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Under the underground.
A potted history of The Sunset Strip
 
 
 
I think it went something like this……….
 
In the early 80s Geelong was blessed to have a tiny basement cafe called The Metro. It was run by an old hippie, hosted things like poetry evenings, sold reasonable coffee and was the closest thing Geelong had to a club that Alan Ginsberg might have hung-out in, musing poetic and dreaming about giving Neil Cassidy a blow job.
 
Most importantly for our story, though, the Cafe also welcomed bands and let them use it’s tiny space to run their own gigs.
 
I was writing a music column for a local rag and went one night to see a band called Behind The Magnolia Curtain. I didn’t know a damn thing about the band except the lead singer worked in the hippest record shop in town and he invited me along. I went with, I guess you’d call it, a modest sense of excitement.
 
What I heard and saw in that tiny, smoke filled and sweat-dripping dungeon was hip, sleazy, dynamic, charismatic, highly combustible and incredibly exciting. In a narrow sense the band playing onstage was just another Geelong covers band; but WHAT covers: The Cramps, Tav Falco, Brian Jones-Stones, Alan Vega, The Stooges, Creedence and the Ledbelly - jawed ‘n’ mashed up like ol’ chewin’ tabacker and spat in yer face.
 
It was one of the very few times in my long gig-going life that I could feel an actual sense of danger to a band. People in the audience became slightly unleashed and unhinged. Cigarettes burned into flesh, toilets exploded, , eyes stung in the smoke and sweat, the crowd was like a snake and, in the spirit of Dionysus, children were conceived in the nearby park. For ultra-conservative Geelong and its skulking minority of post-punk malcontents this was a revelation, a testimony, a revivalist tent meeting fronted by the lord and bankrolled by the devil.
 
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From July 84, GUMS (Geelong Underground Music Scene) fanzine.

This excerpt gives you a good idea of a typical Metro Cafe evening of "mayhem."

Beer throwing, bands walking off, dodgy equipment and cement down the toilets!

The statute of limitations is up on this crime so I can reveal that the cement culprit was none other than Magnolia's own guitar god John Nolan!!

Fortunately the venue continued.


Click to enlarge




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Visually the band had charisma to burn – post-punk stooges via Carnaby St. Vocalist Dean Bateup and guitarist Warwick C Brown held the eye. Warwick had this kinda multi layered thing happening - cheap rings, psychedelic scarf, leather jacket with fox fur trim, skin tight velvet pants and ice-pick pointy shoes. His hair was a demented Medusa, curled like a tightened watch spring and then detonated. He played guitar like he’d picked one up for the very first time just before the show. On the sheer strength of will, bluff and bravado it worked magnificently. He was crude, lewd, loud, outta tune, outta’ time, very definitely off his face and very possibly outta his mind.
 
How he didn’t get beaten up constantly on the mean streets of this hard rock mullet-headed town is a mystery to me to this day!

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July 1984
Magnolia interview in GUMS fanzine

click to enlarge












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Warwick would laugh at the thought nowadays, but I was sick with awe and envy. I tried to get that hip look down but never looked like anything but a sad-arsed wannabe. BUT! If you can’t BE them – JOIN them! I wanted to be a part of this sideshow somehow. I was a persuasive bugger with lotsa front and bravado back then so I talked my way into becoming the drummer (never played drums in a band before in my life!), had a blast at a lotta' incredibly manic gigs and then left the front line to became their live mixer. Still wanting to be part of it somehow I guess.

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1984. THIS is what playing in Magnolia Curtain did to a man!
For one night only I took over from Warwick on guitar while he was in
Sydney. Before, when on stage, I had been a quiet, static presence.
With The Curtain I became unhinged!!


Click to enlarge if you dare!!


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Excerpt from No Values fanzine.

The Magnolia era was one in which other expressive formats like fanzines started to appear in Geelong
for the first time. Others included Post Mortem and GUMS (Geelong Underground Music Scene)





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The band created the first stirrings of a buzz around Melbourne, recorded some demos, released a live/demos cassette and contributed a track to the long deleted Au Go Go comp A Slab Of Vic and then went the way of ‘creative differences’ in late ’85.

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Covers of the Magnolia flexi that came out in 1985 with The Livin' End fanzine. Designed by me, Andy

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Cut to mid-86. Warwick has put together The SS, cut a demo of Going Home, been picked up by Au Go Go records, released the demo as a single and is getting some excellent airplay and sales locally and in France of all places. In my humble and self-serving opinion, though, the band had real problems achieving the sound that Dubya clearly had in his head; and the band’s live sound guy wasn’t getting it either. The result was, at times, a sonic catastrophe.
 
I’ve got a tape from that time recorded at The Duke of Edinburgh. Warwick, probably on some crazy whim, had Paul Ryan join for one night on slide. Maybe they rehearsed once or twice but I doubt it. Paul played loooooud bluesy slide over the top of every song. The three 6 string guitars were outta’ tune with themselves and each other, and the mix was a cacophony. It was like hearing three different bands rehearsing in adjacent rooms.
 
Behind the din, though, you could hear the sound of something potentially great brewing and bubbling away. And I, yet again, just wanted to be a part of it somehow. So, a few Machiavellian manoeuvres later, I took over as mixer. A little later again, Warwick wanted to change the line-up and I reckoned I understood the sound he was after so I put my hand up for the job and become rhythm guitarist.

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1987
Poster for first single Going Home.
L-R Paul, Matt, Les, Warwick













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Over the years and the many line-ups The SS was a strange, restless and unsettled beast but I remember those initial months playing around town on the back of the success of Going Home as fantastic. The line-up was stable with Les on drums, Paul on bass and Ian Hill joining on the mighty Hammond organ. Warwick came out with more and more new and great material. Sound-wise, I kept my guitar sound clean, jangly and kinda’ country while Warwick mostly fuzzed it up and stretched out on some mighty solos. I couldn’t think of anyone else in town then who was doing anything remotely like us.
 
About 2 weeks after I joined we supported American band The Dream Syndicate, impressed a lotta’ people and, for the blink of an eye, were a hot item............................to be continued.

Part 2 -

1thesunsetstrip.livejournal.com/2054.html

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