HOWZAT!? 1979 Saw Sherbet Caught Out After A Decade-long Innings

HOWZAT!? 1979 Saw Sherbet Caught Out After A Decade-long Innings

sherbet best songs
Sherbet, 1976 (Photo by Gems/Redferns/Getty Images)

1979 saw Sherbet finally caught out after a decade-long innings. Let's looks back at 11 career-defining songs of one of Australia's greatest pop groups.

40 years ago, the most popular Australian band of the 70s – a band whose success had literally spanned the decade – called it quits. Sort of. Sherbet, who'd released their first single in1970 and had their first hit in 1971, were, by the decade's approaching end, victims of their own longevity. The era of the unabashed pop idol was over, and for a band who as often as not liked to be photographed with their shirts off, it looked like time was up. While an absolute end was never declared – it was announced as a closing of the band's Australian office and a "move to the US" – it was at the very least a hiatus. They would, of course, find renewal and something of a second life as the Sherbs starting a year or so later – they'd already tried and failed with one different name when they'd become Highway for the US market – but Sherbet, as they were known and loved, were no more. 

The band had played its last gig as Sherbet on Sunday, March 18, 1979, at the Penrith Leagues Club outside of Sydney to a half-full room. It was a long way from the glory days of the mid-70s when the band were the most regular guests on Countdown and in the midst of a string of eleven Top 10 singles.  But, as Anthony O'Grady theorised in the pages of RAM, "At their height in Australia, Sherbet were the flash and pomp of pop that bands like Midnight Oil and Rose Tattoo are now reacting against." The massive growth of the pub scene, which enabled exposure for the right bands in front of crowds of beer-swilling young adults out on the tear, changed the composition of the record-buying audience. Teenyboppers no longer ruled, and the rise of punk, while never much of a commercial success in and of itself here in Australia, had certainly encouraged bands to play with more aggression. 

The band left behind a startling run of hits that spanned a good part of the decade. If you didn't come in 'til late, you might forget that it didn't just start with their first international hit "Howzat", in 1976. They'd been clocking up hugely popular hits for years already at that point. Let's go back to the beginning...

"You've Got The Gun"

Sherbet's first single – pre-Daryl - in 1970 was a cover of the obscure "Crimson Ships" by Badfinger. It hadn't been a hit for the Beatles protégées, and it wasn't a hit for Sherbet either. But they connected as soon as Daryl joined, with their second single, a cover of Blue Mink's "Can You Feel It Baby?" late in 1971. And successful covers of Delaney and Bonnie's "Free the People" and Ted Mulry's "You're All Woman" meant they already had three moderate hits on the board by the time their first self-written single "You've Got The Gun" hit at the beginning of 1973. A band and fan favourite, the Clive Shakespeare, Garth Porter, and Daryl Braithwaite composition was the opening track on Sherbet’s first album Time Change... A Natural Progression. It remains one of their best-remembered tunes, thanks in no small part to the band having re-recorded it at their peak in 1976.


Sherbet's first Top 10 hit was another original tune (just Porter & Shakespeare this time). "Cassandra" was the first single from their second album On With The Show, which became the band's first Top 20 album after its release in late 1973.


Things were starting to ramp up in 1974, so much so that their next album, entitled Slipstream, would reach #3 nationally. The single of the same name reached #5 – the band's first Top 5 hit. Here they are on the Paul Hogan Show.

"Silvery Moon"

The second single from Slipstream, and another #5 single, "Silvery Moon" consolidated Sherbet's status as ascendant stars on the Australian scene. 

"Summer Love"

1975 would be Sherbet's year, as they battled it out for bragging rights with smartarse Melbourne up & comers Skyhooks. Skyhooks may have broken the sales records and captured the zeitgeist, but Sherbet still had the little girls' hearts, and the smashing Porter/Shakespeare tune spent two weeks at #1 in May, thanks in no small part to the influence of the new ABC-TV program Countdown. In October, at the King of Pop Awards, "Summer Love" won the Most Popular Australian Single, the band won Most Popular Australian Group (for the third time in a row – they would win it every year from 1973 to 1978), and Daryl was crowned King. (Daryl began a parallel solo career in 1974 with his #1 version of "You're My World" and would be voted King of Pop in 1976 and 1977 as well as 1975.)


The larger than life vibes of "Summer Love" inspired something even more dramatic from its writers in the form of "Life", with its epic Led Zep/Who like-opening. It was the first single from the band's fourth studio album, also called Life, which had followed the band's first live album In Concert in 1975.


Such was the band's popularity that two more fairly forgettable singles, the double A-side "Only One You" b/w "Matter of Time" and "Child's Play" followed "Life" into the Top 5, but their next single upped the ante again, in 1976. The first single from their Howzat album is probably the song that Sherbet remain best-remembered for, and it would be their only international hit, reaching the Top 5 in the UK, the Top 10 in Holland, Norway, South Africa, Israel and around South-East Asia. It would also be the band's biggest US hit, reaching  #61. (If they had changed it from a cricket motif to a baseball one for the States it might have done better?) "Howzat" was the first single for the songwriting team of Garth Porter and bass player Tony Mitchell, following the departure from the band of Clive Shakespeare.

"Rock Me Gently"

The band's next hit would come with a double A-side single featuring two tracks written for a new best-of, The Sherbet Collection, late in 1976. "Rock Me Gently" was backed with a new recording of the 1973 hit "You've Got The Gun".

"Magazine Madonna"

Success continued into 1977 with another #3 hit, and a # 3 album Photoplay. The second single from the album, "High Rolling", cracked the Top 40 and was also used as the title song for the Tim Burstell co-produced Australian road movie of the same name.

"Nowhere Man"

The only single from their second live album Caught in the Act... Live only reached #40. Either the songs of Lennon & McCartney were a bit on the nose in 1978 (they weren't), or Sherbet's decline was starting.  The album only reached #33.

"Another Night On The Road"

The second single from Sherbet's final album as Sherbet – an album simply titled Sherbet (and Highway in the States, where they were now known by that number) – was the band's final Top 10 hit, but is a song that all but diehard fans might have trouble remembering. 

We’ll pick up the story – as Sherbet return as The Sherbs – at some point later. In the meantime enjoy the hits here.

Listen to Sherbet on Spotify

Listen to Sherbet on Apple Music 

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