With the Hoodoo Gurus having recently released their first new track in years, ILYOS looks back to the band’s early days, when they would celebrate the music they loved with sometimes-unexpected and always-fun covers. Check out Hoodoos-approved original recordings by the Kingsmen, the Master's Apprentices, Nancy Sinatra, the Troggs, Alice Cooper, Glen Campbell (!), Creedence and more.
Formed in 1981, Le Hoodoo Gurus - as they were known at the time - really hit the national stage in 1982, with the release of their first single "Leilani" on Phantom Records. A jungle-rock gem dressed in B-movie schlock that channeled both the Glitter Band and the Cramps, it revealed a band that knew their pop and their pop culture. Indeed, Dave Faulkner, James Baker and Rod Radalj had covered the likes of the Troggs, New York Dolls and the Velvets in their earlier Perth-based bands, the Victims and the Scientists, and of course the Victims' "Television Addict" was very much a defence of pop culture obsessions. Kimble Rendall had covered Tommy Leonetti's cornball "My City of Sydney" - which was used by Channel 7 Sydney as a station ID into the 80s - as a member of colourful Sydney punks, XL Capris.
The early lineup change that saw Brad Shepherd and Clyde Bramley replace Rod and Kimble in the Gurus toughened the band up musically but didn't diminish their love of the arcane and the garish. Brad and Clyde had moved from Queensland to Sydney to be in Radio Birdman's orbit - and remember Birdman wrote one of the first pop-culture informed songs of the punk era, the Hawaii 5-0-inspired "Aloha Steve & Danno" - and they had recently played together in bubblegum tribute band Super K. Clyde had also played the likes of "King of The Surf" by the Trashmen with the original lineup of Birdman offshoot Johnny & the Hitmen, and on Minuteman's great "Voodoo Slaves" 45. Brad had his own fine jungle screamer "Bwana Devil" on the then-recent second Hitmen album, as well as a tune called "Go Rin No Sho", inspired by 60s TV show Samurai, on the same record. Given they were joining a band that took an idea for a song ("The Echo Chamber") from the episode of Get Smart featuring Larry Storch as freaky fiend/unsound engineer the Groovy Guru, these guys were the perfect fit.
The Gurus loved telling the world about the music they dug. "(Let's All) Turn On", the B-side of the group's second single and subsequently the opening track on Stoneage Romeos, was a roll-call of Gurus' favourites: "Shake Some Action, Psychotic Reaction, No Satisfaction, Sky Pilot, Sky Saxon..." Just as fun were the cover versions that the band played live. Some ended up on B-sides - even more showed up on the two extra discs of material (Doppelgnger: Live-to-Air Broadcasts '83 – '96 and Bubble & Squeak: Outtakes and Oddities) that were included with the 3CD edition of their 1998 live album Bite The Bullet. Nearly as many were never recorded and are lost to the ages. Of course, the band still pull the odd cover out, but it was the repertoire of favourites which the group drew on in their early days, all given the Gurus' patented colourful big beat treatment, which will be lovingly remembered by anyone who regularly enjoyed the band live back in the 80s.
We've checked our memory banks and some old set lists and come up with what we think is a complete list.
Here's Part One, enjoy!
That's Cool, That's Trash
As much a Gurus theme song as either "(Let's All) Turn On" or "Be My Guru" was circa 1983, "That's Cool, That's Trash" was a very early writing effort by the noted LA team of PF Sloan and Steve Barri. The song was first recorded by unknowns The Street Cleaners in 1964, but the Gurus got their version from the Kingsmen – of "Louie Louie" fame – who recorded it in 1965.
Rock'n'Roll Part 2
The Gurus opened their set with this for a while around 1983, which was around the same time that Joan Jett was covering a few tracks by the same artist. Glam was not as significant an influence on the group as 60s garage rock, but they really did love trashy rock'n'roll from any era, and this whomper is as vulgar as it gets. (We concur with the comments from the YouTuber re: Gary Glitter - we've included this becuase it's 99% Mike)
Bass player Clyde Bramley was something of a secret weapon with the cover versions – the Master’s Apprentices’ pseudo-psych garage rocker (written by Brian Cadd!) was another tune that suited the Gurus' trash consciousness to a tee! Dig this rare original Master's film clip!
By 1984 Brad Shepherd would start contributing original material to the Gurus' set – initially though he just contributed the odd cover. "Lightning's Girl", recorded by Nancy Sinatra in 1966 and written by Lee Hazlewood, was an inspired choice. Dig that fuzz. Like the Gurus’ music, Nancy Sinatra's records were a weird mishmash of different influences that came out as brilliant and singular pop!
I Want You/I Can't Control Myself
Ah, the Troggs... Original Gurus drummer James Baker loved the Troggs so much he had a cat called Reg, after Troggs singer Reg Presley. He and Dave Faulkner had played at least a couple of Troggs tunes – "Love Is All Around" and "I Want You" - in the Victims, but it was Brad who took the vocal lead on the Gurus' pulverising cover of "I Want You". James would come out from behind his kit (handing Brad his sticks) every once in a while at encore time for a version of "I Can't Control Myself", which he ended up recording for his solo single, after parting ways with the Gurus, in 1985. We'll hear James' version here as well.
Another party starter from Mr Clyde Bramley. Written in 1963 by legendary Brill Building songwriters Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich for a B-side for their group, the Raindrops, the song was later recorded - in 1964 - by Michigan teens the Shondells. Two years later a local DJ started playing it, and a release of the same recording, now credited to Tommy James & the Shondells, was a massive hit.
I said something before about a "mishmash"? Here is proof of that. The Gurus, wonderfully, threw everything into the blender and were brave enough to touch country music before alternative-country or even cowpunk was a thing. Sure they were a bit ironic, but Brad Shepherd sang the Jimmy Webb tune, one of Glen Campbell's biggest hits, with heart and soul.
From Glen Campbell to Alice Cooper, written by Harry Butler! The Gurus were big fans of early Alice and occasionally did a fabulous version of this back in 1983.
Creedence were a bit of thing in the early 80s, perhaps thanks to the Gun Club covering "Run Through The Jungle". The Beasts of Bourbon, with James Baker, covered "Graveyard Train", and "Sinister Purpose", from Green River, fit the Gurus' creepy/eerie occasional sort of horror rock vibe perfectly.
Who Do You Love
One of the great Bo Diddley's most arresting numbers, full of unforgettable lines like "I use a cobra snake for a necktie" and "Tombstone hand and a graveyard mind/Just twenty-two and I don't mind dying". Perfect Gurus fodder of course; as was the title, which they tweaked to "Hoodoo You Love". Even more appropriately, the Gurus based their version on an absolutely screaming 1966 recording by LA band the Preachers that resurfaced in 1979 on the first volume of the hugely influential garage rock compilation series Pebbles. Check out this crazy footage!
I'm Gonna Be A Wheel Someday
The Gurus started doing this one in 1984, around the time they first toured the States. It was another perfect choice and another one perfectly sung by Brad. Can't help but wonder if he'd heard the recording by Johnny Thunders & Wayne Kramer's band Gang War, although I don't think that had even surfaced at that point.
We Say Yeah
Another one featured on the first US tour. Sir Cliff has NEVER been cool in rock'n'roll circles, but the Gurus could take something uncool and make it very cool. Imagine a thunderous and distorted version of this and "Like, Wow- Wipeout" back to back.
The Gurus love the Groovies! One of the Flamin' Groovies' other classics "Shake Some Action" was the name-checked in "Let's All Turn On", and in 2013 the Gurus got the Groovies to reform to come over for the Dig It Up festival. In between times they'd hook up with original Groovies Cyril Jordan and the late Roy Loney when in San Francisco, and crank out a version of this. The Gurus also recorded the Groovies "Teenage Head", but we'll get to that next time.
The Gurus cover themselves, Part One! Well kind of. "Television Addict" was the now-legendary 1978 single by Dave Faulkner & James Baker's Perth-based punk band The Victims. The Gurus revived this early on, and did it proud, even after James had left the band. By the way, Dave and James, together with Hard-ons bass player Ray Ahn, are back together as the Victims and have released a new EP. Check it out!
The Gurus cover themselves, Part Two! "Lipstick" is taken from the 1980 EP by teenaged Brad's Brisbane-based punk band The Fun Things, and the Gurus picked it up around the same time they started doing "Television Addict". It's a ripping little number, and one that reveals the early influence of both the Saints and Radio Birdman on young Mr Shepherd.
The Gurus cover themselves, Part Three! Another one from Brad's dark past. This one was originally recorded by Super K, the band Brad and Clyde had before they both ended up joining the Gurus. Ostensibly a bubblegum covers band, they also did some other stuff, like this very Alice Cooper-like Shepherd original.
Stay tuned to Part Two for other Hoodoo Gurus-approved gems from the Pretty Things, the Stooges, Jeannie C Riley and more!