Models At 40

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Models At 40

the models tour

Perennial Australian favorites Models – or the Models - are celebrating their 40th Anniversary this month with a handful of big shows in Melbourne and Sydney. We look back at some of their essential tracks and explore the early history of a band who appeared on the Melbourne new wave scene to almost instant acclaim and who, after few years of leading the music mainstream a merry dance, eventually delivered commercially on their early promise.

When the Models appeared in 1978, the Melbourne inner city scene received them with instant rapture. Combining members of punk-era bands the Teenage Radio Stars (Sean Kelly and Pierre Voltaire) and Jab (Ash Wednesday and Johnny Crash), they were something of a supergroup when they started, but they quickly surpassed what their previous bands had achieved, artistically and in terms of audience interest. 

Demos of early tracks including “Whisper Through The Walls”, “Atlantic Romantic” and a hit-worthy cover of “Tonight” from West Side Story were on constant rotation on a nascent 3RRR and combined punky energy with great tunes and an appealing quirkiness that compared with other RRR faves of the time including XTC, Ultravox! and the Stranglers. By the time Mark Ferrie replaced Pierre on bass and former Whirlywirld keyboard player Andrew Duffield replaced Wednesday, they were the darlings of the scene, second only to Nick Cave’s band the Boys Next Door. In October 1979 the two bands shared a split single release that was given away at both bands’ St Kilda home venue, the Crystal Ballroom. The Models track on that single – their first release – was the gritty and catchy “Early Morning Brain”

Models fans were gutted though when, within days, the band announced it was breaking up. Although reasons remain vague, the group had cut some demos at EMI in Sydney in October,  which perhaps in some way precipitated it. But the band quickly regrouped – and the fans rejoiced -  when they got a call in November to return to Sydney to cut some demos at Alberts with Vanda & Young, who’d made quirky successful a couple of years with their own Flash & The Pan project. 

Again nothing came of it, and while record companies circled in a holding pattern, the band decided to self-release a couple of the EMI demos as their first single proper. “Owe You Nothing” made for a great A-side.

Soon enough the inevitable happened, and Mushroom Records decided to the sign the most commercial sounding and popular new music group on their doorstep. To the dismay of many of their original fans – and no doubt the folks at Mushroom – the band decided to ditch their unique set of songs and head in even quirkier directions, the likes of which Countdown and 3XY would find troublesome.  Its significance in alternative music circles was enough for their difficult – and difficulty titled - debut album Alphabravocharliedeltaechofoxtrotgolf to reach #43 nationally upon its release at the tail of 1980, but the first single, for which the band made its first video, failed to chart. 

The band cracked the Top 40 with its next release, the 10” EP Cut Lunch, which preceded their second album Local &/or General by a couple of months in mid-81. Old fans were happy to see the inclusion of one of the earliest Models tracks “Atlantic Romantic,” a performance of which was recorded and filmed at the Mushroom Evolution Concert in 1982.

To celebrate 35 years since it's release, Models will be releasing their classic LP The Pleasure Of Your Company, on vinyl for the first time. Featuring hit singles "I Hear Motion", "God Bless America", "No Shoulders, No Head". Available to pre-order here. 

From that point on, it was relatively smooth sailing commercially, although the band would go through numerous line-up changes, culminating in the arrival of Sean Kelly’s old Teenage Radio Stars bandmate James Freud. Freud, whose own solo career had stalled after the initial promise of “Modern Girl,” came in and shared co-lead vocals with Kelly as well as playing bass. It was of course with James Freud up front that the band enjoyed its biggest hits  “Barbados” and “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” in 1985.

Before we look at crucial Models tracks from Local &/or General on, we’ll give you the dates of the band’s three 40th Anniversary shows coming up this month, and remind you that you can stream all their albums and more on Spotify.

models tour


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