thunderbirds.
I jumped past Betty McQuade because I did review a complete album by her recently and while it was difficult, I also moved past the great Johnny Chester to stop at track number four.
It is often said that behind every great man is a great woman – well behind every great singer there is a great band, and the Chessmen certainly were great. Johnny Chester in fact put the Chessmen together in 1961 as his backing group and they fast became regulars at Preston Town Hall. They emerged as one of the most proficient Australian rock outfits of all time.
Like all good bands, the lineup had its changes but when this track, Wild Little Willie was recorded in 1964, the lineup included Les Stacpool, Albert Stacpool, Frank McMahon and Mike Lynch. The track was originally recorded by Ronnie Hawking in 1959. With Les Stacpool on guitar, the group influenced many other local groups and Stacpool went on to become a genuine Australian guitar hero, and went on to be in such groups as Levi Smith Clefs, Rockwell T James and the Rhythm Aces, Doug Parkinson In Focus, Genesis and the list goes on.
Wild Little Willie
It was also hard to move past The Phantoms, who had arrived from England in 1960, but even though they were a top notch instrumental band and in fact got the coveted support spot on the Beatles/Sounds Incorporated shows in Australia and NZ , there is a solo singer on this side of the album that I wanted to focus on.
But to get to that artist it also meant bypassing, and it wasn’t easy, Merv Benton, whose “Church” style rock track Yield Not Into Temptation was a fantastic cover of Bobby Bland’s original version. The fact is however, that its not unfair to say Merv was more popular with the mums and dads than the teen audiences though.
However track number seven brings us to Colin Cook! Born in Bangladesh he arrived in Melbourne in 1952 and studied guitar, clarinet and sax. In 1959 he cut his rock and roll teeth as one of the singers in the Thunderbirds. He also did backing vocals for many artists, of which Judy Cannon and Frankie Davidson were two.
After supporting Fabian on an Australian tour he was signed to W&G and went on to record 5 singles, 1 EP and an album – Colin Cook Meets the Strangers. He had 4 hits with W&G before moving across to the Clarion label in 1966 and cut Heebie Jeebies, a Little Richard 1959 hit. It is undoubtedly his most rocking record.
Cook also went on to be in the London performances of Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar where his popularity was maintained. This album is not great because Colin Cook is included but, it would not have been so great if he had been omitted!
Turning the Lp over brings us to the Cherokees who are worthy of discussion, except there are three other artist I think are even more deserving. So in brief while The Cherokees had a number of lineup changes in their search for a lineup that would give them real fame, with this track – Oh Monah, they succeeded with what can only be called a massive hit for them.
Ironically it was this track written in 1931 that they are most often remembered for being an old Cab Calloway track – Minnie the Moocher.
I swept past the Henchmen and yes, they did take out 3UZ’s Sounds Spectacular first prize (the forerunner to the popular National Battle of the Sounds), and yes, their rendition of Rockin’ Robin actually made it to number 7 in Melbourne, but at the risk of putting fans off-side, they were never a group that really grabbed me.
However, when we get to track three it’s a different story.
The Rondells were one of the tightest and best rock outfits around. In fact to call them a “rock” band can really only be appropriate when we use the term “rock” in its broadest sense. Now among the many strings in their bows (or guitars I should say), is the fact that they backed one of Australia’s most successful duo’s – Bobby and Laurie. Yet the group rightly deserves it’s own place on this album.
The lineup variously consisted of Wayne Duncan on bass, Gary Young on drums (a combination that would appear together again in the future), Dennis Collins (certainly the original drummer) and Denis Tucker (original bass). It also had Roger Treble on lead guitar and Barry Sullivan on rhythm guitar and at various times Barry Rogers and Bernie O’Brien on lead guitars.
However the personnel changes happened in a such ad hoc fashion it is hard to get an accurate list of who came and went in what order, and any research I did to try and clarify my memory just confused me even more!
In fact Milesago suggests the line-ups were like this.
The Rondells Mark I (aka The Impalas)
Dennis Collins (drums)
Denis Tucker (bass)*
Ron Gilbee (rhythm guitar)
Bernie O’Brien (lead guitar)
John Sullivan (rhythm guitar) replaced Ron Gilbee
The Rondells Mark II
Wayne Duncan (bass)
Barry Rogers (rhythm guitar)
John Sullivan (rhythm guitar)
Roger Treble (lead guitar)
Gary Young (drums, vocals)
* Not with two “n’s” as spelt in many articles
Certainly having Bernie O’Brien with them gave the group a genuine guitar hero, as O’Brien played with both a passion and flare that left other groups (my own included at the time) in awe.
Having recorded two singles and an EP they scored a hit, their only solo hit, with a good rendition of Chuck Berry’s Talkin’ Bout You which moved up to a respectable number 31 in Melbourne.
Dennis Collins, Denis Tucker, Bernie O’Brien & John Sullivan (with Bobby & Laurie)
I haven’t chosen this track because it is “better” than others on this album, but rather because it does demonstrate the tightness of the group, the excellent sound they produced, and the great guitar playing of Bernie O’Brien.
Talkin’ Bout You
Johnny Broome and the Handels. OK! What can you say about a group with such a “dorky” name?
Well to start they were formed by Kevin Peek, one of Australia’s most impressive guitarists, that’s what! They impressed Ken Pitt who was the Manager for both Manfred Mann and the Animals in 1965 and they were summoned to London to play a season at the famous Marquee Club. Then, who knows what happened as little else is known of them and as the track does very little for me, I moved on.
The Kravats are even less well known than Johnny and his Handels. A Hobart based group whose one recording is this less than memorable track, It Must be Jelly. I can only conclude that it was probably included on this album as a “sop” to Tassie!
But when we reach track six we indeed come across a three-man outfit that didn’t last long but will be remembered for one massive hit – Little Boy Sad.
Yes the group had a couple of more minor follow-up tracks but this was the big “IT”. Mike Brady Pete Watson and Danny Finlay= MPD! Get it! Of the three Mike went onto far bigger and better things although I am being a bit too harsh I guess.
Track number seven, and the artists get better and better.
The Loved One’s were indeed much loved by audiences, particularly in Melbourne. Never has a single jazz band anywhere in the world given rise to such great rock outfits.
The Red Onions Jazz Band was a legend in Melbourne. Yet from it, Gavin Anderson and Rob Lovett went and were part of the notoriously brilliant Wild Cherries, while Gerry Humphrey’s, Kim Lynch and Ian Clyne formed the Loved Ones. When Clyne left to join the Ram Jam Big Band, he was replaced by the Roadrunners keyboard player, Trevor Richardson ( not Reg Richardson as Glenn Baker names him. Trevor was the Keyboard player with another Melbourne group the Roadrunners, with Chris Stockley – the members being personal friends of mine I make that declaration with certainty).
But I moved to track number eight and another short-lived but brilliant outfit – The 18th Century Quartet. The track is Rachel, an original Hans Poulson song and ironically it would be that “originality” that proved this groups downfall.
There are two distinct versions of the 18th Century Quartet [often referred to as the 18CQ]. The first was very much a folky outfit put together by Poulson in 1964 which dissolved in 1965. The resulting second version had a more “hard” edge to it and consisting of:
Hans Poulsen (vocals, guitars, bouzouki, mandolin, balalaika, banjo, bongos) early 1966
Keith Glass (guitar, vocals)
John Pugh (violin, autoharp, guitar)
Frank Lyons (bass)
Dennis “Fred” Forster (drums)
Bob (Robert) Lloyd (drums)
Randall Wilson (drums)
Julius Colman (violin) early 1967
Somehow the hippy “unhip” Poulson just wasn’t right and he was convinced to become the groups songwriter and so he played on the recordings but not in live gigs.
In addition to the usual guitars, bass and drums they had a most unusual lineup of instruments including, electric violins, electric bouzoukis, toy organs and as Baker puts it, “other instruments too absurd to list.” They did come second in the Victorian heat of the National Battle of The Sounds with the Poulson composition Rachel.
The 18th CQ had 45 original songs and a belief that they should not play covers but despite the brilliance of the musicianship and the quality of some of the material, they simply were not pulling the gigs and far too many weekends were spent at home and not playing.
Mind you, they did have one other “big” moment, they were the first electric group to play before an audience (of 100,000) at the Carols by Candlelight in Melbourne. After they folded Glass, Pugh & Lloyd went on to form the genesis of another short lived but brilliant Melbourne based group – Campact!
The penultimate track (track number 9) is Hush by Somebody’s Image. In 1966 there was a 17 year old boy who would one day become a star in his own right, but before then he was just a fan following his favourite group called, The Groop, around Melbourne.
Then he made his move!
Now Somebody’s Image, consisted of Kevin Thomas (rhythm guitar), Phillip Raphael (lead guitar), Eric Cairns (drums) and Les Allan (aka “Les Gough”) (bass guitar) and young vocalist, Russell Morris.
After convincing Brian Cadd and Ronnie Charles that they were good enough, they got their very first gig at Anglesea. It was a real success and soon they came to the attention of Go-Set guru, Molly Meldrum.
Because Meldrum endorsed the Groop, they immediately got a contract with W&G in 1967 and in December they had their biggest hit – Hush which went to number 15 nationally.
When Eric Cairns was hospitalised with a brain tumor the group fell into disarray finally dissolving on New Years day 1969.
Of course, Russell Morris then went onto much, much bigger and better things. So this track is included because it was a damn good cover of Joe South’s track, and better than the Deep Purple version. It also features that young voice of Russell Morris.
Track number ten on side 2 is the final track and features the Town Criers and is certainly deserving to be on this album. Overall it’s a good example of the music coming out of Melbourne over this period of 1961 – 1968. It really was an amazing period for music, bands and venues and it is quite impossible for it’s like to ever come around again.
Now as Australian compilation albums go, not all the tracks on this album are truly representative of the best of the tracks recorded during this period, and it could easily be debated as to whether some artists should have been included.
Yet overall it’s a great representation of a great period of Australian music.
But if you can find a copy of this album – don’t hesitate, grab it as it really is a true rarity. I checked all my sources and even finding references to it is hard, finding a copy is really a near impossibility.
VIDEOS – I have searched through Youtube to try and find clips of the groups on this album that i didn’t play and discuss.
Betty McQuade – Midnight Bus
Johnny Chester – You’re So Square & Miss Ann
The Cherokees – Minnie The Moocher
The Loved One’s – Ever Lovin Man [The soundtrack is quiet, the video, given its age, is quite good, and i think it is the only remaining video of the group singing this live during the period of the tracks success.]
Town Criers – Everlasting Love