Infinity & Beyond - Your Guide To Iconic Aussie Label, Infinity Records

Infinity & Beyond - Your Guide To Iconic Aussie Label, Infinity Records

infinity records australia

As the 1970s began, Australia’s own Festival Records conglomerate needed a new approach to meet the new decade. Previous subsidiaries like Spin, Kommotion, Sunshine and its own in-house brand -  labels that had brought so much local artist chart action in the 60s, with artists ranging from Johnny O’Keefe through to Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs to Normie Rowe & The Playboys and the Bee Gees - either no longer existed or felt tied to a more innocent past. In keeping with the vaguely cosmic conscious of the time, they came up with the name Infinity, created the iconic and still striking logo, and off they went.

Sydney-based and primarily Sydney-centric, the label surprisingly kicked off with a release from Melbourne blues sensation Chain. “Black & Blue” sent Infinity straight to the top of the charts and set the tone for a label, that for the next few years, would primarily delve into new underground scenes to find revered new artists to bring to the mainstream. With an eye to more obvious pop fare, one of the band’s earliest signings was popular Sydney club band Sherbet, who would provide the label - and the country - with an extended period of pop success that was only rivaled for a period mid-decade by the Melbourne combination of Skyhooks and Mushroom Records.

ILYOS charts the rise and success of Infinity Records with 15 classic tracks.

Chain – Black and Blue 

Often mistaken for early Mushroom releases because the band was from Melbourne and managed by Michael Gudinski and they ended up on Mushroom later on – as did main Chain men Matt Taylor and Phil Manning in their solo careers – Chain’s early singles and classic first album Towards The Blues came out before Mushroom even existed. “Black and Blue” was an unbeatable opening salvo for a new label. Chain got Infinity happening from the word go and Towards The Blues remained in print for decades. 

The Aztecs – Gangster of Love 

Billy Thorpe’s Aztecs worked alongside Chain on the thriving Melbourne scene in the early 70s and famously helped establish the suburban hotel circuit that begat pub rock. They also famously stole the show at the first Sunbury in 1972, but before that, when they were on the cusp of becoming that power rock machine, and when they had the great Lobby Loyde on guitar, they cut one studio LP for Infinity. The Hoax is Over is most famous for the lengthy cover of Johnny Guitar Watson’s "Gangster of Love" – all 24 and a half minutes of it. Dig.  

Lobby Loyde - Evolution

His first solo album Plays With George Guitar firmly established Lobby as a singular guitar hero par excellence, recorded after his stint with the Aztecs and before he formed the Coloured Balls, it is revered internationally.

Kahvas Jute - Free

Sydney’s own power-blues/heavy psych outfit’s sole album Wide Open was recorded in late 1970 and was amongst Infinity’s first great bunch of long-players. “Free,” their only single, failed to connect but the album has long been held in high regard here and around the world. 

Jeff St John & Copperwine – Hummingbird 

Onetime Spin Records artists, Sydney soul star Jeff St John stayed within the Festival family and followed the more progressive path when he moved over to Infinity for the single “Hummingbird” in 1971. Jeff’s band Copperwine also backed Wendy Saddington on her live album for Infinity that same year. Jeff wouldn't release an album for the label until 1974’s Jeff St John Live

Blackfeather – Seasons of Change 

Sydney progressive greats Blackfeather released their classic At the Mountains of Madness on Infinity in April 1971 before shedding members and re-emerging as piano pumping rockers with the irresistibly catchy “Boppin’ The Blues” a year so later. 

Country Radio – Gypsy Queen 

Fronted by folk singer-songwriter Greg Quill, and featuring instrumentalist Kerryn Tolhurst, who would later go on to form the Dingoes, Country Radio paved the way for serious exploration of country-rock in Australia, and recorded one of the great Australian singles of the era, “Gypsy Woman,” in 1972. 

Sherbet – You’ve Got The Gun 

Although they seem to belong to a later era, Sherbet had formed as early as 1969 and been an early Infinity singing – before Kahvas Jute even. They released a string of singles – all covers – until the band’s classic line-up coalesced and they started developing their own material. “You’ve Got The Gun” was the first single from their first album Time Change... A Natural Progression (a perfectly titled release for Infinity!) and their first self-penned single. It was a Top 40 hit, and the band liked it enough to give it another crack in 1976.  

Glenn Cardier - The Juggler 

With his trademark bowler hat Sydney singer-songwriter Cardier was a leading light on the Sydney folk scene at the time. He played a couple of Sunbury festivals, but never really crossed over to the rock/pop world like his contemporary Greg Quill did. Still, Glenn A Baker was (and remains) a fan, and encouraged his charges Ol’55 to cover this pithy take on the early 70s 50s revival “The Iridescent Pink Socks Blues” on their massive Take It Greasy album. Glenn still plays around Sydney and re-emerged a big way at Bluesfest in 2014. “The Juggler” is taken from his first Infinity album Days of Wilderness

Daryl Braithwaite – You’re My World 

By the mid-70s Sherbet were flying high; so high that when frontman Dazza stepped out with a heavily orchestrated version of an old Cilla Black hit from ‘64 he too topped the charts in 1974. We love his temporary disappearance from the screen at around 00:53 during this Countdown appearance.

Richard Clapton - Girls On The Avenue

As astute as the A&R guys at Infinity may have been to build such a strong roster by 1975, sometimes it just comes down to dumb luck. And a year or so after acclaimed Sydney songwriter Richard Clapton had failed to hit with his first album Prussian Blue in ’73, they were handed a new album that included a song called “Girls On The Avenue.” While the song became the album’s title track, it was also put on the B-side of the album’s first single “Travelling Down the Castlereagh”; seemingly robbing it of any chance of airplay, then or in the future. “Castlereagh” of course no play and that seemed like that, but a few programmers thought “Girls On The Avenue” had legs and started playing it anyway. Infinity quickly released the last B-side as their new A-side, and Infinity’s new star was born. 

Margret RoadKnight - Girls In Our Town

The other great ‘Girls…’ song out of mid-70s Sydney, “Girls In Our Town”, should be played in every episode of Puberty Blues (the TV series), and is but one of many stunning records made in the 70s by RoadKnight, who was a forerunner of Australian folk in the 60s and maintains a healthy profile on the live circuit to this day. 

Sherbet - Howzat

Skyhooks out of Melbourne challenged in ’75 & ’76, but really no one had the sort of run that Sherbet had here in the 70s and early 80s, with 20 hit singles and 10 Platinum albums. “Howzat” even saw them crack the UK Top 10, and remains probably their best-remembered number.  

Flying Emus - Different Drum

Infinity Records didn’t weather the 80s too well, but it was gratifying to see it return to its singer-songwriter and country-rock roots late with a couple of signings in the late 80s. Sydney’s ARIA-winning Flying Emus preceded the whole alt-country thing in the 90s but came from a similarly non-mainstream place – inner-city Sydney - as far as country music went, and released a handful of great records. The band’s best material was assembled on The Collection some years back.  

Neil Murray - Calm and Crystal Clear

Murray had already worked with Festival as a member of the Warumpi Band, but it was nice to see him placed on the seemingly revived Infinity imprint for his April 1989 first solo album Calm and Crystal Clear. Neil's solo work has established him as one of the leading singer-songwriters in the country, and a worthy successor to the likes of Greg Quill and early Richard Clapton.

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