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The Eighties.

If you remember them, you probably were there...

I left High School in 1980. I had no job, a cheap nylon string guitar, and a vague yearning for fame and fortune. I knew the chords to 'Mull of Kintyre' and 'Girls Talk', and my best friend was my dog-eared copy of 'The Beatles for Easy Guitar'. Despite my repertoire, I was aiming to be a punk but I couldn't get my hair right. But I did have an attitude (problem). In short, I was a rock 'n' roll legend just waiting to happen.

I was lucky enough to attend a two-week music workshop, run by Community Improvement Through Youth. It was there that I had my first exposure to the Adelaide music scene. I remember meeting people who were actually in bands. Jade D'Adrenalin from the Bad Poets, John from The Jump, and a couple of The Jumpers. I got to play on stage with real musicians, and someone (bless you, whoever you were) taught me how to play a 12-bar progression. After the 12-bar, life was never the same again.

Life on the dole (good name for a song, that) meant that I had plenty of time to practice my art, and also to immerse myself in local music. I didn't do particularly well at either, but what follows is a scattered memoir of some of the highlights of those days.

Adelaide was doing OK, as far as original music was concerned. People who were serious about original live music proudly showed support by placing bumper stickers on their cars. These stickers made statements like 'Disco is killing live music', and 'Drum machines are killing drummers' et cetera. Local magazines like Harry Butler's DNA kept people informed of developments in wide and varied sub-cultures. Venues like the Bombay Rock, Tivoli and the Aurora Hotel, and places like Umbrella Music all helped to bring people together. Bands like The Dagoes, The Shreds and Nuvo Bloc were all doing well, and there was a whole bunch of new punk, mod/ska and (hate the term, but) 'new wave' bands emerging. All of this was, of course, before the concept of 'Tribute Bands' really hit the big time. Even before The Zep Boys, who I remember as being the first of that particular 'genre'...

One of the first locally produced records (remember records?) I bought was a fair effort by a band called Nasty Nigel and the Teenage Hellcats. The A-side was a cheery ditty entitled 'Jonestown Suicide', a testimonial to the Reverend Jim Jones and his followers, who took part in a mass suicide in Guyana. The B-side was a track called 'AKA', which was Nigel's stab at an audio autobiography. I still play the record occasionally, I almost played the B-side on the SCALA radio show the other week, but a minor onanistic reference caused me to stop short. Guerillas in the Park
At the time, I had no idea who Nigel or his Hellcats were, but hindsight has served me well. Nasty Nigel, 'punk lyricist and singer', who looked to me like being the new lord of Adelaide punk, was soon spotted on Countdown as Nigel Lawrence singing a nice love song as part of the Young Homebuyers. Aah, the things we do for love. And the song, 'Jonestown Suicide', was co-written by one G. Champion. That's the thing I like...

The Urban Guerillas were one of the first bands I saw regularly, they were an exciting three piece that played original songs. They regularly played at the Union Hotel, and I had the pleasure of seeing them play many gigs, and they seemed to me to be climbing the ladder to stardom. 

tired of the same old...?

They sounded good, they had lighting (a couple of converted traffic lights), and they had received airplay on 5MMM (now 3D radio). I met the guys a few times, and they were a friendly, pleasant lot. Especially the bass player, Terry, who used to crack me up with his jokes. Their sense of humour even stretched to their publicity. 'Tired of the same old places, the same old songs, the same old bands?', one of their posters read, before delivering the punchline. 'Stiff Shit.' These boys were geniuses.

The Urban Guerillas headed for Sydney, and all these years later, they are still going strong. Late last year I came across a copy of their 1995 CD, 'Just a Lifetime', and that stimulated me to try and seek them out. An Internet search led me to the Urban Guerillas website, and I emailed Ken Stewart, the singer/songwriter/guitarist that has driven the band for so long. He is the only remaining original member, but the UGs are going well.

There were plenty of other things going on. The Producers Hotel was establishing itself as one of THE venues for alternative music, as were The Century and The Old Queens Arms. Sound Unlimited, with Steve Curtis at the helm, sometimes dared to air clips by Adelaide acts on the show. I remember seeing Stuart Day and FAB with 'Happy People', John Rundle and The Maulers, and 'Brother John'. I went to Le Rox to see the Exploding White Mice, and saw The Plague doing their thing at the Tiv. Mucho activity, all over the place, and plenty of stories to be told. Not today, though, time and space have run out.

The experience of actually seeing and listening to musicians from Adelaide performing their music, served as an inspiration. I bought an electric guitar, wrote some of the world's worst songs, moved out of home, and joined a band. I would have been famous too, except I joined the Public Service at the same time.


© Copyright David Robinson, 2000

Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author