Monday, December 31, 2007

Radio Birdman

First post of the New Year.......

Australia 1974, I was in Grade 12, Abba's 'Waterloo" was number one on the charts and....... along came Radio Birdman

Deniz Tek and Rob Younger formed Radio Birdman in mid-1974 in Sydney, having recently left their bands 'The Rats' and 'TV Jones' respectively. The pair sought to begin a band that would have no commercial interest and break the norm at the time, so they recruited classical keyboard player Phillip 'Pip' Hoyle, drummer Ron Keeley, bassist Carl Rorke and took their name from what sounds like "Radio birdman up above" in the Stooges song "1970". (Lyric sources list this as "Radio burnin' up above", and the Damned's version of it uses that. But, considering that "1970" shares the rhyme "...up above/ my love" with Chuck Berry's "You Can't Catch Me", which is about a radio birdman of sorts being up above, [in a "Flight DeVille" with its "hideaway wings" extended and "radio tuned to Rock'n'Roll"], "radio birdman" probably was not a mispronunciation in "1970", but rather, a tribute to that earlier flight of fancy.)

After being rejected many times from various venues, Radio Birdman found a pub in Taylor Square, Sydney and eventually took over its management, naming it The Oxford Funhouse. Under their management, the Funhouse became a home to any and all groups with musical tastes similar to the band. Not long after the opening of this venue, Carl Rorke left the band and was replaced by long time friend of Rob Younger, Warwick Gilbert (also a former 'Rats' member). Also to temporarily leave the band would be Phillip Hoyle, and though his departure was short lived, this was how Radio Birdman came across guitarist Chris Masuak.

Soon, a culture of Radio Birdman was developing in the underground, people started to dress differently, followed the Birdman symbol and the Oxford Funhouse was their home. This was the beginnings of the Sydney punk scene. Using the Funhouse as a base of operations, Radio Birdman recorded a crude, low budget EP, 'Burn My Eye.' Their first album 'Radios Appear' at Trafalgar Studios in Annandale owed much of its style to Detroit bands of the late 1960s, such as The MC5 and The Stooges. Though the album was totally ignored by commercial radio, it was championed by Sydney station 2JJ (Double Jay). Sales of this album were initially limited due to the fact that they were recording using a private label. Shortly after initial release, WEA took on the album and gave it a wider release however sales remained limited due to a lack of commercial support. Promotion could have been also somewhat inhibited as some fans felt the recordings lacked the ferocity and immediacy of the live shows and did not represent their experience of the band.

Radio Birdman - Living Eyes

The band remained underground, but began to travel far from Sydney to perform their shows, it was at this time that keyboard player Phillip Hoyle returned to the band. When Sire Records president Seymour Stein came to Australia to sign up fellow punk band The Saints, he saw Radio Birdman play and immediately invited them to join his label. Under this new label, Radio Birdman released a new version of Radios Appear featuring a mixture of re-mixed, re-recorded and some new material. Comparisons between the two versions of the album are disputed with some feeling that the second version is a more accurate reflection of the band's sound. Most fans however own both versions and simply treat them as two separate and different recordings.

With the commercial release of this new album, the underground punk scene Radio Birdman was a part of began to attract some groups with negative agendas; namely biker gang, Hells Angels. With this new, more violent and rowdy crowd, the Funhouse was at the point of overflowing. The band was blamed for violent incidents occurring at the Funhouse, so in mid-1977, they left Sydney and took a break from music, instead pursuing educational goals.

The band returned half a year later and performed their most famous show to date at Paddington Town Hall alongside The Saints. Two thousand people supposedly packed into the venue (in fact film of the event suggests a few hundred at most) and tracks recorded from the show would later be included on numerous other Radio Birdman recordings. After this show, the band began their European tour, but their overseas success was short lived as Sire Records began having financial difficulties and were forced to drop Radio Birdman from their label. On the other hand Tek has apparently claimed that Stein offered to support the band if he and Hoyle would defer their medical studies for five years, but that they both refused (see Vivian Goldman's biography of the band).

Without a label, the band struggled to progress musically. As one last sendoff they recorded their second album 'Living Eyes' in Wales which has had a late release in the early 80s. Radio Birdman played one last show at Oxford University, after which the band split up. The underground punk scene of Sydney was shocked by this, as the band had only been together for 4 years, but many felt that they had made their mark well enough on Australian musical history.

All six members went on to other bands. Younger's New Christs was more oriented towards hard-edged, blues-based rock and roll. Tek and Keeley with keyboardist Pip Hoyle's band, The Visitors, and guitarist Chris Masuak and bass guitarist Warwick Gilbert's The Hitmen continued the Radio Birdman sound. Tek, Younger and Gilbert played in a one-shot touring band called New Race, with Dennis Thompson of the MC5 and Ron Asheton of the Stooges. They released only one album, The First and Last. A non-musical LP, "Soldiers of Rock 'n' Roll", was released in 1982. This strange album, described by the record company as "an audio documentary of Radio Birdman", was released after Deniz had quit music for flying, and was assembled by the people at Trafalgar Records, like a soundtrack for a documentary movie which was never made.

Radio Birdman - Murder City Nights

In a huge surprise for fans, all six members of Radio Birdman reunited for the Big Day Out tour in 1996 and again in 1997. Since then Radio Birdman have continued to perform sporadically. In 2002 Warwick Gilbert was replaced by Jim Dickson who had previously played with the New Christs, Louis Tillett, the Passengers, the Barracudas and Deniz Tek. Drummer Ron Keely left the band in 2004 after the band's performance at the Azkena Festival in Spain, and was temporarily replaced by Nik Reith, formerly of the Celibate Rifles, Tumbleweed, the New Christs and the Deniz Tek Group. He was replaced after six shows by You Am I drummer Russell Hopkinson.

Radio Bird - Radios On

The year 2006 has seen much activity by Radio Birdman, spearheaded by the completion of a new album entitled Zeno Beach, released in Australia on June 24th, 2006 via the band's own Crying Sun Records, and in the US via Yep Roc Records on August 22nd. Named for the closing track, a surf-rock tune written by Hoyle, Zeno Beach was recorded in Sydney in December of 2005, produced by guitarist Deniz Tek and engineer Greg Wales. Carl Rorke, one time Radio Birdman bassist, died the year of the new albums scheduled release, and it was completed in his memory.

Following a February tour of Australian capital cities, dates in support of Zeno Beach for Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the US have been announced, commencing 27 July 2006 in Sydney, and ending on 7 October, in Spain. Many Australian dates feature LA soul/punk band The Bellrays as support act. In March 2006, Radio Birdman hosted an Australian rock history exhibition in Sydney, featuring many artworks inspired by Radio Birdman. Many of the bands memorabilia, including guitars, were auctioned on the opening night. In September 2007 featured in the Clash of the Titans tour alongside The Stems and Hoodoo Gurus which launched in Sydney at the Enmore Theatre and included dates in Melbourne and Brisbane.

If any has a link for ZENO BEACH.......... please share


tricky said...

Happy new year Bruce

here's Zeno Beach:

with thanks to original uploader



bruce said...

Happy New Year to you mate.... are you watching the cricket today? I miss the cricket..... Liverpool and The Gunners on Tonight


tricky said...

nah .. back to work on Wed. Gunners V Hammers tonight (go Hammers !!!) ... LFC dont play until the next day (against Wigan).

Thanks for tonights great posts .. I havent listened to much of this stuff before but will download and have a listen.

I've just finished grabbing Ups and Downs. A lot of this stuff I remember seeing/hearing for the first time on Suzanne Dowling's "Rock Arena" on the ABC in the 80's (the good old days). Do you remember Beatbox on Saturday mornings? Heaps of Oils and Spies

what other music are you on the hunt for?


tricky said...

not sure if I should be linking to other blogs or not, but there is some extra RB material to be found here:

bruce said...

yeah dude I'm old enough to remember Beatbox, can't remember the name but Simon Townsend had one in the afternoon on Saturday I use to watch. Gunners 2-1 tonight... who knows with Liverpool. About linking with other sites!!!! I dig the idea of people using stuff from our site... conscious thing up to you.... but I tend to like the idea of an uncensored world. Yeah I'm back to the grind tomorrow..over here we have 'wan crew' thai for 'teachers day' next week, big deal here... I get to play soccer next week, probably won't walk for three days after. Stay cool

Woody said...

Thanks for the live Birdman stuff. Killer!

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