Under Appreciated Aussie Artists Of The Early & Mid 70s

Under Appreciated Aussie Artists Of The Early & Mid 70s


The likes of Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs, Daddy Cool and Lobby Loyde & The Coloured Balls are justly eulogised and have been afforded admission to the ARIA Hall of Fame, but there were plenty of other great Australian artists of the same era who had an impact and whose music has stood the test of time. In the first of what will be a multi-part series, ILYOS looks at some great Aussie artists of the early ‘70s who should not be forgotten.

Madder Lake 

Madder Lake were one of the most individual bands to appear on the Melbourne scene in the early scene, and the first signing to Mushroom Records. Fronted by the wonderfully odd Mick Fettes the band combined adventurous progressive rock with rough and tumble flourishes – usually provided by Fettes. The band’s two original albums from the era, Stillpoint and Butterfly Farm, are much loved, and their biggest hit, “12lb Toothbrush”, is the kind of singular and unforgettable tune that should be featured in ads and movies and covered by generation after generation of young artists. In fact, Spiderbait might have been smart to follow up “Black Betty” with a version. Perhaps someone like Quentin Tarantino will stumble across the record and the band will finally get their due.



The story of Sydney’s Blackfeather is a convoluted one; suffice to say, what was a very progressive band at the outset, with Neale Johns up front, became rollicking piano-driven ‘50s R&B revivalists after Johns’ departure. Both incarnations made great records. The Johns-led band had a sizable hit their great song “Seasons of Change”, despite giving it Bon Scott and Fraternity who had a hit in Adelaide with it first, who’s version pipped it; the post-Johns band went on to have an absolute smash with the irresistible “Boppin’ The Blues” (which was oddly credited to Sun Records’ rockabilly Carl Perkins; Perkins did have a song of the same name in the ‘50s but it was a completely different composition.)


Back to Melbourne - where the oddballs were hanging out! Ariel singer/guitarist and songwriter Mike Rudd and bass player Bill Putt had previously led Spectrum. Spectrum had had a massive national hit in 1971 with “I’ll be Gone”, a plaintive yet highly individual harmonica-led country-blues that was at odds with the more unusual tunes in the bands' repertoire like “What The World Needs Now (Is a New Pair of Socks)”. After a few great albums with that band and its alter-ego the Indelible Murtceps, the pair formed Ariel, which kept the bizarre quotient high while keeping the music very cutting edge and delivering some great tunes. After the fabulously snide and catchy “Jamaica Farewell” the band tried their luck in the UK where they got to record at Abbey Road – alas plans for sci-fi concept album and the oncoming punk explosion dented their chances, and the band was soon back home.

Margret RoadKnight 

Of course, the ‘70s wasn’t all weird prog rock and blokes – Sydney’s Margret RoadKnight was a longstanding folk singer of note before she had a hit with the remarkable “Girls In Our Town” in 1975. RoadKnight released a handful of superbly considered albums in the ‘70s and early ‘80s – a strikingly distinctive interpreter of song, her recorded repertoire included songs from musical theatre and jazz and were beautifully arranged and produced as well as sung. Margret has continued to do the rounds of the folk circles and in recent years has found a new audience – younger fans who admire her authenticity, bravery and wondering music.

Ross Ryan 

Also out of Sydney – although originally from the US, and brought up in Perth - and with folk leanings, Ross Ryan had a massive hit with the remarkable “I Am Pegasus” at the tail end of the New Age singer-songwriter era. The single followed his first EMI album, which won him Record of the Year, and was an absolute sensation in 1973, going to  #1 in virtually every state, although unfortunately not at the same time. The album My Name Means Horse went triple platinum and famously Prime minister Gough Whitlam was on hand to present Ryan’s first Gold record. Fan favourite “Blue Chevrolet Ballerina” was a minor hit in 1975, after which Ryan’s career waned. He has continued to make music and as a producer – as well as in comedy – to this day.

 - Dave Laing

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