Don’t say we never listen!! We got a great and varied response to our Aussie Hard Rock Hall of Fame post from a month ago.
We covered the big guns first time round yeah? But as you made plenty clear in your comments, there are loads of other bands that many of you would love to see get a guernsey. And who are we to argue with that? So here’s another 20 for you.
Which, after straining our brains for some time, we’ve decided to call the AUSSIE HARD ROCK HALL OF FAME, ROUND 2! Enjoy.
We’ll start with a band that none of you mentioned (we’re like that sometimes), but who were certainly trailblazers. Melbourne’s Sweet Jayne were an all-girl hard rock band when such things were basically unheard of. They formed in 1975 – the year before the Runaways’ first album came out. They preceded England’s slightly like-minded Girlschool, a band that Sweet Jayne guitarist Cris Bonacci ended up joining, by closer to three years.
Sweet Jayne sadly never made an album, but they did release a couple of indie 7”’s and a tape back in the day, and they had a dedicated following. Check out this tune from 1980. How’s this for a gutsy and ahead of its time lyric – “I know a man who I used to find attractive/until I found out he was physically destructive”
One of the great shouldabeens on the Sydney scene in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, the Hitmen formed out of the ashes of Radio Birdman and gave members, in turn, to the Hoodoo Gurus and Screaming Tribesmen. They were basically a commercialisation of the high energy style that Birdman developed, but in the end they remained obstinate and went down in flames. They remain loved by a core of fans though; their reputation is such that they keep reforming. Indeed their first new studio recordings in decades, a mini-LP of favourite covers including the Sex Pistols and the Dictators, is in fact out this week. Check out their new single, a great cover of the Flamin’ Groovies’ “Shake Some Action” here, and their classic near-hit ‘I Don’t Mind”, from their classic Mark Opitz-produced first album from 1981, here.
These guys had the suburban Sydney audience that the Hitmen strived for, and they achieved it by playing music that was vulgar and raunchy enough for the fellas and with an occasional glimmer of sensitivity and romance to keep the girls interested. “Roomful of Diamonds” combined the two and you get the feeling that singer Brian Nichol wore his rugby jersey in the film clip because he didn’t want seem too soft.
You Am I
They’re many things – glorious mod-rock wannabes included – but You Am I have a soulful hard rock streak in their post-grunge hearts, which we think is why they’re loved by so many. “Adam’s Ribs” has them getting their rocks off early on and is a ripper tune.
A Melbourne outfit who were championed by You Am I a lot in the ‘90s, the Crane had the honour of being the first new band signed to Alberts in yonks when they signed up in 2003. They never really took off, but the single “Dirty Hearts” is an Alberts classic we reckon – check it out.
Something of an international hard rock supergroup, the Bombers surprisingly crashed and burned fairly quickly on the cusp of the ‘90s but some fans still remember. Centered around ex-pat ex-Status Quo bass player Alan Lancaster and featuring the Angels’ John Brewster, the band actually span off the Party Boys and scored a massive international deal but the timing must’ve been wrong or something….
Coming into the hard rock arena by virtue of bass player Ian Rilen’s days in the original Rose Tattoo line-up (Ian wrote “Bad Boy For Love”), X were big on the Sydney punk scene and became in the ‘80s one of the biggest alternative bands in the country. Their music was hard rock’n’roll pared back to its very essence, and their songs revealed the sort of real ugliness and squalor that most bands were afraid to touch on. “Degenerate Boy” which was later a minor hit for the Mark of Cain, is built on a lazily abbreviated Led Zeppelin riff and is an absolute ball tearer of a song.
From pubescent Nirvana wannabes to musically ambitious world-beaters, Silverchair pushed themselves hard and for a while, their Daniel Johns seemed in danger of becoming a Cobain-like casualty. “Tomorrow” is as anthemic and powerful as anything by any of the other successful grunge and post-grunge bands like Pearl Jam or Stone Temple Pilots.
From a band influenced by the Sounds of Seattle to a band that influenced those sounds in the first place. The Rifles’ pedal-to-the-metal, no bullshit and – thanks to singer and lyricist Damien Lovelock - wryly intelligent hard rock took a few leaves from the Saints and Radio Birdman’s books, and became the subject of international acclaim in the mid-to-late ‘80s. Known and loved for their occasional off-the-wall cover version (we’re particularly fond of their version of JPY’s "Where The Action Is”), here we present the closest thing they had to a hit.
Singing drummer Kram, who is very much the face of Spiderbait, comes across as a wild and woolly rocker type and you just know he digs a bit of Thorpie and a bit of the Cosmic Psychos, even though he sometimes sings in a funny voice. Indeed, the Psychos were no doubt a key influence on these guys, along with other earlier Melbourne grungy rockers like God and Bored, although maybe it’s the likes of Ministry who inspired their pumping cover of “Black Betty”. (Interestingly enough, Ministry covered the same song themselves some years later.)
Kings Of The Sun
I swear, when I saw the Kings of the Sun open for Guns N’ Roses in Melbourne in ’88, they started playing before the doors were even open. It may have been payback – the band was apparently about to be thrown off the tour after drummer Clifford Hoad told local press that the Gunners copped their style from Rose Tattoo. They deserved better; they were a solid commercial hard rock band whose single “Serpentine” could easily have been an international hit. Clifford Hoad keeps the band alive to this day – check them out online.
Chain were a blues band and came to prominence in the early ‘70s when blues, like many other things, was hard and heavy. They probably won’t like the ‘hard rock’ tag, but there is no denying the powerful thump and killer riff of “Black & Blue”, which is surely begging for the likes of Spiderbait or someone to give it a modern makeover.
The Living End
For a band that started out as a Stray Cats covers band, The Living End have come a long way. They’ve also made a lot of very hard rocking music. The rockabilly gave way to Californian punk influences but somehow the combination of the two gave them a harder edge than many of their poppier punk influenced contemporaries. It may be Chris Cheney’s big fat Gretch, and the way he plays it. That, their anthemic tunes and their appealingly authentic working-class roots have ensured them a massive and diehard fanbase.
These New Zealand hardcore hard rockers play an intense and angry but intelligent brand of rock influenced by metal, punk, and darker post-punk sounds. They formed in the late ‘80s and had the misfortune of trying to break into the USA when 9/11 happened and their name – too close to Jihad - became like a target on their collective chest. They changed their name to Pacifier – itself a brave name in a time of war - after one of their songs, but changed it back as soon as it was safe. These guys have built a large and dedicated fanbase though perseverance and staying true to themselves.
A rare ‘70s band on this list, Finch are best known as the band that Bob Spencer was in before Skyhooks, and subsequently that Mark Evans joined after he got the boot from AC/DC. With Bob, Finch were a popular Sydney hard rock band in the ‘70s who never quite made it. With Mark, they tried their hand at America but went nowhere, despite an American release of their second album and a subsequent name change to Contraband.
Another Sydney ‘70s band, Hush were glam rockers who rocked hard. For a bit of fun, here’s a track they recorded for a brand of jeans called Colonial, based on their own single “Get Rocked”.
Beasts Of Bourbon
An alternative supergroup, originally featuring members of the Scientists, the Hoodoo Gurus and the Johnnys behind the charismatic young Johnny Cash from Hell Tex Perkins, the Beasts outgrew their garage rock roots and hit a seam of intense Hard Rock menace with their The Low Road album at the start of the ‘90s.
These guys got an honorary mention in Part One but we couldn’t find a video. We’ve found one so they get a second shot. The band that Joel Silbersher, who wrote and sung the Melbourne alternative anthem “My Pal” for the band God when he was about 15, formed at the tail end of the ‘80s, Hoss got a bit of support from the likes of Hot Metal magazine and Triple J’s 3 hours of Power in the early ‘90s, but never got a break. They inspired the likes of Magic Dirt and Spiderbait, were regulars at the Meredith Festival for the first 10 or so years of its existence, and are still an incredible rock experience when they see fit to play. Their only video is from their second album, and it’s a great track.
Some bands have all the luck…. Jet were certainly in the right place – playing in front of a reviewer from the NME - and the right time to capitalise on the early ‘00’s Rock revival kicked off by the White Stripes and the Strokes. Jet were more like a Britpop style band who were given a massive shot of studio testosterone when it came time to make their album, but there’s no denying the hard rocking intensity of the likes of “Cold Hard Bitch”.
The Powder Monkeys
We’ll finish off with a band that most of you will have never heard of, but whose fans are pretty unanimous in their belief that they were the best band in the country in the ‘90s. No less a figure than Peter Wells of Rose Tattoo had similar thoughts, and co-opted two of the three into his own band when he lived in Melbourne mid-decade. The Powder Monkeys were built around the voice, songs and bass playing of Tim Hemensley, who’d been another teen tearaway in God alongside Joel Silberser of Hoss. Tim, who is sadly no longer with us, wrote intense songs of real-life drama and the band put them across with incredible power. And they were wild. Who could forget Tim smashing the clock on stage when they were told their time was up at the BDO one year, or tearing down the curtain when it was closed on them, as they kept playing, when they opened for Radio Birdman at the Palace? The Powder Monkeys loved their punk rock, but they loved their Coloured Balls, Rose Tattoo, Stooges and MC5 too. Check ‘em out.
- Dave Laing